Tag Archives: self-publishing

Dichotomy Is Easy, and Easily Dismissed

playOr, “What I Learned About Indie Publishing At 4th Street.”

Last weekend was for 4th Street Fantasy, and not even the thief who stole my driver’s license and debit card on Saturday could dull my overall enjoyment.  In addition to attending great panels and having fantastic writerly conversations, I took the opportunity to discover what writers—published and about-to-publish, new(er) and up-and-coming—want to know about indie publishing.

Y’see, SFWA’s new VP Maggie Hogarth recently talked me into working with the Self-Publishing Committee.  (It was the Hopeful Jaguar Eyes that did it.  That, and I didn’t want honey badgers sicced on me…:)  Having so many smart writers at 4th Street offered the perfect chance to gather some helpful information.

Continue reading Dichotomy Is Easy, and Easily Dismissed

What’s “Real” About the Cost of Self-Publishing

Another day, another piece of writing on self-publishing that makes me want to *headdesk.*  So I’m going to put this post here and, in the future, simply point to it when yet another one of those articles pops up.

Truth: There is no “real cost” to self-publishing, just as there is no “real cost” to trade publishing.  Anyone who tells you there is intends to sell you something, validate their own choices, or is simply unaware a range of options exist.

What is the “real cost” of feeding a family of four for a week?  What is the “real cost” of a college education?  What is the “real cost” of owning a home, taking a vacation, adopting a pet, raising a child, buying a car, having someone do your taxes, finding the perfect gown for an event?

The answer to all those is, “It depends.”

And too often, someone comes along to assert “It depends” must be followed by “the quality of work you want.”

That someone is wrong.

Writers new to self-publishing often take a Google-tour of sites claiming to give them “real” information.  And some writers, thinking they’re being helpful while defending their choice to not self-publish, have written compelling pieces that place the cost of putting out a single novel somewhere between ten and sixty thousand dollars.

Those are not helpful articles.  New writers who stumble onto them and believe them are likely to either give up entirely or become an easy target for scammers.  Heck, after reading an author dropped thirty thousand dollars to self-publish “properly,” who wouldn’t believe an Author Solutions package of ten grand sounds like a fantastic deal?

(And if you’re not familiar with Author Solutions and the support it receives from major publishers and imprints, start here and here.)

In most cases, cost is assumed to be the same as quality when one of two factors come into play.  In the first instance, cost matters if money is considered to be a measure of personal worth (see “Protestant Ethic”).  In the second, cost is used as a proxy for quality when one isn’t accustomed to or comfortable with cost comparisons and negotiations.

I once paid nearly $2000 for a gown.  People at the reception in Washington D.C. complimented it.  I once paid $65 for a gown.  Never in my life had I received so many compliments, and this from a Beverly Hills crowd.

So if you’re a new writer, here’s the deal:  You do not need to pay what large trade publishers pay to get professional results because—and this doesn’t get mentioned often, for some odd reason—you are not paying to retain employees, warehouse product, or maintain expensive office space.  And frankly, you’re not paying for exclusivity.  You are paying a contractor to provide you a professional service.*  You are paying for that service one timePeriod.

How do you find professionals who deliver great results at the price point you’re looking to pay?  Use the same method that used to be touted to writers in search of a compatible agent: check the books you like.  Well-produced indie titles will list their publication team—cover artist, designer, copyeditor, etc.—in the front matter and/or the acknowledgements.  Best of all, ebooks usually contain a live link to the professional’s website.  In very little time, you can create a targeted list of professionals whose work you like alongside the approximate cost of their services.  Easy-peasy.

If you’re an established trade writer thinking you should say something about self-publishing, here’s the deal: Read up on successful self-publishing members within your own professional organization.  SFWA recently opened its membership to self-published writers who meet the same income standards as trade-published writers, and many long-standing SFWA members fully embraced self-publishing long before.  Just a small bit of reading and discussion will reveal that the professional experience and focus of those who primarily self-publish differs from those who might self-publish a small project or two on the side.  They can give you actual numbers, based on multiple projects.  And if you have a question about self-publishing, it’s easy to ask.

For some, custom artwork provided by a Certain Name is critical to seeing their final product as “professional.”  Those folks will pay a premium for it.  For others, it’s essential to pay Certain Name for a developmental edit to shape their story for reasons of craft and/or confidence.  Those folks, too, will pay a premium.  But premium is a choice, and should not be presented as a necessity.  Telling new writers—and established writers uncertain if they should step into self-publishing—that they must spend a pile of money to be professional and spend every moment on insurmountable tasks associated with publishing is a swift and efficient way to put a lid on the number of writers who’d otherwise be able to engage with enthusiastic readers.

In fact, it’s kinda mean.

It isn’t realistic.  It isn’t “harsh truth.”  It is a narrow band of experience, based on a different business model, that’s erroneously touted as universal.

I’d much rather see us reach out with accurate and up-to-date information on the range of costs associated with self-publishing.  That’s the way to realistically and immediately support diversity, to give fellow writers the knowledge needed to take advantage of options and avoid scammers, and to expand the readership for everyone.

So at the end of the day, the truth is pretty straightforward.

The real cost of self-publishing is what you pay, after researching your options, to get the results you want.

Period.

(Next week I’ll put together a post in response to the “You can’t become a better writer unless editors reject you repeatedly” post I can point to whenever that meme pops up.)

*I’ve heard the argument that paying below Big 5 rates for artistic and editorial services harms professionals accustomed to making their living at their trade.  While not unsympathetic to that viewpoint, I do find it a tad offensive when directed at the one professional in the publishing business who has forever been told they shouldn’t expect to make a living in the biz.

Once More, GenCon

I wrote last year about the GenCon Writer’s Symposium — the enjoyment of reconnecting with a couple folks, the exasperation over the comments and panels on self-publishing. It looks as if the latter problem will be solved by reducing any direct mention of self-publishing to two single-presenter hours.

Here’s the schedule.

One presentation is called, “Self or Traditional: Pros and Cons of Each.” The other is, “Self-Publishing: Why It Works, Why It” (I’m assuming the cut-off word on the schedule is “Doesn’t).

Yes, in the year that SFWA — derided as so out-of-touch — at last opened its membership to income-earning self-published writers, the Writer’s Symposium believes the most pressing questions writers have about self-publishing is whether it’s good or bad.

There are no “Business of Self-Publishing” panels. Nothing on what tasks are involved in producing print and ebooks. Nothing on connecting with editing, art, and design professionals. Nothing at all on avoiding the numerous businesses out there intending to fleece writers. Yes, there are a couple general panels that could be of use to self-publishers. However, last year’s seemingly cross-applicable panels — such as the panel on seeking professional reviews — included direct “don’t bother if you’re self-published” references, so… yeah. Not hopeful about that.

My experience last year wasn’t unique. Deborah Jay talks here about the Loncon panel on indie-publishing that didn’t include a single person currently self-publishing.

I'm sure the reasons are out there somewhere...
I’m sure the reasons are out there somewhere…

I’ll still be going to GenCon for at least one full day. There are folks I want to meet — Cat Rambo! Lauren Roy! In person! — and people I want to see again. A few of the craft panels look interesting. And my son might give the cosplay competition a try again this year. But as someone who knows so many writers seeking information on self-publishing, I’m disappointed at the lost opportunity to include them.

So… Here’s the thing. If you’re planning to attend GenCon and want to talk about self-publishing rather than debate its worth, let me know. I’m no huge smashing figure of great renown, but I can share resources, talk about scams and pitfalls, and discuss the business side of things.

I don’t care if it’s one person or a group of people. We’ll have a roundtable discussion, an exchange of information and experience, and it will be a good thing.

#SFWApro

The Short Version, Because That’s All It Needs

From The Guardian comes this observant article on the success women are finding in self-publishing.

Reactions can be summed up thusly:

“Let me argue the methodology!  Let me discredit a single line in the article!” — Folks who are certain there wouldn’t be any gender disparity if women would just shut up about it already.

“It’s just because of romance!” — Folks who either failed to read the entire article, don’t want the wrong type of folks playing in their sandbox, or both.

“Yeah, but those women are just lucky.”  Folks who’d rather ignore and/or degrade the achievement of successful women than accept that their success happened outside the traditional scope.

“I don’t need to read this because it’s all bullshit anyway.”  Folks who saw “women” and/or “self-publishing” in the article’s title, and assumed the topic wasn’t worth their time.

“Yep.” — Women who are self-publishing.

#SFWApro

Cons on the Calendar

I have a convention schedule this year!  Sure, it’s short and mostly local, but it exists.  It is a thing, and it pleases me today.

4th Street Fantasy, Minneapolis, MN  June 26-28

This is a different kind of con—one with a single track of programming and a membership cap of 175 attendees—intending to create a shared con experience and fluid conversation.  Folks have been telling me to go for years.  Once programming conversations get rolling, I’ll bring up making myself available for self-publishing discussions at the writing seminar.  Is that presumptuous of me? Perhaps. But any discussion of the writing business today ought to include a writer who chooses self-publishing as the primary career path rather than the consolation trail.  Besides, if there’s another indie writer they’d prefer to include, great!  The goal is inclusion of the experience and information, not the person.  (And I’d be more than happy to write up all the reasons this is true.)

InConJunction, Indianapolis, IN  July 3-5

This con is local to me, but I haven’t been in years because its scheduling conflicted with my son’s annual county dog show.  Since he isn’t showing this year, and is perfectly capable of getting himself to the site to volunteer (and we aren’t driving to JFK airport to get him on a flight to Italy, as we did last year), I get to go to the con!  My name appeared on the “Also Appearing” list, so I guess it’s official.  I have no idea what programming will look like, but I will be making my recommendations.

GenCon, Indianapolis, IN  July 30 – Aug 2

I’ve put my name in the hopper to help with any SFWA business while there.  When not doing that, I’ll likely be hanging around the Writer’s Symposium, hoping their self-publishing track is less dismissive, and spending time with my cosplaying son.  I’m even toying with the idea of pulling a cosplay myself.  I have a soft spot for Fiona.  For me, this con isn’t much a professional-writer activity, but is a fun few days instead.

MileHiCon, Denver, CO  October 23-25

Since I’ve decided I’m moving that direction, it only makes sense I’d jump into a convention, right?  More details on this one as time gets closer.

I already know some folks who will be at these events, but would love to meet up with others.  Let me know if you’ll be around!

#SFWApro

Of Overused Catchphrases, Heartening Opportunities, and the Unintentional Slush Reduction Program

Sudden Moxie Press LogoVia a Twitter link, I came upon Infodump, Mary Sue, and Other Words That Authors Are Sick of Hearing. I’m a little bit in love with it, truly. Don’t even attempt the comments unless you want to watch a rehash of the years-long debate of what Mary Sue actually means, and what every single commenter means when they use it. Trust me: if you weren’t sick of hearing Mary Sue before reading the comments, you will be after. It’s rather interesting, though, that of all the terms in the article, it’s the Mary Sue that got most folks all a-chatter.

A brief Twitter conversation came up between some writers, including the comment that new writers are told not to use the omniscient viewpoint because editors don’t want to see it. I do wonder how many lovely books have been lost over the years because of that.

If you haven’t already, head over to Maggie’s journal for The Uncomfortable Trail-Blazer. (There you’ll also find a link to the interview she did with Publishers Weekly, which is, y’know, pretty darn cool.) Pay close attention to the section on the publishing reality of 100 good books for only 45 publishing slots: “At the end of the day, there were 1000 books worth publishing, and 45 got through the door. And there was nothing the remaining 955 authors could have done to better their chances. “Write a better book” is false advice, because many better books still failed. “Write a more marketable book” is better advice, but it requires you to understand the market, be willing to write to it, and get it to someone before the trends change… and the book still might fail”

That cannot be said enough, and writers deserve to know it, understand it, and plan their careers accordingly.

Lastly, Publishers Weekly presented The Rise of the Seven-Figure Advance. Ostensibly, the article is about a seeming increase in mega-advances being given out, particularly to writers who have no BookScan records. But it’s really quite a peek into how the industry is evolving, and it’s the first time I’ve seen mention of certain predictions come to pass. As reasons for high advances, anonymous insiders say the “pool of talent is shrinking” because there are now fewer submissions, and publishers are having to prove themselves because of the success being found in self-publishing.

Really, truly, go read the whole thing because that little article just quietly confirmed publishers and agents are now caught up with the backlog of slush enough to realize the number of manuscripts that aren’t there anymore.

#SFWAPro

Obviously, No.

(ye gads, y’all knew this was satire, right??)

Some professional writing organizations have opted to admit self-publishing writers at an alarming pace, insisting three or four or five years is plenty long enough to spend debating the issue.  It would be best to invest another two or three years at least, but the push just won’t stop.  Under such pressure to act in haste, it’s important to understand the reasons self-publishers should be kept out.

First, it’s always been understood that who pays the author is of upmost importance.  Purchase decisions made by thousands of readers—even tens of thousands of readers—should not be deemed equal to the decision of a single third party that has been properly vetted and approved.  The approval of one or a few readers with proper job titles is what marks the professional.

And the money.  Unless the money comes from readers instead.  Then it shouldn’t count.  Obviously.

Continue reading Obviously, No.

Barnes and Nobles Wants To Be Author Solutions When It Grows Up

If you haven’t yet seen it, do check out the FAQ for the Barnes and Noble/Nook Press satirical attempt to offer self-publishing “services.”   David Gaughran has more.

My favorite part is the $399 charge to be told which editing package you should purchase.

My second favorite part is knowing your Barnes and Noble/Nook Press print book will not, under any circumstances, be sold through any Barnes and Noble store — physical or online.

Barnes and Noble has run out of feet of its own to shoot, and is apparently taking volunteers who will pay to be shot.

#SFWApro

Does Convention Visibility Matter?

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen many successful writers make mention of the issue of visibility – the connecting of interested reader with published story.  These writers were not happy with their current visibility, and all commented about how difficult it was to know what would and wouldn’t work to increase success.  And these writers are trade-published, having the same conversation self-published writers have every day.

Gen Con’s Writer Symposium was quite educational in that regard.

A panel on how to get reviews was very specific in how writers were to approach reviewers, with all emphasis on demonstrating proper etiquette and expecting nothing in return.  The writer should submit a request.  The writer shouldn’t expect a response.  One panelist stated publishers didn’t do the reviewer-approaching for most writers anymore and the other panelists nodded agreement.  The consensus was that all but the most-publicized writers should expect to actively seek and collect their own reviews.  Whether the trade-published author was expected to send the reviewer an ARC and/or eARC at their own cost wasn’t clear to me.

As the panelists went into greater detail on the methods of gaining reviews and properly reacting to reviews, I was thinking to myself it was great information.  I’d love to approach other reviewers and–fingers crossed!–achieve a little positive visibility.  Here was the roadmap, right?

Nope.

Continue reading Does Convention Visibility Matter?

My SFWA Dilemma

100_2471I’ve a decision to make—multiple decisions, in truth—about where and when I want to devote my non-writing energies as a professional writer. It might seem easy, choosing to join or not join SFWA. It would indeed be so if I’d opted against self-publishing, if I didn’t tend to plow into organizational upheavals, if I didn’t have strong opinions, and if I didn’t think it questionable to join an organization that presently excludes self-published writers who are far more successful and prolific than I am.

So. Matter the first.

I qualify for active membership in SFWA. My three qualifying sales—Speculon, Writers of the Future, and Cicada—all happened before 2007. I didn’t join at the time for reasons I can’t even clearly remember, but that quickly became irrelevant when life fell into a pot of reeking muck and shattered glass for four years. The contracts got lost along the way, but it’ll be fairly simple to get copies from WotF and Cicada. But the Speculon contract? From a dozen years ago? From a market currently closed?

Continue reading My SFWA Dilemma