An Interview With Matthew Williams: A Science Fiction Writer’s Perspective on Self-Publishing

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Matthew Williams is the author of several science fiction novels, including Source, Data Miners, and the riveting zombie thriller Whiskey Delta, all of which are self-published. I recently had an email exchange with Matt to discuss his views on self-publishing and his own experiences with this radical new form of publishing.

Rami Ungar: Matt, why did you decide to go into self-publishing?

Matthew Williams: It was a mentor of mine, Mr. Fraser Cain – creator and publisher of Universe Today – who first got me interested. For years, I had been writing and seeking a book deal, but all in vain. It seemed that publishing houses were taking less and less chances on new manuscripts and would always respond (when they responded at all) with form letters saying what my writing was “not what they were looking for.”

Mr. Cain was the one who told me that this was to be expected in this day and age, where new media and indie writing was making the traditional publishing route a thing of the past. It was a paradox, to be sure, and I understood what he meant. On the one hand, it was harder to get published because of self-publishing and new media. On the other hand, these same phenomena were offering opportunities for authors that were never before available.

After speaking about it a few times, I came to see the wisdom in what he was saying. By becoming an indie and using all the tools that were at my disposal, I could bring my message directly to an audience without the approval of the “gatekeepers” – i.e. a publishing house. This meant I would have to do all the legwork, but it would also mean I would reap all the rewards. On top of that, it would get me out of the slump I found myself in, waiting for others to recognize me and give my work its big break. This way, I could make that break happen for myself.

RU: What was your first step when you decided to self-publish?

MW: Well, the first step was finding a press where I could get my books into a readable, buyable format. I already had some experience with Print-On-Demand and did not want to repeat that, seeing as how that route requires you to shell out a chunk of money in return for basic services that do not guarantee any sales. What’s more, there are renewal fees and the price for an individual book can be prohibitively high. But after talking it over with Fraser and a few other people who are experienced on the subject, I learned of Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, Lulu, Createspace and a host of other services where you can do publish your books independently and have a far greater degree of control over the process. I shopped around and experimented for a bit, but finally found a combination I liked that allowed me to publish ebooks and paperbacks and get them to a wide audience.

RU: You have several titles out now, including the widely reviewed Whiskey Delta. After so many books, do you feel like a pro at putting together your own books and publishing them?

MW: To be honest, no. Sure, I sometimes feel like I have a lot to share whenever I’m giving advice to people who are completely new to the indie writing game. But there is always someone more experienced, as well as new and humbling experiences that make you realize you’ve still got a lot to learn. I imagine that at some point, I’ll feel like I’ve got things down pat. Perhaps when I’m moving enough books that I can dedicate myself to writing full time, or have several titles that are all making an impression. But for now, I still feel like I’m relatively new to this business and toiling in relative anonymity.

RU: What are some techniques you use to spread the word about your books?

MW: Well, there are plenty of ways. Social media presents plenty of opportunities for new authors to get the word out and online writing groups are also effective at times. These include groups like Authonomy, Wattpad, and services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And of course, it’s crucial to have a website that presents followers with updates and insight into your ideas, process, and inspirations. And the most important thing is to make sure that they are all linked, so that any and all updates can be shared across multiple forums, and potential fans are given every opportunity to see where your books can be bought.

RU: Potential fans? So that means you have some sort of fanbase. What’s that like?

MW: Ha, yeah it’s nice. It’s a modest following, but from what I can tell, some people seem to enjoy what I have to offer. It does bolster your efforts, I’ve noticed. Hearing that people like your work and are willing to pay you regular compliments really does make you feel good and spurs on your creative efforts. But it also makes you aware of the fact that now there are people out there whose approval you want to keep. When you’re starting out, the only person you want to please is yourself. So in a way, having a fan base can take away some of your creative freedom. But no artist wants to toil away in anonymity forever!

RU: Yeah, that’s true. Now here’s a question that burns in every self-published author’s mind: if a traditional publishing company offered you a contract, what would be your reaction?

MW: That is a good question, and one I’ve struggled with of late. On the one hand, I would be losing some of the freedom I have right now if I signed a deal. On the other, a publisher could offer me promotional and editorial services I don’t currently enjoy. And in the end, any indie writer has to consider whether or not they would be willing to compromise on their independence for the sake of a comfy contract. I guess it would all depend on what they could offer and if the price was right.

RU: How do you see the publishing industry as it stands today?

MW: I guess the best way to look at it would be as a shrinking community. The gatekeeper gets to decide who comes in, and membership has its privileges. But the community is shrinking and its resources are diminishing. So they’re naturally letting fewer and fewer people in and, if I may say so, lowering their standards. At some point, the community is likely to be gone altogether, though I imagine that will take some time.

RU: That sounds rather apocalyptic, in a way. My final question is what would you say to someone who is considering self-publishing and you wanted to encourage them to try it?

MW: I’d most likely say, “Good for you, because that’s the way to go these days. Most people want to be discovered, to be given a big break, but that’s rarely the case anymore. This way, you can make a name for yourself and make your own breaks happen. It might take longer, and it will all be on you – so prepare to work hard – but the rewards will be yours as well. And if it’s what you love, it will well be worth it. Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing your writing in print and knowing that people are reading and enjoying it.”

Matthew Williams books are available in both digital and print formats on Amazon, Lulu, and other distributors. You can also read his work and receive the latest updates in science, science fiction, and geekdom from his blog, Stories by Williams.

How to Add a Simple Table of Contents in Kindle Books

I’m going to be honest and admit that I don’t have a table of contents in my books, or at least I haven’t manually put one in. But, a fellow author got a notice from Amazon that some of you may have gotten:

Your book doesn’t have a Table of Contents. A table of contents provides readers with both easy navigation and improved visibility into the contents of the book.  Please see https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A2BQILI6OJWLTC for help with creating and formatting a Table of Contents.

So, I thought this might be a good time to discuss HOW to make a table of contents using Word. (I assume other word processing programs are similar but I haven’t used them, so I don’t know.)

There are probably multiple ways to go about this, (for how to use headers, check out THIS POST)  but here is what I did:

1. Since my chapters don’t have names, I just typed them up after all of the copyright info

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 2. Then I went through the book and made bookmarks at each chapter. To make a bookmark, place your cursor next to your chapter title/heading:

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Then go to Insert> Bookmark

(this is what it looks like in Word 2010)

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You’ll get a pop up box. Type in some identifying name that you can remember. Chapter1 or chapterone would be the easiest. Then click the Add button.

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The box disappears. Repeat for all the chapters, including any prologues, afterwords, introductions, about the author sections, acknowledgements, etc.

When I was done, I went back to that Table of Contents I had added at the beginning and hyper-linked it.

To do that, highlight “Chapter One” then go to Insert>Hyperlink 

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OR Right Click and choose Hyperlink from the menu:

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This will give you a pop up box. Choose the Bookmark button:

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A second box will pop up. Choose the matching bookmark (aka Chapter One – chapter1) and click OK.

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The second box will disappear and you’ll notice that in the address bar it now says #- whatever your bookmark is named. Technically, I suppose you could manually type your bookmark titles in there, but I always worry about a typo, so I go ahead and choose it from the list. Hit OK

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Your text will now be hyperlinked:

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Repeat for the remaining chapters.

But what if you’ve done all of this, uploaded it and got this response form Amazon?

The Table of Contents isn’t accessible from the “Go To” menu in your book.

Huh? What does this mean? It means that on the kindle, when a reader clicks the menu while in your book the Table of Contents is not showing up under the menu that says “Go to…” There is an easy way to fix this in word. Remember those bookmarks we just made? Go to your table of contents and put the cursor next to the heading, or next to the top entry if you don’t have a heading, and then make a bookmark named TOC:

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click add and reupload to KDP .

Before you upload, be sure to click through your table of contents to make sure that each link goes where you want it to. It might take a couple of extra minutes, but it could save you a lot of frustration and embarrassment later on.

If this doesn’t work for you, try the other method, using headers.

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If you have books on Kindle, do you have a table of contents in them or are you “living on the edge” and waiting for Amazon to make you add one in?

Conferences, Are They Worth It?

The short answer is “yes,” but the real question is why are they?

Even after attending several of these, you wonder if you will learn anything new. But as usual, your doubts are put to rest after a conference speaker or two has presented.

Perhaps you are interested in taking the traditional route. Conferences allow you to meet with literary agents on a one-to-one basis. You can pitch your work and see if they believe your story has prospects either in the marketplace or in your ability to tell a good story. Often you bring a synopsis and at least a chapter for them to examine, but other times you just pitch your story. One writer I know has been pursuing this path for a number of years, and an agent at last week’s Nebraska Writers Guild conference requested to see more of her work.

However, today’s conferences also include a lot of advantages for the self-published author. They put you in touch with professionals in the business, such as in graphic design and marketing. One such speaker was a publishing guru and book designer Joel Friedlander.

He spoke on the benefits of each online social media from Facebook, to Twitter, to Goodreads, to YouTube, to LinkedIn to having a blog, stating blogs are the best resource. It is your hub where you can promote, post new ideas, conduct surveys and more, he said. Additionally, he believed LinkedIn to be extremely value in “gaining reputations” through its discussion formats, in being able to ask questions and in building a niche network.

Additionally, these professionals asked the audience which sold better e-books or print books? The audience replied, “e-books.” But these experts said the opposite. Thus, those brick and mortar bookstores are not going out of business soon. In fact, young people prefer print books, but adults favor e-books for their ability to enlarge print size, turn pages for those with arthritis and other e-book features, the field representatives said.

Conferences also allow attendees to interact with their cohorts – writers published or new to the craft. At this conference, there was a Friday night event where those who wanted to could read from their works. You cannot believe the great talent and variety of genres exhibited, such as poetry, memoirs, fancies, romances and humorous pieces. In addition, you got time to sell your books if you wished to do so on Saturday. If going to attend, why not sell your book(s)? You have nothing to lose since you are there anyway.

One thing I loved was putting a face to names seen on the e-mail loop. Nothing is better then talking with other writers, finding out where they are in the writing process and sharing experiences.

Finally, thank those who did the volunteer work to put the conference together. It takes time and a lot of effort from registering participants, preparing name tags, finding speakers, securing a facility and setting up the room.

So once again, get yourself to a conference even if you think there is nothing new to ascertain. You will not be disappointed. See you there and God bless.

Guest Post: When is Self-Publishing Right for you? by Angelita Williams

More books are now self-published than are published the old-fashioned way. However, most of these fall into the “long tail” category, and the marketing muscle of the traditional houses is still the best guarantee of a top seller. Traditional publishing still may be a realistic or desirable option for your books, or it may not. Some types of titles are naturally better for self-publishing. Others fit well enough into well-established market niches that a company might be glad to take them on. Whatever the case, let’s take a look at a handful of the genres and situations that are most conducive to the self-publishing approach:

1. Niche nonfiction

Is your book strictly for snail collectors? War of 1812 buffs? Gay albinos? Then self-publishing is almost certainly the way to go. Reaching micro-targeted constituencies will require a different type of marketing, largely internet-based, one that the gigantic dinosaurs of the industry haven’t figure out how to do particularly well anyway. But if you can reach the other 2,000 people who are interested in your topic, you’re golden.

2. Romance

Romance readers are the most voracious readers alive, in terms of volume. I’ve known some who read two books a day. They’re willing to try new writers, new publishers, or no publisher at all, as long as you deliver on the conventions of the genre. Obviously, this sector has taken a big leap lately, exemplifying the future of publishing with 50 Shades. While the crossover appeal that all the publishers are cashing in on may fade, this audience will always be there.

3. Regional titles

Let’s face it: Big Publishing has an insular New York attitude. If your book’s primary appeal is going to be to people in your own area anyway, there’s not really much reason to focus on landing that national publishing deal. This will be on you — to get the community’s attention and spread awareness of what you have to offer — but as with the niche hobby subjects, that crowd is there for you, if you can reach it (but in this case, more in-person and through local media).

4. Poetry

Many great poets have self-published over the centuries. Poetry often appeals to a niche crowd of literati who have no use for mass opinion or marketing, but know the good stuff when they read it, and its reputation spreads by word of mouth. Because there’s little commercial potential to begin with, there isn’t as much stigma attached to self-publishing among poets the way there is in literary fiction.

Those are just a few of the most promising scenarios for self-publishing, but there are many more, from paranormal thrillers to technical textbooks. Ultimately, it comes down to making a strategic choice regarding what’s best for your work and how you want it to be distributed. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous rejection letters, or to take arms against a sea of traditional publishers and by opposing, end them…that, as the man said, is the question.

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Angelita Williams is a freelance writer and education enthusiast who frequently contributes to onlinecollegecourses.com. She strives to instruct her readers and enrich their lives and welcomes you to contact her at angelita.williams7@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments.

 

 

Why you might not be succeeding at Self-Publishing?

I’m sitting at my desk this morning with my cup of coffee, my emails open, and an urge to slap someone I don’t know upside the head. Why? Because there is this erroneous myth floating around the Internet that self-publishing is the easy way out and it’s easier to succeed at self-publishing your books then going the traditional route.

Um…Really?

In my opinion they are both hard routes, just in different ways. The end goals of the two are also different. I’m not going to go into details. It’s not why I’m writing this post.

SPAL has had more than a few self-publishers email us for advice, one of the reasons we started the Writing as a Business series. No, the person I want to slap upside the head isn’t one of these people. He is someone else entirely, He asked another writer a question and when she tried to help him he didn’t really listen to the advice she gave him (outside link), but looked for an easier way to do it.

Self-publishing isn’t easy, It isn’t a straight path to success. Success, of course, being defined by most as a “make tons of money right away” venture. (I don’t define success this way, but I realize most people who go into self-publishing might.) If you think you can just slap up a book on Amazon, B&N, etc. and become the next Amanda Hocking, you are in for a rude awakening.

Self-publishing is hard work. You have to do everything yourself, or hire someone who can, and in a way that can compete with the big boys. From writing the book to book setup to marketing and promoting. Each book should look like a traditionally published book you can find in a bookstore. Yeah, you can hire someone to do some or most of it, but search for someone who can produce quality work.

If you plan to succeed at this business, be realistic. Things take time. You need a backlist of books with each book being the best work possible. Don’t skimp on polishing it up (outside link). Also, keep in mind that not everyone is going to be a bestseller. Even if you do hit the bestselling charts, you won’t maintain it forever and your next book might not sell as well. You can never predict which book will resonate with readers and which won’t. Each book is unique.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a bestseller to make a nice amount of money. With enough good quality books, it’s possible to make a nice secondary income or even your main income. But this is going to take dedication, time and lots of hard work.

It means that you need to be professional in your conduct. Don’t play the games that authors without integrity do. People are watching what you do, and you never know is some unethical action might come to light.

It means pricing your book where the market will hold and you are getting sales you’re content with. While researching what others are pricing their books at be aware that some people can price their books higher and sell. Other price their lower and earn more than when they had higher prices. Experiment and find a place you are happy with.

Special thanks to Ruth for helping me with this post. 😀

Author Joleene Naylor’s Writing/Publishing Process

Everyone writes a book differently and each author swears by their own methods.  As far as I see it, the only wrong way is the way that doesn’t work for you. That said, I’m going to share my bizarre way of novel creation.

  1. Rough (bad) draft. Ideally, I like to do this in a month without an outline. I have vague ideas for some plot elements, or even a handful of scenes, but that’s about it. I also don’t research beforehand, but rather as I’m writing because I don’t know what I will need.
  2. I reread and fix anything major I notice. I won’t lie, this is often not a lot.
  3. It’s off the beta reader number one whose job is to find major typos. I have a lot of them because, yes, I’m a bit dyslexic. It means some extra work on the polishing end and that we have to go over it more times than some other authors need to, but it is as it is.
  4. At this stage it used to go to The Mighty Ed (alas I have lost her because of other commitments, though I have a new Ed in training). She would read through and point out scenes that needed cut, scenes that needed expanded, parts that didn’t mesh, places where the characters acted out of character etc. This step is absolutely vital to any book, and I can not reiterate enough the need for an “Ed” who respects you enough to tell you what needs fixed without being mean or lecturing you. It may also be hard to take said advice the first (few) times because essentially they tear your book to shreds and stomp on it – but hopefully in a nice way.
  5. Now comes rework. I  incorporate 99.9% of her suggestions, even if this means massive rewriting, which it has before. I prefer to go over the whole thing two times afterwards to make sure the changes flow.
  6. Beta number one tirelessly pours over it again for typos.
  7. Now it goes to beta number two. He corrects more typos and points out the flaws in my fight scenes and  suggests where I need more gore (or explosions). He’s also what I call an honest beta, in so far as he will flat out say “this sucks”. Again, this is very necessary.
  8. Another round of edits to incorporate his suggestions and probably some rewriting.
  9. Beta number one looks sad, but looks over it again.
  10. Now it goes to beta number three. She’s the romance expert but also makes suggestions on other scenes, catches typos and grammar and points out anything that might be confusing to a reader. This is invaluable.
  11. Another round of edits to incorporate her suggestions.
  12. Beta number one cries, I feel bad, and just send it on the beta number four.
  13. Beta four wades through it, fixes typos and some odd phrases and may or may not point out a handful of scenes that need to be redone.  For example, in book four I ended up doing some large chapter rewrites after he pointed out that  a pivotal scene just wasn’t working (if you’ve read the book, it was the truck stop scene.) He is also not a regular vampire fan, so he points out anything that non-vampire readers might find confusing. This is another super important person.
  14. I rewrite, re-edit, etc based on his suggestions. I also have several long plot arranging conversations with him, so he gets to be the sounding board, as have poor Mighty Ed  and betas one and two throughout the whole of this process.
  15. Then it  is off to beta number five. She is a whiz at catching typos/grammar, plot inconsistencies and things like magically changing hair color or magically clean clothes (these have both happened!)  etc. and, like The Mighty Ed, she understands the universe and the characters. This is something that is very hard to find and so, so important!
  16. Another round of edits and rewrites and then poor beta number one looks it over again. By now beta one and I have it memorized and are both sick of this book.
  17. Mighty Ed gets the final copy, which she double checks for punctuation (my commas are wild). With book four, Mighty Ed was pretty busy, so beta five got the final round. She did a fantastic job, as evidenced by the nice clean copy.
  18. Now I make a bunch of other changes. Beta number one sobs and threatens to beat her head into the keyboard. I moan and complain that this must be the worst book ever written. I would rather stab out my eyes than read it again.
  19. I format it and send it to Create Space. My paperback version arrives and I read it one more time (it reads differently in paperback). Then poor beta one looks at it again as does beta two. We draw circles, squares and chickens on the pages (beta two does the chicken art).
  20. I redo all of the marked things. On the last boo this was just typos and such, but on the others I have randomly added whole new scenes at this juncture.
  21. Ideally I get a second proof and go through it a final time, but not always.
  22. I publish the sucker and vow never to read it again because i would rather be stampeded to death by a herd of water buffalo than ever read another word of it!

As you can see, this process is a bit long. I need to try to streamline this because, as you can guess, it takes months and releasing only one book a year is not doing my career any favors. It’s occurred to me that a lot of time is spent polishing scenes that get deleted or changed after beta reader’s input, so with my current WIP (PATRICK) I am trying a different method. I sent out the initial bad draft (from step 4) and will compile the comments, notes, etc, and the do a BIG rewrite, thereby hopefully meshing steps 4-15 into only a couple of steps. Hopefully this will also save beta one’s sanity and keep me from completely hating the book by the time it’s published. Or maybe not.  Cutting out some of the rewrite steps may result in more typos slipping through, or more little bits that needed added but got missed. I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out. That’s the beauty of indy publishing, you can try new things, make mistakes, learn from it and try something else if it doesn’t work.

Guest Post: 3 Types of Courses Every Self-Publishing Author Should Take by Nadia Jones

Are you an ambitious author trying to get your written word into the public eye? Have you recently published your own book, or is that something you plan to do in the near future? If so, you aren’t alone. Studies suggest that self-publishing has experienced “explosive growth” in the last few years.

However, before you jump on this bandwagon, there are three types of courses you should consider taking. Read on to learn more.

Business 101 Course

While writing a book is a purely artistic experience, selling one is a completely different story. There are markets and demographics to consider, not to mention pricing, competition and trends. That can be a lot for someone who has never even glanced at a business book. So, before you fully engage yourself in the process, consider taking a business course that simply covers the basics. No need to get too involved or in-depth in the process, as there will always be experts you can consult, but you yourself should have a general understanding of how things work, to ensure you do not get the run around or taken advantage of in the process—especially if you are looking to make big money with this venture.

Even if you don’t gain huge success, this course will better prepare you for any future transactions you may encounter throughout your professional life.

Budgeting/Accounting Course

Taking some sort of course in general finance, accounting or budgeting is a wise idea for many reasons. First, even if you are self-publishing your own work, it will cost some money. Expenses will only increase if you opt to have someone proof and/or edit it, so it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with some of the basic principles/fundamentals of finance, as you will likely be doing quite a bit of budgeting.

Second, this knowledge becomes even more valuable should you be a lucky author who makes it big. Increased earnings mean more money to manage and possibly invest. Having a general understanding of how the money market works will prove invaluable no matter what your situation.

Basic Public Relations

My final recommendation for aspiring self-publishing authors is to enroll in a beginner’s course on public relations. Unless you are planning to hire a publicist to do this work for you, you’ll have to know the right and wrong ways to promote yourself, unless you want your book to go unnoticed and, subsequently, unread. No author wants his or her efforts to be in vain, so rather than remain another unknown, educate yourself in the ways of PR to further your overall efforts.

Being such basic courses, one should have no problem finding these at any institute of higher learning. And for those worried about fitting them into their schedule, many schools are now offering several courses online, or in a hybrid format, so you can likely find an option that meets your needs.

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Nadia Jones is an education blogger who knows all about online colleges. She enjoys writing on topics of education reform, education news, and online learning platforms. Outside of the blogging world, Nadia volunteers her time at an after school program for a local middle school and plays pitcher for her adult softball team. She welcomes your comments and questions at nadia.jones5@gamail.com.

Q&A: Sale of Foreign Rights and Self-Publishing?

I received a question in my inbox the other day for which I know not the answer  to and was unable to find the answer, so I thought I would ask you guys if you knew.

“My question pertains to the sale of foreign rights and self publishing. I’ve sold rights to a foreign publisher, but how does self publishing my second book affect my prior sale and future foreign rights sales?”

Any answers for a fellow writer?

Guest Post: 3 Self-Published Masterpieces by Amelia Wood

The breakout success this year of E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey may have blown away all kinds of misconceptions about the commercial viability of self-published books (or smut, or fan fiction for that matter), but one thing it won’t do is remove the most basic prejudice against self-publishing: that a book must have been self-published due to its simply not being any good. Because 50 Shades, whatever else you can say about it, isn’t.

Luckily, there’s a venerable tradition of truly excellent writers publishing their own books. Here is a handful of examples to show that even the very best sometimes have to cut out the middleman:

1. Swann’s Way (first volume of À la recherche du temps perdu) by Marcel Proust

Yes, that’s right: the most massive, sweeping, most praised, least read novel of the modern era, adored by critics and anyone else who made it through the seventh book before they died of old age. The first book, Swann’s Way, was turned down by several publishers, until Proust himself had to pay to get it in print. Sacre bleu!

2. Ulysses by James Joyce

The only contemporary competitor to Proust’s cycle in terms of genius, difficulty, and scope would of course be this 1922 masterwork by James Joyce. Beset by obscenity charges and other legal problems throughout the 20th century, the book’s launch was delayed by a more basic problem: no one would print the damn thing. Expatriate American Sylvia Beach ended up printing the famous first edition (now worth a fortune, out of her bookstore Shakespeare & Co. So there you have it, the two most Earth-shaking works of early 20th-century modernist literature, both starting out self-published.

3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Unlike the first two entries on this list, which both feature minor writers hawking difficult manuscripts, this is another kind of self-publishing success story. Mark Twain was already a famous author due to works like “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, to which Huckleberry Finn is of course a sequel. Apparently they didn’t have a good airtight contract on Twain’s intellectual property, because he fled “the foolishness of his publishers” to control his own destiny as well as that of his characters.

So don’t let anybody tell you have to get some suits in New York to approve your book before you can have it printed. “Light out for the territory” like Huck and make a name for yourself!

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This guest post is provided by Amelia Wood, who loves to help point people toward medical billing and coding careers through her writing. Reach her at amelia1612@gmail.com.

Guest Post: Why I went Indie by Lenore Skomal

I am Indie. And I say it proudly and with gusto because I chose it. Perhaps that makes me different from other Indie authors who find themselves pushed into the Indie way because of a general lack of response from the profit-driven, long-suffering commercial publishing industry, which has been reduced to a passel of lost sheepherders trying lead their readers without direction or vision. But that’s another blog post.

A little back story: I started writing books in 2001, following a long career as a broadcast reporter and a burgeoning career in print journalism. It is a career that took me four decades to finally get to. That first book (Keeper of Lime Rock, Running Press, 2001) spawned 16 other book deals with four separate publishing houses. I have hired and parted ways with two literary agents during the course of that time. And learned a lot about the industry in the process, much of which is not pretty or glamorous. Not counting advances, the conventional route of being published through a commercial publisher has, to date, netted me exactly zero dollars in royalties.

The lack of financial success isn’t the real reason I went Indie. That goes much deeper, and it’s multifold. Indie appeals to me. I chose the Indie way of life because it speaks to me and how I have come to approach my life in the broadest of terms, and my art in specific. While working within the traditional publishing hierarchy and producing mostly contracted books, I found myself in a lesser place, wrangling with base emotions. Rather than feeling exalted and amped up like I do when I am dancing with my muse and creating tapestries with my words, I was ugly. That lack of beauty was obvious through my moods and rash feelings of disgruntlement, frustration, shock, sadness, disheartenment and yearning. Always yearning.

My mind shifted from the creative to the competitive. And with that, my higher path dropped to the lowest of roads. I found myself bitter about other’s successes, jealous of those I considered lesser writers who had moved ahead, and greedy for my piece of the pie. This is not what being in the flow is about. I began to look at success in terms of dollars and more dollars. And I continued to plummet.

Dark days indeed, especially because I was continuing to write all that I didn’t want to write. My two novels and two other very important books that I had completed stay buried in my computer, waiting to be discovered by this same industry that had never proved fertile ground for my craft.

The independent book revolution, though I discovered it rather than it finding me, saved my soul. I am a newbie, with only one plus years under my belt with my own imprint. But have found myself again. Through forging my own path to understand all the specifics of getting my work in print, my courage was steeled, my voice sharpened, confidence cranked up, and my imagination humming. This is no exaggeration.

Long ago I isolated the reason why I write. As one of seven kids, raised in a dysfunctional Catholic family during the tail end of the Hippie era, I discovered writing at a young age and found that it did something for me that nothing else could. It helped me make sense of my life. It also allowed me to be heard, which didn’t happen often in the chaos that was my childhood. And that is the primary reason that I write. Being schooled in that tradition for 12 years, I got very used to being told what to do, how to do it, and what to wear while doing it. I was primed for the publishing industry because I was such a good soldier. The problem was, I wasn’t happy and somewhere along the way, they wanted me to sell my soul. And I’m ashamed to say, for the right advance, I might just have done it. Thankfully, no one wanted my novels as they are written, so I remain with my spirituality intact.

I say all of this because it ultimately explains why I love the Indie book revolution. No one is telling me what to do. And that is very freeing. In this ever-evolving movement where boundaries are still being defined and we are all pretty much making things up as we go along, there is plenty of room for all of us. And no one has to change plots or switch voices or add werewolves to their novels or make endings more politically correct, just because an editor or publisher tells us to. Experimental genres are just as legit as literary fiction, and we can all wear unmatched socks and go shirtless to fancy restaurants if we want. And make money at the same time.

You know why? Because we are now free to leave ourselves bare, just as we are, take us or leave us, for the only person that matters to decide: The reader. We cut out the fat middleman, the hierarchy, the chain of command—call it what you will. We go direct to the reader and let that person decide.

Whether you come to independent publishing by choice, like me, or by chance, it really doesn’t matter in the long run. You’re here. And because of that, you’re part of the future, whether you realize it or not. We’re not outside the industry.

We are the industry, redefined.

Author Bio:

Lenore Skomal wants you to eat her books. She wants you to chew them in your teeth, savor them on your tongue, breathe them in, and feel her words in your skin. Her passionate desire is to touch your heart, inspire you, and luxuriate in the world of the written word. She finds ecstasy in constructing a perfect sentence and responds willingly to the nagging ache in her heart to create an authentic experience for the reader. Lenore is an award-winning author with the single goal of being heard.

In addition to writing, Lenore is an engaging public speaker with over 1000 public engagements, book tours and writing seminars. She has taught college journalism, has one son, and when not off gallivanting from Egypt to Mongolia she resides with her husband in Erie, Pa.

To contact Lenore check out her Website or Facebook Page