Over a year ago, John Hartness expressed dismay that I wasn’t self-publishing the short stories I had the rights back on and politely insisted that I do so ASAP. I believe his exact words were something along the lines of how those stories were making nothing just sitting on my hard drive but could be making me money if I put them out there for sale. Unfortunately, it took me more than a year to do so, but finally last month I self-published, The Dead and Empty World, a collection of short stories (I’ve begun publishing the individual stories as well).
I have to tell you, it’s addicting! I hired someone (Jeremy West at Red Creative Design) to do the cover and design the inside. He was going to also do the file conversions, but I started reading up on it and discovered that the basic file is HTML and I love coding HTML so I decided to do that bit on my own. Then I uploaded the files and pressed publish. As John promised, it was super easy. While there is a learning curve, there are also a ton of resources out there to make finding information fairly straight-forward.
The stories I’m putting up are all reprints and most of them are set in the zombie world of my Forest of Hands and Teeth series. I’d done this intentionally — I wrote the first story, Bougainvillea, in 2008 for the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology with the specific aim of writing enough zombie stories over the years to create a collection. So this collection has been a really long term project, one I’ve had running in the background for the past five years.
Back then, I’d figured there would be a good chance I’d try to publish the collection through Random House Children’s Books who publishes the Forest of Hands and Teeth series. But as we all know, a lot has changed in the market since then :) I decided to self pub the collection for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is that I wanted to better understand the link between social media, author generated publicity, and actual sales.
The benefit of self publishing is that you have almost instant feedback on your publicity efforts. You can run a contest, promo, blog tour, etc etc and see what actually moves the needle. As a traditionally published author, you don’t really have access to sales numbers on the same level. This gives self-published authors a fairly large advantage. And these days, when publishers are asking more and more of authors in terms of their own personal sales efforts, I think it’s useful to see what works, especially with your particular audience.
For me, it really is the best of both worlds: I get to give my readers access to my short stories in one place (rather than asking them to purchase several anthologies), and I get to control all aspects of it (pricing, distribution, appearance), while also earning a bit of extra cash (on stories I’d already been paid once for – even better!). At the same time, I can use the information I’m gathering to better help me promote my future traditionally published titles more effectively without having to compromise the amount of time I have to spend on those projects since I didn’t have to write anything new.
It’s one of the ways that short stories can really become work horses for you… if you put them to work :) Thanks to John for nudging me to get this done!