I received a question yesterday on my Tumblr regarding how I’m a published author:
I could answer it on there, but I figured this makes pretty good blogging material, and I need enough space to answer it, anyways. :)
This is the story of my “publishing journey”
Sophomore year of high school was when I realized I actually liked writing. Unlike many other writers, I didn’t just “know” at a young age that was what I liked doing. For me, writing was a complete pain. A hassle. Something I do to get through literature classes. Ironically, this newfound love for writing was facilitated by one of my favorite literature teachers, and to this day, I thank her for helping me realize that writing isn’t such a hassle. At the age of fifteen, I wrote my first original short story, and that was where it all began.
In Georgia, we have something called the Governor Honors Program. It’s a very prestigious program, and what happens is that you basically choose a “major” in a subject area (math, lit, art, music, whatever!), and you intensely study it for a summer. So in junior year, I applied for the area of Communicative Arts (which is just a really fancy way of clumping lit, drama, poetry, etc. together), figuring that I had a pretty decent shot at the program and I can really hone my writing skills if I make it.
I’m not going to lie; I think back then my writing skills were still underdeveloped, my love for it is still growing, it’s just not there yet. In hindsight, I wasn’t a particularly strong candidate because I wanted to pursue STEM in college and I had no idea how to convincingly tie all of that up–I think I didn’t come off as a confident person who was going to use the field of study for the rest of her life.
But I diverge: needless to say, I did not make it into the program. So I decided to spend the summer in another way. I knew that all the seniors at my high school had to fulfill a “senior project” requirement, and I figured that I can get that out of the way by writing a book (!!). Somewhere along the line, the project got a lot bigger, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
In some ways, I’m pretty glad I didn’t get into Governor Honors. I will not deny the fact that it would’ve been an awesome experience and it IS an excellent program, but spending the summer by myself and completing a book was turned out to be exactly what I needed.
Most of the time, this is what people are most interested/curious about: “How did you get to publish?”
This question also comes up: “Which publishing house?”
Here’s the truth: I self-published.
YES, I know there is more “prestige” associated with having an agent, being a part of a publishing house, and with all of that, the potential to become a bestseller or… whatever. I had those conceptions too prior to publishing. It was my parents who really pushed me to go the self-publishing route.
At the time, I knew I couldn’t query; I couldn’t follow the traditional path of publication. I was already rushed for time, I didn’t know whether or not I can complete the book in the timeline. In two months, I knew I could barely get a book out and have it comprehensively edited… I’m not going to also have time to wait for a response from an agent. I know that process can take up to a year… or years. Time I do not have. For the senior project to be complete, I needed a product, and that was to be my book. I cannot wait years for the publishing house to edit some more, publicize it, and publish. That just… wouldn’t work.
So I went the self-publishing route, worked on my own terms, and published my book without spending a dime.
Do I regret it?
In one word? No.
In the midst of all of this, I had wished that I queried, I wished I took more time and had the time to wait for agents and publishing houses. I wanted my name to be associated with a publishing house. I wanted major book suppliers to carry my book as soon as it is out. Maybe if I had gone traditional publishing, it would be more “impressive”…
But here is the reality:
Traditional publishing is not necessarily better than indie/self-publishing. People always associate bestsellers with traditional published authors–however, there are still many less-successful traditionally published authors!! Being traditionally published does not guarantee success.
And here’s the thing…
- I signed no contract.
- I work on my own terms.
- I market my own book.
- I make my own timeline.
- I pay myself.
There are plenty of traditionally published authors living paycheck to paycheck… being traditionally published does not make you an instant hit. Plus, even though big publishing houses have more marketing resources, a lot of smaller (new/emerging) authors get very little of those resources and end up having to do it themselves anyways. There are also widely successful indie authors who sold thousands upon thousands of copies of books and became NY Times Bestseller. And, if anyone is particularly worried about whether or not Barnes and Noble stock their book, then the answer is that if there is demand, they will stock it. It is very possible for indie authors to get into brick-and-mortar-bookstores… there just has to be demand. Which, I might add, is the same with any publishing route.
The thing is, the publishing industry is changing. In this day and age, anyone can publish. Sure, that means that self-publishing is still associated with some subpar, unedited books… but so long as I can continue to produce quality content, how I publish makes no difference.
I’m not telling you to go indie or go traditional. All I’m saying is that, although there is still stigma associated with being self-published… the reality is that the publishing industry is evolving, and indie publishing may have many benefits that people simply do not see. For me, having this independence to work on my own timeline was exactly what I needed for my project.
With all of that being said, I do plan on querying at least once in my life. Many authors aren’t defined as solely “indie” or solely “traditional.” There are plenty that are a mix of both, and are successful.
For now, since my project is now officially over, I am promoting/marketing my book for the first time. I sold ~50 copies the first time around with my project, and raised $600 for a literacy charity… but now that the project is over, I have lowered the price of the book and intend on keeping the proceeds and have that go towards college. My situation is very unique–usually authors launch a book and go, while I’m not “launching it” and actively promoting until now. Is it going to work out? I don’t know. But I also like the fact it’s all in my control, and I can manipulate the process however I want ;)
So you Want to Publish…
Now that I am finished with explaining my experience with publishing, I have five tips to help you get started if you too, are interested in getting into this industry:
1) Figure out your options, and RESEARCH. Make sure you know exactly what you’re going into… cause once you publish, the first publishing rights are gone. And even indie publishing contain several (numerous!!) options.
2) Don’t put things off. I know writing, editing, etc. can feel really daunting. But organize yourself and edit/write a certain number of words a day… you will get there!
3) EDIT! Whether traditional or indie, you need to EDIT. If you’re querying, you better be sure there are no there/their/they’re mistakes, or comma splices. Agents are looking out for that. And if you’re self-publishing… well, it’s easier to change your mistakes even after you’ve published, but you don’t want to lave a bad impression.
4) ASK FOR REVIEWS. This is a marketing advice that I missed when I first published. Ask for reviews, and ask for them like crazy. Don’t be afraid to go to extremes to get your reviews!! haha. As the author of The Art Of Book Marketing: Increase Your Book Sales By 700% In 7 Days, Harshajyoti Das, said in his book:
“Through a party and when people get to your house, feed them well and get them drunk, then make them login to Amazon with their accounts and leave you a review before they go home.”
Well, maybe go as far as getting them drunk, but make sure you ask your betas, friends and family :)
5) Become a Goodreads Author. When you’re done with everything and your book is published, make sure you can find your book on Goodreads and became an official Goodreads author! That can help you gain a wider audience.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the Disqus below, or tweet me @notcindychen.
Also, feel free to check out my book on Amazon, Smashwords, and Goodreads.