Scott operates a freelance editing business (and has recently joined the blogging editors on The Blood-Red Pencil) and started the digital publishing company Haunted Computer Books. You can find out more about him on his website or on his blog, Haunted Computer Books.
Publishing Ground Zero
I did it. I crawled across broken glass and barbed wire and the blood of my fallen comrades to the base of the Ivory Tower, knocked on the gate, and a hand reached out with a slip of paper that said "Yes."
After 400 rejection slips, I had sold a paperback. Life was good, I was an alternate selection of the Mystery Guild Book Club, my novel THE RED CHURCH had an amazing sell-through of nearly 90 percent, and the publisher quickly typed up a contract for two more books. The next book had barely hit the shelves when a three-book contract was proffered.
Shortly before that three-book contract kicked in, I made the sinking realization that the publisher was letting my early books go out of print--while they were still publishing me! For that and other reasons, I amicably parted ways with the publisher, left my agent, and spent a couple of years working on new novels, screenplays, and comic books. When I was ready to crawl back to the Ivory Tower, I found much had changed in seven years. Now not only did industry professionals take six months or more to respond, they often didn’t bother to reply at all.
After I got back the rights to my first novel, I wasted a year figuring out what to do with it while I waited for agents to bother not replying. I’d followed the developments of the Kindle, but I was still too shellshocked from my industry indoctrination to seriously consider self-publishing. Every professional writing organization I’d ever been in had a list of “approved publishers,” and you couldn’t call yourself a “professional” unless you sold a book to someone on the list. It didn’t matter that some of the publishers on the list might only pay a $500 advance.
I never dreamed I’d self-publish, much less release an original novel. I had to step out on the tightrope and realize no one—agent, publisher, or another writer—was going to save me. If I wanted a career, I’d have to risk it. I believed.
The mere act of taking action rejuvenated my writing, put control and outcome back in my hands, and opened an entire new world. The only limit to my growth is my ability to connect with an audience and please it. If readers like the work, they buy it and I write more books. Shortly after that second novel was released, I was contacted by an agent, and hopefully I will be releasing paper books through New York again. In the meantime, I am trying to get back the rights to my out-of-print novels. Sometimes it feels like seeing that Ivory Tower was the worst thing that ever happened to my writing career. Not only is this new era good for writers, but it's also the launch of many small supporting industries, such as editing, graphic design, formatting, and the coming transmedia need for HTML coders developing interactive books.
You are competing with New York if you take this route, but the traditional industry's competitive advantages are rapidly evaporating: getting your books on store shelves, paying you fair advances, and offering you prestige and promotion through association. I am not worried that some of my peers may not consider me a "professional" because of some arbitrary guidelines crafted 10 years ago. I did that, and it was hard but it wasn't special. Right now, with a good designer and years of experience as a freelance editor, I feel more professional than New York, because I can craft a product and marketing vision that serves my goals. Publishers have goals that only rarely align with the author's. They also take the bulk of your book's proceeds, which is one of their main goals. Publishers are great at what they do, but make sure it's not something you can't do yourself. As the e-book and print-on-demand revolution continues, the only thing the publisher can do better than you is lose money.
Thank you Scott!
Scott not only writes novels, he writes comics, poetry, non-fiction magazine articles and stories. As you can tell, he knows about the e-publishing world. Feel free to ask questions about publishing e-books, his journey to multi-published, award-winning author, or whatever is on your mind. He’ll be stopping by today.
I’ll start it off with this:
Scott, the idea of publishing my own e-book is intimidating. In the beginning, as you learned, how difficult was it? Should authors today work to publish their own or turn to a niche company like yours for help?