…Or, “Self-publishing, Mariachi-style”
I’ve been (re-)reading Robert Rodriguez’s books Rebel Without a Crew and RoadRacers: the Making of a Degenerate Hot Rod Flick. This must be my third or fourth time through Rebel and my second through RoadRacers, and it finally struck me: self-publishing is actually doing what Robert Rodriguez did, but with the printed format instead of films.
Let me explain: Robert Rodriguez made his first movie, El Mariachi, for $7,000. He was the entire crew. He conceived it, wrote it, shot it, edited it, and managed to get one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood to sell it to Columbia Pictures — even though that was not his original plan.
Well, the concept, writing, shooting and editing were, but he never planned on the movie being released theatrically. His original plan was to shoot three movies directly for the Mexican home video market, make all his mistakes there, and then show up in Hollywood ready to take on a “real” movie.
Self-publishing is doing the same thing. We are conceiving, writing, editing, formatting, and submitting our works to be published; either in eBook or print form, or possibly both. We ARE the crew. We’re learning as we go, and we’re saving a ton of money. And then, maybe… MAYBE… an agent or publisher will notice us and give us our big break.
Or not. Either way, the stories get out there for people to read, right?
In his books, Rodriguez talks about shooting “Mariachi-style.” This means taking inventory of your assets and working from there. When he wrote El Mariachi, he knew he had access to certain places for filming, specific guns, which type of camera. He knew his limitations and worked within them. Anything else would have cost more money.
With self-publishing, you do the same thing. If you have access to a computer with Microsoft Word, that’s great. You don’t have to pay extra. If not, use one of the free programs that are compatible with Word.
Need help formatting? Decide on your book’s size before you start, then download the free template for it from CreateSpace or Lulu or wherever you choose to publish.
If you’re designing your own cover, this means either utilizing your own artistic talent or that of someone you know who will work with you at a substantial discount — or better yet, free. In my case, it means going out with my sister and nephew to take pictures, then deciding which one fits my idea for the book cover.
One of the things I’ve talked about on this blog is free software, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. My first two books were written using Microsoft Office. For my third, I’ve swapped over to Atlantis, which is portable and free so I can use it on any Windows-based computer with a USB port that I have access to. I will still do my final layout in Word — but that will also be free, because I already have it. If my computer isn’t working, I can do it at the public library.
The photo editing software I use is free (and a lot of it is also portable). Between FotoSketcher, PhotoScape, and GIMP, I’ve got it covered. I use doPDF to create the final cover art and book file for CreateSpace.
The one place I fall down in Mariachi-style publishing is in self-publicity. While Robert Rodriguez is a master of putting himself out there, I’m still not at that point. I know that if I want to be more successful I’ll have to get over it. Or get over myself. Whichever it takes.
All I know is that I’m having fun. And if writing isn’t fun, you’re not doing it for the right reasons.
(Oh, by the way — that’s a Foo Fighters reference in the title.)