It seems like everyone has something to say about self-publishing your work. So, why not me?
I can’t tell you how to sell your work. I don’t have enough experience or sales (though I have noticed some interesting trends that are corroborated by other who do have experience and/or sales). I can’t tell you what would be best for you, but I can tell you what I’ve tried and what I’ve done and what I’ve noticed. Point? Take everything I say with a very large grain of salt.
Also, please note: although a lot of this is stuff I’ve learned over the years, especially this year, Dean Wesley Smith has written a fantastic article on this subject as it relates to rewriting. Please take a look.
Disclaimer’s done. Let’s start with the most important part: Heinlein’s Rules.
Because, let’s face it, if you want to sell, you’ll have to be good. And no one starts out good. No one. Even that kid who shows up with a manuscript, hands it to a publisher who then goes ga-ga and makes it a bestseller, probably spent hours writing garbage when they were little. How do you get to that point? The same way everyone else does. You practice.
Practicing means you will never write anything perfect. Fans may think it’s perfect. But it won’t be.
Practicing means you set aside all the criticism that happens when you write. You know the voice. That terrible, awful, cold voice that takes one look at what’s on your screen and says, “Gah, what is THAT. Are you really going to write THAT? You should rework that sentence a few more times before you try to get any further with THAT.” Before you know it, you’re discouraged and swearing to yourself (as you shove your manuscript into a dark corner of your hard drive) that you’ll never, ever touch a keyboard again until you’ve learned What You’re Doing Wrong.
Anyway, on to the Rules.
- You must write.
- Finish what you start.
- You must refrain from re-writing, except to editorial order.
- You must put your story on the market.
- You must keep it on the market until it has sold.
So, how do I apply these and do I really see any benefit from it?
First off, I usually manage to get some writing in of some sort every day. I try to make sure it’s fiction, and I try to make sure it’s at least 1,000 words. I’ve found I can sometimes muddle my way through to an ending, but I try to make sure I have some idea of where I’m heading before I start. There’s also times when I have no clue what I’m doing and write something just to finish it. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by what comes out.
The re-writing part is relatively recent. When I first started out, I was part of a couple of online workshops. Though I enjoyed my time there, and learned the extremely valuable lesson that a writer has no idea how his or her story is perceived by others, I also learned that there was a “right way” to do this writing thing. I learned a first draft was garbage and that the more time spent on something polishing it, the better it would turn out.
The first exception I encountered was Orson Scott Card in How to Write Fantasy and Science Fiction. He said, quite clearly, that a manuscript can be written to death. With each draft you lose a bit more of the energy that drove that initial creation. But it didn’t really sink in until I wrote some stories this past year, fixed only typos and continuity errors, and sent them out. And total strangers liked them.
That may not happen with your first draft. Or your second, third, or even fifteenth. But it will happen.
So, keep writing, keep reading, keep learning, experiment, practice something you’re weak in, put your experiments out there for others to read, keep them out there so they can sell. (Also, check out my list of books I’ve used to improve in Writing Resources. Yes, I get a little something if you buy through the linked pictures, but I swear I’ll only use it for hot carob.)
Does it work? I think so. Check out the samples I’ve got floating around here, Kindle, Smashwords, Wattpad, etc., and compare them to my older stories on FictionPress. But the best way to find out is to try it for yourself. 😉
Next in this series: Free tools for writing and formatting.