An Interview of E.S.Wynn by Alice James on the subject of Self Publishing
Can you walk me through the general process of self publishing?
Sure thing. It’s pretty simple, when it comes right down to it. Basically, there are four major steps– (1.)write the book, (2.)find a printer you can trust who does good work, (3.) purchase an ISBN (International Serial Barcode Number – provided by Bowker’s Books in Print) and (4.) market your book by letting the world know it’s out there, it’s available, and getting it listed on all the major sites (like Barnes and Nobel and Amazon). You’ll have to call physical book stores on an individual basis to get them to consider carrying your book, and be prepared to meet with resistance, but realize that if you get your book in even one physical book store (not just online) you’re miles ahead of the majority of authors published by publishing houses, many of whom sell their books for nothing more than an expected percentage of royalties only to have the publishing house sit on the novel for a decade or more. Of course, when you go into a physical bookstore, it seems as if there are literally thousands of books, but consider the percentage of them that are organized into a particular genre (such as Fantasy or Science Fiction), the percentage of that percentage that are written by authors still living, and the even smaller percentage of living authors who aren’t already extremely well known with a best seller or two under their belt. As a first time author, even going with a publishing house, it’s unlikely any physical bookstore is going to carry your book unless you call them directly and ask them to.
Of course, as with anything in life, there’s a lot to watch out for out there when it comes to self-publishing. Getting into the corrupted, corporate controlled market is exceedingly difficult for even the most avid and well trained of writers, and a lot of people out there eager to make a buck are well aware of that. If you type “Self Publishing” into a google search, you’ll get thousands of results for agencies that will publish your work for upwards of $1000, which is downright ridiculous if you know how easy it is to get your book self published literally for free.
While I’m sure there are other services out there that are just as awesome, the best self publishing agency I’ve run across in my entire history as an author is, without a doubt, a friendly little company called Lulu (www.lulu.com). Lulu will publish your work literally for free and give you an awesome deal on printing costs (with bulk discounts) meaning your only real cost (beyond your own stock of books) is an ISBN and marketing package, which they offer for the much more reasonable price of $150. (Though I’ve seen it drop as low as $100.) This package gives you an ISBN and tells all the major websites that carry books out there (even internationally) that your book is now available and ready to be sold, so some of the footwork of self publishing is already handled. As for the nitty gritty of the process– check out Lulu’s website, which is fun and easy to use, and even features a publishing wizard that makes the process that much easier.
Why did you chose to self publish?
The biggest motivator for me came in the form of my ideals. The market as it stands (at least here in America) is totally corrupted with corporate politics. Trash is peddled by agencies that should know better, and is hailed as treasure as it is rubbed in the faces of the masses who buy without blinking. The little guy, the independent, is so looked down upon, so stigmatized, that anyone who dares to say “I’m going to publish my own book!” is looked at as a fraud or worse– someone who just can’t write. After all, the idea that has been so ingrained in our minds is that, if you actually knew a thing about writing, you’d be snapped up in a heartbeat and given a million dollar contract, right?
If only it were that easy. The truth is that the only people who get picked up by publishing agencies are people who are already somebody. Most agents won’t even represent you if you’ve published less than six books. There is no ground floor for the beginner, and if you try to wade into the midst of a writing group that claims to be the starting point for any career in the industry, you’ll find that it’s little more than a cluster of failed writers who have been clawing and scratching for corporate scraps so long that they set upon each other like wolves at even the slightest showing of talent. That’s not to say that all writer’s groups are that bad, but beware, because most are. The best writing groups are those that are close knit and formed by friends who are honest, but as caring about your success as you are about theirs.
But supporting this farce that the big publishing houses propagate like so much sludge goes against my ethical standards and I simply refuse to support it. Sure, the utter freedom I enjoy by refusing to sell out on the rights to my creations alone is worth any of the cons that might come with self publishing, but the primary reason for me to self publish was an ethical one. As an American citizen, and as a citizen of the greater world upon which we all live, I have made it one of my goals to fight to change the way people think about independence and the pioneering spirit of the self published writer, but I’ll get into that more later.
What were the pros and cons of self publishing?
The pros of self publishing are vast and well worth the extra work required. Perhaps the most meaningful and most important is the freedom you have over your own material. When you self publish, you retain all the rights to your work. It’s yours, you can do whatever you want with it, market it however you like, and not worry about a big ball-and-chain publishing company’s concerns about its image as the publisher of your book. You can be at the forefront of each new format of print media as it comes out and make your book available within days or hours instead of waiting around for months while lawyers debate whether or not it’s worth investing your particular novel in some new and untested means of getting books to the reader. As the sole driving force behind Thunderune Publishing, I love having the ability to market Pink Carbide as a PDF both online and on disks that I take with me to signings– there’s no hassle of lawyers and nervous old men who are afraid of the future, and I can pass on the savings to my customers, selling them CDs for five dollars if they can’t afford the price of a printed book at $14.95. Another great example is that, when Amazon’s Kindle format came out, I was able to act quickly and make Pink Carbide available within hours of the release, instead of days or weeks later.
The cons of self publishing are pretty basic and not anywhere near as insurmountable as mainstream society might have you believe. The first, and perhaps easiest to overcome con is marketing. When you self publish, you become your own publishing house, and you effectively wear every hat that would normally be parted out to hundreds (or at least dozens) of employees, which means you have to do all the footwork, all the editing, all the formatting, all the promotion, all the scheduling, and create all the hype that will make people buy your book. With limited resources, this can seem utterly impossible, but it just takes a little effort. Remember: Networking is your friend. Talk to family members and friends, find people and get them talking about your book. Make friends with other independent writers and trade edits, books and reviews on blogs or Amazon or even on sites like Hubpages. Remember, the more people talk about your book, the more other people will notice, and it just spreads from there.
The only other con to self publishing that I’ve run across is the stigma that society has placed on it. As a self published writer, you’re going to get a lot of flak from people who assume that refusing to play the game the publishing houses have set up for would-be writers to get lost in is synonymous with failure as a human being. It’s not. Remember: At the very least, you’ve had the guts to write a book, to put it out there for people to read, and most of all, to go it alone. How many other people do you know who can say the same? You’ll find that most of the people who give you flak have been sitting around wasting their time watching hours of TV while you’ve been dedicating yourself to art, to the betterment of your soul and through that the betterment of humanity as a whole. As a self published writer, you automatically join the ranks of the elite among pioneers and entrepreneurs, people who have the spirit and strength to cast off the framework and the odds and the corruption and proceed alone into uncharted territory, authors like William Blake, Walt Whitman, James Joyce, Rudyard Kipling, Ezra Pound, and many many others who got their starts by self publishing. Even Paolini’s Eragon was originally a self published book before it got picked up by Knopf and later found its way to the silver screen.
Did you find marketing your book difficult or simplistic?
Marketing is an ongoing process– sometimes it’s difficult, and sometimes it’s simple. The key, I’ve found, is getting people to talk about your product. The more people talk about your book (as with any other product you’re trying to market,) the more people will notice it and consider buying it. As the sole “employee” of Thunderune Publishing, I’m always on the look out for a new edge, a new place and a new way to get people talking about my books, and though that may sound like a huge and scary process, it really isn’t anything you can’t do on the side and in your spare time. As a full time student, writer, editor, big brother, ranch hand, sword salesman and activist, I still manage to get the word out and manage to sell enough copies to make the whole thing more than just worthwhile– it could almost be called profitable!
If, at the time, you had been given the option of publishing with a publishing house or self publishing, what choice would you have made?
If I had received an offer on the rights for Pink Carbide on the day I was about to found Thunderune Publishing, I have to admit, it would have given me pause, but then I didn’t know that much about self publishing when I first started out. Knowing what I know today, unless the terms had been unusually good (it’s not like in movies where you write your first book and someone shoots you a six million dollar contract - a more realistic example can be seen in what happened with Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces, the book which inspired George Lucas to write the entire Star Wars saga. An excited publisher approached Campbell and offered him $250 for the rights, $250 when the book was half completed and $250 on publication, and he accepted immediately, knowing those were more than generous terms.) perhaps if I had been offered somewhere in the neighborhood of at least $10,000 at signing, I might have considered the terms and talked to legal counsel to see what rights, exactly, I would be signing away, but anything less and I probably would have said “thanks, but no thanks.” The industry may seem glamourous, and writing a book may seem like the kind of thing that would set you up for life, but ask any writer who’s been picked up by a publishing house but not hit best seller status yet, and they’ll tell you that they’re not in the writing for the money. Whether you self publish or not, you do it for the art, a labor of love. The money you gain is just an added benefit of good promotion and good product accessability.
If faced with the same situation now which would you chose?
If I were to be offered the same choice as a first time author with no books under my belt, I would most definitely self publish my first book (indeed my first three) again, and barring someone offering me a million dollars up front, I plan to continue to self publish any other novels in the Pink Carbide series as well. That’s not to say I won’t approach a publisher for some other book or series unrelated to Pink Carbide in the future, some piece of fiction I care much less about, but you can bet that if I do decide to wade into the mire of politics and business that is the collective corporate publishing industry, I’m going to be approaching small time, independent (and preferably local) presses first, even if only for my ethics’ sake.
Did you like or dislike the control you had over your books in the self publishing process?
To say I love having complete control over my books would be an understatement. It’s one of the primary benefits of self publishing!
Overall approximately how much did it cost to self publish and did you feel that it was worth the price?
Most definitely! The overall cost for self publishing Pink Carbide was worth every penny. Even when I tabulate up the costs of the ISBN, gas to get to signings, and having a supply of printed stock on hand, I’ve still spent less than a thousand dollars, and I’ve made that entire sum back, with a little margin of profit on the side to boot. Sure, I haven’t sold millions of copies of Pink Carbide yet, but I’ve sold over 230 books in the past three years, and I’ve made back every cent I’ve spent and then some. Perhaps most satisfying is the fact that even though I might have sold more books overall if I had taken my novel to a major publishing house (and they had decided it was “worth publishing” or even worth releasing,) I would never have made anywhere near as much money as I have. All too often, writers who go with Publishing Houses are paid a fraction of a cent for every copy of their novel that sells, and it’s only the rare author that becomes a J.K. Rowling or a Steven King. As a self published author, you still have that same shot at the greatness, of being recognized as a best selling author, only you have the added ability of being able to set the price of your product and make anywhere from one cent to ten dollars in royalties alone on each sale of your novel.
Many people prefer to self publish by finding good eBook publishers, since they help make the process a lot less complicated and more beneficial for you.
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