Writing about writing

Writer, publish thy self

If there’s one thing that I can say I hate – nay, despise – doing, it’s “selling myself.” This goes whether we’re talking about CVs and interviews when you’re job hunting, or query letters when you’re looking for an agent to consider taking your writing to publishers. It’s not something I’ve ever been good at.

I don’t think it’s a confidence thing. I’ve stood in front of large crowds and given angry, rabble-rousing speeches, had difficult questions flung at me in meetings, started up conversations with strangers to try and recruit them to my trade union, and fought other people’s corners in plenty of difficult and hostile situations. None of that stuff is exactly easy, but it’s the bread-and-butter of my role as a union representative. To talk myself up, though? That’s a different matter.

That’s why I was so attracted to Inkshares. I had first heard of it because Felicia Day was promoting her friend’s effort to get Dracula vs Hitler published through the platform.

Leaving aside how awesome that book sounds from the title alone, the concept of Inkshares intrigued me. Not quite crowd-funding, here was a publisher who would pick you up if you simply got enough people to pre-order the book. No rigmarole with agents and rejection letters, you could bypass the gatekeepers of the publishing industry without the obscurity that self-publishing appeared to promise.

On that basis, I signed up. If I got 250 people to pre-order, I would get a “light publishing” option where I had to provide the cover art and some other bits, but they would still edit, distribute and market the thing. If I got 750, then I got the full works. The latter may have been a stretch, but it was potentially doable, and I could at least get 250 people to buy the book, right?

That I have 8 pre-orders to date, 40 days into funding and with 50 to go, suggests I was being over-optimistic. Part of the problem is that you’re not just asking people to push a button but to cough up money. $10 (~£7.50) just for an e-book or $20 if they want a paperback as well. On top of that, because I and almost everyone I know is in the UK whilst the site is in the US, add sales tax and shipping to that number. That’s a big ask, especially going beyond the people who really love you.

I’m going to persevere with it to the end of the funding campaign. If you want to help me, you can pre-order the book here. But I’m under no illusions that there will be a sudden rush of demand or that I have the marketing skills to create one for what isn’t even a finished product at this point.

That’s no great tragedy. If I miss the pre-order target all that happens is that people get their money back and life goes on. But then what for my book?

Going back to the self-flagellation of query letters and rejections is out, I think. I’ve not got the free time to churn them out on an industrial scale as things stand, and putting out one every so often is going to get me nowhere. Which leaves self-publishing.

I was reluctant to do this for a long time, but it looks more and more like a viable option. There are a number of platforms through which I can get both e-books and paperbacks to a wide variety of vendors, and if I’m setting the price them the marketing becomes that much easier. Plus, it won’t eat into the time I get with my family, where an agent hunt might be as time consuming as a job hunt – and I already have a full time job. Two, if you count being a senior negotiator for the country’s fourth largest trade union.

At this point, it remains to be seen how this will all turn out. But I’m excited. I love telling stories, I’ve gained enough confidence to believe they’re worth sharing with others, and that self-publishing reduces my chances of super-stardom and/or a major television adaptation of my works isn’t an enormous concern.

I’ll continue to keep you updated with what happens next, as well as posting sample chapters, short stories and other stuff. Stay tuned!

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