5 Questions with LitReactor's Joseph Nassise; 'Self-Publishing in the Digital Age' Starts June 25
Digital self-publising. Everyone's talking about it. Here's your chance to learn how to do it.
Joseph Nassise is the author of more than a dozen novels. He has written for both the comic and role-playing game industries, and also served two terms as president of the Horror Writers Association, the world's largest organization of professional horror and dark fantasy writers.
In the realm of self-publishing, he's taken three of his previously-published books, and re-issued them himself, along with a collection of short fiction and a series of short novels. He has three more books slated to come out under his own banner later this year.
And he's LitReactor's latest instructor, teaching Self-Publishing in the Digital Age, which kicks off on June 25.
This class isn't about the art of writing. It's about the business end; how to take a rough Word document, prepare it, upload it, and publish an eBook. Nassise has designed a hands-on approach to the process, so you’ll be working through all the steps, from formatting and design, to uploading the actual files. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to publish professionally-formatted eBooks and take control of your publishing destiny.
To introduce you to Joseph and the learn a little about the class, we posed a couple of questions to him:
What's the biggest misconception authors have about digital self-publishing?
I think the answer to this depends on which group of authors you are referring to--established authors who’ve been previously published by traditional or legacy publishers, and independent authors without a track record.
For the first group, the authors who’ve been published previously by legacy publishers, the biggest misconception is that self-publishing their backlist (or new, frontlist titles for that matter) is incredibly complex and much too difficult to bother learning how to do. They envision mountains of work that will take them away from the one thing they really want to do--write.
Of course this perception couldn’t be further from the truth. Starting from ground zero it only took me a few hours to learn how to put out my first project--from proper format to cover design to final upload. Did I have things to learn after that? Sure, but I expect to be constantly learning in any endeavor I undertake. Given the vast changes that have come to digital publishing in just the last twelve months, I think you’d be a fool not to expect to keep learning. But the bottom line is that there is nothing about releasing your backlist that is difficult in any way if you have a basic understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. My new class, Self-Publishing in the Digital Age, is designed to give you that basic foundation.
For the second group, those authors who have never been published before, I think the biggest misconception is that self-publishing is going to completely replace legacy publishing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard writers state that the publishing empire is about to go the way of the Dodo and that the big legacy publishers would be out of business by years end.
Sorry, folks, but we’re talking about billion dollar multinational corporations here. They might be slow to change, slow to adapt, but they will do so as needed to survive and that’s precisely what we’ve been seeing in the last several months. eBook market share will continue to grow and legacy publishers will do all they can to hold on to the profits that come from that vertical market.
The future is going to be a mix of legacy and self-publishing, in my view.
What's the one thing you wish you had known before getting into it?
I wish I had been more aware/cognizant of the difference in mediums between electronic and print publishing, as my lack of knowledge curtailed my success for the first six months or so after I started.
Let me give you an example. All major distribution platforms (the Kindle store, the Nook store, etc) allow a potential buyer to “sample” the product before buying. I can find a book I might like to buy in the Kindle or Nook store, download the sample, and read the first 10 or so pages of the text before making the final decision to purchase. I love this feature and it is one of the reasons that I no longer dislike purchasing books online, as I did in the early years. I can see if I like the writer’s style via the sample, just as I could by reading the first few pages of the physical product in a bookstore.
When I started out, I set up my eBooks just like my print books, with everything from the copyright page to the acknowledgments BEFORE the text. After all, I wanted my customer to see what they were used to seeing when it came to the format of the book.
By doing so, however, I was shooting myself in the foot. Eighty-five percent of my sample was therefore taken up with stuff that the casual buyer didn’t give a damn about. They want to know if they like my writing before buying the book – they don’t care if I dedicated it to my Uncle Harry or the tooth fairy!
I’ve since learned to bury my front matter in the back of the book and link directly to it via the table of contents. If they want to access it, they can, but they don’t have to. This allows me to use the sample space for exactly what it was designed for--letting the potential buyer sample my writing directly.
How important is it to hire out for editorial work and cover design? Or is that something authors can expect to do themselves?
Editorially, I think it is very important. Very few writers can effectively edit their own work because all too often they see what they intended to write, rather than what is actually on the page. Having a second party go through the product before release is crucial.
Note that I’m just talking about basic copy editing here. The issue of whether or not a writer needs a content editor is an entirely different issue which I won’t get into here, other than to say most writers can benefit from a good editor whether they know it or not.
Cover design is a different beast, I think. It isn’t too difficult to work with stock images and come up with a decent cover. One that doesn’t look like a kindergarten project, at least. Personally, I think a good cover is vital to a book’s success, so I have the vast majority of my covers done by a professional. But I wouldn’t say it is a requirement. Just a recommendation, I guess.
What do you make of the debate between traditional publishing and self-publishing? I don't mean the pros and cons, but the fact that you can't log onto Twitter without finding a tirade about how one side is completely right, and one side is completely wrong? What is it that makes people so passionate about it?
I find the entire debate utterly ludicrous and those who are vehement one way or the other can be very tiring.
I think the passion surrounding the argument is due to the fact that both sides of the fence are looking at the issue through a lens named Validation.
For years, being selected by a legacy publisher was a mark of validation to a writer--their work was good enough to make it to the big leagues, in other words. Many writers took rejection just as personally but in the other direction--their work wasn’t good enough. This created a wide pool of writers with a massive chip on their shoulders who see self-publishing as the final validation they’ve been searching for. “St. Martin’s rejected my work? Well screw them. I’ll self-publish it, make a gajillion dollars, and show them what idiots they really are!” That kind of thing. It is the chip on their shoulders that has them seeing the entire question as an Us-vs-Them scenario.
Now that’s not to say that legacy writers don’t have the same issue, except in reverse. The trend is to look down on those who are self-publishing and say, “Oh, those poor deluded souls. Don’t they know that everything that gets self-published is just so much trash? Why are they wasting their time? They’ll never sell anything. They should wait until they can do it the right way and join the club like the rest of us.”
Reasoned debate is fine. This foaming-at-the-mouth ridiculousness is just unnecessary.
Which authors do you think are the models of self-publishing, that we should be keeping an eye on?
Aside from the big names that everybody knows or has heard of (Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking, Stephen Leather) I think there are quite a few writers that are quietly going about the business of writing good, solid novels and making quite a bit of money doing it.
Some of my personal favorites include:
Jon F. Merz brought back his Lawson vampire series after Kensington discontinued it and has been doing gangbusters every since. He puts out regular releases of different lengths (novels, novellas, short stories) to provide regular content and prices everything at reasonable rates. His covers are top-notch and carry a consistent branding message that makes them easily identifiable.
Paul Bishop and Mel Odom are doing some cool things with their Fight Card series. There isn’t a publisher out there that would have taken a chance on a series of novellas revolving around the sport of boxing, but these two guys hit the nail on the head with that very thing. They self-published the series under the pen name Jack Tunney and add a new title every few months or so. If you like boxing tales, these are for you. Quality covers, good branding, solid formatting--all attached to some terrific storylines.
Others off the top of my head would be Jeremy Robinson, David McAfee, Deborah Geary, David Dalglish, Brett Battles, Blake Crouch, Scott Nicholson, William Meikle, Cate Rowan--really, the list goes on.
To leave a comment