The Self-Publishing Stigma: Pushing Through Your Doubts

I had a bit of a dark moment the other morning. In fact, I think I could say it’s the first time I’ve ever felt that “oof” gut punch since starting on my indie author road.

Last week, I got interviewed for a piece about my books for my alma mater’s magazine. I was ecstatic. I told my husband, my mom, and oh, yes, Facebook. And then, on Monday morning, I got an email from the person, with an apology saying that they wouldn’t be including me in the next issue. Why?

Because I’m self-published, with no agent or publisher behind my work.

Oof.

It doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise – after all, I’m not the first person to be turned away due to being a self-published author. I know the stigma that comes with being an indie and most times, I  understand why some people wouldn’t want to take a chance on reading an indie’s books or feature them when there are so many other published authors out there.

But this time felt different. It was the first time someone had made me feel like I wasn’t a “real author.” And the more I thought about it, the longer I spent my day in a bad mood. I felt sorry for myself and grouched about it to my husband and a couple pals. I was too embarrassed to tell Facebook my interview wouldn’t be in the next issue, hoping they’d forget about it before they searched for it. I didn’t necessarily question life choices or anything, but I was definitely feeling a little blue about the fact I was being held back because I was self-published.

The stigma of “bad self-published books” is slowly dying, but it still has a ways to go. Most people assume that “self-published” means “not good enough to make it in the book world” which, as we here all know, is utter bullshit.

Sure, there are some books out there that probably shouldn’t be out there. There are plenty of books with typos and grammatical errors and formatting issues (not all of them are self-published, either). There are definitely stories that are odd and poorly written, with little to no plot or character development. It doesn’t make my books bad and it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t self-publish.

I told my Smurf-blue self these facts all day long. It eased the sting, sure. “Every indie author goes through this,” I told myself.

Then I remembered something.

I don’t march to anybody else’s drum, dammit. When I wanted to work in radio, I elbowed my way into every door until it got me an internship at ClearChannel. It was the best summer of my life. When I wanted to be a photographer, my best friend and I started a photography business. We didn’t make much money, but we had more fun than I can possibly explain. And when I wanted to be a writer – more than a magazine writer, but a novelist with books for everyone to see – I self-published my first book and became part of an indie community with some of the best and most supportive friends I could ever ask for.

I believe in my work – it’s why I self-published. I have never, not once, regretted my decision. My sales are picking up. Both books have pretty stellar reviews. I have friends, family, and total strangers not only reading my work, but asking, no, demanding for more. I obsess over my characters and feel that overwhelming sense of satisfaction when I figure out a plot problem or finish a chapter. I’m doing what I love.

And I’m going to let an entire day be ruined because a magazine told me it was against policy to include self-published books?

Liz Long, you idget, get over it. Go write another book that you’re going to self-publish. Because it’s what you pride yourself in, what you believe in, and what you love. For all you know, your fifth or fiftieth book could pick up enough attention to attract a publisher – and you might not even want their hands on it. Who knows?

The alma mater helped mold me into who I am – a citizen leader who doesn’t curl up and take it, but rather stands tall and pushes forward. So what if they can’t include me in the Books section of their magazine?

Make them sit up and pay attention. Write so many good books they have no choice but to talk about their 2007 alumni Liz Long and how she pushed through the crowd to make a name for herself. “It’s what she’s always done,” they might say, “It’s what she’ll always do.”

To all those indie authors who occasionally get the smurfy blues – believe in yourself. And go write something you’re proud to have on your shelf.

Why I’m Choosing Indie Publishing – A Response

Last week, my blog hits surged as a post of mine went around the Interweb. The blog entry, a post titled “Why I’m Choosing Indie Publishing” is something that, despite being from April, I still stand up strongly for to support. I did, however, want to pass along an article that I wrote for Indie Author News specifically about Indie Publishing. I’m reposting this particular article because I honestly feel it’s a stronger piece of mine, a better validation of my argument for indie publishing, and something I hope writers can find inspiration from. Where on my blog, I tend to ramble and allow for tangents, here I kept the focus on why I truly believe indie publishing was the right choice for me.

Why I Chose Indie Publishing, first featured here at Indie Author News back in June 2012:

After what equated to at least two years of hard work on my novel, I sent out several (and I won’t say how many, but I mean several) query letters to agents. While I had a few “very interesting concept” type replies, most emails back, as expected, were straight rejections, without any sort of feedback. Without any other novels to back my name and a uniquely built world that doesn’t really fit into any mainstream concept, I knew it would be tough to get my book into any Big 6 hands. I would have to convince these agents that my work should be plucked out of thousands of other submissions and while I believe(d) to the depths of my soul that I had something good, I also needed to be realistic.

You also know when you submit that you’re serving your work on a platter to editors. Even with a great original story, they want to mold it into a marketable book, something that will fit into mainstream shelves, which means an author may actually have to seriously rewrite their work. I knew going in that I’d have a hard time doing that—not saying I wouldn’t do it if required, but of course to me, every scene fits into the fast paced writing I’ve worked so hard at for years. I wasn’t super crazy about the idea of changing my character’s age or adding in a vampire just because it’s popular. I’ve also heard horror stories of authors finally getting an agent and submitting their works to big names, only to hear back a year later that they missed their chance, that the market is already over-saturated with their type of story and despite the trials and negotiations, their hard work is now a moot point. If I went through a year of excitement, thinking I’d be published, and then suddenly it’s ripped away, I’d be a mess for a long while.

That’s when indie publishing came into play. By self-publishing, I would have immediate opportunities I might not get elsewhere. With indie publishing, I’m in control of everything. Not just writing the novel, but the marketing, sales, networking, blog posts, cover design and layout, editing, book formatting…you name it, you’re in charge of it.

For a control freak like me, it was like a light-bulb went off over my head. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t looked into it sooner. I’ve never backed down from a challenge and I’ve certainly made my rounds of shameless self-promotion (I’ve always been a headstrong entrepreneur). The actual acts of doing it all myself didn’t scare me like it might others. It actually kind of pushed me even further into the decision to independently publish. I liked the fact I could control my cover, my story, my characters, without anyone else telling me I needed to change things to “better fit the market.”

As I’ve said before, I’m not a writer to make money. I don’t need a movie deal or to be whisked away to New York for fancy meetings. I want to write. I want to put out books that entertain and allow for an escape from reality. And debut novel or not, I believe in my story so much that I’m willing to do the work myself. I don’t care if it never this #1 on Amazon rankings or makes a million bucks (won’t say no to either of those things)—I just wanted to do something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid: hold a book in my hands with my name on it. If I ever had any doubts about indie publishing before, it was scrapped when I finally had a copy of my book on my shelf.

It could stop selling tomorrow, but you know what? I did it. Another benefit to indie publishing is the immense satisfaction–every single review you get, every interview question you answer, every tweet you reply to, every word you write, is because you did the hard work yourself. You were brave enough to say,

“Let’s do this. I believe in me.”

When Your Awesome Writer’s Brain Won’t Stop – Idea Overload

Sometimes writers have the complete opposite problem of writer’s block. As in, their brains won’t shut down and starts churning out all these good ideas that you want to follow through on and can’t because there are only so many hours in a week (I like my sleep, people).

For example, I’m still working on my superhero novel (Story 1). I still have a ways to go on that, unfortunately, but as I drifted off to sleep the other night, an idea popped into my head for a twist on a ghost and witch story (Story 2). When I started gathering ideas for that, I went back into an old novel I’d started a year or so back (Story 3). When I actually started reading what I had, however, I actually liked the story I’d been building (sort of a witchy murder mystery thriller) and decided that I didn’t want to fold that into Story 2. Oh–and I’m still getting hit with various ideas when I want to start working on the second book in the Gifted series! How does one prevent their brain from exploding again?!

So. Now I have 3 story ideas that I love and want to build on. This is where I need to be careful–writers tend to get overwhelmed when inspired because our brains are moving so fast on character development, plot twists, particular scenes or phrases, and the like. For example, I learned that I must really love the name Penelope–because I’ve got a character in Story 3 named Penny and a character in Story 2 named Penelope! So now I need to change one of the names, which means I may need to change other things in the story if I’ve built something around that name or its meaning. I need to make my stories discernibly different from one another to prevent reader confusion (or aggravation) and especially to keep everyone from assuming I work on some kind of formula (because I definitely don’t).

I also know that I shouldn’t be writing them all at the same time. There lies my problem–when hit with inspiration, I want to write down everything I can to save myself time and of course get it all out on paper for later referencing. But next thing you know, it’s a month later and you’ve worked on Story 2 so long that Story 1 feels neglected and sad and now you have TWO half-assed manuscripts instead of one full one. It’s especially bad when I feel stuck in another story with the plot–I move on to something I CAN write out and next thing you know, you haven’t touched the first story in months. Considering I’ve been telling everyone my next story is this Super Nova title, maybe I need to get control of the story situation and focus on one thing at a time.

I still don’t want to forget what I’ve come up with for the next title, though. So what do you do? I immediately write everything I think is pertinent. But then I set it aside and go back to finish the first story. I have to force myself to do it sometimes, especially when I’m inspired for another piece, but I know I don’t want to end up with 3 half-finished manuscripts – only to come up with ANOTHER story idea I want to work on, sidetracking me even more. It’s a vicious cycle, no? It’s about your focus–setting aside time to really concentrate on one idea at a time, putting your entire everything into it before moving on to the Next Great Project.

Some of it, of course, might not pan out, despite your thinking right now that it’s the greatest storyline ever thought up. And we have to keep in mind that there might already be several books out with similar plots or worlds, which means you may have to scrap it for fear of copycat syndrome (or you can call it your “fan fiction” and make a million dollars. I hear it’s been known to happen). In the end, that’s what I’d call quality–you can churn out 100 ideas, but sometimes there’s only going to be one great idea that sticks. One sounds like a fabulous book now might fall apart later–yet another reason to work one one thing at a time to make sure you’re producing the best work you can, as well as keeping an eye on the market to prevent oversaturation of your genre.

What do you do when too many good ideas hit you at once? How do you separate them from one another? And if you need more help with this, Writer’s Digest has a great article to consider our “Too Many Great Ideas” problem.

Indie Marketing: Be the Turtle, Not the Hare

Gifted has been out for just over a week now and I feel like I’ve done a pretty bang-up job of not hovering over my computer screen, begging for reviews and sales numbers. In fact, I’m kinda the opposite, perhaps alarmingly laidback about it. I keep reading (and now repeating) that indie publishing, and with it the sales, is a marathon, not a race. I can sprint to the finish line as fast as I want, but that doesn’t mean anything will come of it. Even if I somehow made a thousand dollars in a month, that doesn’t prevent an immediate drop to nothing after the first month of release. It’s like a slow burn.

Instead, I’m biding my time, hopefully building relationships with bloggers through email and Twitter and quietly promoting the Amazon link here and there on Twitter and Facebook. It’s not that I’m not aggressive–I could be if I wanted to–but I don’t want to come off annoying, especially considering this is my first book and I’m brand new to the game. I want to genuinely talk to people on Twitter, not shove my book on them. I’m hoping that reviews (both from blogs and Amazon) will back me up, speak up for me when I don’t want to be pushy. I want to take my time because I’m smart enough to realize it takes time.

Because I did my marketing plan after I finished the book, I think some things went out of order. In which case, I’ve learned my lesson for the next books. I’ve contacted tons of bloggers and gifted many, many Kindle copies or mailed out paperbacks and I suppose I should’ve done this weeks before the official book release. But because I’m trying to be a turtle and not a hare, I’m taking it in stride. I know next time to contact beforehand and in this case, now the hard part is waiting. On the plus side, out of the many, many fantastic bloggers I’ve emailed, only a couple have turned me down (and only because their TBR piles were outta control), while most have immediately jumped on my offer with an enthusiastic approach to the story. Some reviewers warn me it might not be until July or August until they can review it, but I still hook them up with excitement–if they’re willing to do a review, I’m more than happy to accomodate. The way I see it, even if my sales or marketing had dropped a little over the summer (because it’s been out for a while or I’m working on new stuff), then their new reviews later on can possibly spark interest again and help me push it out there to new readers.

I did an interview with Lauren from The Housework Can Wait and one of the questions was, “What’s the hard part of publishing?” Honestly, it’s the waiting game and not in the sense you might think. Sure, it’s nerve-wracking to think of all these people reading my book. My fear doesn’t stem from waiting for a bad review–I’m going to deal with bad reviews with a shrug of the shoulder and perhaps a stiff drink that evening, but with an understanding that not everyone will like it (and on days it gets me particularly down, I’ve heard reading the 1-star reviews for even the bestsellers is sort of an eye-opener to take it in stride). The hard part with the waiting is literally just that–the waiting to hear one way or another. The waiting while knowing (hoping?) people are laughing, rolling their eyes, and cheering for my characters. I’m not a patient person (and usually read a book in a few hours at one sitting, something I know not everyone has time for), so this has certainly been a lesson for me.

Luckily, I’ve been distracted by other things, like working on book 2 of the Donovan Circus adventures, as well as a YA title I’m really excited about. I’m staying busy even without constantly refreshing my sales page and honestly, I kinda refuse to be a slave to the numbers anyway. I don’t want to be “that girl” that forgets to actually write and do other things because she’s glued to the sales. No, thanks.

In all honesty, and I’ve stated this before, I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it to have a book published. It’s freaking awesome that I look on Amazon and find my name next to a novel. The more my friends exclaim over it, the more amazed I am that I did it–I completed a bucket list item and put my story out there for the world to read. That’s sort of what I’ve always wanted since I was a kid, so I consider it a success, even if I only sell ten books. The best part is, I’m getting such nice feedback and ratings that it might actually stand a shot at selling even twenty or thirty books maybe!

My first 2 blogger reviews are listed below–Heather and Lauren were so great to help me with this, especially on short notice. They both practically dropped everything (including what they were already reading) because my story intrigued them and turns out I don’t suck! They’ve both been so kind to assure me how much they enjoyed it and help promote it for me. I’m so grateful to them!! It’s such a nice feeling, to know people got along with my characters as much as I do (and even want to be friends with them as much as I do!).

Gifted Review on Soleful Reader – 4/5 Heels

Gifted Review on The Housework Can Wait – Graded “B”

On tomorrow’s YA Indie Carnival, it’s all about Mom for Mother’s Day weekend! And at some point soon, I’ll be addressing the “New Adult” genre debate (in case you didn’t guess, I’m in support of this new movement).  And of course, more character interviews and news about Gifted. Happy Thursday!