David Gaughran

You Say Goodbye, And I Say Hello

David Gaughran:

I have been given the daunting task of following Scott, so I think it’s only fair that I introduce myself.

While I have been writing all my life, I only started taking it seriously five years ago. I don’t have anything like the experience Scott does – I have never been traditionally published, and I’ve only got three titles out – but I hope I can bring the perspective of an indie author trying to make it, rather than one who has already achieved some success.

Like many indies, I tried to crack the system and failed. I got close a couple of times, I had some stories published in magazines and anthologies, but I could never bag an agent. By March of this year, after another bad agent experience, I decided to re-evaluate my approach.

Quitting wasn’t an option. Writers are afflicted with a kind of madness, and writing is the only outlet. I had two real choices: toss the novel and try again with another, or self-publish.

During the eighteen months I spent chasing agent-shadows, I learned a lot about the business. I could see that it was getting tougher and tougher to get signed. Agents complained that publishers were becoming more risk averse. They couldn’t make deals for books that would have been a sure thing only a few years before.

The authors who did manage to get through were alarmed by falling advances. They knew that this would translate into a lower print run, less bookstores stocking their new release, and less chance for it to be a success.

I didn’t doubt my ability to write another book, and perhaps a better book, but I did worry about how much further the situation would deteriorate by the time I was done. And anyway, I truly believed in this book. I was pretty sure it was good enough, I had a couple of agents tell me as much on the phone, and I already had a little confidence from the minor successes I had with short stories.

But I did have doubts about self-publishing. I thought it was a great approach for an established author to take who had backlist titles he could re-release as e-books. I just wasn’t sure if it was the best way for a new writer to launch.

Looking back, I was chasing symbols: a publishing deal, meetings with NY editors, my name on the spine of a hardback, and author signings. I can now see that they were only representative of what I truly wanted: a career writing books.

When I started hanging out in places like Kindle Boards, I found a lot of people that were building that career themselves. Some were already living off the money they were earning and others were well on the way. That convinced me to take the leap.

I decided to start small. In May, I released If You Go Into The Woods, a two-story collection as an experiment. I wanted to see if I could publish books to a professional level. I was curious to see if I would sell anything but I kept my expectations low, knowing longer work sells much better. I also wanted to see if I enjoyed the process.

It sold well from the start, and I got some great reviews, but most importantly, I was having a huge amount of fun. I published another short later that month – Transfection – which got a similar reception.

I was blogging about the whole process along the way – talking readers through each step as I did it: editing, covers, formatting, right the way up to promoting the launch and beyond. I shared marketing tips and sales numbers, as well as all my screw-ups. And I think my readers responded to the struggles of an unknown writer trying to make a name for himself.

Blog traffic went through the roof. I went from a handful of views to over 1,000 a day – all in three months. The next logical step was to take all that self-publishing advice and turn it into a book. It might sound strange to write a guide after only being an indie writer for three months, but the central point of my book was: anyone can do this.

If you are smart enough to write a good book, you can learn everything you need to know to publish books to a professional level. All it takes is the right attitude, and a little bit of money for editing and your book cover. The rest you can pick up – in no time.

When Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should was released, the reaction was astonishing. I think we took over Twitter for the day as the book rocketed up the charts. Sales have been very strong. I’m not enough earning enough to live off yet. But in October, when I finally release the novel that collected all those rejections, I might be heading that way.

Or, my sales could collapse and my novel will be released to general shrugs of indifference. Either way, you will have a ringside seat.

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