In case you haven’t been following my blog, here’s the lowdown: on November 22, 2016, I self-published my debut novel, In the Land of God through Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace.
I think every writer wants to imagine they’ll wind up on a bestsellers list, go down in history as some kind of literary genius, and be an overnight success. So far, none of that has happened with In the Land of God (but I did get a five-star review as my first review!)
Now that the dust has begun to settle and I can shift into a lower gear, I have a little time to think about the frenetic process to turn the manuscript into a novel. It took me about two-and-a half years to write the damn thing, then I edited it in about two months. Every day I’m thankful for a friend and editor like Andrew Fisher that read the thing in about two weeks and gave me the kind of feedback that made the story so much stronger.
Cover creation and design happened in one night, and I think the only reason I wasn’t pulling my hair out was because I had a beer in my hand and Micah Chapin’s insane commentary to keep me on the level.
I almost went nuts the night of the launch trying to get it ready for release. It’s a testament to my restraint that I didn’t toss my laptop across the living room.
It’s out in the world now, the literary baby Moses tossed into the Nile River hoping for the best. It feels a bit like sending a kid out into the real world; you hope it’s ready for criticism, that it will succeed, but ultimately, it’s out of your hands. It doesn’t belong to you anymore.
Although the process was hectic and stressful, it was a rewarding and educating experience.
Here are some of my takeaways.
First, I will continue to allow only a handful of people to see an unpolished manuscript. Not for any proud reasons, but because I think you run the risk of having too many opinions when you’re trying to get editing done. Have one editor, and a few other people to serve as beta readers, otherwise you’ll get flooded with opinions and you can’t please everyone.
Second, I will give myself more time with my next novel. I don’t think editing in two months was a horrendous time frame, especially since I knew what had to be changed, discarded, or kept, but I lacked discipline. Thus, it made the final week a mad dash to the finish line and I hated it. Part of that is because I was trying to juggle school, work, editing and life in general. Nevertheless, I will give myself more time for the next one.
Third, I’ve grown to admire self-publishing as a way of getting a book into the hands of an audience. It’s a 1:1 exchange: the writer gives material, and the reader pays for it. There are no greedy middlemen trying to get a slice of a pie they didn’t help bake. Why should they get most of it when all they did was turn on the oven? Self-publishing is anathema to that tired old model. It’s also a streamlined process.
I could have spent time shopping around for an agent, or a publisher, hoping someone would pick up my manuscript. If it got picked, then I would wait for the deliberation (“How can we market this?” “When should we sell it?” “Chance of success?” etc. etc. etc.), then be told what must be added/changed/removed, then wait for it to be released. Oh, and I’d be responsible for most of the promotional legwork while getting 15% royalties on a book that won’t be marketed heavily. Oh boy, where do I sign up? And that’s if it gets picked by an agent or publisher. I could have spent months hoping to find someone only to be rejected every step of the way (kind of like trying to find a date in high school).
I’m not militantly against traditional publishing, and if the opportunity presented itself I would seize on it, but I’m comfortable with that route not being the one I chose for In the Land of God. We are living in nontraditional times, so why embrace a traditional path?
Here’s a less rhetorical reason: agents and publishers want to see that you have a following. I have about 30 followers on WordPress, and a couple hundred on Facebook and Twitter; in short: probably not enough to make it worth the risk of taking on a new writer. I think it’s a little shortsighted to nix a book because an author isn’t a social media genius, but I understand the reasoning. Still, the more I think about it, the happier I am that I self-published my first novel.
To me, being a writer is about telling a story and getting that story into the hands of people. People can’t read it if it’s sitting in a drawer or left on a desk to gather dust. I know it’s not for everyone, and I got lucky having collaborators that were willing to work for royalties and not upfront payment, but if you’re a new writer that has a story you believe deserves to be read then give self-publishing a try. If one person reads it and enjoys it, then it will be worth it.
Will I do it again?
Most likely, yes.
I’m currently working on a weird fiction/horror fiction anthology of short stories with Micah Chapin, and I’m going to begin work on my next novel: a tragic romance set during a third world war that follows multiple people over the course of a summer. Unless something dramatic happens, I will self-publish those two books as well. Despite the stress and frustrations, I enjoyed the self-publishing process; the control, the creativity, and the freedom. I’d hate to see the things I love get emasculated and eviscerated for money reasons or to placate jaded critics.
Have you self-published, or are thinking about doing it? Start the conversation in the comments, or feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@ahahnjones).
Thanks for reading, and I hope you stick around.
A luta continua.
In the Land of God (five stars on Amazon) is now available on Amazon as an eBook for $2.99 and as a paperback for $9.99. You can keep up to date with news about In the Land of God on this blog, or on Facebook.