Making the decision to self-publish required a shift in my perception. I had to reevaluate my goals, my belief structure, and even the source of my pride. Then it required serious deliberation on my part. Just because self-publishing is easy, available, and I have a completed novel didn’t mean I was ready to publish. Did I have the fire, the creative energy, and the wherewithal to be successful?
When in doubt, make a list. (It’s practically a family motto, something that should be on my family crest. Making lists also helps me get organized, and that never fails to soothe me.)
1. A Finalized Novel. Check. I wrote Conventional Demon in 2008 as a NaNo WriMo project. I’d just finished a ridiculously long first novel (over 1,000 pages of quality learning experience that’s never going to see the light of day) and this short 50,000-word challenge was just the creative breather I needed. I edited it the following year. I wrote three more novels, returning to edits and rewrites on Conventional Demon in between each, applying everything I’d learned to this novel. Trusted writing friends critiqued it, and back to the rewriting I went (it was missing some seriously important parts, like the third act). I queried it to agents. After two years of querying, I was getting positive responses, requests for the whole manuscript. The reasons agents passed had little to do with my writing or the story, but with their current buying trends.
2. An Entertaining Novel. Yes, of course, I think so. Also, I believe I'm not the only one. Despite receiving close to fifty rejections from agents, none said the story was lacking. Several said I have an engaging writing style and they’d be interested in seeing my next novel. I’ve polished the prose, fixed all those nagging “something’s not quite right here” lines or scenes, and tested it against the Hero’s Journeyoutline to ensure I have a complete plot, not just fun characters doing fun things.
**Side note: I want to emphasize the importance of these top two points. If I had any nagging doubts that my story wasn’t ready for a traditional print audience, it wouldn’t be ready to be self-published, either. Self-publishing, on the surface, seems like the easy route (and I suppose it could be, if you just wanted to throw your novel out into the ether, cross your fingers, and pray people buy it). I consider it equal to traditional publishing: I don’t want to put anything for sale that I think is less than the very best I can do.
|My Current Muse|
4. Understanding This Is a Business. As much as I would love to devote all my time to creative endeavors, to write eight hours a day and spend the rest of the time catering to my muse and refilling my creative energy, I know it doesn’t work that way. Not for traditionally published authors and not for self-published authors. This is a business, complete with marketing research, promotion, website maintenance, and accounting. Most traditionally published authors do the majority of their own marketing. Being self-published means doing it all. Which means I need:
5. A Business Plan. Like I said earlier, I could simply publish my novel. I could find a company that would upload it for me to a bunch of ebook platforms, and then I could sit back and cross my fingers. Simply typing that made me cringe. I want to be successful, not just published. My business plan is now a six-page outline that will require almost as much work as writing my novel did. Maybe more. There’s nothing nebulous about my plan, either. I have solid steps to follow to launch my book with the biggest splash I can make. There’s no guarantee that any of my ideas will generate the attention and customer/fan base I desire, but it’s better than crossing my fingers.
6. I Can Work Like an Author. Over the last ten years, but specifically in the last two years, I have proved to myself that I have the willpower and dedication to maintain a career as an author. For at least two years now, I have devoted an hour a day to writing, minimum, but usually two hours. It doesn’t sound like much. But on top of my job, my life, my research (that’s not writing time), and sleep, it’s been a substantial commitment to writing. What this means as far as being a self-published author: I have the self-motivation necessary to produce the sequel to my novel, and the one after that. I have the internal drive to sustain a career as an author, not just publish one novel.
7. Perfection Is a Mirage. I’m not a newbie author; I’ve been writing novels now for over ten years. I’ve improved by leaps and bounds. Do I have more to learn? Of course. But waiting until everything is perfect, until I feel 100 percent ready just means I’ll be waiting forever. There’s always room for improvement. Well-established authors will tell you the same thing. I've heard many would change so much about their first sold novels. It doesn’t mean those first novels were crap; it just means that their writing got better over more time and more practice. I've polished Conventional Demon to the best I think I can make it (okay, I'm going to do one more round), and I'm not waiting for that illusive stamp of perfection.
8. Professional Editing. I'm having my novel professionally edited. I've been through it at least fifteen times. I still catch typos. I'm simply too close to the work to be able to edit it cleanly myself. And there's nothing that bounces a reader out of a story faster than a glaring error.
Only time will tell if Conventional Demon is the viable, sellable novel I believe it to be. In the meantime, I’m doing, and have done, everything I possibly can to ensure its success.