We’ve got a more positive story to share today, and the moral of the story is this: there are alternatives to publishing with iUniverse.
Last week my friend Paul Little suggested I take a look at the non-scammy options available for authors who want to self-publish, and a few minutes later Rachel Lynn Brody volunteered to answer some questions about how she self-published Hot Mess without being ripped off.
Before we start the interview, let me introduce you to Rachel:
Rachel Lynn Brody is an award-winning playwright, as well as a blogger and theater critic. Her short fiction includes Restaurants Are Rated Out Of Four Stars (A Foodie Romance), The Tell Tale Tech, and “Sweetheart” (part of the Sassy Singularity anthology). Later this year, look out for “Millennial Ex,” a ten-minute play premiering at Glasgay 2012, as well as the original web series “Unfamiliar Lives”, co-written with and directed by Eric Sipple. Rachel produces theater, short films, e-books and results.
ES: What made you decide to self-publish?
Brody: I decided to self-publish HOT MESS: Speculative Fiction About Climate Change for several reasons, but primarily because as an independent writer and artist who has worked across multiple disciplines (theater, fiction and short film, but also criticism, journalism and online media), I wanted to understand the powerful platform of being able to create e- and print books on my own. I also think it’s important for artists to own the means of producing and publicizing their own work, and e-publishing wasn’t something I had tried before.
ES: Did you try the traditional publishing route first? (Why or why not?)
Brody: “HOT MESS” was never going to be a traditionally published book, because part of the goal was to learn how to self-publish – which websites I needed to know about, where I could get the word out, and how I could publicize the book effectively.
ES: You’ve said that you self-published without spending a dime, how did you do it?
Brody: I don’t believe funding yourself as an artist is a sustainable creative pathway. After hand-selecting writers whose work I was familiar with to collaborate on an anthology about climate change, I worked with them on their stories and coordinated with some close friends who were willing to provide illustrations and our cover design. One of the authors involved connected us with another writer who was willing to format our book for Kindle. Ultimately, we reached March 20th (“Upload Day,” as I called it!) having spent $0. I spent several evenings reformatting it in various ways for both Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. Because the book sold into the top 20 for its Amazon category (science fiction anthologies) within its first day of sales, by the time I started working on the print edition (available from CreateSpace) we had earned enough to cover the cost of proofs. To date, we’ve spent nothing on marketing, mostly doing guest posts and posts on our own blog. I appeared on an internet radio show called The 99 Report when they did their Earth Day episode, and me and the other writers constantly discuss our work on Twitter (I’m girl_onthego, feel free to follow me). None of the money was spent before we’d made it in royalties, so no one wound up out of pocket. My experience as an editor and the generosity of our cover designer meant that we didn’t have to pay for these services.
ES: Do you think anyone can do what you did?
Brody: Yes. It takes time and dedication and a willingness to put yourself out there, but if you want to write a book there’s absolutely no reason to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on getting it to today’s e-market. That said, I benefited enormously from my past production and project management experiences, and from having the luxury of working with established collaborators. Networking isn’t the most natural skill a writer might have, but it’s absolutely critical when you’re self-publishing.
ES: How long did it take you to get the manuscript in publishing shape once you had an initial draft?
Brody:Aside from one story, all the drafts were initially due on Jan 1st, 2012. Most of the editing work was done in the first two weeks of January, with all but one story ready to print by the end of January. The entire book was uploaded on March 20th, so I would say about two and a half months for an 18K-word-book, but that was a very generous and deliberate release date because I had never self-published before and didn’t know what kinds of snags we would hit.
ES: What was the toughest part of the process for you?
Brody: The cover art, by a long shot. I tend to orient more towards language than imagery, so it was difficult to a) come up with an idea of what I wanted and b) communicate that effectively to the cover artist. In the end, our graphic designer was able to come up with a much better concept than I ever could have.
ES: What advice or encouragement would you offer to other writers looking to self-publish their work?
Brody: Like Nike says – just do it.