Saturday, June 09, 2007

'My Story' -- Serdar Yegulalp

1) Why did you choose to self-publish and what were your expectations?

The more I saw about the way the publishing industry worked, especially in the sf/fantasy field, the more I realized I was trying to break into a field that was very closed -- and worse, that was growing increasingly uninterested in eclectic and experimental work. None of that stuff generates the sales of the six-novel cycles and space-war dynasties that seem to be all the rage right now, and I didn't want to write any of that stuff. I wanted to follow my own path and do things I thought were interesting to me, and not to a marketing person.

Another reason I wanted to do this was so I could set my own deadlines. I didn't want to come up with a great idea for a book and then be pushed to write it in a year when I'd need two or more to research it and make it work (especially since I'd be competing against my day job's schedule, which can be fatal).

I really don't expect to become a cult sensation, let alone an above-ground sensation. I'm far more famous in my day job than I'll probably ever be as a fiction writer, and I'm OK with that. If this leads to a book contract somewhere along the line (and I'll continue to push for that however I can), then great. If not, I'll be fine. I'll have written things, finished them, and made them available to people, and that's really all that counts.

2) Why did you select your specific publisher?

I did some fair nosing around before settling on Lulu (I used Cafepress before a couple of times). There were a bunch of things that drew me to Lulu, and those attributes helped winnow away a great deal of the competition:

a) They tell you exactly what they are and they're non-exclusive. They're a printer, not a publisher, so there's none of the nonsense that surrounds outfits like PublishAmerica. I know at least one person who signed with them and really didn't know what she was getting herself into.

b) They're highly automated. From my Word document to the finished product, there's maybe a single intervening step. It's a little intimidating how cool that is. It also means you have to know EXACTLY what you're submitting to them, but now that I have that worked out it's far less of an issue.

c) The product is high quality and speaks for itself. I've gotten a lot of praise about the look of my books, although I suspect at least part of that was because I did bust my butt to make them look nice (as per your piece about my "Summerworld" cover art!).

d) The support staff is extremely helpful. When my proof copy came back all wrong, they walked me through what the probable source of any problems were, and refunded my money. I do suspect because I told them I'd be ordering 15 more come hell or high water, but hey, good service is good service no matter what the incentive.

e) Future growth possibilities via distribution packages (i.e., ISBN/barcoding, Amazon sales, etc.)

3) How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?

It's just barely gotten started, but people are unquestionably interested in my books -- I've sold quite a few out of the gate (mostly from people who were already anticipating its release), but I think the real payoff is going to come over time and in stages. On the whole, though, I'm really happy.

4) What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?

Assuming you haven't done this already: hire an editor. You're the only one who can make sure that manuscript is in tip-top shape. And if he rips the book apart, then you've got a hint as to how steep the hill is and how much climbing you've got to do. This goes back into "Write a book that will be worth the reader's time," which is Lit 101 stuff.

Get some kind of promotional version of the product into people's hands. The first four chapters of my book came out to exactly 32 pages, so I turned them into an "ashcan" booklet and sold them to people face-to-face for $1. They sold like mad, and drove peoples' interest back to the book. I generated a few sales quite easily by doing that. I also slipped copies of the ashcans in with existing copies of the book, so that someone could give them away to someone else -- a kind of low-end viral marketing. And, I have a downloadable PDF of the same four chapters on my website, but the ashcan is often easier for people to pick up and deal with (even if the print is really tiny).

Understand what sort of market this will open you up to and work accordingly. Self-publishing means that ALL of the work of marketing your book is in your hands. Fortunately, I like doing this kind of thing -- I like connecting with people directly rather than impersonally. It also means that most of your fans will probably be found by word of mouth, but that kind of fandom means infinite loyalty (you ARE planning to write more books, yes?). Go where you're likely to find readers for your books and propagandize them face-to-face whenever you can.

One other thing: I see a lot of self-published authors who have real trouble synopsizing their work and pitching it succinctly. Sometimes this means they can't write a good back-cover blurb, or simply explain the story to someone else while standing on a streetcorner. Practice this! Sometimes it's the only way you have to get people to know about your work.

Serdar Yegulalp

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