Should We Give Our (book) Babies Away For Free?


OldbooksHey everybody. A few months ago, while I worked with a SLPA (St. Louis Publishing Association)-affiliated editor–and by “working with,” I mean trying to establish how much it’d cost me to get Of Salt and Wine edited professionally–I was informed about his thoughts on how I’d get off the ground as a first-time, self-published writer. He informed me, under no uncertain terms, that I should publish and distribute my first novel entirely for free, to generate interest in my writing “brand.”

This came as no huge surprise for me, and since I didn’t have the $ available to actually seal the editing deal, I stepped away from the negotiation. There’s been enough time between our conversation and now, and enough Twitter conversation from established writers, to give me a pause. Should we, as self-publishers, give away our hard-earned first novels in order to create a base?

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Self Publishing is a Vortex

I love you guys. Anyone can write, and write well, if they work hard at it. I’ve spent a few weeks collecting my book collection, updating my to-be-read, read, and to-be-bought lists. I’m absolutely ecstatic that so many people have an active interest in writing. Flood the markets, fill the shelves, overwhelm Amazon, and let your voice be heard.

Now. I’ve been studying self-publishing a lot lately. Really grinding into the topic with a tiny drill and a magnifying glass. I’ve cut deep into the little options for publishing, the ins-and-outs, even figured out how to convert my novels into .mobi files and purchased Scrivener. I have an artist lined up for cover art, I have two publishers lined up for distribution of my books, and I’m staring at a HUGE process still to go.

Traditional publishing has its perks. It has a big name, bigger distribution capabilities, and these guys exist in a market they helped create and perfect: they know what they’re doing (not saying indie publishers don’t). But given you have to sell lots and lots of books to get anywhere with it, I don’t find it applicable to me. Hard deadlines, hard editing processes that (possibly) destroy your voice and the message, and turn the novel into a marketable thing for the masses isn’t for me.

I write for me. I’ve really stared at at sentence for a long time lately; I’ve had a lot of personal real-life issues show up in the recent eight months, and I’ve put my writing on hold. Proofing, editing, reading–that has continued–but actually sitting down to write hasn’t happened but once.

And I wrote six glorious pages, and they were delicious, and I bathed in the great shining glory.

I write for me. This isn’t a statement of fact, moreso a statement of intent. I have no delusions I might write things that fail miserably. I might PUBLISH failures due to this love for writing. I sit and create stories that don’t fit a conflict/resolution mold, I don’t create a perfectly observable arc throughout (a writer recently told me she follows the three act plan), and I certainly don’t spend sleepless nights converting a story to fit in little spoons.

This community’s love for formulae scares me.  Am I doing it wrong? Is this a bad thing? No. It’s a great thing. If I try and fail, I’ll try again. It isn’t something that simply dies out when I hit rejection. I’ve hit rejection for the past ten years when it comes to my writing. Form rejection letters everywhere, over two hundred, with not a single word of actual interest whatsoever. I’m ready for rejection. I write for myself.

So I must extend that thought, at least for now, to encompass my publishing, too. I publish for myself. I want everyone to love what I write, I want to be a best-seller, I want this perspective and dream of mine to find purchase in the verdant loam that is the world. But I refuse to change the word to something else. I refuse to remove the story from the story.

I know I have a lot to learn with self-publishing. It’s a scary intimidating thing to look at the business side of a product you haven’t yet created and hope someone’s listening, hope this is worth it.

And it is. If only for me, one published copy, one single finished product, it is worth it. This is definitely going to be an uphill battle. I hope you follow me through to completion. Because 1) I’m not going anywhere–I have four third-draft novels ready to be polished and published, with another six in the curtains, 2) I love this so hard I promise I won’t stop until I find a balance between myself and my intended audience, and 3) I sincerely believe my writing, my novels, my topics are important, from-the-center-of-myself stuff I pull directly from my heart, with a pen-and-ink syringe, and inject it onto the page. This is my life, and my lifeblood.

The entry came because my brother recently finished reading a draft of a story I have halfway finished. He said it’s one of the best books he’s read in the past year. He said it flows, it’s complicated but not overwhelming, and it’s fun. He told me, face-to-face, to finish the thing so he can read it. Only has my recent sendoff to a professional editor been more heartwarming to my mind than what he said.

He’s my brother, I know, so he’s inherently supposed to like my stuff, right? My family is the most opinionated group of people you could ever meet–outspokenly so–and to hear this, wow. I’m still in awe.

Back to writing. I hope everyone has a wonderful week.

Chapter 4 of David and His Shade will be posted at this Sunday, after I return from my friend’s bachelor party (is it a little much to expect each person to spend 200 bucks on this party thing? On top of beers and food? I’m not made of money, but I don’t know if I’m just being stingy…)


Publishing Association

Good afternoon, readers and writers!

After spending a long, harried time getting divorced (beginning around six months ago), I’m (possibly) in a place to continue with my writing focus.

This post’s topic is on my latest excursion into the local writing community. Since I live in the St. Louis area, that would be the SLPA, or St. Louis Publishing Association. Apparently there’s a writing association as well, but I haven’t done anything to dive into that. I should. I might find some friends there. But who knows. I don’t want a thousand requests to read their romantic modern fantasy between werewolves and faeries they created on the Sims.

Not that there isn’t anything to be gained from that. And I’m certain they bring a lot to the table. And I’m certain I’d learn a lot, if only by making a friend.

Now. The Publishing Association is a little different. The focus is on disseminating information on how to get Published, and not so much on how to write. I like this, because I believe writing is an individual thing, and no matter how you do it–NANOWRIMO or twenty years of blood sweat and tears–you can become a great writer by perseverance and hard work (and creativity, at times).

The class I attended was interesting. My day job involves installing services in customers’ houses, and one of these customers was the guest speaker for the class, and that’s how I found out about the whole thing. The class, offered once a month, offers insights toward writing and publishing you might not get elsewhere. The topic of the class I attended was What to Do Before You Write. Or something similar. Two guest speakers, previously published and career writers, spoke on two different sides of publishing: fiction and non-fiction.

Excellent group. Great discussion. While most of the people in this class were first-timers (as I’d assume most would be, given the topic), represented among the listeners/observers were a handful of professional editors, grammarists, book designers, life coaches, graphic artists, indexers, publishers, distributors, and mixed media artists. For anyone interested in such a lineup, I highly recommend doing a little research in local groups.

Smaller towns might need someone like YOU to get something moving. It’d be a great way to collect people, make friendships, and garner motivation toward publishing.

The overwhelming insight given by both (traditionally published) guest speakers is to go self-publishing. The way of traditional publishing is difficult, with very low possibility of success, and very little benefit. I’m not only talking monetary value, but response, collaboration, assistance, advertisement, etc.

What I learned in that class was pretty compelling. While it costs 72 bucks for a full membership, it only cost me ten bucks to walk in and listen to what they had to say. I liked it, enjoyed it, loved the people. I met several, most of which were hardworking, dedicated people with families, day jobs, and personal lives.

Even if you haven’t written anything, please, give a thought to checking your local writing or publishing group out. I guarantee you that you’ll learn a lot, and it might actually compel you to sit down and put your nose to the grindstone.

Questions, comments, insights? Please feel free to leave a note. I’m reaching out to connect to writers, and I’d love to hear about your experiences!


C. Heisserer

Moving Forward with Self-Pub

Most of what I say about my writing is just me stewing in my own thoughts about whether to self-publish or not. I know it’s strong enough to garner a following, and I know I could write forever, on anything.

So I’m moving forward. Not immediately, certainly, but at the moment I’ve decided I’ll be self-publishing my novel David and his Shade. What this means, for me, is I have to find a professional editer to study my work (I don’t care who you think you are, no matter how great a writer, or how creative/artistic, you absolutely NEED a pair of professional eyes to look at your work. If only the first few times), find art for the cover, and get the UPCs purchased. I know, even if I don’t print any actual copies, it will cost me around 1k in money I don’t currently have to get it moving.

Now that I’m married, now that I’ve moved in and settled down, I feel I can begin pushing my dream forward. As soon as I get the cash, I’ll start the advertising (I know I don’t need money for the ad, but I do need money for everything that comes before it).

I might even make one of those nifty youtube trailer videos for it. “In a world where magic is real…”

As if it wasn’t real here.

Projects Soren are on the back burner for now. I’m shifting focus.

(If anyone knows of a good professional editor for an upstart writer, please let me know. I’m going at this blind, and will probably do internet research, which isn’t the best in my opinion.)