This is my first log entry in this series, 'Self-Publishing Diary: Gerard de Marigny's Log.' The idea came to me to share my experiences as I 'progress to success' in the world of self-publishing for two reasons. The first is to 'pay it forward' – I wouldn't be published at all if it weren't for the (free) information, support, advice and long-distance friendship of author Dean Wesley Smith via his fantastic website and two series:
· Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing
· New World of Publishing
If you have any interest in self-publishing, I implore you to check out both of those incredibly helpful blogs! In fact, I don't even consider them blogs as much as 'Self-Publishing University' because they take you to school!
Through Dean, I also became aware of his wife Kristine Rusch and her informative series, 'Business Rusch Publishing Series' … again … must-reads for anyone considering self-publishing!
Now, while Dean and Kristine's blogs are dedicated to edifying prospective self-publishers, this blog is written to drop the readers into my actual experiences following Dean and Kristine's teachings. I should note here that neither Dean nor Kristine authorized or asked me to write this – I own it, but like I said, I was so inspired by their free advice (you're free to make donations, which I hope most do) and information, I felt a need to also offer any little amount of help I could, for others setting out on this mysterious and exciting path called 'self-publishing."
The second reason I decided to share my experiences is because – I really think it's a great story! Now, I'm a writer of fiction, so I'm used to making up stories – but I promise to keep this one real. (grin) This should be interesting because, even I don't know how this ending will turn out. Dean prepares aspiring self-publishers that self-publishing is more a marathon than a sprint and that for most, success will not be measured in days or weeks or even in months, but in years (and read: more than one). As for me, I believe that success can be defined in many ways but failure in only one … quitting! I won't quit because I simply love to write my fiction, so I won't fail!
Okay … this first log entry will be longer than most because I want to give you some background as to how I arrived at my current state, today, Friday, March 25, 2011:
- In or around 1973, I started writing (when I was about 10 years old) – mostly just the made-up 'bad guys/good guys' stories that most boys had rattling around in their heads, except mine seemed to be much more detailed. All my characters had names and I seemed to always like to invent one hero-type that I could drop into different scenarios and settings and ages. Wrote the stories into notebooks but eventually lost the notebooks. I never considered writing as a vocation.
- Around 1986, around the age of 24, I had my first inkling to write a full-length novel. I wanted to write the 'lost' stories of Sherlock Holmes. I also wanted to write stories for the various 'Star Trek' series. I started working on both but after a few months gave it up. Bottom line: I kept inventing my own storylines that didn't fit well into those established storylines – but – I didn't have the confidence that I could invent an entire storyline on my own. A lack of self-confidence has been one of my Achilles heels my whole life, but that's a story for another blog.
- 1999: My first son Jared was born and I couldn't find the type of 'hero' stories that I wanted a son of mine to read – at least not contemporary ones, so I finally decided to try and write my own – but once again, I quit, after trying and failing to write stories that children could read. Lesson learned: I'll never write children's books!
- 2008: Nine years passed. In that time, God blessed me with some success in both the transportation and financial industries, but while I was putting bread on the table, my soul was starving. My wife knew what the problem was – In my past, I created music and machinery. She understood (better than I did) that I have a need to create. In June 2008, my wife had already rejoined the workforce at a time when I was most depressed from not having a creative outlet. We homeschool our four sons – so for the prior nine years, Lisa was home. She finally just said, "g, let's switch – let me go back to work (something she was craving to do) and you stay home with the boys … and write those stories in your head!" That was the beginning of the beginning for me …
- January 2009: After 36 years, it took me six months to write my first full 80,000 word manuscript – a Speculative Christian novel, part of a series of seven titled, _The First Seal: Year of the White Horse_. How's that for arming yourself with a paper sword and stepping onto the battlefield to slay Godzilla?!
First, with my first full-length manuscript, I was attempting a very large concept – 7-book saga. In order to do that right, one needs to map out the entire saga before putting fingers to keyboard. In my zest to get started, I didn't do that as thoroughly as I should have. As a result, I felt I had written what should have been an adventure story but in the style of a Tom Clancy geo-political thriller. Perhaps an interesting experiment, but I think experiments are best suited for laboratories not publications. In the end, it wasn't the story I was trying to tell … so I tossed it onto the guest bed (I write in the guest room of my house) and decided to begin again.
I did learn a number of things though from my _First Seal_ experience – some valuable lessons about thinking through my storyline before attempting to write it – and some depressing lessons about traditional publishing. I spent four months querying agents – sending out to 34 of them (after careful diligence and studying the art of query writing). Compared to many others, I received a relatively high amount of replies (@90%) which meant I was pretty good at writing queries but all were rejections – none from bad writing – all from really bad genre (don't get me started on 'Speculative Christian Fiction').
- June 2010: Lessons learned! I began my second manuscript, this one titled, _The Watchman of Ephraim_. The most important lesson for me was making sure to write the story that I intended to write – a story that I would want to read. After objectively analyzing _The First Seal_ I decided that although I want to try my hand at writing an adventure and perhaps a mystery sometime in the future, at my core, I'm a thriller writer. So I finally created the hero-character that I always wanted to create – Cris De Niro and I dropped him into a storyline that's most dear to my heart – starting on 9/11 (I lost a dear friend, Danny Afflitto, when he was murdered by terrorists in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11). The easy part was over, now for the hard part …
- September 2010: I begin to shop _The Watchman of Ephraim_. This time I queried over 60 agents and amazingly I received requests for partial and complete manuscripts from a dozen of them … I thought I was on my way! I'm a very thorough type, so after remitting the partials and completes I began doing more research on each of the agents that were interested. One particular late night, I came across an article by one of the agents and underneath the article there were comments posted by a number of authors – all of which were just 'agent-worshipping' – you know, the '… I just count myself so unbelievably lucky to have been discovered by Ms. So-in-so! She's so super in every way possible, making me re-write and then re-write again and again until my original story didn't even resemble what I was trying to write but I don't care 'cause Ms. So-in-so has honored me by allowing me to pay her 15% of anything I write for the rest of my life in return for sending out a handful of generic proposals to a few publishers she knows.'
All of the comments were either like that one above or they were the, '… I soooooooo wish I could also be discovered by Ms. So-in-so one day, so that I too can be honored by having my story shredded and paying her 15% for basically sending out a handful of proposals (for which I pay the postage).'
All of the comments were clones except one written by an author named Laura Resnick, who wrote a scathing, wrecking rebut of the agent's article, exposing her lies, her conceit and her ignorance and then went on to shred the agent's sycophants who left comments … I LOVED IT … and I was so impressed with what Laura wrote I contacted her by email (I was almost afraid to… lol) to ask her more about 'self-publishing' (as she was fully endorsing it as an alternative to traditional publishing in her rebut) and she was gracious enough to point me to the website of Dean Wesley Smith.
- September – December 2010: I began reading the two blogs (I pointed out above) of DWS and I was blown away! All of it made so much sense to me. I'm an entrepreneur by nature and a control freak and on top of that I just earned my degree in Internet Sciences and Technology – and what I was learning from Dean was that self-publishing was all about control, entrepreneurship and having a tech degree doesn't hurt! At the same time, I was beginning to receive rejections from the dozen agents who asked for the partials and completes.
The worst part of their rejections was that they weren't telling me that I sucked … that I couldn't write and that I should just look for another way to create. Instead, they all said about the same thing "… Good story idea … good writing … good voice … good this … good that …etc." Notice: "good" not outstanding, not fantastic, not world-changing, but then again, not bad, not pathetic, not worth burning. Where does that leave an aspiring writer? In the world of traditional publishing, it leaves you in 'Literary Limbo' (I'm coining a lot of cool phrases in this long piece… (grin)).
BUT in this new world of self-publishing to which Dean Smith was introducing me, it left me at the (always-open) golden gates to the path of self-publishing!
God works in mysterious ways … The rejections before I knew about self-publishing were like hammers over my head, thumping me down and destroying my will to write – but the rejections post reading the "TAO OF DWS' (there goes another coined one for me) were like fires lit under my BUTT-TOCKS (read like Forrest Gump) – they totally made up my mind to publish and did away with any fears that I had!
- January 21, 2011: 30 days after making my decision to self-publish and by following every instruction and piece of advice offered by DWS and the other great self-published authors that leave comments on his blogs – I WAS PUBLISHED! I published my eBook editions via Smashwords.com, Kindle Direct Publishing and PubIt (Barnes & Noble's Nook) and then published my trade paper edition via CreateSpace and Lightening Source/Ingram and my beloved hardcover (a dream come true for me) via Lightening Source/Ingram!
Let me tell you, I followed every direction line-item and it all worked EXACTLY as Dean said it would! The eBooks looked great but the paper editions were the clincher for me … they were AWESOME! In my first attempt at self-publishing I successfully created product that I would proudly compare to any product published by the top publishing houses in New York!
For purposes of length (this piece is already too long for a blog but I wanted to give readers the background) I won't go into the details – software programs – formatting – editing – cover design – DBA creation, social network implementation, etc. that went into the release of _The Watchman of Ephraim_ in this piece. I did want to give the reader a taste of the reasons for my decision to self-publish in this first piece. I'm sure those of you who might come across this series are probably either self-published or thinking about self publishing and I bet you have stories similar to mine (that I hope you share in comments).
January – March 2011: All editions of _TWOE_ are published and are gradually becoming available throughout the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ingram and Smashwords distribution chains. So many great first-time experiences like holding my first hardcover and paper editions… signing my first copies for others … seeing _TWOE_ being sold on my website, Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com … receiving my first reviews from readers … seeing my first sales in reports and deposits to my publisher's bank account and finding _TWOE_ on sale in more and places all over the world! In the meantime, my social networking following is progressively growing (almost 10,000 people from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and my website combined in just 14 months) and as per instructions from DWS, I immediately began work on my second novel, the sequel to _TWOE_, called _Signs of War_. As they say in the old neighborhood, 'I'm cookin' on both burners!'
Which brings me to today and this is how I think subsequent entries will appear in this series. The Trekkie in me pictures it like a log entry from one of the Captains of the Starship Enterprise:
… Captain's Log: Stardate …
Author's Log March 25, 2011
Can you believe after three pretty good editors did their work, my oldest son Jared (aged 11) still caught a grammatical error in _TWOE_? Well he did and although it was only one word that needed to be omitted, it was part of an important line, so I decided to fix that error and a few other small errors and republish. At the same time, there was a mistake on the original covers - something no one has caught except me … someday when I reach celebrity status I bet those few original editions that were sold with the errors become collector's editions. (grin) I won't say what the error was but suffice to say it appeared on both the outside and inside of the book.
Fixing mistakes post-publishing in self-publishing is a bit of a tedious exercise but I do love the control I have over the quality of my books. Self-publishing is not for the lazy but you can save yourself needless work if you get it right the first time. For every hour that you spend prior to publishing initially in minimizing errors, you'll save two in fixing them post-publishing.
I had to go back and modify each formatted Word document for each version of the eBook – Amazon first, then B&N and last Smashwords – in that order because Smashwords puts you into a queue that takes a few hours before your updated version is published. I usually publish to Smashwords late at night and go to sleep as soon as I'm dropped into their queue. Last night I started as #1,091 in the queue.
Then I had to go back into InDesign and fix the errors to the interior and cover of the trade paper version published by CreateSpace to Amazon. I only fixed the CreateSpace edition yesterday and not the Lightening Source/Ingram editions because LS/Ingram charges a $40 fee for reprocessing. Every dollar counts in self-publishing, so I want to make sure the CreateSpace proofs are correct before republishing via LS/Ingram – something good ol' DWS preaches … make all your mistakes in CreateSpace 'cause it's free to fix there!
Well, woke up today and received an email from CreateSpace saying that my new cover didn't pass their review (Thank God for their review). My bad … I made a mistake with a setting on the .pdf conversion. Warning to the wise: I made the error because I was pressed for time yesterday and after taking a good deal of time actually fixing the cover, I skimped on time to convert it – EVERY STEP COUNTS!
So, I fixed and resubmitted the cover … hopefully, I got it right this time because the book remains unpublished until it passes their review and I okay the proof and that won't happen until next week – so the book falls out of published status for a week!
Today, I'm not going to accomplish much more than typing and publishing this and then adding about 500-2,000 words to _Signs of War_. No, that's NOT all I'll do today, but it's all I can accomplish writing today.
It's not enough … to me it's never enough, but it's something, and it's progress – something I learned is the most important thing to achieve, at the end of the day, in any endeavor.
That's it for now. Until next time …
(Please feel free to leave comments – your comments can be as helpful as anything I write for others. I hope this series turns out to be less my talking at you and more – a group of like-minded storytellers that self-publish or intend to. Peace & God Bless!)
About Gerard de Marigny
Gerard de Marigny is an American novelist and screenplay writer. His newest release is WHITE WIDOW (Cris De Niro, Book 7) and he is currently writing the sequel to the Amazon-Bestselling Modern War Western, JOSHUA'S COUNTRY.
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