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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.



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.
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...
Sep. 7th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
"I wonder if another factor is that visual artists are just going to have more skill in making the books look good..."

I completely agree with this. I busted hump to make my stuff look good, and I still feel it's only "decent". Graphic design is hard, which is why publishing companies tend to hire a guy who does nothing BUT that and give him nice piles of green money to do that work.

As much as I enjoy publishing my own work, it's extremely difficult to do it, and a big part of why I see it as, ultimately, a transitional phase. I love it, but I'm not sure it's good for me (in more ways than one) to keep doing it.
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)
There do seem to be a few writers doing that - building a following over a period of time with web serials, and gradually improving their work as they go along. There's a handful of web novels I read quite regularly, and think are of comparable quality to a lot of traditionally published fiction that I've seen - Alexandra Erin's probably one of the better-known examples. She's got several ongoing web novels, all of which I enjoy, and I've heard some published writers (even those who agree that most self-published fiction is crap) praise her work. I'm also kind of fond of Darren Pillsbury's YA Peter and the [insert monster here] collection, and there have probably been a few others here and there that I can't think of offhand.

But you're right, it does seem to be a rarer thing for writers to do that - or at least to do it well - than comic artists. Still, it seems to be a promising development - and while I agree with everyone who's pointed out that there's no substitute for professional editing no matter how good a writer you are, putting your work out there in a format that allows readers to provide feedback can at least help a writer improve his or her craft over time.


Jim C. Hines


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