On August 5th it was 1 year since I've self-published SIREN SUICIDES, my first novel, well, first trilogy that was really one novel but then it grew too long and I had to cut it into three books and one day I will edit it down and republish it as one. Anyway. I can't believe it's been a whole year already. One moment I feel like I've published it only yesterday, another I feel like it's been a decade. It seems I'm so far away now from where I started and I have learned so much and have yet so much to learn that the only way to do this is to SELF-PUBLISH MORE BOOKS, DAMMIT. And I need to write more books to self-publish more, and I will, I will. 8 more novels already planned. Maybe I should do a blog post about them all. In the meantime, there are a few very curious things that I have learned that can perhaps make your self-publishing road smoother (organized in no particular order, or, I should say, organized in the order they popped in my head):
1. Grammatical and other mistakes never end.
There is something to be said for the prowess of traditional publishing houses, and that is years and years of experience and many many eyes poring over manuscripts and weeding out everything that seems unreadable to make it readable, which we forget about when reading books because we're so used to clean stories. I go through my final draft myself many times, and my editor goes through them many times, and my formatter, and then I do it again, and still readers keep sending me mistakes they have found, overlooked. Little silly things, like "craw" instead of a "crow", things that three people have somehow overlooked. What I have learned from this is that it's my responsibility to make my books clean first and foremost. As a self-published author I can't be sloppy, and so I stocked up on grammar books and am paying more attention to writing cleanly.
2. Write what you want to write.
I was very excited at first about the fact that I have started writing books. I read books when I was little thinking that it's something magical, to be able to write one. My father is a writer, but he never taught me how to write and never really encouraged me or read the poetry I wrote in my teens, so I witnessed him work from afar. Therefore I never thought I would write one day, I never thought I'd be good enough. And when I started, I was so much in love with it that I wanted to write anything and everything. And I can. I know it now, I can write anything and everything, only writing something I don't really want to takes me longer. It doesn't mean that what my effort will produce will be bad. No. It simply means now I know how to adjust my schedule and my time to doing something that is painful. SIREN SUICIDES was written for therapy, and I had a hard time disentangling my own personal story from it and I have overwritten it. ROSEHEAD was my first novel that was written for fun, and I wrote it fast and I felt awesome writing it. IRKADURA I wrote because another writer suggested I do, and I jumped on it, and I've gone through torture to finish it because while writing it I realized I'm not ready yet to go into my past to face it again, and yet I did (I'm not a quitter), and at the same time it cost me a lot of good mood and sleep. CORNERS (my next novel) I will be writing because I want to, and every book after it. Lesson: write what YOU want to write.
3. Read what you want to read.
Before I started self-publishing, I was ignorant of the whole publishing world and I didn't know anything about the business of it. After I got my toes dipped in a little, I have strived to do what other writers do, self-published and traditionally published. And since reading is part of writing and I read every day, I started reading what other writers would recommend or what everyone else was reading or reading indie published writers like me because I wanted to support them, and on and on and on. After a while I started feeling pressure, peer pressure, I suppose, this need to continue reading what others thought should be read, be it indie books, or books with ethnically diverse characters, or books with gay characters, or books that are proper "literature" and not some romantic junk, and I can keep going, but I will bore you to tears. I tried doing all of this, and after a year of it I gave up. When I read something that doesn't inspire me to write, my writing suffers. I love funny stuff, like Monty Python. I love classics, like ANNA KARENINA or GULLIVER'S TRAVELS. I love reading everything by authors I love, like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. I love reading cult books like FIGHT CLUB. I love reading obscure books that nobody has heard of. And ultimately all of these are traditionally published and I have yet to stumble upon a way to find great indie books to read, and I'm trying, I'm trying, but I also realized that it's more important for me to read what makes me want to write, period.
4. Most people are flakes.
This might sound a bit harsh, but over this year of openly talking about my journey and posting publicly just about everything under the sun, like all of my drafts are available for download and all of my ebooks are available for free, and my license is the Creative Commons one that allows you to modify my writing any way you like, and I haven't even copyrighted any of my books, many people keep asking me if I'm afraid someone would steal my work. I'm not afraid, I WOULD BE HONORED. Go ahead and steal it. Also, lots of people come to me and say, hey, can I do this for you, can I do that for you? And I always say, do it. You know why? Because most of these people will never do it. Most of them are flakes. At first I was surprised. I guess I come from the rigid Soviet upbringing of work-work-work and more work and you don't get to have fun until you get your work done. So, I would get out of my way trying to help people (like people emailing me asking to read their stories) and I would get out of my way letting people to do anything they wanted with my stuff. Because most of them disappear and never follow through. What I have learned is this. When I actually reach out to those flakes, they sometimes lash out at me back for somehow not talking to them properly, so I stopped doing it. Don't waste your breath, folks. Just do what you do and ignore those who only talk about it.
5. Do what you love, and money will follow.
This is really funny, this one. I am somewhat of an anomaly, I suppose, in the self-publishing world, or even in the publishing world in general. Actually, I'm a nobody in the publishing world, too small to be noticed, but in the little pool of light that I do have, I stick out like a sore thumb, and people told me about it. You know why? Because I give my books away for free and I don't care much about money, meaning, I don't even check my sales on Amazon or elsewhere methodically, like I see other writers do, and I feel like I should, but it just doesn't interest me much. It especially stopped interesting me after I wanted to commit suicide and then decided not to, and came back to life with this weird feeling that I want to fucking live and have fun and somehow I will figure it out and the universe will help me. All I wanted to do was to love and to give. And so I set out doing it. This past year I have survived on savings from my job that I quit to start writing and from unemployment and from savings off of unemployment (I know, I got so frugal, I even saved from it). And I wrote and wrote and wrote and gave and gave and gave as much as I could. It makes me happy, to give. So what is really funny about this is that suddenly I started getting money. People started donating, people started buying my paperbacks and my only ebook so far that is listed for $2.99 on Amazon (the rest are free) and ONLY listed there for money because my readers told me I should do it because they wanted to give me their money. And! Here is the funniest part. I got 2 paying gigs drop on my head. One was doing social media for a company, and two, a ghostwriting project that I will be doing this coming month. All this giving came back. So don't be afraid to give.
6. Do what your readers tell you to do.
Self-publishing is a business, and there have been so many rules established for businesses, like how to market and how to sell and bla-bla-bla. But internet has changed all that. We are getting back to how we started when the concept of trade was born. You say you want something, and someone has that thing and they will give it to you for something in return. It's really that simple. Only now we have money, so whatever it is you want, you can get in exchange for money. And somehow we have gotten it into our brains that money is all there is, and people who do the actual transaction don't exist. It's just a transaction, it's business, right? Wrong. People is all there is. Money comes second. Money is simply a concept and it's pieces of paper traveling from one pocket to another. Internet has made it both extremely difficult and extremely easy to be successful in business, self-publishing included. It's difficult for people who think that they can hide behind made-up facades of the web pages they have created. They think they're doing all the right things, but what they are doing is digging themselves a hole. What they do is push their product on us and don't really listen to what we want. And we want them to hear us. Look at all those social media accounts for companies. They are catching on. They are beginning to listen. That's why for you it's as easy as it has never been before to listen to your readers and to give them what they want. Guess what will happen, THEY WILL GIVE YOU MONEY FOR IT.
7. The work never stops.
Probably the hardest truth for me to realize this year was the fact that no matter how much I do in a day, no matter how much I cram in, there is always something else I need to do. I could edit down my first trilogy (several months of work), I could make another BLUE SPARROW book (people are asking), I could figure out why Ingram doesn't list my books as returnable (a whole thing I have to figure out that I don't quite understand), I could make my books into audiobooks on ACX (readers have been demanding me to do it), I could tweet more and blog more and read more and answer more emails in the day and just writing all of this is making my head spin. What I have learned is that it never gets done and it's okay to just shut it off. I stick to a very rigid schedule of writing and reading every day, and it takes precedence and priority over everything else. Period. Well, that and watching cat videos every night.
8. Be nice.
I've done some not very nice and stupid things this past year that I'm not very proud of, and I wish I could turn them around (like rating some books 3 stars and writing not very favorable reviews and publicly posting a bookstore's decline to my request for a reading). I always go back and apologize and I learned to be able to forget and to move on. I do still need to apologize to that bookstore because I was angry when I did it and it was stupid to do it (and I will). Anyway. Mostly I'm nice. I swear I am. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that, don't you? And you can accomplish so much by simply being nice to people. Be nice, do nice things, and people will do nice things in return.
9. Don't fret, you can always fix your books.
This is the beauty of self-publishing, and it's fantastically easy to do. Within minutes you can re-upload a new book cover and a new book file and usually within 24 hours or even less it is updated on Amazon and any other sites you use for distribution. How awesome is it? It is possible to boost sales of your book simply by uploading a new cover and telling people about it. You can literally invent a gazillion ways to improve it and to gain new readers. Books became pliable, and with self-publishing you no longer have anything rigid, not the length of your book, nor the genre or the price. You can try selling a novella, and see how it does, then bundle it into one book, and see how it does, and try listing it under one genre category, switch to another, make the price higher, make the price lower. Really, you can learn as you go and you can learn so much more about the business of publishing if you do it yourself, and I will tell you something else. It's fun. When you see how it's done and you are part of it, it becomes a game. What else in this world is better than loving your job? Loving writing and loving self-publishing? I think it's the best thing that happened to mankind since the invention of socks. I mean warm fluffy socks with pompoms, of course.
10. STOP READING THIS BLOG POST AND GO WRITE.
Enough already. I have yakked your ears off. Go write. I will go write too.