Life on the Pioneer Trail

I am not the first to travel this road, but all of us crowding the self-pub trail today are certainly among the first. It’s exciting – and confusing – because none of us really knows what to expect. Some of us will reach Oregon, and others will die of cholera while crossing the plains. Metaphorically speaking, of course. And some who reach Oregon will hate it and wish they’d never left Ohio — but I imagine those folks will be few.

Being a pioneer involves, as it always has, a certain amount of risk. And, at least initially, ridicule. There are always people who will warn you not to make the attempt, and promise that you’ll be sorry if you do this crazy thing. I hung back for years, thinking I was better off where I was, hoping that a miracle would happen and Signet would reissue, say, The Fortune Hunter. Because wasn’t I better off hoping for that, however unlikely it was, rather than asking for my rights back and eliminating that delicious possibility forever?

Well. I may have hung back for a while, but I finally made the leap. Early this month, I received the rights back to my entire backlist — with the exception of my first book, The Nobody, which Signet plans to re-release as an e-book in July of 2012. This development derailed my progress on the Wicked Cool sequel (temporarily, I trust!) while I feverishly cleaned and formatted and spruced up my old manuscripts. Now they’re out, for better or worse … my self-published darlings, the books of my heart.

And now is when I wish somebody had built a paved road and put up a few signs. Instead, there’s a dusty, faintly-marked trail with an awful lot of fellow travelers crowding around on it, arguing about which route is best. Alas, not enough writers have gone before us to show us a sure-fire way to get where we want to go. It’s a safe bet that some of us are going to miss our timing and get snowed in at Donner Pass, and some of us are going to wander into Death Valley while seeking a shortcut. At this point, you honestly can’t tell which of us at Point A is among the group that will reach Point B.

Do this, do that, do some other thing … no matter what you hear advocated, there is always someone out there warning you that it’s the exact wrong way to go. “Get out on social media and hype your books.” “No, no, that just irritates people!” “Offer some of your books for free.” “No, no, that completely backfires — people don’t value what they can get for free!” And so on.

I hope the dust settles soon, because it’s awfully hard to see.

9 thoughts on “Life on the Pioneer Trail

  1. Hmm … I hope you’re also working on (at least thinking about) sequels to Under The Wishing Star and Under A Lucky Star … I’ve really enjoyed those two!

    • You betcha. I’m thrilled that you asked. At the first opportunity, whenever that is, I am going to write Sarah’s story – which will be called Under The Christmas Star. I have so darn many books waiting in the wings I can hardly stand it. I hope I get more time to write in 2012! Thank you for your interest, and I’m glad you liked the first two books!

      • Oh, cool. And such a beautiful title, too! Of course, I’d love to know more about Malcolm and Natalie Chase as well as Derek Whitaker (sp?) and Cynthia Ballymere … and whether or not Hannah Chase and John Ellsworth (sp?) will get together … so many stories in there!

  2. Great post! Love the comparisons.
    I’m loitering around the start of the self-publishing path. My fear with all this e-publishing and self-publishing is that the truely good writers will be drowned in a flood of poor writers following the same path. Their voices lost in a sea of Mary-Janes, cliches and tropes.
    Good on you for having the fortitude to brave the new world.
    P.S. Love the titles for your books.

    • Thank you, Dale! It’s true, I’m afraid, that without agents and editors to act as gatekeepers the general public is being asked to wade through the “slush pile.” But they DO say that the cream always rises to the top, so … persevere! Good luck to you.

  3. Nice metaphor!

    As for free books, some of the ones I value the most I got for free. Some were even paper and required shipping and everything.🙂 But it is probably best to target things like that in the following ways: contests for free books for fans (people LOVE to win free e-books), copies to leading reviewers who will blog about the book, and copies to successful indie publishers that you would like to cross-pollinate with (hoping they feature you in a blog post, tweet about you, and help give you the keys to their success).

    Glad you got rights to your backlist. The Fortune Hunter was my favorite I’ve ever read in the genre and it might make me break the silence of my awful secret that I love Regency romance and get me to blog a review. It’s important to note that I’m a committed “99 cent” reader and would not have read it if “Falling for Chloe” (also good) hadn’t come up for 99 cents and you hadn’t included the sample at the end to tempt me to at least check out the $2.99 book.

    Good luck on your frontier adventure!

    • Sue, thank you so much for posting! Especially with such intriguing insights. At some point I really need to get on the bandwagon, here, and start marketing my books. I just shrink from the prospect, I really do … ::sigh:: … ::cringe:: … it’s so hard to tell what’s GOOD marketing. As opposed to, you know, irritating and off-putting marketing. But you state it rather clearly, I think. Free book = good. Now where can I find a handy-dandy list of book bloggers — broken down by category, so I can tell at a glance which ones might like my books?

      Thank you for the good wishes – and I’m thrilled that you enjoyed THE FORTUNE HUNTER!

  4. Since I don’t tend to follow Regency/Romance bloggers I don’t have personal recommendations, but when I put the search term regency romance book bloggers (no quotes) into Google the first result was http://anneglover.wordpress.com/ It looks like she has 800 followers for her reviews (hard to say how many are active, and how many non-members come by or RSS). Check out her about page http://anneglover.wordpress.com/about/. Check out other top hits on Google – it’s at least a good place to start.

    As for indie book promo, Lindsay Buroker is great (although she writes in a totally different genre). On her blog http://www.lindsayburoker.com/ she writes more about being an indie writer than directly promoting her own books (probably one of her marketing strategies in and of itself). If you get a chance to check out her YouTube videos they are hilarious. And excellent tales of caution.

    Good luck!

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