Author S.G. Wong on Self-Publishing
Author and self-publishing expert S.G. Wong took some time out of her busy writing life to chat with Third Verb. Are you curious about why she chose self-publishing instead of going the traditional route? Are you wondering what she considers the role of self-publishing to be in the wider Canadian book market? Well, we asked her!
THIRD VERB: You have self-published a series of novels. Congratulations on your latest release, Devil Take the Hindmost! Can you give us a bit of a teaser?
S.G. WONG: Thank you so much! Well, the series protagonist, Lola Starke, is a PI. This time around, Lola is hired by a woman to find her missing husband. The husband happens to be the stamp collector down the hall from Lola’s office, though she doesn’t know him from Adam. Soon, however—isn’t that always the way it goes?—Lola discovers the man’s been dragged back into his past, a past his wife thought long abandoned. The case ends up involving another PI, a rival to Lola, as well as an antique stamp, the most powerful film studio in town, and a ruthless gangster. (Are there really any other kinds?) The whole series is set in a place I’ve called Crescent City. It’s an alternate history 1930s-era “Chinese L.A.” Oh and there are ghosts and magic, too.
THIRD VERB: An earlier book in the series, In For A Pound, was a nominee for the Whistler Independent Book Awards and you have also been a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Awards. It’s clear that you know what you’re doing—both in terms of craft and in terms of publishing. Can you tell us about what led to your decision to self-publish in the first place?
S. G. WONG: Well, first, thank you for your kind words! Actually, I thought I’d always be a traditionally published author when I first started. I signed in 2012 with a publisher, a digital imprint, but we ended up parting ways when they changed editorial direction with their acquisitions and when my first book didn’t sell as well as they’d wanted. (Hey, I wanted it to sell better, too!) They gently rejected my second book, so I approached a NYC agent and a NYT-bestselling author for advice. I also pitched acquiring editors at Simon & Schuster Canada and Random House. The response was all pretty much the same: no one wanted a second book in a series. So, I took a look at my options and chose to take control myself.
THIRD VERB: What do you think the role of self-publishing is in the Canadian book market?
S. G. WONG: I think it serves the same purpose here as it does anywhere else: to give writers the chance to publish works that might not meet current or projected market trends followed by the traditional industry. What does that mean, exactly? I guess it means self-publishing affords more leeway for writers to write something perhaps more personally intriguing, or more personally meaningful, for instance. In addition to the big well-known names, Canada also has many wonderful smaller presses. We have prestigious presses like Toronto’s ChiZine Publications, which specializes in speculative fiction, or Calgary’s Frontenac House, who are known for poetry. But even with these great choices, sometimes, a submission won’t catch anyone’s attention, due to timing or funding or marketing or whatever. In such a case, self-publishing is a chance to enter the market—just with your own money on the line.
That’s just one role that comes to mind. Of course, there are myriad reasons someone might choose to self-publish. Every person’s case is slightly different.
THIRD VERB: Is there an independent author that inspires you?
S.G. WONG: Actually, I don’t know her personally, but when I first started researching self-publishing I was blown away by Steena Holmes, who’s from Calgary. I’ve not read her books (strange, but true!); I was focussed on how she created a wonderful online community for her readers. She shared recipes; she had contests and giveaways; she exuded fun and warmth. I’m inspired by that ability to create community through fun.
THIRD VERB: We are looking forward to your self-publishing workshop on Nov. 2, but can you share with us a tip or two that you’ve learned as a self-published author?
S.G. WONG: I’m looking forward to it, too. I so enjoy contributing to others and this is a chance for me to share what I’ve learned to help people succeed at self-publishing.
My first tip is: make sure self-publishing is truly something you want and are able to do. As everyone’s probably guessed, self-publishing requires putting in more time, effort, and money than going the traditional route. But there are other considerations, too, some artistic, others more prosaic.
Related to that is my second tip: be willing to experiment. It’s truly the best way to learn what works for you. There are SO MANY indie authors out there, with their own formulas for success. The only way to know what will work for you is to get in action and try stuff out. If you stick with it, though, the chances are good you’ll figure out your own best practices.
Join Third Verb and S. G. Wong on November 2 at Union Bank Inn for an intensive three-hour workshop. In this interactive and information-packed workshop, you’ll learn everything about self-publishing (including things you didn’t even know you needed to know!) in order to get your work into the hands of interested readers. S.G. Wong, will teach us the ins and outs of the self-publishing world. Learn the steps of book production for works of fiction and non-fiction, including practical skills such as interior layout for ebook and print, file conversions, and file upload specifications. Discover the marketing and distribution challenges unique to independent authors. Avoid pitfalls and learn best practices. Decide if self-publishing is right for your project—and you. .
Bring a friend! Come out for an entertaining and educational evening. Leave with practical tips, useful resources, and a place to start or continue on your self-publishing journey!