1) Why did you choose to self-publish and what were your expectations?
Well, first, I self-published a collection of short fiction, essays, and poetry, and I did so because I'm at the University of Southern California, in their Master's in Professional Writing program, which is sort of like an MFA but with more valuable professors (mine have done everything from writing White Oleander and Shakespeare in Love to directing Star Wars: Episode V-- The Empire Strikes Back and collaborating with Soderbergh). One of the requirements of my classes so far has not only been to produce work of publishable quality but also to submit them to publications. In order to do so, we students must research and analyze the marketplace; the quality of that marketplace research is part of our grade.
After completing several pieces, I simply discovered that the market for short pieces is no longer viable. The New Yorker and Esquire don't really publish anyone whose name isn't Chabon or McEwan anymore, and the smaller magazines... well, you're looking at limited distribution and tiny remuneration, if not simply payment in complimentary copies.
And so I self-published. I was an editor for three years and know lay-out and design, and all of the work in my collection was workshopped. I didn't really have expectations to make much coin or to get my foot in the door; I simply wanted to make available a small but eclectic sample of my creative work to date. In addition, I had an innovative idea for publishing...
2) Why did you select your specific publisher?
I chose Lulu because they were the ones that would allow me to try this new publishing model, which I look at as the "iTunes model." Basically, I designed and laid out each individual work included in the collection, then made them all available as downloadable e-books, much like singles in the music industry. I made the essays free for download, under the mindset that I would have blogged them, anyway, and that they would serve as good previews for people not yet familiar with my work. The short stories, some of which are viewable on iPods and all of which are viewable on Treos and other handheld media devices, range in price from 99 cents to $1.99.
And then, of course, they are all available in the collection, which is available in either a print version or a downloadable e-book.
3) How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?
Very much so. I'd maintained a popular MySpace blog for more than a year, and hadn't really had any material goals beyond having a collection of creative work available. Mission accomplished there. The sales and reception have, so far, far exceeded my expectations. PODler gave the collection a rather stellar review, and I've attracted the attention of several agents.
4) What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?
Know what you're doing. Self-publishing should not be an instance of last resort, nor circumventing the traditional publishing industry. If one is going to do it, one should understand not only what one is undertaking but also why it is the best option for what one is hoping to accomplish. Intimate knowledge of the publishing industry, as well as all of the computer programs (e.g., Word, InDesign, and Photoshop) is crucial, as is knowledge of marketing and new media.
My book, Entrekin, is a collection of short stories, nonfiction, and poetry. Its content is eclectic, covering everything from Jesus of Nazareth and Edgar Allan Poe to sperm donation and the attacks of September 11th, 2001 (and $1 from the sale of every book is donated to the United Way NYC). I'm a student in the MPW program at the University of Southern California, studying with Janet Fitch and Irvin Kershner.
The URL is www.lulu.com/willentrekin.