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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 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.
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
I think because it's a bit like abuse.

See, we writers are supposed to help each other, point each other to and away from the good/bad agents and publishers and trade tales about how we worked through writer's block and that plot twist and OMG it came to me in the middle of the night! I have my pals on Twitter and FB with a variety of publishers, some of them WAY above me in status but we're all equal, bleeding onto the page to create something for the public.

Then you hit an Expo or a convention and see what you saw.

Instead of being a united group of writers we walk up to each other and foist a copy of our self-pubbed, unedited tome at each other with the demand that you Buy A Copy Or You're Not Supporting Writing, as if you owe it to these authors to spread your hard-earned money out over the unwashed masses.

The implication is that you OWE it to them to buy a copy and keep their dreams alive instead of them spending more time and money buying books on how to improve their writing craft and less on printing copies via a vanity press or pretending to be a real publisher and getting an account with Lightning Source to print more copies.

It's interesting how we're all One Big Happy Family when it comes to buying books from each other but OMG Don't Come Near Me! when it turns towards getting an agent, a publisher and working hard to be a better writer. They'll take your money but not your advice.

Yep, I'd say that's abuse.

Sep. 7th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
I've swapped books with other authors, self-pubbed and not (including other self-pubbed comic creators), but I know first and foremost that I need to get my stuff out to *readers*.

That's why traditional publishing has such a massive leg up on li'l ol' me: they have that many more people doing it to that many more other people, far more than I can get to pass in front of my one table.

But to take a stab at answering your question: I think it's because selling to other authors as opposed to Just Plain Folks:

a) has the hallmark of someone trying to get recognition fast by snagging the ear of someone further up the ladder;
b) misses the point, because the author should be marketing to readers; and
c) most authors have so little time to read, and already know what they want to do with it. (Wild guess on that one, but that's how I feel.)


Jim C. Hines


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