I spent last weekend at the Houston Writers Guild's Indiepalooza conference. It was a 3-day event that focused on topics relevant to Independent / Self-published authors. Topics like; motivation, craft, how to self-publish, marketing, audiobooks, copyright law, trademark law, and more. It was great to get out and meet other Houston area residents in the business.
It also reminded me about how difficult it is to get started in this business. There were a lot of people there who had complete / near complete manuscripts and they simply didn't know what to do next. They knew querying agents was a frustrating process, and they were intimidated by what goes into successfully self-publishing. The end result was that a lot of the folks there were hobbyists and hadn't made the effort to turn it into more. They love writing, but they haven't been able to get over the wall to make it a business. When people realized I write full-time, they had A LOT of questions for me. I thought I'd answer a few of them here.
Q: What's it like to write full-time?
A: Exactly as awesome as you think it would be.
Q: (following a very lengthy session from an editor trying to drum up his business by explaining how complicated the editing process is) Do you do all of that?
A: No, I don't. My writing is told from one point of view, and my story is linear. I write from A to Z. It helps me maintain flow. Basically, I start with a 2-3 page outline that has bullet points with all of the major events in the story. From there, I start writing. There are deviations from the outline, of course, but for the most part, I'm just filling in the blanks between story milestones. I write the entire 1st draft without going back and tinkering. After that, I do about 2 read/rewrite drafts where again, I work from A to Z. Then 2 to 3 copy edit drafts after that. When it's relatively clean, I send it to a professional proof-reader. When I get it back from her, I will go over it at least twice more before I upload and hit publish. The workload is roughly 50% 1st draft, 25% read/rewrite, 20% copy edit, 5% proof-read. Not included, I spent years thinking about my characters in my free time. Thinking about the world, imagining different scenes and how characters would react, etc. One 10hr plane flight for the outlines. Total process time is 6 months for Books 2-4.
Q: Do you hate Amazon?
A: No, I love Amazon. Amazon is the largest book retailer in the world and the friendliest place I have come across for Indie authors. Bookstores hate Amazon because they can't compete. Traditional Publishers hate Amazon because Amazon is single-handedly pushing down the price of books. Amazon leveled the playing field where Indies and Small Press can now compete effectively against the Big 5 Publishers. I was shocked to hear how many people in the business took a negative view of Amazon. My advice to people was, feel however you want about Amazon, but understand they are By Far the largest retailer. Do you want to sell books, or not? One group I do feel bad for, independent bookstore owners.
Q: Traditional or self-publish - aka - what the hell should I do?
A: That depends on you. With self-publishing, you earn the highest royalties for your work. You have complete creative control, and you can respond instantly when the market changes. For me, it's also fun, but I still consider myself more of a business guy than a writer. You can absolutely make a very good career out of self-publishing. BUT, self-publishing is an enormous amount of work. If you want to be a writer simply so you can write and not worry about anything else, then you shouldn't self-publish. Over half of time my is devoted to the business side of things and marketing. If you don't put in that time, you'll fail.
I will write another blog about Traditional publishing and cover things in more detail, but real quick, traditional publishing means the publisher pays you to license your work. They pay you. Let me say it again, they pay you. If they ask you to pay them, that is a vanity press. You will never be a commercial success doing that (their model is collecting fees from you, not collecting dollars from sales).
As I said, more to come on this topic. It's something I'm getting pretty passionate about because * sales plug time * I'm starting a traditional small press. If you write fantasy fiction, then it may be a good option for your book. Come check me out at cobblepublishing.com. There are many paths up the mountain, and you have to find the right one for you. If you've got that book, and now you're stuck, reach out and I'll have an honest discussion with you about which path is right for you.
Any other questions that I didn't answer above, please feel free to use the contact page. I always like interacting with readers and I love talking about this business.