Wow, that’s a long-winded title. But I wanted it to be clear that this post wasn’t about the pros and cons of self-publishing. This is more about how self-publishing has influenced my writing so far.
So, let’s start with some pros. (Can you tell I attended a critique group this week? Because it’s always good to get the positives out there first, right?)
Pro #1: I think it improved my stories.
Each of the stories I self-published were stories I had written, edited, sent off to betas, edited again, and submitted to pro-paying markets. One had even been edited after a personal rejection from a market.
But I ended up re-reading each story at least another three times after I uploaded them to KDP. (I’m anal. I read it when I load it. Edit it. Reload it. Reread it. Repeat until happy.) Each of those re-reads led to some fine-tuning of the stories that I think improved them slightly.
Just seeing the stories in a new format helps. Time does as well. It had been a while since I’d read each one, so I had distance and perspective.
Pro #2: I was able to see some reader feedback.
Both of the reviews I’ve received so far were five-star reviews (thank you!), so largely positive. But they still gave me a better understanding of what readers see in what I write.
I know why I wrote each story and maybe even some of the thematic issues I was trying to address. But to see an independent person’s assessment of the story lets me know both whether I conveyed that and what might be present in my stories that I don’t even know about.
(And both did a better job of describing the stories than I had in my blurb…)
Pro #3: It’s made me think more about what I’m writing.
I had to write blurbs for each story, which made me think about what I’d written and how that ties into marketing the story.
For example, one of my stories that’s currently out on submission involves a long-term couple who experience a tragedy. Well, based upon writing a blurb, I may actually turn them into a married couple, because it’s easier to write, “When XX’s husband…” than “When XX’s partner…” (Is that life partner? Business partner? Who knows.)
Whether or not they’re married is irrelevant to the story, so why not make it easy from a marketing perspective.
The other issue I sometimes have is that I like to explore people in my writing, but that doesn’t always translate into a plot. The Price We Pay is a bit like that. There is an inciting incident and the character does make a choice, but the story is probably more about exploring the main character and his life than about “things happening.” Makes it a little hard to write a compelling blurb.
So, hopefully, as I move forward I will keep that in mind and make sure that there are events in the story that do make for an interesting blurb.
Con #1: It’s very distracting.
I’m not marketing the stories per se, but I have been spending too much time talking about them on some of the writing forums. Before this I was just a lurker. But now it behooves me to participate, because every post I make may result in someone buying my books.
(I already had someone do that with the non-fiction book.)
Participation takes a lot more effort than passive observance. Effort not spent on my writing.
Con #2: It requires skills other than just writing.
I downloaded Gimp yesterday. It’s free photo-editing software that looks like it will be AMAZING once I figure it out. (I want to try a fancy cover for the novelette.)
(Keep an eye out for a post on Gimp in the future. And don’t choose the download that wants to load all kinds of random crap/ads along with it. There is another option.)
I also downloaded Audacity the other day. It’s free audio production software so I can self-narrate the non-fiction book.
I could pay people to do those things. But I’m a control freak and I want to operate on my own timeframe and according to my aesthetic (however flawed it may be).
So now I have to learn both of those and spend the time to create cover images and an audio book. (Fortunately, I can do the covers while watching TV.)
I also spend time thinking about things like Amazon keywords and checking sales reports. (Although both are largely an exercise in futility.)
Con #3: I’m not writing and I need to be even more than before.
With all this focus on other random crap, I’m not writing. (Well, not as much as I should be.)
And, now that I’m putting my writing out there, I really need to be writing more than I was. Because if I actually gain some traction and attract fans, they’ll want to read more by me. And in order for that to happen, I need to have more written. Especially since I think my writing benefits from a little distance and perspective.
Could I crank out a new 5,000-word story and publish it this week? Yeah, sure.
Would it be good? Uh, probably not.
My best stories have taken weeks if not months from first to final version. And most required me to really work through how to tell the story. I change POVs, tenses, characters, setting, etc. between the first and last draft until I think it works. That takes time.
Con #4: It’s hard.
I’m actually enjoying it. And I do have an enormous ego that seems to insulate me from the negatives that might get to others. But, it doesn’t bring instant recognition and fame.
Visibility is nil. It’s like being dropped in the middle of the ocean and hoping someone will find you before you starve.
With the non-fiction book, my book showed up in the first page or two of results. Still does for the right search terms.
With the short stories…oh no. In Science Fiction Kindle e-books there are 1,709 new releases listed for the last thirty days. That’s just the last thirty days.
If I go to sci-fi Kindle e-books and I search for short stories, there are 10,176 results. If I navigate to anthologies & short stories there are 8,978 results. 90 within the last thirty days.
(And do my stories show up there? Nope. But that’s an issue for another day.)
So, there you have it. All in all, I’m glad I chose to do it.
I think another positive is that it makes me feel like I have some sort of control. I had control before because I chose what to write, where to sub, and how often to sub. But beyond that it felt like going to a cocktail party where you know no one and hoping someone will talk to you. You try to join a conversation or two, but you just end up feeling awkward and pushy.
Self-publishing is more like throwing a party and hoping people will attend. (And if no one shows, well, you better really like shrimp cocktails.)