The question I get asked most as SCBWI-WI’s Indie/Self-Publishing Coordinator is “Is self-publishing right for me?”
I usually take a deep breath and ready myself for a long conversation because those asking are generally at the beginning of their publishing journey and are hoping for a quick overview of self-publishing. Really, though, self-publishing is a nuanced and personal decision, so let’s back up.
Ask yourself these three questions:
1) Are you done writing your story? If so, huzzah and congrats. Move on to Question 2. If not, that’s where you need to start. Finish your manuscript. Make it the best it can be. And then consider Question 2.
2) What is your goal with self-publishing? The answer to this question will oftentimes answer the question about whether self-publishing is right for you and which method is the best choice.
If you want to publish, say, a family memoir, and give out less than, say, 25 books at a family reunion, then, yes, self-publishing is right for you. A traditional publisher would clearly not want such a small and limited project.
If your goal is to have your work placed in bookstores across the country, having expended little to no energy in creating the physical book or promoting it to market, then no, self-publishing is not right for you. Although some self-published works do land a national deal eventually, there was a lot of work logged before reaching that success.
If your goal was to be traditionally published, but your manuscript hasn’t been picked up by an agent/editor/publisher, and you’ve decided you are the best person to ensure your story sees the light of day, then yes, you are a good candidate to self-publish.
These are just examples, though. Only you can decide what’s best for you.
And notice that I did not mention money (earnings). What one author considers good compensation for a year or more writing a book is peanuts in the mind of another author. And, anyway, being traditionally published doesn’t guarantee you good pay on your writing any more than being self-published does. Too many variables. So let’s consider Question 3.
3) How willing are you to learn new things? Develop new skills? Get out there to promote your work? OR how willing are you to pay someone else to do that which you can’t or aren’t willing to do?
Understand something. There’s an awful lot of self in self-publishing. And it is a long-term project. You are choosing to do the work of a traditional publisher to get your creation out into the world. You will (alone or with semi/professional help): write the manuscript, edit it, choose your publishing platform or printer, format the text and inside art, design a cover image, submit all to a printing platform, check print-runs, submit advanced copies to reviewers, finalize distribution methods for book suppliers, promote your book, and become a millionaire (Results may vary.). There is a lot to do even within this very basic list. Some publishing platforms make the process relatively easy. Other platforms require more work. Either way, to go into self-publishing with blinders on about the work involved is to be dishonest with yourself.
If, after reading these questions, you think self-publishing isn’t for you, don’t give up on your dreams. Keep writing. Keep submitting to agents and editors. Keep learning what you can about the publishing business, and keep up with news about self-publishing. The process of self-publishing gets easier every year, it seems, and more and more people are doing it. What one person can do, so can another. Your journey is your own no matter your path.
There is so much good to be said about getting together with other creative people. Other creative types “get” you. They support your efforts, share your work in the world, and are all around great fun.
Today I have the privilege of hanging out and writing with my good friend and fellow critique partner Valerie Biel at her home in the countryside. We may move our writing at some point from the porch extension to the cornfield. Or lakeside. Either way, we can thoroughly enjoy each others’ company even while taking breaks to type away. It’s awesome.
Another retreat I’m looking forward to is the SCBWI-Michigan-Indiana Writers & Illustrators Retreat in October. I’m presenting on world building, but I’m also excited about it because the format allows hours for afternoon writing. The mornings are for learning/sharing, while the afternoons are for more creating. How great is that? Registration just opened up today, August 1st, so get on it if you love the idea of creative comaraderie.
Thanks for letting me crash your place, Val! Happy writing, everyone! 🙂
I’m proud to announce a project that I’ll be sharing here and a new title. I am now SCBWI-Wisconsin’s first Indie & Self-Publishing Coordinator. This is a new position for the Wisconsin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I actually think it might be the first in the nation.
I’ll share information about the many new and nuanced forms of publishing, including independent presses, hybrids, and self-publishing. My goal is to provide resources, programming, and network opportunities for authors and illustrators interested in paving their own way.
Clarity and Joy come with every SCBWI Spring Luncheon. This year, though, the organizers pitched those benefits in the event title. That’s a big promise, and I think the organizers did a great job delivering both.
The Spring Luncheon of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators-Wisconsin is an annual half-day conference that always seems to come at the right time, when I’m starting to get a bit of the winter blahs and am happy to connect with other writers and illustrators. This year’s was held in Sturgeon Bay, which is still wintery, but features a beautiful bay.
Assistant Editor Catherine Laudone of Simon & Schuster spoke about the pros and cons of the various forms of points of view in writing. You remember POV from middle school, right? First person uses “I.” Second person uses “you.” And then there’s third person with its options (limited, omniscient, etc.). Laudone spoke about how different POVs offer varying levels of emotional connection and descriptive opportunities. POV is important, and it was helpful to dive into the intricacies of the many types of narrative voice.
The event also marked a transition for SCBWI-Wisconsin. Fearless leader Miranda Paul is stepping down after three years as co-Regional Advisor. She and Andrea Skyberg have done wonders highlighting our work to literary and educational leaders around the world. Southeast WI Area Rep Rochelle Groskruetz, who’s organized great events for years, steps in.
As usual, some of my favorite moments were catching up with fellow writers and illustrators, seasoned and newbies. If you’re aspiring to write or illustrate a book someday, come to this inspiring event! It’s great to hang around with creative people.
Every once in a while, I like to cleanse my palate from my normal reading tastes. As a writer of young adult fiction, I tend to read a lot of YA Fic. But the past month, maybe because of the weather and wanting a change, I’ve plunged into other styles. So here’s what I’m reading and my thoughts on them.
by jennifer mccartney
(Even typing that without the capitalization required by civilized society hurts.) Look. I like orderly spaces. I’m more organized than not and generally don’t appreciate people leaving messes, especially in shared spaces. So a comical book about being messy challenged my sense of duty. Onward then!
This book genuinely had me laughing out loud. I can’t get to the point of living the lifestyle (which isn’t really the point, of course), but I sure had fun by the author trying to convince me to embrace consumerism and messiness with a light heart. Hey, life happens. Author Jennifer McCartney makes a solid point lamenting how grownups lose the ability to enjoy an environment without feeling the need to change it (i.e., tidying). The neat freak in me, though, just pictures the neighbors desperately wishing a force of nature would whisk the backyard flotsam far away. Funny read. There’s swearing (Duh, read the title), so lighten up.
by P.D. James
I cannot read real crime stories as entertainment. Fictional stories are another matter, though, especially short stories that are low on gore, high on motive, and follow in the vein of Edgar Allen Poe. I blazed through these six wonderfully written stories (I’m a sucker for an unreliable narrator.) and found myself thinking about motives long after I’d put down the book. Written by the incomparably thrilling and recently deceased P.D. James, whose talent the world misses. Recommended.
editing by James Thomas, Robert Shapard, and Christopher Merrill
Flash fiction is just like it sounds: very, verrrry short works. They range from just a few paragraphs to just a few pages. Think of it as a story you could read during a cigarette break, if you smoke, or a quick chocolate break, if you’re… well, human. I’m half-way through this book and find it interesting to read if just for the descriptive writing. Some of the stories aren’t stories in the traditional sense of having a beginning, middle, and end; they’re just glimpses of life without a story-driving conflict, much less a solution. Some of the other works are traditional short stories. Recommended if you’re looking for quick reads or to explore a condensed writing style.
by Lita Judge
This book retells the personal history of Mary Shelley, author of the literary masterpiece Frankenstein. I sat next to the author/illustrator at the author signing table of the Wisconsin State Reading Association conference last month. Lita told me it took her six years to complete this book, and no wonder. It’s 312 pages, each pair of pages a spread containing a free verse poem and her accompanying black-and-white watercolor illustration. The art is chilling – in a good way – again reminding me of the way Poe’s work is often illustrated. I start this book tonight and will report back later.
UPDATE: I read Mary’s Monster in one evening. The poetry is story-driven and accessible; the art haunting and a wonderful match to the narrative. If you’re a fan of Mary Shelley, you’ll love this book.
So that’s how I’m mixing it up. Do you also find the need to change your reading habits now and then?
I talked about speedskating today on The Morning Blend talk show on WTMJ-TV. Milwaukee played a big role to the skaters on their way to the 2018 Olympic because this is where the US Speedskating Olympic Trials were held. I was one of three announcers calling the play-by-play.
Here’s the segment, which is a preview ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics:
I’m wishing my speedskating friends fast ice and great results. Who are you following in the Olympics this year? What’s your favorite sport?