Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Self-Publishing is Often a Proving Ground For Authors

People often see traditional publishing and self-publishing as natural enemies. Their systems are different, their philosophies are different, and supposedly their authors are different. People see the decision as an either/or sort of choice; as if authors are all out for the big draft, and they either need to tie on with a company, or remain true to themselves as a free agent.

That isn't really how things work, though. You see, there's actually a lot of interaction between these two spheres, and if someone makes a splash in one, then the ripples are going to get attention in the other. And if those ripples are big enough, you just might find that opportunity comes a'knocking at your door.

Hello there. Would you like work, and a big, fat check?

Reputation, Work History, and Ripples in The Water

So, I'd like to tell you a story. A story about how my own self-publishing efforts got me noticed by some bigger, more established folks who followed the waves I was making back to me.

To begin, most of us don't tend to think of blogs, YouTube channels, and other avenues as self-publishing. They totally are, though. So, as soon as I started writing this blog (and my gaming blog Improved Initiative) I staked out my little piece of turf as a self-published creator. And I haven't moved from that patch.

The charter is under construction, but we may have a flag soon.
Of the two blogs, Improved Initiative quickly pulled ahead in terms of readership and traffic. By the end of my first year I had a regular flow of traffic, I was well-known in tabletop gaming groups on Facebook, and I was starting to expand onto other social media platforms. One of my main attractions was a feature I ran called Character Conversions. Basically I would take a popular character, like Captain America, Tyrion Lannister, Iron Man, etc., and I would write a guide for how you could re-create that character in a particular roleplaying game. That page remains one of the most popular features on my blog to this day.

After I'd written 20 guides or so, I started noticing some changes. People I didn't know would message me, and ask if I was going to write a new guide for this or that character. They wanted to know my thoughts on whether it was possible to convert characters from Lord of The Rings or Dragon Ball Z into different game systems. My traffic on that page went up, and people started passing my guides around among their own groups. I was getting read, and the ad revenue on those articles was getting noticeable. Not, "Oh my god, I can buy a house!" noticeable, but I had a little extra padding for when deadlines ran long, and checks ran short.

Then something else happened. The publishers who wrote official content for games started reaching out to me, asking if I'd like to work on their lines. Because they'd heard about my blog, checked out the stuff I was making on my own, and they decided I looked like the kind of writer they wanted to take for a spin. Sometimes we clicked, and sometimes we didn't, but as time has gone on, being the author of Improved Initiative actually gains me credibility when I talk to RPG publishers.

Because it establishes that I can do the job, and that there are people out there who like what I make.

All Publishers Care About Is Results

I said this in You Don't Need A Degree To Be A Writer, but I feel like it bears repeating; publishers only care about your results. A publisher doesn't care if your books are good or bad, offensive or safe. They only care about the bottom line. If you have a following, and you are making money, then they would like to shake your hand, and work out a deal so you can both make more of it.

This is why celebrities get million-dollar book deals. It's not because they have great insights, or they're phenomenally talented (though some do, and are). It's because they have 10 million followers who are all going to go out and buy a copy of their book once it's released. It's also why if you've been self-publishing a series that's making you some serious bank, then a publisher is going to want to talk to you. Because you're a proven talent, with a definable audience, and that makes you a safe bet.

Just something to think about the next time you consider your publishing options, and what your efforts could lead to in the future.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing post. If you'd like to support me, and this blog in particular, then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today. As little as $1 a month is a big help to me, and it gets you a pile of sweet swag just for signing up. Lastly, if you want to keep up-to-date on all my work, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

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