So… as I mentioned in a recent previous post, it’s a tough balance between writing for yourself and wanting an audience. After all, once you’ve put hundreds or thousands of hours into something that holds a slice of your soul, there’s an urge there to have people actually share it with you.
While I’m not particularly good at social networking to begin with, let’s face it – having my work available via two sites only, one a WordPress blog and one an independent site, really doesn’t help.
So, I’ve finally decided to take the steps into official self-publishing.
I decided, partly on the recommendation of a trusted friend who uses it and partly on my own research, to go with Smashwords. While I’m not entirely happy with a few limitations as far as file types I can upload as (although they do say they’re going to be expanding that), it otherwise looks to have a lot to offer. Rather than my trying to summarize, I suggest you check the link for yourself and get the full list. Among other things, they make it clear that you retain all rights to your work, they distribute to a variety of major ebook retailers, and they don’t charge any up-front costs, only a small percentage of what you make (if anything).
So, I waded through the SW Style Guide, sorted out the formatting, then fixed a few errors introduced by the process. Said trusted friend took a peek at the formatting for me, and made a couple of suggestions.
Then there’s the issue of a cover. Now, the various documentation and advice from SW is emphatic on this: unless you’re a pro graphic designer, don’t create your own cover. They offer a list of low-cost options. That’s lovely, but nonetheless a problem if you’re on a fixed income and have more urgent things to spend even $40 on. On the other hand, I’m rather familiar with GIMP, which is like an open-source version of Photoshop: I use it for various story-related tasks, like maps (which I admit aren’t exactly pro-quality but they at least keep my characters going the right direction!), and also for captioning pics for myself and friends on my lolanimals site, which can be artistic if you let it. So I’m comfortable with the interface, which goes a long way. There is, within the novel, a book that’s key to the plot, described as having a plain green cover with a yin-yang symbol and simple white and black text, and I want the cover to reflect that. With some suggestions from friends, I came up with a result that, while it’s a little unusual, at least looks (I think) not amateurish.
Descriptions? Well, a long description in under 4000 characters (including spaces), no problem. I used the description that was on this site and expanded it a bit. A short description in under 400 characters? That’s more of a problem, and while I’m not 100% thrilled with it, I doubt that I’m ever going to be even if I rewrite it 400 times.
Category is easy (urban fantasy, but also could be considered LGBT fiction). Tags are a bit of a pain, but got them, and I hope they’ll work.
However, clicking on “Publish” at the bottom of the upload page was an incredibly difficult thing to do.
Why? After all, I’ve been writing for over 25 years. Even though Yin-Yang was almost never completed, because I was sure it was just too weird, my various test readers made it clear that they enjoyed it, and their excellent suggestions went a long way to making it stronger. It was powerful enough to keep nagging at me despite my repeated decision to abandon it, and keep dragging me back to work on it further. My ability to weave words in ways that invite someone else to share the realities within my own head is one of the things that I’ve generally had faith in, even when my self-confidence ebbs in other areas. What I offer has a number of things going for it: readers generally tell me first that the characters are alive; the ideas are generally unconventional; it’s genuinely friendly to non-traditional orientations and gender identities and otherwise alternative sorts, without being about that; my own literacy skills are high, and I proofread obsessively, and I have wonderful test readers who catch everything for me so I know the text doesn’t look amateurish or hasty. So why is it so terrifying to actually click “Publish”?
For one thing, what I write has a piece of me in it. Exposing that to the world has the potential to be incredibly rewarding, but equal potential to be devastating. What if it gets attacked? What if it’s simply invisible? Which of those would be worse? Being physically naked has nothing on exposing your inner self. There’s a world of difference between offering work, for free, on your own site or blog where largely friends and friends-of-friends will find it, and offering it on a major site with hundreds of thousands of users and asking people to pay even a little for it.
Depression is all about seeing the negative side of everything; it acts as a filter, that only allows information to reach you once it’s been twisted to show the aspect that reinforces the sadness and hopelessness and self-deprecation. Anxiety is more like living among fun-house mirrors that make you question with every step whether the ground will stay firm under your feet or open into a hole that you couldn’t see; the most important thing becomes staying safe by not moving. The combination makes it look like immense risk that has no chance of any positive outcome at all.
Clicking on that button meant having to battle both sets of messages. The world is full of stories of people who have overcome incredible odds and accomplished phenomenal things; I’m pleased for them, and impressed, but for some of us, more modest victories are worth celebration.
For me, writing a novel is, well, not easy in that there’s a huge amount of hard work and frustration that goes into it, but relatively straightforward and I can do it with considerable confidence that it’s going to work out – either it will turn out to be something good, or it will at worst be practice and fun. Publishing it? That takes a lot less time, but I doubt it’s ever going to be easy.
However, it’s done – along with a squeaky-new Facebook author page, a start on the bureaucratic red tape that will keep the US IRS from claiming 30% of whatever I actually make (I’m Canadian), applying for my own ISBN account (Canada offers them for free), and beginning to spread the word among my friends. And, of course, this blog post about it.
Please drop by Smashwords and check it out. If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate any shares elsewhere, or reviews, or comments.
Yin-Yang, on Smashwords