9 years since I published the Princelings of the East. It seems a very long time ago, now, and I feel like a different person from the embarrassed pseudo-author I was then.
But this is my IWSG post for December, and I’d better first thank Alex J Cavanaugh and the co-hosts for this month, for setting up the Insecure Writers Support Group, and all that goes with it. Please visit your co-hosts, Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre.
Also, visit lots of other people at the Insecure Writiers Support Group sign-up list, who are there to support, share experiences, and generally rock the insecure writing world.
There’s also the Question of the Month, which I’ll tackle at the end.
What does 9 years of self-publishing look like?
Firstly, a quirk of fate, I typed 89 years as the heading, which is really how it feels. Things have changed a great deal in that time. I’d guess there’s been more change in 9 years than in the 89 years preceding the advent of ebooks!
If you’ve read my blog or my bio (or the ‘About‘ page) you’ll probably know that I wrote stories for my guinea pig friends, got encouraged to publish, did all the querying and discovered the increasing validity of self-publishing at a Writers & Artists workshop in London. At the end of that month, Princelings 1 was out on Amazon. I’d like to add a mention for my editor, Dawn Cavalieri. She had painstakingly worked through them before I started querying—partly, I suspect, to make sure her own guinea pigs were represented in a grammatically correct way!
This week, nine years ago, I discovered Smashwords. This converted it to all the other ebook formats and sent it to virtually all the other retailers in one hit. I didn’t know then that some people didn’t quite approve of Smashwords: it doesn’t mind deep erotica, as long as the author labels it as such. On the other hand, Mark Coker (the founder) wrote, and still writes, amazingly helpful and insightful articles about the e-publishing world, and is worth following by any author, self-published or not.
Since I’d already prepared two sequels and Dawn was editing the third (fourth in series), the next two books came out in January and March. Then the fourth in the summer.
My chapter illustrations improved, and I began to feel more confident at including them. (For more on my Chapter illustrations, see this post for Denise Covey).
I gave away thousands of free copies of these ebooks on the Amazon free days, until they changed the system and brought in KDP Select. Even then, I’d do free promotions until I decided even three months exclusive to Amazon wasn’t worth my while.
By the time the sixth book had come out, Kindle Unlimited was in full flow, and I soon stopped considering Amazon as my go-to publisher. I had started to sell as many ebooks on Apple’s ibookstore, which they’ve rebranded a couple of times, and is best just referred to as iTunes. The technology for uploading ebooks was improving. My illustrations needed to be formatted differently between the Smashwords file and the KDP file, but it was easy enough to doctor the KDP file.
With each new book I found subtle differences in what was needed for uploads. If it’s a headache for the tech-savvy (I include myself in that), it must be a nightmare for other writers. I still go to Mark Coker’s free (updated) Style Guide, and his Marketing Guide, but check out the information at the IWSG website, and their Guide to Publishing and Beyond too, if you’re having trouble.
By last year, there was a change. I was now working on Mac, which was giving me headaches converting to an error-free doc file. But when I looked closer, KDP and Smashwords both accepted an ePub file, and I could save my work as an ePub on my computer. It seems to work okay, except the file size on Amazon has a note that it’s a big file. I’m sure it wasn’t when I uploaded it. Maybe I should check both the file and the cover sizes. Smashwords still needs a doc file if you want it to make a Kindle version. I do: it’s useful, since I fulfil giveaways with Smashwords discount codes, and most people seem to read on Kindle.
Publishing getting simpler, promotion more complicated?
It seems to me that it is getting easier to publish even complicated ebook formats. But whilst promotion used to be fairly easy, now it’s really difficult. I have no idea which of the hundreds of promotional sites actually get results, with the possible exception of BookBub. I didn’t qualify for that when I last looked at it, I suspect I now do, so I should check it out.
So the complexities of self-publishing have changed a lot in the last nine years. I’m still glad I took this route, because my Princelings books would never have found an agent as they are just not commercial enough—yet. I sense a swing back to animal protagonists in middle grade books. Maybe I need to rewrite them as full-on guinea pig characters, after I worked so hard to humanise them in the past!
I’m working on short story collections, and rewriting my Dylan and Dougall books to feature Deirdre in the team. I need to get to work on the third of my scifi books. I’m tempted to rewrite Carruthers into a full length novel. And then there’s that revisioning of Black Beauty that I’ve been thinking of for ten years…
Yes, I can write the books. But I’m never feel they’re ‘good enough’. Especially when I read amazing stories like those by Cat Rambo. But I just go ahead anyway. Marketing them, though… is there an Insecure Marketeers Group?
Question of the Month
Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?
I’m probably more productive in terms of words on page in the first half of the year. I’m usually busy editing and publishing after that. But December’s a good month for short story writing, usually, and for planning what I’m going to write next. And for making New Year’s Resolutions like ‘submit short stories to anthology calls’ 🙂
How about you?
14 thoughts on “#IWSG December | 9 years of self-publishing”
Hi Jemma thank you for a really interesting and informative read 💜
Nice to read about your experiences over the years. I think I’ve followed you for most of those years. You’re getting closer to your biggest seller every day 🙂
I agree with you that promotion has gotten more complicated. Thanks for sharing all the changes you’ve gone through in the nine years you’ve been self-publishing.
Jemima, I am so glad I stop by your blog today because I am in the process of publishing my first short story. It will come out on Amazon. Your post has been extremely helpful to me.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a safe passage into 2021.
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange
I’ll sign up for the Insecure Marketers group! Our stories run quite strongly parallel—I, too, published my first book 9 years ago, and chose to self-publish because it was kind of between ages and genres, and I didn’t think agents would go for that.
I didn’t know that people disapproved of Smashwords, but the one-stop publishing to all the non-Amazon platforms is too good to pass up in any case.
I, too, remember the struggles with formatting—funny, that’s become quite straight-forward for me in recent years, once I figured out Styles in Word, so that I didn’t have formatting all over the place!
Wow, you are my self-publishing hero!
I’m choosing the traditional route, but I agree that self-publishing is getting easier (and more tempting), even though I know in my heart that’s not for me.
Many changes and much to learn. I use Smashwords when I self-publish something. It is so handy and makes getting our eBooks available on all other retailers super easy. (Side note: labelling erotica as such is a smart thing to do.)
Have you ever tried Calibre for converting files? With a formatted doc you can get a mobi and epub file. And other file formats, too. That’s what I use. Calibre is free to download.
Congratulations! You have been SO productive in those nine years!
It’s evenings for me, or if I’m lucky, some stolen quiet time during the day. Your books look super interesting! I hope you are able to enjoy the holidays, and some writing time. Merry Christmas!
Congrats on 9 years of writing!
Thank you for your honest and informative post. It’s been quite a journey.
I’m impressed with your productivity, Jemima – and your commitment to learning about publishing over the years. Many thanks for sharing your experience.
That is a lot of changes in nine years. Glad you aren’t Amazon exclusive. I only get books through iTunes and would miss yours and many others.
What an interesting and productive career you’ve had so far! Very inspiring.
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