The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

Reading Bill Gaius’ answers to my questions again raised the issues surrounding self-publishing.

Bill is very right that the creaking and questionable system of traditional publishing is being circumvented more and more by writers who want something definite in their lives.  And by definite, we want to be able to spend our energies in more than submitting to publishing houses  and waiting for the rejection slips.  We want to see our books in our hands during our lifetimes.

But I do remember a stinging insult by a (bad)  writer who said  my blog was  “just an attempt at shameless self-promotion.”

I remember thinking that self-publishing would be seen by most to be something of the same quality and burdened with a dose of vanity.

In putting those considerations aside, I decided to publish with lulu.com.  Bill was the one who did all the formatting of “A Seasoning of Lust” and put it ‘real’.  It was full of production issues for a few ‘versions’…but we finally got it straightened out.

And published.

A couple of things happened.  One, sales weren’t exactly huge.  Sure, I did sell enough to get royalties, but what was more important than this….the money collected back….was something else.

Amongst those who did buy the book, I found some good crits.  I also found I was a ‘niche’ market…or part of one.  Writing erotica certainly wasn’t mainstream.  But then again, what were my aspirations?  (I didn’t have any, frankly, just wanted to write…still haven’t really formed any ‘aspirations’ yet.)

Well, I more or less found a writing community AFTER I published this book…a small one, but one  good for direction and crits.  It helped me develop a better sense of all this writing done over the past 3 years.  I had been writing for decades before, but not in one genre.  There were some lessons here.

(Actually, there was a writing community BEFORE the publication of the book, and an important one: ERWA.  Over the course of almost three years, ERWA was pretty influential in my development as a writer.  I left it, though, when I wanted to try and write more than erotica.  But I am deeply indebted to some people there, like Gary Russell, the Poetry Editor, for introduction to many poetry forms. I made some fast friends there, too.)

Besides the writers I contacted through the book, I also saw my writing through their eyes:  they helped me deepen my understanding of what I had already written, like tanka, and helped me change some ideas as well.  They broadened my thoughts about writing, literature in general.

They also saw me as a ‘real’ writer…and this wouldn’t have happened in this broader way IF I hadn’t self-published “Seasonings”. I was contacted by tanka writers, short story writers, novel writers, some asking me to submit to their publications, and others asking me to ‘look at’ their own manuscripts.  I was no expert, and even publishing one book gave me no better ideas.  It was a crapshoot all around.

So it’s not…for now….really a question of royalties or sales, but more of contacts with other good writers.  And writers outside erotica.

I learned from publishing the first book:  I learned  there are people out there who have some of the same literary interests and are far more developed in the ins and outs as writers.  They could embrace my published writing because it brought them back to their memories of Robert Graves and their own love of tanka, sonnets, history, etc.

There was too much variety in that first book and it made it ‘not an easy read’ as I heard over and over.  I do think people want to pick up a book, most books, and feel more comfortable.  There were too many categories I now think that made transitions between myths (The Robert Graves issue) and short stories, flashers, poems, tanka, etc. to make it  ‘easy to read’.

Then there are others, reviewers like Steve Issac who poo-pooed this sentiment.  He wrote an incredible review of “A Seasoning of Lust” that delighted in the variety and complexity of the pieces.  He also asked me recently ‘what was wrong about being part of a niche market?  Get over it.’

LOL!…I guess it’s all about that internal rhythm, how we see life, how we see beauty, etc. that makes us the ‘kind’ of writers we are.

These last three years have  been  productive.   I learned how to write, but I learned more than that.  My world expanded and in fact, blew out at the seams.  I grew.  And I wrote so much that now I have to look at all this ‘stuff’ and see how to improve it.  Or toss it.

The blog has been a tremendous place of connection, communication and growth.  It is something that can be used for good or bad, but for a writer, it helps hone things.  It helps us reach out and that can’t be bad. Hardly shameless, a stupid moral concept anyway, and applied to writing?

Just ignorant.  You can sit there on a log and hope for manna from heaven or you can promote your work.

Hopefully “The Zar Tales” will be out for Xmas, but I don’t think so.  Lulu.com has it’s own internal rhythm and there are lots of hoops for us to jump through.  But this book will have the benefit of learning from the recent first:  There is only one theme, a mystical, magical theme of Zars (demons and dancing rituals) set within a religious and historic context.

With a few poems thrown in because I can’t not do so.

Lady Nyo….who now sees the spelling errors of yesterday. Geez.

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18 Responses to “The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing”

  1. Margie Says:

    I’m so looking forward to the next publication, cousin. And I’m waiting very patiently (lol) for the next installment of “Tin Hinan”. Just standing around — waiting — still waiting — no rush.

    How’s your weather – we’re chilly and damp — I still have one watermelon in the garden that I think isn’t going to make it. Getting too cold!

    Like

  2. Berowne Says:

    I suspect if writers didn’t engage in self-promotion, it would not have been necessary to invent the printing press. But seriously, it’s useful to sort out the different motivations for writing and publishing before getting into it and to reassess them from time to time. ‘To make a million dollars’ is pretty much off the table; ‘to tell stories and share them’ (my motivation) is more in the realm of possibility, as is ‘to connect with others and have a sense of community’. (I just dropped off the ERWA lists today for lack of such a sense of community.) Then the question becomes ‘how to accomplish those goals’: I know nothing about self-publishing, though I think the stigma of ‘vanity press’ has diminished significantly. About the variety of forms in a single volume, my guess is that a lot depends on execution; if there is a central theme, a potpourri of prose and poetry makes sense. And some readers will be more comfortable with a mixture than others. You don’t want to give the impression you shoveled a stack of unrelated manuscripts into the hopper, but beyond that I doubt if there are rules, at least if you’re not focused on marketing.

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  3. ladynyo Says:

    Oh!!! I know (waving my hand~~~~_)

    About the watermelon. Make chutney!!! I made 3 jars of it yesterday…from green tomatoes left over.

    Cut up that watermelon…regardless of ripeness….cut up two onions (or more) as much garlic as you want…..1/2 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, cinammon/cloves/ red pepper or peppers….greeen peppers….and boil for about 45 minutes.

    Can ’em, Dano. It makes a great relish for roast chicken, fish, etc. Actually very good.

    I’m glad you are waiting for “The Zar Tales”, …me, too. It’s almost all there..right, Bill?

    And Tin is going to wait a few days because I want the interview with Bill to get as much top views as possible. He’s a very good writer and a VERY interesting man, and generous, too…lol!

    Weather…sunny and COLD today..what a difference a few days makes.

    Hugs and Jugs, coz.

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  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Berowne….

    Even if you ARE focusing on marketing, the issue of themes and such…ah…forget it.

    It’s a wide issue and something you can prepare BEFORE printing, but the real and extensive issues are there AFTER printing. Such is life..

    The problem is that we shouldn’t be ‘off’ printing or publishing because of what the mob out there (and in here) are saying…they are talking through their hats, anyway….and it’s a cowardly issue for one writer to discourage another from promoting, publishing….whatever.

    Writers need to be supportive and encouraging of each other…we get the opposite from life, why do the same?

    Steve Issac is a pretty bright fellow. His “reading by pub light” blog is quite a credible blog. He had no problem with the scope of my first book, but now I am having second thoughts. I probably will divide that book up again and publish some of the pieces with other volumes…..because there is always those possibilities. That is the beauty of self-publishing. You can do what the ____ you want. Whether you get readers is another story completely. But funny….I am told that it takes 5 self-published books usually (If they are decent and relatively ‘good’) before making a name…

    With self-publishing, there are just so many ways to go around it all.

    I am so sorry you left ERWA, but I certainly understand it. Sometimes it’s like beating your already sore head against a wall….and you are not a masochist.

    I had a lot of readers from that list over the years…and I am certainly grateful for those that did read and crit. I learned how to write there, I think, more than any other place, or years, but at the same time, I felt strangled. Some of the ideas about erotica weren’t mine, and I just couldn’t write to that form anymore.

    Erotica is a spice, not the whole damn meal…at least for me.

    That’s why I encourage other writers to submit some writings to the blog and I like to interview them. I think we learn from other experiences, and writer’s experiences…the whys and wherefores of it all…well, that goes into the hopper.

    Being a writer, Berowne, is such a many routed issue, neh? I guess we have to identify both the good and the bad that comes our way. And bend with it.

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  5. Malcolm Says:

    I’ve been down both paths – commercial and self-publshing. To have earned royalties from books of poems is a kind of achievement, perhaps. But those days are past, and self-publishing writers also have a lot to learn. It’s best not to have to learn from mistakes, but it’s a powerful teacher! I’ve done two now.
    Your blog is always a ‘good read’, and clearly you have a readership. This is very different from my blogs, where there is no evidence that anybody reads them. Perhaps if, like you, I put in less poetry and more personal essays I might have readers. You seem to have managed to reach a balance of styles and approaches that suits both you and your readers. Well done! I know it has been an effort, and you have deserved success.

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  6. Malcolm Says:

    I was sorry to see that Berowne has decided to pull out of ERWA. I am not primarily interested in erotica, but I found in ERWA a very supportive community of readers and writers which doesn’t exist anywhere else I’ve looked. I have cheated a bit with somewhat non-erotic posts, but have found acceptance and support, especially with the crits. I have found Berowne’s stories make me uncomfortable, with their acceptance of slavery in an otherwise modern world, and gave up writing crits on them some time ago. But this is just my personal prejudice.

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  7. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Malcolm!

    ROTF!! I don’t really know that I deserve anything…and what is the magic formula for blogs?? ( I was hiding behind the door when that was given out…)

    I dunno. I do think that perhaps the personal essays help, because I don’t get a lot of crits on my poetry. And of course, there are myriad reasons for that. LOL!

    I am very pleased to have the readership I do. Most of them remain in the closet, and I wish they would drop me a line once in a while and share what is going on in their lives….I would like to know~! I think most writers are feeders on the lives of others….LOL!

    It’s not been really much of an effort, Malcolm. The blog is the outward face of a lot in my life…not everything, because we don’t want to scare the hens or other livestock.

    But~! Writing is a lonely profession, and the blog is sort of a meet and greet situation. I know some who don’t want others to write ‘for’ their blogs….but I don’t understand that attitude, or actually, I do. That is a person who doesn’t like people. Period. Or extremely possessive of his toys. Whatever.

    My blog’s life is the interchange between folk…as we say down South.

    I just stir the gumbo. But I would like to see you write personal essays for your blog. If not now, at your time of life…when??

    Lady Nyo

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  8. Berowne Says:

    I just read this blog for the recipes. 😉
    P.S. Am planning to make that salmon casserole this week.

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  9. ladynyo Says:

    Good Thing I have recipes!!!

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  10. ladynyo Says:

    It’s a hard call….and I certainly understand where Berowne is coming from.

    I left only because I needed to concentrate on my own rewriting…and I just couldn’t keep up with the amount of writing submitted by others…the new ones. I could allocate the time and energy for serious crits.

    However, I just reapplied to Writers and I’ll keep contact with ERWA from that vantage point.

    Berowne’s stories make you uncomfortable, Malcolm??? LOL! You should read a particular fellow there …or who was there before. You will have nightmares. I still do, but perhaps it’s because I don’t think the guy was necessarily writing fiction. He seemed a full-bore sadist. He seemed to have too much the vivid imagination.

    But of course he chided people to learn the difference between reality and fantasy. And in that, he was right.

    I think him the perfect “Vlad”…. LOL!

    There is a lot of distance between reality and fantasy…..but he wrote the kind of fiction where I didn’t want to touch the page. It was creepy. That itself has a certain power.

    He wrote creepy, horrific, perverse and sadistic material, and you could believe it. Now, that’s pretty powerful writing. But a steady diet of the stuff would put you off your feed for a long time.

    But…he wrote convincingly. You could believe it. He was no…ah..amateur.

    Lady Nyo…..running for the mouthwash.

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  11. Bill Gaius Says:

    It doesn’t bother me when people refer to self-publishing as ‘vanity publishing’. Hell, all publishing is vanity publishing, unless you’ve crossed that magical barrier and become a Stephen King or a John Grisham. Anyone setting out to publish for money alone is either naive or seriously delusional. Is it vain to suppose that someone out there might want to known what’s going on in my head? Of course it is. So what?

    Moreover, self-publishing and traditional publishing are no longer mutually exclusive. Not all publishers automatically reject work by authors that have self-published. At a recent workshop I attended, NYC agent Jeff Gerecke said that publishers are learning that self-published authors tend to be go-getters who can be depended on to do their part in promoting their own work.

    BG

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  12. ladynyo Says:

    Good, Bill! I was waiting for you to show up here.

    Well, I have noticed that those who throw the “vanity” iword (about publishing) are those who AREN’T writers, nor are they trying to get published. They will sit and shake their fingers or bite their thumbs at those of us who ARE interested in publishing.

    And after those bleak stats you pushed over here, Bill…that toilet paper transformation of our precious and hard worked sentences…..

    Yikes!

    I think we also tend to be elated by the books that we hold in our grubby little hands. I know that when I did, for the first time…it took some hours before I realized WHAT I was holding in my hands…..the hard work of two years at least…and I was overwhelmed.

    Perhaps it’s like holding your first baby in your arms. No, better. It doesn’t spit up on you. Nor wreck your car.

    Promoting…well, that’s a BIG issue. And there are lots of ways to go about it…depending on what you have written and published.

    This blog will continue to be the base of that issue.

    Lady Nyo

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  13. Dangerous Bill Says:

    Let us take a moment to celebrate the Life of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, and incidentally, the goal to which all self-publishers aspire, or are doomed, depending on your point of view.

    For a three year period, he took to the road, writing religious tracts to try to convince Calvinists to return to the Mother Church. When no one wanted them, he pushed his writings under people’s doors. While on his wanderings, he nearly froze to death while sleeping in a tree, and required his cousin’s help to get down again. Ultimately, he earned nothing from his publishing (if you don’t count the canonization) for all his days.

    http://www.aardbargain.com/patron-saint-writers.html

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  14. ladynyo Says:

    I thought this was a joke, one of your making, Bill.

    You do know you are known for these things…

    Well, I guess, Catholic or not…and I read the site…..good inform. on pre-Christian practices meddling with Gods and Goddesses…..

    That is something I found with “Tin Hinan”. Berbers were early-on believers in the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses….especially Amun (Ammon) and Isis. Later they developed their own Gods/Goddesses…..war gods, wind goddesses, fertility, etc.

    Somewhere in there they were Christians.

    Thanks for the interesting site, Bill.

    A saint onboard activities can’t hurt.

    Lady Nyo

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  15. Berowne Says:

    I like it that St. Francis de Sales is also “patron saint of editors and invoked against deafness”; the two seem to go together. Perhaps the Calvinists chased him up the tree?

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  16. ladynyo Says:

    And froze him to the branch with a sermon.

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  17. Berowne Says:

    I wonder if he is the saint for whom the Salesian Society is named; they seem to be big in the Italian North Beach section of San Francisco.

    At the moment, Californians are more interested in St. Francis Borgia, who is invoked against earthquakes; the Loma Prieta was 20 years ago Saturday.

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  18. ladynyo Says:

    Yes, NPR did a spot on the Loma Prieta yesterday.

    Quite a tragic event.

    Like

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