As you know, I'm self-publishing my memoir, Friends of Mine. Many of you also know that my debut novel, Faking It, as well as its sequel, Ordinary World, began as self-pubbed novels and earned me a contract with Amazon Publishing (AP) due to its overwhelming success in 2009-2010.
But so much of the self-publishing landscape has changed in the last four years. I'm doing a lot of things differently now, and in some ways I feel as if I'm self-pubbing for the first time.
So what's changed?
Mainly, competition, and the self publishing market. When I first self-published, Amazon's listed number of ebooks (traditionally and self-pubbed combined) was about 250,000. That number has since quadrupled, and growing rapidly. I don't have statistics on what percentage of that total are self-published, but I'm sure that number has also quadrupled in the last four years. The result, of course, is that the stakes have gone up considerably. Because it's that much harder for your book to be recognized, you have to step up your game not only with a great story (fiction or non), but also great writing, and professional editing and design.
When I self-pubbed Faking It and Ordinary World, I couldn't afford to hire editors and designers, so I relied on my own skills. I could never get away with that now. This time I invested in copyeditors and proofreaders, an interior formatter, and a cover designer. The result is a book that, in terms of appearance, will rival my AP novels. And, of course, I did the best I could to tell a good story and tell it well.
What I wish I'd done: I wish I'd alotted money in my budget for a publicist. I'm taking on the responsibility of putting together a press kit, organizing blog and personal appearances, and getting my books into the hands of reviewers. Quite frankly, I suck at organization. And now that I have an established readership and career, it's even more important for me to promote myself professionally.
The other main difference about self-publishing now (and this is a personal difference rather than a business aspect in general) is time management. Four years ago, because I took on all the roles of editor, designer, etc., I worked on my own schedule. Rather than set a launch date in advance, I gave myself as much time as I needed, and got the promotion machine working after the book was published.
This time, I set an exact date for publication: August 10. I set this back in April, and estimated how long it would take for rewrites, edits, formatting, design, and pre-promotion.
What I wish I'd done: Given myself more time. Or, at least, not cut things so closely to the launch date. Time management/planning has always been my other weakness. So although I had good intentions and seemingly allotted myself enough time, I didn't anticipate things like the manuscript needing an additional editing/re-write, coordinating the schedules of editors, photographers, designers, and formatters, or potential legal snafus (specifically, getting permission to use song lyrics). The result is, sadly, that I'll likely have to delay the launch (which also throws off my promotion/marketing plans); I'm especially bummed about this because the August 10th date has a significant connection with the book.
But here's the thing: I'd rather delay the publication of a book and have it be the best it can, than rush to release it knowing that I cut corners.
So, overall, I did a lot of things better than I did four years ago. But, should the opportunity to self-publish yet again present itself, I'll do so having learned new lessons, and hopefully minimizing new mistakes.
We're in the home stretch. If all goes smoothly, Friends of Mine is set to be released on August 10th. I put in 10- and 12-hour days this past week getting the manuscript ready for the book formatter. That involved mostly a lot of editing, honing, refining (and I don't dare look at the manuscript now because I know I'll find something to change), as well as compiling photos--this is a memoir, after all.
I don't remember the last time I was so stressed out over a writing project. Maybe it's because I had overlapping deadlines with She Has Your Eyes. Maybe it's because the stakes for self-publishing are ten times as high as when I first self-pubbed three years ago. Maybe it's because when it comes to my writing, my perfectionism hasn't let up.
Maybe all of the above.
But with this latest deadline behind me, I am slowly returning to normal. I'm once again eating foods that require pots and pans to prepare them. I cleaned my bathrooms and bedroom yesterday, and my studio today (tomorrow, the kitchen and living room). When the rain lets up, I'll go to the beach.
And yet, I still have so much to do--press releases, launch party, book signings, blog appearances. . . I need to plan and arrange it all. I need to update my website (and, if you haven't noticed, I've been playing around with new looks for the website; still haven't found the one I'm in love with yet), I need to proofread the layout when it comes back from the formatter. And I just hope/wish/pray I'll get it all done.
In the meantime, I've got a new novel idea marinating, and I'm collaborating on two more. And I love that even during the downtime, I'm always asking myself, "What's next?"
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.