Self Publishing Your Way to Traditional Publishing

There are several stories whizzing around the web about authors who jump-started their writing carreer by self-publishing. They later used the leverage created by the sales of their book to manuever their way into traditional publishing houses. The examples range from oldies like Beatrice Potter and Mark Twain to currently successful authors like Deepak Chopra and Richard Paul Evans.

Would you ever self-publish as a route to becoming traditionally published? Why or why not? Do you think this is the future of publishing, or just a trend?

Bonnie Schroeder

I would consider self publishing only as a last resort. Sure, I’ve heard the miracle stories, but chances of getting your big break via self publishing are even slimmer than those for getting an agent the hard way. If a person had a huge social network, was very internet savvy, and had an endless reservoir of marketing energy and know-how, it might work, but your average writer just isn’t that kind of animal.

I hold more hope for e-publishing and Print on Demand; they address some of the traditional publishers’ cost concerns without going into direct competition with them. I would definitely go with an e-publisher if I had the chance.

Jackie Houchin

Would I ever self-publish? Good Heavens, yes. I do it all the time when I write and post on my web site. I also self-publish when I submit stories, articles and reviews to non-editing venues such as American Chronicle and my local bi-weekly newspaper. It’s a fast way to get my writing out there and read.

But these articles and reviews are not enduring in the sense that books are. They are “flash” pieces, meant to be received, read, and then – as in the case of a newspaper – thrown away. Sure online sites keep archived records, and there are links on Google that go back years, but these “immediate” stories will never sit on someone’s bookshelf to be read and reread (or at least dusted).

Because of my experience in this type of writing – and frankly the instant gratification that comes with it – I would be more apt to self-publish. I would write the best book I could; pay to have it edited (line and content); use the best POD company and illustrators I could find; and go for it. A distribution deal and marketing plan would also be important.

Several authors I know personally began by self-publishing their books. They did a lot of self-promoting and aggressive marketing, and they were noticed by a traditional publisher. Now they have multi-book contracts. It can be done.

However, one author I know went the “traditional” publishing route with her first two books, and is now actively and happily self-publishing the third and fourth in the series. The construction is top-quality with very professional cover designs. Best of all, she’s “in the black.”

The bottom line is the author’s personal career goals… and how patient and optimistic he/she can be.

Jacqueline Vick

I’ve already self-published a children’s book. It was a project I’d worked on “on the side” and I wanted to see it in print. I really didn’t try to market it to traditional publishers first. Instead, I went to Lulu.com. I wrote the story, hired an illustrator, solicited editing feedback, and then published. I will say that I found a few errors in the first copy and had to go back and make changes. (The errors were mine, not the publishers, and they could have been avoided with a more careful review on my part.) So I would recommend special attention be paid to proofing the copy.

I do think that there are a lot of people out there using this method to attract traditional publishers. I can think of three authors off-hand who now have traditional contracts. I think it all comes down to how hard you market the book.

All of the Above

What do I do when I can’t think of a particular word while writing, asked the curious Jaxon?

My dogs are actually quite, what’s the word?, sagacious, when called upon to aid in my search for the proper bon mot. I do use the Thesaurus frequently, if not religiously, and…Oh, what is the word I’m looking for?…Ah, yes, habitually.

But when all else fails, I get up from the computer and wander around, because the farther away I am from the computer, the better the chances are that the most delicious and obscure word will pop into my cranium and I won’t have a pencil or piece of paper to write it on, and while I am searching for a stupid scrap of anything to use, the word will completelty… Oh, I can’t think of the right word to use…..Let me ask one of the dogs.

Can’t Think of a Word!

What do you do when you can’t think of that word you need for your story, ariticle, review or blog?

Do your fingers remain poised over the keys (perhaps tapping them lightly) while your brain frantically searches all its memory files? Do you write the “wrong” word and continue with the piece, hoping to come back and change it when inspiration hits? Do you consult a thesaurus (be it on Word or your bookshelf)? Do you start with “A” and go through the alphabet saying words that “sorta” match the one you need? Do you describe the meaning of the word to a nearby spouse, kid, friend (your dog, cat) in hopes that they’ll fill in that blank? Do you think, “Oh, what the heck!” put in any old word and quit worrying about it?

What works best for you? PLEASE share!!

I’ve done them all, but I’ve found what really works is… is… now what was that word?

Jaxon

Writing Habits

There are so many writing opportunities available today, from micro-podcasts to epic novels. Many writers choose to dabble in more than one platform. Today our writers answer the following question:

“Do you work on more than one project at a time. If so, how do you balance your writing time between the two? (Or three?)”

***

Years ago I worked in a bank. The woman who interviewed me before I was hired asked if I could juggle. The particular job I was going for required keeping several things going at the same time. It was the only position in the bank that had deadlines and also the only one where you could lose money, big money, if you dropped the ball. For ten years I juggled and never lost them a dime.
Now comes the job of writing, and if you want to be considered a professional writer, you must think of writing as a job.

If I only wrote one thing at a time, I think my mind would dwell on that piece to the point of distraction. Time away from one story lets flaws come to the surface and allows new avenues to present themselves. Think of it as Cobweb Cleaning.
Since I enjoy writing short stories and have had several published, I have forced myself write an entire anthology using the same main character from one of those published stories.

I enter short story contests and have submitted several stories to various anthologies. Three have been published, but my other stories are still on my computer. This is work completed.

I had an idea for a novella, wrote the 90 page story, and realized that it was basically the length of a screenplay. I turned the story into a screenplay. I did the same thing for two Christmas novellas.

You might ask yourself: Why do all that extra work? Here’s why: If an agent says she likes my novel, but what else do I have? I can say I have a completed anthology utilizing a popular character I wrote in a story published in a recent anthology. I also have several cool screenplays based on some novellas I have written. I also have some short stories that I could submit in case someone asks me to write something for their next big mystery anthology.

And even if the stories aren’t picked up anytime soon, the writing, editing, and polishing can only make me a better writer. The more we hone our craft, the better we will be. I wrote the last short story that ended up in an anthology in a day.

Writing constantly and trying new things makes us better.
Even a blog is writing, and that is what I am…a writer.

G.B.Pool

***

Out of necessity, I often find myself working on more than one project at the same time.

First of all, I consider deadlines. The one with the closest date, gets worked on first. Meeting editor-set deadlines is very important for my credibility and for insuring future work. I will put off most other activities to meet a deadline.

I also set my own internal deadlines. For instance, I like to get theatre reviews out before the following weekend after I’ve seen the play. This helps publicity. It also makes theatre execs feel warm and fuzzy about me and eager to give me free tickets for future productions.

If there is no deadline – say I have some ideas of things I’d just like to write about sometime – then I’ll work on the one that interests me the most at the time. Sometimes I’ll do research and interviews on several before sitting down to actually write. These projects, however, have a tendency not to get done.

So I would say deadlines are the key for me.

Jaxon

***

Is it better to work on one project at a time or juggle multiple projects? That would depend on how you write, and why.

If you’ve got the focus as well as the creative chops to work on multiple projects simultaneously, congratulations. That will serve you well, especially if you decide to freelance or focus on writing short stories or articles. However, if flitting is your preferred method of procrastination – concentrating on anything but the challenging project which should have your full attention – then it becomes an obvious problem.

Focusing on a single project is the surest way to meet a deadline, a necessity once writers graduate from talented amateur to professional. That doesn’t hold true if you never complete the project, but instead obsess over minute details, or rewrite the same early chapters over and over and never get past page 20something.

That’s why I don’t find it helpful to ask writers how they work, because the “how” doesn’t matter as much as “they work”.

MK Johnston

***

I can’t work on more than one fiction project at a time because I tend to live in my characters’ world for the duration of the project. What I DO like to do is switch back and forth between long- and short-form fiction, because the process of novel-writing is so long and the end so hard to envision. Once I finish a draft and set it aside to breathe, I get to work on a short story – where you at least get quick, if not instant, gratification.

I also do some freelance nonfiction writing and editing, and that’s fairly easy to incorporate into my writing without danger of it bleeding into the fiction work. Since nonfiction and editing are both far easier for me than fiction, the challenge is to put the fiction first and work on it before “goofing off” with the easier stuff. I try and write my fiction first thing in the morning, before breakfast (but not before coffee). I set a timer, try to write for an hour, and consider myself lucky if I get in 30-plus minutes before hunger gets the upper hand. Most days I finish out the hour before I move on to the easy stuff.

Bonnie

***

I usually have several projects going at once because I love to write in several formats. Some stories cry out to be written in script format, while others pop up as short story ideas.

I always have one mystery novel manuscript going at any time, and I fit the other projects into my schedule. Still, I try to focus completely on what I’m working on at the moment. For instance, if I decide to take a break from the novel, I’ll work on a short story until it’s done.

The most difficult part of writing fiction is that no one tells you what they want from you, and you usually have to create your own deadlines. It’s easy to get distracted, or, as Miriam points out, to use multiple projects as a way to procrastinate.

I think it’s important to decide what you want to be when you grow up. Scriptwriting is fun and sometimes lucrative, but it’s a completely different world from publishing. You have to decide if you have the time and energy to build up your “creds” in both worlds–to network, attend conferences, make contacts. I finally decided that I had to choose, and I set the scriptwriting aside. The short stories support my publishing goals, so I see them as a valuable investment, and I continue to write them.

Jacqueline