I wrote my first novel, Queer Greer, in 2007.
The arduous process of querying literary agents and publishers started the following year. Several dozen rejection letters later, I was not dissuaded from my belief that I had a publishable piece of work – only that, perhaps, the traditional publishing route was not the best way for me to break into the industry as a novice writer.
Six months into the endless stream of dismissals in my inbox, I started looking into self-publishing options. There were slightly fewer five years ago – now it seems the Internet is jam-packed with a plethora of routes for every writer, no matter their budget. I was just out of college and sought the cheapest path, so I went with WordClay.com. For barely $300, I provided them with my manuscript, fully formatted, as well as a cover completely designed by Yours Truly. In return, I had my book listed on Amazon.com, BN.com and WordClay.com. Not too shabby.
Being that Queer Greer follows the story of a high school girl coming to terms with her bisexuality and pertained to a niche audience, I was convinced that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get the word out to those I had written it for. At that time, though, I was not as adept at the social media game as I am now. To date from that self-publication, I don’t even think I’ve made back that initial $300 investment.
Over the course of the next couple of years, I self-published another title and started to create more of a presence for myself online with a website, a blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook Author page. It is Twitter, above all, that has proven to be the wisest investment of my time.
Using Twitter, I have been able to connect personally with readers and potential readers, easily finding them using hashtags including the following: #reading #amreading #writing #amwriting #pubtip. There are slews more that I have searched based on the content of my books and the readers I was hoping to reach, like #lgbt and #bisexual for Queer Greer. I have made life-long friends, along with fans, using Twitter. I’ve even been contacted by a fan who liked my writing so much, they approached me to help them write their own memoir. I could not be happier with my experience on Twitter as an author.
Just this past fall, the independent publishing company Rocket Science Productions followed me and liked my writing enough to get in contact with me. They wanted to know more about Queer Greer – did I still own the complete rights to it and, if so, what were my plans for it? I hadn’t thought about doing anything with it, to be honest. I thought, maybe if I eventually became successful with another title down the road, perhaps sales on my first book would increase with it.
As soon as I started having serious discussions with my soon-to-be publisher at Rocket Science, however, I looked at Queer Greer with a new point of view. There was something there and, suddenly, I wasn’t the only one who saw it. Maybe all it needed was a new cover design, a formatting clean-up and a little more marketing prowess than I had originally given it.
Indie publishing is essentially the middle ground between the self-publishing world and that of the traditional publishing houses. Going down this road, I wouldn’t have to pay anything up front, but I would have to pay my publisher back within the first year post-publication for all services rendered. It was akin to getting an advance, it seemed to me. Unlike publishing the book myself, I would have a partner on this who would be just as invested in the success of my book as I was.
I signed a contract with my new publisher after the first of this year and so far, I couldn’t be happier. The cover designer I was paired with perfectly captured my vision for my original cover that I couldn’t create myself (for my self-published version, I had simply stylized a photo of myself looking pensive in Photoshop); the entire book was re-edited and formatted to perfection with a much more readable font (I had gone with Courier New the first time around, which I admit was a mistake); and now I have a marketing manager who is assisting me in getting contacts with major media outlets.
Every writer has a path to take that will definitely be unique depending on what they hope to accomplish, when they hope to fulfill those goals and how much time/money they are willing to invest at a given time. For me, self-publication was the perfect way to jump into publishing, make some mistakes without too much visibility and start garnering a following, however small.
Queer Greer went up for pre-sale on March 13, 2012 and was officially released on March 27. Now it’s time to see if I’m more successful in the indie publishing world!
What’s your publishing experience been?
Learn more about Alison Walkley, aka, A J Walkley.
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