The Value of Self-Publishing

It’s a common debate in the writing world today. Which is the better route to take, traditional (or trad) publishing or self-publish? Years ago, trad was the way, with vanity presses the only viable self-publish option. How many authors from the 80’s ended up with a garage full of a paperback that never sold, I have no idea.

Today, however, both e-books and print on demand (POD) are viable options to expose the author to the world without having to convince someone else to spend money to do so (which is what trad essentially is). There is much value in self-publishing:

  • Maintain rights
  • Maintain pricing control
  • Go to market is quicker

Maintain Rights

The self-published author retains all rights to their work. Trad publishers may require a change in story, character names and development or even cover art. The trad author cannot make changes to their works easily, if at all.

Maintain Pricing Control

Trad and some hybrid self-publishing organizations do not allow for much, if any author input on pricing. This can be a huge detriment, as I explain in a bit.

Go To Market is Quicker

An author can create a work and self-publish it over a weekend. More savvy indie authors see the value in the creation process to produce quality work, and will refine their words, invoke beta readers, and hire editors (dev, copy, and proofing for fiction). Still, as I understand (as I have no trad works), the trad route from when the manuscript leaves the author’s computer to when it appears on Amazon can be a year or longer. Indie authors can go to market with quality work in a quarter of that time.

My Experience

I wrote my first novel in 1994 and queried agents in 1995. I still have a few of the rejections and the sealed package to prove copyright (back then, the recommended practice was to mail a copy of your manuscript to yourself and keep it, unopened, if there was a dispute, the postmark bearing the timestamp). That experience almost 25 years ago turned me off from trad, but again back then there was only one other option, and I was not going to travel the vanity press route.

IngramSparkTIn 2013 I learned of IngramSpark, the self-publishing arm of Ingram, and signed up. I published as a test a short book of poems which, to my surprise, a few actually bought (it’s still available here). I found the process to be educational, not easy but I had to learn about cover design, e-book creation, print formatting, ISBN, and so on. Eventually my work from the 20th century, Forgiveness, made it to Amazon, and I was hooked on writing. A few novels later and I’m still going strong. I’m such a fan of theirs they sent me an indie pub T-shirt!

For my most recent novel, Leaving Darkness I opted to leverage a hybrid self-publisher, Westbow. Westbow is the self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson, a well-known Christian book publisher. I (perhaps a bit naively) thought that if I went with Westbow that surely the sales would be good enough to prompt Thomas Nelson to at least take a look at bringing my title into the trad world.

That never happened because of a few reasons, the first of which all authors understand – marketing is hard and takes much effort. I’m still learning the marketing dance – it’s part science, part skill, part luck, and part magic. Regardless of indie or trad, though, the author bears the marketing weight. Many first-time novelists don’t understand that.

Westbow also priced Leaving Darkness too high. The e-book is at $3.99 and the print (softcover) $19.95. It’s a $14.95 book, if that. Westbow offers the option to reduce the price for 30 days to $0.99 as part of a promo package. However, at over $2,000, the cost is, well, unreasonable.

I asked the marketing rep what would stop an author from putting the work up on Amazon themselves, and he said nothing, the author owns the rights (see above). He advised against it because it would cause “confusion.” I’m not sure what that means, sounds like sales talk to convince me otherwise.

Anyway, relaunching the e-book version of Leaving Darkness leveraging my relationship with IngramSpark is exactly what I just did. To ensure I didn’t step on Westbow’s toes, I used only the materials I had prepared for them, and not their layout and cover. For an e-book, the layout doesn’t matter much, and the cover photo I provided, they just added the title and my name. Easy to do myself (thanks Photoscape).

You may have noticed that I didn’t hyperlink Leaving Darkness. I will add the links when my copy is available on Amazon. I’m keeping, for now, the Westbow version there at $3.99 because of the good reviews it has. (Note 5/8/2019 – I added the link to the special edition.)

This experience has taught me that I want to stick with IngramSpark for my publishing needs. That means, likely, never pursuing the trad route again. I may change my mind if the situation is right, but so far as I’m concerned today, indie is the way, and total indie – no more hybrid self-publishers.

 

 

 

Change of Identity

I originally started this blog with the intention of creating a platform to share my journey as an indie author. My first post was over two years ago, a short hello to describe my hope that “my musings will provide my peers and others interested in the indie space information, comfort, and encouragement.”Capture

That goal has not changed, but I have. I have since released a third novel, which also is my first Christian novel. Leaving Darkness relates how one lost in depression finds a way to the light from the Christian faith. With its creation, I realized my calling is not just to create fiction, but Christian fiction with a purpose.

I don’t mean to imply that all Christian fiction doesn’t have a purpose, so perhaps that isn’t the correct way to state my calling. More accurately, I am drawn to write about heavy topics and show how following Christ leads to solutions. I’m not a preacher and never will be. However, what I think I am is a simple person with a somewhat modest gift for writing. That gift comes from God, and I need to follow His will for using it.

Hence the change of identity, or rebranding. I have changed the name of this blog from Second Chance Publishing (under which I self-published my first two novels) to Leaving Darkness, not just as a reference to my first Christian novel, but to describe what I hope to do with my future fiction writing. My next novel, in development stage, tackles abortion.

Another reason for the name change is that my next novel I plan to traditionally publish (at least that’s my thought at the moment). Therefore, the previous tagline “An indie author’s musings” becomes inaccurate. I’ve changed that to reflect where I’m at today: “A Christian Fiction Author’s Musings.”

This isn’t to say I won’t change again in the future. For that reason, I’m keeping the secondchancebook.wordpress.org domain. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll open a small Christian publishing house and name it Second Chance Publishing.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

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Recently there has been much in the press about Congress “taking away” the Internet privacy of United States citizens. Internet Service Providers can now intercept and sell usage data. There is quite an uproar, and a push for the “necessity” of using Virtual Private Network (VPN) services to keep privacy intact.

Much of this has elements of perhaps not “fake” news but certainly overblown sensationalism. This is a prime example of what we refer to in the infosec industry as spreading FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

Read closely, friends – nothing has changed. There was a law passed to enable restrictions that would have gone into effect late this year; that will not happen now. Your privacy online is the same today as it was yesterday.

I, like many writers, enjoy writing when the mood hits. That may mean taking out a notebook on a bus or bringing a laptop to a coffeehouse or bar for a drink and a session of keyboard-pounding. I use a cloud service so that my content is synchronized across devices automatically. Use of the public WiFi comes in quite handy.

“But I thought using public WiFi is insecure, and to never do so?”

Well, yes and no.

I do use a VPN service on all my devices, not because I am afraid the government is spying on me or that my ISP is selling my web surfing habits on the open market (I buy aluminum foil to protect against those threats). No, I primarily use my VPN to mitigate risks of Man in the Middle attacks at public WiFi spots.

My fundamental philosophy about information security is it is risk management. Perpetuating FUD does little to help the problem. Do people not drive at all because of the risk of getting into an accident? Of course not, they mitigate that by ensuring brakes are inspected and operating effectively, driving at a safe speed commensurate with conditions and skill, stay focused (no texting and driving, applying makeup, binge watching, and so on), and choosing routes wisely. Does this mean they will never have an accident? No. But they have reduced the chances substantially.

The same applies to cyber. Understand the risks, then mitigate to a level acceptable to your risk tolerance. Yes a VPN service will help protect your privacy if an ISP opts to sell traffic information, but navigate through the FUD and make your decision a risk-informed one. And stock up on aluminum foil.

(Image shutterstock #574193302)

From the Loft Released

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January 18, 2017 – Second Chance Publishing announces the release of From the Loft, a compilation of previously published humorous vignettes detailing a man who grew up in a city atmosphere learning about life on a mini-farm with several horses to care for. The tales capture the struggles and triumphs of one who grew up surrounded by more concrete than greenery as he discovers through some trial and much error the joys of mini-farm life, from moving hay to fixing gates to witnessing a the birth of a horse to bush hogging.

While fictional, the writer based many of the articles on his own experiences. “I found some humor in my adjustment to the different agricultural lifestyle,” author Greg Schaffer explained. “When the opportunity arose to write a monthly horse humor column, I could not refuse. What, with so much material to pull from, the columns would almost write themselves.”

Most of the articles are very close to their original content, with minor style adjustments, presented roughly but not exactly in the order in which they originally appeared. Both of these changes help to establish a feel of consistency and continuity when compiled together.

From the Loft is available in eBook and print formats at major online retailers. Interested parties may order a personalized, signed print copy from the Second Chance Publishing website at www.secondchancebook.org.

Second Chance Publishing is an indie writing resource highlighting independent authors. Visit www.secondchancebook.org for more information.

Greg Schaffer has previously published two novels and a collection of poems. He has several projects in the works, including a sequel to Forgiveness and an as-of-yet unnamed novel about finding hope through smothering darkness. Contact Greg at gjschaffer536@gmail.com.

A Horse Night Before Christmas

frong-cover-build-2Given it’s two days before Christmas, I thought it appropriate to share this excerpt from my upcoming work From the Loft, a collection of light horse-humor themed articles I wrote in the mid-2000s (available December 30, 2016):

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With Christmas fast approaching, stockings hang from every stall in anticipation that Santa Claus will fill them with carrots and other yummy treats. I decided against putting up a small Christmas tree in the barn. If the horses did not eat the branches, the tree would surely become the next paddock toy.

Now, I can say (with some bias, of course) that the ponies have in fact been quite good this year, and deserving of a multitude of Christmas goodies. So, in keeping with the spirit of the season, and with thanks (and apologies) to Clement Clarke Moore, here is what horses may be dreaming of this night before Christmas:

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the barn,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a yawn.

The stockings were hung by the stalls with care,

In hope that St. Nicholas would soon be there.

 

The ponies were nested all snug in their shavings,

Visions of alfalfa igniting their cravings!

Leaving the barn and pushing the wheelbarrow,

I had just finished my chores ‘til daylight tomorrow.

 

When out in the paddock there arose such a clatter,

And I ran from the field to see what was the matter.

Through the gate, I made a mad dash,

Forgetting the hot tape, a spark with a flash!

 

The moon above cast a pleasant blue glow,

O’er the field I no longer had to mow.

When, what my wandering eyes would see,

Not eight reindeer, but a John Deere ATV.

 

The four-wheeler driver I knew in a lick,

Excitedly I exclaimed, “It is Saint Nick!”

He gunned the throttle and turned the key,

And the engine backfired, scaring me!

 

“Now Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Rudolph,

And all the rest are home goofing off!

Forget milk and crackers, I need fuel,

And in exchange here are gifts of yule.”

 

His offer was certainly quite generous,

If not perhaps a wee bit ridiculous!

“Sure,” I replied, not knowing why,

But just then he made that four-wheeler fly!

 

With a thud the tires landed on the roof,

All dogs responded with a stereophonic “woof.”

As I shook my head, turning around,

I knew how crazy this story would sound.

 

He wore leather from his head to his foot,

A throwback to the 60s was his enormous boot!

A round bale he had flung on his back,

And just for that feat I would give him no flack.

 

His eyes, how they twinkled, and his dimples, how merry!

Yet he had to unload his gifts in a hurry.

Slowly he steadied himself on the roof,

Then slipped and fell, landing with an ‘Oof!”

 

A riding crop he held tightly in his teeth,

“I used to ride but lately I’ve been weak.”

I offered the appy for a short trail ride.

“She’s gentle and kind and will stick by your side.”

 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I watched him try to ride by himself!

“I have to admit,” he said with some dread,

“I always use the autopilot in my sled!”

 

He spoke no more words, and cantered with a jerk,

But the horse was nice and did all the work.

Soon he dismounted and left hay and gifts,

Then gunned the ATV and drove off very swift!

 

I surveyed the barn and marveled at it all,

The overflowing stockings in front of each stall.

A sound bellowed from the ATV’s fading taillight,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”