Monday, February 7, 2011

The State of Independence

It's been three years since I embarked on the journey of self publishing which I now choose to call, 'independent publishing.' It's been an interesting trip full of triumphs and surprises and overall I'm pleased to be where I am at this point. Like every endeavor there are lessons to be learn and I learned quite a few. I'd like to share a few of my experiences in hopes that they might help a new writer contemplating the path of self publishing.

1). The Self publishing Pariah
This first one isn't as prevalent as it was when I first entered the self publishing field. I must have come in just before the tipping point. Like any new writer I took to the internet announcing myself and my intentions. I was not expecting the backlash I received when I state that I was self publishing. Some folks shook their heads in despair while others attacked me, accusing me of being lazy, skirting the system and being to weak to withstand the live giving forge of the slush pile. The only people who came to my defense were other self publishers who I immediately sided with to defend our choice and launch attacks against their delusions of celebrity through the 'plantation' mainstream publishing system. After a while I mellowed out. This was my choice and I wasn't going to change my mind. I began to respond by saying just that. The arguments ceased and I moved on.

2). Selling books is hard work
I knew it was going to be hard to sell books but I didn't realize how hard. Once I burned through family, close friends, family close friends and distant cousins I was faced to sell to complete strangers. I wasn't a newby to sales for I had done it when I had my own business as well as a stint with my current employer. But selling fiction is different that selling merchandise. In merchandise you will eventually come across someone that needs what you sell. Buying a book is a totally emotional decision. A person doesn't need to read my book. It became really frustrating after I received good reviews and my book still moved slow. Why wasn't I selling more books if my book was so great? The truth is there are a lot books out there, a whole lot. So you have to keep on plugging and find your audience. I now understand why it's so hard to make a living writing.

3). Getting in a book store is tough
This is something I still haven't accomplished. I thought I'd just stroll into my local Barnes and Noble, hand the manager my excellent work of prose and have a book signing the next day. I rapidly discovered that the road to the bookshelf is a long winding and difficult path, one that I choose not to deal with for the moment. It will come, but not yet.

4). Independent publishing is the answer for us
This last one is my opinion but it's based on business in general. You can't change anything by working for someone. When a person pays you they expect you to do what you're told. It's their money. For African American writers I feel the only way we'll see rapid change in the publishing industry is to publish for ourselves. The only way people we see our stories told our way is for us to publish it. This is the real reason why I'm an and will always be independent publisher.

It's been tough but it's been fair. I'm starting the year off with a new book and another waiting in the wings. I'm looking forward to the coming year and the years ahead. The state of independence is good and growing. The future is indeed bright.
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