New Skills for Old Writers

The trouble with deciding to self-publish a book is that it can load you up with a whole load of tasks that are not writing, and which are well outside my natural comfort zone.

Writing is, in essence, a solitary activity, and perhaps part of its appeal for me is that I can shut myself off physically in my study, bedroom, or garden, and mentally explore all sorts of byways, even whole worlds.  What is more, the places I visit, and the characters who populate them, are all chosen by me, so that, even though I may not like them all, I have control (at least theoretically) over how much say they have, what things happen to them, and where their path takes them.  I’m sure that there are plenty of writing styles that suit other types of people, but my way of working suits the type of person I am down to the ground – you may guess from the above that, whilst I like people, I also crave solitude; that I like to be the one making the decisions; and that I enjoy creating  something, but in a way that brings order – weaving threads together to create a unique tapestry, rather than splashing vivid paint around in an uninhibited manner!

So, although there is a good match between the sort of person I am, and the act of writing of book, getting my novels out from the computer equivalent of the bottom desk drawer requires a whole load of skills that I don’t possess, and personal qualities that seem totally out of reach.  In fact, I spent about five years thinking that it might be nice to see my books in print, without feeling competent to take a path from here to there.

Unless an author is a celebrity with a ready-made readership, it must be very difficult to predict whether their books would sell, and it used to be that someone had to take a fairly hefty gamble to find out if a particular newcomer would catch the attention of the reading public.  If the author secured a traditional publishing deal, the publisher took that risk, wagering the production costs and advance against the possibility of earning money from the book.  An author that chose to self-publish put their own money up as a stake.  Because the initial outlay, whoever made it, was high, there was pressure to do everything possible to drive up sales, often leaving the author not only operating way outside their comfort zone, but with precious little time to write!

But technological advances have changed that.  First there was the ebook, with comparatively small costs involved, but difficulty securing sales, as the author or group of authors had to set up a website and try to attract buyers themselves.  Next came a wide variety of Print on Demand services, giving the advantages of a professionally produced paperback without the long print runs that were once necessary to justify typesetting a book.  More recently, a range of ebook readers, each with a manufacturer or distributor vying to sell books in the right format, have added to the choice facing an author.

With so many options, including some that cost very little, there must be a lot of authors who are seeing their books in print (or eprint) for the very first time.  Does this make it a bad time to jump on the bandwagon?  I don’t think so – in my opinion, it makes this an excellent time to test the waters.  All that I’m risking is a little money and some of my time.  As an added bonus, I’ll get to find out about all sorts of fields that I’m totally ignorant of at the moment – and at a pace that I can dictate.  I’m not setting myself immutable objectives, but I’m hoping to have my website and blog looking good and being updated regularly (another opportunity to write!), and have my first novel Kindle-published by sometime in October, with another couple of novels over the following six to nine months.  I also want to investigate Print on Demand, perhaps with CreateSpace, which is the option Amazon offers you when you start the Kindle-publishing process.

I’ll keep you posted, about how it goes:  do feel free to share your own writing journey, or to comment on mine!