Self-Publishing

Michelle D. Argyle shares her knowledge about self publishing, indie publishing, traditionally publishing, and marketing.

Figuring It Out

Sometimes I think it’s easy to convince ourselves what others want is what we want too. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to see that what we truly, deeply want is something we’ve been fighting all along. For years, I’ve convinced myself publishing my own work was a secondary choice — something I was only doing because my publisher closed their doors and I had no other choice. It was so much easier to believe that “truth”, especially in a writing community where Indie-publishing isn’t exactly put up on a pedestal.

For so long, I’ve prefaced all my publishing conversations with, “Oh, I was traditionally published, but my publisher left the business. Not my fault.” That helped me keep my chin high. I was respectable if others understood that my work was previously validated by the traditional publishing industry. I was a Real Author at that point.

But here’s the problem: I ache for respect — from my family, from friends, from complete strangers. It’s a natural thing to crave, I suppose. But I’ve let that desire overtake so many things in my life. I’ve let it fester so deeply that I’ve mistaken it for what I thought would make me happy. But it’s not what will make me happy. Respect from others cannot replace the gaping hole I’ve dug for myself — a hole filled with shame and disrespect … for myself.

2016 was an eye-opening year for me. I went through some tough changes that have nothing to do with writing and publishing. But those things have helped me see one very important thing: nobody can escape themselves forever.

I can’t count on my fingers how many friends have told me my eyes light up every time I talk about publishing my own work, and how depressed and miserable I look when I talk about querying for an agent and finally getting a publishing deal like everyone else around me. I’ve constantly battled between the two worlds. Which one do I embrace? For a long time I thought I could embrace both. I would continue to query for agents, and if those books failed, I would publish them myself.

But the truth is that I’ve only wanted to do that so people would respect me for trying to jump into the traditionally published world — a world I’ve convinced myself will make me deliriously happy if I’m ever lucky enough to be admitted. The other truth is that I’ve completely ignored the fact that most people don’t respect you for your accomplishments and supposed success. They respect you for standing by what you believe in, for being YOU instead of trying to be something you’re not. True success is nothing but a side effect of that.

So, yes, it has been far too easy to convince myself what others want is what I want too, and it took some very difficult changes for me to realize that what I want right now is something I already have. I was just too stubborn to see it until now. And what I want might change in the future, but that’s okay. For now, I’ve got to embrace what I have. Here’s to hoping you can embrace what you have too, no matter what it is.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, 6 comments

The Absolute Truth About Self Publishing

Selling four books a day every month might be a dream come true for one author and totally suck rocks for another. Some hire professional editors and some don’t and still manage to produce beautiful, quality books. Some make it to the NYT Bestsellers list and a lot don’t. Some are lucky enough to make a living off their books, while many work other jobs on top of the writing. Some get business licenses, hire website designers, and attend every writer’s conference known to man, and some don’t. Some design their own covers and some don’t. Some use POD printers, while some use printing presses. Some hit it big off their first book and some sell steadily and never hit it big. Some say pouring money into it will get you more money, while some will swear to you that marketing does nothing. Some only self publish and have no interest in the traditional route, while some do both. And the absolute truth about it all? There is no absolute anything when it comes to self publishing. It’s just like any other business (and any other form of publishing, for that matter). It’s hard, it’s easy, it’s rewarding, it’s disappointing. Whatever it ends up being for someone, it should never, ever be compared, belittled, or shamed. Because it’s different for every single author. There is no best way to do it. No guaranteed way to do it. And that’s kind of the beauty of it all. After all, some say self publishing is for those who give up. I think it’s pretty obvious it’s for those who don’t.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing
How To Work With A Cover Designer

How To Work With A Cover Designer

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Today I’m excited to welcome my good friend Natalie Whipple here to the blog to talk about working with a cover designer for her upcoming novel, Relax, I’m a Ninja. Since Natalie has worked with traditional publishers in the past — and this new novel is one she will be independently publishing — this was her first experience working on a cover for one of her novels one-on-one with a designer.

Natalie Whipple, sadly, does not have any cool mutations or magical powers like her characters. Unless you count the ability to watch anime and Korean dramas for hours on end. Or her uncanny knack for sushi consumption. 

She grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU, with a minor in editing. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook Thai curry, pho, and bulgogi.

She is the author of TRANSPARENT, BLINDSIDED (January 2, 2014) and HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW (coming April 15, 2014). In addition to that, she is on the writing team for the cRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera that should be out sometime in 2015.

I’m so proud to show off Michelle’s amazing design for the cover of RELAX, I’M A NINJA (designed under the name Melissa Williams Cover Design). She really captured what I was hoping to in a cover for this book—it’s bold yet simple, cool with a hint of intrigue. So with the revealing of this cover, I thought advice about working with a cover designer would be the perfect fit for a guest post on Michelle’s blog today.

1. Learn About Your Market—Accept Your Market

Your book may be a little different than a certain genre or market, but you still need to learn about the market closest to your novel and what it responds to. If you are writing romance, look at the covers, find the similarities. These are not bad things! This is what an audience takes as a cue. They see a certain type of cover and think, “Oh, this is a insert-this-genre-here book.”

You might think that sucks, but that’s how it is. Books DO suffer when they are packaged wrong, and traditional publishers even redo covers that don’t get a good response. So know your market, embrace it, seek a cover that belongs in that market.

2. Decide What Your Cover Needs To DO, Not What You Want It To Look Like

Covers are marketing tools, first and foremost. When working with a designer, it’s more important to convey what you need your cover to DO versus what you want it to look like. Does it need to appeal to boys? Does it need to hit the YA market but stand out from the other YA Paranormals? Does it need to be gender neutral? These are things your designer wants to know and accomplish for you.

Looks come second, and they need to comply with the doing part. If it gets in the way of what your cover needs to do, then you have to edit just like a novel.

3. Collaborate With Your Designer, Don’t Be A Boss

Designers know stuff. They do what they do because they took classes and have experience. Hopefully they have experience in cover design specifically. It is wise to approach cover design, therefore, as a team effort. Not a “You will create what I exactly picture in my head or I will not be happy and it must be this way or it’s wrong.”

Creative collaboration can create some of the most amazing work out there, while stifling a designer can create … less than amazing. Of course you need to be happy with your cover, but it’s a give and take.

4. Let Your Designer Design

I’ve heard a lot of designers say they do their best work when they are given a lot of leeway to just do their job. Remember that designers are creative sorts as well, and just like writers it can be hard to be inspired with someone breathing down your neck. When they are doing their job, it’s important to be respectful of their ability and needs. Just your basic “be professional.”

5. Learn About Design So You Can Give Informed Opinions

If you really want to collaborate with a designer, you might need to learn the lingo a little. Not that you have to get super educated and take classes and get a degree, but if you offer criticism it would be ideal to verbalize it in a way a designer can understand clearly. A lot of times they have to translate what a writer is saying into design terms, and sometimes that’s hard and they miss the mark.

But if you can say there needs to be more leading or perhaps the kerning on that word should be decreased. If you can talk about san serif fonts versus scripts, if you can identify the photo needs more contrast or deeper saturation … that helps.

And those are my tips for working with a cover designer. It can be such a pleasure, and I hope if you’re thinking of self-pubbing a novel that you find a designer who’s right for you. Magic happens then.

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A Clan of ninjas in San Francisco may sound improbable—but as the son of a ninja master, Tosh Ito knows what lurks in the shadows of his city. Or at least he thought he did. When a killer with a poisoned blade starts cutting down teens, Tosh enlists Amy Sato—newest ninja recruit and his best friend’s crush—and sets out to uncover the killer’s identity. What they find is ninjutsu more evil than they could have ever imagined.

As Amy and Tosh grow closer, they discover their connection unleashes a legendary power that could stop the murders. Problem is, that power may be exactly what the killer is looking for, and wielding it could cost them both their souls.

Relax, I’m a Ninja is slated to release June 3, 2014. Find out more about Relax, I’m a Ninja and Natalie Whipple on her blog at betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com. You can also find her on Twitter @nataliewhipple.

Add Relax, I’m a Ninja to your Goodreads shelf.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Guest Posts, Self-Publishing

When Loved Ones Don’t Support — Or At Least Understand — Your Writing Career

“When are you going to get a real job?”

That is probably the harshest criticism any artist can ever get from anyone, especially people close to them — whether it comes with full understanding from the person asking, or it’s simply an honest, clueless question. I’ve seen it happen to several successful artists, writers, actors, and musicians in my life. I’ve felt it in my own life from strangers and loved ones alike. I’ve written before about friends and family not reading your work or when people love you and not your writing, but today I’m talking about something a little different — something that I’ve seen literally make some artists quit right in their tracks and do something else that they think will make others happier. In some ways, it’s the artist’s fault if they let others’ opinions pressure them to quit. After all, we are in charge of our own happiness and destinies, right?

I’ll be brutally honest and say right now that I’ve felt negative pressure for a long time now from the world in general, and not just because of my writing. I happened to marry an actor who has chosen to pursue a career in acting and combat choreography. He’s still in school and it’s taking a long time to get through. He has a day job that pays our bills, but he’s also actively pursuing his dream, and he’s not letting anything get in his way. In this way, my husband has been one of the most shining examples of happiness and sources of inspiration for me and my own choice to chase after a dream that many people simply don’t seem to understand. Why would we both choose to pursue artistic careers and limit our own comfort and happiness? That seems to be the question — phrased in so many unspoken ways — that we get asked on a consistent basis, whether people mean it negatively or not.

Why would we choose to limit our own comfort and happiness? Well, the simple answer is that we aren’t. When I married my husband and he decided, after some very trying experiences for both of us, to follow his dreams and do what he loves, I told him that I’d rather be poor and rent for the rest of our lives than see him follow any other career path that will make him regret leaving behind what he knows he was meant to do. Several years later, I decided to chase after my own artistic dream, and well, here we are. We’re both close to our mid-thirties and in a lot of debt. We don’t own a home. Sometimes we can’t buy groceries or shampoo or toilet paper, and sometimes I wonder how we’re going to make it every month, but we always seem to push through and move on. The most important thing is that we are happy with what we’re doing — and we haven’t given up.

I do have to admit that one of the hardest blows for me just happened recently when my publisher closed their doors and I was left with what felt like absolutely nothing. I had to start all over again, it felt like. Finally, though, I realized that I have more than I thought I did, and I’m now picking up the pieces around me and moving forward just as I was before. I may not sell as much as I did with a publisher, and I know for a fact that I’ll get even more of what feels like disapproval for my chosen career path, but the truth is, I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I’m a mother, which I happen to feel is the number one most important job in my life right now. Yes, more important than writing, obviously. My daughter is one of my top priorities, but guess what? We went to a parent teacher conference the other day, and her teacher said, “So your daughter tells me you’re a writer. I think that is fantastic.” A really great conversation about writing and teaching and my daughter’s own pursuits ensued. My heart melted. My daughter knows I am doing what I love to do. She sees that I am happy, and that makes her happy, and I hope one day she will have the courage to follow her own dreams no matter how difficult and impossible they may seem — because her parents did just that.

Many, many people in my life do support, appreciate, respect, and at least try to understand what both my husband and I are doing with our lives. For that, I am truly grateful. I figure that if someone doesn’t approve of what we’re doing, that is not our problem and we shouldn’t waste any time letting it affect us. So, I suppose next time I get the “when are you going to get a real job?” vibe from someone, I can make it quite clear that we’re perfectly happy where we are, and I hope they are too. If anything, I’ve learned to appreciate more people who are chasing after their dreams like we are. None of it is easy, and most of it takes a massive amount of patience to see any satisfying financial results. For some reason, the world seems to measure success with the amount of money you’re making, which I find very sad. It would be nice, yes, if my husband could quit his day job because he found financial success with his acting and stage combat/choreography. He does make money at it so far, and I make money at my writing, as well, but we don’t make enough to completely support us. Yet. One day, though, I believe we will — as long as we don’t give up.

“When are you going to get a real job?”

“When you stop reading books, watching movies and television, looking at art, going to plays, and listening to music.”

End of conversation.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Think Positive

As I Ignore the World … and Try Not to Die

I have kind of fallen off the face of the planet lately, and it’s because I’ve been re-publishing books (i.e., pulling my hair out as I figure out formatting, fix glitches, redesign covers, worry and stew about everything I put out there on my own sitting dead in the water now, and generally going crazy). This … this is all why I never wanted to publish things on my own before. I have done it twice before in the past, and swore off it for good. As history has proven, I rarely actually swear off anything for good. I either revisit it for good measure, or just forget I swore off it all together. So, as circumstances have put it, here I am, standing back on good old square one. I do have back list now. That’s a good thing, if anything ever takes off, I suppose.

If you can’t tell already, I’m a little jaded at the moment, a little frustrated, and quite, quite busy getting everything up on its feet. Again. Some authors who were with my publisher only have one book to worry about republishing. I have four, plus a short story collection to redo so it can match the formatting and feel of everything else, and my short story, Catch, which I stupidly decided to publish right when all this other stuff was happening. Not. Smart. At. All. I’ve piled an elephant on my plate (well, a big portion of it was just thrown there by outside forces), and I’ve been in tears more than once. That’s all I’ll say, I guess. So that’s why I haven’t read people’s books I’m supposed to read, haven’t gone shopping for food to feed my family, had literally fifteen loads of laundry to do until a few days ago when I finally tackled it, and waited until the last second to plan my daughter’s birthday party. It’s also why I will continue to not comment on blogs (although I’m skimming them to keep up with everyone), not post much of anything on Facebook outside of my monarch butterfly’s progress as it prepares to hatch from its chrysalis soon, and not do much of anything on Twitter (that’s nothing new).

So … this hasn’t killed me yet, but if it does, I’ll put up a post about it. Er … someone else will, I hope. Wish me luck. I need it.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Updates, News, and Events

What I Used to Care About

If you had asked me four years ago what was important to me in my publishing career, my list would have been very different from what it is now. Seeing my books in a bookstore was deeply important to me. Almost nothing else mattered, in all honesty. If my book was on a bookstore shelf, that meant I was important, respected, and seen. It meant I had “made it”, even though I’m not sure I knew what “made it” even meant. Back then, I had a very different vision of where I wanted my career to go and how it would change my life. It might be silly of me to talk about this now, only a few years later, but I’ve been through a lot in those few years. It wasn’t until my publisher closed their doors a few weeks ago that I fell flat on my butt and could see where I had been and … for the very first time … where I wanted to go. This clarity is a big deal. In fact, I can safely say it’s the biggest deal that has happened in my writing career so far, mainly because I believe it will positively influence everything from here on out.

The truth is, for a little while, I allowed myself to quit. I really was going to walk away from everything. I didn’t tell anybody this, but giving myself permission to make that choice opened up everything to me. When I got back up from that, I realized I’d either have to republish my books or shelve them once my rights were handed over, I knew there were some big decisions to make. So I made them. What has happened after that has been completely unexpected. I feel … happy. And not just a relieved sort of happy because I’ve made a decision, but really happy. Almost giddy. At first I wasn’t sure why. I thought it was because I would now have complete control over everything concerning my books. I also thought it might be because I had so many people supporting my decision, but even though all of that is wonderful, it’s not any of those things. It’s because out of nowhere, I suddenly don’t care about things that have plagued me for years. They are gone because it’s now clear what I want.

I used to stress about validation around every corner. I worried about my books getting into bookstores and libraries. I worried endlessly about whether or not I would be able to book a signing at a real bookstore. I used to fret about what all my friends thought about my publisher and whether or not I was respected and judged to be a good writer and person because of it. I used to die a little inside every time someone talked about their agent or announced a book deal and posted their Publishers Weekly announcement. I used to worry about what people would think of me if I told them I published my own books.

Now?

I care about telling stories, writing better every time I sit my butt down in my chair, producing quality books, and interacting with my fan base. That’s it. Everything else is just the little fringes on the outside of what really matters. Those other things can be important, sure, but there is no right way to publish, only what is right for you at the moment. I don’t care if I decide to publish my stories differently somewhere down the road. I just don’t care! The only thing that matters is that I’m happy with my writing. Everything else stems from that. I don’t know if I can explain how I feel now, but the best way I can explain it is that I’ve kicked down a wall and I can see the sky for the first time. I know there will always be storms down the road, but for now it’s a beautiful day.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Think Positive

My Big, Not-So-Happy News About Losing My Publisher

Rhemalda Publishing, due to several factors outside their control, are closing their doors. This not only breaks my heart for them and their broken dream, but for every single author they have published. We are all left stunned and in shock. We are sad, confused, and as a friend of mine said, gobsmacked. What an appropriate word for this, truly. I do not place blame on Rhemalda or their circumstances, and I hope nobody else does either. It is what it is, and the truth of the matter is that the state of the publishing industry as it stands does not treat new small publishers nicely. It’s a rough world out there for everyone.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MY PUBLISHED BOOKS?

Many fans of mine may be asking what will happen to my published books. Well, since I only found out about this Big Huge Gobsmacking Change a few days ago, I can’t give you fine detailed descriptions of what will be happening, but I can give you an idea. My published books will be staying up for sale for the rest of the year, but after that there will be a transition period where they will be handed over to me to decide what to do with. That’s a frightening proposition because I could easily shelve them and move on to other, better things. But that option makes me sadder than Eeyore when he’s depressed. Oh, wait, he’s always depressed. I’ve been in a depressive mood lately, sorry. Anyway, shelving those books is not an option, I’ve decided. So I will be republishing them on my own, probably with some updated covers, so that will be awesome and exciting, I hope! Be forewarned, however, that I may or may not be republishing them with print options available right away. I am still looking into what it will entail.

WHAT AM I PLANNING TO DO FOR FUTURE BOOKS?

Ah, what a question, huh? I’m happy to say that at the moment, I have decided to take this publishing adventure by the horns and handle it myself. What that means for any of my fans is nothing but positive, exciting stuff. I will be able to get my stories out there faster to you, but don’t worry about the quality going down or anything silly like that. I will be working with my professional editor, whom I love dearly already because I have worked with her via Rhemalda for the past few years, and I plan to treat every other step of the publishing process just as professionally.

Why am I not going to get an agent and go the big publisher route? Why not another small publisher?

There are many reasons, but to keep it simple, I’ll just say that I am making a decision that is right for me as an author at this time in my career. I hope you can be as happy and excited as I am!

Am I going to offer my future books in print?

Yes, I do plan to offer print on all of my published material over a certain length. I will probably publish digitally first and then offer print just a short time after (a few days, weeks, or month, I just don’t know yet). It all depends on cash flow and where things are at in my business. Print sales are often a very small percentage for most independently published authors.

Where will my books be distributed?

My titles will be distributed to as many places as I can get them (Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, etc.)  Once they are offered in print, you will be able to order them from most bookstores.

Will I have a publisher name and logo?

Why, yes, I will! I actually took care of setting up a business last year, so I’m happy to say it’s already done. I will be publishing under the publisher title MDA Books. Yes, I know it’s not discreet, but I don’t care. The point of this isn’t to hide the fact that I’m publishing my own work.

Will I be bad-mouthing traditional publishing now?

One answer. HECK NO. I have always firmly stated and believe that publishing is a different path for everyone. What makes it all go around is the diversity out there. Authors should choose what is right for them. Period. I have many, many author friends and all of them are published differently. That is to be celebrated, not condemned.

WHAT IS COMING OUT NEXT?

Oh, this is the best question, isn’t it? I’m excited to announce that while it is often difficult for independently published authors to announce firm release dates for many reasons, I do plan on publishing some titles very soon (like, something coming out at the end of this month kind of soon). If you want to keep up-to-date on those titles, I recommend signing up for my newsletter, since I may or may not be making announcements here on the blog outside of the release day hoopla.

WHAT WOULD I LIKE TO SAY TO MY PUBLISHER?

Dear Rhemalda, I want to thank you for the support and generous dedication you have given me as an author. Without you taking a chance on me, I would not be where I am today, or even the same person I am today. You have changed my life, and I will never, ever forget that. As a publisher, you were hard working, sacrificing, and fiercely dedicated. As friends, you are amazingly loyal, warmhearted, and passionate about everything. My life is better because I know you, and I want you to know that I don’t regret one second of the time I’ve spent with you as an author and a friend. I wish you the best of luck with your future plans.

WHAT WOULD I LIKE TO SAY TO MY FANS?

To anyone who takes the time to read my work, thank you. To everyone who will continue to support me no matter how I’m published, thank you. Without you, writing would not be nearly as passionate and exciting as it is for me. That is incredibly priceless. I do hope you keep reading. I will definitely keep writing!

So, folks, that’s that! When life hands you lemons, you don’t just stand there and cry. Well, maybe you stand there and cry for a little while, but then you have to do something with them. As for me, I’ve decided to be happy for what’s ahead of me. I’ve decided to make lemonade, or lemon bars, or pie, or something with lemons and sugar. I have already set some exciting plans in motion, so keep your eye out for what’s ahead!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing, Updates, News, and Events

Why Not to Self-Publish Your First-Ever Book So Fast

So you can take this with a grain of salt, but I’ve had four writers ask me about self-publishing in the last week. All four of these writers have recently completed or are completing their very first novel. All four of them have self-publishing floating around as an option or they have decided to go with it for sure. Some of these writers seemed fed up with the state of legacy (traditional) publishers these days. Some of these writers specifically asked for my honest opinion.

My honest opinion is that everybody is different, but if you’re considering self-publishing your first and only book so far, it might be a bad idea. Unless you’re 83 or dying of cancer and you seriously don’t have much time to write more books or try to publish another way, self-publishing your first book just seems crazy to me. Here’s some of the things you should consider.

The Long Haul

You’re in this for the long haul, right? You’re going to write more books, right? Then write some of them first before jumping into an irreversible state. Sure, you can fix typos and other problems fairly easily (although sometimes it can cost you…), but once people have read your work, you’ve established yourself. That book is up on Amazon forever as soon as there is one sale. Even if you unpublish it, the cover is at least still there to view (if you publish in print, not just eBook), as well as your name and all the book reviews. Goodreads won’t let you delete your book if there’s more than a certain number of reviews. Forever. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but my first book sucked. Yours is probably five billion times better than my first one, but I’ll tell you one thing – those valuable lessons I learned about writing and publishing in between the time I wrote my second and fourth – unbelievable. Sure glad I didn’t jump in too soon. I self-published my fourth book, by the way. It was only at that point I truly felt ready in all respects.

Planning Strategically

When you do finally publish, stuff happens fast. All of a sudden you have even less time to write and work on more books than you did before. All of a sudden everything changes. Completely. Your emotional state is different. Your time changes. Your priorities change. Even in traditional publishing, it’s a good idea to have more than one book lined up ready to go. If you can crank out perfect books in 2 – 3 months, I’m seriously impressed. If you’re like me and it takes months and months to write a complete novel (not including edits and most revisions), then you should probably have some more books ready. This is, of course, assuming that you want your career moving at a steady pace. Most successful authors are successful because they keep publishing one book after another. That’s what can “make” you as an author. Some authors seem to be lucky to make it big off their debut and people somehow remember them even if they take 5 years to write the next book, but those authors do seem few and far between, and there’s usually a lot of marketing and money behind all of that.

I think it’s important to have a nice plan in place before you publish. It’s so very, very exciting to put your book out there, but have you planned what comes after that? Publishing is a career, or at least most writers see it that way. If you have a plan, is publishing other books in that plan? If so, do you have plans for them? Are they at least drafted? Have you made plans for taxes, long-term marketing and publishing budget, setting up a legal business, your website? Readers love to know when your next book is coming out, and wouldn’t it be nice to put that in the back of the first book you put out so you can try and guarantee an established audience who’s going to buy all of your work because they know they can expect more to come out soon?

Honestly, I didn’t think a lot about this stuff when I self-published Cinders. I sure wish I had. But I’m glad I at least knew Cinders was the right book to publish at the time, and I don’t regret it for one second. It just would have been nice if I’d had more of a plan for other books to come after that one. I’m also very lucky and glad that I had other books written by the time I published Monarch. Now I have three books coming out in three years and that’s comforting. But guess what? I’m still stressing out about that fourth book – the one I haven’t written yet, nor have any idea what it will be about. But it’s nice to know I have time to write it now while other books are coming out.

Time

I think the biggest mistake writers make is thinking that they’re running out of time. They get really antsy. They watch their birthdays slide by one after the other and they’re still not published. The truth is that, yes, publishing can take a very, very long time. Especially traditional publishing. It’s kind of insane how long it can take, so it’s depressing, absolutely. But I also think that it isn’t a bad thing to publish later than sooner. In the end, a few years probably won’t make that much of a difference in your career. It’s still going to take you as long to write books, right? So get some ready first and then publish them in a way that gets them in front of your readers at a good pace. If you’re traditionally publishing, it’s a great idea to write books while you’re querying or on submission and waiting.

And, of course, this is all just my opinion and you can wave your hand at me and say, “Bah!” Some of my good author friends did self-publish their first and only book, and they’re doing just fine as far as I know. I also know this post falls into the “advice people just choose not to take” category, which is fine, too. Still, I like to put this out there because it’s nice to share what I’ve learned, at least. But if you ask me if you should self-publish your first-ever novel, these are the things I’m going to tell you. I’m also going to direct you to these posts:

My Little Revision Secret (if you’re dying to see your first little baby in print, this might be a good solution instead of self-publishing)

Then If That Fails, I’ll Self Publish (a post with my thoughts on self-publishing for the wrong reasons)

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing

The Whole “Self-Publishing Surge” Is Not New

When I stopped writing after college, there was a five year break where I didn’t write anything except one poem. That really depressed me. I was afraid my Muse had packed her bags for good and that I would never write again. Five years is a long time not to write. That’s a pretty freaking long break. I was going a bit insane –  not because I was trying to write and couldn’t (I was newly married with a full-time job), but because I didn’t have an outlet for my creative energy. My job was far from demanding creative energy. So what did I do? I bought a camera and started taking pictures.

Ah, photography.

My pictures sucked at first. They were awful, but my brother who was taking photography classes in college at the time helped me out. He taught me the basics and I started delving into the fantastic world of light. It was amazing and I fell in love. I learned photography using film. I believe in starting with the very basics and moving up, and after a few years my photography blossomed. My favorite became portraits, and I was excited to open my own business and start making money!

Then everything came to a screeeeeching halt.

Turns out I wasn’t the only young working female in my state who thought, “Oh, when I’m staying at home with my young children I’ll open up a photography business and that way I can make money from home and do something I love.”

Turns out everybody had the same idea because, well, all of a sudden good photography was becoming cheaper with the rise in affordable digital cameras. Quite frankly, it pissed me off to no end. My career idea seemed like it had been shattered. Everybody around me wanted to be a photographer all of a sudden. Everybody had the same idea as me, and it was unfair and terrible because the better I got the more I could see that I simply couldn’t compete with the hundreds of other photographers around me. I didn’t feel their quality was as good as mine, but their prices…well, their prices were way lower than mine and when it comes to where I live, people are cheap so they usually choose the cheaper price over the higher quality. Where did that leave me? Frustrated and angry because their was no way I was going to lower my prices for the amount of work I put into my work. NO WAY.

So where did this lead me? I’m happy to say that it led me back to writing. After five years my brain was getting back to the point where writing seemed more doable. One cold day in February I’d had it. I was tired of doing the same thing over and over and over and over at home with my 8-month old. I was just done. My husband came home and I said, “Honey, I’m going to write again.” He had no idea what I meant by that…

Needless to say, I dived in headfirst and it took a full two years before I was back up to par where I’d been in college, and then even longer to get my fiction to a point where I truly thought it was publishable. Now, years later, I’m looking at my photography experience in the same exact light as the self-publishing surge in the writing world. With the rise in e-books and digital publishing, getting a book out there for sale is more doable than ever. It’s almost exactly like the problem professional studios have come across with amateur photographers and their super-low prices. Suddenly business is spread out more and consumers are going elsewhere to get their products – even at “lesser quality” – and oh, yes, we can argue up and down which is better quality in both worlds.

It has been a bit frustrating to me to have worked in two fields where it feels like there’s a bit of “undercutting” going on. However, I’ve been a part of that undercutting in both instances. In photography I was an amateur charging less than big studios, but producing quality product, and now in publishing I’ve self-published my own novella, Cinders, and been part of that whole “self-publishing thing.” Now I’m in with a legacy (traditional) publisher, however, and I’m seeing both sides of the fence. Needless to say, it’s interesting. Also, I have some very good friends who don’t have big photography studios, but they produce quality work at affordable prices.

I think there’s a place for everyone, honestly, and I think it’s a wonderful thing that people who couldn’t get into things before because of cost can now have a chance. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for those opportunities.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that the surge in “doing-it-yourself” ideology is not new. I have found my own niche back into photography by doing things on the side. I am frequently hired to work on book covers or designs for clients, and I still work at improving my photography whenever I can even though it is not my main focus. I think that all of us can find our own places (even large traditional publishers) if we employ our creativity wisely. We don’t all have to be scrambling for the exact same thing.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing

My Little Revision Secret

I guess this won’t be a secret any longer!

I’ll admit that drafting a novel is not my favorite part of writing. My favorite part? Revising! I truly love it more because drafting always feels like squeezing blood from a stone for some reason. I love working with clay more than I love making the clay, I guess. That’s how I view it.

Currently I am working on my novella, Scales. It’s hard for me because it’s in the drafting stage. New world, new characters, new plot twists, new everything. And dragons! That’s the best part, of course. I love this book. It’s fun, but draining on so many levels, and I haven’t even reached the dragon part yet. Sigh.

When I get too exhausted to draft, I turn back to revising/editing/tweaking my novel, The Breakaway, which is due to my publisher in September. So, you may ask, what is this little revision secret of yours? I’ll tell you! I used to print out my drafts on paper. It was such a pain. Now, when I reach this very, very last point in my revision stage before turning a book in to my editor, I print it out using Lulu – a self-publishing site. It’s pretty simple to format the book and design a cover (although you don’t have to do anything fancy for the cover if you don’t want to). This way, I have an actual printed book. It’s incredible what I catch reading my work this way. It’s even better than on my Kindle. I can write directly in the book, too. Notes and scribbles and arrows and all sorts of junk. Can’t do that on my Kindle. I still have my copy of Monarch that I did this with before publishing it.

You might be saying, well, I don’t want to self-publish my book! But Lulu lets you keep everything private, so you can order one copy of the book and be done. Sometimes I send these copies to trusted critique partners. Lulu is more expensive than any other self-publishing site I’ve seen, but they are so easy to use, and it’s quick and easy to order a manuscript for editing. Plus I can keep the margins nice and big for lots of writing.

There’s something about holding my book in this form that helps my brain get into the – “this is going to be published soon, so you’d better make all the necessary changes NOW” mode. I think this is a good mode for any writer to get into if they’re about to send their book out for querying, submissions, anything of that sort.

To give you an idea of price, The Breakaway cost me $8.70 to print, plus shipping (usually $3 something). Monarch cost me $10.58 to print, but it was way longer than The Breakaway in draft form.

Anyway, that’s my little secret. It has been fun to keep these marked-up copies on my shelf, and it sure makes editing a lot easier for me. I only do this in the last stages, though. I couldn’t afford to do this for every draft. I use my Kindle and my laptop for those.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing, Writing Process