When I started writing The Basics Of Flight, I actually wanted to send the story to local publishers, because let’s face it: it’s by a local (Singaporean) writer, right? Wrong. When I started sending queries, I got told – bluntly – that my story was not publishable. Just like that. I felt taken aback by the curt tone of the editor (well, I assumed it was an editor, not just a paid monkey to read email submissions).
When I combined The Basics Of Flight with Phoenix With A Purpose and tried the local traditional publishing route again, the same happened. Local publishers are just not interested in science fiction, simply because science fiction is so low-key it is not commercially viable or profitable. The local book market is replete with self-help books, memoirs, recipe books, children’s books and ghost/horror stories. No science fiction or speculative fiction. The only local science fiction novel I know is The Star Sapphire by Han May, but even then, it was not a popular book and was not well-received by the mainstream reading crowd.
I am sure that there are science fiction readers out there in Singapore and I am also sure that there are science fiction writers. We are seriously facing a problem: science fiction writers are not recognized.
So I decided to self-publish and to tell the truth, it felt like I was thrown into the deep end and asked to dog-paddle. I was suddenly the writer, the publisher, the type-setter, the designer, the marketer, the speaker and the printer all rolled into one. I ended up doing all the leg work and I sometime wonder if it was all worth it. It is not an easy route to take and you have to be really shrewd, to know your audience well. I turned to Lulu and Createspace to publish my book. I spoke to people. I advertised on my Livejournal blog.
There are days when I want to give up and throw up my hands in despair. Why is self-publishing so difficult? Why does it feel so solitary, lonely? Yet the lessons I have learned from this experience are invaluable: resilience, a thick skin, a never-say-die attitude and – yes! – creativity. I learned that I could come up with covers by myself and I ended up falling in love with photography again. I learned that self-publishing is publishing: you take on the role of the publisher. I did research. I read. It was a steep learning curve.
I have to repeat this: self-publishing is not easy. More so if you are an emerging author or a new writer fresh on the scene. I ask myself this question all the time: Will people take me seriously?
So, if you want to self-publish, remember to
1. P – Publish: Work on your publishing skills. That means being more particular when it comes to writing and editing. Get someone to proofread for you. Get someone to critique your work.
2. L – Love: Love your own work and let it go to editor or proofreader. Your attention to detail (your love and passion) will come through and people see that straightaway.
3. A – Audience: Know who your audience is. If you are writing for a genre market, be aware of the demographics.
4. N – Network: Writing might be a solitary activity. But it has a social aspect. These days, social media is the new buzzword. Network, get to know people, talk to them.
Most of all, if you are set on the self-publishing route (journey, as I always tell myself), PLAN. What is your long term plan before you launch your book. What is your targeted print run? Who do you want to distribute your book for you?