Saturday, July 18, 2009

What I like about self publishing

Self publishing is not an easy road for book authors, but it has the great advantage of being an open road instead of a closed road. Self publishing is a toll road because you will have to pay to produce your own work. Whether self publishing leads an author to disappointment or satisfaction depends on the person and the works being produced.

Like most authors, I started self publishing with grandiose dreams of success. I still have those dreams but operate within modest realities. Since I began producing my writing in 2005, I have earned between $900 to $2,000 a year from sales. Although that is hardly going to finance champagne wishes or caviar dreams, it does indicate that my writing has value, and, over the long term, I will actually enjoy a return on investment. Because my novels and nonfiction are not dependent on current events, the content will not lose value. If I sustain my modest marketing efforts, I can expect to maintain my current sales, which will add up nicely over the years. Even at this lowly level, I enjoy the satisfaction of reaching readers and earning some supplemental income from my creative pursuits.

The satisfaction from being published is what most self publishers are looking for. They just want to be recognized even on a small scale. Self publishing allows blossoming writers to achieve a final product instead of a stack of paper in a closet or a computer file hunkered in the ultimate obscurity of a single hard drive. Achieving a final form is easier to accomplish for other artists. A musician can play his or her music and be heard, even if it is on a street corner or a small local stage. An artist can paint a picture and hang it on a wall for others to see. But a writer has to find a way to bundle his or her text into a form in which it can be distributed to potential readers. This form can be paper books or ebooks. Self publishing is essentially the finishing stage for writers who feel that their work is ready to be read.

Of course getting someone to actually read your self published book or ebook is the ultimate challenge. Readers have hundreds of thousands of books to choose from, and simply getting noticed is a great hurdle. Self published authors are typically out of the book distribution loop, except on very limited circumstances that rarely translate into substantial sales.

Because distribution channels are generally closed to me or only available if I give up a large percentage of the sale, I focus on selling through my websites. This is ideal for self published authors because affordable web hosting and ecommerce services are readily available, and the writer can enjoy true independence. Actually getting people to my website is a challenge, but it happens with the aids of continual promotion and advertising. I enjoy regular sales of my ebooks and books. I even enjoy providing customer service to my readers, who often appreciate the personal attention from the actual creator of the works they are reading. Through my website, I've reached people all over the world and I regularly get positive feedback from readers. None of this would have been possible if I had not pursued self publishing.

The greatest enjoyment I derive from self publishing is the fact that it gives me a public outlet for my creative endeavors. I can pursue my craft of writing and slowly gain a reputation as a writer. Because I have been writing novels for years, I originally pursued traditional routes to publishing in which I queried agents and publishers. As a fantasy writer, I had written a four-part epic, but I soon learned that this is a tremendously difficult concept to market. Although the majority of commercial fantasy is built around the series format, it does not mean that a publisher is the least bit interested in signing a four-book contract with an unknown author. No matter how cleverly I wrote a query letter, the business person reading it would have to see: "Hi, I'm nobody who has published nothing and would like you to publish four of my novels." That is never going to happen. After numerous inevitable rejections, I at least had the spiteful vindication of knowing that no one rejected me based on my novels. I was rejected based on query letters. So, who needs the rejection squad? Self publishing to the rescue.

Admittedly self publishing is an imperfect solution for authors. I have to invest in myself and suffer the consequences of obscurity and limited channels of distribution. But at least I'm out there. People do read my novels. Maybe the day will come when I have significant sales and can enjoy greater financial rewards from my writing. I would certainly enjoy that too.

I do not hesitate to recommend self publishing to writers. My advice is to be realistic, understand the significant barriers to actual success, watch your budget because self publishing investments vary wildly, and tell yourself that you have every right to put your creations in the public arena.

Tracy Falbe is the author of The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series available at where the first novel Union of Renegades is a free fantasy ebook. Download it today and see what the publishers missed out on.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Flying with my cat - Not as bad as I thought it would be

A cross country move is not easy, and pets definitely complicate an already difficult situation. When moving your pets a long distance, you have two options: drive with the cat or fly. I chose flying because I decided that one day of stress on an airplane for my cat was better than four or five days of stress in a car.

I flew with Northwest Airlines that allows small pets to fly in cabin with the passengers. This appealed to me, especially because I had to make a connection and my cat was not luggage I wanted to get lost. I used an airline approved pet carrier from Pet Sherpa that cost about $60. It looks like a black duffle bag except that most of the sides are mesh to allow for air flow to the pet. The bag was very discreet, and most people did not realize that I had an animal in it. On one flight, the flight attendant actually offered to stow the bag until I informed her that my cat was in it.

The airline charged me $150 to take my cat on the flights. This was about 10 times the amount I paid for the suitcase I checked, but the airline obviously knows that a pet owner is a good target to hit up for money.

One of my greatest concerns about flying with my cat was that his yowling would annoy the other passengers. My cat is notorious for complaining about being in his pet carrier, and he will meow relentlessly until released. Luckily, when I went through airport security, my cat got so scared, he shut up for the rest of the trip. It was required that I remove my cat from his carrier so that his bag could be x-rayed. No one had warned me about needing to remove my pet from the carrier during security check, so I was quite alarmed, but not nearly as freaked out as my cat. I held on to him very tightly because if he got away, I don't know what would have happened, but I envisioned headlines like: Cat shuts down airport.

Airport security frightened my cat so badly that he was relieved to go back into his carrier where he chose to stay silent lest I take him out again and expose him to more weird situations. During the flights, I actually enjoyed having my cat with me. I could slip my hand in his carrier and pet him whenever I wanted. Being able to fly with him in cabin was a great relief to me, and I'm glad I had the option instead of being forced to send him in crate in the cargo hold. I was happy with the experience of flying with my cat. I would even do it again if I had to, but I don't tell my cat.