This week, I'm excite to announce I self-published my first short story as an eBook on Amazon,com. It's titled "Raccoon Ransack." There are five main character raccoons: Mitch, Willis, Chloe, Trixie, and Madge. They must avoid obstacles, distractions, and perhaps even predators to get what they want. But will they be successful? You must read to find out; no plot spoilers here!
It is based on our most recent camping trip at Heyburn State Park, Idaho. We left food out (yes, yes Camping 101 fail, I know) and during the night raccoons woke us as they snatched our food. I wrote this from the critters' point of view so it is fiction, but based on actual events. Isn't that how stories emerge anyway? For me, it is. I gave the animals there own personalities, mannerisms, and attitudes. It was actually a lot of fun to write and I may write a couple more Raccoon Ransack adventures.
I supposed some of you are wondering how and why I decided to venture into the self-publishing market. That is a good question and the answer is simply this: peer pressure. I attended two different writers group, and at one I met a successful self-published author, Erik Schubach. (Check out his stuff on Amazon, too.) He began hosting his own workshops to help others learn about the realm of self-publishing. He encouraged his "students" to write a short story to publish on Amazon in order to get a sense of the process. Okay, it really wasn't peer pressure but more like peer encouragement, but most of you know how much I enjoy sarcasm.
There's a lot more to self publishing than I thought. First thing's first: write something. Second thing: what now? Erik explained that the document (usually a Word file) should be formatted with special indentations and spacing, headers, no page number, etc. etc. I won't bore you with the details, unless you're interested. Make a copyright page, create cover art, story summary/description, and choosing keywords are all things to consider. Selecting keywords was not what I expected. Keywords place the story in specific categories. It's important to choose carefully. I had help setting up all of these extra factors; otherwise, I would've been lost. There are many little things, some not listed here, that must be accomplished based on what the author wishes to achieve through self-publishing.
Traditional publication operates similarly, but with people doing much of the grunt work for you. The author not only requires a publisher, but usually an agent. The author writes their book then spends a large amount of time hunting down an agent who pitches the story to a publishing agency. From what I understand, finding an agent is the biggest struggle, unless you have connections. (I heard from one local author who was turned down around 50 times before she found an agent.) Once the agent finds a publisher, the author has little say in the cover art, layout content, and possibly even editing. As you can probably imagine, the process can take a very long time. It gets even more complicated with you start talking about royalties, advances, agent cuts, price points, etc. Self-publishing is a bit more straight forward as far as pricing goes. There's a trade-off here: DIY with self-publishing quickly, or take more time to get someone to professionally do it for you. There are pros and cons to both.
Aggressive marketing is needed in both tradition and self-publishing. This is an area I haven't learned enough about. (Perhaps I will in another workshop.) I'm just happy to get my story(ies) out to people. I'm not expecting widespread stardom or notoriety anytime soon. If I write stuff that even just my friends and family enjoy that's good enough for me. Writing anything takes time. A lot of time. Editing feels like it can go to the 100th degree, and it never seems to end. So if a reader takes their time to read my stuff, that makes me feel good. Bonus points if the story struck an emotional chord for them.
I'm glad I took a risk and learned how self-publishing worked. Not sure what this means for the future, but I'll keep writing. Hopefully, a few people keep reading.