Thinking About Self-Publishing

She used Llumina Press to produce the novel.
She used Llumina Press to produce the novel.

I haven’t mentioned Mr. M in a long while. He’s a writing buddy, and he recently told me that he’s decided to consider self-publishing. I’m almost hoping he will go that route so I can see what it’s like from one-step removed. Mr. M, the guinea pig!

Anyone could get sick of slogging through the muddy land of traditional publishing, right? I haven’t given up, but today, I decided to ponder self-publishing along with Mr. M. We went to a meeting of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers to listen to a novelist, Linda Kuhlmann, talk about marketing for self-published authors.

And you know what? I don’t think I could hack it! Kuhlmann’s always carting around promo copies and every trip, no matter how small, how casual, is an opportunity to check-in with local bookstores, visit area libraries, and scout out possible events. She’s got spreadsheets (there’s that word again!) and “Autographed copy” labels that she made herself. (Actually, I was impressed: Avery labels come in shiny gold–who knew?)

She’s so on top of self-marketing that she’s practically a professional speaker now.

I’m serious, I don’t know if I could hack that. I know we novelists have to self-promote–I get that–but I dream of having a support system behind me even if it’s one harried publicist with minimal time to deal with my book because she has the likes of John Grisham and Danielle Steel to oversee.

And who do I think I’m kidding anyhow? During the networking portion of the meeting (immediately I’m thinking: yee gads), a freelance editor asked me what I write. Novels, I replied. She cocked her head, eyebrows raised. Getting nothing out of me, she jutted her head forward a little, opened her eyes wider. Such expectation.

But I choked. Given the chance to excite someone about my novel, I inevitably clam up. Uh uh uh. I know the novel backwards and forwards but rally around it in a couple of sentences, off the cuff? Hah!

That was an ARGH of a moment, truly. Because despite what I tell myself, in the reality of self-promotion, anytime and anywhere is the perfect time and place to talk about my opus. That’s what it’s all about.

I was exhausted by the end of the meeting, but I left with three conclusions:

1. There are plenty of resources out there for self-publishing novelists. I was impressed with the group at the meeting. I might have even met my future website designer!

2. I need to join Toastmasters (again, yee gads) because today’s novelist is doomed to have to speak in public. Unless you’re Cormac McCarthy, of course.

3. I need to come up with two, just two, novel summary sentences and practice them in front of the mirror until they roll out naturally. I mean come on, how hard could that be?

Pronounced “Gold” Not “Goold”

Pause a moment, and I meet writers just about anywhere and in unlikely guises. The school teacher in step aerobics, the barista who also paints, the sickly lyme’s disease victim, and the Egyptian professor with the bipolar wife.

I sometimes wonder whether the proportion of writers in the population is the same as it’s always been or whether, given our calamitously crazy, loud, rushed world, there are more people than ever craving connection and resolution and recognition and self-expression.

Earlier this week, a retiree stopped at my table to comment on my left-handedness. I sat outside Capitol Hill Coffee House, which serves a mean northwest-style spinach salad (hazelnuts and blueberries). The man wore a blue baseball cap with a Vienna, Austria, patch on it. He related a few tales from his hard-drinking sports-writing days and told me his last name, Gould, pronounced “gold” not “goold”.

Then, he noticed the marked-up manuscript pages piled near my salad. “Oh, you’re a writer,” he said, and pulled a trade paperback out of his leather man-satchel. Just like that, boom, a man with a book of his own.

Before sports writing, Gould was a World War II German POW. And he wanted to write about it. And he couldn’t find a publisher. And so he self-published. And now he carries copies around with him everywere he goes, even up a hill to his local haunt called the Cider Mills Restaurant & Lounge. He connects and hopefully resolves and possibly receives recognition and self-expresses.

And I thought: Good for him.

And then I thought: Huh…What about self-publishing? Or, at least looking into small presses that my agent didn’t bother with when she was peddling my manuscript?

Gould stopped to chat with me because lefties have always intrigued him. How random is that? Seemed like a sign somehow. I like signs — believing in signs it like following a make-believe funsy religion. I have no problem with that.