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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.

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Comments

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*
mtlawson
Sep. 7th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
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.

Unfortunately, if enough people SP then the bar will be that low.
barbarienne
Sep. 7th, 2010 07:26 pm (UTC)
I fear that as well, but I trust that the ability to convey an experience to the reader will still triumph and create word-of-mouth (much as it does nowadays).
jimhines
Sep. 7th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
I don't know ... I've definitely seen an increase in the number of people self-publishing, but I haven't seen as much evidence that self-published work is selling more. Those of us hanging out in writerly circles and spending a lot of time online hear about it a lot, but how many people out there in the real world do you know who actually buy/read self-published books?

I could be wrong on this. I just haven't seen anything to convince me that more self-published titles are going to hurt or interfere with my ability as a commercially published author to reach my readers. (Affecting my interactions with bookstore staff when I walk in and introduce myself as a writer, on the other hand...)
sylvanstargazer
Sep. 7th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't usually hear about self-publishing outside this blog *except* in the context of urban lit, which basically only exists because of self-publishing and is apparently huge money now, and was a clear case of "no publisher is touching that with a twenty-foot pole... oh, look, it sells like hotcakes!"

If you limit it to mostly-privileged science fiction/fantasy writers I would be surprised to hear that anyone is making very much money off self-publishing. Self-published books certainly haven't come up when book recommendations start flying anywhere that I've seen.

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