The Alchemy of Self-Publishing
Harry Patz, Jr.,
Author of The Naive Guys: A Memoir of Friendship, Love and Tech in the Early 1990s
In a five-part essay, Harry Patz, author of new historical fiction The Naive Guys, shares his experiences and eight key learnings from his initial journey into self-publishing. Harry will cover his background and the development of his debut novel, the advances in technology aiding self-publishing, the need to exercise the writing muscle and harness key relationships, and his experiences with layout and print-on-demand firms. He’ll conclude with his initial marketing and social media efforts after publication of The Nave Guys in late August, 2014. Part II, “Diving In,” covering the initial foray into writing and the advent of “modern” self-publishing, appears today. Each additional part will appear weekly on Mondays through November 3, 2014. Part I “I Should Write a Book,” and Part II are also available on http://www.thenaiveguys.com/alchemy.
Part II: “Diving In”
Leap-frogging again ten years to 2011 (yes, this is a true story!), I left the corporate role after a great, successful twenty-year run, and while consulting among other business initiatives, I began writing the novel in earnest, albeit part-time. I was not sure I could admit even to myself that I was a writer. Perhaps like an alcoholic, or a tomcatting rogue, I kept my activity to myself, typically late at night or on weekends, and only doing it “when I had time,” meaning it could not be a priority.
No thought was expressly given to how I would publish the novel, but I had “heard” self-publishing was relatively easy. I was an Amazon customer, and iPads and Kindles had entered my lexicon and my (and my family’s) sphere. I had written 25,000 words, and while not necessarily great, I kept chopping away at the wood and believed I was making progress.
Then, I was offered an exciting, new corporate role. I planned to dive into it headfirst, but vowed to pick up the novel in six months, “once I was on my feet.” That six-month mark came and went faster than the Concorde.
Fast-forwarding past an exhilarating year, the new exciting role at that firm was coming to a surprising halt due to its financial problems (the company subsequently ceased operation). With more time on my hands, I decided to pick up the novel, and commit to finishing and publishing it. No excuses.
The writing went as one might imagine. Starting cold after roughly one year and a half was both a blessing and a challenge. I ultimately created a new chapter one, pulled forward from the middle of the novel’s three-year time frame. Some of the devices I used in the first phase of writing were scrapped, as I was not pleased, generally, with what I had written. But I kept much, and made changes, and worked diligently to develop the setting, characters and arc of the story. I put my head down, and kept chopping wood, as I had done previously.
Around the same time, my wife Ann Marie noted an email about a monthly writing group near our vacation home. I decided to attend, although I wasn’t sure what to expect. I brought my in-process novel, but that wasn’t the purpose of the group. The group, usually six to nine members, didn’t bring or share any original writing. Rather, the moderator provided some prompts for time writing exercises, in which we had to complete in fifteen minutes, and then optionally share with the group. For example, she may have shown us an old picture of three rusty chairs, and asked us to imagine the dialogue between them.
Through this group, I saw and experienced the writing approaches and styles of many different writers, some with deep imagery, some great storytellers, and some just laugh out loud funny. While learning from these great writers, I also found an outlet to develop my writing muscle, in a “safe place,” and one that had nothing to do with my novel. That is my first learning: find ways to exercise your writing muscle, in outlets that have nothing to do with your primary work. Perhaps there are similar groups in your community, at a high school, local college, or house of worship? If so, you are remiss if you do not explore them! Thus, by the time I met James in March 2014, I had been at this second phase of “writing” for approximately six months. While I was also consulting, this time I was out in the open about it, completed during daylight hours or whenever it suited me. My wife and a few closest friends knew about it, and cheered me on in ways large and small. I could see daylight to completion of the story, and while I was focused on delivering the best, complete, work I could write, I knew I had to think about the post-writing phase. But my focus remained on the writing itself.
Part III: “Weak Ties and Providence” will appear here on http://www.thenaiveguys.com on Monday October 20, 2014. The essay, as it progresses, will appear on http://www.thenaiveguys.com/alchemy.