Today we have a guest post from author Marshall Buckley, who has just self-published his debut novel, The Long Second. With an agent and positive professional feedback, Buckley was initially reluctant to join the self-publishing party but now that he has, he’s made sure to do it professionally and with his eyes wide open.
Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Marshall!
“If you decide to self-publish, one of the first things you should do is, frankly, start being realistic.
Yes, we’ve all had those dreams of selling thousands, nay, millions of copies of our book, of being the next J K Rowling, or becoming the next rags-to-riches story.
It’s not going to happen. Okay, it might happen, but probably not, and I think it’s better to be a pleasantly surprised realist than a horribly disappointed optimist.
I had those dreams. When I wrote the book and secured an agent at pretty much the first attempt I felt sure this was it. This was the point at which my life changed. I told myself I would be happy to sell “just” 10,000 copies. I would content myself with a five figure advance (though I wouldn’t turn down a six figure one). I worked out what my average royalty per book would be (and I am far too embarrassed to reveal what I thought that figure was. Let’s just say I was a long, long way out).
So, when it became clear that my current books on submission (all three of them) weren’t going to find a publisher, I made the decision (almost to my own surprise) to publish them on Kindle. My agent, to her credit, gave her complete backing.
It soon became clear that publishing to Kindle was only part of the story, but encompassing all the other e-readers and setting up a limited paperback print run hasn’t been too onerous either.
I did, however, need to readjust my goals. 10,000 copies was suddenly a pretty big number, especially when you hear that 1,000 is considered the point at which you’ve “made it” as a self-publisher. But I reckon I can do 1,000. It’s a challenge I’m willing to take.
In my first weekend I exceeded my wildest (new) dreams. There’s no way I’ll be able to maintain that momentum, of course – I’m quickly running out of friends who feel obliged to buy – so I need to reach out to the public at large.
That, of course, is not easy.
Like many authors, I’m not naturally outgoing (despite how it may appear on Twitter) and I’m reluctant to talk too much about “me”, but you have to learn to put those reservations aside. Never forget that by simply completing a book you’ve achieved what so many people claim to want to do. If, like me, you then have independent feedback (my agent, for example) that the book is good then you’re probably in the top 5% of writers (I made that figure up - it might be 10% or it might be 1%. Trust me, though, you’re in the minority). Take heed of that, build on it, tell yourself that you can write.
Take that knowledge, go back to your book and make it even better (because it can always be better) and then look at self-publishing. But don’t, not even for a moment, think that you’re taking the easy way out. Much of the self-publishing process is easy (though, I admit, I’m a bit of a geek and I love all the preparing for different formats business) but actually getting it on Amazon/Smashwords etc is the easy part. Actually selling in any significant numbers is where it gets difficult.
Think about your USP. It’s no longer enough that you wrote a book, even if that was your life-long dream. What’s different about it? What’s different about you? Whatever it is, no matter how small and apparently insignificant, build on it.
Talk to the local newspaper and the local radio. Worried they might say no? Sure, they might. But they are people, just like you, and they are looking for ways to make their own life easier. Hand them a story on a plate and they’ll most likely bite your hand off. You probably only need one lucky break to make the difference. Find yourself talking to a sympathetic news editor who wants to run your story AND give your book a review and you could well be laughing. SO far, I’ve tried all these things and more. Some have worked, some haven’t and some I’m still reserving judgement on. But I’m still working on them. It’s early days for me. My sales figures aren’t yet making any publishers regret rejecting me, and they probably won’t ever, but I’m doing my damnedest to reach my new, adjusted, realistic goal.
Remember: always be realistic. This probably won’t get you a publishing deal, and it probably won’t make you rich.
But that’s not why you wrote the book, is it? You wrote it because this idea just needed to be written and, having done that, it just wants to be read. Yes, I’d love tens of thousands of people to read my book, but I’d still be happy if 1,000 people read it.
Because I’m realistic.
You can follow my journey – and I promise to be honest – at www.marshallbuckley.com.”
Marshall Buckley lives near London, UK and in Newfoundland, Canada. At the same time. He has a total of 5 children, four dogs, three cats and six very small fish. He is not as tired as you might imagine because he achieves all this by being two people. In March 2009 an innocent-looking Facebook post stated “I’ve an idea for a book, who wants to help me write it?” and, after a flurry of posts and emails, Marshall Buckley was born; very soon after, the result (which bears only a passing resemblance to that original idea) was The Long Second. With no publishing experience to speak of (one half of Marshall Buckley works in the computer games industry while the other is an IT Professional), The Long Second was sent out to the world in full confidence of securing an agent and a publisher in a matter of days. By some good fortune, the first was actually achieved, but the second remained elusive. Marshall Buckley now has a full two years’ worth of publishing experience but is no closer to understanding the mysteries of the industry. But – and this is important – he’s not bitter.