Tag Archives: goals

My Self-Publishing Journey: Ruthless Clarity

As I take this self-publishing journey, one of the changes I’ve observed in myself is the way I think about how I spend my money and my time. When I was pursuing traditional publishing I wasn’t as careful about how I spent my time.  When I sold VEILED MIRROR to The Wild Rose Press I did editing on their (very relaxed) schedule. I was a business owner even then, but I didn’t really think of it that way. That all changed when I decided to self-publish. As a business owner, I have to allocate my limited resources for the best effect, and there is no shortage of products and projects clamoring for my time and money.

Initially, I took the approach that every minute (and every dollar) should count. It seemed obvious that I shouldn’t spend time on activities that won’t move my career forward.

Let’s stop for a minute to examine that. What does it mean, to move your career forward? It’s a very personal question, actually, and underpinning it are the questions of why do you write, and why do you want to publish? Understanding the answers to these questions is vital to keeping us on track. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Bob Mayer observed in his book WHO DARES WINS, that understanding the intention of a military order can determine whether it’s successfully carried out, especially when circumstances change.

Once you’ve figured out what your bedrock objectives are, I recommend writing them down, and saying them out loud. Be honest! It can be a little frightening to do this, because putting feelings into words lays it all right out there. Your motivation is no longer a mushy, vague concept. It’s a clear, hard-edged statement. It may reveal something about you to yourself that you hadn’t acknowledged before.

Why do I write? I like writing better than any other job I’ve had. I write because I have stories inside me that I want to tell. I would write just as a hobby, but at a much slower pace. I revise because I want other people to enjoy reading what I write. I publish and sell my stories because I want the respect and validation that comes from successfully testing my work in the marketplace.

Knowing that about myself helps me make decisions about where to spend my time and effort and money. It’s important to remember: all knowledge is good. And if you don’t know what your real goal is, you’ll never be satisfied with what you get, because it probably won’t be what you really wanted.

That’s where the ruthless clarity comes in. (I looked up ruthless, in preparation for writing this. It means merciless, unrelenting, unyielding. And clarity is “freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.”) Once you know what it is that you really want, you can cut away the distractions. That doesn’t mean you have to become a single-minded grind. Everyone has multiple goals from different areas of life. Goals in job, family, health. It’s hard work to figure out what’s really important to us, and even harder to juggle them all. Sometimes the people we care about want us to have different priorities. You may need to learn to say no to them. Or you may decide that the goal of meeting other people’s needs is more important  for now, than achieving a personal goal. Knowing that, and choosing it consciously, will make deferring other goals easier.

The word “ruthless” gave me pause when I looked it up. It’s a harsh word, with a lot of negative connotations. It’s also a strong word. Ruthless clarity is a way of defending ourselves from the clamor of distractions that can destroy our time and eat our lives. Articulating my goals has made making career and life choices clearer, if not necessarily easier. I still struggle with knowing which priority to spend time on, and with wanting to fit one more thing into too little time. Sometimes my life isn’t balanced, and I don’t always make every moment “count.” And that’s okay. But at least I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going, even if I take a detour now and then.



Filed under Life, Publishing

Define Yourself

I have a button (one of those round ones, with a pin on the back, and words on the front) that says, “Among animals it’s eat or be eaten, among humans it’s define, or be defined.” Marketers and politicians have known this to be true for as long as their professions have existed. It’s time for writers to recognize this as well.

By defining the terms you control the discussion.When it comes to your career, you should be the one defining the terms. Dean Wesley Smith wrote a recent post that touched on this. His post was mostly about how indie writers should take the long view, and regard the time they spend building their career as an investment. That, like a biweekly contribution to a retirement fund, the time devoted to writing will only gradually yield growth. This is important for impatient people like me to remember. The message: just keep writing and over time, with the magic of compound interest (in your books) success will grow. He defined writing as an investment.

But Dean also defines other terms. He says:

In the last article in this series, I went on about the difference between an “Author” and a “Writer.”

And in indie publishing, the difference can really, really be seen, with the “Authors” doing nothing but promoting “their book” while the “Writers” just get out to readers what they have written and then move on to writing new stories.

And let me repeat something I said:  It is the “Authors” who are going on and on about what indie “Writers” MUST DO.

And then Dean goes on to say what he thinks writers must do. (Write. A lot.)  My point is not to say “gotcha” to Dean, my point is that he has defined what he believes works, and he is following that path. Part of that path is sharing his definitions with the world, just like the “authors” he defined are doing.

As we must all do for ourselves. We don’t have to share it with the world, but we must figure out our own way amid the clamoring voices that are trying to tell us the “right” way to get our books written and in the hands of readers. We should not accept what an author, or agent, or even a publisher says without critical thought. We must ask ourselves if what they’re asking, or telling us to do, fits with what our vision is for our future. Of course, that means we have to have a vision for our future, even if that vision changes over time.

I sympathize with the desire to find out “the secret” to success. We had that desire in a different form, when we wanted to know how to best phrase our query letters and synopses, so a publisher would buy our latest effort. Now we indies have substituted the desire to know which review blogs to submit to, whether we should use professionally designed covers, and how to manipulate Amazon to get a better ranking and more sales.

The community of writers, and the indie community in particular, is one of the most supportive I’ve ever belonged to. Everyone I’ve talked to is willing to share how they do what they’re doing and give advice. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from authors who generously shared their experience with me.

The problem is, the advice from one source often conflicts with what the next person says. And because the indie environment is so new, there isn’t much available in the way of cold, hard facts. We’re all flying by the seat of our pants, even the ones who sound very sure of themselves. And even if they’re right about something today, next year the market will have changed.

One thing I know “for sure.” It’s that it is possible to stand still waiting to be certain that a particular path is the best. And while you’re waiting, you’re not moving forward. Try something. Don’t wait for “best.” Go with “good for now.” Define your path. It doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s. You can change direction later if you want. Most mistakes aren’t fatal, and all of them can teach. (And keep records so you’ll know if what you’re doing is working.)

How is all this affecting what I’m doing? Well, I have another button. It says, “If you’re going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance.”

Honestly, I’m just dancing as fast as I can. I’m getting my finished work out, and writing new stuff. I’m having a blast doing it, too. I don’t have much time for more than that. As I said in my last post, I may turn more of my attention to promotion when I have a number of titles for sale, but not until then. And I use the words “author” and “writer” interchangably.



Filed under Publishing, writing

My Self-Publishing Journey: Planning 2012

I’m a big believer in making lists and having a plan. I don’t always follow the plan exactly, but I’ve got one.

It’s good, essential even, to have dreams, but you have to have a plan for how you’re going to get there, or you’re likely to flounder around without making much progress. I believe in setting goals which are measurable and within my control to achieve. I start with the big goal, then break it down into smaller steps as I get closer. As the saying goes, life is what happens while you’re making other plans, so I like to keep my plan loose until I’m almost ready to implement the next step. You might call it “just in time” management. I don’t see the benefit of nailing down every detail far in advance, when circumstances might change.

I’ve had one quarter of being a publisher as well as a writer. If sales continue at the current pace, I’ll break even in 22 months. My dream is that the pace of my sales will increase as I continue to bring out more books, but I have no direct control over that. What I do have control over is how much I charge for my work, and how much I spend on the various components of publishing. I also have control over how much time I spend on free social media promoting my work. I don’t have control over whether time spent on social media converts to sales.

So how am I going allocate my time and money in 2012?

  • The majority of my time will be spent writing, revising, and publishing two books. I’m currently preparing a backlist novel, DANGEROUS TALENTS, for publishing. DT should be out by May. I’m also writing FIRSTBORN, a tie-in novel in the Celestial Affairs universe that LIGHTBRINGER began. I plan to release FIRSTBORN in the fall. Then I’ll either begin work on GUARDIAN, the next Celestial Affairs novel, or prepare FORBIDDEN TALENTS for publishing in 2013. I will not plan another Christmas release as I did in 2011.
  • I’ll continue to use social media to let the world know that I, and my books exist. I’ll blog a little less frequently, and tweet a little more. I’ll look into guest blogging so I can reach a new audience.
  • I’ll send review requests to blogs that discuss the kinds of books I write.
  • I’ll make personal appearances at events I enjoy: The Amore and More talks at the Pima County Library, the Tucson Festival of Books, and TusCon Science Fiction Convention.
  • I’ll send postcards to book events advertising my books. I’m not sure how immediately effective this kind of advertising is, but at least it has the benefit of being targeted to readers. In direct mail campaigns a 1% conversion rate is pretty standard. With a targeted campaign it might be as high as 3%. Hmm. Now that I’m doing the math, that’s not a good return on investment. I may rethink how I implement this.
  • I will research less expensive alternatives to certain production tasks, like cover design.
  • I’ll research inexpensive advertising opportunities to implement once Castle Rock Publishing has three titles for sale.
  • I’ll stay flexible and keep my eyes open so I can take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

Mostly this year, my focus is going to be on making my work available for sale. My long range plan is to release a minimum of two books a year. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂




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Five Pespectives on Self-Publishing

Passive Guy pointed me to a conversation among five New York published authors who have gone indie, and I highly recommend it. Not one of these authors bad-mouthed traditional publishing, though they all cautioned authors to be vigilant when signing contracts and understand what rights we’re signing away.

So much of the current conversation about self-publishing is one sided. What I liked about this conversation is that it gives the reader five viewpoints on the subject of self-publishing, and covers many of the common questions surrounding it. Here are some highlights:

How does self-publishing compare for you to your traditional publishing experience?

Beth Orsoff:  I’ve had much more success self-publishing than I did as a traditionally published author.  I’ve sold many more books, earned ten times as much money, and I’m able to write what I want instead of what an agent or editor thinks will sell.

Julie Ortolon: No comparision. I love everything about self-publishing. The freedom, the lack of stress, the control. That said, writing under contract for major print publishers was a great training ground. Succeeding at self publishing without that experience would probably be harder for me.

Do you feel your success in self-publishing is due to your “name” created by your traditional publishing history?

Kathryn Shay: Yes, I do. I had fans who were waiting for a new Kathryn Shay book and many of them got my sales started.

Beth Orsoff:  Definitely not since I’m quite sure no one knew my name from traditional publishing.

Julie Ortolon: I think my name recognition from my print career helped a little, but no, I don’t think that’s why I’m succeeding so well self-publishing my backlist (with new stories on the way). Fans of my print books already own them, so they’re not the ones buying those same titles as ebooks. The ebooks are bringing me a whole new audience. From the fan mail I’m getting, these readers never heard my name before they tried one of my e-titles. Then they went out and bought the rest. It’s the writing, not the name, that helps an author win with ebooks.

What do you think is the biggest “myth” about traditional publishing?

Kathryn Shay: That once you sell a book you’ve “made it.”

Patricia Ryan: I think the biggest myth is that publishers will promote your books. Publishers do little or nothing to promote the books of midlist authors. They encourage those authors to self-promote, which takes time and costs money.

What about self-publishing? What is the biggest myth there?

Beth Orsoff:  That self-publishing is some type of get rich quick scheme where you’re going to upload your book and instantly be earning a six-figure salary.  It’s just as hard to be successful  as a self-published author as it is as a traditionally published author.  The difference is, if you’re successful self-publishing you might actually be able to make a living at it.

Patricia Ryan: I’ll go back to the subject of promotion. Some people think if you self-publish, you’re going to have to spend more time promoting your work than if a traditional publisher puts out your book. As I said before, publishers don’t promote midlist books, so unless you’re a major lead author, you’ll be spending the same time, energy, and money on promotion either way.

Julie Ortolon:  That the only reason an author would “choose to” (aka “be lowered to”) self-publish a manuscript is because it wasn’t “good enough” to sell to a print publisher. SO not true! . . . a print publisher’s #1 question when considering a manuscript isn’t the quality of the writing, It’s the broadness of the audience. Brilliantly written stories get rejected all the time because the major print publishers don’t perceive them as having blockbuster potential. That has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Those same stories can be hugely successful and profitable for the author if put out as an ebook. The big winner in all of this isn’t just the authors, it’s the readers. Ebooks equal variety.

What advice would you give someone considering signing with an agent or a publishing house?

Doranna Durgin:  Understand enough about both facets of the industry–and about your own personal needs and goals–so you can do what everyone else here has said and weigh the pros and cons in complete context of what’s best for you.


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Talking About Self-Publishing

I had an interesting conversation with Janni Lee Simner on facebook this week about her blog, “On why traditional publishing is about more than a few weeks of chain bookstore distribution.”  (At least it was interesting to me.)  Ultimately, we agree on many of the fundamentals, but the conversation brought up some points that I’d like to develop here a bit more.

The big advantages that traditional publishing offers, as I see it, are:

  • Good covers.  In most cases, the covers traditional publishers provide are of good quality.  Covers are important in that they create that important first impression.  Covers that work best for digital and online sales are often different than those that work best on a bookstore shelf because they are much smaller.  Too much detail or too dark, and the image will just look muddy and confused online.
  • Extensive editing.  In many cases, the publisher will put a contracted novel through several rounds of developmental editing as well as copy editing to bring the work up to it’s absolute best potential.
  • An established sales force and distribution system.   While digital sales are growing at an incredible rate, brick and mortar stores still account for the vast majority of fiction sales. (There’s apparently some discrepancy in the reporting of ebook sales by some of the traditional publishers which may affect these numbers. See Kris Rusch’s posts on Royalty Statements and the Update.) It’s still nearly impossible for an independently published book to get into physical stores.  Generally, only indie bookstores will talk to self-published authors.  There are ways around this, but it takes time and effort, more than most of us want to take away from the actual writing.
  • Review copies.  Traditional publishers will submit books to many reviewers in advance of publication, some of whom won’t review independently produced books.

Traditional publishers do all of this at no charge to the author.  In fact, in addition to investing thousands of dollars in the book, the publisher pays the author up front, before any books are sold, usually 1/3 on signing, on acceptance, and on publication.  In return, the author agrees to accept a much smaller amount of money per unit sold, not only until the advance is repaid, but in perpetuity, or for as long as the publisher holds the rights to publication.  How long that will be depends on the contract.

This is a bargain that appeals to many writers, for several reasons:

  • They can devote all their attention (or most of it) to writing.  They don’t have to spend precious writing time learning how to produce a book.
  • They don’t want to pay up front for the services a traditional publisher will do for them.
  • It feels really good to have someone in authority say, “I love your book.  Let me give you money for it.” And they’re willing to wait until an editor and the marketing department (it’s a group decision) believes their work will be profitable enough to justify the investment.
  • They want the respect and perceived stamp of quality that’s associated with a traditionally published book.  They’ve “made the cut.” (Don’t dismiss this as shallow.  People are generally more motivated by emotion than money.)
  • They want their book to be the very best it can be, and they want a higher level of editing than most indie authors can afford to pay for.
  • They want their book to reach the widest possible audience.

So why would someone choose to self-publish? Here are the main points as I see them:

  • The author doesn’t want to wait any more.  As mentioned above, traditional publishing often uses a committee to decide which book to contract.  If a work is too quirky, or doesn’t fit into a clear marketing slot, it’s hard for the editor to sell it to the marketing department, no matter how good it is.  Digital and online sales of POD books don’t depend so much on marketing slots.
  • Improving technology makes the production of acceptable covers and interior formatting by non-professionals possible.
  • Freelance competition makes editing, cover, and interior design more affordable for those who don’t want to do it themselves.
  • Competently written (not perfect) books with decent, even poor covers, will still sell. (See Kris’s post, mentioned above.)
  • Independently published books, both digital and POD, earn much more per unit for the author than traditionally published books.  Once the book reaches the break-even point, where all up-front costs have been covered by income, it’s pure profit.
  • Infinite shelf-space.  Books sold online will never be remaindered to make room for the new crop even if sales drop to one a year.
  • Cash flow is nearly immediate.  (Though it will take longer, in most cases, for it to compare to the advances paid by traditional publishers.)

It really comes down to the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of the results are made by twenty percent of the effort.  If a self-published book is competently written, copy-edited, and adequately clothed in a decent cover, it will find readers and it will sell.  It probably won’t sell as many copies as a book professionally designed and edited and distributed, but it will sell many more copies than a book still in the metaphorical drawer.

Some authors would rather wait until they sell to a traditional publisher.  Some would rather not have their lesser efforts see the light of day.  Each author has to decide that for themselves. It’s a very personal decision. Our professional reputations are built of many things, including the quality of our work (as subjective as that may be), how we interact with other professionals, and sales.  (Money is capitalism’s scorecard.)

There are many reasons books don’t sell to traditional publishers.  Sometimes it’s because they suck. A smart author will try to get objective feedback.  But if that feedback is positive (and not from your mother) there are good reasons to let the readers decide if it has merit.  A self-published book may not be quite as polished as one that is traditionally produced, but it’s the story that matters.  It’s the story that will generate the word-of-mouth that will translate into sales.  In some cases, in-depth editing might be necessary to bring that story out, but not all.  In-depth editing might make every story somewhat better, but perfection is not attainable.  Each author has to decide how many iterations of the 80/20 rule will produce a product that is good enough to share.

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Finding a Career Path

Once you find your niche, you may want to consider what path you’d like your career to take.  I suspect that most of us don’t really decide on a career path.  There wasn’t much of a choice when many of us started writing.  Back then the choices numbered in the single digits.  As in two.  Fiction and non-fiction.

If you chose to write non-fiction, which many did because it seemed to offer a chance of earning a real living, you could write for magazines or newspapers.

If you chose to write fiction, where few of the authors earned a living wage, you made a name for yourself writing short stories, then you got an agent who sold your novels to one of about 30 publishers.

Nowadays the choices have changed somewhat.  Newspapers are on the ropes.  Most of the print magazines that are still alive are more ads than articles.  There aren’t many print mags publishing short stories anymore, and the big publishers have bought up one another until there are only six, each with a number of imprints.   Meanwhile, an amazing number of small presses have sprung up.  Some are healthy and growing, like Samhain and The Wild Rose Press, others such as Triskellion have failed (as 50% of all start-up businesses do).  Simultaneously, online opportunities to publish have exploded.  You can even self-publish, both digitally or through offset or Print-on-demand (POD).

More titles than ever before are being published, but fewer copies of each.  Advances in many genres are being lowered.  “Two and out” is not uncommon:  your book must succeed quickly, and each book has to sell more than the one before, or your print run will be cut.  (Then, in the definition of self-fulfilling prophesy, you will automatically sell fewer copies and you will be cut.)  If booksellers don’t unpack and shelve your books promptly, well, too bad.

Amazon announced that last quarter, e-books outsold mass-market.  According to a publisher I recently dined with, mass-market is dying.  E-books comprise 8.3% of sales and are growing.  But that means that at present, traditional books are still 92% of sales.

Planning a career in this time of flux isn’t easy.  A lot depends on a writer’s priorities.  We all want people to read our work, but how many is enough for a good start?  How long are you willing to wait until an agent or editor deems you marketable enough?   How much of your writing time are you willing to put toward self-promotion?  Are you willing to do everything and self-publish?  How important is it to you to have the validation that comes from selling a book to a publisher? Does it have to be one of the Big Six, or will a small press sale do it for you?  Is cash-flow important?

There are no right answers, and no single right path.  I suspect that as in evolution, the successful author is going to be the one who best adapts to the changing environment.


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What Are You Waiting For? An Invitation?

I’ve been reading a lot of motivational books about thinking and acting outside the little boxes we build for ourselves lately.  It’s a subject that interests me because I have my own little boxes, and because I agreed to give a talk about The 4-Hour Work Week to my local Romance Writers of America chapter last Saturday.  (It went pretty well, if I do say so myself.)  I like 4HWW a lot, but I kept finding other books by people with slightly different perspectives, so I just kept reading and assimilating info.

One quote I came across made me get back to the gym today.  “The lights will never be green all at the same time.”  I have a bunch of things I need to get done this week.  As Ferris recommends, I’ve set myself a short deadline for some significant projects, so I could have made a good case for not having time to work out.  I could just wait until next week….

But the lights will never be green all at the same time.  Next week there will something else that urgently “needs” my attention more.  Here’s another quote from 4HWW:  “Someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.”

I decided my health was more important and went to the gym.

I have believed for a long time that people find time for what’s important to them.  It’s just that sometimes we need a wake-up call to jolt us out of sleepwalking.  We get into routines of behavior and thought and forget that we once wanted something more than what we’re doing now.

So wake up!  No one will give you permission (or an invitation) to pursue your dreams.  What excites you?  Go for it!  Don’t wait.

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Happy New Year! Now Get To Work!

Okay, so I haven’t taken my own advice yet.  My excuse is that I’ve had lots of social obligations (read house guests and parties).  I have been thinking about how I want to approach things differently this year, so that I accomplish more of what is important to me.  I don’t have a comprehensive list yet, but I can tell you a few things I have decided.

My schedule of blogging will change.  Expect to hear from me twice a week, on Monday and Thursday.

I will exercise more.  That’s an easy one since I fell off the wagon last year and did very little.  Almost any exercise will be “more.”  I have greater ambitions than that, though.  I’ll let you all know how I do.

And one more thing I’ll be doing:  Living bravely.  Not letting irrational fear guide my choices.  Expanding my comfort zone.

What are your goals for the year?

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What I’ve Learned Over the Last Year

While I was waiting for my husband in the mall yesterday, I went shopping for shoes.  I was looking for some flats that would be comfortable and look good with skirts — comfort being the top priority.  Looking good with skirts was essential, but without being comfortable, it didn’t matter how terrific they looked; they were a no-go.  I found the flats, but I also bought a pair of boots.  They weren’t what I was looking for, but they met the criteria and all together I spent less than $70.

What has this got to do with writing?

Sometimes unanticipated opportunities present themselves.  We have to be open and set aside our preconceptions to take advantage of them – and we can do so without going astray as long as we’re clear on our priorities.

I love writing.  I enjoy putting words together in such a way as to convince or entertain, to enlighten or make the reader feel something.  It’s great when a story comes together, and hell when the right words are being elusive.  Some people can be happy writing in a journal and never showing another soul.  I’m not one of them.  I want to share my ideas with others and I want to be paid for it.  That’s why I’m keeping my mind open and evaluating all my publishing options.

When I started writing for publication there were really only two paths to take.  I could write short stories for print magazines, or I could write novels, and find an agent to sell them to print publishers.  But in the last few years a changing economy and technology has opened up more options to authors, each with own costs and benefits.

One of my priorities in writing this blog is to, in addition to reviewing interesting poetry and books,  share what I’m learning about the various forms of publishing.  To that end I’ve reviewed several books about independent-publishing and self-promotion, included guest blogs, and discussed the pros and cons of traditional, small, digital, and self publishing.

I’ve learned a lot over the last year.  Here are the most important points:

•    Traditional, small press, independent publishing, online and print magazines.  Every form of publishing has its pluses and minuses, and which one you pursue depends on the project and your long-term and short-term career goals.
•    You don’t have to choose just one path.  You can pursue more than one avenue of publishing at a time with different projects.
•    Traditional publishing still offers larger advances than other forms of publishing.  It also has superior distribution to brick and mortar bookstores, and for a limited number of best-selling authors, to big box stores and airports.  The latter are still where the majority of book sales occur, though online sales are growing rapidly.
•    Only 1% of books submitted to major publishers are contracted for publication.  About 4% of books submitted to small publishers are contracted.
•    90% of the books in editors’ slush-piles really are pretty bad.
•    According to some sources, only 10% of traditionally published books earn out their advance and earn additional royalties (which are paid every six months after reserves against returns are subtracted).
•    Small publishers and e-publishers are generally more willing to take chances on books that don’t fit into clear market niches.  They may not offer an advance (or only a very small one), but they often pay more in royalties (which are usually paid monthly or quarterly).  Some are quite prestigious, but always check Editors and Predators or Writer Beware! before signing a contract (or better yet, before submitting).
•    Digital or e-publishing is still a small percentage of total book sales, but it’s growing exponentially.  (Some industry insiders are predicting that it will comprise 25% of sales by the end of 2012.)
•    Self-publishing, independent publishing, vertically integrated publishing, whatever you call it, can be done inexpensively if you do the design and formatting work yourself.  There are many companies that will offer to do it for you.  A few are honorable, but most just want your money and don’t care about quality or salability.  Do your research just as you would before buying a car.  Every dollar you spend is one you have to earn back before you break even and start making a profit.
•    The vast majority of self-published books don’t sell as many copies as traditionally published books, but the profit per unit, if you’re diligent, can be greater.  Non-fiction and niche books sell best.
•    If you self-publish, have your work professionally edited.  Every book I read on the subject said this.  (Alternative: at least a dozen beta readers.)
•    There’s a lot of prejudice against self-published books because most of them aren’t professionally edited and they just aren’t very good.  (Remember the slush-pile?) The only defense against this is to create an excellent product from cover to content.  Your book is your ambassador.  Don’t rush it.
•    Accept that part of your job as a writer is to promote your work.  Learn how to do this efficiently and effectively so you can spend more time writing.

•    Don’t give up and don’t give in.  There are lots of people who feel strongly about the superiority of one form of publishing over another.  Listen to them all, get the facts, then make up your own mind.

And finally:
•    Enjoy the process.  This may be your blood, sweat, and tears going onto the page, but it isn’t brain surgery.  If you make a mistake, it’s not fatal.

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Changing Your Dream

“Too many people never go after what they truly want out of life, because its easier not to.” — Jasmine Hamilton (from The Star Prince by Susan Grant)

A writer friend of mine, Jill Knowles, once observed how lucky we are to have the dream of being successful, published writers. That we are richer for it than those who go through life without any goals beyond paying the rent and making the car payment. That even if we don’t fulfill our dreams, just having them and working toward them is a good thing.

I think this is true. And yet sometimes dreams should be modified.

M.J. Rose wrote in How to Publish and Promote Online (co-authored with Angela Adair-Hoy) “I had a big dream: a bookstore window filled with stacks of my book. And only a big publisher had the ability and distribution to make that happen. But after five years I had to face facts. My dream wasn’t coming true. So I let go of the big dream and turned to a very, very tiny one:  I wanted someone to read my book. Just one other person.”

Of course, through her efforts at self-promotion and the quality of her self-published book, Lip Service became successful and was ultimately picked up by a big New York publisher.  As they say in the weight loss commercials:  these results are not typical. But her success might not have occurred at all if she had clung stubbornly to her original dream of big publisher or nothing.

Rose concludes, “If you scale down your dream to make it fit in the palm of your hand, you can accomplish something.  And then the dream will grow on its own.”

At least it did for her.

This isn’t meant as advice to give up on big dreams altogether, but as a suggestion to use smaller dreams as stepping stones to that ultimate goal.  Don’t give up on yourself, but don’t make it harder than it has to be. Remember dreams are meant to motivate, and they don’t last.  Once you’ve achieved one goal, you have to find another dream, and another.

And sometimes dreams change.  Sometimes you realize that you don’t want what you started out to get.  As long as you’re still working toward something, and not giving up because “it’s too hard,” that’s okay.

There’s an old aphorism, If wishes were horses then beggars would ride. Wishing is only a problem if you don’t also do the work. So wish. Dream. Imagine. Then go out and get that horse, or pony, or skateboard.

It’s not the size of your dream that’s important, it’s how you use it.

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