Tag Archives: authors

Because it’s a FAQ: some thoughts on self-publishing

Reader M asked me:

I was wondering what your experience with Lulu.com has been to self-publish your books?

Did you engage (heh) them for marketing? For editing? Or simply for publishing??

This sort of inquiry is pretty much a FAQ at this point, so I thought I'd share a slightly-edited version of my reply to him with the rest of the class:

Hi M,

I've been really happy with Lulu. Everyone I've ever talked with there has easy to work with, and very supportive of my work. 

When I first took my work there, they reached out to me and offered to do some marketing for me, because it was the kind of relationship that made sense for both of us: I got good marketing and support, and they had a moderately high profile example to show prospective self-publishers what their marketing and support could do.

Remember, though, that the responsibility to promote falls on the author's shoulders, and a book will sell as well as you promote it. A publisher can only get you in a place where you'll be seen and then support you once you're there; nothing is guaranteed.

Also, it's a little cart-before-the-horse to be worrying about marketing and publicity when you're on the first draft. All the marketing and publicity in the world won't matter if you don't write a compelling story that engages (ha. ha. ha.) your readers. 

As far as editorial goes, a content editor is a VERY personal and important relationship to have, so I wouldn't grab one at random, or stay with one who doesn't work as hard as you do. You should work with someone who understands what kind of story you want to tell, has experience editing that kind of story, and who has earned your respect. Your editor is someone who you're going to be accountable to, who is going to help you make your work better, make you a better writer, and ultimately be more of a partner than you ever though they would be. Do not rush into an editorial relationship, especially when you're self-publishing.

Copy editors, though just as important as content editors, aren't as personal. You still want someone who is going to let your voice come through, so that's important, but they're mostly going to make sure those inevitable spelling and grammar errors don't end up in your final manuscript.

I've also learned that it's really important to have a designer layout your final book. After publishing a lot of books, I can tell you that we writers are good at putting words together, but we're not as good at laying them out on the page as we think we are. If you're doing an eBook, you can probably do it yourself in Sigil or whatever your preferred markup editor is, but for print, you absolutely want to work with someone who can build you an interior design that looks great. 

I encourage you to make sure your work is available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks, as well, because people read in a lot of different places and formats these days. It's also a really good idea to establish relationships with indie booksellers and librarians, because they are awesome.

If you haven't, I recommend reading Dan Poynter's book on Self Publishing, as well as the Complete Guide to Self Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross. If you're on Google Plus, go add Evo Terra to a circle RIGHT NOW because he's the smartest indie publishing guru I've ever listened to. 

I hope this helps you a little bit.

Good luck!


My only disappointment with Lulu is that the company stopped doing digital files like audio books, but I understand that since they returned their focus to only books, it's been good for their authors. Finding a new place to host and sell my audio books has been a real pain in the ass. The Audible agreement is unacceptable to me, and everything else I've been able to find seems to be geared toward bands, so I'm still mostly in the wilderness at the moment (I say mostly, because Scott Sigler pointed me to what looks like a perfect solution for me, but nothing's been set in stone, yet.)

So there you go. This isn't exhaustive by any means, and while I'm not an expert, I have had a lot of experience so I mostly know what I'm talking about. I hope this is helpful for indie authors who Get Excited and Make Things.

If you have personal experience to share, or advice that's been helpful to you as an indie creator (not just authors), I'd love it if you'd leave a comment.

in which we combine wil wheaton, books, and beer. (mmmm … beer.)

Last year, I went to the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens for an event they call Book and a Beer. It's pretty much what it sounds like: I read from my book while people drank beer. Then I signed my books while I drank beer. Then I ate dinner and had some more beer. Then we drove around looking for another seafood restaurant. Then we went fishing.

I had a lot of fun, filled a lot of growlers with Arrogant Bastard, Double dry-hopped IPA, Barleywine, and some other stuff I'm told I really enjoyed not sharing with the rest of the class a few days later. In fact, I had so much fun, I'm going back next week to do it all again … only this time, IT'S PERSONAL!

Wait. That's not what I was going to say. I mean, yes, it's personal, but that's not what's awesome about this time. What's awesome about this time is that I'm just the opening act for Rifftrax! They're doing The Matrix: The One That Really Sucks Out Loud And Makes You Want To Punch Babies. (No, not that one, the other one.) For the six of you who don't know: Rifftrax is a few of the guys from MST3K doing that thing they do so well, only this time they're doing it LIVE. I think it's safe to say that it'll be awesome.

I start at 6pm. I plan to read for either 20 or 40 minutes, depending on how many people show up, and what they're in the mood to hear me read. I'll be prepared with stuff from Happiest Days of Our Lives, and stuff from Memories of the Future. I'll also be prepared to stare into an empty space, wipe a single tear from my eye, and go drown my sorrows in beer. (That, by the way, is one of my default settings and is not specific to this event. It is a class feature, if you will.)

I plan to bring a few copies of some of my books with me, but due to bad planning, I'm very low on stock at the moment, and the string is all in three-inch lengths. However, if you come to the Bistro with your own copies of my books, I'll be happy to sign them for you. I will also sign …other things… within reason.


What: Wil Wheaton reads to you while you drink beer.
Why: Really?
When: Thursday July 23rd, 6pm-8pm.
Where: Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens
Address: 1999 Citricado Pkwy. Escondido, CA 92029

Pleasepleasepleaseplease come and hang out. It'll be a lot of fun, I promise. If you are coming, would you sort of RSVP in the comments?

the clockwork century

A few months ago, I got an ARC of my friend Cherie's forthcoming Steampunk book, Boneshaker. I've raved about it all over the place, so allow me to just sum up without repeating myself too much: it's awesome. I loved everything about it, and I can't wait for it to come out so the rest of the world can read it an understand why I loved it as much as I did. (See an early version of the cover here.)

Boneshaker is one of four stories that are all set in this cool steampunk alternate history world that Cherie calls The Clockwork Century. I just read on Cherie's Livejournal that she created a website for that world, which is cleverly called TheClockworkCentury.com. She says:

The Clockwork Century
will be updated periodically with artwork from the series, including
maps and future book covers, publication and release information,
progress on upcoming projects, and anything else even marginally
pertinent to the universe.

If I may channel my inner Flounder for just a moment: "This is going to be great!"

…and the livin’ is easy.

Hey, remember when I posted stuff in my blog every day and we all had a good time while learning? It's a distant memory, but if you squint, you may be able to pick it up.

Anyway. It's summer, I've been working on awesome projects that I can't talk about, finishing up awesome projects that I've talked about a lot already (Memories of the Future, special edition of Happiest Days, etc.), and since Ryan came home from school and I have my whole family together under one roof again, I'm not especially motivated to stay at my computer after I'm done working, you know?

To close some tabs, though, please enjoy these things that are all related:

Indie Kindle Author lands book deal

Author Boyd Morrison sold two books, the first one called The Ark, to Simon & Schuster. Boyd uploaded and sold the books himself and raised awareness for his novels by being a member of Kindle Boards and generally self-promoting.

He will be published in hardcover in 2010 and is working on his next book featuring swashbuckling adventurer Tyler Locke.

Kick ass, Boyd Morrison! I hope your experience in traditional publishing is better than mine was, and I hope you'll keep your fellow authors informed about your experience.

Author Michael Stackpole: "I don't worry about pirates."

Bestselling novelist Michael Stackpole says he's making great money
selling fiction directly off his site; he doesn't worry about pirates,
"People downloading my stories from the big torrent sites were never
going to buy them anyway. It's no money out of my pocket."

I have a similar philosophy, and I consider myself tremendously lucky to have the kind of relationship with my customers that I do.

Sunken Treasure has gotten some incredible reviews at Lulu:

I hadn't read any of Wil's books, and "Sunken Treasure" seemed like a
good place to sample his writing. My favorite chapters were those about
his childhood – the bad Star Wars trade, the arcade games, auditions.
There's something about the way he captures the true sense of those
times and weaves in pop cultural references so naturally. In those
chapters, I forgot I was reading and was totally drawn into the
storytelling. It felt like being there. I also liked the chapter which
was an on-set diary about a recent acting job – a very open and
engaging account of how it happens and what it's like.

Wil's writing is very honest, clever, vulnerable, raw, and
unprocessed. He's not afraid to show his doubts or fears, and he's not
embarrassed to share his highs. It makes him very real and very
likeable. After reading this sampler, I wanted to know more about him.

Finally, I simply appreciate the fact that this is an independently
published work. I think a lot of people shy away from self-published
books because they're concerned about unchecked quality. The writing
here is terrific and there is a feel of integrity and control in
presenting it.

So…yeah, that's pretty awesome. I love it that so many readers enjoy
Sunken Treasure, and the biggest complaint is that it leaves people
wanting to read more (kind of the idea, but don't tell anyone I said
that, okay?)

This morning, Twitter user @KenMcConnell said: "Wil (@wilw) Wheaton's Sunken Treasure used on Scribd page for ad copy. Cool for him! http://bit.ly/19Y18W" I grabbed a screenshot, because it's one of those things I kind of want to remember when I'm in the adult diapers stage of my life. If I haven't kicked the everlivingshit out of this dead horse, allow me to take a few more whacks (slow, then fast): publishing with Lulu has been a fantastic experience for me. It's easy, the quality of the final product is fantastic, and it frees me up to do the creative stuff I couldn't do when I was fulfilling orders in my living room with the occasional help from my friends and family. If you're considering publishing, I suggest you give Lulu serious consideration.

When I was in Portland, working on Leverage, I spent all of my non-acting time writing stories. When I wasn't writing, I hung out with John Rogers and talked about writing stories. I'm not sure if I grew a level, but definitely gained a whole lot of XP: I wrote a short story that I love (to be released in the near future after I give it a second draft and Andrew applies the Red Pen of Doom) and began work on another that shows at least some promise.

Ryan just wandered out of his room and sat down next to me on the couch with his laptop.

"Dude, you have to see this!" He said, pointing to something on the screen.

"Who is this is?" I said, glancing up from my own laptop.

"Check it out!" He clicked the mouse and flipped the screen toward me. This is what he showed me.

"Dude…" I shook my head.

He giggled. "I totally got you."

"You totally did."

It's really great to have him home.