I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, May 7, 2012

May Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing Series (Week 1: Michael Offutt Guest Post)

As promised, welcome to my May series on Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing. I have an exciting schedule of Monday posts planned, and I hope you'll find heaps of information and knowledge within these posts to help you on your writing journey or give you information about the journey other writers are undertaking. I'll have guest posts from:
  1. Michael Offutt (today - as part of his SLIPSTREAM book tour), 
  2. Rachel Morgan from Rachel Morgan Writes (May 14), 
  3. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse (May 21), and 
  4. Adina West from Stairways and Landings (May 28). 
They're all either already published or have books that are coming out soon via self-publishing or digital publishing, and they're going to share some of their publishing journeys with you, give you interesting information about self/digital publishing, and even give you the chance to win some cool loot!

And each of the four weeks, I'll be popping in some interesting agent tips/posts and "link love" on self- or digital publishing as well! In the interests of offering balanced information, I'll be including both pros and cons - I think it's very important for people to decide for themselves which form of publishing best suits their needs, and to do that, you need all the information, right.

Some agent thoughts on self-publishing

Former agent Nathan Bransford wrote this post on Should You Self-Publish: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself (it's a little old now, but the things to consider before self-publishing are still spot on!).

And this one, from 2012: Is There A Self-Publishing Bubble?

Here is part of agent Marisa Corvisiero's response to the question: With the trend of authors self-publishing, do you see this as a negative for the author who may later decide to try traditional publishing?
Being self published no longer means that the book is just not good enough or that the author is difficult to work with. It may just mean that the author is willing to spend time and money to sell their book and that they are eager to create a following. So the old perceptions are shifting into a more neutral and acceptable plane. I have recently sent out questions to some contacts at NYC top ten traditional houses and all ten told me that if they love the work and the book has been doing well, they will try to acquire it. The magic number for “doing well” is about 5K book sales! That is not an impossible number to achieve today with all of the social marketing and e-book opportunities that cost almost nothing!
Some link love:

And here's some link love on self/digital publishing:
I hope you find all these links useful. More next week. Now, over to Michael :)

Guest Post by Michael Offutt, author of SLIPSTREAM

My publisher is Double Dragon Publishing. They are based out of Canada. Double Dragon Publishing describes itself as a midsize or medium-sized publisher. They primarily concentrate on e-books. However, they also do print, as in print on demand. This means that they do things through Lulu or lightning source and people can order a paperback book by clicking on the right button online. My book will never be physically featured in bookstores like Barnes & Noble, but I'm definitely okay with that. Really the only way you seem to be able to get into bookstores here in the States is to be traditionally published through one of the Big Six and that requires an agent and a whole lot of other things. My book honestly was never going to find representation. It has gay characters, is written in third person omniscient, has a boy as a protagonist, and comes in at 120,000 words. I gave up after 40 or so rejection letters. About that time I discovered several small publishers that didn't require an agent for representation. And mostly I was looking for someone that would format the book for me, help with some editing, and do the cover art. Double Dragon Publishing did all of that.

I published SLIPSTREAM without having a single beta-reader. I tried to find one and was unsuccessful. I asked my friend Robyn to read it. I even paid her $400.00 to get advice. I got nothing. I asked my friend Kathy to read it. She never got back to me. I emailed a copy to my friend Melissa. I never heard anything. My own family doesn’t read so they weren’t an option. After a year of searching, I had exhausted all my contacts. So I just tackled it myself and tried to figure out what was working and what didn’t work. It took me three years to write.

I started a blog in 2011. Since then I’ve met a lot of talented people, and in getting my sequel written, I was actually approached by beta-readers. Let me rephrase that…I had people who actually solicited me to read my book. I was stunned. Really? So I sent them copies (I’m not stupid) and they read what I’d written in two weeks! I was floored, overwhelmed, fascinated, and oh so thankful. I had gone from a year of nothing but heartache to ten pages of feedback simply because I started a blog. To show my appreciation to these betas, I offered to read their stuff in return. One thus far has taken me up on the offer. The other will do so in the future, she’s just not ready yet.

All of this happened because I network with other writers. It’s such a relief that I can’t express my gratitude to the people who are reading my words.

If you are in this boat; if you are an author and needs feedback but never gets it, I urge you to network with other writers. Join Rach’s twice a year Writers' Platform-Building Campaign. Join Arlee Bird’s A to Z Challenge. Participate in blog fests. You will have fun and make friends and more importantly, become a part of a huge online community that can support our special kind of crazy.

I have a contest for the release of my book. I will pick one random person who comments on this post to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card and a SLIPSTREAM jeweled spider (the same person wins both prizes). The jeweled spider really sparkles in the sunlight. I hope whoever wins it really likes it. Also, please make sure that your email is linked to your signature in some way :)


1) Mark my book “To Read” on Goodreads.

2) Comment on this post.

3) Tweet this post if you have twitter. You don’t have to sign-up for twitter. It’s the “honor” system. :)

That’s it. I will choose a winner on Saturday, May 19th. And thank you, Rachael, for having me on your fine blog.

Here's where SLIPSTREAM can be found:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Slipstream-ebook/dp/B007R5DN8W/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1333585536&sr=1-1-catcorr

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1109954378?ean=9781554049493

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13003318-slipstream


Thanks so much Michael, it's been lovely having you along today. Wishing you every success with SLIPSTREAM (and I just adore that Spider badge *grins*).

I hope all of you enjoyed reading Michael's post. Make sure you pop back next Monday for the next step in my self-publishing/digital publishing series: Rachel Morgan's guest post :) And don't forget to follow Michael's instructions above for a chance to win his awesome spider and the $5 Amazon Gift Card!


Jessica L. Celaya said...

This is going to be an interesting writing series. I am excited to learn more. That spider jewel is awesome, but alas, if I had it I would use it to scare my roommate who doesn't like anything of the eight-legged variety.

dolorah said...

I've also been collecting links for small/mid sized e-publishers. A much more effective approach. When I finish my were-wolf story I'm hoping to submit it to DDP also. I like what I've been reading about them.


mooderino said...

Very interesting post. Good to know the writer's network out there are willing to help each other out,

And excellent idea for a series, Rach.

Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

Laura Pauling said...

Definitely getting involved with blogging and befriending other writers helps with finding beta readers. Interesting series. There's a lot of terrific posts about it out there!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd noticed on Amazon Michael's book wasn't listed as available in print.
The A to Z Challenge the past few years built the biggest base of readers for me. Anytime you can take part in something big, the benefits are great.

Savannah Chase said...

The publishing world is changing and authors now have so many options out there to get their books published. It is amazing..

Joanna said...

I am going to enjoy this series very much, Rach.

I hav beta read for two writers who have gone the self publishing route with YA. One novel was just outstanding, the other was full of errors and plot weakness. Beta readers and editorial input really are helpful. I really appreciated Michael's honesty in this post.

I am just about to publish my first picture book through an eBook platform.

PT Dilloway said...

Ha ha, they didn't really help with the editing much. But that's one of the problems with small publishers is you essentially get day laborers instead of professionals. I can't wait to see how poor a job my "editor" does.

Jay Noel said...

Dang, is Robyn still your "friend?" $400.00 is a lot of money. I would have gotten all Steven Seagal on that swindler.

Looking forward to reading Slipstream...it's #3 on my reading list.

Glad you found some wonderful people to beta read for you. My betas are fantastic, and they're fellow authors/bloggers that I've known for nearly 7 years now. All through networking via blogging.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachael! I told you I'd be back. : )

Interesting post. I've checked out some of the included links. Will check out the rest in a few.

I heard about Michael's book, SLIPSTREAM, during the A to Z Challenge.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Jessica: It's a brooch that you wear. Not meant to scare people. It's shiny and sparkly.

@Donna: They do okay.

@Moody: Networking opens up a lot of doors.

@Laura: Yep. I agree.

@Alex: Amazon doesn't have the print version linked. But I made buttons to link the print version to my website. I should probably send Amazon an email or something.

@Savannah: Lots of options. Some publishers do more than others.

@Joanna: I'm all about being honest. If you check out my blog, sometimes my honesty offends people and starts arguments. I always tell it like it is.

@P.T.: It won't be perfect. Never expect perfection from a small pub. With the large ones...you might get closer to it. Every small pub I've ever read has had typos.

@Jay: Robyn is still a friend. I don't know why though. She puts no effort into the relationship. I deleted her phone number from my directory but then she called, and I had to re add her.

Angela Brown said...

I'm so glad to see that you were able to get some great responses after starting your blog. Feedback is so important. I also think it's wonderful that you stuck by the book you wanted to write and publish...and now it will be :-)

Slamdunk said...

Good stuff Rachel and Michael.

I do believe that networking with other writers through blogging and other online forms is essential--the world then does not seem like such a big and strange place after all.

Briane said...

Michael: I forget how I found your blog, but it's an interesting blog, which is why I keep reading it.

As for Slipstream: I read more over the weekend, and you've definitely got me hooked.

Brinda said...

The support of other writers has been the best thing to happen to me after starting a blog. Congrats on your release tour!

Gwen Gardner said...

Great links, Rach!

Michael, very interesting story! I'm also going to self-publish, so I have a couple of questions: 1) you're self-published but you have a publisher - how does that work? 2) I'm confused about the distinction between self-publishing / digital publishing...

Thanks Rach and Michael:)

Gwen Gardner said...

Michael, Oh! One more question - why not Amazon and Create Space?

Morgan said...

Michael is amazing. And I'm so proud of his success. And what a great post! Definitely inspiring. I have huge respect for all people in the digital/self-publish world. ;)

M Pax said...

The blogging and online community are fantastic, Michael. Your cover is amazing and I'm glad your story has gay characters. I can't wait to read it.

Patricia T. said...

Really enoyed listening to your process, Michael. Didn't realize it could be so hard to find beta readers. But, being linked to this community is a God send. Frankly, what I love most about you is your honesty. It's refreshing. Have your book, but haven't started to read it yet. Hubby has it. Great interview!

Zan Marie said...

Thanks, Rachael and Michael! Great post. More and more I hear about the small publishers and that they don't require agents. I'm intrigued. I think that will be one way I investigate when I finish a novel someday. ; )

Alyson Burdette said...

Interesting to hear how your book came to be! I love that there are so many options for authors now.

Unknown said...

It's interesting that no one wanted to beta-read for you until you began blogging, Michael. Bloggers are fantastic!

Thanks for the link love, Rach. Good to know that self-publishing isn't just a bubble that's about to burst (well, according to the all-knowing Nathan Bransford!).

farawayeyes said...

Some interesting things I did no know about you Michael. Downloaded Slipstream and two other books over the weekend. One down and one more to go and then I'm at it.

Oh Michael, did I say I want that Spider.

Stephanie said...

I'm really looking forward to this series. I write science fiction that could be (wrongly) categorized as dystopian. I know that the chances of me getting published might be low, since I'll be at the tail end of the dystopian boom. i may find myself considering indie publishing, so thanks for sharing your knowledge!

DEZMOND said...

what an interesting story from Michael, I didn't know he had such a tough road to getting published!

J.L. Campbell said...

Sounds like it was tough going at the outset. It's a wonderful day for a writer when he discovers that there's a community out there that's supportive and so willing to help.

Cherie Reich said...

Great post! And what a time finding some beta readers! I'm glad you found some now. I don't know where I would be without mine. :)

Andrew Leon said...

>waves hand in air some more<
You want to give me one of those spiders...

Anonymous said...

I've had similar experiences with beta readers ... the worst is when your friends start avoiding you because they haven't started reading it and don't want to say so! I now have a teensy, tiny group of trusted advisers. I could pay for a content editor, but I'm a selfish, self-centered jerk and I don't like other people's ideas anyways. I'd rather write my book my way and have it be bad than accept help. I know that makes me a jerk, but at least I'm not in denial, right? ;-)

When I had one beta reader (an author) suggest I cut the entire first half of a book, that was the last straw. Help like that, you can get from your worst enemies, ifyaknowwhatimean. :-P

Belle said...

I've started reading Slipstream and it's great. Very interesting about getting people to read your book before blogging. I wish someone would offer me $400 to do that! Hugs to you and have fun on your tour.

Claire Hennessy said...

Gosh, you always have so much interesting and useful stuff on your blog, Rachael. Thanks. Will be spending some time to read everything soon, esp as my writing group are about to self-publish - perfect timing. I love Michael's cover (even if it does feature ukky spiders!).

Elise Fallson said...

I'm just here for the spider. :P

Also, thank you for sharing your experience about friends reading your work but never getting back to you. That is exactly what I went through last year. As a closet writer is was SO hard for me to give up a few chapters to 2 friends of mine but I did it, and I never got any feedback. The whole experience made me even more insecure about my writing. So I see it now, plain as day, I need to find a beta reader.

Deborah Jay said...

Wow, that's awesome to publish a book without any independant feedback. I work with a great writer's group and without their critiques I'm sure I'd have missed tons of little things - and maybe some major ones!
For my WIP which is nearing completion, I have a beta reader lined up (found via Nicola Morgan's fantastic blog - Help! I Need a Publisher). It'll be my first experience of having someone read a work from fresh, without having done crit work every few chapters. I'm really looking forward to it. And to returning the favour.
And boy does that spider look good! I have some earrings that would go a treat with it...

Golden Eagle said...

Thanks for the links, Rachael!

What a journey to publication. A lot of people seem to have found resources through the blogosphere!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Best of luck to Michael with his book! Finding good beta readers is an art (and reward) all to itself!

I think that 5k sales number is dated, actually. I know several authors that blow that number away and agents aren't necessarily knocking on their doors. Anymore, I think placing in the top 100 on Amazon seems to have a visibility demarker that makes people come knock on your door. But these things are all fluid and serendipitous as well.

Great post!

Helena said...

After all your hard work and obvious talent and discipline, it really is such a thrill to see Slipstream out there and published, Michael. But you actually counted your rejections? I couldn't because they were too painful, which is another reason why I decided to simply self-pub my last novel. You're also very right about finding supportive writer friends online. People like you have lifted my spirits on many dark days, for which I am grateful.

May Slipstream sell millions of copies.

Traci Kenworth said...

Congrats!! I think I may go the way of the small press myself (providing I find one willing).

Theresa Milstein said...

Online networking makes everything easier--including finding beta readers. NE-SCBWI has a page for writers to find critique partners, but that's for children's book writers. I've had more success finding people through blogging.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Angela: Me too. I never imagined I could get free feedback.

@Slamdunk: Thank you. I agree.

@Briane: You found my blog because I started commenting on yours. Thanks for the compliment.

@Brinda: Thank you.

@Lady Gwen: I sent you an email.

@Morgan: Awwh. *hugs to the Shammy.

@M Pax: I've read nothing but straight sci-fi and fantasy for most of my life. But unlike me, most people will not be that versatile. I can't imagine Orson Scott Card (as an example) reading any sci-fi with gay characters in it (as much as he rails against them and thinks they deserve no rights)

@Patricia: Thanks for your support. It was hard for me to find readers but nothing in my life has EVER been easy. Nothing.

@Zan: Basically think of a small pub as self publishing...only you have a lot of help. They'll do cover art, FINAL editing, formatting, publishing the darn thing to paperback and online to a ton of different sites, troubleshooting of links, and responsibly managing all that stuff. But you won't get marketing of any kind. That's up to you.

@Alyson: Me too.

@Rachel: I know people who are essentially selfish in my real life.

@faraway: I'm glad you like the spider. Alex thinks it's creepy.

@Stephanie: There will always be room for more dystopian.

@Dezmond: I know, right!

@J.L.: I agree.

@Cherie: I love the beta reading community. Who knew they were out there?

@Andrew: I shall determine the winner on May 19th sir!

@Dalya: Well said.

@Belle: How goes Krag and Draco? Any word on publishing?

@Claire: The cover is pretty awesome. I like how it looks great as a thumbnail.

@Elise: I hope you win!

@Deborah J: It's not like I had a choice though on my lack of feedback. I just had to do it.

@Eagle: Blogging is like freedom for a writer.

@Susan Kaye: You would definitely know on the whole "dated" publication information.

@Helena: LOL millions of copies. Now that's funny.

@Traci: There's a ton of them. Be sure to check Absolute Write to avoid scammers.

@Theresa: I love your blog. I agree.

cleemckenzie said...

So many great links I need to get to. You are one impressive blogger. Loved the jeweled spider.

Unknown said...

Great post! Michael it sounds like you had a hard time getting things off the ground, sorry to hear that! I hope things get better for you in the future! All the best with the launch!

Unknown said...

Great post! Michael it sounds like you had a hard time getting things off the ground, sorry to hear that! I hope things get better for you in the future! All the best with the launch!

Sher A. Hart said...

I came here to post Rach's beta-reader critique matchup on my blog again, and who do I find but my favorite blog commenter. That's so sad you never found a beta-reader when you needed one, but great that they're now asking you! My spider sense is tingling, gotta Slipstream away! You know where to find me, and you really need to try WLC if you didn't yet. They'll be in my latest post in a while. I'm still busy linking.

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Michael. I love the blogging community! And I hear you on the frustration of trying to get friends and family to read our stories...

Digital Publishing Solutions said...

What a busy schedule you had there! :) Thank you for giving readers a heads up on your digital publishing activities.

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