News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (www.NobleDead.org); author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

Why I Don't Enjoy Self-Publishing

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So . . . last year, I signed a contract for a two-book deal with Kensington for books one and two in the Dark Glass Series. Keep in mind that I tend to “hang out” both in person and online with a lot of other writers. I think that’s normal for someone who’s been in the biz as long as I have. I am a go-with-the-flow kind of person, and my mother taught me the great value of the importance of nodding and smiling.

I’d been with Ace/Roc since 2002, and a number of my self-published writing friends/acquaintances were surprised when I signed on with Kensington, not because I was changing publishers, but because I was working with a publisher at all.

“Geez, Barb. Why are you doing that? Why give a publisher any of your royalties. Why not just self-publish your new series?”

I tend to make some polite response and change the subject.

This week, I signed on for two more books the Dark Glass series, and this caused an even stronger response.

An acquaintance, who is purely self-published, said, “I don’t understand why you keep signing on with a traditional publisher. And for God’s sake, you still have an agent.” She shudders. “Do you have something against self-publishing? Are you one of those writers?”

This time, I tried to provide a more honest answer. And this is the truth. “No, I don’t have anything against self-publishing. You know I’ve self-published a number of books. The problem is that I simply don’t enjoy it.”
 
This person responded. “Oh, I see. You’re one of those lazy writers who wants someone else to do it all for you? I see now.”

Every hackle in my entire body went up (I often forget I even have hackles), but I nodded and smiled. “Yes, clearly that must be it.”


However . . . this person to whom I was speaking does not know me well. The people who do know me well worry that I never seem to stop working. I teach four to five college courses per term, and I still write two to three novels a year. I cook dinner every night, and I manage my household pretty well. I do promise that I can hardly be described as “lazy.”

Everyone is different, and we all function differently. 

The Process of Self-Publishing (for me)
 
1) Writing the project.

This is the fun part. It’s always the fun part. This is the part I enjoy.


2) Copy-Editing

I am fortunate enough that one of my best girlfriends, Shannon Page, is a professional copy-editor. I do pay her market rate (always pay your friends market rate).

Once the project is done, I ship it off to Shannon, and she copy-edits. She’s fabulous, and I actually enjoy this part too.

3) The Cover

This is where things get less fun. I am lucky enough to be married to a talented cover artist. I don’t pay him market rate. I don’t pay him anything. Always pay your friends—but you don't have to pay your husband.

So, here is a typical scenario. For Alone with a Soldier, I showed him a few cover examples of what I had in mind: a woman’s face (head shot) with a muted background, and her expression shows just a hint of possible danger. I told him my heroine was young and blond, that she works in a library and is a shy person. I expressed I wanted a cityscape for the background.

A few days later, J.C. handed me a USB stick and said, “There are over two hundred images of blond women on this. We’ll pick out the background later. Just go through these images and pick out your top five.”

 I scrolled through all the images. There were indeed over two hundred images of blond women, but most of them were full body shots, and half of the women were dressed in their lace bras and panties and giving the camera a “come hither you sexy beast” facial expression. Mmmmmmmmm?

There were a total of five head shots. I picked the one I liked the best and showed it to him.

He frowned and sighed. “I knew you’d pick that one. You realize that hair is going to be a nightmare to mask?”

I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. Completing the cover took us about a week. It was grueling. It was stressful.

In the end, it came out gorgeous. He is very talented, and I love this cover, but I did not enjoy the process—and I don’t think he did either.

Since then, we’ve gone through this process multiple times. The covers are always gorgeous in the end, but the process is never any fun.

3) Hard Copy Formatting

So typically, while Shannon is copy-editing, J.C. and I work on the cover. Once I get the copy edits back, I complete the manuscript and turn it over to J.C. for formatting. He does the hard copy formatting (for CreateSpace) first. Once he’s done, he sends it to me for a final proofread (Shannon did the initial one), and I am 100% responsible for verifying that it’s perfect. This is stressful and no fun.

 4) E-Copy Formatting

Then J.C. does the formatting for the e-copy, and we start this whole process again. Normally, by this point, the main issues are things like missing page breaks.

5) Uploading

 Then we upload to CreateSpace, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.

6) Marketing and Publicity

Once the book is uploaded, we wait. Then . . . over a period of days, it goes “live” in different venues. Once everything is live, there is no joy. There is no excitement for me. There is only the cold fear that I now have to find ways to let anyone (anyone at all) know the book exists.

I suck at this.

There are no professional reviews. There are no reviews at all. I have to beg friends and fans to read the book and provide reviews. I buy ads via Booksends. I have announcements sent via Bookbub. I do blog interviews on book sites—but I’m not good at tracking these down and “asking,” and I certainly don’t enjoy it.

I basically wave my arms in the air and shout, “Pick me! Pick me! Look over here! See! I have a book published! You! You over there! Pick me!”

I do not enjoy this.

The book tends to sell very well for about a month—maybe two—and then fades into oblivion.

 Now, what I have described is NOT the same experience that all self-published writers go through. I have friends who love every step of the process. The above is simply my experience, and frankly, it is no fun, and it offers little joy.

The Process of Traditional Publishing (for me)

1) Writing the project

 This is the fun part. It’s always the fun part. This is the part I most enjoy.

2) Editing and Copy-Editing

 This is quite different from self-publishing. But I submit the novel to my editor. She reads it, requests content changes, and passes it back to me. We mutually agree on which changes I’m going to make. Once this stage is done, I resubmit and she passes it on to be copy-edited.

3) The Cover

 Here, the editor normally calls me, and we talk about “concept.” I’ve been lucky in my career, and I’ve had a lot of input on concept.

The artist is given the assignment and goes to work. 

About a month later, the editor emails me with a draft of the cover, and we talk mutually about anything that might need to be revised—but this is not stressful, and I can enjoy it. It’s always so much fun to have a cover pop into my email box. It’s a joyous, “Squeeeeeeee!” moment for me.

This is the second book from my upcoming new series for Kensington.

 4) More on Copy-Editing

The copy-edited manuscript arrives, and I go though and approve or alter any changes and re-submit the manuscript.

5) Proofreading

About a month or two later, I receive the typeset manuscript for proofreading . . . but a professional proofreader is also assigned, so if I miss something, I have a back up. This is not stressful, and I rather enjoy reading the novel as a “reader” might. It’s fun.

6) Promotion, Reviews, and Marketing

Okay, about this time, my publicity contact at the publishing house steps in, and we make a plan. She sends the ARC copies out for review and gets it up on NetGalley. She gets the cover out into the blogosphere, and she contacts the larger blogs like Tor.com to see if they want do an interview or give-away. I have LOTS of help with promotion and publicity before the book is released. With any luck, there are good pre-orders. Barnes & Noble always posts the PW reviews as soon as they go live.

7) Publication Day

 Hurrah! It’s finally here. The buzz has been going for months. I’ve written my interviews and blog posts and submitted them, and I’m just waiting for them to come out. I don’t have to beg anyone for a review, because reviews start popping up on Amazon immediately—as my publicist had already sent out mass review copies.

 Release day is fun. Sometimes, I go down to the bookstore and buy an iced vanilla latte and look at my book on the shelf. It’s a happy day (with no shouting or arm waving).

Now, I know that not a single word here will convince a single one of my dedicated self-published writer friends of . . . well, anything. But that wasn’t my point here.

My point was simply to explain why I don’t particularly enjoy self-publishing—especially at the publicity stage.

So . . . to my mind, life is to be enjoyed. I’m going to do what I enjoy.

But I promise, the problem is not that I'm lazy.

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