My Self-Publishing Journey: Climbing the Learning Curve

A box full of my first book, VEILED MIRROR, was waiting for me when we recently got back from the mountains. (I mention this here because even though VM wasn’t self-published, that sale helped give me the self-confidence to make the leap. It also provided a step along the learning curve of understanding the process of publishing.)

My husband is a great supporter, and he insisted on bringing a copy of VM to a meeting of the organizing committee of TusCon Science Fiction Convention to show off.  We’ve been involved with this group for many years, but I didn’t want to push the book in their faces. Brian wasn’t so reserved. He passed it around before lunch, and I got lots of positive feedback. I also got questions about self-publishing. Is it hard? Does it cost a lot?

I found myself tongue-tied.  Over the last two years I’ve been soaking up information like a sponge. There are so many aspects of the business to learn about, and I’m still learning (more on that in a moment).  When asked how to self-publish and you have thirty seconds to answer, what do you say to the person who is starting from zero? While sometimes I still feel like I’m floundering, I realized at that moment — when a dozen thoughts crowded my head and I didn’t know what to say first — that I’ve learned a lot.

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I realize that when someone asks about self-publishing, I’ll have to figure out what the person is really asking.  Often the person doesn’t really know. Other times they may be wanting to tell you about their book, which they may or may not have written yet. They may want you to reassure them that self-publishing isn’t a career-ender, or they may want you to hold their hand through the process.

Time management isn’t my strongest skill, so I don’t have enough time to shepherd folks through the process step-by-step — but I do want to give others a hand up as others have helped me. So I think I may create a handout that will have half a dozen references to books and blogs on it to give the curious a starting place.  I figure those who are serious will take the time to educate themselves, and by having a handout, I won’t be tempted to dump an avalanche of information on the unwary. 🙂

I’m curious, how do other self-published authors handle these questions?

As I said, I’m still learning. With the business in a state of constant flux and redevelopment, we all are. Here’s a tidbit I just learned and have to share with you. Whether you like his work or not, Dean Wesley Smith understands the business of writing, as does his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch. They’ve come up with an idea I can’t wait to try with LIGHTBRINGER.  I liked the idea when Dean wrote about it a couple of months ago, and now he and Kris have done a test run at World Con in Reno.  The idea is selling digital books as book cards (like the gift cards you see everywhere), or using them as promotion. Dean explains it much better than I can, so read his blog post about it, and read his comments after, too.  With paper book sales in decline, and electronic book sales growing by leaps and bounds, this seems like an outstanding way to bridge the transition.

I’ll be interested in hearing what you have to say about this idea.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “My Self-Publishing Journey: Climbing the Learning Curve

  1. It took me a while to realize that not all questions should be taken at face value. Sometimes people are only asking to be “polite”, others ask because they really need to know, still other ask only because they want to “share” some of their hopes, dreams or experiences without really learning what I know. I think it’s important to learn how to “hedge” by giving generalized advice such as you said “I’ve learned a lot” or “there’s a lot to it. It’ been a very interesting experience.” Follow up questions will tell you more about what the other person is truly interested in. This is a great post, Frankie, and something that’s worthwhile learning how to handle as many, many people (those who write and those who have never considered it serioulsly before) will have questions about.

    • Thanks, Kat! Hedging and waiting for a follow-up question also gives me a chance to organize my thoughts. I’m feeling more sympathy for the politicians who have canned speeches they never deviate from! 😉

  2. Excellent blog! I find when I actually try to explain the process, people’s eyes glaze over. So I usually recommend they either read a book about indie publishing or sign up for an on-line seminar, which was my first step. 🙂

    • Regina/Linda, you’re so right about the eyes glazing over. At the moment I am pretty enthusiastic about what I’m doing, and run the risk of over-sharing. Currently my favorite book to recommend is David Gaughran’s LET’S GET DIGITAL.

  3. That was Regina Duke / Linda White. Don’t know why the poster i.d. comes up with both first names. LOL.

    Regina Duke / Linda White

  4. I have a similar problem with what to say when I’m asked this question. I love the idea of a handout that encapsulates some of the references and blogs that have been most helpful to me during the process. Great idea. You might also post your handout file on your Links tab? The digital minded can download it, and the non digital minded can be gently pushed in the digital direction. You could use this to drive like minded folks to your web site. If they don’t jump into writing with both feet, they might at least become a possible fan. Locke suggested something similar to this in his ebook about reaching a million sales on Kindle.

    Strangely, I’m often asked how someone should go about publishing a children’s book, even though I write romance and erotica. This always floors me. I believe that writing for children is actually more difficult than writing romance for adults, but I think people assume writing for children is the easiest. And, while I have written two children’s books, the folks asking me for advice don’t know that, which is why I’m always puzzled. I’m not actively writing or publishing in that area. Those stories are still in the proverbial drawer waiting for me to do something with them. Someday, I’ll get around to dusting them off and looking at them for publication, but they’ll need rework and professional editing attention first. Probably more than anything else I’ve written so far.

    It’s hard to know what to say in three sentences or less that can answer a question about “How do I publish…,” regardless of the unspoken questions that go with it, and pointing someone to references and links is a great way to help them along their own journey.

  5. I love the idea of selling e-book gift cards. I loved the covers and the idea of still having something collectible and tangible with an electronic book.

  6. Very interesting- I have to admit I’m lazy and haven’t done much research- I read blogs and attend talks, but really the information I retain is just enough to finish whatever part of the project I’m working on.

  7. Anne Francis

    ooooh…book cards. That’s a great idea.

    • Yeah, I’m pretty excited by the book card idea. I saw some the size of mass market books in Home Depot today hanging on a rack with the center fold structure, very similar to the way Dean describes what he and Kris did. This could work.

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