Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Publish Electronically

It's an ironic turn of fate. I find myself now involved in electronic publishing; that’s what the new self-publishing process I’m entering into is about. It’s completely new to me, but then just about anything electronic is.

My views on self-publishing, as noted in a previous post, have had to be revised, but surprisingly not as radically as I thought. I had equated all self-publishing with “vanity” publishing, but that turns out not to be the case. Vanity publishing required the author to pay to have his work produced, which I vowed I would never do.

It turns out that the service I now intend to use -- Smashwords -- enables an author to format the work for viewing on electronic devices but doesn’t charge anything to do it. The practical result of their process is that readers on any kind of digital “platform” will be able to read it once it’s posted online in Smashwords’ catalog.

The more important result is that the work is put out there before the world -- visibility that could not have been achieved without some substantial investment of money or unimaginable amount of effort and luck. Readers decide to buy or not; the words stand or fall on their merit. Any proceeds from sales go to the author less a small commission -- a better deal than conventional publishing would offer.

 Of course there is a substantial investment: the thought and effort and hope that went into the writing, and there is the possibility that an author will find that no one cares. With the audience now being world-wide, rejection can be total. I could find that no one in the whole world likes what I’ve written. It’s something to think about. Smashwords doesn’t edit the work, so the result -- best-sellerdom (unlikely) or continuing obscurity (a strong possibility) -- will be entirely my own doing.

Books that do go on to success are more than just well-written; they’re promoted. Promotion is up to the author, so in a sense getting published is only Step 1. If an author can’t or doesn’t promote his or her work it’s probably not going anywhere.

However, there is a promotional technique that’s effortless and requires no talent: the free sample. “Free” greatly increases chances that people will look at anything, and if that first 20 or so pages are interesting, a book can begin to be noticed. 

I know I talked dismissively about vanity authors' depending on family for readership, but I'm going to alert all my nieces and my nephews and my cousins and my aunts when the book hits the electronic market. Build a little momentum and then, when readers are desperate to know whether Animal Rights win or lose in the climactic courtroom scene, sock it to `em; it'll cost $2.99 to find out, and I'll be on my way.