Today I have a guest post from Heather Wardell about why she self-published and why she’s thrilled about it. If her name looks familiar, you probably saw it in the Self-Published round-up post for January. She is this month’s feature author and has graciously donated a partial collection of her books as prizes.
Sarah does great work promoting self-published authors here on Workaday Reads, and I really appreciate that. While times are certainly changing, when I released “Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo” as a free self-published novel in 2008 the general consensus was that self-publishing was for books that were no good and authors who didn’t care to make them better. If you couldn’t find a literary agent and a publisher, then you self-published.
And in fact, that’s why I did it. I couldn’t find either.
I released that first book as a free download on December 31, 2008, after two years of tweaking it and trying to find an agent for it and tweaking it again. I’d come close with several agents, and that kept me trying, but I’d finally realized that toying with the book in the hopes of making that one magical change that would convince an agent to sign me was a waste of time. Posting it online would stop me from messing around with it and set me free to focus on another book, and if I got really lucky, maybe a few people would download it and enjoy it.
They did. People began telling other people about it, and before long I’d had over two thousand downloads from my web site. I started to get email from readers who’d enjoyed it! I never expected that and I loved it. In late 2009, I discovered smashwords.com, a place where I could post my book and have it distributed to Barnes and Noble and Sony and other ebook distributors. I uploaded “Polar Bear” at once and people began to download it.
But of course, it was free. Why wouldn’t they download it?
In March of 2010, I uploaded another book, “Go Small or Go Home“, which had also been through the agent search process. This time, though, after much soul-searching and agonizing, I took a very deep breath and priced it at $0.99. I was still set on getting an agent, on “doing it right”, but I had to know: would anyone actually pay money for my writing?
The download numbers were, not surprisingly, far lower than for “Polar Bear“, but yes, people would and did pay, and I got even more emails.
Over the next year, I released two more books at $0.99 each (one of which, “Seven Exes Are Eight Too Many“, is a free download this week only at Amazon.com!). Each of those books, though, had been through the agent querying process. I didn’t post them until I felt I had no other option.
By the time I was ready to release my fifth novel, “Stir Until Thoroughly Confused“, I knew I did have another option. While I was hardly getting rich (far from it!), I was selling books on my own. Books that had been rejected by the industry professionals were being purchased and read and enjoyed by my readers.
I self-published “Stir” without contacting a single agent about it. I was now a self-publisher by choice instead of by default.
It felt good. 🙂
Since then, I’ve released three additional books and have three more in process right now with enough ideas stacked up to keep me going for years. As I write this post, “Polar Bear” has been downloaded over 250,000 times and three of my books are in the top 100 list for their category on Amazon.com. I get near-daily emails from readers (all of which I answer!) commenting on the books, and with some of my readers that correspondence has continued long enough that we’ve truly become friends.
Yes, I am fully responsible for all aspects of my books, from ensuring that they are absolutely the best writing I can produce to giving them nice covers to promoting them, and that can be scary, but I do like it that way. I work by my gut, just knowing inside when I’m doing the right thing, and I love that I don’t have to justify my choices to anyone.
I fell into self-publishing, but it’s perfect for me. I release my books when I want and how I want, and I promote them the way I want, and most importantly I writethem the way I want. I love my characters and my stories (you have to if you’re going to spend months on a book!) and I have the freedom to follow my instincts and follow my heart.
It’s not always easy, of course, being a one-woman publishing house, but being able to write books I love and have readers love them too is the single most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life and I will keep doing it until I run out of story ideas (which I expect will happen somewhere around 2212 :).
Thanks so much to Sarah for letting me share my journey with you! I’d be happy to answer any questions about self-publishing or my books, and if you haven’t downloaded your free copy of “Polar Bear” yet, you can get it at http://www.heatherwardell.com/
About Heather Wardell:
Growing up, I was an avid (rabid?) reader. I am a natural speed reader, regularly clocked at about 1200 wpm (I read Harry Potter 5 in just under three hours), and always have several books on the go and many more in e-book form on my Palm handheld.
I have always made up stories in my head, but never really thought I would be a writer. Instead, I intended to be a high school music teacher. I was sidetracked by my enjoyment of my psychology courses in university, and ended up with a psychology degree with a concentration in computer science.
This took me to a major Canadian bank as a software developer. I stayed there for just over three years, and then went back to school to become an elementary school teacher. After four years of fun teaching elementary school computer science, I took up the National Novel Writing Month challenge and attempted to write a novel in a month.
I succeeded, and the first draft of “Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo” was the result. I realized I love writing. I left teaching, and I haven’t looked back since!