Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

August 28, 2019

Archipelago, or, How I Became an Accidental Self-Publisher


When we launched Archipelago as a Patreon-only project in 2017, we knew we were trying something traditionally nonviable. Patreon was (and is) an iffy lifeline for creators, but Kurt, Andrew and I had creative energy to spare and we wanted to try something new. So, we decided to write a serialized, collaborative, quasi-competitive trio of intertwined novellas. “On the side,” we told ourselves. Just to stretch those writing muscles a bit. (Yah, I know. I see the face you are making.)

The project was, by crowd-funding standards, a success. Not only did all kinds of people subscribe, but the “season” that we wrote was great. In fact, increasingly, my greatest frustration was that this throwaway experiment we had embarked on was better than it had any right to be. I spent a solid year sweating over what would ultimately become quite a long novella with multiple tie-in short stories, and it was paywalled on a difficult platform. I wanted it out.

But Patreon is still “published” and what do you do with three novellas that have already been published?

Archipelago is too good to abandon there. So we did what any self-respecting creative with too much energy does in 2019.5. We took up as indie publishers.

Sock for...scale?

I have not been kind, in the past, about self-publishing.

Being deeply entrenched in the traditional publishing world set me up with a lot of hurdles to accepting self-publishing as a viable career option. I had seen, in the Olden Times, how vanity publishing [didn’t] work, and I could see many of the same pitfalls in new media self-publishing. It makes publishing easy, cheap, and quick, none of which are the hallmarks of quality. Millions of books are published every year, I knew, and reaching an audience is not simply a matter of putting text to screen/paper. Writers, publishers, distributors and booksellers together have to log thousands of hours of work to get a book not just published, but read. Who on earth wants to take that work on alone?!

Well, lots of people. Those of us in the trenches have wisely been calling the practice “indie publishing” for some time now, rather than “self-publishing.” Deciding to go into business as a small press publisher is a hecktonne of work for very little reward, but it is a Noble Cultural Endeavor with credentials ranging back to Gutenberg, so in both senses, that is really more what the current practice is like. Indie publishers are at the center of a huge industry that is keeping an awful lot of us creative types in food & rent: they understand the value of timeless arts such as copyediting, layout design, illustration, and marketing management. They know their craft and pay the bills. And, you know, their books are as good as anything out there.

Yah, I mean, there are still a lot of people out there who think you can bang off a draft, find a cousin who knows their way around Paint, and then upload it to KDP — and I FROWN AT YOU, folks — but this is 2019.5 and I have to finally admit that isn’t what indie publishing is. It hasn’t been for some time.

Well, guess what!

We didn’t want to self publish. Nothing great is created in a vacuum. We did what smart publishers do: we hired the best people we could find to do the best work. From the revisions to the layout to the logo design and cover art, we went over every stage of the publishing process with meticulous care and spared no expense getting the book we wanted in the end. This isn’t a vanity project. We are publishers, and we are professionals. Archipelago is something we wanted to be proud of.

And I am.

We launched the ebook in time for a Dublin WorldCon sale, but if you missed that, we’ve got something even better now. Today, the paperback goes on sale. With every paperback purchase you get the ebook free. Personally, I think the paperback is a thing of beauty but if you are into reading on your pad instead, then WHY NOT BOTH?

Naturally, I’d be thrilled if you bought the book. I would be even more thrilled if you wanted to review the book, on Amazon, Goodreads, your blog or elsewhere. And reach out if you want to talk! I’m eternally available for interviews and guest posts.

I never thought I would self publish. But then, I hadn’t imagined the Archipelago either. Now, I am grateful for both.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

2 thoughts on “Archipelago, or, How I Became an Accidental Self-Publisher”

  1. Elisha says:

    Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring
    writers? I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a
    little lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or
    go for a paid option? There are so many options out
    there that I’m completely confused .. Any recommendations?
    Many thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *