Thought I’d take a minute and write about my novella, The Trail of the Beast, which I have published myself on Amazon as an eBook. I’m not here to promote it, necessarily, though it’s only $2.99 and worth every damn penny. No, I’m here to dispel some of the common myths about self-publishing and answer some questions I’ve been asked.
1. Why self-publish? Couldn’t you get it published the traditional way? Maybe I could, and maybe I couldn’t. I didn’t try, for several reasons. First, to get into one of the big, old publishing houses, you need an agent. You can’t just send them a manuscript and say, “This is good, give me money.” Maybe Stephen King can do that, but not some dude from Mississippi nobody’s ever heard of. And most agent’s aren’t looking for novellas, because the big publishing houses aren’t looking for novellas (Mine clocks in at just over 29,000 words. The length of a novel varies depending on who you ask, but at a very minimum a book needs 60K or more to be considered a novel.) When I do finish my novel, The Leaf, I may shop it around and try to play the game, but I figured this one was a non-starter on the traditional front. There are numerous small publishers, and I personally believe I could have gotten on with any of them, but as far as I can tell, outside of a small circle comprised mostly of other aspiring authors who want to get published, they don’t necessarily have that much influence anyway, so why should I give them a big chunk of the few sales I’m going to get? If I thought they could sell a few thousand copies for me, I’d sign on in a heartbeat, but I don’t really see that happening. And maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.
2. So you really self-published because it’s crappy, right? Nope. I think it’s pretty good, and some people I trust agree with me. I’m hardly important enough for them to butter me up. Then again, I’m usually the largest person at my writing groups by far, so maybe they’re afraid I’ll beat them up. Buy it, and if you aren’t satisfied, I will fully tell you I’m sorry. You thought I was join go to say refund your money, didn’t you? As if.
3. Why not make it into a full novel? That would mean doubling the length, which would mean shoehorning new characters in, creating them from scratch. This started out as a short story, then grew and grew to the size it is now. I put a ton of time into creating the characters, then making sure all of them had unique (I hope) voices and making them feel real. I thought about adding more, making it longer, but I felt like that would risk getting repetitive, and churning out some bland characters. The story is as long as it needs to be. Any more would be faking it. If someone wants to offer me a book deal, I can damn sure fake another 30,000 words, but it’s going to cost them some money. Yes, I will sell out. Disney World ain’t cheap, my friends.
4. Why $2.99? Because it’s worth every damn penny, like I said. Also, Amazon pays 70% royalties on anything $2.99 and up. Anything under that, they only pay 35%. Plus, it’s worth every damn penny. If you buy it, I honestly believe you will like it and not regret spending that money. It will take you a couple of hours to read, a couple of hours you could have shelled out ten or twelve bucks to spend watching something truly awful at the movies, like Prometheus (still bitter about that one), or you could spend a pittance and have some fun with me.
5. Is it going to be available in print? I’m thinking about it. I would say no, it’s too short, but doesn’t Kevin Vaughan’s awesome cover art deserve to be seen on a bookshelf somewhere instead of remaining tucked away on your Kindle? So I’m thinking about it, for sure.
Let me leave you with this: “Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.” – Kurt Vonnegut. Now I’m not one of these assholes who goes around all the time talking about “my art.” I’m a monkey throwing poop at a page and laughing like an idiot at what sticks. But I created something where there was nothing, and some people like it. That makes me happy. I have something in the world that came out of my brain. That’s neat. If you buy it, great. If you don’t, that’s okay. I have a job. A job I actually like part of the time, which is more than most people can say. My family stays fed, my kids get to go see the Mouse every few years, and they’ve seen almost every state east of the Mississippi. I just wanted to get it out there. So question #6 would be, why not offer it for free? I may love writing, but I ain’t stupid. And because it’s worth every damn penny.