Self-Publishing… why?

I was recently interviewed online by Jordan Grantis on the topic of self-publishing.  I think there are some of my readers who might be interested in my process, so enjoy!

1. What is the relationship between your work as an author and your work as a teacher? How do those two endeavors work together for you?

I like my work as an author to overlap my work as an educator, but not to be a simple transcription or duplication.  Folks need to learn something from me that is not in the books, and the books need to have material that I do not cover in the flesh.  It is a symbiosis.  However, because I am not in peoples homes/backpacks/on the subway with them (unless I am, which you know, happens especially with my one-on-one clients), the book also has to stand on its own.  People who have never heard my voice before need to still “hear” my voice in the work.

2. How do you develop ideas for new books? Would you say it’s mostly self-generated, audience-generated, or both?

So far the books have been a blending:

Shibari You Can Use- Proposed by a publisher, fleshed out by me, created into a product through test-runs with my fans and audience.
Toybag Guide to Ageplay- Produced entirely because Janet at Greenery Press and I were debating how to fight anti-ageplay thoughts in the sexuality communities at the time… there were no non-fiction age play books in english at the time.
Rope, Bondage & Power- Originally requested to be a magazine issue, turned by me and my authors into a full length book because the topic deserved it.
Sacred Kink- Self-generated, in response to work of other authors and a request from fans to take my class deeper… and I went MUCH deeper.  And because the spiritual framework I serve demanded it of me.
Spirit of Desire- Because Sacred Kink kept haunting me, even after the book came out
Shed Skins- Self-generated after I realized I did not have the time to tour with a gallery show on the topic right now, though it was requested by a curator.

My works under creation right now are coming from my D/s relationship intensive, coming from a market need, coming from a strong fan and family request, and from the universe telling me I have to do it.

3. Why have you decided to self-publish your books? Have you considered pursuing a contract with a traditional publishing company? Why or why not?

Only some of my books are self-published.  Some are published by others, and I plan to keep doing both.  With self-publishing, I have to have the humility to hire content and copy editors who kick my ass and not pull punches.  If they do, it will not be as good of a product.  I have to spend money to hire pro layout folks, cover artists, etc.  The upside?  I can get books that other publishers don’t “get” out in the world.  It is why I have had open up to take other authors, other projects in sexuality and spirituality that other publishers may not “get” either.  I proved, when Shibari You Can Use crossed over the 10,000 books sold line (last year, sales still going strong) that my imprint is no longer “just” a vanity press as it was argued.

4. What kind of editing input did you get from others, if any? How have you connected with the people who have helped design your book covers?

I pay for:  Content editor(s), Copy editor(s), Layout editor, cover artist.  I also have friends and fans test-read books.  I take books to writing groups who do not know my field, and make sure the project is not too obscure in its language to be inaccessible to a lay audience.  I workshop the project.  I leak it in advance and ask for critical feedback.

To find these folks, I use my social networks.  With over 2500 folks following me on Twitter, Facebook, etc, I have quite the list of resources, and thus my current copy editor, JoSelle Vanderhooft (she rocks, and is available for others), I found via publishing editor Rose Fox, who I met via fantasy author Catherynne M. Valente, who I met via the fandom/conference circuit… I support friends of friends who actually do their jobs with excellence- not just friends who need a job.

5. Why did you choose to work with Lulu and Blurb, and which other print-on-demand publishers, if any, did you consider and choose not to work with? What is the ratio of downloads to printed books that you sell?

To be honest, Lulu is who I found on my first search of adult-friendly themed publishers, and I got a feeling in my spine that it was right for me.  When I crossed over 5k sales, Lulu started treating me VERY well, and I have my own “top seller” human who takes my complaints instead of it going into the void of general concerns.  It is lovely.  Blurb was a fluke, and my sales have not gone well there, nor has service been what I want… I may be moving Shed Skins from Blurb next year, and figuring out somewhere else.

Last quarter (I get quarterly checks), I had 43 downloads or ebook purchases, while I sold 658 print books to direct purchasers, wholesale folks, etc (does not counts I did as direct sales).  However, I do not “push” digital stuff at all as they weird me out.  They do.  Its an issue.  So, who knows what the future will hold.

6. What do you like best about being a self-published author? What kinds of events have you done that were the most successful and fun for you (i.e. conferences, festivals, booksignings, radio/podcast events, etc.)?

I don’t really know.  Its not how I think per se.  In fact, I am often surprised on what sells well at what events.  In the town of Spokane, WA Sacred Kink *flew* out of my hands… and Shibari You Can Use sat there.  I did not expect that, for a first-time teaching there.  I have to have my partner remind me to plug my books on my own podcast.  I forget to even mention that I write in many of my classes.


You can find all of my books, whether I have written, edited, or been published in an anthology, here on my BOOKS page.


Lee Harrington

Lee Harrington is an internationally known sexuality, relationships, and personal authenticity educator. Having taught in all 50 states and in 6 countries, he brings a combination of playful engagement and thoughtful academic dialogue to a broad audience. An award-winning author and editor on gender, sexual, and sacred experience, his books include “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Journeys,” and "Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond," among many other titles. He has been blogging online since 1998, and been teaching worldwide since 2001. Welcome to his world, and your chance to expand your mind and heart alike.

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