Why I self-publish

dead poets society
from Dead Poets Society

Well, that’s a good question.

It’s a question that came to me the other day when I received an email response to an agent submission that I’d completely forgotten about.  I’d forgotten about it because I’d sent it out early in March of 2015, over two years previous, for A Division of Souls.  One of the last times I’d submitted a manuscript before deciding to self-publish the trilogy.  The response was a rejection, but a nice one…they explained why they felt they couldn’t connect with my book.

I’m totally fine with that.  In fact, I’m totally fine that it was rejected, and that it took two years for them to respond.  I’m actually kind of touched that they not only took the time to finally respond, but they read my submission and gave a reason why they didn’t accept it.  That doesn’t always happen.

I thought about it some over the weekend, and realized that if I had heard back from the few agents I’d submitted to then, and if, in a stroke of luck, my manuscript had been accepted, then I’d have most likely gone a different route in my writing career altogether.

Instead, I’d given them all three months to respond — a generous amount of time to be honest — and after a no-response from a fly-by follow up, that’s when I chose to self-publish the books.  A Division of Souls would be self-released that September, and I’ve stayed on that course ever since.

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s multiple reasons why I self-publish.

  1. Quick turnaround.  Let me be clear on this: I totally get that it takes a long time to go from submission to finished product.  I’ve done my homework; I completely understand what goes into releasing product via an established company.  Self-publishing on the other hand means that it’s all on me, which means I don’t need to worry about my release conflicting with someone else’s.  It also means that the wait for the end result is all on me; I assign my own deadlines and schedule my production work and release dates.
  2. The DIY attitude.  In the process of learning the ropes from the pros, I’ve also learned a secret: I can take those same steps on my own.  As I’ve stated before, I’ve treated all my books as if I were a punk band self-releasing my new single.  It won’t have the high gloss or the artful editing, but it’ll be something I think is pretty darn cool (and from what I’ve heard from readers, I think others feel the same way).  This has become one of my favorite reasons for self-publishing.  It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s work I absolutely love doing.
  3. I’m a loner, Dottie.  A rebel.  This is the reason for self-publishing that I’ve been thinking about lately.  I know that my stories don’t exactly fit into a specific mold.  I know of professionally published authors who have this issue, where they are unable or unwilling to work on a project due to its possible inability to sell commercially.  Some of them have even stopped writing altogether, or have written in a completely different genre (and even written under a new pen name) to circumvent the failure of their chosen career path.  This in particular caused me to think about how that would play out, had I gone the professional route.  To be quite honest, I’m sure it would have frustrated the fuck out of me and might have even caused me to rethink what the hell I’d done with my life.  [And on a personal note, it most likely would have thrown me into a long and deep funk.  Definitely something I prefer not to deal with again in my lifetime.]  I’m not a commercial writer; I’m not the best at that style, and mainly because it doesn’t interest me.   As soon as I’d self-released A Division of Souls, I knew I’d chosen the right path.  I can write what I want and not have to worry whether or not the publisher will be able to market it.  Again, that’s all on me, and I love being creative about stuff like that.

Self-publishing is a hard (and sometimes expensive) road, but it’s the road I’m best suited for.  It excites me on almost every level, from the writing to the editing to the cover art, and even to the release.  My only constraints are of my own making.  I may not be pulling in the dough, but I’m putting my work out into the world, and I love getting responses about it.  Plus I’m paying it forward by telling you about the process here at my blog, and now at a growing number of conventions.

It’s a hard road, but it’s the one I chose, and I’m glad I chose it.

Budgeting for Self-Publishing

Lupin III
In a perfect world, us writers would be like Lupin III here.

When I was on a FOGCon panel about self-publishing a while back, one of the things I felt I had to point out — something that everyone else was skirting around but not really touching upon — was one of the most important parts of being a self-published author.

If you’re going to be serious about self-publishing, you’re going to have to be willing to fund it to some degree, out of your own pocket.

It’s a tough thing to admit, I know, but it’s true.  You’ll need to budget to some degree.

I knew and understood this going in when I decided to self-publish the trilogy.  It’s part of the reason I wanted to try my hand at doing as much of it myself as I knew I could: the editing, the cover art, even the various promotional avenues.  [I should state now that some people aren’t interested, willing or able to do any or all of that — and that’s just fine.  This is part of what I mean: you need to budget for those things.]

As it happens, the uploading of documents to Smashwords and Createspace is free if you’re doing most all of the work yourself.  For the production, the only costs I had were the Shutterstock picture package (five for $40), and trade galleys from CS (~$60 for five).  The cost of course will go up if you need to outsource your art and/or editing and formatting.*

*There are many legit sources out there for these things…caveat emptor, of course, but a lot of fellow writers and editors online can steer you in the right direction.

The big part of the cost for me was after that — I had to be willing to budget for promotional things over the last few years such as flyers ($60 for 100 half-page cardstock flyers from MOO.com, which I created and mocked up myself), short-term advertising on a website ($100 at NoiseTrade.com to feature on the landing page and a mailout for a week), and cut the cost of the book for a site promotion (books 1 and 2 free for a month on Smashwords).  Recently I’ve spent some money signing up for a few local science fiction conventions (FOGcon and BayCon over the last few months), where I will be using that time to plug my trilogy as well as talk about the writing biz.  I also paid a graphic artist friend of mine to create my Mendaihu Press logo (see my blog site header, courtesy of MeaganHealy.com) that I will be using in the future.

I’m quite sure I’ll be spending more funds in the future — the occasional advertising, more flyers, and so on — but so far I’ve been keeping it reined in pretty well.  I know well enough that I shouldn’t be creating thousands of flyers or having hundreds of copies of my books printed.  I’m notoriously cheapass when it comes to the creative part of it; if I can pull it off well with minimum cost, then I’m happy.

Point being: if you’re going to do it DIY, do it responsibly, and be aware that you’re going to have to prime the pump a bit in order to start making any money out of your endeavor.  Whether that’s hiring an accountant or learning how to do it yourself, as long as you do it well and do it right, the end result is almost always worth it.

Out this Friday!


Woo! It’s finally DONE!

The Balance of Light, the third book in the Bridgetown Trilogy, will be released as an e-book from Smashwords and other nifty e-book retailers this Friday, 10 February!

This one was the culmination of a hell of a lot of years of writing, a nearly five-year hiatus, and close to five years of revision and rewriting.  Ten years ago I wasn’t even sure I’d get this far, but here we are…three books released out into the wild, and all done DIY.

It’s been one hell of a ride, folks.  Sure, I’m glad it’s over and I can now, finally, dedicate the majority of my time to new projects.  But right now I’m just feeling a bit of pride that I believed in this project and saw it through to the end, however long it took.  I learned a hell of a lot along the way — the writing and publishing knowledge that will stay with me throughout my writing career.  I met a lot of cool friends and fellow writers as well.

Yeah, I think I’m gonna stick with this gig.  It’s grown on me. 🙂

Fly-by: finishing off a project


Heya! I’m taking a few weeks off from blogging so I can get The Balance of Light completed and ready for self-publication!

I’m extremely excited to be within spitting distance of one of my biggest goals, to see my trilogy out in the wild like this.  It took a hell of a lot of learning, hard work, and stubborn dedication to get to this point, and it was totally worth every minute.

I’ll post once more when the book is ready to drop, and then we’ll be back to our regular blogging schedule.

See you soon!


Returning Back to the Fold!

naruto dive
My life over the last month and a half.


Yes, I have returned from the shadows and back to the land of the living!  I’ve been so busy as of late, it took me a few days to realize that I didn’t have any pressing OMG deadlines weighing me down!

The last few days have been spent mostly doing project clean-up and getting everything back to some semblance of order.  This meant an often precarious balance of Day Jobbery-related fires to put out (and there were many), doing the post-production and release prep for The Persistence of Memories, and generally just taking time to BREATHE again.

So now that it’s midweek and my brain has stopped spinning some, what do I have on tap for the close future?

Glad you asked!  A partial list:

The Persistence of Memories to be released in ebook on 4/15!  WOO!  It’s available directly from Smashwords in all kinds of formats, including Kindle, for $4.99.  And for a brief time, you can buy the first book ABSOLUTELY FREE!  Two for the price of one!  [Note: As before, since the formatting of the physical book takes more time, I’ll let you know as soon as I can when it’ll be available through CreateSpace/Amazon.]

— I shall be taking part in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge this year, here at WtBT!  It’s a fun blogging exercise that I’ve done a few years in the past on my LJ, and thought I’d give it a go here.  I was thinking of doing an A-to-Z of the Mendaihu Universe, partly to get me to talk about it more (as I’m sure you’re all wondering, what the hells is he talking about in these books?), and partly to get me back into the blogging habit.  Hope you enjoy what I have in store!

— And speaking of blogging, I’m still planning making good with my ‘alternate plan’ for the Walk in Silence project by turning it into an ongoing series over at the WiS blog.  This series will start the third full week of April (around the 20th or so).  Stay tuned!

— Returning to the whiteboard schedule.  I purposely put it aside a few months ago when I chose to focus solely on the TPoM revision/edit/remaster/release, and now it’s high time to return to it.  Which means more practice words at 750 Words, more WiS entries, and maybe even some words and music elsewhere.  Truly looking forward to that.


So yes!  Definitely looking forward to returning back to the writing and the other projects.  It’s going to be a fun and creative summer, that’s for sure!

naruto ramen
Ahh…now that everything’s back to nor–

On Writing: Unlearning the Process

I subscribe to a handful of writing magazines, many that I’ve been picking up for a good few decades.  Over the years, they’ve helped me rethink how I look at my stories.  Sometimes they’ll point out the blatantly obvious that I’d been ignoring for one reason or another (weak prose and word repetition for a start).  Sometimes they’ll provide insight on what agents and publishers are looking for and how to contact them.  It’s all helpful, and over the years their advice did help me get a lot farther than just guessing or assuming I was doing it right.

On the other hand, I’ve been quite contrarian lately, and I’m not entirely sure why.

Well, maybe I am sure; I think it has to do with self-publishing my work.  Also that I’ve been a nonconformist at heart since I was a kid.

Thing is, lately I’ll read these advice articles and think, ‘well, why can’t I do it that way?’  For example, I saw an article earlier this morning regarding a novel having too much plot.  I get where they’re coming from, don’t get me wrong; the example they used was bombastic and ridiculous (some litfic plot regarding way too many characters causing way too many plot twists and coincidences that even reality gave it the side-eye), and in that instance, it’s probably for the best that you back it up a bit and maybe narrow the focus.  My reaction, however, was this: well, how is it that apparently readers don’t like way too much plot, and yet we love reading doorstop novels from George RR Martin, Kate Elliott, Neal Stephenson, and so on?  How can I write the plot-heavy book and still make it readable and enjoyable?  The kind of doorstopper that makes readers go ‘damn, that’s some great world building!’  In other words, the kind of books I love to read.

That’s when it dawned on me: it’s not that the writer of the article is stifling creativity; they’re just trying to keep your novel’s highway from gridlocking.  If you’re going to write a doorstopper, just make damn sure it’s navigable.


Getting back to my bit about nonconformity, here’s an ironic admission: I’m also a pathetic conformist as well.  Let’s just say that even though I touted my individuality in my high school years – sometimes to annoying extremes – and tended to question authority when needed (again, usually in the form of “well, why can’t we…?”), I also found myself desperately trying to fit into the status quo at the same time.  I’m a proud self-contrarian in that respect.*

[* – A good example of my proud self-contrarianism:  Yes, I am aware of the irony of using a Psykosonik song in a blog entry about writing my sf trilogy, considering that one of the band’s principal songwriters was one Ted Beale, aka Vox Day.  I’m not a fan of his politics in the least, but I did love the Unlearn album when it came out in 1995, so I’m fine with keeping the two separate.]


With regards to my writing, I went through quite a few phases of trying to shape my novels into something that agents and publishers would enjoy.   The truth is out: one of the reasons it took me so long to self-release the Bridgetown Trilogy is that I spent a good number of years trying to figure out how to revise it so that it was more commercially acceptable to agents and publishers.  Suffice it to say, I never successfully figured out how to do it.  I didn’t want to give up on the Mendaihu Universe, I just wanted to make it marketable.

I could never figure out why nobody was biting, though — and that’s the downside to the form rejection letter.  No one is telling you why.  I understand the reason behind the process…most agencies and publishers are actually quite small in crew and literally can’t respond personally to thousands of submissions.  At the same time, though, it doesn’t help the writer one bit.  It’s like being trained at your workplace for a new system, and when you’re baffled and stuck and ask for clarification, the trainer responds with “Well, what do you think it does?”  My initial response to that kind of question is almost always “How the fuck should I know?  That’s why I’m asking you!”**   I get that they’re trying to make you think it through, but some need a frame of reference first before they can answer that question.  If I’m not doing it right, I want to know how I should be doing it to your specifications.  I’m a writer: asking that question of me provokes about 3,425 different responses.  I have no idea which one is the right one or which would bring me success.  I have nothing to base it on.***

[** – Yes, this has actually happened at one of my day jobs.]

[*** – I am aware that this is what writing groups and beta readers are for, but they’ve never quite worked for me.  They’re great for talking out ideas and suggestions and I love the camaraderie, but more often than not they end up doing little more than confirming problems and issues I’ve already noticed and hadn’t yet acted upon.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I just happen to work better solo and should trust my instinct more often.]


And the nonconformist in me, after so many years, finally decided that DIY seemed like a more viable and entertaining option.  The time was right, the field has been quite strong, and I’d already done my research on it.  This time I listened that rebel in me.

I’ve mentioned here before that music is an incredibly huge influence in my life, and I took that to heart this time out when I chose to rethink how I viewed publishing.  I’ve read so many music bios about punk bands scraping by on a meager pittance and a beat up van yet absolutely loving the lifestyle; I’ve read about their wonderfully creative ways of getting their singles out to radio stations and audiences.  There’s a reason why the image of a telephone pole covered with the bark of a thousand nightclub flyers is so iconic; that was punk’s social media of the time, to let all and sundry know that you were in town and were going to play at some seedy bar close by.

So this is what happened in 2015: I chose to unlearn the process of publication as I knew it.  I already understood it all too well…if I want to publish commercially, I already know what steps I need to take, and I think I have a bead on how I can make my lighter stories marketable.  What I had to do for my self-published work, though, was think like a nonconformist: what makes sense to me, first and foremost, and be consistent in that belief.  I taught myself to react to moments of weak prose and plot.  I learned to completely trust my creative instincts.  I taught myself the mathematics of creativity (thanks again to music), of being aware of what makes a pleasurable work.  And most importantly, I taught myself to ignore any self-doubt that popped up.  I’m proud of the creative things I can do; I love writing and drawing and playing music, always have since I was a kid, so it was about damn time I followed through with those long-held dreams and make them realities.

I won’t lie…sometimes the DIY route can be daunting.  It can be emotionally nerve-wracking.  It can also be expensive.  But I really do think unlearning the process of trying to be a commercial writer was one of the best moves I’d ever made.  I’ve never been happier and more excited about being a writer.


More Thoughts on Self-Publishing

I’ve been seeing a few articles here and there lately, both old and new, about the business of self-publishing.  They’ll come from both sides of the conversation.  Some say the field has never been more robust and user-friendly, so it’s worth checking out; others will admit that it’s a viable avenue, but hint that you’re probably better off building up patience and going pro.  [I usually avoid the oh god don’t do it, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot and will NEVER BE A LEGITIMATE WRITER EVER articles.  In fact I usually avoid any article that hints that Everything Is Ruined Forever.]

I’ll admit, it’s not for the weak, and it’s not for the Day Tripper either.  You’ve got to dedicate time, space, and money to it.  You’re doing most of the work yourself, or at least farming it out to freelancers, and that doesn’t come free.  You’re essentially producing, funding and recording your own album, in musical terms.

But that’s not to say that the non-writing part of it is like pulling teeth, especially if you’re going it completely alone like I am.  It’s career knowledge, and it will definitely come in handy down the road, even if you end up going pro and signing with a publisher and/or an agent.

Formatting can be a tricky bastard, both for e-books and physical books.  Both have their own idiosyncrasies that need to be ironed out and tamed before they should be sent out into the wild.  Editing is just as tricky; there’s a reason writers joke about reading their own work using their Editor Brain rather than their Writer Brain.  The cover may not be tricky to put together, but you certainly need to have an artist’s eye (and again, not the Writer Brain looking at it).   In essence, you’re looking at the same object from multiple and often conflicting angles.

As I’ve said here before, I haven’t been doing all the work on the Bridgetown Trilogy on my own because I don’t trust outsiders toying with my work (or worse, that I think I can do it so much better than the pros).  I’ve been doing it because I want to.  I want to learn how to do it, and how to do it right.  Okay, I admit, there’s a streak of selfishness there, that I enjoy being self-taught rather than shown how to do it, because that’s how I understand it more fully and completely.  But the point remains:  it can be done, if you’re willing to dedicate the time and faith to it.

After all, that’s the whole trick to writing, isn’t it?


Current Status: Forward! [Plus Sneak Preview!]

So!  It’s been two months and change since I released A Division of Souls, and it’s been quite an interesting road so far. The movement of ADoS has been fascinating.  I’ll be adjusting the price again pretty soon, and looking for more avenues in which to advertise or share it.  We shall see.  On the plus side, my decision to make it available at NoiseTrade Books has come up trumps!  It’s leveled off a bit, but I’m still getting maybe one or two downloads daily.  Go me!

Meanwhile, I’m about a third of the way through this final edit and it’s taking a little bit longer than expected, but I’m getting there.  Most of the fixes have been in deleting a lot of extraneous words and revising a few others.  No major issues…yet!  (knock wood)  I’m still aiming for early 2016 for the release of this one.  I shall of course keep you all updated!

So!  In the meantime, I’ve decided to let you take a peek at the first chapter of The Persistence of Memories while you wait, hiding just below the jump. It takes place just a few days after the finale of ADoS.  I hope you like it!

And again…thank you all for checking out the book. Y’all are still awesome!  [And a special shout-out to those from my hometown who may have seen my pasty face in the local paper a few days ago.  Hi there to you too!  And thanks for the well-wishes!]


Keep Reading!

Onward and Upward!

*barely contains squee*
*barely contains squee*

I’ll be honest, just the mere fact that I’ve already got over two hundred downloads at NoiseTrade Books makes me an incredibly happy writer.  Thanks to each and every one of you!  I went into this gig knowing I had a good book that I think people would enjoy, but had little to no idea how well it would go over.  Seeing that many downloads over the course of one week confirms that whatever I did with the book, it looks like I did it right!

So, where to go from here?  Well, the subject line has been a bit of a mantra over the last few weeks for me.  The behind-the-scenes work for a writer (and especially for a self-published one) has been that there’s no downtime at all.  We’re constantly moving forward.  We’re juggling the writing with the promotion with the Day Job with the other mundane yet important things in life.  And let me tell you, the schedule has been rather busy as of late!

Fear not, dear readers, I am working hard on editing the book’s sequel, The Persistence of Memories, and hope to have it released via the same channels by the beginning of next year.  I hope you’ll enjoy the second book; it’s my favorite of the three, and there’s a lot of interesting and surprising stuff that goes on within.  Heck, I may even give you some spoilers once I’m further along!

What else do I have on tap?  Well, I do have my music book/personal memoir Walk in Silence, and I’m aiming for a late April 2016 release date for that one.  There’s quite a bit of work to be done on that one, so it’s going to need some serious TLC this winter.  [For those of you unfamiliar, WiS is about my love for college radio and how alternative music shaped me over the last thirty years.  I talk more about it on my other blog of the same name.]  I’m also working on the next Mendaihu Universe story in my spare time.  That’s been put on a brief hiatus while I work on self-releasing the Bridgetown trilogy, but it hasn’t left my mind!  I will definitely return to it once I’m caught up with the production end of things.

So yes…onward and upward!  I’m busy, but in an awesomely good way. 🙂

Editing the Beast

It never ends... *sigh*
It never ends… *sigh*

I feel like I’ve been editing the trilogy for half my life, to tell you the truth.  Sure, I’ve revised and rewritten it multiple times over the last decade, but there are days when I wonder if I’ve hit or gone past the point of Needing to Let It Go.

Well, to be honest, that’s one of the reasons I sent A Division of Souls out into the world already.  I knew that I went as far as I could with that as a whole; it did not need any more revision or rewriting.  The first edition might still be full of piddly errors, of course — a formatting error or a typo — but that can be easily (and quickly!) rectified by fixing them and uploading the newer version.  This is why I’m doing a galley edit before I set the physical book out into the world…that one needs a bit more fiddly TLC than an ebook, and I don’t want to kludge it.

Am I flirting with danger, doing everything DIY and not hiring an editor?  Well, maybe I am.  I’m sure I could use more than a few extra eyes to find egregious errors and lapses in judgment.  I won’t say I’m a special snowflake who thinks he’s above editors and beta readers.  I’m sure I could use them more often.  Perhaps on future works I shall do so.

At the same time, though, I’ve committed myself to seeing just how far I can go without the extra help.  It’s not me being a cheapass to save money, or making myself out to be some kind of indiepub wunderkind…or being subconsciously afraid that I actually might suck as a writer, and that someone will tell me so to my face.  It’s me wanting to learn the entire process, from start to finish, both as a writer and as ‘producer’, as it were.  I want to understand how to write a successful story, but I also want to know how to edit my own work.  I want to know how to make an eye-catching cover.  I want to know how to format the novel to different platforms.  I want to know how to release it into the world.  I want to know how to promote myself and my work.  And I’m willing to dedicate time and brainspace for all that.

It’s been a very instructive and busy couple of months so far.  At last count, I’ve had nine downloads since it went live a month ago.  That’s pretty small, but it’s actually more than I expected at this point in time.  [No, really.  I was honestly expecting crickets.]  This is a huge learning curve for me, but I’ve been able to ride it and learn from it.

Onward and upward!