Adventures In Self-Publishing Part 1: Why I'm Doing It, And Also Zombies
I don't know if you've heard, but there's this new trend in publishing where people digitally release their work on websites like Amazon. It's called self-publishing, and since I'm all about trends, I figured I'd give it a shot.
A little about me: I'm a writer, and I'm working on a novel, for which I plan to seek a traditional publishing deal. I put it aside to take a little time off from the narrative, and accidently wrote a novella. Since the likelihood of procuring a traditional deal for a novella is pretty much zero, I'm just going to self-publish this bad boy and see what happens.
The goal of Adventures in Self-Publishing is to see the process through, from production to publication, learn a little more about the publishing industry, and share some of those lessons with you.
The novella is about zombies. Before you roll your eyes and say, Oh, this again, hear me out: Yes, zombies have reached a point of cultural saturation, and it's very difficult to make them unique or interesting. But one night, on my commute home from work, as the Staten Island Ferry floated past Governors Island, I thought, you know, if there was a zombie apocalypse, that would be the safest place in the entire city.
Governors Island is right off the shores of Brooklyn and Manhattan. It was an outpost during the Revolutionary War, then a U.S. Army base, and finally a Coast Guard installation. A few years ago it was turned into a public park. It's now open on weekends during the summer. It has homes and administrative buildings and historical forts and even a Burger King, all abandoned. The water on the island is non-potable, but it runs, and there are working bathrooms. In a pinch, you could probably keep a couple of hundred people there somewhat comfortably.
It's also a very cool place to visit. There's always a ton of people there during the summer, but wander down the right street and suddenly you're on a barren roadway with overgrown vegetation and emptied-out buildings, and off in the distance is the iconic Manhattan skyline. It just feels apocalyptic. I was there a few weeks ago and took some photos, which you can see at my Facebook page, in case you're interested.
Now, if there were ever any kind of cataclysmic event in New York City, trying to get out would be impossible. There are 8.2 million people living here, and by many accounts, the population can swell upward of 12 million during a weekday. I once spent two and a half hours trying to get out of the city on a Friday afternoon. Total distance traveled: 10 miles. In two and a half hours! And nobody was in a blind panic, fighting for survival.
But where else could you go that would be safe? Everything is heavily populated and connected by bridges. Only Governors Island stands alone--completely surrounded by water, and closed most of the year, so it's nearly always empty. It's so close to the shores a strong swimmer could make it across. So it struck me as the perfect setting for a zombie story.
But this was the real clincher: Around the same time I thought of that, I stumbled across a medical oddity that would let me put a unique spin on zombies--something based in real science, but a unique twist on the mythology (at least, to my knowledge).
Hence, my zombie novella, The Last Safe Place.
Communism as a business model
I'm a firm believer in the fact that if you're going the self-publishing route, you need to do it to a professional standard. Elsewise, people won't take you seriously. That means your editing, formatting and cover need to be top notch.
Cover design was easy. A friend of mine (who also designed my wedding cake) was perfectly suited for the job (and you can see a little bit of the cover up top).
The editing was a different beast. A proper edit happens in two rounds. The first round is for content (which, incidentally, I do at MysteriousPress.com). A content editor reads for what works, what doesn't, and makes suggestions on how it can be stronger. The second round is proofreading; making sure that all the i's are crossed and the t's are dotted.
To hire out for that is expensive. And there's no guarantee that the person I hook up with will be right for me. I thought about maybe doing a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to hire someone, but as this will be my first "commercial" work of fiction, I don't really have much of a track record.
Then I realized I've got a large circle of talented friends. Not all of them are writers, but all of them are brilliant. So why not call on them?
So I solicited help on Facebook. I asked people to help edit my book, and in return, I'd edit a work of theirs (or do something else writerly). I got enough people interested that I could split it up into content and proofreading rounds.
I think this is a way to turn the novella around without having to break into my savings account. Will it work? Who knows! I'm considering this entire process an experiment, so this will be the first test of what I believe will be an exciting journey--and also a chance to prove something to myself.
The Psychological Effect
There's a poem by Jane Hirshfield, "Changing Everything", in which a person is walking in the woods, picks up a stick, moves it to the other side of the path, and says, "There, that's done now."
There are number of reasons I want to self-publish:
- Learn more about self-publishing
- Write and release a fun story that I like
- Become a billionaire
But the biggest drive here is to have something that's done. I've been writing for years, and while I've had some success--a couple of short stories, a stint in journalism, the silly things I write here--there's still a lot of things I want to do. Like producing a full-length novel. I wrote one that I scrapped and another I'm struggling with and I have a few more mapped out, but this feels like a lot of work with nothing to show for it. Part of the reason for that is how wrapped up I get in my own head, and my inability to let the work go.
I want to be able to take a thing, bring it from beginning to end, and move on from it. Put it behind me and work on another project. I need that perspective. I need the psychological effect of having finished something, just to know that I have the ability to finish something.
So I'm exited to be doing this. I'm excited to get back the edits and make the story stronger. I'm excited to have something up for sale, that people can read on their Kindles and iPads and toasters. I'm excited to have a deadline, and to be working toward a tangible goal.
I'm extremely excited to know that in a month I'll be able to take this thing and say: There, that's done now.
Like I said, this is an experiment. All I know is that, by next month, I expect to have this for sale. As for marketing, I don't know. I have some ideas, but I don't want it to be a full-time job. I'll toss some stuff out and see what hits, and we can talk about it here, but as for specifics, we'll see?
In the mean time, ask questions! I'll answer them!
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