It's time for another Inspired Tuesday! Inspired Tuesdays are all about inspiration, what inspires us, what motivates us to do what we do. I love these installments.
Last night I met a writer in a chatroom who heavily inspired this particular post. She told me she was going to self-publish and, as I was cringing and asking her if that's what she really wanted, she told me why. It made me really take a harder look at the self-pub ebook phenomenon. That's what this Inspired Tuesday's post is about.
Before I start, I'd like to clarify that this post is about ebook publication, not self-publishing printed books. Ebooks have become a huge phenomenon, providing another means for writers to get their work to readers in our tech-happy society. This electronic book craze is scaring the crud out of agents and publishing companies, because they no longer have the keys to the kingdom. It should also offer new authors hope that maybe 'no' from an agent (or a hundred) isn't the final word in their writing career.
I started out very wary of ebooks. Worried how they would affect my chances at traditional publishing, worried how I would promote my books, worried I wouldn't get any money out of it if my book didn't do well. There are no advances in self-pub, but you do get royalties. In this article at How to Write a Book Now Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing the money issues are outlined pretty well. Sort of a "publishing ebooks for dummies".
A lot of my concerns about self-publishing ebooks was grounded in my ignorance of what it is and how it worked. Other writers who shared my fears probably did for the same reason. We saw it as a backup option if you tried and failed at traditional publishing, or we saw it as a means for a 'quick and easy' author title. In some cases, that's just what it is, but not all cases. The Seduction of Self-Publishing, over at Terrible Minds has a litmus test to see if self-publication is right for you. If you're considering self-pubbing an ebook, I highly recommend reading that first.
At one end of the spectrum you have writers (and publishers) who don't take ebooks seriously and who don't see it as 'real' publishing, and at the other end you have writers who laud ebooks as the best thing since sliced bread. They say self-publishing is the new 'it' thing and that ebooks will pave the road to glamor and success. They paint a pretty picture, but it's really paved with a lot of hard work, money spent on advertising your ebook, and methods to get your book edited professionally before you hit the big bucks. And some writers never do.
A number of ebook-published writers make enough royalties on their sales to get by, or to add a secondary income to their household, but I haven't heard of many who hit the bigtime. In the article How I Became a Best-Selling Author one ebook-published writer recounts her success, and how she did hit the bigtime. After reading her story, I can nod and say "yes, that was the perfect path for her." But it isn't the perfect path for everyone.
A big lesson I've learned from my venture into YA publishing, is that you have to know your audience. You have to know who you're writing to. Are you writing to adults, or children? What about teenagers? Do you know how to reach them? Do you know what type of materials they read, or how they access those materials?
A lot of teens still get their books from brick-and-mortar bookstores or their local library. They ask for the latest YA sensation for Christmas or their birthdays and it shows up with a ribbon around it. Most of the time, it isn't an ebook. But with the popularity of Kindles, Nooks, and Ipads, this is changing fast. (Readers may be familiar with the story of YA author Amanda Hocking who exploded ebook sales and went on to sign with St. Martin's Press this year.)
That's why I suggest writers (especially those of YA) do some research. Find out where your readers go to find the stories they love, and then decide how you want to publish your book. It would be crazy for a coloring-book artist to publish ebooks, just as it would be crazy for Darcie Chan to continue getting nowhere with traditional publishing.
I've decided to go down the traditional publishing path. I love the thrill of querying, even when I get rejections, the security of working with a team of people all trained to do a specific job, preventing me from having to do all the work myself. It's a lot of work to write a book and illustrate it, let alone get it out there and publicize it. And if someone else is distributing it, publicizing it is not such a problem.
I'd love to see it on shelves and say "I made that", including the illustrations on the book jacket. And I'm fully prepared to fight tooth and nail to get as much creative freedom as I can, and find an agent who agrees with me. If I didn't want all of that, I'd definitely consider the ebook route.
All you have to do is reach your readers, whether that is with ebooks or traditional publishing. Find the information you need to make your dream happen, and never sell yourself short. I wish you luck in whatever approach you choose!