Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The exciting, fantastic, terrifying road of self-publishing

Having finally taken the plunge into self-publishing, I'm slowly beginning to realize the challenges that come along with self-promotion.  For that reason, I hope to help other indie authors get themselves out there and possibly find new readers. 

With that being said, I'd like to introduce you to J.P. Rambling, author of A Different Class-Boyhood.

What made you decide to self publish? 

The question as to what made me decide to self-publish could be 'what made me decide to publish at all'. Quite simply it is due to a handful of blog readers. A Different Class - Boyhood began life as a series of self-analytical blog posts but feedback from a variety of sources indicated it was of some interest to a wide range of people. Encouraged by kind words I embarked on a journey into the unknown. I am still a novice and have no expertise save that which experience has taught me.

How great to know you already have interest from readers before even embarking on the terrifying journey of baring your soul to the world.

Did you seek agent representation before self-publishing?  Or do you have an agent now?
The first thing I was told was that unless you are a known author most publishers wouldn't touch a manuscript unless it came through an agent. I didn't like the idea of having an agent without knowing how good / bad my manuscript was but nevertheless made some fruitless enquiries. Publishers were easier to find so I sent my manuscript off to the first I came across. I was asked for the first three chapters and the last one. This was hardly music to my ears because the early chapters gave just background details that whilst relevant later on gave no indication of the underlying theme. To my surprise the publisher asked for the full manuscript.
It took some time for the rejection to come through. When it did I was actually very pleased. The publisher was very complimentary on the whole and kindly pointed out where the problems were in the story. Taking on board the criticism I understood and set about revising the manuscript. Several months later I was ready. In reality I wasn't and I knew it. Even now I can still think of ways of improving the manuscript but I always will and the risk was it would never get to print. In addition I was getting impatient. I was in the process of writing the second book and didn't want more distractions. Self-publishing seemed the only solution. I had already considered self-publishing but minimal research left me in doubt to the actual mechanics.
For this reason I chose a self-publishing company which involved paying a fee. I took this route for three reasons. Oddly enough the main reason would seem the most trivial, I love books! If I read a book I like to touch it, be part of it almost, not stare at an LCD screen for hours on end. The second reason may seem equally banal - to some - because the company I chose had a package on offer at a 33% reduction. This brought the fee within amount I had allowed for this 'extravagance'. The third reason I perhaps a little naively considered the least important, was the package on offer and the back-up and support that went with it.
I agree about the preference of holding a book in my hands as opposed to staring at a computer screen, however I'm all for Eco-friendly too.  As for self-publishing companies... I remember looking into AuthorHouse, before I had even completed my manuscript.  They called and left me messages daily, to the point where it was kind of harassment and for that reason I'd probably never consider a self-publishing company again.  Not to mention, they can be quite costly and there are always a few scammers amongst the good ones.  But I'm glad not everyone's experience is quite so awful.
It seems like a bit of a daunting task, did you have any difficulties? Or was it easier than one would think?
I wouldn't say it was difficult because the process was structured in easy steps, but as a novice I hadn't previously been aware of the procedure which caused some delay.
Have you done anything to promote your book?
The publishers have sent out press releases and have ties to other interested parties. I have three signings booked which I arranged personally. I have also been contacted by a party who wish to create a short for the TIFF and a friend who is a playwright asking me for a short fifteen minute scripting. To be honest I simply don't have the time.
At least the publishers help a bit with promotion.  For me, this is the least fun part of a writing career.
Would you take on an agent if they offered representation now, or is it something that even interests you?
I would only consider an agent for my second and final(?) book if the first sold reasonably well. My ambitions are limited (which is frustrating the hell out of the publishers) and I am not writing for monetary gain, it is more a case of having something to say. The first book is subtitled 'Boyhood' and is concerned primarily with bullying although other sensitive issues are touched on. The second is subtitled 'Parenthood' and is more a statement on social deprivation.
I think this is a great approach, that way one doesn't set oneself up for disappointment.
What was your first manuscript? How long did it take you to write it?  Did you have it professionally edited?
A Different Class - Boyhood is my first manuscript. It took just a month or two to write but another seven months to revise the manuscript several times. I didn't have it professionally edited because I felt it wouldn't be my story anymore which may seem foolish to some but hey aren't authors supposed to have quirks? Besides which I budgeted a certain amount and am not prepared to spend further on what is basically speculation.
I love it!  A writer knowing and accepting his quirks. :) 
Did you have any critique partners?  If so, how many?
This is possibly my main failing. I would have liked three or four critique partners but was too far down the line by the time I knew of such. It is nice getting comments on the blog about posts but they are coming from people who follow the blog and ergo already like what I write. Their encouragement and support was crucial in prompting me to publish. I am perhaps my own worst critic.
I find critique partners hard to find, but when you do, it's like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
If you could change the way things have gone with your writing career, is there anything you would change?
The first thing would be to get critique partners (3 or 4), I've never had one but can see the benefits. That is for me though. Criticism makes me more determined to do better and get it right. Others do not handle criticism so well and it may discourage. The other thing I would change is the way I set about the first book. I would write it as a book from the onset instead of a series of events.
I definitely agree that criticism can either make or break a writer's vulnerable heart but once we learn how to take it, it can most certainly be that momentous force pushing us onward.
This is my most touchy question and a lot of authors choose not to answer, but how many copies have you sold?
I have no idea whatsoever. The book was published on 30th May and I will get the first quarterly report at the end of August.
The book is available from a variety of sources as an e-book from Kindle, and from Amazon as hard and paperbacks. I would warn anybody who is interested in the book that it doesn't make for bedtime reading. The book isn't recommended for under 15's and contains contextual profanity, domestic violence and abuse. I don't wish to issue spoilers but the subject matter is not all dark and the message is 'things DO get better'. My blog has a page for the book with extracts and 'deleted scenes' at http://jprambling.blogspot.co.uk/p/a-different-class.html The attachment is the manuscript prior to the final revision and you will need Adobe or another pdf file reader. There are still one or two typos early on in this version.
I haven't had a chance to check this out yet but despite the warning that it's not 'bedtime reading', it has piqued my interest.  Wishing another friendly author the greatest success on their writing journey.