Op-ed: How to Self-Publish and Not Perish in the Process
BY George Snyder
September 23 2011 4:00 AM ET
Five: Don’t Listen to the Critics. OK, this is critical, no pun intended, so listen up. Do not listen to the people who will tell you what you want to do is difficult or a bad idea or ill-advised. And when they say that lots of the self-published books are no good, walk away. So what? Seriously. So WHAT? It has nothing to do with you or what you are doing. William P. Young’s self-published Christian novel The Shack was on the New York Times best-seller list for 70 weeks. Is it any good? If you’re not into Christian inspirational stories, you might not think so, or maybe you do, your choice, whatever, good for you. But hello? Best seller. Ditto Amanda Hocking’s books I mentioned earlier, the ones about trolls falling in love, the $2 million deal with St. Martin’s. Call me crazy, but it took me nearly 20 years before I decided that worrying about what other people thought about my writing wasn’t really getting me anywhere. I finally realized that what other people think creates their reality. What I think creates mine. And if I am going to worry about what other people are going to think, I am not going to be doing much. So my advice to you is, don’t listen to what other people think. It’s hard to hear anyway, most of the time, unless they say it in their out-loud voices. And if they do? If they feel they have to tell you? And it’s not loving and supportive? Ignore them.
While promoting my book, I sent out emails to friends and groups I’m part of. I got a message back from someone on the distribution list of a literary group I’m a part of. “Remove me from your list,” it said. OK, not exactly a criticism, but I took it badly, I admit it. Clearly he’s a very serious writer or easily offended by what I’m trying to do, or simply not interested, or he gets a lot of junk mail or something else entirely. I have no idea. His reality, not mine. His loss, maybe too, but who cares? I took him off the list and moved on. I had another acquaintance I told the good news to, when my book first appeared on Amazon. He drew back and frowned as though I’d just tried to hand him a turd. “You wrote a book?” he asked with doubt and maybe a hint of contempt. “But, but who’s your publisher?”
“Me!” I replied and laughed out loud. Out loud and sort of in his face. Remember that one of my greatest fears was what? That someone would disapprove of what I’d done. Well, fear is a magnet, and that is exactly what I’d attracted and exactly what he was giving me. And what happened? It was a cathartic moment. I realized I didn’t care. I realized I had to focus on what I’m doing, not what other people are thinking. And that’s what I’m telling you: Focus on what you’re doing. What you’re doing is writing and publishing your book.
With that in mind —
Six: Change Your Mind. And closely related to that: Have fun. Seriously. If I had to boil this simple list down to one thing it would be, Be Open and Have Fun. Change your mind. I did. Hello? Learning curve with the book cover, right? You’re learning. It’s OK. You can change your mind. From tasteful, Virginia Woolf, what-the-fuck-is-this-a-book-of-poems to hot-guy-with-the-word-novel-on-his-peen. And speaking of Step Five above, I had a lesbian friend tell me I had to change the cover immediately, for crying out loud. “ Look at that, oh, God,” she explained, pointing to the model’s manhood with loathing and disgust and horror. I told her it was so big we had to Photoshop it down to what she could see, and she screamed. I rest my case.
But truly, dear writer friend: Change your mind, try different fonts, styles, looks, ask around, shop, change friends, change models, enjoy the process, and for heaven’s sake, have fun with it. Writing is brutal enough. It’s a lonely process, sitting and typing, or sitting around thinking about typing or scribbling notes and surfing the Net on your laptop at Starbucks while you flirt with the guy at the next table. Writing isn’t easy. But learning how to publish what you’ve written doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It can be fun. Or not. Your choice. But you could try to have fun, at least. By not listening to the people who will tell you it isn’t fun. Or giving attention to the people who tell you to take them off your list. You know what? Fuck them. Sure, you have to learn some things. Yes, it can be frustrating the first time you download your files into the Blurb or Lulu or Somebody Else’s template and get stuck with a formatting problem. Yes, you will need to find out what a JPEG is. And an ISBN. Yes, there are rules and guidelines. Yes, you are going to have to do a little research. I call it shopping. It sounds nicer. Like something I enjoy doing. But come on, think: a photo shoot? Guy says to you, should I take off this underwear? And you aren’t going to like doing that? I can’t tell you how to make the writing easier. All I can tell you to do is do it. Get started. Go back to Step One. Look ahead. Look forward. And ...