On Writing and Self-Publishing

Let me make one thing perfectly clear . . . I don’t know jack shi . . . er, I mean, I am not an expert on writing, publishing, selling books, book publishing, bookbinding . . . look, just assume that if it has to do with the written word in any form, I am the opposite of an expert.

No, not even that because that would make me an amateur and that label puts a mantle on my shoulders giving the impression I know something or other. 

But, you know, I gots me opinions. I could go into a long qualifier about how my opinions are only applicable to my particular circumstances. Instead, please refer to the opening paragraph. 

While I know squat about it, I’ve written many blog posts about writing as it pertains to me. Let me give you — the loyal reader — a quick refresher as I also instruct new readers on the profundity of my writing introspections.  

If already familiar with my writing posts, skip down to where I talk about self-publishing.

It begins with the exploration of the concept of “voice” when writing fiction. The two posts relating to my voice are HERE and HERE. What’s self-evident about those brilliant pieces is . . . well, their brilliance. I don’t know what happened, but I’m not sure today I could write to that level of humor and cleverness. Or, maybe I just no longer try. Old age do suck, I guess.

My next foray into learning more about this writing thing was reading a bunch of rules and tips from famous writers. There is so much instructional material out there that I had to break this particular segment into three long posts. For the one or two new intrepid readers out there, look HERE then HERE then HERE.

At the end of the third installment, I summarized all that advice — advice that often contradicts itself from one sentence to the next — thus:

How does anyone really know if they have talent? And, ultimately, does it matter if it’s all going to be luck and popularity?

No one can answer that. You go out there, you try your best, and you hope it strikes a chord, creates a spark, and maybe, just maybe, the odds lean in your favor. But don’t hold your breath. I mean it; don’t. You turn all blue and stuff, and you start seeing flashing lights. They are pretty, but you’re gonna have such a headache . . . 

For them who are not writers, artists, or are not trying to rise above the average, I’m addressing what is often referred to as the impostor syndrome. Wait . . . that’s not strictly true because that particular syndrome refers to high-achievers. As an achievementless writer, I can’t — by definition — suffer thus. But, like many people aspiring to something more, doubts occasionally skirt the edges of one’s consciousness.

Blessed as I am with an over-abundance of ego — funny that because I’m also so humble — doubt never fully invades my conscious space. I am confident that I like what I write. But, strictly from an analytical perspective, it sure would be nice to *know* if one has what it takes to make it. Lacking that knowledge, the advice I give to myself is “keep at it and don’t expect much in return.” 

Sometimes it pays the opposite of dividends, the search for knowledge does . . . as explored HERE.

The important bit with that piece is Ryan Boudinot’s controversial essay and how it relates to me. Hint: it’s not encouraging. According to Boudinot, all the signs point to me not being one of them writers who will amount to anything. 

The other not encouraging thing was in the first half of the post; namely, very few people make enough money writing so that they can quit their day jobs. I do have a leg up on that since I’m retired. But, you know, getting paid for writing is still out there as a general goal. 

That post can be summarized thus:

“The people who really make money out of gold rushes are the ones selling the shovels.”

This refers to the proliferation of seminars, courses, training, services, all promising the “secret” to becoming a successful writer can be yours . . . if you fork over a lot of money.

 So, keep at it but don’t expect to get rich from writing and be careful of promises of success in exchange for money. 

One final thing before getting to the self-publishing part . . . 

THIS post covers writing advice from Stephen King. I don’t find King a particularly gifted writer, and that in itself gives me solace when I think about the slow process and lengthy path to getting published. It validates the idea of persistence as being more important than almost anything else.

. . . unless, of course, you are going to self-publish, in which case you sow the seeds of your own success, so to speak . . . 

Self-publishing is easy.

I could literally output one of my NaNoWriMo novels into a Kindle file (using Scrivener), slap a self-made cover on it (I played around with Cover Makeovers specifically with that in mind), upload it to Amazon, and voilá, it’s up there. 

I receive lots of advice to do just that. “Screw them publishing houses, right?”

Had I done that in 2015, my book would have been one of 700,000 self-published e-books that year. Breaking that down, 1,917 books each day, 80 books every hour, 1.33 books each minute. 

. . . and it would have joined the larger pool of over 13,000,000 (thirteen million) other e-books already available (over four million plus for Kindle alone). By the way, the links at the bottom take you to articles from which I’m pulling these numbers . . . which likely are now even more daunting.

Self-publishing is so easy that everyone is doing it. Well, crap . . . there’s no hope, is there? 

I did not say that, but I did want to impress what faces writers.  

Before I continue with what I know about self-publishing, let me briefly remind readers of my plan for traditional publishing. Call it Plan A: sell short fiction — proving that I’m publishable — get an agent for my novels, get a contract from a publisher. 

This blog is the reason I’m even talking about self-publishing, or Plan B. There is a lot of fiction published on this blog that no one will touch because it sucks . . . no, wait, I mean because it’s considered already published. Well, OK, maybe it does suck, but even if it didn’t, I couldn’t sell it to the pro market. 

But, given the numbers above, should I decide to self-publish, how can I hope to get my stuff noticed, let alone sold? Well, dear readers, I’ve discovered this book you see; it’s called The Secret. All I need is to want it bad enough and it will happen! Sure, sure, I *really* want to be younger and taller and it hasn’t happened yet, but you just wait! As Chopra says, “The future transcends positive opportunities.”

OK, OK, you got me; that’s not really Plan B. The actual plan is anchored in the dismal reality of today’s publishing landscape. Note that Plan B is independent of Plan A, but if successful, Plan B will become Plan A.

Plan B begins with me finishing the first novel I ever started and at the same time doing a major edit on the first NaNoWriMo novel I wrote. That will give me two novels in the self-publishing can. 

While I’m doing that, I also plan to gather all my short stories, flash pieces, Halloween tales, impromptu fun stuff that’s posted in the blog and arrange it all in an e-book that I will try and sell give away for free. In part, that will also give me practice in preparing books for e-pub. See? I’m already getting the lingo down. The book will present the stories with my patented and clever banter so loved by Australians who used to be Brits. 

In essence, I’ll gamble on my likability. If I can fool sell people on me being a nice guy and if I can hook them on my writing, the book will serve as a steppingstone to the rest of my offerings (the two novels) and I’ll be on my way toward becoming a publishing stud. 

BUT . . . even doing all that, how *does* one attract the attention of readers buried by a literal literary flood of offerings clamoring for their attention and limited time?

Well, this is where Plan B is weakest. 

I could ask blogs and podcasts about writing to review the book, I could buy ads on said podcasts (thus also supporting them), I could buy ads on Facebook and Twitter. I could join various writing groups who might then help spread the word about my new offerings. I could run contests, solicit reviews, join readers groups and cultivate acquaintances on Goodreads who might then help spread the word.

Heck, I could take a few courses offered by various authors and hope they mention my offerings to their followers. 

Other than buying ads, none of those things are me. I like the idea of running contests but here’s the reality: I have 1,090 followers and 109,000 views. Care to guess the numbers for my highest viewed piece of fiction? 

It’s 93 views. The next highest has 63-lifetime views. And those are for some of the pieces I wrote in response to the terribleminds flash fiction prompts, so I’m getting the spillover from subscribers to the blog of a popular author. After that, the views for my fiction drop down into the 30s and lower.

I occasionally run polls. Even on posts that get hundreds of views, I’m happy if I get more than four votes cast. The highest number of votes ever cast in one poll . . . seven. It’s real, real difficult engaging readers, especially if one is an unknown. 

“So,” you ask, “what *is* your plan?”

Well, it’s what I said . . . give something away for free and hope to hook people interested in my writing. 

“But . . . aren’t you already doing that through this blog?” 

Yeah, but this time I’ll really mean it!

OK, OK . . . look, I said right up front I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ bestsellers!

I can read the articles I link below and pick a few approaches but nothing guarantees readers will respond the way you want them to. 

If hard-pressed, I will tell you certain genres will do better than others because their audience is both larger and more engaged (my genre is not one of those). I will tell you that no matter how well you write or how great your book, there’s no guarantee it will be “discovered.” I will tell you the odds are stacked against you right from the get-go. I will tell you that response to your work is completely out of your hands. Note: it’s also out of the hands of traditional publishers.

I will tell you that “they” are right; you odds improve with a network of people helping you pitch your book (I have no network). I will tell you that you can listen to hundreds of podcasts (I have) and hear hundreds of stories of what worked for other authors, but it won’t help you recreate the unique circumstances that worked for them.  

I will tell you that sometimes even publishing houses with large marketing campaigns fail to help a book connect with the readers. 

“So, really, you got no plan.”

Weren’t you paying attention? I have a plan . . . two plans, in fact. What I don’t have, are assurances that the plans will work. 

Instead, I’ll concentrate on the one thing I do have some control over; writing. I’ll write something and try to sell it. If it doesn’t sell to a paying market, I’ll try self-publishing and if that doesn’t work, I’ll give it away, and write some more. And all along, I will be skeptical of it all and be genuinely surprised if anything ever comes of it.  

The following links cover sobering facts about self-publishing and hints on promoting your book:








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