Writing sucks.

In fact, the only thing worse than writing is not writing. Except publishing. That sucks even more. In fact, the only thing worse than publishing is...well, nothing. Publishing just sucks.

I don't mean the state of being published, either. Even to a self-published button-pusher like myself, seeing something of mine for sale in the real world is an enormous thrill. Earning money from a sale is even better, like chocolate-covered unicorn farts (and you'd know that's pretty spectacular if you've ever tried to coat a unicorn fart with chocolate). No, I mean the act of actually getting something published. The polishing and formatting and filing and hoop-jumping can get pretty daunting.

I've tried the traditional route. I've sent lovingly crafted work to various publishers hoping to get accepted and I've tried sending even more lovingly crafted work to various agents hoping they would get me in contact with a publisher. I did both of these for years and never had anything more than some boiler-plate rejection slips to show for it. Although I did receive one very nicely hand-written 'thanks but no thanks' from an agent in Virginia (which feels about as wrong as having Santa Claus write back to you with: "No-can-do with the toys this year. Have a Merry Christmas anyway...schmuck...").

Once I realized I wasn't gifted with much good fortune and that I wasn't destined to outlive Methuselah, I decided to make my own luck and go the 'more-traditional' route and self-publish. And I don't mean publishing through a Vanity Press. I didn't send any money to anyone. I simply figured out how to make my product into something professional looking and have it marketed. And make no mistake, your writing is a marketable product, like toilet paper or Fritos or Ferraris. You are crafting something for consumers to buy. The writer's talent is used in crafting something marketable and meaningful, for a lone wiseman shouting in the wilderness will not be heard by anyone.

(cue gong-hit)

I am still in the squirmy, squishy, larval stage of marketing (that's the period before I stop being all gross and start making a buzz). This is because I choose to spend most of my time writing new material. I think this is the best course of action for anyone, self-published or not. Build up a sizable catalogue of material before pushing yourself down the public's throat. So, considering this, I am not the best person to take marketing advice from...yet. But I can give some competent advice regarding distribution and good publishing habits.

Regarding e-book formats, I currently put my finished work on two platforms: Smashwords.com and Amazon via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing, not the Kurdistan Democratic Party). Both are popular and have a sizable public presence and  I get a pretty steady trickle of downloads on both sites, at least of my freebies. Smashwords offers simultaneous formats for every kind of e-reader on the market (including iPad and Nook) and allows you to list your work on the respective sites (in other words, through Smashwords, I've placed my published work in the Apple Store and BarnesandNoble.com and almost anywhere else on the internet that sells ebooks). Amazon has to be done separately through KDP, but their setup process is a little simpler and I can also list a physical copy created through their createspace.com branch, which basically handles Print-On-Demand. The POD printing is a great deal more intensive (you've got to properly design covers and have physical proofs sent to you to approve), but I think the option of having both physical and electronic books available is a nice touch for buyers. Just make sure you know what you're doing before you hit the final 'PUBLISH' button.

On the whole, Smashwords is a great place to start. E-books are a bit easier to deal with than POD printed and the guys at Smashwords have some free manuals you can download to help you understand the basics of e-book formatting. Also, free tools such as Calibre and Sigil are great to get your e-book ready for publishing (I use Calibre all the time). Audacity is a great free tool for audiobook creation as well.

The most important thing to remember is make your final product as perfect and professional as possible. Model your format (the look of the book both inside and out) on other books published by professionals. The big publishing houses pretty much know what they're doing, so aping them is a smart move. I'm not a self-publisher because I have something against Simon-Schuster or Random House, I'm a self-publisher because I like a challenge (and I'm a little impatient).

So, like I said...writing and publishing suck. But they sure can be fun. Just don't ever give up. One satisfied smile is worth a thousand heartbreaks. One should look to the moon, not just the hand pointing toward the night.

(cue gong-hit)

Have a great week, everyone.