Self-Publishing—my experience

A few years ago, I decided to try my hand at self-publishing. Starting out, I used Amazon exclusively, but when I didn’t get good results, branched out into Smashwords. Both were a disappointment. The whole experience was a disappointment. As to why, there were several reasons.

First off, I didn’t get the sales I expected. Mind you, I didn’t have any illusions, thinking I would be an overnight sensation; I would have been happy selling an occasional e-book with hopes of modestly growing my readership over time, enough so that I could make a little money doing what I loved. That didn’t happen. Friends and family shelled out to purchase my e-books—I published a total of four—but other than a few exceptions, the only time I sold my work was when I ran deals and hawked them on my website/blog.

And that comes to number two: I hated, absolutely hated, self-promotion. To me, it was akin to begging everyone to please, please, please buy my book. For now, I’m moving on, but will come back to self-promotion later on.

Number three comes from a personal experience that was the tipping point. A blogger friend who had self-published for a number of years asked me to contribute to a science fiction themed anthology she was putting together, and I happily accepted. When the e-book was published on Amazon, I purchased a copy and started reading. And cringed. The stories were not that good, and many needed editing. Only one stood out as being both interesting and well-told. (I’m not referencing my own story here; it’s hard to be impartial regarding one’s own work as we writers can overestimate or underestimate our abilities, so I’m leaving it out of my critique of the anthology.) And I realized I should have read some of my friend’s work before I agreed to participate. My only excuse for not doing so was that she wrote in a genre that didn’t remotely interest me. I didn’t do my homework, and now my name was linked to what I considered a subpar book.

That experience opened my eyes to the world of self-publishing. After extensive research and a lot of reading, I realized that for every self-published gem out there, there were hundreds of duds. Some actually tell a good story, but sink under the combined weight of bad grammar and typos. When reading such a book, I would think, Why didn’t someone tell them they needed to hire an editor? Or in the case when everything was bad, Why didn’t a friend or family member tell them their writing sucks?

And I had an “ah” moment: No one spoke up because they didn’t want to hurt the budding writer’s feelings. I should have known because I had also been guilty of keeping silent.

That awareness caused me to take stock of my own abilities and marketability. And that was when I pulled my books off Amazon and Smashwords, and vowed that if I were to be published, it would be by traditional means: submitting my work to publishers who had no qualms about hurting my feelings.

Now back to my hatred of self-promotion—
Getting traditionally published is now a whole different ballgame than it was in the past. Authors are expected not only to write a good book, but to vigorously market it as well. They are expected to have a website, Twitter account, and Facebook page, all with a healthy following before their book even hits the shelves. And did I mention self-promoting, how one has to get out there like the hucksters of old, waving their book and shouting “Buy my book! Please!”?

All this led me to the realization that I am not cut out to succeed in today’s publishing environment. I don’t have the drive, the utter belief in my talent, to keep banging my head against a brick wall with the hope I’ll somehow, someway, knock it down. And if by some miracle I do, spend as much time branding myself as writing.

So I decided to write not for accolades or money, but for my own enjoyment, my own need. When the mood hits, I send out short stories and poetry, and have placed a few. It’s a sideline, though, nothing serious. But this blog (and previous ones) is metaphorically my garden where I plant what germinates, sprouts, and bears fruit in my mind. Sometimes my garden flourishes and the writing flows, and sometimes it hits a dry spell and the words wither on the vine. I just take it as it grows…er…flows. And when it flows, most of the time I share it here for others to read or not, whichever they choose. And I don’t have to yell, “Buy me, buy me, buy me, please!”

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

A Plethora of Books

How many books on writing do you own?

If you’re like me, more than you wish to admit, especially considering the money spent on them; and if we are to be honest here, most gathering dust on the shelf, floor, chair, desk, wherever.

Years ago, I routinely checked my thesaurus, dictionary, grammar handbook, and more. All were kept within easy reach. But over time, the internet has pretty much made reference books obsolete. Why turn to a book when with the click of a mouse you can have your answer, which is up to date, not five or ten years old?

To go with the reference books, I have shelves—yes, shelves, as in plural—of books telling me how to write and sell my novel, how to create conflict and suspense, writing the paranormal, etcetera, etcetera. And though I seldom crack one open, I can’t seem to part with them. Just the thought of it hurts my heart.

Digital is rapidly replacing the printed form, and though I embrace new technology, there’s a sterileness to it. A Kindle doesn’t feel like a real book in your hands. A smartphone doesn’t have that ink-and-paper aroma. Curling up with an iPad on a rainy day doesn’t quite satisfy. Occasionally, I have to have that fix, so about every third or fourth novel, I dive into a real book.

But almost all my writing research is now done on the internet. My dictionary and thesaurus are apps on my phone. Questions are answered by a Google search. How-tos are explored through YouTube videos and web sites.

I am a modern writer.

But on occasion, I long for a simpler time…flipping through books and articles, taking copious notes on yellow legal pads, trips to the local library. This is not to say that I don’t ever use paper and pen, don’t ever read physical books, just less and less as time goes by.

I see a future where books will only be published in digital form. I know it’s better for the environment if we use less paper—save a tree and all that—but to me, that will be a sad day. I wonder what books will think when they live only as ones and zeros, having no physical form. I wonder if they will miss the feel of human hands. And I wonder if they will be lonely.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Listen and Observe

Listen and observe…

I think a lot of writers do this naturally, without even thinking about it. We see a young girl in the checkout line at Walmart paying for a cart of groceries, and we wonder, where is the adult? Why is the girl alone? Where in the world did she get that big wad of cash? (This actually happened to me, and from it, a short story was born.)

In another store, we’re in line behind two elderly women, in their mid-seventies at least. One says to the other, “I think I’ll wait awhile before I get me another husband. The last three about done me in.” Another husband? Just how many husbands has this old woman had? What happened to the last one? And the ones before him?

While walking down the street, we see an old woman in layers of tattered clothing clutching a doll to her chest and crooning a lullaby. Who is the woman? Is she homeless, as it appears? Does the doll replace a child she lost in the past? How did she lose the child?

We hear a work colleague telling another that when his great-grandfather was a teenager, he killed a man, ran hundreds of miles away, and started a new life with a new name. Who did he kill? Why did he kill? Did he kill again?

We hear on television that the moon is moving 1.6 inches away from the Earth every year. What if it sped up its departure? If so, what caused it to accelerate its retreat? How would this affect Earth? What would be its impact on human life?

Like most writers, I always have pen and paper handy—or my smartphone with its handy-dandy notes app—where I can jot down the things that make me go “hmm…I wonder…” I know better than to trust my memory; like dreams fade when waking, story ideas can slip away as well.

We watch, we overhear, and we store those nuggets away to be pulled out at a later date and inspected. We turn them over and over in our minds as the words form around them, layer upon layer, until the why, what, where, when, and how takes shape.

A story unfolds, and the magic begins.

©️2019 KT Workman