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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 02:21 pm (UTC)
I've heard the "is it marketable" argument, and I'm not convinced. While no one is going to argue that we are currently innundated with sparkly vampires, there are plenty of new voices and new concepts coming out (and making money - if less of it), from houses large and small.

And SP authors have probably been rejected by EVERYONE, otherwise they wouldn't have gone the other route.

I used to do reviews for an SF website. I used to have an open policy on SP books - I would review them if sent to me. My eyes are still bleeding from that decision. The reason these books wwere not taken had nothing to do with marketability.

Having said that, there may be an extremely tiny proportion of books for which that is true, but 99.99999999999999999999% of SP work just isn't good enough to see the light.
Sep. 7th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
Hm ... now you've got me thinking. Because there are so many reasons for any individual rejection. Maybe the book isn't right for that particular publisher. Maybe the editor already bought a sparklevamp vs. zombie Jane Austin mash-up that month. Maybe the editor remembers you as the one who ran over his dog.

Because a lot of books -- almost all of them -- that go on to sell get rejected first. Goblin Quest had thirty-plus rejections, and it's obviously good enough to sell ... but wasn't necessarily right for the publishers I sent it to.

So I don't know that I agree with the 99.99+% figure.

Part of it is persistence. One rejection doesn't mean much of anything. 10 might. 50 probably means something's not good enough. (In my case, some of those rejections were because my query letter sucked.)

On the other hand, from talking to editors, reading unpublished work, and so on, everything I've seen matches your revieweing experience -- most books/stories are rejected because, quite simply, they're not very good. (I definitely include my own early work in this category.)
Sep. 7th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that 99.999% was pulled out of thin air, but it sometimes does seem that way, doesn't it?

Goblin Quest is definitely good enough - and the fact that it went on to sell to DAW shows just how good it really was. But (and I'm guessing here), even a great book like that one had to go through several rounds of edits, hire a professional artist and layout designer, etc., etc., etc. This is something most SP authors won't have access to, even if they are that golden 1% whose work would actually have been good enough to make the cut.


Jim C. Hines


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