Sheer Hubris Press?

Sheer hubris is what it takes to publish without the gatekeepers of the publishing world saying yes, you’re worth reading.

I decided to start this press years after a number of agents told me that my work was quite good, but not something they could market successfully to publishers in a “very tough fiction market.”

Meanwhile, other folks were telling me they stayed up all night reading it.

Since then, I’ve watched some very talented authors get published, only to see their literary careers founder. The big publishers are under enormous pressure to return strong profits to their stockholders. They often feel they can’t afford to wait for new authors to build a readership over time. So most debut novels — especially those that didn’t win huge advances — simply get thrown up at the wall like spaghetti to see if they’ll stick. And many good writers, especially if they are not also great marketers, soon discover that their publisher is no longer interested in them.

I know something about how to market other people’s books. I worked for over 18 years as a project editor, acquisitions editor, marketing manager, and copywriter/creative director at various publishing companies and freelanced at an ad agency. Still, the thought of doing that  for my own books was always kind of horrifying. So rather than persist — the number one requirement for successful traditional publishing — I moved on to other things. (It helps that I enjoy plenty of other things, especially teaching.)

In 2013 I considered hauling out the old rejection binder and trying one more round with agents and publishers, if only to cross it off my list of things to do.

Then I thought: Why?

Technology had made it easy to create your own publishing company. As noted above, I already had a lot of the skills required. It wouldn’t take a huge investment to e-publish. This way, I could afford to find my readers slowly, even if it took years.

And that’s what I’m doing now. This isn’t to say that I disparage traditional publishers or bookstores or any of the complicated, valuable work that they do. As a reader, I’m grateful for authors and booksellers who manage to prosper under the current system. That’s part of the reason I originally steered clear of a paper edition. But some of my readers only wanted to read paper, so I went ahead and did that, too.

200 pix pg13Something new that didn’t work

Borrowing a technique from the world of fanfic, I started out offering a PG-13 edition for readers who would prefer to avoid explicit sex and bad language. I still believe this is a good idea in a perfectly digital world. Unfortunately, it led to trouble with Amazon, which didn’t consider it different enough from the original edition. It also created twice the amount of product management, while producing only 2% of the sales. So I abandoned that idea.

So how’s it going?

TheAwfulMess_3DNot too shabby. The Awful Mess was one of five semi-finalists for the general fiction in Amazon’s 2014 (and last) Breakthrough Novel Award. It enjoyed a stint in Prime Reading and continues to sell well enough five years later that I was asked to sell the audio rights to Tantor Media. I happily obliged, so an audiobook should be available towards the end of 2018.

The second and third novels don’t sell quite as well, but they’re a bit more literary and those are the breaks in publishing, traditional or otherwise. And more new books are on the way, which makes a difference.

No, I haven’t entirely quit my day job, but I have scaled back on it. It doesn’t always pay as well as my writing does, but I enjoy it. I now teach in the fall, and write the rest of the time. That gives me a built-in deadline to finish the next book, and that works well for me.

What about you?

If you hope to be a writer, traditional or otherwise, buckle in, and I would advise you NOT to quit your day job unless you have some other means of support. There’s usually a very long road to writing success, and there can be all sorts of bumps and road blocks along the way. But please don’t let that stop you either, if you have something to say.

 

 

Recent Posts

THE AWFUL MESS gets a wiki video treatment…

Not sure what to think about it, but I was invited to post this link to a video wiki of “13 Charming Books Set in Small Towns that Range from Friendly to Terrifying” that includes THE AWFUL MESS at #3 (at the 2:12 mark). Malwarebytes didn’t warn me off the site, so it should be safe. The narration seems spot-on, but some of the images were surprising. (Palm trees?) Anyway, I’m mostly just happy they spelled my name right.

The sequel for this, THE COMPLETE DISASTER, really is coming out soon, probably in November or whenever the research papers are all graded.

In truth, I have been feeling fairly disgusted by my chances as an author recently, but last Friday, in the course of a single day…

  • My father included DISORGANIZE ME in his weekly newsletter with the note that he and my mother think it’s my best novel yet. (They finally read it, since I sent them the paperback.) Which is nice to hear, since it doesn’t sell worth beans.
  • I got the wiki notice above.
  • I got invited to opt back into a curated library platform, this time with royalties (although said royalties were not specified, so I still have questions).
  • An acquaintance I ran into at a Stewart’s parking lot (she had acted in one of my short plays) told me she’s opening a new store and wants to stock my books.
  • I got two checks from Amazon. Granted, they were refunds for Goodreads ads that suddenly and mysteriously ran out of money years ago when they bought the joint, but I’ll take it as yet another sign from the universe.
  • Bonus sign from the universe: The next day, a guy at a booth at the farmer’s market ribbed me gently for being a “famous author,” and thus not interested in getting involved in their project. (I knew writing was going to be good for something.)

I also just read a really lovely little book called DEAR WRITER, YOU NEED TO QUIT. It’s by a writing coach and about not getting sucked into believing you must do things the way other writers do them (even if it appears that’s the only way to make any money). Highly recommended for anxious author types everywhere.

So, I guess this means I’ve finally updated my blog, after more months than I want to count. Maybe that’s a habit I should get back into. Or maybe not. Let me know what you think. (Deafening silence works as an answer.)

By the way, if you helped me out in a substantive way with DISORGANIZE ME, your paperback is very, very, very slowly coming to you. Apparently there’s a paper shortage out there, and my order of author copies is taking weeks to print and ship as a result. (I paid full price for the copy I sent my parents, before Prime ran out, in case a hurricane might reach them first.)

It’s yet another reason paper is problematic. The most annoying to me, at the moment, is that resellers can swoop in and offer your book for a lower price, cutting authors and small publishers out of any profit. I haven’t been on the Amazon-Is-Going-To-Destroy-Us-All bandwagon, because it’s obviously been good to me, but it does seem to well on its way to destroying the paperback market for authors outside of bookstore distribution. Bookstores should probably take some pleasure in that.

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