Free Agent, part two

In part one of this post, I talked about leaving my agent and why an author might – or might not – want to do so. In this part I come to a more interesting issue: what to do next. Which brings us to the question facing all unagented writers: to self publish or not to self publish?
I’ll let SFWA give the rundown on pros and cons of self publishing, which is rather heavily weighted toward the cons, as you might expect from a professional writers’ organization that requires publishing credits from a major traditional publisher to qualify for membership. There are good points to keep in mind, though, such as limited distribution and low sales. One statistic I heard is that the average self-published book in the Kindle store sells less than 100 copies; this author-blogger calculated how much the average ebook earns and came up with less than $500.

But what the hell, let’s dream big! Let’s take a chance and say my books are above average. Or maybe just average but hey, $500 is more than the $0 I made for the last seven years. Or maybe I’ll be at the low end of the average but you never know until you try, right? So I’ll throw my hat into the massive ring that is self publishing and see what happens. I’ll start with my ship books, a two-book set in a new fantasy world (unrelated to the Five Countries, that is), which I call “What happens when I read too much Patrick O’Brian.” It’s in the hands of beta readers now, I’m trying to get one of my fabulous artist friends to do covers for me, and then I’ll work my way through the rather overwhelming technical specs at KDP, CreateSpace, and Smashwords. I intend to do this as cheaply as possible (although I am paying my artist), which is one of the benefits of electronic self-publishing over the old vanity publishing model or some of the skeevier POD outfits like PublishAmerica. Whether I’ll make enough money to justify my time and effort, much less enough to contribute meaningfully to my household budget or even to pay for something professional like a blog that isn’t ad-supported, remains to be seen.

Now I have an opportunity to do my own experiment, here in the wilds outside of New York. Which is better, self publishing or publishing with one of the many new, small, online publishers? These folks offer many services that the New York publishers do – editing, cover design, and some distribution and marketing – all of which I’ll have to do on my own with the self-published books. There are still some limitations, of course, which SFWA can again summarize. It’s not the Big Six (or Five, or Four, or wherever they are now), but it’s not going to be. That’s the decision I came to.

I’ll try out the small presses with my crossover fantasy series, which I call my Cheesy Romance Novels (and I really should stop calling them that). They’re light, humorous adventure stories, which I’m writing under the pseudonym Alison Highland to distinguish them from the very not-light, usually un-humorous stuff I write under my own name. And they’re romance. I should be able to sell a romance novel. The first submission is already on its way; results to come.

Meanwhile I’ve started writing a new series, a science fiction-mystery hybrid, set in a post-apocalyptic world that’s finally starting to rebuild and stabilize. What I decide to do with this one will depend on my experiences with self publishing and the small presses. So it’s an exciting time, and while I might never have the great news I once hoped for, at least I should have some news soon.

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