Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guest author Damon Stentz: Self-Publication is What You Make of It

Damon Stentz was born in New Orleans and raised in Thibodaux, Louisiana, near Bayou Lafourche.  He is an attorney who has worked primarily in criminal law both as a prosecutor and in criminal defense.  Damon has loved writing from the time he was able to pick up a pen (or crayon) and write words on a page.  After many years, he finally decided to publish one of his works.  The Kraken Slayer is his first self-published novel.

This is a very interesting time for the book business.  So much is changing.  The query letter-to-agent approach is still by far the preferred approach, but certainly not the only approach.  Self-publication is now a viable contender with the literary agent market.  Agents don’t like to hear that, but they know it’s true.  Once they hear your book is self-published, some (not all) agents will write it off as unmarketable.  That’s not a fair treatment, in my opinion.  There are a lot of really bad self-published authors out there, yes, but there are also a lot of really good ones.  I could say the same about authors with agents, as well.

I’ve come to the conclusion that whoever gets picked up by an agent and who doesn’t is mostly arbitrary.  Before I self-published my novel, I did the query letter song and dance for years.  Out of my hundreds of rejection letters, some actually went on and on with praises for my manuscript, only to end with, “but it’s not what we’re looking for at this time.”  I therefore would like to tell all the unpublished writers out there to not be daunted by anyone who tries to scare you from the idea of self-publishing.  If you’re trying to land an agent, by all means, don’t give up; but self-publishing is not going away, and it’s getting bigger.  What it needs, however, is more legitimacy and respect from the writing community, and that begins with the self-published author.

Before self-publishing your book, you need to have it edited.  I could copy and paste that sentence about a hundred more times, and it won’t get through to everyone.  And notice I used passive voice.  Don’t self-edit your manuscript.  If you do, have someone else edit it as well.  You will not catch all your mistakes, no matter how many times you read through it.  Trust me on that one.  If you can’t or won’t get your book edited, you might as well stop reading this article right now, because a poorly-written self-published book will not sell well.

If you want your book to compete with the professionals, it has to look professional.  Most self-publishing companies do a great job with creating an eye-catching cover, and the quality of the end product is often compatible with what you’ll find in the bookstore.  So do your homework and look at the services these companies provide.  To get a good-looking book, you sometimes have to put in extra money.  Balance what you want with what you can afford.

If you want to be a successful writer, you have to know the business.  Know what your target audience is looking for, but at the same time, be unique.  Don’t write another Twilight, please.  To know where the market’s going, you need to read what other authors are writing.  Talk to readers and see what they like.  Take seminars to hone your craft.  Your education is never complete.

If you’re self-publishing, chances are you don’t have a publicity staff employed, so get ready to do a lot of work.  If you get your book printed but do nothing to advertise it, no one will ever know about it.  You need to make use of the media: newspaper, radio, Internet.  Get some posters and push cards printed.  Organize some book signings.  If there’s a book fair in your area, ask to speak there and/or do a book signing.  In short, get your book and your face in as many places as possible.  Promoting your book is very similar to running for public office.

I think the one thing that hurts self-published authors the most is their lack of commitment to their writing.  Selling your book is a time-consuming endeavor, but all that hard work and effort will prove to the rest of the industry that you’re not an amateur, but a professional writer who can stand toe to toe with the best of them.  And when your writing is good, and the book looks good, and you can make it available to a large audience, no one will even care that you’re self-published.

Damon Stentz


Ginger said...

Great blog, Damon! I'm so proud of you. :)

Lynn Emery said...

Congrats and good luck with your book.

I'm in Louisiana, too. Glad to meet another author from my home state.

Damon Stentz said...

Check out my Facebook fanpage, too, where you can find links to YouTube videos about the book and a lot of other neat stuff.

Shauna Roberts said...

I agree about the agent-finding process being random. In fact, the whole traditional business of publishing has way too much randomness and ridiculousness for my taste.

Congrats on publishing your book. I like the new title and the cover.

Charles Gramlich said...

Congrats on the book. Sounds like you grew up down in the area where I live now.

Liane Spicer said...

Thank you for being our guest, Damon.

Very important advice for indie authors, particularly the point about editing. Don't understand why so many still don't get it.

Best of luck with your novel!