So I had my book launch for NEED this week and while reality did not meet my unrealistic expectations, the next day was better. Sometimes it’s easier to assume that things happen one way because of something you think you see more of than the things you didn’t see until much later. Sometimes it’s just hard work and hard pimping that gets books flying off the virtual shelves. Sometimes it’s strong social media engagement – and not just presence – that actually get the gears moving.
Need is my steamiest book to date. Because of that, I held off on the promotions. I also didn’t know how to sell something that’s only 17K words although in hindsight, a book is a book is a book. It’s a story. And while it still bears my voice and writing style, it’s got 90% more sex than all my published books combined. Published is the key word here because my unpublished versions are way more steamy until the scenes end up on the chopping block before its way to the editor’s desk.
Speaking of “published,” I received this question twice this week: “Have you ever considered traditional publishing?”
I’d be lying to you if I said no. Twenty years ago, when I was active in writing groups and met the likes of Ray Bradbury, Frank McCourt, Mitch Albom, James Elroy, and Diana Gabaldon, there was no Amazon Kindle. There was no digital publishing. And so the only options then were traditional publishing and self-publishing the old way, where you do a print run of your self-published books and store them in your garage, tote them out for writer’s conventions and monthly meetings. You could also publish your books via a vanity publisher and part with tens of thousands of your hard-earned money with that same garage-full of books and not much cash in return. So back then, yes, traditional publishing was what I wanted for my stories.
But you know why I never did traditional publishing route back then? I had no completed stories. Except for a fan fiction piece that could not be published anywhere but on my Geocities website, I had nothing to send out and query.
Fast forward to 2012 and I started writing again for real after my son was diagnosed with autism. In 2013, I posted my stories on Wattpad at the suggestion of a blogger. In 2014, hearing so much about self-publishing, Smashwords and Amazon Kindle, I published my first book in November, unpublished it a month later because I felt like a fraud (that imposter syndrome) only to publish it again in March 2015 when it was one of the recommended books on a Youtube podcast and no one could find it.
I’d go through that impostor syndrome a few more times in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Heck, even as late as March 2017. I’d sit on many of my now-finished novels for months and even years before I’d gather the courage to finally publish them and not feel like a fraud anymore.
I actually did pitch one of my books during a #pitmad event on Twitter. Did you know you can query your books now in 140 characters, even less than that because you have to include the #pitmad hashtag and the genre? I got a request for the first chapter within ten minutes by a small publisher, and a request for the full manuscript within two days. I sat on the contract, studied it, and crunched the numbers. To be traditionally published, I had to give up all my rights to the book – digital, print, audio and any other derivative in case it gets made into a movie – earn 40% of net royalties after the publisher would receive the 70% royalties from the retailer and I had to do most of my book promotion. They were not footing the bill and there was also no advance. In fact, I was told that pub houses hardly give any advances anymore (unless you’re one of the big five, I guess). Wait, why was I going to hand this publisher 60% of my net royalties and give up all my book rights again? Oh, right. Validation.
No, thank you.
**Please note that this is my case, not a general case so your situation may be different.
These days, when someone tells me that self-published books are drivel and not as good as traditionally published books, I don’t go out of my way to convince them that they’re wrong. They’re not my target audience. They’re not my people. I’ve also determined that when I read blog posts lamenting how bad the self-publishing route is compared to going the traditional route because, by God, they will then be validated as a “real author,” I will now just move on and not try to convince them that self-publishing isn’t as bad as they make it sound – and usually from hearsay. That’s their problem now, not mine. I’ll keep my blinders on and keep going. I’ll keep selling my books and keep that 70% royalty rate. I’ll determine how much marketing muscle I want to put into my books and keep my rights – all of them.
This is actually why I hit the Publish button on my first novel, Finding Sam, on November 17, 2014. I wanted to see if I’d turn into a fraud if I did expect money for a story I’d up until that time offered for free. I didn’t. I was still me, a writer with so many stories up her sleeve who wanted to get paid for them and make a living out of being a storyteller.
I am a storyteller. I am a writer. I’m an author.