?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Self-Publishing, Part Whatever

While I was at the Durand Fantasy Expo on Saturday, I ended up talking to several other authors and publishing folks about self-publishing and print-on-demand.  Here are a few of my thoughts from the drive home.

1. Dear self-published authors: As a writer, I am not your target audience.  I can’t count the number of times authors, mostly (but not always) self-published or PoD, have tried to hard-sell their books to me.  Just don’t.

2. Self-publishing seems to work pretty well for comics and graphic novels.  This is something I’ve noticed over the past year or two.  Maybe it’s just me, but a lot of the self-pubbed/PoD comics I’ve seen are just plain good.  A while back, Jane Irwin gave me copies of Vogelein: Clockwork Faerie and Vogelein: Old Ghosts.  They were well-done, and I enjoyed the stories.

A lot of web comics seem to go the same route, using small PoD printers or self-publishing, and producing very nice products.  It makes me wonder what we on the prose side of things could learn from the comics folks.

3. Self-publishing takes a lot of time and work.  My very first book, a mainstream novel called Goldfish Dreams, recently reached the end of its contract with Fictionwise.  I’d really like to put the book out there on Kindle and maybe in a few other places.  Thus far, I’ve done absolutely nothing on this project.  I only have so many hours, and I also have to write my next book.  It makes me wonder — if I was fully responsible for the entire publication process, how much longer would it take to release each new book?

4. People will believe anything that protects their egos.  “New York editors don’t want good stories, and won’t take new authors.  You’re better off without an editor, because they’ll destroy your unique vision.  Self-publishing is better, because publishers only pay 6-12% royalties.”

There are times when self-publishing can work.  However, many of these claims are total crap … but they’re crap that protect the ego, and thus people choose to believe and defend ‘em.

5. I’m outnumbered.  There were a handful of other authors there on Saturday.  As far as I know, I was the only “traditionally” published one there.  A lot of people kept checking out my books and saying things like, “So I have to go to your web site to get these, right?”  Um … sure, you can go through my web site.  Or you can walk into most any bookstore in the country and pluck one of my books off the shelves.

I don’t know what to think about this.  I know the technology has gotten better and more available, and this is going to mean a lot more authors taking advantage of that technology.  But it was an odd feeling.

#

Please note that I’m not bashing self-publishing.  As I said in #3, I’m planning to use it myself.

Anyway, questions and comments and discussion are welcome, as always.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Tags:

Comments

( 88 comments — Leave a comment )
Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
cathshaffer
Sep. 7th, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, you should do something with Goldfish Dreams. Putting it on the kindle store is a great idea. Or have you thought about offering it to a major publisher, now that you're a Famous Author? It's a good book, and worthy of a wider audience.
jimhines
Sep. 7th, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I talked to my agent about it at one point, and they kind of shot down that idea. I think in part because it's previously published, and partly because they wanted to focus on building me up in fantasy. Looking back though, I think that was a talk with Steve ... might be worth running it past Joshua, just in case.
(no subject) - cathshaffer - Sep. 7th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravenswept - Sep. 7th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 7th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ravenswept - Sep. 7th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - skylarker - Sep. 7th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
mtlawson
Sep. 7th, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC)
People will believe anything that protects their egos. “New York editors don’t want good stories, and won’t take new authors. You’re better off without an editor, because they’ll destroy your unique vision. Self-publishing is better, because publishers only pay 6-12% royalties.”

There are times when self-publishing can work. However, many of these claims are total crap … but they’re crap that protect the ego, and thus people choose to believe and defend ‘em.


All I can think of are the times when I post a comment or an entry, and I have to go back and fix something. If you're that good that you never have to do that, then more power to you. But me, I can't. I need independent eyes looking at things. So do most other people.

I don’t know what to think about this. I know the technology has gotten better and more available, and this is going to mean a lot more authors taking advantage of that technology. But it was an odd feeling.

I predict PayPal (aka eBay) will be enjoying this; more money to them.
jimhines
Sep. 7th, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. I try to proofread the blog posts beforehand, and they all get spellchecked, but I still end up having to fix something more often than not.

"I predict PayPal (aka eBay) will be enjoying this; more money to them."

Can you expand on that? I'm not getting how eBay is going to profit from this.
(no subject) - mtlawson - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 7th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
bondo_ba
Sep. 7th, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC)
I think #5 is a consequence of #4. It's like being David Lee Roth in a Karaoke bar. A lot of people think they're good enough, so they go up on that stage, but none have what it takes to make it... Except you in this case.

But I do think your cautious approach here is wise. I recently exploded at the whole SP crowd in a blog entry over on the Apex Book Company's Blog (will not link from here, since this is your LJ, and I do not spam!), and I got deluged by a lot of people trying to tell me that #4 isn't real, that it really IS a conspiracy to keep all the talented people out. I hate that, because clawing through a slushpile takes huge amounts of effort, and the only reason some people can't do it is because their work isn't good enough, and they need to see that in order to get better!

Ego is a fascinating thing.
mtlawson
Sep. 7th, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
Ego is fascinating, until self pubbed people see their sales numbers and they do a cost analysis.
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mtlawson - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arielstarshadow - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arielstarshadow - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - paulwoodlin - Sep. 9th, 2010 06:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mtlawson - Sep. 7th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lenora_rose - Sep. 7th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sylvanstargazer - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - funwithrage - Sep. 7th, 2010 04:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - funwithrage - Sep. 7th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sylvanstargazer - Sep. 7th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - misslynx - Sep. 7th, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - skylarker - Sep. 7th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
jimhines
Sep. 7th, 2010 02:21 pm (UTC)
I've also said authors should self-publish a project -- any project -- at least once, just so they start to understand how much work is required *after* the manuscript is written. I used Lulu for a gift for my wife a few years back, and it very quickly showed me how much my publisher did for me (and in my case, how much better they were at doing it!)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 7th, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - realmjit - Sep. 7th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
chris_gerrib
Sep. 7th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
The human mind has an enormous capability for self-delusion. (Says a person who's committed self-publishing.)

I think the graphic novel success at self-publishing is that the artists build a following on the web, while learning the arts of editing and production. Most writers don't do that.
jimhines
Sep. 7th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
I've seen that with a lot of the web comics who go that route. Don't know if Vogelein followed the same model, though.

There was another comic company at the Durand Expo, and they had used Lightning Source for their trade paperback compilations. No web presence that I know of, but once again, it was a good-looking product.

I wonder if another factor is that visual artists are just going to have more skill in making the books look good...
(no subject) - sixteenbynine - Sep. 7th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - misslynx - Sep. 7th, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
sylvanstargazer
Sep. 7th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC)
Comics have a long tradition of self-publishing, frequently on photocopiers, so it doesn't surprise me that that translates over well to modern self-publishing. Comic consumers are used to purchasing self-published work, and to having most of the great comic writers and artists come out of the self-published scene. Most comic shops will also sell local artist's work, regardless of how it is printed, and I think it is one of the draws of local comic stores that keeps people going there instead of just ordering everything online. Additionally, the publishing house sector of comics is still quite small in relation to the amount of comic artists and writers out there, and is just quite small period. When you can reasonably read everything published that you might possibly be interested in and have time left over it is easier for people to sell self-published works.
nihilistic_kid
Sep. 9th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
Also, for a long time the alternative to self-publishing in comics was simply corporate comics—you didn't get to own whatever villain you whipped up for Spider-Man and could be replaced at any time. If there were no commercially published books other than Star Trek novels, self-publishing one's non-Trek novel wouldn't have much of a stigma either.
barbarienne
Sep. 7th, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC)
I suspect comics/graphic novels can do better as self-pub or online because the starting bar is higher.

That is, most people know when they can't draw.

Whereas anyone who is functionally literate (that is, they can read and write well enough to graduate from 8th grade) seems to believe that all it takes to write prose is to just sit down and talk about the pretty pictures in their head.

The computer has only made this phenomenon worse, removing the whole tedious "retyping" issue (and indeed, encouraging more people to learn how to type in the first place; hunt-and-peck was an impediment 30 years ago).

Graphic artists who can't write are more easily filtered out--the number of comics online is low enough that natural filtering kicks in. A good story gets talked about and draws a crowd; a lame story doesn't.

The problem with SP is that the numbers are much too large for the readers to filter, and the measure of "good" is too variable for readers to agree on (either by variations in personal taste; or variations in whether one is sufficiently bothered by bad spelling, bad grammar, bad turns of phrase, and bad organization of plot. Inexperienced readers have a low bar).
stargatedragon
Sep. 7th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
Very true - I can tell in an instant by opening the cover of a graphic novel whether I like the artwork. Unfortunately it may take a few pages of reading to find out the SP author has little grasp of grammar, spelling and all those bothersome rules that are out there just to keep the good authors down.

*snerk*
(no subject) - mtlawson - Sep. 7th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - barbarienne - Sep. 7th, 2010 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Sep. 7th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sylvanstargazer - Sep. 7th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
stargatedragon
Sep. 7th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
Watch out, Jim - Konrath will start holding you up as another "success" story of an author walking away from "traditional publishing"! (whatever THAT means...)

I find a lot of self-pub authors (because I detest the term "indie", as if they're suddenly creating a whole new world) buy and promote each other in an attempt to boost their numbers and somehow show the public how good their work is, if only the NYC boys would drop into a black hole.

Are there problems with publishing? Sure... always have been, always will be. But the answer shouldn't be to rush off to Amazon and spend lots and LOTS of money for cover art, editing and whatnot to slap your story up because a few self-pubs are doing well.

The answer should be to keep learning your craft, research your market and keep on writing. Not to join the unwashed masses hoping to make $500 a day on their Kindle releases because someone else says they can.

IMO, of course.
jimhines
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
After my last chat with Konrath, somehow I don't think he'll try to use me as a success story :-)

I've seen some of that too, especially in the Amazon forums, with authors marketing to one another. And ... I guess it works, for what it is. And maybe some of those sales are to people who will actually love the books, and not to people who are just hoping you'll buy their book in return.

I've occasionally given my books away to other authors, hoping they'll enjoy 'em and maybe even go on to promte me a bit. It's not an obligation or anything, but it's nice when it happens. But that's me giving a free book to a colleague. Not my trying to sell the book to another author, which makes the sale feel more like the end goal.

Does that make sense? I'm trying to sort out why selling to other authors irritates me so much, when giving books away to other authors doesn't have the same feel.
(no subject) - stargatedragon - Sep. 7th, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sixteenbynine - Sep. 7th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
rhondaparrish
Sep. 7th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
Disclaimer: This is totally unrelated to your post, but not quite worthy of a full email so I'm posting it here anyway.

On Friday I finished listening to the Clarkesworld podcast version of "The Gift of the Kites" and I loved it. Loved. It. The reason I say I finished listening to it is that I tend to listen to podcasts on the bus or when I'm walking the dog and in the case of "The Gift of the Kites" it kept making me teary so I had to turn it off rather than cry in public. Great story, Jim.
jimhines
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
You are welcome to post unrelated comments like this at any time. Thank you :-)
serialbabbler
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
I agree with the upthread comment that there is a tradition of self-publishing in the comic book/graphic novel field. I think this results in a different group of people choosing that route. (That is, authors who self-publish tend to be people who can't get published any other way. Comic book artists and writers who self-publish tend to be people who like making comic books. Heh.)

Also, I think people have different expectations for what constitutes a good comic book. You don't have to be a fantastic artist or a fantastic writer (from a technical standpoint) to make a reasonably good comic. You just have to be good at blending visual and text based narrative. (I say this as somebody who isn't particularly good at blending the two... even if I do keep trying.) So a lot of things that would seem like flaws if you were looking at writing alone or visual art alone, don't seem like a problem in combination.

Oh, and I thought Vogelein was good, too. Really nice artwork.
vogelein
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks, Jim!

FWIW, if you have any questions, I'll be quite happy to answer them as best I can. I maintain that Comics Are Open Source (and by extension, self-publishing), and since I received so much help and support when I was getting started, I'm always glad to help the next person up.
jimhines
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
You're very welcome! I'm just sorry it took me so long to get around to mentioning your stuff! And thanks again -- I really did enjoy them :-)
spiziks
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
Jane! I didn't know you were here. (Friending.)

Vogelein is definitely way cool and so worth reading.
realmjit
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
You got to meet Jane? Cool! I'll have to tell the Wookiee that she has another book out.
snapes_angel
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
Hee, hee. You're outnumbered, Jim (or at least, you were there).

I think that, one reason the graphics-oriented product works so well in that category, is that we've sort of been conditioned to look at quality comics/graphic novels from small presses if we've spent any time at a comics convention. There is some good stuff out there, both story-wise and graphics-wise. One reason it works so well is that if you do a "white room", it will lack visual interest and, therefore, will suck.

In other words, a comic/graphic representation is visual, and even tactile, in its nature; thus, inserting the reader into the scene. Of course, the Plane of Suck had Richard going for it, for a short time: but not all of the "white room" stuff works quite that well.
jimhines
Sep. 7th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
Okay, "Plane of Suck" was just fun :-)
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Sep. 7th, 2010 11:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
sarraceniaceae
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
I didn't know that self-published comics tend to be pretty good, but when I think about it, I'm not actually surprised. The market for good comics in the US that don't fit into the pretty narrow definitions of the few comic publishers. I was just reading a book on comics history the other day, and it genuinely fascinates me how crippled the US's comic industry really is. To me, the quality of self-published comics and the massive popularity of manga both show just how untapped the market has historically been. I bet comics are going to be a fascinating industry to watch in the next few decades.

Self-publishing's fascinating, and I have to admit to some extent I do hope that it becomes a thriving pathway for authors and that someone figures out a way to make the well-written stuff available, because a lot of the time what I like isn't really the stuff that publishers are going to see as marketable. A lot of the books I enjoy are the odd little books that barely made it into the bookstore, and it makes me wonder just how many odd books I'd enjoy didn't.
barbarienne
Sep. 7th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC)
The market for good comics in the US that don't fit into the pretty narrow definitions of the few comic publishers. I was just reading a book on comics history the other day, and it genuinely fascinates me how crippled the US's comic industry really is. To me, the quality of self-published comics and the massive popularity of manga both show just how untapped the market has historically been.

This is a good point. The parallel for prose fiction is the true independent/small press publishers. The big book publishers do cover a wide range of fiction, with more experimental forays than the big comic book publishers. But there are still niches (most notably erotica, but also horror, and formerly Christian fiction) that weren't being served by the large publishers, but had enough of a market base that a smaller, focused publisher could do well.

Mainstream comics in the US have broadened over the years, and tried some experiments at times, but overall have been very narrow in their focus. The indies are able to penetrate the market because there is unfulfilled demand. Readers learn to seek out stories that they want.

By contrast, self-pubbed fiction isn't fulfilling a reader's need. With few exceptions (the genres noted above), the big publishers are providing more than enough content to keep readers of all kinds happy.
(no subject) - sixteenbynine - Sep. 7th, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - green_knight - Sep. 9th, 2010 08:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Sep. 8th, 2010 01:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
( 88 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

Snoopy
jimhines
Jim C. Hines
Website

Tags

Latest Month

November 2019
S M T W T F S
     12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow