We’re honored to have with us David Gaughran, the very talented author of If You Go Into The Woods, Transfection, and most recently, Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should. He’s been kind enough to answer a few questions for us, and sponsor a giveaway of his self-publishing fabulous guide.
~Your awesome guide to self-publishing, “Let’s get Digital”, tells us about how to self-publish, and why one should. Is there any reason you can think of that someone shouldn’t self-publish?
I can be unequivocal here: there is no reason not to. If you are with a publisher, and have somehow retained your e-rights, you should be self-publishing those books. If you want a publisher and can’t get one, you should self-publish those books.
Even if you are with a publisher and are happy, I think it’s a good idea to self-publish some kind of project: a short, a novel they knocked back, work that crosses genres that your publisher wouldn’t be keen on, something.
Writers learn so much from the process, and benefit so much from connecting directly with their readers, that it can only help their career.
~What was the toughest part about self-publishing, for you? How did you overcome it?
There are a lot of people out there with a stake in things remaining just as they are: a long chain of middlemen between the writer and the reader, with each one of them taking a slice of the book royalties.
Most of the voices that scream loudest “warning” people away from self-publishing are those with a material interest in this system not changing.
These people trade in fear, which can be a powerful tool. They perpetuate myths about self-publishing, scaring writers into thinking they will permanently damage their careers by going it alone.
I listened to those voices for a long time. Then I woke up. The hardest part is taking that first step. But once you open your mind, and examine self-publishing critically, you will see that it makes sense for you and your career – at least on some level.
I realized that I didn’t have to make a decision for my whole career. I could self-publish one book, and still pursue traditional publishing with other books.
This allowed me to take the first step: to experiment with self-publishing some short stories, while holding my novel in reserve.
That way I could see if I enjoyed it, if I could publish books to a good standard, and if I could make any money from it.
The experiment was a success on all three counts, and I plan to self-publish all of the projects I am currently working on.
~Did you at any time, for whatever reason, regret self-publishing? Do you think you’ll ever wish you hadn’t?
No. It has been a wonderful experience. Some people will criticize you, but they are irrelevant.
~Have you ever felt like people treated you differently because you’re a self-published author, and not a ‘traditionally’ published one? Do you feel like there are double standards?
Nobody who matters. Readers don’t care.
~What’s the one advice you’d give someone that intends to self-publish? Where should one start? What’s the wrong way to go about it?
Talk to writers who are doing it. Many of them blog about it and you can read their experiences for free. There are great forums out there too like Kindle Boards where everyone shares information. Research the whole process. That will cost you nothing but time. You don’t have to commit to anything.
Must-read blogs on the topic include Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, The Passive Voice, The Book Designer, Write It Forward, and Write 2 Publish.
If you prefer your advice in book form, there is great stuff out there by John Locke, Bob Mayer, and Zoe Winters. My book has had a good reception too. You can sample all of them for free to see which approach suits you best. In fact, you can download the whole PDF of my book for free from my blog and share it with whoever you like.
The wrong way to go about it would be just to throw something out there that is unedited, badly formatted, has a poor, homemade cover, is too expensive, or – worst of all – not ready for public consumption.
However, if you take a professional attitude, if you get a pro to design your cover, edit your book, learn how to do quality formatting yourself, set a competitive price, and only publish your best work, you will give yourself a great chance.
~How can you resist the pull of social media, and still manage to write, among all the promoting campaigns? What are your thoughts about those writers that can’t resist it, and fell prey to no writing and all-socializing instead?
It’s really hard. There is a curious part of the indie writer’s brain that feels guilty for writing and wants to promote instead. You must not listen to this voice.
New work is the greatest promotional tool that ANY writer has. Your goal must be to continually produce new content for your readers to enjoy. All the other promo stuff can be done when and if you have spare time. Writing must always come first.
In any event, your return on promotional efforts will be limited until you have several titles out. Write more instead.
~The question everyone hates to answer…what inspired you to write this guide? Aren’t you afraid someone will “steal” your mechanisms of success?
No. There’s no formula, no magic bullet. You need a good cover, you need professional editing, you need good quality formatting, you need a competitive price, you need an enticing blurb, you need a good opening to draw the reader in, and you need a good book.
It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy either, and all of the above requires a lot of hard work.
I haven’t been that successful yet, but I am building something that is growing each month. I made $70 in May, and over $800 last month. My goal was to be earning enough to support myself within a couple of years. That looks a little conservative now, but I will only get there if I keep producing books that people like.
~You’ve raised a lot of very valid points, one of them in particular (because it affects me, haha) being the Amazon Surcharge. Do you believe it will disappear in the near (ish) future?
That depends which country you are in. I think Amazon will abolish it on a country-by-country basis as they roll out the Kindle Store to further locations. I think Spain (and all of Latin America), Italy, France, and India will get lucky first. Others may have to wait longer.
If Amazon gets an effective international competitor (perhaps Kobo), that process could speed up. If someone is able to mount an effective publicity campaign against the Surcharge, they may drop it.
However, my guess is that it will take a while. The problem is that most self-publishers and most e-book readers are from the US. And most of them either don’t know about this issue, don’t understand why it is a big deal, or don’t care.
Keep shouting about it!
~Do you believe publishing will evolve in such a way, that physical books will become something of a rara avis?
I’m a big print fan. I don’t even own an e-reader yet. I love print books. I love bookstores. However, I also have very little control over the future. Bookstores are dying. Print is in freefall. These phenomenon will only gain speed.
The dominance of e-books is inevitable. I can see them capturing 80% of the market and doing so in a few years.
Print books will still be around – after all, vinyl hasn’t disappeared. Print is a good format. But the economics of digital are too seductive for writers, readers, retailers, and publishers.
It doesn’t matter what we like or don’t like, print is just too expensive to produce, and that cost will only continue to rise.
~Your book strongly encourages writers to work with editors for their self-published books, though some may think the investment to be too big. Do you think it’s something one can simply not do, and still be successful?
I know some bestselling writers who don’t use editors, and can get to the appropriate level with some excellent beta readers. Someone who has sold 100,000 books has earned the right to break whatever rules they like.
However, I don’t think that new writers or new self-publishers should follow their lead. Editing is essential.
Most readers can tell straight away of a piece has been edited or not. And most pieces of writing will benefit hugely from editing. When I compare the draft I send my editor to the finished piece after I incorporate (most of) her suggestions, the difference is staggering.
My editor has over a decade’s experience in trade publishing. She has also authored several non-fiction books for a publisher, and has self-published a couple of titles herself. But, most importantly, she has the requisite distance from the text to make the appropriate suggestions about what needs to be trimmed – and there is always something.
Writers are too close to the text. They have the whole story in their heads. They may not have gotten all of that down on the page, and their brain will fill in the blanks. Editors will look at it with fresh eyes and see where it’s not working.
It costs money, sure. At least, a good editor does. But writers shouldn’t consider it a “cost”, but an investment in both their work and themselves as a writer.
I learn so much from each edit. I grow as a writer. And anyway, don’t you owe it to your readers to give them your very best work?
Remember, your name is your brand. If you put out sub-standard work, readers will avoid you forever – those one star reviews never go away after all.
But if you write a good story, and present it professionally, they will buy everything you publish.
~What are you planning on working on next? When can we expect your novel to come out?
The next release is my real baby – something I have been working on for a long time. It’s called A Storm Hits Valparaíso and it’s an epic historical adventure starring San Martín and his army of thieves, rogues, mercenaries, slaves, and prostitutes as they fight to free Argentina from the Spanish Empire.
It’s the kind of book I love to read: a big, meaty novel, centers around a real historical event, has a huge cast of characters whose narrative threads gradually interweave, and captures (I hope) some of the magic of South America.
I’m just doing the final pass, I hope to release in October, and I can’t wait to show it to everyone.