A Blog Post From Mirkwood: Self-Publishing.

So, for those who are unaware, this year I have tried — with many errors, sidetracks, and bad assumptions — to improve my marketing skills. And it has reminded me more than anything of how Bilbo Baggins felt when Gandalf left him with a bunch of dwarves who didn’t particularly like him at the western edge of Mirkwood with no more advice than STAY ON THE PATH. He had no idea what he was getting into, only that he could not turn around and go home.

By the very nature of this beast, however, this journey is different in one significant way. Unlike Bilbo, who was traveling only with a few folks just as lost as he was, I am traveling on a winding path, and a VERY heavily populated one. I am forever coming within shouting distance of those who are VERY much more experienced than I am and who talk about traveling through this forest all the time. The major areas I have tried to earn about this year, in the approximate order of success I have had are:

1) submitting to agents
2) self-publication
3) networking with fellow authors, and
4) creating audiobooks.

In the course of all of these things, I have encountered some of the following issues:

1) Good information is hard to come by in all of these areas. It’s not that it isn’t there; quite the opposite: there’s TONS of it! So much of it, in fact, that my specific questions get buried and washed away in avalanches of people who want to sell me stuff, or who really want to talk about what they know, or who really want to talk even though they don’t really have good advice, or who MAY know what they are doing, but are terrible teachers and communicators.

2) VERY few people, even in places allegedly set UP to answer questions, will actually take the time to answer questions. It’s hard to blame them; they’re not getting paid to do it. But almost always, if I post a question, they will respond with links. The internet being what it is these days, 90% of the time the link is to a video. VERY often, that video is over 10 minutes long. More often than not, that either leads back to 1) or on to

3) The instructions/videos I encounter are often designed for and by people who already know all or most of the jargon/acronyms, so while the information is often good (I have sat through hours, mining through the dross for some actual nuggets of useful information) I usually can’t understand half of it. And videos are AWFUL for my style of learning. I am a fast reader who loves to cut to the chase, but I am doomed to slog through hours of meaningless foliage. “Well, why not just read through the online manuals?” I hear you say? Because those manuals were written by and for people who know most of the jargon/acronyms, and they are not indexed. It is incredibly frustrating to have a single specific question that could be answered in seconds, but can’t be because the people who have the answers either will not respond, or deliver the information in vague or highly technical terms.

4) Finally, many people I encounter who could actually be helpful are operating at a high enough level that they have literally forgotten how overwhelmingly hard all of this is for people like myself that are just starting on this road. At my level, all of this is overwhelmingly hard and confusing. And all that is discouraging. Extremely discouraging, especially when you are constantly encountering people for whom it is seemingly as easy as breathing and who, to hear them tell it, were NEVER as confused or thought it was at all difficult.

Now, Mirkwood wouldn’t be complete without its share of monsters, so let me explain about the monsters I’ve encountered along the forest path. Besides the foreigners along the path who will baffle you with technical jargon or leave cryptic puzzles for you to solve on your own, you will encounter thieves, trolls, elves, and spiders.

Thieves: Probably the easiest to spot and avoid, these are the people who swear to you that they will explain it all if you will just pay their low, low price to join their platform. After all, you gotta spend money to make money, amirite? They are selling maps to the forest, bay-bee!
Well, if you’ve found one that works, good for you. But I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t already an established name that recommended one.

Trolls: There are people out there who will actively discourage you. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find one pop up in response to this blog post. They’re the ones who will tell you that if you’re finding this hard, you’re just too stupid to be in this business. Often they’re the ones who have self-published 20 books that are selling really well, they will tell you. Funny how you’ve never heard of them…

Elves: Elves mean well. At least, they kind of do. Elves will tell you that they can help you, REALLY they can, but only if you ditch that freeware you’re using to write/self-publish/record and buy THEIR ONE PLATFORM. You’re not pinching pennies, are you? Only a few hundred dollars. Elves also answer every question with a 40-minute video link. They offer so much help, but its never… quite… helpful.

Spiders: Spiders speak authoritatively on everything, but every piece of advice they give you wraps you up tighter in huge strands of NOPE. Before they’ll answer your question, they want to know everything you’re doing, and you are ALWAYS doing the wrong thing. They’re like a combination of an elf and a troll: they want you to do everything their way, and you suspect they don’t really want you to succeed. They really want to be that voice of authority, though.

So why am I writing this? Perhaps it’s because it’s the advice I wish I’d been able to give myself a few months ago. Because back then, I was really hoping that all of this would be easier. It’s not. It;s been a lot harder than I thought it would be. It HASN’T been without successes or without learning. But what  have learned has been dearly bought, with a lot of time and effort. And I want you to know that if you’re there, it’s okay. It’s just part of the journey. Keep going.

Update 7/6: Decided to post to the “Audacity Users” group on FB about my specific question. Specified please no video links as answers. First answer: “I should be able to just say “compress (minimally) and normalize” and you could take it from there. It almost sounds like you’re in over your head – submitting recordings before you know what you’re doing.”
Folks, that right there is a “spider.” Answers in jargon and then criticizes you for not knowing it, while not elaborating on what you should know.
And of course, it may be appropriate to say, “You don’t know enough about what you’re doing to ask that question yet,” but if you really want to be helpful, that should be followed by: “And here is the minimum you need to know about what you’re doing before asking it.”

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