Apr 24, 2012

Being a first time self-publisher and other musings...

Sometimes I wish I were invisible; other times I wish the whole world knew my name.

Sometimes I feel like two different people.

There are so many thoughts racing through my brain, please bear with me as I make sense of them all...

I'm trying to not look at my book sales. I just don't want to know. Not for any reason other than the fact that I never really write anything initially to share with other people, so I don't want numbers to become a motivation -- or detraction. I even compose blogs with pen and paper only to edit and reread later to determine if I want to share or need to share... But then sometimes, like now, I stop midway through yoga because so many words are stumbling through my head I can't concentrate on the moves I have nearly memorized and should be able to do deaf and blind to plunk my sweaty self down at the computer and hunt and peck at the buttons until words become sentences spewing stream of consciousness all over my keyboard and monitor not even knowing half of what I'm writing it's all so fast - which sometimes I go ahead and click publish without a second glance, but more often than not save to drafts and forget.

Regardless, what I want to blog about right now is two-fold: 1) self-publishing and 2) duplicity; not that there's any correlation, or maybe there is?

Half of me wants to log on and track my sales the minute my eyes open, the other half just doesn't want to know, which brings me to my opening statement of a private life versus a public life. Half of me kinda still wants that youthful notion of fame, but the other half wants to move to an isolated beach house nestled between mountains and ocean in Big Sur and make hippie jewelry while tending my herb garden and building my zombie apocalypse bomb shelter.

Half of me wants my book to do really well, pick up steam, get traditionally published by Simon & Schuster, and land me in Oprah's book club (does she still do that?), while the other half could care less if anyone ever reads it (though both halves really really want you to buy it).

Obviously, a book doing well affords the author to stop moonlighting and focus 100% on writing. However, a book doing well also leads to...dun dun dun...the dreaded interview. Gods, I just don't really want to be interviewed ever. I just know I would totally insert foot in mouth, get misquoted, or do something appalling. I get weird when I'm nervous and I'm most nervous when I'm put on the spot. I think the number one most frightening experience I could ever imagine is being interviewed on late night television.

It's like there are phases: Phase 1 - email interview for print - totally easy, no problem, I could do that stoned in my sleep. Phase 2 - phone interview for print - more dreadful because I hate talking on the phone with a passion, but at least I can be naked. Phase 3 - in person interview for print - actually this might be better than phone because even though I have to leave the house, at least I can make eye contact and hopefully sarcastic remarks read better. Phase 4 - radio interview - totally freaken scary because it's live but I'm just a disembodied voice floating out into the airwaves so no one can see how much I'm sweating. Phase 5 - TV interview - absolute horror!!!!! You have to look good, sound good, be funny but coy, intelligent but not arrogant, attractive but not too much, and interesting. I've seen myself on camera, I sit or stand like a fucking statue with wide eyes and a blank expression on my face reeking of hyper self-awareness and self-consciousness as giant pools of sweat form under my arms and between my boobs unless I'm directed otherwise (I wish I could show you the lost footage of me as a dominatrix in the film Nowhere Tomorrow by Henry Lee which was described to me as scary I was so intense). My heart rate races. I can't breathe. The walls close in. Tunnel vision.

Yes, I have severe stage-fright, which puts like a huge damper on the fame half and creates a weird dichotomy inside me because I have such a deep desire to express myself for better or worse.

It's like, yeah, go be a blogger, self-publish a few books, sell maybe 50 to friends and family, then hide but that won't pay the bills.

So, now I have to sit here and contemplate publicity. Marketing. Reviews. Interviews...

This, right here, is partly why In the Now sat dusty on a shelf for 10 years before I released it. Constant ambivalence about my own writing and career. What a curse!!

Self-publishing is a LOT of hard-work. I did not make the decision to self-publish lightly. I scoured the internet late into the night clicking page after page of Google searches getting several pages deep and feeling like Alice down the rabbit hole reading How To guides and various self-publishing horror stories and triumphs.

It is also expensive.

The actual writing, of course, is free (but also massively time-consuming - just finishing a book, let alone publishing should be cause enough for celebration, thus having a real job becomes problematic, hence the expression 'struggling writer'), even the actual publishing of the book is mostly free unless you want to order proofs and promo copies, and the distribution is practically free (they have a free option, but I opted for the extra bookstore package which is decidedly inexpensive), but where they get you is the marketing.

Books don't sell well. Period.

It's like most entertainment ventures wherein you have to view it as a loss before you even begin. Sure, some things pay off big, but those are few and far between. For every Stephen King or Neil Gaiman, there are millions more like me.

So, if you want your book to do well, whether you self-publish or not, you have to take the marketing into your own hands. This is, yes, you guessed it, expensive and time-consuming.

I have clients whose websites need maintenance. I have mountains of chores and errands. I have dentist appointments and social obligations. But I can't think about any of that stuff right now I'm so consumed by marketing. My head whirls. The dishes are piled up, the floor is thick with cat fur, and to top it all off I'm recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction and fighting a damn chest cold to boot. *cough cough hack hack spit* *cough more* *break a rib* Also, all I've eaten today is a slice of Sourdough bread, a spoonful of hummus, and 4 olives.

Kevin Smith and Lloyd Kaufman seem to have really figured out marketing, especially on Twitter, so I study them. I love to watch them work weaving random @replies with book sales. It's sheer genius and it sells! They gain more and more fans each one eating up the constant information and attention. But you need lots and lots of engaging followers in the first place to make that work.

I suppose I could start a Kickstarter to raise the funds to promote my book, but that just seems silly. Just buy my book instead, y'know? Cut out the middle man. But the people won't come to you, you have to go to the people. And as much as I like to think the whole world lives on Twitter or even the internet, it doesn't. Only a small fraction of the world's population is actually online. You need to go to the people where the people are and shove your product right in their faces and tell them how they can't live without it and how much better their lives will be once they've got it.

Yeah, that's just so not me.

Right now my big conundrum is trying to figure out the best way to get folks signed copies. That's my big headache. I suppose the easiest way is for me to order the book, sign it, have folks Paypal me for it, then ship it on out. Ugh. Paypal.

So, yeah, that's my day. How you doin'?

Well, I'm off to eat some Ramen and finish my yoga.

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