I wish I had a proverbial dollar for every time I’ve heard a late-blooming novelist say: “I want to spend my time writing fiction. I don’t want to publish novels, I don’t want to promote novels. My only job is to write them!”
Well … Janet and I used to say the same things, but life didn’t work out that way for us. We’ve become part of the vast group of new-publishing-paradigm novelists who now have to worry about getting our books “out there” and putting them in front of the right readership audience.
Looking backwards a decade or so, we should have focused more on book promotion when a traditional publishing house published our first novel. We didn’t, because we knew that marketing was the publisher’s responsibility. Alas, they didn’t do as good a promotion job we assumed they would. And so now, our earlier books are “brand-new novels” for a large audience of mystery readers.
To reach them, we’ve had to become “renaissance writers” who wear a rackful of different hats, including:
Publishing bigwig. Someone has to be responsible for getting ISBN numbers, working with cover designers, registering a copyright when necessary, setting the right price for our novels, and doing all the planning and financial management that the “management elves” used to do. These days, that someone is us.
Copy editor. We’ve taken on the job of eliminating minor typos… inconsistent punctuation… spelling and grammar mistakes… and those inevitable scanning glitches.
Book production guru. We also get to worry about such arcane details as eliminating the extra spaces between eBook paragraphs… getting eBook chapters to begin on new pages… and outputting different flavors of eBooks.
Book promoter. We now have the never-ending responsibility of getting reviews, blogging like crazy, doing as much social networking as we can stand — all aimed at making our novels better known.
Novelist. We’ve revised our novels to eliminate anachronisms. And we’re writing new ones (in our spare time).
Developing those additional skills is challenging work. Everywhere you look there’s a fresh learning curve — along with the stress of first-time-around failures.
Consequently, many of us new-paradigmers end up buying services from the thousands of freelance vendors who’ve sprung up to support novelists.
On the one hand, it’s nice to know that everything we need can be bought. On the other hand, the services are expensive — and even if you have the money, it can be tough to find good service provider (there are lots of mediocre vendors to avoid). And you still must invest lots of time getting a freelancer going in the right direction, and even more time watching over his/her work.
Speaking of time …
Janet and I fondly remember those storied days when introverted novelists could spend weeks at our keyboards without interacting with anyone else. The age of authorial isolation is over. Today, writers invariably run into many other writers — on eMail loops, affinity groups, and Facebook — who are in the same situation (or should it be, predicament).
A curious fact of the brave-new publishing world is that an unprecedented number of novelists work together — for example, to plan blog tours, to cross-post Amazon reviews, and to support each other’s social-networking efforts. A truly amiable author can join what I call a “writers cooperative” — a group of novelists who pool their different skills and talents.
When you consider the hassle and workload of self-publishing, maybe it’s not so surprising that Amanda Hocking was willing to settle for lower eBook royalties. And perhaps, given the same choice, many other novelists will opt to stay with “real publishers,” as those houses get their ePublishing and POD processes in order.
Less work (albeit for considerably lower royalties) sounds enticing until you remember that the most difficult responsibility — book promotion that connects a novel with its readers — continues to remain the author’s responsibility. No matter who publishes a novel, the author has to do the lion’s share of marketing.
The rest of “publishing” is time consuming, but surprisingly easy to master over the long run. It’s doable (if painful at times) to become a jack-of-all-trades renaissance writer. Our numbers will increase!
Welcome fellow polymaths.