28 June 2015

Ok. I'm giving this self-publishing thing a shot.

Preview of the book cover!
(c) Kristina Elyse Butke
I've heard about self-publishing for forever. I knew about it long before graduate school was a spark in my brain, and I continue to hear about it all the time. I'm all for it, but there are a couple things that have prevented me from diving in a self-pubbing everything, and it involves a simple, personal wish of mine: I want my books on shelves in stores.

The draw of self-publishing is strong. I don't like the idea of not being able to control how my finished book will look (they say don't judge a book by its cover, but, you know...) and I like having my hand in all of the creative processes, because I really am that much of a control freak in this regard. The potential for profits (if you count royalty percentages) is higher if you go indie vs. traditional. You can find niche audiences and explore multiple genres, unbeholden to what your publisher or agent prefers you to write. The production process is faster; and so on and so forth.

Yet there are some things I know for sure: in 2010, over three million books were published in the US alone (2.7 million of them non-traditional, which includes indie publishers). While the news is full of self-published authors raking in the dough, the reality is that over half of all self-publishers didn't break $500 in book sales in 2012. While the same article mentions $10,000 as the average for indie authors for that year, the only reason why this amount is so high is because millionaires like Amanda Hocking and EL James (both who are now traditionally pubbed) skewed the numbers.

The pay structure for indie authors changes all the time, anyway; and now that Amazon's considering paying authors per the amount of pages the consumer reads, expect more instability when it comes to finances. And for those of you who want to see your books on shelves in stores, bestselling author Tess Gerritsen shows the reality that booksellers can't take the financial risk, so they aren't going to stock your books .

Last but not least, there's a reason why the phrase "self-publishing shit volcano" exists.

~*~

When it comes to publishing, I know that for works of mine like The Name and the Key, I don't want to go any route but traditional. The prestige-factor, or sense of exclusivity (warranted or not), has its appeal. Traditional publishers can still put books where indie publishers can't; they have a dedicated team that knows the business better than anyone--as Amanda Hocking says, "I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc." And while the impetus for marketing still falls to a certain degree on the author, a traditional publishing house once again has a greater reach. If I cast my little book into a pool of three million other books, I think a traditional publisher, rather than myself, would do a better job of keeping it afloat.

I feel safe with my older writing. I feel like they've reached their lifespans in terms of personal fulfillment. If these older works fail, it won't hurt me, because I've already taken them to the places I intended them to go, so there's nothing to lose. That's why I'm self-pubbing one of my plays, In the Hands of Mr. Hyde, which has a long and storied history, including performances in 2001 and 2007.

I'm self-pubbing Hyde because I want more people to read it. I'm self-pubbing it because I think it's a relatively risk-free way for me to experiment with the entire process that is indie publishing, from design to distribution, publicity, and beyond. I'm self-pubbing it because I'm too lazy to query it to drama publishers (I would much rather do that with my books). I'm self-pubbing because I'm ok with not seeing the book in a store (and if you run a theater, you order scripts through catalogs, anyway). I'm self-pubbing it to provide theaters with an inexpensive show to perform (more about this in a future post). And I'm self-pubbing because I want to add a formal credit to my bibliography, and to get my name out into the world a little more.

I'm in the process of reformatting and editing the script from its 2007 state; the goal is to have the book available for purchase in August. I'll keep you updated on its progress, and my experience, every step of the way. 

I plan on self-pubbing other, older works as well, but right now, Hyde is coming up, and coming up soon!