The whole truth about why I self-published

Three years ago, I started this blog to chronicle my journey to publication of my fiction writing. I wrote often about my trials and tribulations in writing, editing, and querying my first novel. I had always planned to get an agent, who would then sell my book to an editor at a traditional publishing house. It didn’t work out that way.

Three years ago, I started this blog to chronicle my journey to publication of my fiction writing. I wrote often about my trials and tribulations in writing, editing, and querying my first novel. I had always planned to get an agent, who would then sell my book to an editor at a traditional publishing house. It didn’t work out that way.

The_Brevity_of_RosesPart of what went wrong with that plan was not something I could control. By the time I finished that novel, traditional publishing was in upheaval, and editors were buying fewer debut novels than ever. It seemed the only way to get an offer was to have an inside connection or write a book in the hottest genre. Neither my book nor I qualified.

One element that I could possibly have controlled was to write a book destined to become a classic. I may be a bit delusional about my talent, but I know I’m not that good a writer. My book is a good story, it’s a pleasant read, but no one will ever add it to their favorite-book-of-all-time list.

So, if no editor was likely to buy my book, no agent was interested in representing it. I woke from the dream of seeing my book published by a big New York publisher. I started exploring other options. I researched self-publishing as well as small presses.

I was leaning toward submitting my book to these small publishers when something happened that changed everything.

Exactly a year ago, my husband’s employer downsized and because my husband was the highest paid manager in his store, he was shown the door. Overnight, our income dropped by 60%—sixty percent! We’ve never had much money, and what we had we didn’t manage the best we could have, so I knew if my husband didn’t get another job right away (difficult because of his age), it wouldn’t be long before we exhausted our savings. Long story short, he didn’t.

I panicked. Then I decided I could help. I had a book to sell. Suddenly, waiting another year or so to have my book published by a small press was out of the question. So in an extraordinary mixture of overestimation, misunderstanding, and fantasy, I chose to self-publish.

If you know the stress of total DIY publishing, imagine adding to that a total lifestyle change. I think I handle stress well, but I don’t really. I just internalize it. My body takes what it can and then starts packing on pounds, breaking out in skin problems, and producing pain, pain, pain. Nice, when you have no medical insurance, right? Okay, that’s the last of my whining on this blog.

Now I’ve finally told you why I really self-published. It wasn’t a well thought out decision. I think only now, seven months later, do I even understand how I should have tried to market the book. And despite what I wrote earlier, I now know you can publish without spending a lot of money, but it’s incredibly hard to successfully sell without spending money—at least not when you’re trying to sell a debut novel.

I apologize for writing so many glum posts this last year, but maybe now you’ll understand why. Nothing has changed in our financial situation, but I’ve decided it’s time to change my attitude. I’ve read many posts lately by writer friends that have lifted me up and shown me the path I need to get back on. This post is already too long, so I’ll publicly thank them next time.

Tag, you’re it … at Amazon!

Consider today’s post a public service announcement. At least, it concerns something I didn’t know, so I’ll assume one or two of you don’t. (Please, someone say you didn’t know.)

Because too much sensory input overwhelms me, when I go to a website with fifty things going on at once, I tend to focus on the main thing and tune out the rest. So, until my novel appeared on Amazon, I ignored the sting of words below the reviews on each book’s page.

The label above this section is: Tags Customers Associate with This Product. These words should be key words descriptive of a book’s genre and subject matter. Amazon uses them as search terms. Were you aware that one of your search choices is: Products Tagged With? I wasn’t. But why does that matter?

For many (most?) of us who write books, we’re responsible for promoting them. We do that, of course, because we want people to read our books. It’s no fun writing books no one reads. So making readers aware that our book is out there is serious business.

On Amazon, the more clicks a book’s tag receives, the higher the book will rank in results when a customer search uses that tag. Obviously, books by famous, top-selling authors won’t go undiscovered if no one tags their books. But high tag counts can definitely help a debut author’s book get noticed.

From now on, especially when you buy a debut, or indie, author’s book at Amazon, remember to click their book’s tags. (And don’t forget to click to see ALL tags.) In fact, you can do that even if you read it as a library book or bought it somewhere else. Consider this a chance to create good Karma. What goes around …

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]