By any measure (industry thresholds, personal goals, etc), PHOENIXVILLE RISING is a "success." No matter how it was published. Best of all (and let’s not lose sight of this), people seem to like the book. It's being embraced by enthusiastic readers. The reviews are kind and thoughtful and the response is overwhelming.
But I'm well aware that as a debut novelist--and a self-published debut novelist--I am an anomaly. If, like the many writers I met down at the conference, you are thinking about self publishing your own work (or just interested in the machinations behind getting a book to its readers), I still have several concerns about this brave new world of publishing that we find ourselves in. Here are my two biggest issues:
1. Just because anyone can publish anything now doesn't mean they should. If anything, self publishing puts an even greater burden and responsibility on the writer to make sure his work is the best it can be. PHOENIXVILLE RISING had a ten-year gestation period. In that time, I hired two different professional editors (at great but appropriate and necessary expense), workshopped the novel with many different talented writers and readers, got invaluable feedback from my literary agent, trusted beta readers, published authors, etc etc. After I decided the book was ready, I hired a professional cover designer, proofreader, photographers, and developed a business plan--with eyes and wallet wide open. My interest was two fold: I wanted the book to be the best it could be for the readers AND I felt a responsibility to other authors (no matter how they are published) to make sure my work represented well our “industry/vocation/calling/brotherhood."
2. Traditional publishing (I'm not even big on that term--I just mean anything that isn't a self publisher) is NOT the enemy. There are very loud and obnoxious voices on either end of this debate. A small number of self-publishing evangelists argue that "traditional publishers (and therefore their authors and retailers) are dinosaurs and we should take glee in their eradication." Yeah, um, that's bullshit. And there is a small number of traditional publishers/authors who claim that "self-published books are not real books" or “those books were self-published because they couldn’t get one of the big NYC publishers to sign them.” Um, yeah, also bullshit.
Can’t we all just get along? This isn’t about HOW the work finds the reader. It’s about READERS who find the work. That’s the game.
In the end, as a writer, I just want to tell stories that people want to read and enjoy. I want to get these stories out of my head, onto the page, and out into the world. As a businessperson/marketer (and yes, we creatives must wear this hat too), I want to give my stories the best chance to connect with as many readers as possible. In the case of PHOENIXVILLE RISING, I felt confident I had a book that readers would enjoy and I was optimistic--although not exactly confident--that readers would discover the book through enthusiastic word of mouth, supportive retailers, and the time/energy/$$$ I was willing to put into marketing my work.
That doesn’t work for everyone or every book. Self publishing might make sense for you, or (more likely) it might not. It might not even make sense for my next book. But it did in the unique case of PHOENIXVILLE RISING.
There is so much I want to say on this topic. If you are curious about my experience so far, I'm happy to answer any questions.
Or just read this essay: Chuck Wendig says all this much better than I ever could. I’m sharing his blog via my friend Laura Lippman, who posted it yesterday. (Btw, Laura's new book AFTER I'M GONE comes out February 11!)
Thanks for reading. Really. That’s all I care about.
PS: The most popular questions I get at readings and book-club visits are:
(1) where is Wishing Manor?;
(2) are you going to self-publish Book 2?; and
(3) this should be a movie -- when is it going to be a movie?
(1) Wishing Manor is not real.
(2) See post above.
(3) I agree about the movie, but I know even less about independent film making than I do about self-publishing a book. So if a movie is going to get made, it will be through "traditional" film producers. I happen to know a few. So we'll see. Right now, I’m hard at work on Book 2. When I’m not ranting on blogs.