Last week I was in Orlando, and I met up with the lovely Duolit girls, Shannon and Toni, in Downtown Disney for lunch and a laugh. I love meeting my self-publishing friends in real life because we can gossip and commiserate and joke in a way we can’t on our blogs, in public tweets or via e-mail. It’s like finally getting a chance to get out of the cubicle and go to the water cooler or coffee machine and whisper to our colleagues, “Oh my god. Did you see that this morning?!” and “Really? That’s exactly what I thought! That was my reaction too…” and “I’m so glad you said that. I thought I was the only one! I was like, am I crazy pills here or what?”
The aforementioned lovely Duolit girls
One of the things we talked about was The Dreaded E-mails. Every day—sometimes several times a day—e-mails arrive in our inbox from writers far behind us on the long path to self-publishing, asking us for help, advice or the answer to a specific (or sometimes, infuriatingly vague) question.
Reading over that last sentence, it sounds innocent enough. Right? Someone can’t figure out how to set their royalty rate to 70%, they know my royalty rate is already 70% and I have a blog about self-publishing, so they e-mail me. Seems like no big deal.
But imagine that you are so busy with your own self-publishing and writing career (remembering, it’s how you make a living) that it’s a struggle for you to find time to write your next book. (Or sleep even, at the moment.) And that you have already spent hours upon hours of your life writing a 120,000-word book about everything you know about self-publishing, which is available from just $4.99. And that even if you can’t afford to invest a pocket of change in your self-publishing research, there’s this blog, which has several times that word count worth of self-publishing info, all neatly arranged and organized both chronologically and by topic, all available for free, on demand, whenever you need it. And that these e-mails come in all the time, constantly, and range from things that can be answered in a minute to things that couldn’t be answered in a week (e.g. “How do I get people to buy my book? I mean, do people really buy books they just come upon on Amazon? That seems crazy to me…”), and that they come in on top of the usual internet fare of spam, review requests (even though I don’t review books!), link exchange proposals, and messages from readers that you actually want to respond to but struggle to find the time. And that despite trying various deterrents on your Contact page and even, recently, offering an “Ask Catherine” service where questions can be submitted to be answered publicly on this blog, people still e-mail, only now they add that they’d like me to answer the question privately, so I waste all my time just benefitting them.
Can I please go back here? I promise I’ll bring my laptop…
Just to give you an idea of how little time I have to spare, generally, take the last two weeks and the next fortnight. Two weeks ago, almost, I flew to London to do a workshop. Then I spent five days in Florida which, while supposed to be a vacation, wasn’t entirely, because I took an hour here and there to answer the most urgent e-mails and keep up with my social media commitments, which includes my own and other things I get paid by other people to do. Then I flew through the night back to Ireland, and spent half a day getting back to my house where I quickly changed out my bags, updated my presentation and went traveling again the next morning, up to Dublin, to do another workshop, and come back that night. We’re up to last Saturday now. The following day I crashed, zombie-like, because I was so tired, and on Monday it was back up to Dublin again to film a spot about self-publishing for TV3. Today is my first full day back at work, I’ve a To-Do list pages long, I’m two weeks behind e-mails, working on three different writing projects, organising something for Mousetrapped’s 3rd (THIRD!) anniversary at the end of the month and preparing for another weekend away at a writer’s festival in a fortnight’s time. I love it, because I enjoy my work and it’s how I make the money I spend on other people’s books, The Killing DVDs, Nespresso capsules, trips to Walt Disney World, etc. but you can see how, in the midst of all this, answering e-mails about how to get your ISBN from CreateSpace when I’ve already written a book about it, posted numerous blog posts about it and the CS website tells you how, can get a little annoying.
I have never in my life e-mailed a stranger to ask them a specific self-publishing question. This is partly because I read the information they have readily provided, on their blog, and then didn’t need to. But it’s also because I think their time is valuable. I recognize that their time is how they make a living. And so I don’t expect them to give it to me for free. I love helping out friends and if you’ve been hanging around their blog for a year or more and you still have a question, by all means, ask it. I owe my blog readers everything. But happen upon my blog and head straight for the Contact page? That’s just laziness, and I can tell. And your message is headed straight for the Trash folder.
On good days, I find all this mildly annoying.
On bad days, I find it downright rude.
So I was talking about this with Shannon and Toni, and I joked that I often think self-published/self-publishing bloggers should join forces to give themselves a Self-Published Bloggers Day Off, where we’d all publish a post with the header “How I Found Out Everything I Know About Self-Publishing” and nothing but an image of the Google search box in the body of it.
Because that’s how I found out everything I know about self-publishing.
I googled it.
I googled it, I did it, I googled some more, I did it again and, abrakedabra, that’s how I found out everything I know about self-publishing.
But I get that nowadays, there’s a lot more stuff online than there was when I was doing my initial googling. With the ever-growing number of services and options, it can be more difficult now to decide on what’s right for you. And I know that for someone who’s new to this, the sheer amount of information, opinions, etc. out there can be overwhelming. But you can still find out everything you need to know about self-publishing without sending e-mails.
Step 1: Read a guide to get an overview
Full disclosure: I have one of these, for sale at $15.95 in paperback and $4.99 in e-book. But there are others, some much cheaper than mine. Mine is Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran is another good one. Read one of these to get an overview of the entire process, from start to finish. That’s the one thing that was missing from my own self-publishing experience: having someone sit me down and tell me, okay, this is what you do first, this is what comes next, this is how long it’ll take, you need to do this here because if you don’t it’ll come back to bite you in the arse later on, etc. etc.
If you don’t want to pay $15 finding out how to self-publish yet you plan to self-publish, I have some choice words for you which don’t belong on this blog.
(But the clean version is give me a [BEEEEEEP] BREAK.)
Step 2: Read self-publishing blogs
Read self-publishing blogs. Thoroughly. Take your time. Make notes. Learn from other people’s first hand experiences. And keep away from the Contact page because if you do find yourself with a question, you can find the answer using Step 3.
Step 3: Type your questions into Google
If you do find yourself with a question, type the question into the Google search box. Literally. This is what I did. If I was wondering how long it would take my CreateSpace proof copy to arrive, I typed “How long will it take my proof copy to arrive from CreateSpace?” into the search box, and nine times out of ten got my answer in the first page of results.
Step 4: Just do it
The first time I saw what I CreateSpace paperback looked like was the moment I opened the package they sent to my house with my first proof copy in it. You can only plan ahead so much. Then there comes a point where the best way to learn is by doing. So just do it. When a self-publisher wants to know how to use Goodreads as an author when they haven’t even picked a POD service yet—or even decided if they’re going to do a paperback at all—something’s off. Take it step by step and if you can actually do that step, then make like Nike and just do it! I’ve always said, the first proof copy that you order should not be your last. It’s not a waste of money; it’s an investment in the final product.
Step 5: If you want help, pay for it
If you genuinely need help self-publishing, hire someone to help you. Please don’t expect them to help you for free.
And so ends my personal Self-Publishing Blogger’s Day Out public service announcement. [*waves to Shannon and Toni*]
So what do you think? How did you find out everything you needed to know about self-publishing? Do you love that there’s so much info online, or do you feel overwhelmed by it? Have you read a guide? If not, why not? And has Google helped or hindered your search for information? Tell me in the comments below…