Some prose about the cons of publishing

By on November 17th, 2009
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Publishers are not charities. Publishing is a business. Yes, we all here (and by “we” I mean “me”) are artsy-fartsy artist types who don’t like to dirty our hands with commerce. But even anarchist-primitivists like John Zerzan had to print books, or no one would read them.

If an author writes a book in the woods that never gets published, does anyone hear it scream?

Everyone wants a big-name publisher. Here’s why:

1) Prestige
2) Little work beyond the writing
3) Could lead to a career of subsequent books being published
4) Prestige

What about a mid- to small-size publisher? They do take care of design, printing and distribution. Might be less likely to lead to a career, but it can help. Not as much prestige, but again, you can say, “I’m a published author” over cocktail weenies.

Cons of finding a publisher:

1) #2 above is not completely accurate. Believe it or not, publishers do NOT necessarily do a great job, or even a good job, at promoting your book. You will have to do a lot of your own promoting to get the word out.
2) Your book will disappear if it doesn’t do well quickly. (No reprints because you don’t own the rights—the publisher does.)
3) You may not control quite a few aspects of the design, such as the cover.
4) You may wait a year and a half after the book is picked up for it to be available.
5) Chances are, you won’t make much money. $.50 – $1.50 per book.

The pros of self-publishing:

1) You will make significantly more money ($5 – $10 per book and full cover price when you sell directly).
2) If you find a publisher, you will have to do most of your own marketing anyway.
3) You own all rights and control every detail.
4) You can keep it available via Amazon, your own website, and other venues indefinitely.
5) You can get it out in the world quickly.
6) If it does decently, a publisher might pick you up later.
7) You dance indie, DIY, non-corporate style.

Cons of self-publishing:

1) More effective for non-fiction.
2) You are responsible for every detail.
3) You have to invest money upfront on design, printing, distribution and more.
4) You need to work to get bookstores and libraries to carry it.
5) You have to teach yourself the basics of publishing and promoting books.
6) Still does not get a lot of respect.

Next up: Where I am right now.


I am but one of 20,000.

By on November 8th, 2009
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And that’s being conservative. I have heard literary agents receive thirty to fifty query letters per day while some publishers receive up to one hundred query letters a day. (Wondering what a query letter is? More to come on that front in future posts.)

These numbers represent my competition in a year. The odds are frankly not in my favor as an “unpublished” author. Yes, there is more respect for self-publishing today than there used to be—and I have read that publishers are scouting self-published work—but they will still consider me “unpublished” because I do not have a name publisher. I’m just one peon in the slush pile no matter how good my book is.

Is it hopeless? No. Do I have great odds? No.

Another sad note is that when pursuing a literary agent or publisher from scratch, it can take years to strike gold. You send out letters; wait to hear back. Send out letters; wait to hear back. They request a chapter; you wait. Rejected again. Some of them steam the stamps off your SASE and reuse them. Finally, someone picks it up! Oh, I’m on the docket another year down the road? How many years am I willing to wait to see print? I suppose that trenchant social commentary about Michael Jackson’s death isn’t so relevant any more.

So, what is my overall strategy?

I will pursue literary agents and publishers (both large and small) while simultaneously moving down the self-publishing path. That way, whenever I am ready to give up on finding an agent or publisher (that is, when I’m sick of looking and too frustrated to continue), I will be prepared to immediately pull the trigger and publish the book myself, using the same publishing company I established for Death by Zamboni (Bedhead Books).

Because I will be designing my book meticulously and planning the self-publishing process out thoroughly, it will likely take me about that long to start shipping books anyway. If I waited to start the self-publishing process until after I gave up on the publishers then it would likely take me an additional year before the book saw print, which defeats the purpose. Another benefit of starting the self-publishing process is that if I do land a publisher, I will be able to hand off the book designed exactly as I want it to be. So my vision will be developed more precisely, and it will also be ready for printing sooner.

That’s the high-level approach I’m going to take.

Next up: the pros & cons of self-publishing versus landing a publisher. (And there are quite a few.)


So it begins …

By on November 1st, 2009
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Dear friends,

As I approach the end of my second novel, I’ve decided to begin a blog. Many authors blog about politics and art, culture and books, philosophy and genitalia, and whatnot. As Carl Sagan would say, there are beelions and beelions of blogs out there in the world—what are the odds that one of those blogs will contain life? Errh, forget that metaphor. What I mean to ask is—why should you waste precious minutes of your life reading my blog when you hate blogs or/and read too many blogs already? Email me if you have an answer to that.

Oh, here’s one possible reason: I’ve chosen a singular topic that may interest a few Goodreaders. I’m going to write about the process I follow to publish my novel. The ins & outs, ups & down, and side to sides. My successes & failures. You’ll get the unvarnished experience as it happens. Gradually. It will be the exquisite pleasure of watching paint dry.

I will place some hope in the theory that unpublished authors, self-published authors, those who might want to publish in the future, and those who are intrigued by the publishing process might find some value in the exposition. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but perhaps even my stumbles will be useful. If this sounds interesting, please go to my profile and set your profile to “Follow” my reviews, and you should receive an email every time I post a new entry (along with any other author’s blogs you follow).

I promise—I will keep my posts fairly infrequent and rather concise. At least for me. Along the way, if you have any questions or suggestions, by all means, fire away.

Next up: My strategy

Ps. The word blog kind of makes me nauseas. Seriously.