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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 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.
Sep. 7th, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
"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."

This is an excellent point. As noted below, the few self-pubbers that make it seem to be the ones who find a subniche that's not currently addressed, and talk directly to that. If that turns out to be an addressable market, then it becomes a legit niche in its own right, and the regular publishers set up shop.
Sep. 9th, 2010 08:48 am (UTC)
the big publishers are providing more than enough content to keep readers of all kinds happy

I'm not so sure about that. The big publishers still publish books I want to read, but walking into a bookstore and looking at the shelves makes me unlikely to walk out with anything new of interest - the big publishers publish far too many books I don't enjoy for this to be a reliable indicator for me, and I am not alone in this. It is only a question of time before those reccommendations involve more self-published books. (They already involve bookviewcafe, which is a writers' cooperative.)

One of my interests is for books that don't have high stakes and lots of explosions; and these books are often deemed to be 'not big enough' for mainstream publishing. This is, quite probably, an accurate judgement, but I feel that a lot of subtlety gets lost when characters are constantly in fear of death (or, if female, rape, grrr). One of the things I love about the Aubrey/Maturin books is that the danger is almost insubstantial - death and dismemberment are certainly possibilities, as is losing the war and being overrun by the enemy, but what Jack Aubrey is afraid of is to be laid off on half pay and not be able to look after his family and to let his men and friends down. And I want to read more stories like that, but they're not getting the publishing and agent love right now.


Jim C. Hines


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