Self-publishing– the naked truth

I continue to work on preparing Princess of Secrets for CreateSpace– doing a line-by-line reading takes time. I hope to have Secrets ready for CS in the next couple of days; the edits I put in will also be added to the Kindle edition. Then I will turn my attention to Princess of Shadows, with the intention of having it ready for publication by December 1st.

I’ve had some ups-and-downs getting these novels re-edited, including a truly spectacular frak-up with find-and-replace on Wonders that I had to repair in a big, fat hurry. Editing my own work is the quickest path I know to humility. Or maybe it’s humiliation. For me there’s not much distance between the two.

No one should construe, from my previous ardent defenses of self-publishing, that I think I’ve achieved perfection with my own work. Hardly. As in, what a laugh. Every time I revisit my work, I see new items to fix, or to improve.

Let me be honest here– when I first self-published, two and half years ago, an objective observer would have probably classed me as one of those “not ready for prime time” self-publishers. I started out publishing some of my novellas and novelettes, and I spent months wrestling with issues. When I went to publish my novels, I thought I had cleanly edited copies. But my readers let me know that there were still issues, and I’ve had to revisit both Wonders and Secrets on several occasions (see my previous posts as evidence).

What this proves is that there is an “on the other hand” truth about self-publishing. A downside, a fly in the soup, a cloud obscuring the bright sun of our gloriously published state.

Ready for it? Here it is– self-publishing is hard.

Let me amend that– self-publishing is back-breakingly hard. Heart-breakingly hard. “Will this bastard ever be done?” hard.

At least, if you’re trying to do it right. If you’re not– or worse, you’re sure you’ve achieved perfection already– then forget what I just said. Sit back in the warm glow of your own self-sufficiency and the certain knowledge that it is only the stupidity of the rest of the world that prevents them from recognizing your genius. I have nothing useful to say to you.

For us mere mortals, though, the simple fact is that, when you self-publish, you take the whole weight of getting a book written and ready for market (two separate, if conjoined, tasks) on your own back. You may be helped by beta readers, you may hire a freelance editor, you may purchase a professional cover from an artist (God, I hope you do– there are some amazingly stupid self-published covers out there), but by-and-large this effort is all on you. You’re it. If the book succeeds, you get the glory. If it fails, or if it is an unreadable mess of misspellings, bad grammar and screwed-up formatting, you got no one to blame but yourself.

I can’t speak for other self-publishers, but for me, the whole experience of self-publishing has been one of learning, sometimes the hard way, sometimes by “oh my God, I can’t believe I did that!” Learning to edit, learning to format, learning how to promote (my personal downfall at the moment). And that learning process is still going on. It didn’t happen all at once, and I am beginning to suspect that it will actually never end.

So be warned– if you want to self-publish, and do it right, then you have to be prepared to commit to long hours of picking through prose, finding mistakes and sweating over whether this phrasing is better than that phrasing, to learn how to upload an html file and what it means to link your TOC correctly– and then to take the one and two star reviews, think about what they mean, and apply them to your text. You will need a thick skin, including on your behind where you’ve sat for hours editing a passage for the fourth or fifth time. You’ll need to be willing, after you’ve uploaded a novel, to turn right around and re-edit it and upload it again to fix one misspelled word on page 231.

There is, however, a positive to all this labor and pain– my work is better now than it was when I started. Perhaps much better. And I’ve learned how to make the next novel better to start with. For me, that makes the whole business worthwhile.

Not to mention, it’s better than doing yard work. That’s really unpleasant.

Later.

(PS– I have now edited this post twice to fix issues. QED.).

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