What I’ve learned from self-publishing


It’s been one year since I self-published my first novella. Boy was that an adventure and a half. Just months earlier I had written my first short story (Storm of Passion). The overwhelming positive feedback and encouragement I received from readers prompted me to write an expanded version of the original short story. Mind you, I had no prior writing experience or training, yet, I boldly went where I had never gone before.

The first draft of the manuscript was sent off to a small group of Beta readers who volunteered to give their feedback on my story, grammar, punctuation, etc. Their comments came back and I could barely make out the actual manuscript from their too numerous to count comments. I sifted through their notes and I made revisions to the manuscript. After reading my revised work, I created cover art for the book cover and then formatted the manuscript for submission to Amazon and Smashwords.

Already, I had learned some valuable lessons and more would follow:

  1. Importance of patience

    Take the time to do it right to my fullest ability. Don’t rush.

    My novel Auf Wiedersehen~Journey to Goodbye is the perfect example. It’s been three years in the making and it’s still morphing and improving as each day passes. This is the fourteenth re-write, the core story has not changed, but the manner of how the story unfolds has changed dramatically. Patience I tell myself – Rome was not built in a day.

  2. Importance of relying on the kindness of others

    I could save myself time and frustration if I do it alone, but the final outcome is more rewarding if I recruit outside help. Beta readers for example, they were wonderful. But they had not been in total agreement with their generous comments and suggestions during the Storm of Passion Beta read. I took from the experience the comments I was in agreement and revised the manuscript of my first novella.

  3. Importance of editing & proofreading

    Ok, here’s where I learned the valuable lesson about the importance of proper editing and proofreading. After the novella (Storm of Passion) was published, the reviewers comments were focused on the lack of and need of editing and proofreading. I will be the first to admit that I have no idea how to structure a proper sentence, my punctuation skills suck and I can’t spell worth a ding dong. But through my many flaws and inadequacies, I was still able to get the gist of my story across to most readers.

    An author friend told me that there are three kinds of writers:

    1. The technical writer: an individual that has the training and proficient skills to write professionally, but they aren’t as creative as a storyteller.

    2. The storyteller: an individual that can mesmerize his/her audience with endless stories, but can’t write a proper sentence if his/her life depended on it.

    3. The technical writer AND storyteller: an individual who possesses BOTH talents (like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling), but this kind of extraordinary talent only comes along once in a blue moon.

    So, I’ve accepted the fact that I can weave a yarn (in fact quite a few) but lack the technical training and ability. There are lots of folks in this world that are more than willing to assist, if only I ask.

  1. Importance of formatting

    Formatting a manuscript for self-publishing can be a chore and a headache. I read all the manuals and help hints and guidelines before I began my various forms of formatting for self-publishing. I applied all of the knowledge I had absorbed and began the online manuscript submission process. Overall, they came out ok, there were a few minor glitches I was unable to rectify.

    Recently the importance of proper formatting slapped me in the face (big time) as I read a self-published book on my Kindle. The text was all over the place, and not on just that page but the entire book. It was difficult to follow the story and especially the witty dialogue. I limped through the rest of the book, just because I was drawn into a wonderful story. Had the book been better formatted, the read would have been much more enjoyable. After all, isn’t that what a reader wants, an enjoyable read?

  2. Importance of believing in myself

    I’d have to say that the most important lesson I’ve learned is to believe in myself and to follow my dream. From the start, I realized that I had to block out the little voice inside me, the one that said I couldn’t do it. Because I ended up doing it! I had self-published my first book.

    I had considered the suggestions and comments from Beta readers and took what I deemed the better of the advice and applied it to my writing. I never compromised my story, but willingly listened to the advice along the way. Ultimately, that advice vastly improved my story.

    After the Beta read of my second novella Masked Identities, one of the Beta readers advised me to trash the whole manuscript as it was nothing but sheer crap. Sure, the comment stung, but I wasn’t about to let one person’s opinion squash my story. After all, for each story read, each individual reader will take away a different opinion. This particular comment had only been one person’s opinion. I forged ahead and self-published the manuscript. As of this writing, Masked Identities has two 5-star reviews posted on Amazon and additional 5-star reviews on other review sites.

  3. Importance of setting a goal

    Right from the start, I was determined to write and publish my stories, because I had tales to share. I wasn’t writing for fame or money, I wrote to tell my stories. Sure, my books haven’t graced the best-seller lists, nor have I received huge, whoppin’ commission checks, but that wasn’t my goal. I enjoy weaving my tales and hope that one or two readers will be whisked away from reality for a few minutes and settle into the fictional world I create in the form of a written story.

    Pulpit To Porn, my current WIP is just that kind of novella.

  4. What have I learned?

    More than I could have ever imagined. I’ve traveled to places and periods in history where it would have been otherwise impossible. I’ve become intimately acquainted with colorful characters living within my imagination. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve cheered. I’ve told my yarn.

    That’s the reward of self-publishing …

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What the F***! Where did my story go?



One fine day, a little over one year ago, I sat down at the laptop and started writing a story. I had never written anything in my life, other than some crappy reports in school. To be honest, I hated to write.

Several months had passed and the manuscript grew longer and longer with each passing day, until one afternoon I had typed the the final words to, not just a story, but a novel.

A friend read the manuscript and insisted I submit it to be published.

I didn’t exactly know how the whole submission process worked. I had read that a Literary Agent was a good way for an unknown author to get his/her inaugural work in front of a potential publisher. So, I queried a few potential agents and within a few weeks I signed a contract. Now, I would sit back and wait for the offers to roll in, or so I thought.

Months had passed without a word from my agent. During the waiting period, I had written and self-published a short story and a novella, with more ideas brewing in my brain.

While self-publishing my works, I had learned a lot about the publishing industry and even more about the writing process itself.

The finest lesson I learned was about a special group of individuals called: Beta Readers.

Before I self-published my short story and novella, these fine folks tore apart my manuscripts, not in a bad way, they had helped to improve the stories immensely.

Beta Readers have now become an important part in my writing process. I transfer their tons of notes, highlighted words/phrases, suggestions and corrections to my grammar and punctuation, onto my MASTER MANUSCRIPT. Each Beta has a predetermined font color and I add all of the colorful notes directly into my manuscript (corresponding with the particular issue). When I have completely transferred all the notes onto the MASTER, it looks quite colorful and pretty with all of those different colored fonts.

A friend noticed my MASTER on my laptop one afternoon and she inquired about it. I explained to her how my manuscript revision method worked. After all the colored Beta comments are posted onto the MASTER, I start at the beginning of the manuscript and address each Beta issue. One at a time, I make my revision or correction and delete the colored Beta comment and move onto the next Beta issue until no colored Beta comments remain on the MASTER. After addressing and deleting all of the Beta issues, my MASTER is a totally revised manuscript.

My friend began to read some of the Beta comments and became extremely offended over comments they had made in regards to my manuscript.

I closed the laptop and immediately changed the subject, not wishing to get into an involved discussion of how their comments made my stories more readable.

Several additional months had passed and still no communication from my Literary Agent about my novel. I sent copies of the novel manuscript to Beta’s for an initial evaluation. WOW! Was I ever impressed with their extensive comments.
After completing a new revision of the manuscript, I sent the improved version off to another round of Beta’s.

Result: the Beta’s suggested the deletion of six entire chapters and in doing so required major modification to the story.

My contract with the Literary Agent had expired, without even an email asking if I wished to extend it.

I have since realized that my involvement with the agency had been a waste of time. The agent had lead me to believe I had an excellent manuscript, ready for publication and the agency would locate the most suitable publisher for my work. In actuality, my manuscript was a piece of shit and needed a tremendous amount of reworking before it could be considered “submission ready”.

On my own initiative, Auf Wiedersehen~Journey to Goodbye has already gone through eight entire rewrites and I have begun the final revision. It’s basically the same story as it was one year ago, but it reads like a real novel now.

Funny how things in our lives change, sometimes over night. Nineteen months ago, I sat down at the laptop to write just one measly story…

A Story Without a Genre – or – If You Write It a Genre Will Come



For months, I did research for my latest novella, Masked Identities. The storyline includes a period story sandwiched within a contemporary story. In other words, I was writing two stories that would ultimately become one.

The interior story of Ambrose and Sebastian takes place in 1890 Victorian London. Mind you, I have never been off the shores of North America and I definitely had not lived in the 19th Century (at least not during this lifetime). To properly tell this story required months of research into Victorian London history. I recreated a large 19th Century map of London which was taped to the wall in front of me along with reproduced photos of clothing styles, buildings, actual newspaper articles, court and police records, birth records (to select from popular names given to infants during the period), along with tons and tons of notes. During my research I discovered actual events, places and even people that made the story seem like it was becoming more than just a work of fiction. Not having written a “period” piece before, I encountered a challenge with phrases and words that sounded too contemporary or too “American”. Luckily, I had come across two comprehensive directories of “1890 Victorian Slang Terms” which was quite beneficial as well as educational. I began incorporating the results of my research into my story. There was a nagging voice constantly chattering in my head: “The story has to be authentic and historically accurate.”

Once the interior story was completed, I finished the contemporary (exterior) story of a troubled relationship between Megan and her boyfriend, Chandler. But, I had two different endings and was undecided of which to use. I flipped a coin and that decided the ending.

The completed story was sent out to Beta Readers for review. The extensive comments were mixed and quite varying. The Beta’s were evenly tied in their comments of how the story should end, although they had no idea I had a second ending which I had not included in the manuscript. During the revision I decided to include both ending, so the story had an alternate ending. I would leave the selection of the ending to the reader.

Then what to do about about Cover Art? I had six mock-ups and was just as undecided on which I liked best, so I put the mock-ups to a vote of my peers on Facebook.

The story was completed and ready for publication. So, exactly how many writing rules had I broken?

(1) The story has both a Contemporary story and a Period story – OK, that’s a genre specific issue.
(2) The interior story is gay themed and the interior story is hetero themed – another problem.
(3) An alternative ending rather than just one ending – can I break any more writing rules?

To publish the story, I had to consider exactly which genre did this story belong? The publishing industry has specific established genres and my story severely crossed over genre lines. Pondering my dilemma, I questioned why in the heck had I written this story in the first place.

I was reminded of an author friend who recently told me that there are two kinds of writers:
(1) The writer who follows all the rules of grammar, punctuation and writes the edit-perfect book.
(2) Then, there is the “story teller” who creates wonderful tales, but does not follow the writing rules, either due to a lack of formal training or just because they are a rebel.

The author friend had classified my writing style in the second category, as a “story teller”. Yes, I can tell you a tale, but don’t ask me to diagram a sentence, or ask me to identify an adverb or a noun, and I’ll put a period or comma wherever I feel like it. And what the **** is a gerund?

I was reminded of Cyril Connolly, who said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

Masked Identities was released in digital format on December 4, 2011 and the paperback edition will follow. Maybe no one will read my story, and those that do may not like it. Whatever the case, I will always consider Masked Identities as my alternative fiction that lacked a genre.

Synopsis of Masked Identities

Megan thought she had read every book in her grandfather’s extensive collection of fiction, until stumbling upon an unfamiliar title. Curious, she delves into the book, realizing that her own relationship with her boyfriend of four years parallels the story she is reading of Ambrose and Sebastian. Can a story of love between two men provide the answers to salvage her floundering relationship?

This unusual tale is actually a period story wrapped inside of a contemporary storyline. The interior story includes actual places and events of 1890 Victorian London. One story follows the relationship of two men in Britain, the other story follows Megan and Chandler in upstate New York, USA. Not specifically defined as a romance novella, since this manuscript crosses genre specific lines: gay / hetero, period / contemporary, and even includes an alternate ending. Definitely not the traditional run-of-the-mill read, but a journey into alternative fiction.

Available
Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006IU902U
Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/111086

Why Self-Published Authors Know Best


I ran across this quote today, from a post that historical romance novelist Courtney Milan wrote this week as an open letter to agents.

The traditional information storehouse has been inverted. Right now, the people who know the most about self-publishing are authors, and trust me, the vast majority of authors are aware of that. For the first time, authors are having questions about their careers, and their agents are not their go-to people. 

While not having an agent, in fact having decided in the fall of 2009 not to look for an agent for my historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, I can’t really speak to this group’s effectiveness in this new publishing climate. Neither do I want to go into whether or not I think that the decision on the part of some agents to begin to publish their authors’ work has ethical or conflict of interest ramifications.

Although the latest brouhaha that just erupted when an agency threatened an author with legal action because she said they were setting up as a digital publisher, when they insisted they were just starting an “assisted self-publishing initiative,” suggests that this question is not going to go away.

What I want to address is Milan’s assertion that authors are the people who know the most about self-publishing. I not only agree, but I would take this one step further. I think that self-published authors may know the most about publishing, period, in this time of expanded ebook publishing and social media marketing.

Let me count just some of the ways:

1.  Most self-published authors know about both legacy publishing and self-publishing, which gives them a uniquely broad perspective.

In my experience, most of self-published authors have already had fairly extensive experience with the legacy publishing industry (as traditionally published authors, as authors who have spent years trying to become traditionally published, and as friends of published authors). From this experience we are in a better position to make well-informed decisions about the costs and benefits of both paths to publication, and which path to choose for a given project.

For example, since we understand the lead time it takes to get a book published with a legacy publisher, versus a self-published book, we might choose self-publishing for a non-fiction book that is very time-sensitive, but willingly pursue a legacy publisher for a work of fiction that we feel would do best in print and distributed through brick and mortar stores.

2.  Self-published authors were among the first to embrace ebook publishing as their main method of publishing, and therefore they have longer and greater experience in this realm, which is where the market is expanding the fastest.

For most of us the lack of capital meant learning how to format and upload ebooks ourselves, therefore we understand both the relative ease of this process and the importance of it. Even if we decide to pay someone else to do the formatting, our experience helps be better judges of the value of this service.

For example, we would be much less likely to be snookered into paying a high fee to an agent or anyone else for “taking care of” this for us. We understand that while most readers of ebooks are fairly tolerant of an occasional formatting error, they don’t like a lot of white space, including indents that are too large, blank pages, and unnecessary page breaks. We understand the cover design that works on a printed book sitting on a shelf doesn’t work on a thumbnail on the virtual bookshelves of an eretailer or a website, and we have had the chance to experiment to find the most effective covers for our books in this environment.

3. Self-published authors have up-to-date information about sales data, and they can and do share that information.

The turning point for me in making the decision to self-publishing came when I read Joe Konrath’s initial blog postings listing his ebook sales. I finally had the concrete numbers to determine what kind of sales I would need to pay for my capital outlay, and what kind of income I could make, compared to the advance I could expect going the traditional route.

Agents, publishers, even traditionally published authors, are very unwilling to ever talk about numbers, unless, of course, they are talking about a New York Times bestseller. The whole convoluted publishing industry accounting system, the lag in recording royalties (which go through the agent-I mean, what is up with that??), the fear that weak numbers are going to be the kiss of death for achieving the next contract, all work to keep a veil of secrecy. If you are an author this means you may never really understand how many books you sold, when and where you sold them, which covers worked, which price points worked, and which method of delivery got you the most profit.

Self-published authors working through such methods of delivery as CreateSpace for print or KDP or ePubit for ebooks not only have ready access to this sort of information, which is so crucial for designing effective market strategies, but we have no reason not to share this information. I can write that my sales have been lower this summer than in the winter, and not worry that this will hurt the chances that my next book will be published, or marketed aggressively, or reviewed positively. And I can learn from other authors if they are experiencing a similar pattern, and if so, what they are doing about it. This is one of the reasons we knew that ebook readership was going up, that certain price points worked better than others, that the Nook was beginning to claim a significant share of the market, before most of the traditional pundits did.

4.  By necessity, self-published authors have had to rely on e-retailers, but this has made them savvy about how best to attract customers in this expanding retail environment.

For example, authors published through legacy publishers are often slow to understand how important it is to get your book into the right category on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. In my experience most traditionally published authors, and their agents and editors, don’t even know that categories had been chosen for their book, and, as with most aspects of publishing (the title, the cover design, the product description), the authors don’t have ultimate control over the final choices. Getting any changes made after publication (in a cover or category or price that doesn’t work) is also difficult.

5.  Again by necessity, self-published authors have had to develop alterative methods of marketing—which have made them innovators in using social media for this purpose.

I am still amazed when I read comments by traditionally published authors on various sites saying that their books have just “been put up on Kindle,” and asking if anyone has a suggestion how to market those books. Obviously neither their agents or their editors have had much to say on the subject, beyond “set up a website.” Not surprisingly, it is self-published authors that seemed to give the most detailed advice in response to these queries. See Rob Walker’s huge thread on KDP community forum.

6.  Self-published authors are going to continue to be the innovators in publishing, no matter what the future holds, and therefore the best source of information.

We have to be innovators, because we don’t rely on anyone else-not agent or editor-to ensure our books are out there and being read. Two years ago, when I researched self-publishing, Amazon’s Kindle and Smashwords, were the two major ways open to me to independently upload my book. Since then Barnes and Noble’s ePubit, Google Editions, Kobo and many other companies have made it possible for independent authors to publish on their sites. In addition, while the iPad’s ibook store has been slow to expand, more and more people are downloading books, often using the Kindle or other aps, not only to the iPad, but more often than not to the iPhone or other similar devices. Traditional publishers are forced to deal with each of these changes slowly, often with protracted negotiations, which slows their authors’ access to these venues.  Self-published authors were able to respond immediately to these changes, as they will be able to do with what ever new twist the ebook or print on demand aspects of the industry takes.

Self-authors are intrinsically less conservative than people who work within the legacy publishing industry, where risks can ruin a career. An agent who takes on too many cutting edge writers and can’t sell their books, an editor whose choices don’t make back the authors advances, the author whose sales don’t pan out, all risk losing their business, their jobs, and their next contract. The motivation, therefore, is to choose authors and books that either fit this year’s trend (no matter that by the time the book comes out the trend may have peaked), or fit squarely into a niche market, and aren’t too long, or too short. Self-published authors have the choice to take risks, because they answer to no one but themselves and their readers.

7.  Finally, I believe that most authors are going to become self-published authors, and therefore will remain the major source of information about self-publishing. Not because they are all going to leave legacy publishing, but because more and more authors are going to see self-publishing as one of their options over their career.

Practically every author I have ever known has an idea for a book or a manuscript squirreled away, or a short story or novella they have written, that they either had failed to sell to a legacy publisher, or simply never tried to write or sell, because they knew that this work wouldn’t be acceptable. These ideas, these works, now can see the light of day. The market may turn out to be small for any particular work, but if you have written something that pleases you, that you as a reader would like to read, and you can self-publish that work and watch as people buy it, review it, and email you about it, the satisfaction is enormous.

I spoke to a college journalism class this spring about the possibilities of self-publishing, and a young man came up to me afterwards, all enthusiastic, and he told me that I had given him hope. His father had tried to discourage him from pursuing a career as a writer, telling him it would be years and years, and maybe never, that his work would ever see print. I had just told him what he had written already, what he chose to write next month, could be out there being read in a few days time.

This is one of the reasons that agents or publishers who try to lock authors into exclusive clauses, or manipulate print on demand to keep hold of copyright, are simply going to drive even more of their authors into self-publishing. Once an author has been exposed to the liberating belief that all of their work can get in print, and all the work that is good, will get to be read, they will not go back to telling themselves that the gatekeepers were saving them from the awful mistake of publishing a bad book, and that the favorite quirky cross genre manuscript they wrote really is better off never being read by anyone.

Does this mean the end of agents or publishers? Of course not. But it does mean that those people in the traditional publishing industry who continue to hold self-published authors in contempt, who continue to try to argue that all authors and all published books should go through their doors to get to the reader, who fail to turn to their authors and their readers for advice, are going to find themselves losing out in the future.


This is a reprint from M. Louisa Locke‘s site.

Traditional Book Publishing versus Self Publishing Option


Okay, a Literary Agency has been representing me since Nov 2010. So far, I have not seen anything in particular which has impressed me. I was both excited and relieved that after 9 months, I had completed my first novel. I sent the digital file to my literary agent to await a contract offer from a publisher. The agency accepted my manuscript in April and it is now almost 5 months and I have yet to hear a word from my agent. If it were not for the  “canned” quarterly newsletters the agency emails, I would not have any communication what-so-ever. So? What are they doing for me? Who knows?

Back in May, I wrote a short story for an online writing event. The story was, well, in my eyes a masterpiece. Hey, I was the guy in school that hated to read or write and I cheated on all of my written reports. Don’t even ask me the difference between an adjective or an adverb, cause I’ll just stare blankly back at you.  I saw no point in conjugating verbs (conjugate? Isn’t that a clinical word for sex?) I can think of much more aesthetically pleasing décor than a diagramed sentence. So, why am I even mentioning all of this? The novel which took me nine months to write was my very FIRST attempt at writing and then I took on the challenge to write a short story. I was on a roll, till I discovered that my brilliant writing was lacking.

I revised and expanded the short story into a novella (no it’s not soft and frilly so we shant call it a “novelette”). Then the manuscript went not once, but twice under the eyes of scrutinizing Beta Readers. The revisions and modifications were sometimes frustrating, but I learned and actually retained a little something about writing and grammar. But the real revelation was when I saw how much my little story had improved. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than when I had begun.

Two months later, that novella was published and the whole world could read my story. And exactly how did I get published? I self published with Smashwords (digital formats) and CreateSpace (paperback) and both are sold on Amazon.

I learned so much during the editing and numerous revisions of the novella Storm of Passion. Beta Readers provided invaluable assistance during the process. Currently two Beta Readers are critiquing my first novel Auf Wiedersehen~Journey to Goodbye. Even though my agent had me believing that I had actually written the greatest American Novel since Joyce, Fitzgerald or Faulkner. It will take hours and hours of revisions and rewrites, but mark my words; my re-vamped novel will be published in early 2012, with or without the assistance of a literary agent, most likely without, since my agent’s contract expires very soon and I don’t see a renewal in their future.

I guess it all depends on how one looks at one’s work as to a publishing preference. Myself, I had a story to share and self publishing allowed me the option to get my story out without the “blessing” of a publisher. Sure, the book may have its imperfections, but don’t we all, isn’t that what makes us so much more interesting. Without our imperfections we wouldn’t have anything to gossip about, would we?

No eReader Required


Just this last month, I released my first published novella (Storm of Passion). Woo Hoo! However, I have recently learned that a number of my friends declined to download the digital version of my book because they did not have a Kindle, Nook, Kobo or other eReader device.

WOW! I was unaware that there  are a lot of folks missing out on the benefits of ebooks because they do not know they can access ebooks on a Pad, laptop, PC or even a Smart Phone. Anyone who can logon to check their Facebook status can read an ebook from that same machine without purchasing additional software.

I was introduced to ebooks a decade ago, basically when they were mostly “get rich quick” schemes. eBooks have come a long way since those days. Today, you can read  just about anything from the classics to the latest NY Best Seller from just about any machine that connects to the Internet. I don’t own a Kindle, but I can read my Kindle books from the  free Kindle app on my smart phone. My smart phone as well as my laptop have free apps that permit me to read most digital formats on one or the other. I have 3 libraries, physical paper bound books in my bedroom,  a collection of ebooks on my laptop and another collection on my smart phone. No matter where I am, a good book is within my reach.

In their own words: Local writers are going DIY


Originally posted by Charles Hamilton,
The StarPhoenix August 4, 2011 4:40 AM
Read more:
http://www.thestarphoenix.com/entertainment/their+words/5202985/story.html#ixzz1U3jHHww2

One afternoon seven years ago, Wes Funk sat down at his computer and typed three words: dead rock stars.

He had no idea that those words would one day be the title of first novel.

“I had this epiphany, like I was onto something. I just started typing,” he says.

Two years later he had a manuscript for his first novel. He sent copies of Dead Rock Stars to 17 different publishing houses. Over the course of several months he received 17 rejection letters.

“Every letter I got was quite praising of the book,” he says. “But they told me they couldn’t afford to take on an unknown (author).”

That’s when he decided to publish Dead Rock Stars all by himself.

Any given year, a traditional publishing house, like Random House or Penguin, could receive as many as 3,000 manuscript submissions a year. Of those, it’s likely only 15 will actually make it onto bookstore shelves. And for first-time authors like Funk, it’s virtually impossible to break in. That is why more and more authors like him are turning to self-publishing.

Funk admits he was a late bloomer when it came to writing. He grew up in the small northern community of Mayfair, Saskatchewan. His family was poor and he spent his first decade living in Saskatoon working and saving money.

“I always did write. I had a little sketchbook that I carried around in my man purse and sketched little pictures and wrote things down, but I didn’t take it seriously,” he says.

While at times humorous, Dead Rock Stars is a serious piece of writing. The book is a semi-autobiographical story of a Saskatoon record store owner travelling back to his small Saskatchewan hometown. Many of the conflicts that make up Dead Rock Stars mirror Funk’s struggles: the isolation of living in a small town, family feuding and wrestling with homosexuality and identity.

And yes, Dead Rock Stars is also about rock musicians. The Nirvana tattoo on Funk’s right arm serves as an ever-present reminder of the rebellion of his early twenties.

The 42-year-old didn’t start writing seriously until the age of 30, and Dead Rock Stars was his first major attempt to sit down and write. The book had its first printing in 2008. He printed 50 copies and spent months getting onto store shelves. Funk did everything from cover design to layout to booking media releases and dealing with distribution. Dead Rock Stars is the definition of self-published – Funk did it all without the help of a traditional publishing house.

The book is now into its third printing and has sold well over 1,000 copies. It’s available in over 40 stores across Canada. He’s made it into an electronic eBook, which has been downloaded 3,200 times. And there are plans to make it into an audiobook.

“I think the digital age has dramatically altered the way we read and the way we take in information and as a result a lot of publishing houses are suffering,” he says. “Even a lot of renowned writers and authors are now turning to self publishing.”

The trend toward self-publishing can be seen on bookstore shelves. McNally Robinson bookstore in Saskatoon estimates there are at least 300 self-published titles at the store right now.

Self-publishing has a long history. Everyone from legendary poet E.E. Cummings to self-help guru Deepak Chopra have, at one time or another, taken publishing into their own hands. But today, in the ever-changing world of publishing, the ground is constantly shifting. And more and more people are looking for alternatives.

“Frankly a traditional publisher who hasn’t figured out that the world is changing is on borrowed time,” says Jeff Smith, a local author and cofounder of Saskatoon’s newest independent publishing company, Indie Ink.

His company is less than a year old, but already they are responsible for publishing a national bestseller, John Gormley’s Left Out. Indie Ink has published two other books, and Smith says there are at least nine projects in development. They include everything from children’s books, to nonfiction to poetry collections. And they will all be self-published. That’s because Indie Ink has one rule: in order to work on an Indie project you have to be a practicing artist.

“This is about creating a marketplace where artists control more of the process; where they can at least dream of making a living – without MBAs and marketing specialist, all these people who aren’t contributing to the process coming in and scooping off profits essentially for the privilege of having a Rolodex and introducing us to each other,” he says.

This business model allows his company to offer a more favourable royalty split than traditional publishing house. Smith says he is essentially in the business of pairing artists together and making self-publishing a book a more realistic goal. Self-publishing is, after all, an arduous task.

“Not only is (the self-publisher) a first time writer, but he’s got to be a first time graphic designer, and a first time layout artist, a first time illustrator, marketer, producer, promoter and shipper,” he says. “All of these job functions that used to be done for the writer by a publishing company, they now have to do it all on their own.”

Smith may seem an unlikely candidate to make it foray into the publishing world. He has worked as a computer graphics designer in Hollywood, doing special effects for Disney’s Lion King and Aladdin. A computer science graduate from Waterloo, he lived the tech bubble of the late 1990s. He helped create an email software company in Toronto that eventually went bust.

Smith is taking what he learned from the tech industry and applying it to the publishing books. This past year Amazon reported higher eBook sales than regular physical book sales online. To understand the publishing industry these days, it’s essential you understand technology.

“It’s impacting marketing, it’s impacting the consumer and the reader, and it impacts the way you work with an author, the kinds of products you can sell, where you can sell them. Everything changes in technology,” he says.

And that seems to be the mantra of the selfpublishing industry: everything changes and the smaller you are the more adaptable you are. Wes Funk has gone out a limb to publish his book – he put up the money, the time, the resources. But in the end, he’s the one that get’s the reward.

“It’s not as easy as it looks, and I warn (people) against shunning the traditional publishing houses because they can do great things for you,” he says. “But for me this particular path was somewhere I had to go down.”

Funk is in the process of writing his second novel. And he even admits he will likely feel out some traditional publishing houses. But if that fails, he at least knows he has the resources to do it himself.

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