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Friday, February 20, 2015

5 Reasons I'll Be Self Publishing Ascendant

Question from my inbox:

Becky, now that Crescent Moon Press has folded, will you be trying to find another publisher to take over the Ascendant trilogy?

Several of the authors who were with CMP are now looking for other publishers to take over their now homeless titles. I'm sure many of them will be successful in cooperating with another small press, but most medium and large publishers won't pick up an already published title unless it has a very impressive resume (huge sales, awards, bestseller lists, etc) Over the past couple of years, I've learned a lot about working with a small press. My biggest personal take away is this: If you are willing to learn about self publishing (and because of technology, it is becoming easier to access this learning every day) there is almost zero advantage to teaming with a tiny publishing house unless they can do at least one of two things.

1. Distribute your title into retail stores
2. Work to successfully market your title to a large audience 

Most small presses don't do either of these (of course, there are always exceptions :-)

When you sign with a tiny house, you are handing over the control of your work. This is clearly a worthwhile trade off when working with medium to large publishers that are bringing benefits to the table (distribution, professional editing, professional interior design, professional book cover design) but if that small house produces a product that simply looks like some of the less professional self-published titles--really what's the point?

In my particular case, ASCENDANT is not a title that would interest a medium to large house. The sales are abysmal and it doesn't have any idea what a bestseller list even is. Furthermore, for those of you who don't know the history, ASCENDANT has already been submitted to all the medium and large presses back when my agent was originally trying to sell it in 2011.

I may have my faults, but I know a brick wall when I see it--I get it.
  
I have been learning quite a lot about self-publishing over the last few years and I think that is the next best step for me, my books, and my writing career.

Here are 5 talking points (based on my experience with CMP) about why I won't be knocking on any more small press doors.

1. The editing wasn't really editing. CMP outsourced to volunteer editors who knew even less about editing than I did at the time. Consequently, this is an area of writing that I have been studying and working hard on. To be frank, editing is not a skill that comes naturally to me. I've had to learn. Regardless of what happens in my publishing future, I want to always be growing in all my writing skills--especially editing. 

2. The Marketing consisted of putting my book on their CMP site and on their Facebook page. While I am grateful for whatever exposure that gained my title, neither source attracted an audience much beyond other CMP authors and writers who were thinking of submitting to CMP. Most small presses do not have the distribution relationships in place to get your book into the major bookselling stores. Furthermore, because many of them use Lightning Source for print copies (I still use LS for my own printing needs) the cost of producing one off POD books is too high for them to offer the typical discounts expected by many retailers. 

3. I'm just going to say it--the interior layout of ASCENDANT was terrible. Because I gave CMP control over my book, I lost the power to fix that. I am not an InDesign expert, but I can lay out the interior of a typical print book so that it looks just like a traditional print book with regards to font, spacing, and trim size.

4. When there was a BIG problem with my book (the version they initially printed was the initial draft) I had to fight hard to get it fixed. If I had control over the work, I could have taken the title down immediately and corrected the issue. Because I had to first make a case, and then fix the problem myself anyway, the process took months. (Lesson I Learned: YOU are that last stop on the quality control track. Never, ever assume that just because you are working with a publisher someone else is going to care as much as you about catching errors. Everything is easier to fix BEFORE you give your final okay so, regardless of how sick to death you are of looking at your own book--LOOK AGAIN...and again :-)

5. Since I signed with CMP, I've grown in my specific skills as well as emotionally. Looking back, I can see that one of the biggest reasons I signed with CMP was the solace of being under someone's umbrella. Because someone else said they wanted my book for their list, it gave me some much needed confidence to start believing in myself as a writer. This wasn't a bad thing--it was just a false thing. Signing with them didn't make me any better or worse of a writer. My skills rise or fall from my own efforts. Once I realized that, honestly, no one really stands with you except for the readers that enjoy your work, I began to feel that there really wasn't any benefit to working with a small press over doing it all myself. (Disclaimer: Please remember, this is based on my own personal experience working with one particular small press. Not all small presses operate this way. I've heard of some writers who have had, and continue to have, excellent working and professional relationships with their small press.)

So is it scary to self-publish my books? Hell yes! But I finally realize that publishing is scary no matter how you go about it. When all is said and done, it's my name on the book regardless of how it got there. I'm the one that takes the heat if a reader finds fault. And I will. But if I'm accepting responsibility for the entire package, I will now be calling all the shots.

4 comments:

  1. #4, #4, #4 is so important. As you say, it's your name on the cover. I don't recall a publisher's name from a "not-so-good" book, but author's names....certainly.

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    1. Dean, the experience almost killed me. Okay, I'm exaggerating...but it was SUPER embarrassing. The only one that looked bad was me. Lesson. Learned.

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  2. All of your points are so right-on -- just self-published a title and am so happy with the results. Best of luck going forward! You are the storyteller - good editors can be hired. Only you can free those stories.

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    1. Congrats on getting your book out into the world Andrea! What's the title?

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