Why I Decided To Self-Publish My Second Book

 

independent

Over the past couple of months I’ve had several people ask why I decided to go the self-publishing route with Athena’s Daughter when Crimson and Clover had been traditionally published. I began hearing the question a lot more when Crimson and Clover was part of Amazon’s Kindle Big Deal promotion in December and I praised my publisher, Crimson Romance, for helping to make that happen. People were curious to know why, if I was happy with my publisher, I went it on my own with the next book. Of course, since I’m an author, my answer to that was a well-crafted response designed to enlighten and explain why I self-published.

Yeah, right. What actually happened was that I stammered and stuttered and my tongue tripped all over itself. Not because I didn’t know why I did what I did, but because that’s what I do when presented with a question I’m not prepared to get. (I’m serious. Even an innocuous query like, “Hey, girl! What are you doing here?” is answered with, “Um. Well, uh … Oh, you know. Right?”)

Answering the question of why I self-published Athena’s Daughter (and later Song Without Words) is kind of writing a log line for a book. There are so many reasons and variables involved that condensing it down into a pat, concise answer is hard.

First of all, I had every intention of going the traditionally published route with Athena’s Daughter. I sent queries to quite a few publishers, including Crimson Romance, but the book was roundly rejected by all of them, and for the same reason: the editors all felt the plot was “unbelievable.” I have a stack of emails that say, in essence, “This misunderstanding between the hero and heroine could be resolved with a five minute conversation. No one’s going to buy into it the way it’s written.” Actually, the misunderstanding could have been cleared up in five minutes – in the 21st century. But when Athena left Derek it was 1968. She was in Memphis, Tennessee and he was in London, England. There were no cell phones with International plans, no phone companies that offered free calls to other countries, and no Skype. Making a Trans-Atlantic telephone call was a royal pain the hiney. It took forever, for one thing, and more importantly, it cost the earth. Athena was an 18-year-old kid fresh out of high school; where was she supposed to get the high dollars it took to make repeated calls to England until she could reach Derek? So I disagreed that the plot was unbelievable. I was backed up by my critique group, all of whom are authors and voracious readers, and all of whom declared that the plot not only worked, but worked well.

Not all of the publishers rejected it outright. Several of them offered to take another look at it if I did some rewrites. Now, I’m not one of those authors who thinks every word she writes is covered in gold and the tears of delight of angels. If something needs to be cut, changed, rewritten or otherwise changed, then I do it. But the way it was suggested I rewrite parts of Athena’s Daughter had me shaking my head. One editor wanted me to change the story to have Derek really engaged to another girl. This editor suggested that I have Derek sleep with Athena anyway, and to have Athena (who would be aware of the fiancée’s existence) just go along with it because “it’s just sex.” (The editor’s words, not mine.) When she discovered she was pregnant she wouldn’t tell Derek because, A) he was going to marry someone else, and B) what they had was “just sex.” To say that I was floored by these suggestions is the understatement of the year. I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe that a publisher wanted me to put out a romance novel where the hero and heroine were both cheating jerks. As a reader, I knew I could never root for such a couple, and I knew fans of romance novels wouldn’t like them either. A book like that would crash and burn, and it would destroy my reputation as a romance author.

This is when I began seriously looking into self-publishing the book. Not only could I leave the book as written without destroying the plot line and making the characters so unlikeable that they could never be redeemed, but I could also publish it as soon as it was ready to go without waiting on a publisher’s timeline. Furthermore, I would have control over the cover and way the contents looked, and I could set my own price and then change it as I saw fit. I decided to go for it.

There are all sorts of ways to go about self-publishing a book. You can hire a professional editor, and pay someone else to do the formatting. You can spend beaucoup bucks on the cover and even hire a distributor. I didn’t do any of that. First of all, I didn’t have the money to do it, and secondly, even if I did I’m too cheap to even think of hiring someone to do something I can do just as well myself.

I knew I could edit the book myself. I’m such a stickler that even the smallest mistakes drive me mad. I obsess over every word, every bit of punctuation, each and every line of my books. I’m pleased to note that several reviewers have mentioned how clean the editing is in my self-published books, so I know I’m doing a good job of it. But if you’re considering self-pubbing yourself and you’re worried about the editing, don’t hesitate to hire that part out. I can’t stress how important it is to have a well-edited book, so if you feel that editing isn’t your strong suit, hire yourself an editor.

8246264544ad943e218ecc1ea7522e62

I wasn’t as sure about the formatting. Kindle has its own format, Smashwords has a different format, and CreateSpace (for print books) has yet another. That meant I’d have to sweat through three different formatting sessions, each one with its own painstaking process. Luckily, there are all kinds of free manuals and tutorials to walk you through each one, and after I read them I knew I could format the book myself. While I won’t tell you that it was hard to do, it wasn’t a walk in the park, either. There were many long nights, and even some tears of frustration, especially with the CreateSpace formatting. For some reason MS Word is a total bitch about some things (the table of contents for CreateSpace being the main culprit), but if you follow each tutorial to the letter, you can format your book yourself. Of course, if you don’t want to tackle that job, there are plenty of reputable people you can hire who will make your book look fantastic. Just remember that if you hire out your formatting, you’ll have to pay again if you ever want to make any changes.

I also designed the cover myself, and paid a friend who is a whiz with Photoshop to create the actual covers for me. I love the way they turned out, but I’m going to change them soon. I’ve come to realize how important it is for each book by an author to have a unified look to them, and I’ll be hiring a professional cover artist for the new covers. Do I think it will make a huge difference to readers? I admit that I don’t know, but since I now have the money to do it, I think it’s worth a shot.

Speaking of money, you’re probably wondering about the royalties for self-published books vs. traditionally published. Yes, I make much more on Athena’s Daughter and Song Without Words than I do on Crimson and Clover. The world of publishing has changed a lot over the past couple of decades, and publishers rarely do a lot of promotion for a book unless it’s written by a J.K. Rowling or a Stephen King. Authors do the majority of their own promotion, and I figured since I was going to have to do all that work anyway then I should keep the majority of the profits. Self-publishing lets me do that.

self-publish-cartoon-300x229

So, was it worth it? Yes. Definitely yes. Athena’s Daughter outsold Crimson and Clover the day it was released and continues to do so to this day. I firmly believe that this wouldn’t have happened if I had made the changes suggested by the traditional publishers to whom I first submitted the book. I freely admit that Song Without Words hasn’t done as well, but I also admit that I haven’t pushed it as hard as I did Athena’s Daughter. Again, it’s an author’s responsibility to promote a book, and I’ve dropped the ball with Song Without Words. I’ve picked it up again, and hope readers will discover it soon. 🙂

Will I continue to self-publish my books? Again, yes. I enjoy the control I have over each book, and since I’m able to save money by editing and formatting them myself, I can’t see giving over my portion of the royalties to a publisher to do it instead.

So there you have it, un-pat and un-concise. 🙂

To make sure you don’t miss a post, you can subscribe to this blog by email. I promise you won’t get any spam or a bunch of annoying stuff. Just sign up on the right hand side of the page near the top!

This entry was posted in My Books!, My Surreal Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Why I Decided To Self-Publish My Second Book

  1. Elizabeth says:

    How do royalties work with Smashwords? Createspace is just for printing paperbacks, right? So if you sell a paperback on Amazon, that generates some kind of print request?

    • julipagemorgan says:

      When you publish with Smashwords, they not only sell your ebook on their site, they also act as distributor to iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and other ebook retailers. These retailers pay Smashwords when a copy of your book is sold, and then Smashwords pays you in one payment every quarter. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think an author’s royalty through Smashwords is 60%. It’s totally worth giving them that extra 10% (with Kindle you get 70%) to collect and deal with the payments from those retailers.

      Yes, CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, and it’s their POD (that’s Print on Demand for those who aren’t familiar with the term) company for self-published authors. Your paperback is listed along with your Kindle edition on Amazon (you have to merge the two editions, but it’s easy-peasy.) When a reader orders a paperback, CreateSpace prints that book and Amazon ships it out. Again, I can’t remember the royalty rate right off the top of my head (I have it all in my office, but that would require getting up out of this warm chair and finding it. LOL!) but I think an author gets 35% of PODs through CreateSpace. That’s still better than the 10% you get from a traditional publisher. 🙂

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks, that helped a lot. So it looks like Smashwords distributes to everyone but Amazon, hence the three formats (Smashwords, Kindle and print). I can format for Kindle no problem with calibre and I still have the guides you sent me for SW and CS.

    • julipagemorgan says:

      You got it! Smashwords does have an option for them to distribute to Amazon, but it’s not operational. I wouldn’t do it anyway since formatting for Kindle is so easy, and the royalty rate from Amazon is higher.

  3. Ric Taylor says:

    You go girl.I’m not much of a romance novel guy but when artists leave their creativity in the hands of salesmen ,we have bigger problems than liberal media bias..lol

    • julipagemorgan says:

      Thanks, Ric! I’m still a firm advocate of self-publishing, but I do owe unending thanks to Crimson Romance for taking a chance on Crimson and Clover. They were the only publisher willing to let my rock stars BE rock stars and act the way real rockers do, even if it didn’t conform to the traditional, accepted romance hero formula. 🙂

      • Elizabeth says:

        And that’s why C&C is such an amazing book, because let’s face it, in the music world, reality is SO much more interesting than mushy romance fantasy. (REDACTED RANT) =)

  4. Suzi Love says:

    Well done, Juli.
    I’m glad you’re having so much success with your books and pleased you published the book you wanted and didn’t change things.
    Suzi Love recently posted…Outback Australia at Dames of Dialogue by Suzi LoveMy Profile

    • julipagemorgan says:

      Thanks, Suzi! I just couldn’t make those changes, and am so glad that self-publishing was an option. I’m thrilled that readers agree! 🙂

  5. Sylvie says:

    Juli,

    Congrats on your decision and your success. I too was thrilled when my former traditionally published books sold more as indie book than they did before. If you’re going to do a majority of the work . . . you should receive a majority of the benefit!
    Sylvie recently posted…Christmas is ComingMy Profile

    • julipagemorgan says:

      Exactly, Sylvie! While I do appreciate the things publishers can do for an author, I’m a firm believer that the author should have more say on things like cover art, which edits to accept/reject, etc. That’s one of the things I love best about self-pubbing – the level of control. (Of course, everyone in my family is over there saying, “Well, duh. Control freak.” LOL!)

      It’s hard work to promote those books, but it’s rewarding when you get to keep more royalties. 🙂

  6. Bravo, Juli. As one who is on the brink of indie publishing my sci-fi, I second everything you wrote. It is a new world for authors, and more and more of us are taking control and going the self-pub route. I will continue to keep one foot in the traditionally published world, but I’m proud and excited of my new self-pub “baby.” Much success with all of your works, but I’m rooting hard for your indies. 🙂

    • julipagemorgan says:

      Thanks, Deborah! I haven’t ruled out going the traditionally published route for future books, but it would have to be a heck of a deal to get me to sign. 😉

      I’m so eager to read your book! And I have to tell you that it was the beautiful cover for DRAGON DAWN that made me decide to re-do my covers!

  7. Way to go, Juli! Your reasoning for self-pubbing is the same as mine. I just wanted to add that another “Smashwords” (I’m not sure what exactly you’d call them, distributor?) is Draft2Digital. I’ve used both and am leaning more toward D2D at the moment. (We’ll see.) Good luck and I may pick your brain about CreateSpace at some point (I went LSI for print and it’s too costly.)

    • julipagemorgan says:

      Oooh, thanks for the heads up about Draft2Digital. I’ve been happy with Smashwords, but I’m not too keen on their jumping on the subscription bandwagon even though their terms are better than most. I’ll be checking out D2D!

      Holler anytime you need to know more about my experience with CS. They’ve been so easy to use, and they’re free! I also like how authors can customize their formatting to make the book look any way they choose. 🙂

  8. Very inspiring. I’ve been lurking on the fringes of self-publishing and I really want to do it. The expense has been a concern for me, and, to be honest, I’m not as hands-on as I could be with marketing. I really hate it. Otherwise, you’ve given me more food for thought. I can see myself going independent in the future.

    Thanks.

    • julipagemorgan says:

      I hear you about the marketing. It’s so hard to find that line between letting people know about your books and annoying them. I’m so afraid of annoying people that I end up doing a horrible job of letting anyone know about the books. One of my goals this year is to create a good marketing plan and stick to it.

      If you do decide to self-publish in the future, rest assured that we’ll be behind you supporting you all the way! 🙂

  9. Pingback: Why I Made A Huge Mistake Marketing My Books (And How You Can Avoid It) | Juli Page Morgan

  10. It’s a bit of a leap of faith to go without a publisher. I really like the comic, it is funny because it is true. I have been planning on writing a book, and I think I will be going the self publishing rout. Thanks for the great post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge