(this is a very whingy post. it might get deleted. but for now this all needs to be vented. here, have a pretty picture of Big Ben through a gate.)
The decision to self-publish Production Values was arrived at after much frustration with the many levels of gatekeeping inherent to traditional publishing. Join all the writing groups. Take classes. Let every MFA in the world tell you your writing sucks! Query, query, query. Get those 100 rejections! Enter all the contests. Get all those rejections, too!
But we had a timely story on our hands, and we didn't want to let it sit in a drawer for another year. Or two years. Or ten years. (Seriously, I've read stuff about people taking a decade or more to get published. I do not possess such patience.)
And we'd done everything to the manuscript we could think of and that generally-accepted so-you-wanna-be-an-author wisdom advised: we'd revised and revised, revised based on beta reader and expert feedback, worked with a good developmental editor and made major revisions based on that. Is the book perfect? No. But it's pretty damn close to the most perfect version of itself that we could make it. So why not send it out into the world to make its way and have other people love it as much as we do?
And so we did. We hit that self-publish button with excitement!
Now, almost 6 weeks after the release of Production Values, not feeling the excitement so much.
The learning curve has been steep and cruel. Because so far we've learned a lot of what not do, or how not to do whatever thing - but not a lot of what to do or how to do it right.
Turns out - we got over a wall, bypassed some gatekeepers, only to find a whole new field of obstacles and - yes - more gatekeepers.
Gate 1: Sell, Sell, Sell! Sell Yourself to Sell Your Book!
That stereotype of writers as introverts holed up in their dens, shutting out the world while creating their fictional ones? Mostly true.
So take that introvert - both of us, actually - and throw us into the deep end of a pool called "Sales & Marketing" and we pretty much flounder. Drown. Whatever.
Gate 2: Get Reviews!
There's an art and/or a science to getting reviews on Amazon for your book. (And reviews are necessary. Amazon has search algorithms and reviews factor in heavily.) What the formula for that alchemy is? We thought we knew. We tried. But it's not working!
Two out of three ARC readers haven't posted reviews. Friends and family who've read the book and love it - can't be bothered, too busy. Indie colleagues who've we've given untold time and help - beta reading, reviews - in forums that are meant for people to help each other - apparently don't believe in reciprocity. (Yeah, that one makes me the most mad. So much for community!)
Gate 3: Cashy Money & Where to Put It
You have to spend money to make money.
But you have to spend it well.
And where are the good places to spend one's limited funds in the chase for optimized ROI (return on investment) and more book sales? Damned if I know. And everyone on the interwebs has a different opinion.
There are more gates - Limited Time, Social Media Presence, "Women's Fiction Doesn't Sell! Only Romance Sells!", etc. - and I could whinge A LOT more.
To be honest: We willingly and knowingly put ourselves on this learning curve and have definitely done some "well, we'll see if it works!" for the sake of that learning. We just didn't expect to be staring up Mt. Everest and losing oxygen.
Books are like children - the first one is the experiment. And then every subsequent book gets the benefit of all the learning from all the mistakes you made on the previous ones. And then you get to make new mistakes and learn from those.