Self-publishing = self-awareness

Having come to the print-on-demand stage of my first self-publishing project, I understand all the reasons I like conventional publishers. For one thing, they make up for my weaknesses, my tendency to overlook small details; my shortcomings in the formatting department; my reluctance to sell myself; my urgency to move onto new projects.

Not that conventional publishers don't have their own weaknesses. When I was going over the  already paper-published first novel, Shinny's Girls, of my trilogy, I noticed copy editing errors, things I had depended on someone else to point out. The already published-in-paper Flashing Yellow, the second in the trilogy, was cleaner but went virtually unpromoted. When I added the third novel, You Again, not yet published conventionally, to complete my eccentric family saga for epublication,  those responsibilities suddenly fell on me. So I paid a copy editor to go over the entire trilogy, including You Again, relied on Kindle and Lulu to guide me through formatting, got cover art from a talented and resoundingly generous artist friend, uploaded, waited, tried a few feeble things like sending out emails or FB or G+ posts advertising sales, i.e." Now reduced to only 6.99!" I've given a few talks and will give more, I will try to think of other ways of letting people know that the Trilogy is available, and that You Again is even available separately as an ebook and soon in paper.

Meantime I'm steeling myself to go back to the ecopies of two editions, Kindle and epub, and search for any inadvertent mistakes. Inadvertent, well what else would they be? I almost let a big error slip into the text for the print on demand edition. Lucky that my designer, a friend who is a graphic artist and a novelist herself, has a sharp eye. Because with all the file switching around for different versions, between two computers with different word processing programs, I had lost the italics required for certain titles, and to delineate correspondence between the characters. Soon I will have to think of copy for the back cover and then how to introduce and promote the new print book. What will I do?

It's much easier to leave these jobs to people who have the skills to do them. I'm a writer, not a publisher, with all that entails, and even when I get my "team" to support my work by supplying services, often gratis, I have to be the boss. If a conventional publisher had been willing to take on this project, in an expedient fashion, which was beginning to seem unlikely - especially the expedient part - I probably would not have self-published. While it is faster and I can earn more money in royalties, I have not yet earned enough to cover costs, and I wonder, considering my befuddlement or reluctance regarding promotion, if I ever will. I'm writing social realism when many readers find social realism, maybe reality itself, depressing. Literary fiction is a hard sell in any format and hard to describe. It's literary, but accessible; simple on the surface, but with themes I feel are important, such as identity, what makes us who we are. I consider myself a serious writer, serious about the craft, I mean; the actual novels have been described as fast-paced and funny, though the readers who want stories in which everything turns out well might not agree.

As far as publishing goes, I have learned skills I never expected to want to learn. I doubt I have mastered them, but I have also learned a lot about myself, about how far I am prepared to go, about why I do it in the first place. If  I have a book that is ready to present and there are no other options for making it available to readers,  no matter how many or few there may be, I can't say I won't self-publish again, because as John Cheever famously said, "I can't write without a reader. It's precisely like a kiss - you can't do it alone."

We'll see.