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Pros and Cons of self-publishing

Self-Publishing Snobbery

 

There’s a lot of snobbery in the air when someone mentions self-publishing. A lot of pursed lips and tut-tutting. It’s the last resort of a poor writer having been rejected by countless agents and publishers, isn’t it?

 

Many think so, sadly.

 

I’ve read a few SP books and loads of traditionally placed books and have found errors in both. Funny, they are called spelling errors in SP books, but printing errors in books with a publishing house behind them.

 

I suppose I’m biased having written and POD-published my last two books. I regret not finding a decent designer for the Eden but I discovered Jane Dixon for A Proper Charlie who supplies fantastic covers to your design at a great price.

 

Self-publishing, POD, vanity, Indie, whatever you call it is second best but only because you are editor, promoter, and writer all rolled into one neat ball, and being all of those is a lonely and time-consuming business (especially when all you want to do is write!).

 

The real downside is the confidence thing. You always wonder if, because you’re ON YOUR OWN, you’re good enough. It’s always there at the back of your mind.

 

I have made a list of the pros and cons of self-publishing to help you make up your mind.

 

Pros (the Latin word for “for”) 

  1. The author keeps the majority of the profit. 
  2. If you pay for an ISBN number you’ll automatically be on Amazon and other on-line shops. 
  3. No-one can demand you change this or that before publication. 
  4. An excuse to use social networks because you’re promoting your book. 
  5. There’s no deadline to work to. 
  6. Print on demand (POD) is cheap nowadays. No need to use an expensive vanity press.
  7. POD is easy and straightforward with sites like Lulu or YouWriteOn.com 
  8. No more rejections.
Cons (Con is an abbreviation for the Latin word “contra” that means against.)

  1. There is a lot of prejudice about being a POD/Indie/self-publisher. In the end this may get you down.
  2. You may find the entire process daunting. From the outside it does look difficult.
  3. You’re totally on your own. No-one cares about your book other than you.
  4. Marketing on social networks is one thing, but how are you at giving talks, book signings and getting shops like Waterstones interested in stocking your book?
  5. You risk having your book out in the big wild world with all its faults if you have not properly edited.
  6. Once you’ve self-published landing an agent or publisher with that particular book is very unlikely.
  7. Having a garden shed full of books (if you’ve chose vanity publishing).
  8. Lacking time. You want to write, not chase publicity.

 

Editor Sean Hayden talks to us about ORIGINS

A Demonkin Novel
Ashlyn Thorn was born different. She was born with all the characteristics of a vampire, but in a world where vampires, elves, and werewolves work, play, and die side by side with normal humans, everyone knows vampires aren’t born, they’re made. The only thing she ever wanted is to know her true Origins. Ashlyn’s tale takes her on a quest to find out what makes her different and to find out the truth, but with every question she gets answered, she uncovers more uncertainties.
 To make things worse she makes enemies of the most powerful vampires of the city who consider her powers to dangerous to let go unchecked. She is saved by the government only to be trained and used to serve their purposes, and Ashlyn finds herself torn between two worlds. She can either be a monster, or help fight the monsters.

 
 
 
Not only did Sean Hayden bag a contract to have the Demonkin Series published with Echelon press he was offered a job too, which eventually became a senior editor within the company. Now that’s what I call a book deal! See

post about Echelon Press where he shares his knowledge of “life as an editor”.
He says, “After an extensive search for an agent and publisher, debating self publishing, and massive amounts of hair loss, I finally found Echelon Press, a small Indie publisher out of Maryland.”
 
Sean started writing about a year and a half ago. His debut novel, Origins is an urban fantasy about vampires, how they came to be, why there are different breeds, and the main character Ashlyn. If you want to look at what the book is about, Sean has a website devoted to the series as well as an author website.
He received the contract for Origins, which is out this month. He has finished the sequel, Deceptions and has received a contract for that, as well. He has also penned a steampunk short called Lady Dorn.
 

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B004MYFS5M&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrWhat inspired you to write your book?
I’ve been an avid reader for almost my whole life. Growing up it wasn’t TV that fascinated me, it was the written word. I remember reading a book one day. I had gone to B&N and bought the whole series without reading the first one. Needless to say, I got about halfway through the first book before setting it down and never picking it up again. “I could do better than that,” I said. I finally gave it a shot. Origins is my result.

What is it about? Genre etc.
Origins is pure Urban Fantasy. Within its pages you will find that vampires, werewolves, elves, and every other fantasy creature is alive and well and working, playing, and dying right beside everyday humans. Some are good, some aren’t. I have taken all the legends surrounding vampires and explained the differences as them being different subspecies. Origins focuses around the central character, Ashlyn. She is the newest subspecies. She’s quite a bit different and that makes her a target with the rest of the vampire community.

Was there a character you struggled with?
Struggles? Oh, yes. Struggles aplenty. The one thing that stands out the most to me was with Ashlyn, the MC. She was hidden for the first few years of her life and had very limited contact with the outside world. That made things very difficult in writing her. Every time she did something in the story, I had to stop and think, “Would she know how to do this?” The other issue came with setting her above the other kinds of vampires. I had to make her more powerful, but not perfect. That was difficult at times.

How many unpublished books do you have lurking under your bed?
Actually, NONE. I wrote Origins and submitted. It’s due out Feb 15th. The sequel Deceptions is written and contracted. I wrote a steampunk short called Lady Dorn and it is also under contract. I’m currently working on a steampunk short series for YA readers as well as a YA urban fantasy called Soul Seeker.

How did you find your publisher? How do they treat you? Would you recommend them?
Writing a book was easy. Getting it into the hands of the reader was like scaling Mt Kilamanjaro with two broken legs. My book was written and I started querying agents. That was a complete waste of time. Know how many agents are even willing to read your work if you’re previously unpublished? Ya, not many. I didn’t even find one in fact. So after wasting six months of my life on that, I decided to go for the gold and look for a publisher. I figured I would spend some time on the slushpile, but that’s the price to pay for glory. I queried all the big publishing houses. The results were the same as looking for an agent. They won’t even look at your work if your previously unpublished. Then I found a website called duotrope.com. If you’re looking for smaller publishing houses, I highly recommend starting there. I queried two publishers, and they said, “We’d love to look at your work but we are afraid your genre is over written at this time.” Okay. Then I found Echelon Press. They’re a small Indi Pub out of Maryland. The owner of the company is named Karen Syed. I could go on for hours about how wonderful they are. I am completely happy there and the owner treats her authors with respect, dignity, and like they were family.

What’s the best/worst part of being a writer?
The best part of being a writer is getting to tell my stories. I love that people are going to hold my book in their hand and read something I WROTE. It’s kind of heady. The worst part of being a writer is the frustration of finding time to do it. I work as a fiber-optic engineer during the day, and that leaves little time to write, especially with two kids and a wife at home.

What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
Believe it or not, my lunch break. I seem to get more written in that hour than the other 23 hours in the day.

Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer
I’m a digital kid. Paper just wastes trees. I don’t even make notes, jot down ideas, or outline. I sit at the computer, open my file, and start writing. I have no idea what the characters are doing next, or even where the story is going.

What/who do you draw inspiration from?
What if’s. I make it a game and did a blog stop for a friend explaining where i draw my inspiration. It’s all around, but you have to play the “what if” game. For example, you’re walking down the street and you see a squirrel run up a tree. “What if” that squirrel wasn’t really a squirrel, but an alien scout sent with squirrel cloaking, sent to earth to subjugate us before its imperial overlords land? See, inspiration can come from anywhere.

Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
Absolutely not. With as hectic as my life is, I write when I can. To set goals would be a self induced lesson in disappointment.

What are you working on now that you can talk about?
World domination…oh, wait I’m NOT supposed to talk about that. Actually I mentioned before about the steampunk YA short series I’m writing. I’m going to have to leave it at that. Details I’m not allowed to share, but I’m writing it with my 11yo son and he is super excited about it. The other item I have in the works is a YA urban fantasy about making bad choices and getting exactly what you wish for.

How do/did you deal with rejection letters?
With a shot of bourbon. Just kidding. Kind of. I don’t usually deal well with rejection. I pout for a while and then realize that everything happens for a reason and that you cant please everybody at the same time. Some people will love what you’ve written and others won’t. It’s the nature of the human persona.

Do you have a critique partner?
Actually, I do. She’s another author/editor with Echelon Press. I never submit or revise anything without sending to her first. I owe a great deal to her for catching mistakes AFTER something’s been edited. I do the same for her when she needs it.

About Demonkin Series:
What age group is the Demonkin series geared towards and what genre?
 Its geared towards adults. The main character is young, but she is thrust into the world of adulthood at an early age. It would seem that all the vampire series out there are meant for YA readers. Adults are infatuated by vampires, too. I wrote this book for them. It’s fun, it’s edgy, it’s sometimes dark, but never gloomy or full of angst.


Tell us a little about the series? Do I have to read book one, before I reach for book two etc? How many books are there to be?
The series is centered around the main character Ashlyn Thorn. She was born with all the traits of a vampire, but everybody knows vampires are made, not born. She knows she is something different, but she hasn’t got a clue about her true origins. The series follows her life as she is picked up by the FBI to help police the supernatural world and learns a little more about herself every day. The second book is complete and under contract and is entitled Deceptions. It’s not necessary to read the first one before picking up the second one, but I would recommend it. As for how long the series is, I never plan ahead. Demonkin is my favorite project, and I plan on keeping it going as long as there’s somebody who wants to hear what happens next.

What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?
We pulled up to another vampire club a few miles away after an uneventful ride in a nondescript cargo van. Didn’t these people believe in offices? They could have spiffy names like the vampire offices of Dewey, Bitem, and Howe. The van pulled into an employee parking lot in the rear of the building and my escorts ushered me to the back door. Demitri knocked three times, and the door opened. I gasped at the more impressive muscle standing before me; they stood taller than the bouncers I had seen at Fangloria’s. The vampire wore what looked like a 1920’s gangster approved pinstripe suit and hat. I thought it might be a personal attire choice until I saw the two behind him wearing similar outfits. Either I had entered a themed club, or I really stood before prohibition era vampires.

Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/family or by real-life experiences?
 My family has always been my inspiration for writing, but my characters are pure fiction. I try to throw a little of me into each of them, but as they progress, they become more unique on their own.

Can you sum the series in one sentence?
Demonkin is a fast paced thrill ride centered around a new breed of vampire.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Mine is Ashlyn’s partner, Thompson. He is grumpy and cool, and just fun to write.

Which comes first for you – characters or plot?
Characters definitely. You could have the most exciting story in the world, but if your characters are weak, unlikeable, or unbelievable, everything will fall apart.

Prior to being contracted to Echelon Press, had you submitted to traditional publishers?
When I finished writing Origins, I did some research. Everybody told me that in order to get published with a traditional publisher, you had to have an agent. I spent the first five months of my writing career querying agents. Vampires were in such popularity at the time, I couldn’t even get an agent to read my manuscript, so I gave up on the traditional publishing route. I did query Penguin Books and Tor, but I didn’t expect anything to come from them and I wasn’t disappointed when they didn’t even ask for a submission. That’s when I decided to look for a really good independent publisher.

Do you have an agent?
No, I do not. I spent a good portion of my life just trying to get one to read my manuscript, and now I’m a little thankful none did. I’ve seen too many authors who do have agents, that are getting absolutely nowhere. Now they are stuck in a contract with an agent and counting the days until their contract expires so they can find an independent publisher. It’s kind of scary how the publishing world is changing.

Will Origins be available only as an ebook?
It comes out Feb 15th as an eBook, but will be available in paperback shortly thereafter. I don’t know the exact release date of the paperback as of yet.

Are there any upcoming signings or appearances you’d like to mention?
 I’m planning on attending Readercon in July and the South Carolina Book Festival later this year. In April, I’m planning on doing a virtual signing at Calico Books via webcam. As for local signings, etc, I’m waiting til the paperback comes out and plan on touring most of my home state, Florida as I can schedule.

What marketing have you been doing to help sales?
Blog tours, marketing materials, social media, I plan on being on the radio for an interview, press releases, forums, you name it. If it’s out there, I have tried it or will try it. Marketing is without a doubt the most quintessential key to success. I could not stress this more. You can not rely on word of mouth to get your book out there to the masses.

You have written a steampunk short called Lady Dorn, what is steampunk exactly? How does it differ from fantasy or science fiction?
I’ve been asked this question a lot as of late. When you hear the term steampunk, think of Jules Verne. It can be set in any time period, but everyone should have technology that is anachronistic. Steam powered cell phones. Brass computers with typewriter keys. Flying dirigibles attached to wooden naval ships. The possibilities are endless. I’ve actually started writing a series of steampunk shorts with my 11yo son geared toward younger readers. The Magnificent Steam Carnival of Professor Pelusian Minus. The whole genre is growing in popularity every day. I can see why. It’s fun to read, but absolutely fantastic to write. Think of it as rewriting history as it would have been if you could travel back in time and give key players technological advancements.

Contacts:

Submitting a Manuscript – with Echelon Press

Sean Hayden is here to guide us through the submitting process. He is the Executive Acquisitions Editor for Echelon Press (indie press), and has some excellent advice for those at the submitting stage.
As well as an editor Sean is also a writer and his novel, Origins will be out later this month. His author-interview will also appear here to coincide with his books release – be sure to check it out!



Hi, Sean and thank you for allowing me to talk to you about “life as an editor” at Echelon Press. As both author and editor you have an inside knowledge of what a publisher is looking for in the dreaded query letter and synopsis. Is there a magic formula?

Click below for the answer, and more questions:
 

Absolutely NOT. I remember when I wrote my first query letters. The fear, the sweat, the nervousness. You have to describe your manuscript in one short page, try to entice a publisher to want to read it, and tell them everything you hope to accomplish with your manuscript. That’s scary. Then I got my foot in the door and learned something very unbelievable. Publishers are people too! I know right? I didn’t believe it either. If I had to give aspiring authors one bit of advice when it comes to querying publishers it would be: Take your nervousness, wad it up in a tight little ball, and throw it in that trashcan next to your desk. Make your query letter interesting, funny, or different. Don’t use templates. There are a ton of them out there and read like stereo instructions. Be yourself, focus on your manuscript, and for the love of Pete, FOLLOW THE PUBLISHER’S SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! They differ from publisher to publisher, but the results are the same if you don’t follow them. (DELETE)

Is there a best way to edit? I’ve heard that leaving the MS a couple of weeks before editing is one of the ways to successfully edit, but is there another?
Editing another person’s manuscript is very different from editing your own. Editing your own work is nearly impossible. You always miss something because the story is so ingrained in your mind, you see words that should be there but aren’t, misused words make sense, and even spelling errors get overlooked. When editing another person’s you have to focus on the words instead of the sentence, you can’t read like you normally would. Focus is essential. I try not to edit when my kids are around. That’s like defusing a nuclear bomb in the middle of a rock concert. The harder part comes when you get the edits back from the author and have to go through it again. Sometimes things will be changed and not always correctly, but at this point you know the story and can fall into the same trap as editing your own work. It takes patience.

What is the prime difference between indie and traditional publishers?
Mostly in marketing and distribution. Indie publishers do market their author’s works, but due to budgetary constraints, often rely on authors to do much of the legwork. It is essential for an author signing with an indie publisher to understand that their work will not sell itself. They need to get out there, schedule book signings, work to sell their product, and maintain a prominent social media presence. The other difference comes in the distribution of books. Traditional publishers will mass produce their authors books. Printing hundreds of thousands of copies and distributing them to large bookstores across the country. Indie publishers don’t do this. They print smaller runs of titles, and make them available as needed to bookstores. Traditional publishers also print hardcover editions of works. Most indie publishers don’t do this either because of the cost effectiveness of not doing so. Hardcovers are expensive to print, expensive to buy, and the returns on them often aren’t worth it. How many times have you been in a bookstore and perused their clearance items? Nine times out of ten, they’re full of hardcover books that have been marked down to cost just to get rid of them.

What’s stopping someone from starting up their own publishing company, and calling them an Indie Press?
Believe it or not, it doesn’t happen quite often. It takes patience, capitol, experience, and a cast iron will that will keep you going throughout the hardships, difficulties, and stress. I’ve dealt with the owner of Echelon Press for a while. To say she is a strong woman would be one of the most embarrassing understatements of the century. She is one tough cookie and if were one iota less of a tough cookie, would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. She fights everyday for what she has made for herself. She is well known and well respected. For somebody to start up their own indie press, they would have to have contacts in the publishing industry, know authors they could bring into their house, and understand what does and doesn’t work in the industry. Most people who have had negative experience would rather self publish in the future than deal with the headaches of starting their own independent publishing company.

How many submissions do you get on average a month?
We have several divisions at Echelon Press. We have the main Echelon Press, and we also have Quake which publishes YA material. We also have Explorations for scifi/fantasy genres, and Echelon Shorts which publish electronic short stories for Kindles, Nooks, and other eReaders. Each division gets quite a few submissions every month.

In your submission guidelines it says, “All queries MUST include a full Marketing Strategy.” Why is this? Do you not help with marketing? If not, then what is the point of using the company?
This is for the aforementioned reason. Echelon Press DOES help with marketing, but too often in the past authors have put everything on the company’s shoulders to market their book. “I’m too busy writing the sequel to market myself,” is the best excuse I’ve heard to date. The inclusion of a marketing strategy is to let us know what exactly the author is willing to do to help with promotion and sales.

What are the primary mistakes do you see writers make in the query process?
Make demands, not follow the submission guidelines, and compare themselves to other authors. Each story is unique and if you write a plausible query and follow the submission guidelines, chances are we will ask to see your story. If you don’t, or make demands from the company before we even read your manuscript…


With submissions what makes you stop reading and start skimming—or stop reading altogether?
Horrible or unrealistic dialogue. To me that is the most important part of the story. Fascinating characters or even boring characters should be able to tell a story through their dialogue. If they don’t, the story just falls apart. Watch dialogue tags. Having “he said” and “she said” every line is distracting and often takes away from the story. Just as having the person doing the speaking saying the persons name every time. “
“Hey, Jim. Do you want to go to a movie?”
“Sure, Paul,” he replied
“That’s great, Jim! Let’s go!”
“Great, Paul! What do you want to see?”


Skim, skim, skim.

Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where people can meet/pitch you?
Definitely. Readercon and South Carolina Book Fair are on my schedule, but the owner of Echelon Press, Karen Syed, attends almost every conference known to man. She is often a key speaker, or even a sponsor, and is always on the lookout for new talent.

What’s the best way to contact you?
Just go to our main website. http://www.echelonpress.com. All the submission emails for the various divisions of Echelon Press are there. I can always be reached at shayden.echelonpress@gmail.com

Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?
Never under any circumstance give up. If you have a story to tell, there will be somebody who wants to hear it. If you submit to any indie publisher and are turned down, there is usually a reason given. Very seldom do publishers just say, “NO.” If they do, ask them why. Don’t be afraid. Listen to what they say and fix the problem. If you show that your willing to try to make your manuscript better, often they will read your revisions. Just never give up.

Join Echelon Press on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Echelon-Press-Shorts/100000163383263

Echelon Press being discussed on AbsoluteWrite: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=707

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