Tuesday, February 15, 2011

a bit of reality check...

I wrote a blog a couple days in hopes that I had said everything I could possibly say about publishing, and then I would have one nice big blog that I could point everyone back to when they had questions. (And if you want to check it out, here it is: Pretty Much Everything I Have to Say About How I Do What I Do). But with the recent influx of emails in my inbox and some of the buzz I'm hearing on the interweb, I feel like I have something more I need to say.

Self-publishing is NOT is the easy way out. If you simply want to be published, and do not care if everyone reads or enjoys your work, then yes, self-publishing is easy. If you want to be sucessful and make a living as a writer, then it is hard work. In a lot of ways, I suspect it is harder than being traditionally published.

I'm just under the impression that a lot of people are now looking at this as a Get Rich Quick scheme, and this is no such thing. 

So much of what people are saying about me is, "Look what Amanda Hocking accomplished in a year," when they really should be saying is, "Look what Amanda Hocking accomplished in twenty years." Because that's how long I've been writing, that's how long I've been working towards this goal.

Most of my life has been spent in front of a keyboard or with a pen and paper. I have spent more of my life writing than I have on any other singular activity (with the exception of sleeping). I easily work over forty hours a week, just on writing, editing, networking, reading, etc.

Other ewriters that I know that are doing well - like David Dalglish and HP Mallory, among others - are doing as well as they are for the same reasons. They treat their writing like a career, something they they work hard for every day. If you do not have the time to devote to working at your writer the same way you would a full time job, then the sad truth is that self-publishing probably isn't the right fit for you.

Another thing I'm hearing a lot is that a writer is finishing writing their first novel today and planning to publish it next week. There is no way a first time novelist can have it completed, edited, and formatted properly in a week. That writer may be a fantastic novelist, like truly fantastic, but rushing a product out will only hurt them.

There is a common misconception that I published the first novel I ever wrote, and that is not true. The first book I ever published was My Blood Approves, and that was the eighth novel I'd written.

Here's a list of all the books I've written, in the order they were written:
  1. Dreams I Can’t Remember
  2. House I Grew Up In
  3. Mistakes
  4. Lost Without You
  5. Violet 1996
  6. Paper Doll
  7. Clandestine
  8. My Blood Approves
  9. Rejection
  10. Fate
  11. Switched
  12. Flutter
  13. Hollowland
  14. Honalee
  15. Virtue
  16. Torn
  17. Wisdom
  18. Ascend
  19. Letters to Elise

The books that have been struck through are books that will never be published, because they're just not very good. The ones that are purple are ones that I think with some editing and time will get to a publishable level. But of the nineteen books I've written, only nine have been published.

Readers are asking for more of my books. So why don't I just throw out any of the books? Because they are not ready yet. And if I put out books that are not ready, I risk alienating readers. I have worked hard to establish a style and a name for myself that readers recognize and enjoy. I would never want to sully that or irritate fans by just throwing out something.

The point is that if you want to be successful with this and have a career as a writer, you need to do all the same work you would do if you were traditionally published. You just need to do it all yourself. The goal of being a professional writer is to produce a quality product, and that product should be indistinguishable from self-published and traditionally published.

I still think self-publishing is great for writers. But writers have to be careful not to shoot themselves in the foot. That means polishing your work and acting professional in the blogosphere.

Another thing people keep asking me is - how do you self-promote? The answer: I don't. I spend a lot of time on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog, but with the exception of my blog, I hardly talk about my books or writing. My blog I do more so because if you came here, I figure you want to know about them, at least sometimes. I mostly talk about whatever I find interesting and entertaining. If I have a book coming out, of course I mention it, but it can't just be a long infomercial.

My tips for marketing online: just be present, be funny, and be kind. Try not to say anything offensive to about anyone. You never know who's reading or if/when it'll come back to bite you.

Also, someone commented on my blog with this:

"I googled you after your name came up in a discussion on Absolute Write (a writer's board). The discussion came about after someone posted about "augmenting" his own sales on Amazon by buying copies of his own book to make it seem like he was a best seller.

The person in question seems to think this is how your books rose in the ranks and that it's the normal operating procedure for self-published authors.

I'm not suggesting argument, but maybe some facts from someone who's actually had success with legitimate self-publishing could help him ou
t."

I couldn't find the thread about this, but the reason I'm mentioning it here is because this is NOT standard practice among legitimate self-published authors. I have never done this. I have heard of people doing this, but every successful self-published author I know has not done this. Which means that it does not really work. You might get a temporary boost in rankings, but unless you get the reviews and word-of-mouth to go along with it, it doesn't really matter. Word-of-mouth is the best way to sell books, and it is something you cannot fake.

There are no tricks or schemes with self-publishing. It's just about writing a good book, polishing it really well, getting a good cover, pricing it right, and putting it out there. There are no short cuts. If you want to be successful at this, you have to do the work.