The Self Publishing Industry is Not A Bad Thing

            It’s no secret, I have made some deprecating remarks on self-publishing in the past. I don’t try to hide it, I’ve said what I’ve said. The industry has changed a lot since I started out in 2010. It’s incredible to see the rises and the falls of all the trends in how books are published. Self-publishing used to be janky. Like, it was literally some stranger you hardly knew from the internet with a printing press in their basement. Which, hey, if that’s what works for you, more power to ya! I know people who’ve done it! Now, largely Amazon, has turned self-publishing in to an easy to navigate, user friendly, industry, that gives you equal publicity to traditionally published authors right out of the gate. That’s incredible.

            The self-publishing industry has given voice to the voiceless. Women, people of color, members of the LGBT+ community, and those who fall under all three labels have often said it’s harder for them to get published, or as readers find books they actually want to read. Full disclosure, I would totally read a high fantasy novel with non-binary, butch, lesbian, warrior princesses who are not white. You see how edgy that sentence felt? That’s because books like that aren’t mainstream yet. Yes, even in the sphere of fantasy. Now because of self-publishing you can actually find books like that for sale online. Now because of self-publishing, larger presses (I’m talking Harper Collins) are actually looking at books like that. Now books like that are making their ways into libraries and getting in to the hands of people who need them.

            The self-publishing industry is breaking creative boundaries. You know what the self-publishing industry gave us? New adult fiction! Love it or hate it, having a new genre is cool as all heck! If it weren’t for people self-publishing books about college-age kids I wouldn’t have ever thought to say to myself “What if a 26 year old dentist finds out she’s a changeling?” and thus, The Tooth Fairy was born.

            One of the coolest things I’ve watched is tropes come over from fan-fiction, to the self-publishing industry, into the mainstream. Unfortunately most of my examples have to do with sex, and I am not comfortable with having that discussion on this blog.

            The self-publishing industry empowers authors. Self-published authors amaze me. To be perfectly honest with you, ISBNs are a little mysterious to me. Yes, I know they’re the 13 digit name for a book, like a social security number, but you have to buy them? Cancel them? Who da what now?  I don’t know everything (shocker!) and what I don’t know, self-published authors usually seem to out of necessity.

            I gotta be honest, I love talking marketing with them because that’s one of my quirky special interests. Particularly social media! I’ve nearly ruined Christmas by chattering about how Facebook algorithms work. I am resisting making a Parler account. Resist!

            But what’s not empowering about choosing who gets to do your cover art, your editing, your marketing (it could be me), and setting your own prices for books?! You’re in control every step of the way! And when you need or want to pull your books you can. I saw an author publish a book, realize everyone was out of work due to Covid-19, and then drop prices the lowest they could on Amazon! Tell me that’s not empowering!

            You can do well if you choose to do well. Off the top of my head Diary of an Oxygen Theif, The Princess Saves Herself in this One, and Fifty Shades of Grey, are all books that were originally self published but are now a big deal. Googling it now, I just learned Milk and Honey, one of my favorite books of poetry, started out self published! I am so glad artist Joss Hellman told me to go read it.

            Anyway, what I mean by “you can do well if you choose to” is this: If you choose to hire a copy editor, if you choose to invest in good cover art, if you choose to get your friends involved as beta and sensitivity readers, if you choose to learn what you can about marketing, if you choose to put in the work you can go far. I, Helen M. Pugsley, crusher of dreams will not promise you that you will go far. I’m saying you have a much better chance. At the very least, you will produce a quality book. Most likely, you will end up with a tiny, but ultra dedicated fandom.

            All in all, self-publishing as a whole is a good thing. But at the end of the day you have to do what’s right for you and your particular pieces of work. I don’t want to self-publish the Gishlan series. That is not my dream, it never was. I want to traditionally publish that. I would self-publish The Tooth Fairy, because I wrote it as a break from Gishlan, and I don’t feel like watering down some of the more explicit content for the sake of a publisher’s comfort. This is your life. Choose your own path. But, hating on the self-publishing industry is cancelled.

How To Donate Your Book to a Library

            Having worked for James Bond’s library I have up close and personal experience with the subject. But every library is different so I turned to the Library Think Tank – #ALATT on Facebook. One of the biggest groups of librarians online. I asked them what’s their process for accepting donations from indie authors. (You’re not James Patterson. I promise.)

            The short answer: Don’t.

            If you’re afraid to have your feelings hurt you can stop reading right here. Otherwise, I’m going to hurt your feelings.

  • Build a connection with your library.

The library you visited on vacation and casually decided to gift them a copy of your book is more likely to put it in the book sale rather than on the shelves. Your local library, where people know you, and actually like you are more likely to support you. People in your hometown want to read your book but some folks just don’t have the cash to get their own copy. Your local librarians understand this. If they think there’s patrons that want to read your book they will be twice as likely to actually put it in the connection.

DO NOT just buy a copy of your own book from Amazon and ship it to the library without a note. It’s a sure fire way to make a librarian go “What’s this? Hmm. Weird.” Then toss it in the cart that runs over to the book sale without a second thought. I’ve seen that happen more than once.

  • Get reviews.

Yes. Even if you and the librarian have matching friendship bracelets you need to get reviews. Preferably from people who don’t like you. Or just don’t know you! Embracing the stranger danger is probably best in this case!

Why? Because librarians have a lot to do and don’t feel like reading your book in their personal time. (I told you I’d hurt your feelings.) Personal time is when you can read Chuck Tingle if you want to! Or fan fiction! They want to read the reviews at work and see if it’s a good fit for the library’s collection. Also, the librarian you’re friends with might not be the librarian in charge of acquisitions.  The folks in cataloging get the final say. That’s their entire job. And if they can’t quickly discern if your book fits the collection they’re going to set it aside with every intention of cataloging it later. Later could very well mean never.

  • You gave a gift. Don’t pester them.

You remember that time your aunt gave you that weird bowl with cats painted all over it, and she got mad you didn’t fill it with Orange Fluff and bring it to Christmas? But you still had it. It was just in your house holding out of season fruits you paid too much money for? And then because she made a big deal out of it you started resenting it and now it sits in your cupboard holding other bowls? Yeah. That’s what happens if you call them up twice a week and ask if your book is on the shelf yet. That’s the trickiest part of gifts. When you give someone a gift they’re under no obligation to use it. Hopefully they like it. Don’t be your mean aunt.

  • Build a quality book.

First, turn to page 101 in War and Chess. Now click this link. This is why I don’t deserve a PS5. Out of all the book signings I’ve had, and all the places I’ve been to, there are five places in the world that have my book. All of them are in Wyoming.

Get yourself a good copy editor, an ISBN, and there are a lot of libraries that absolutely require your book be translated in English. America has no official language but English seems to be the most common tongue. If your book has type-os, ugly cover art that doesn’t match the story, disturbing imagery for the target audience─ There was one librarian who told me a story about reading a book about the tooth fairy to her story time kids. It was written by a local author. But what made it memorable was the tooth fairy ripping off her face in the end. That story time group is in middle school now but they still pop in and complain about their shared trauma.─ all of these little things will prevent your book from entering a public library’s collection.

            Last of all, you need to understand that your book might not make it in. Every library is different. Some libraries have an acquisitions board! Some libraries are prepared for you and have instructions on their websites! But you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The real trick to getting your book in a library is putting in the time and work, and making a good book. There’s more to books than plot. If you do make it in understand you’re lucky and always say thank you.

Join me next year for a whole new bundle of blog posts! Don’t forget to subscribe so you won’t miss a thing. Thank you for all your support. You reading this means you helped me achieve my goals of keeping a monthly blog for one year! Thank you! As always, if you’ve got questions, something I didn’t address yet, or you just want to say “Hi” go visit that Contact tab off to the left. I practically live on social media! Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Happy Hanukkah, and New Years! (We survived!) Be blessed.

Boo! It’s the Fear of Failure

I have to share something truly scary with you guys: I want to give up.

That’s right. I said it. I want to turn around and dump all of this off. I want to unload every single piece I’ve written, my life’s work, online for free so someone will read it and love it. Maybe Wattpad? I am tired.

No hard feelings, of course, but the press I was in a gentleman’s agreement with and I decided it would be best if my books and I moved on back in July. It’s like a breakup. Even if you were unhappy and it was just not working it still hurts. And yeah, much like a breakup, I wish them well and hope they get all the happiness this world has to offer too. But still, it’s about as disheartening as a punch in the jaw. (Actually, a punch in the jaw would make me incredibly angry but that’s beside the point!)

Like I started off saying, I just want someone to love my books as much as I love them. I’ve spent 10 friggin’ years in Gishlan. This October will make it official! I am, in all seriousness, thinking about self-publishing my Gishlan series. Which, is something I promised myself I’d never do because self-publishing is great for hobbyists! More power to ya! But this is so much more than a hobby to me. My itty bitty vegetable garden is a hobby, my Etsy shop is a hobby, making memes in Facebook groups is a hobby. My writing is not a hobby.

You know what’s easier than rounding up all the freelancers I’ve been working with for the past five years and tapping my foot impatiently at them while we try to meet some fancy smancy deadline I made up? Giving up.

I could just drop it. Never talk about it. I could swear off writing (even though I actually can’t because I get this weird itch under my skin when I don’t write and BLEH!) I could just let this skill set I’ve been working on since I started elementary school get rusty, let the stories die inside of me, never make another blog post, get out of the game. I could.

But why? Why sacrifice that year I lived off of the royalties and revenue from War and Chess? Or all those hours where I broke my back over an antique kitchen chair as I typed out 40,000+ words during a global pandemic? Or that time when I was 17 and I gave a nice lady with eyelids that reminded me of butterflies $10 to read my fortune at a street fair, and she told me “I don’t think you’ll publish your book. I know you will. Kick some ass.”? Why would I let go of that time I was first world starving in my first apartment, pressing 700 shirts a week, wondering if anything good would come of my life or if I’d just pay bills and slowly rot away, but instead one March day I got email a contract for War and Chess? I coyote howled all the way to the grocery store where I bought sparkling grape juice I couldn’t really afford because I was 19 and wasn’t legal to drink yet. Why would I let any of it go?

The fear of failure. That’s why.

This is friggin’ terrifying. Here I am pouring my heart out to you guys in fiction, and someone who doesn’t even read young adult fantasy could just come up and “I don’t like it.”, give it one star on Amazon, and “It needs more romance.” Or not even that! War and Chess has been rejected 25 times and Tales from the Gishlan Wood has been rejected 26 times. Both pieces could never meet the right publisher! And what about the other two books on my desk? They just go inside of my coffee table which is a trunk containing manuscripts? I could completely fail.

But you know what? War and Chess has been accepted by indie presses twice, and Tales from the Gishlan Wood has been offered three different contracts. I just feel that it’s important to find the right publisher where we, me as an author, and them as a press, can mutually benefit each other. And as for books three and four: one day one of my friends will ask “OH! Is this the one with the pregnant lady who swears a lot?! Yass!” and somewhere out there, there is a little girl who is really excited to see her mermaid book in print. Even just to read it! (Because I only just did the first draft editing and she watched me write it from afar.) I firmly believe there are people out there who need these stories and I want to do it in a way that can reach the most people. And if that’s not it, then I’m sure people need the story of me wanting to give up because I’m so gawldarn tired of failing but then persevering. Even if that person isn’t a writer. My childhood heroes ran brothels. The sex industry just isn’t for me even though I respect the con craft. Some examples: 1, 2, 3.

What’s catastrophic failure to the owner of a brothel? The church shuts your practice down? Dell Burke offered to shut down the power plant for them if they dared. For me catastrophic failure would be amassing a fandom over the course of 20 years then saying a bunch of narrow minded garbage that defames a certain group. *Looks into camera* So why not give myself that chance and keep working?

Don’t sweat. I’m currently querying agents because I obviously can’t find the right publisher on my own. Don’t get me wrong! I’ve worked with good people! We’re just not right for each other. I’m not giving up and neither should you!

These things take time. And it’s about as much as having bamboo shoved under your fingernails then lit on fire. Go for your goals! Battle that dragon! Lay siege to that castle! Pick one that the beefeaters aren’t guarding. I don’t want to see you die. Learn a new language! Travel the world [when it’s safe to do so]! Write your bleedin’ book. Publish your bleedin’ book! Whatever you came here hoping I would tell you to do! Do the thing!

And please continue to follow my career so I can disappoint you, as all heroes do eventually. *Whispers* except you, Dell. You’re perfect.

Happy Halloween! Come back next month for NaNoWriMo is Weird. And as always don’t be a stranger. Contact button is to your left, comments are below. Would love to hear from ya!

Substance Abuse Doesn’t Make You Creative

            This blog post is going to be kind of heavy but I’m going to do my best to be honest. We’re going to do some “real talk” here. I write these posts month in advance. Right now I’m in quarantine due to the covid-19 pandemic. I am safe but I am trying to keep everyone else safe too by taking myself out of the equation.

            During quarantine many of us have had to look our inner demons in the eyes. Self isolation is a bad habit we try to avoid. Humans are pack animals. We rely on each other. Right now we are all bored, we are all scared, and we are all looking for ways to comfort ourselves. I can’t see the future. I don’t know what’s going on in August. I do know that plenty of people are drinking and smoking more because we can. I know I built a wind chime on my lawn at 11am with a beer because I could. I wouldn’t be surprised if come August many of us were struggling with addition.

            I want to tell you something creatives don’t tell each other enough: Your addiction doesn’t make your more creative. Smoking cigarettes doesn’t make you an artist. Drinking whiskey doesn’t make you a writer. Anything that makes you feel altered isn’t where your creativity comes from. It’s in you. I’m sticking to legal substances. You know where you sit. I certainly am not saying that people who struggle with substance abuse are bad people. We are all just people. Even food can be a weapon. I’m telling you: This does not define you.

            And for those who haven’t danced with the devil: No. No, “pulling a Hemingway” (getting slobbering drunk and then writing until you wake up and it’s morning) will not help your create quality material. Sometimes not even a quantity of material. It’s not worth it. It’s just fun.

            To summarize: What you should take away is that you don’t need it to be creative. Whatever it is. The creativity is inside of you. It always was. The addiction of your choice won’t make you a better writer. Continuing to create will. All things in moderation.

Join me next month for Find What Motivates You