Monday, February 4, 2013
Blogging and Self-Publishing: My First Year in Review
Actually, it's been more than a year. I put up my first blog post on October 11, 2011, about a year and four months ago. That post was entitled "An Introduction to My Worlds" and featured a picture of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head. Here's the picture:
At that time I didn't know how to turn an image into a JPEG, so I printed out my drawing and took a picture of the print with my new digital camera. That's why it has that funny shadowing around the edge. I'm surprised it came out as good as it did!
Boy, have I learned a lot since then! Not that I've become an expert on anything, but I do know how to use Paint or GIMP to make a JPEG!
I published my first book ("Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder") on November 11, 2011. Easy to remember -- 11/11/11. I thought this novella would make a good trial run, to learn the self-publishing ropes with CreateSpace and Kindle, and later (not until February 2012) on Smashwords. At that time, since I still didn't know how to make a JPEG, I elected to go with a generic cover for the print edition. Not long ago, I republished it with my own cover, but because of the subtitle that appears on the paperback entry and not on the Kindle entry, Amazon has never put the two together. But they definitely are the same book, and the cover turned out great in the print version! If you plan to read the novella sometime, you really should shell out the $5.49 for the paperback. The cover makes it worth it.
I went on to publish The Termite Queen, v.1: The Speaking of the Dead on March 12, 2012; The Termite Queen, v.2: The Wound That Has No Healing on May 12, 2012; and The War of the Stolen Mother (v.1 of the series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head) on July 16, 2012. Now if you're thinking, boy, is she prolific! She wrote all those books (which are not short, except for "Monster") in less than a year? 'Course I didn't! I wrote them between the years 2000 and 2003. Then I began The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, and got bogged down for several years (enough on that for now!) But during the three and a half years when I was writing about my termites, I wrote the entire Ki'shto'ba series, which consisted originally of three volumes, now split into six. Therefore, I have another five volumes ready (or close to being ready) to publish. I haven't written anything this past year except blog posts (although the splitting of the series necessitated a lot of revising). That doesn't mean I don't have more new things in mind to write, but first things first. I always have liked to finish what I start.
So why did I start a blog? I never intended to write a social blog or a humor blog, and I never intended to try to teach people how to write (there are scores of blogs out there aiming to do just that). Also, I was not looking to learn how to write, because I don't consider myself to be a beginning writer. I wrote too many words back in the first part of my life, even though I never published anything at that time. I write best when I don't think too much about theory and just let it flow. I think the best way to prepare to be a writer is to obtain a good liberal education (writing is always a part of that), study literature, and read, read, read, especially in the genre you intend to write.
My main purpose in starting a blog was to promote my books and give myself an outlet for some of my ideas (as in the Mythmaker posts; a new one of those is long overdue). However, I've ended up with three blogs to maintain and I've done some things with them I never intended. The blog you're reading now, Ruminations of a Remembrancer, is my primary blog and it's become more diversified, with nostalgia posts about myself and my family, essays on poetry and grammar, a few book reviews, extracts from some of my unpublished writings, and some quite popular posts on how to format books for self-publishing. I even put up a recipe at Christmas, which attracted a lot more attention than I expected!
The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head started out as my conlanging blog, with a different title. Later, when I published the first volume of the series, I decided that a six-volume series needed a blog of its own, so I moved my specialized conlang materials to a website sponsored by the Language Creation Society (Conlangs of a Remembrancer). Then I found I didn't have enough material for the "Labors" blog so I expanded it to include semi-scholarly discussions of myth as it's utilized in literature (after all, that's what I'm doing in the Ki'shto'ba series). Besides discussing the background of the Labors series and the myths on which it is based, I've used some of the bird myth research that I conducted for Man Who Found Birds. I've also had a nice guest post by Fel Wetzig on insects in folklore, analyzed one of Kat Anthony's stories that's based on Sumerian myth, and am now running a series on Welsh myth as retold by Evangeline Walton. All that is a lot of fun, but pretty time-consuming. Why don't you stop over there and take a look at some of the material?
(And by the way, if anyone would like to write a guest post similar to the one Fel Wetzig did on insects, or if you would like to dissect a novel that is based on any variety of myth or folklore, or if you've published a piece of fiction that utilizes myth and want to do a little self-promotion, feel free to contact me.)
So what's next? First off, I need to maintain my level of promotion. Not nearly as many people have read my books as I would like, and that's too bad, because for the right person, they're terrific! (Sorry -- I can't help blowing my own horn, because I love my books. I know they aren't perfect, but they have a lot of meat in them, they have powerful characters and unexpected plot twists, and they move fast in spite of being long.)
I'm especially disgruntled because almost nobody has read The War of the Stolen Mother. Now, it does take off from the end of The Termite Queen, and it's probably better if you read TQ first, because a lot of plot points refer to what happened in that book. But it's entirely possible to read The War of the Stolen Mother without reading TQ first, and so I'm going to be doing more promotion for my series on this blog. I believe more people read this blog than read the other one.
And I'm working right now on preparing v.2: The Storm-Wing for publication. I published v.1 way back in July and I intended to publish v.2 in about three months, but I waited, hoping people would start reading the first volume. Now I'm not waiting any longer. I'm doing a final proofread on the CreateSpace template right now (and I'm glad I am, because I'm catching a number of little mistakes, like "in" for "it," and a period following an exclamation mark, and missing quotation marks. As everyone knows, it's really tough to proofread your own work, but since I have nobody to do it for me, I just plow ahead.
I'll be doing another post soon on The Storm-Wing. The other blog already has a lot of material about it -- go there and click on the Label "Storm-Wing" if you're interested. And here is my cover art for the book (not too shabby):
Click for larger image
So, what have I learned from this year's worth of blogging and self-publishing other than technical information about how to handle images and how to format for CreateSpace and Kindle and Smashwords? I would say -- patience! If you believe in what you write (and I do), you have to stay the course! Every time I check my publishing stats, I think, well, one of these days there will be a dozen sales, and some of those people will read the books, and some of those people will review them, and then somebody else will read the reviews and decide to buy the books, etc. (by the way, I've never had an adverse review on any of my books, and the rankings average out to 4 stars, although "Monster" has achieved 5 stars.)
And I keep making interesting internet contacts with all kinds of fascinating people whose acquaintance I really enjoy. That can't hurt, either. I resurrected a fantasy novelette that I wrote back in the '70s called "The Blessing of Krozem" and have made it free on Smashwords. Go over there and pick up a copy! I've had 26 takers, gotten one little review and attracted some attention for my other books on Goodreads and through sample downloads on Smashwords. I haven't become a best-seller -- probably never will. But if I can reach enough people who like my type of literature (yes, I call it literature -- it's certainly not pulp) and keep growing a following, then I'll be willing to call myself a successful author.