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Self-publishing is a dead end


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Initial post: Jul 7, 2012 1:00:51 AM PDT
Shining hope or fizzle?:
thephoenix.com/Boston/arts/140931-dead-end-of-diy-publishing/?page=1#TOPCONTENT

Posted on Jul 7, 2012 2:43:03 AM PDT
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Posted on Jul 7, 2012 2:50:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 7, 2012 2:53:03 AM PDT
Probably the most famous self-published novel ever is Marcel Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" (or "In Search of Lost Time.") It came out in the first decade of the Twentieth Century, and has since been translated into every major language. In the 1960s John Kennedy Toole killed himself after "Confederacy of Dunces" was rejected by traditional publishers. The novel won the Pulitzer when it finally came out in 1980, and has never been out of print. C. D. Payne's "Youth In Revolt" was picked up by a major publisher two years after its appearance in 1993. It has since had dozens of printings, has been developed as a television series, and has been adopted into a feature film. Sergio De La Pava's "A Naked Singularity" was self-published in 2008, has been ecstatically reviewed all over the globe, and was just republished by the University of Chicago. I've seen it on display at Barnes and Noble.

Self-publishing is not necessarily a dead end. It is certainly better than suicide. If you are considering it, read the above four books. Is yours as good? Or even half as good? Then go ahead and pay to have it printed. Everyone will thank you. Eventually.

Posted on Jul 7, 2012 6:00:18 AM PDT
Jade Kerrion says:
I think self-published authors shouldn't plan on quitting their day job right away. That, however, is also true of most people who go the traditional publishing route. Not everyone who self-publishes will eventually get a $2M contract from a large publisher, but then again, not everyone who quits college to start a company becomes the next Bill Gates. Everyone tends to focus on the exceptional success stories.

The fact is, self-publishing has provided an opportunity for people to get their hard work into the hands of readers and make a bit of extra money on the side. The people who provide a great product--a well-written book that resonates with readers--and who are savvy at low-cost marketing, will find a market for their product, which is already a step up from owning manuscript that's growing mold in the bottom of a drawer.

Small milestones seed the way for larger ones. The point is, you need to take that first step. You can wait to be discovered by traditional publishers or take the first step on your own, knowing that there's no guarantee of success EITHER way.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 2:15:26 PM PDT
"Same as the Harry Potter series, which is all based on Freemasonic, mystery school devil worship and secret society crap..."

This is a joke, right?

Posted on Jul 7, 2012 3:15:59 PM PDT
Knightmare94 says:
I don't think it's a shining hope or fizzle. It's just another option, one that's being utilized by both talented writers and complete hacks. The article seems to stress that for every successful writers, thousands more will fail. Well, that's about how it is for authors who are traditionally published as well. How many books wind up in the bargain bin after a month or two on the shelves?

Like any tool, self publishing can be used to build something or tear something down. There are a lot of poorly written, unprofessional 'books' now available that have no reason ever seeing the light of day. If self publishing wasn't so easy, they wouldn't be. But that's the nature of the business. A writer who wants to succeed has to know something about the business side as well as the creative side. When you self publish then you take on all the business related responsibilities that a traditionally published author doesn't have to deal with. If you're not ready for that then all you have to rely on is luck, and you might as well try Vegas if that's your hope.

I think if a writer puts out a professional product, markets it the best he can, builds a brand and an audience then perhaps success will come. But at least the opportunity is there. Without the self publishing doorway, what options are there?

That's right. The slush pile...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 7:05:36 PM PDT
CSam says:
It appears some bitterness is showing through Mr. Garcia's post. That or he truly believes what he's spewing, in which case, it's best to step away from the gentleman...slowly, very slowly.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 7:32:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 9, 2012 12:00:51 AM PDT
Jed Fisher says:
Eh.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:00:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 7, 2012 10:02:15 PM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
Hi Gilbert, the wonderful world of self publishing just lets us see all the people that the trad publishers and agents used to filter out, and also the first 4 or 5 novels that a first time published author normally would have to write before he or she would come up with something reasonably executed and interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:28:45 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:30:44 PM PDT
i wish someone would filter out the millions of really krappy self pub trash

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:45:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 7, 2012 9:20:55 PM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
That's what the sample feature is for, oh, and the occasional credible review:) Also, I mostly rely on the forum presence the authors maintain on the forums here, it's pretty easy to identify the clued and clueless.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:49:38 PM PDT
you still have to find the couple of good ones in that 8+ million hiding them

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:49:41 PM PDT
Knightmare94 says:
I'm completely with you. It makes it much harder for self published authors who strive for a professional level when so many 'writers' clutter the landscape with amateur efforts. A lot of times just the covers are enough to make you wince, like a big stamp that says 'I'm a beginner'. Then there's the cloning of every book on the bestseller list, minus editing and proofreading, and even rational thought sometimes. It would be great if writing hacks could be filtered, but unfortunately that's the downside of the self pub business. Trust, hard working writers who try to produce quality work are just as frustrated as the readers and reviewers.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:53:06 PM PDT
you got all the nutcases disproving all quantum mechanics or similar

and the ones who rescued themselves from the gutter/drinking/abuse...
and think you give a rats patoot about it

plus a zillion really really bad novels that woudl get an F in creative writing in junior high

...

Posted on Jul 8, 2012 1:14:44 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 8, 2012 1:21:03 PM PDT
Older science fiction and fantasy readers like me have a beef against print-on-demand and e-book promoters because their works have supplanted an earlier form of amateur writing called fan fiction. Photocopied and handed out to friends and sometimes at conventions, these works came to have an impact on pop culture (as in slash fiction's steamy tales of Kirk, McCoy, and Spock,) or a lasting effect on the field (as in the semi-pro magazine's "Locus" emerging as its trade journal.) Meanwhile, pro-authors and publishers routinely let pass violations of copyright because fan fiction creators were not doing it for profit.

Kindles and POD have changed those expectations. Indie writers have zero upfront costs, enjoy unlimited distribution, and expect to make money. They are no longer fans. But they still act like--this will sound harsh, but there's no better word for it--amateurs. They shout over each other, then claim no one hears them. They promote derivative or incoherent concepts. Most importantly, they have no knowledge of the field to which they endeavor to contribute because most of them (and this is painfully obvious) do not read.

This would all be good fun if the onrushing techno-enterpreneurial tide did not drown the fan. For me the turning point came when J.K. Rowling took action to shut down the Harry Potter Encyclopedia web site. A true tribute and a work of scholarship, it was a fine example of fan fiction. (In fact, I own a book called "Urthus Lexicon," created by a fan of the series that was my Harry Potter when I was growing up, Gene Wolfe's "The Book of the New Sun," that served the same purpose.) Rowling initially consented to her fan's work, but ultimately came to see it as a threat. Unlike the publishers and authors of the past, she could not tolerate copyright violations by someone who even with the best of intentions could distribute his derivative work to millions and monetize it any time he wished. The result was a tragic (if understandable and inevitable) loss to her readers.

This situation was not created by indie writers, but it is being exploited by them. Their business model did not arise in a vacuum but destroyed a thriving and important outlet of expression. They owe a debt they can repay only by creating something good and new.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2012 1:48:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 8, 2012 1:50:18 PM PDT
Gus Posey says:
This is a powerful series of statements, and I want to be clear that I support your position and understand your frustration.

At the same time, I am one of those writers that genuinely feel that they have stories worth telling and who cannot ignore the opportunity Kindle publishing provides.

As part of the transition from traditional to electronic publishing we are bound to encounter a certain degree of static, the buzzing pixels of a million terrible books. But within that white noise, I promise you, there are a few clear notes.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2012 5:33:09 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
Let us know when you find an ear -- technological or otherwise -- that can hear only the "few clear notes".

There is a lot of junk "published" on the 'Net, the worst being religiopseudo-psychology by simpering "recovery" addicts (lick my real or imagined wounds for me), the next worst those whose vocabulary consists almost entirely of the word "genre".

But as happens with so many "writer" websites, on which the denizens want "critique" (read: "oh, how lovely!"), that die because none of the denizens read (let alone "critique"), countless of the amateurs will get bored and falll silent because not getting anything out of it. In time, the self-publishing field (which has always been viewed with scorn, with good reason) will lose a few hundred tons of "writers" because they won't find a sympathetic ear there either.

Whether self-publishing will ever be worth it is still up for debate, of course, beyond those who develop the means and provide the "service".

Posted on Jul 8, 2012 10:19:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 8, 2012 10:20:40 PM PDT
El Piscatore says:
Yes, it's unfortunate that a lot of indie stuff is poorly written, most likely because the average indie writer is an amateur or just a plain, bad writer. But we shouldn't condemn self-publishing in general. A lot of it might be poorly written but there are jems in the mix. I'm a writer, at it professionally since 1978 with two books released by genuine publishers. But that hasn't stopped me from writing (and self-publishing) two indie novels. It's all in how to deal with the game, and sometimes timely or specialty subjects are best presented in an indie fashion... and the audience will eventually discover that, "Yes, this author is a good writer."

Posted on Jul 9, 2012 2:29:45 AM PDT
Old Rocker says:
I spent some time researching the ins and outs of indie publishing recently. Around 1000 unique new titles are published each day total on the major e-book players, B&N, Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, etc. Pick a number to represent the percentage of these books that are at least agonizingly readable. One percent? If that's a good number, we get 10 good or barely good books and 990 poor books each day to wade through.

On the day the book is released the review circles and anti-review circles will review the book, post their 5 star and 1 star reviews, then start trashing each other's reviews.

The important stuff happens prior to release. Did the author hack out a manuscript in two weeks, spell check it (missing the false-positives), convert it to submission format and send it up to KDP all fresh and ready to sell? This, using our theory, is where the 990 books come in.

Or, did the authir sit down and do some research, wrote up a manuscript while in contact with people which he could bounce ideas off of, proof read and edit his manuscript, had some friends review it for edit and copy edit, tidiying things up and sent it off to KDF. Let's say that none of the books took this path.

The final, single book of our 1000 original books was writen by an author who decided that she wanted to go big time and spend some money. After she submitted it the manuscript to CreateSpace for example, they copy edited the work for errors. After the author approved the changes, then the manuscript went to editing where the editor suggested rewrites ir the manuscript. The rewrites were completed and ll found the book happy... accept maybe the author because she just spent $1600 on fees to have the book copyedited and edited, So, the author goes on and decides she wants a pro-fes-sion-al book cover for $1000. She also wants to have a book review done for $350. Unfortunately, the reviewer is scrubulous and will call them like they see them. Finally we're going to ad some marketing plus a fee for Amazon to show off the title to booksellers. Of course, if some bookseller want 50 copies, you have to print them up on you own dime, and what the heck, might as well print up 50 more for "vanity" use. Total cost to prepare the "best" book is 5,575. Its all set to go into KDF!

So, we have 990 authors who hacked out something and hope that its going to stand up to the review gristmill and make a name for them and their book that will at least attract a loyal fanbase that they can build off of.

Now we have nine authors who made a little more effort on their books. They hope they have a bit more momentum hitting the ground running and can use that momentum to make sales.

Finally, we have the solo book author. She has gone the professional route, at least as far as possible and not have actually worked with a publishing house. She is confident that she has the best looking book. Its available in e-book and POD.

Now

Whose book will sell more?

I'll be back in 12 hrs +/- 3hrs and love to see what everyone has written

Thank you for going along. Also, I wrote the entire thing under the influence of Ambien and I'm so proud of myself for nito mssinga ui tiio basku.

Posted on Jul 9, 2012 4:46:32 AM PDT
The reason nobody really has to wade through 990 poor books per day is that people who aren't serious about learning to write and edit aren't serious about learning to publicize either.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2012 6:25:17 AM PDT
Jade Kerrion says:
In a perfect world, the solo book author who put real money into the book. (Or at least I hope so, because I went this route.)

That said, the reality is that it will come down to reviews and marketing. The work is not done when the book goes into KDP. The first battle will go to those who are willing to reach out to get credible reviews. However, the pre-publication work (and all the money sunk into it) will pay off over the longer run assuming all parties put in equal amounts of work in obtaining reviews and marketing. The stronger book (and yes, I'm assuming the writers are of equal level, and the one who received professional editing has an edge and a stronger book) will ultimately take the lead with stronger reviews.

*keeping fingers crossed*

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2012 7:54:36 AM PDT
Knightmare94 says:
Mr. Rocker,

Those are great observations, and probably pretty close to the truth. That's what's so frustrating for any writer who actually takes pride in their craft and strive for professionalism. Reviewers have solid reasons for steering clear of so-called indie books because of the onslaught of terrible writing that outnumbers the good authors by a landslide. It's a bad deal for everyone, but unfortunately it's not going anywhere soon. A writer who's serious about his or her craft should realize that it's going to take a while to get any kind of recogniton. You have to keep producing great work and eventually you'll be able to seperate yourself from the pack if you work equally hard at marketing correctly. It's a tough path, but then so is trying to break into the big publishers. So if you're not willing to put in the work into the craft of writing as well as marketing and business then you're kidding yourself if you think your work will stand out.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2012 11:16:44 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 9, 2012 11:17:02 AM PDT]

Posted on Jul 9, 2012 12:57:20 PM PDT
Let's be honest. No one is going to wade through 1000 books to find the 10 that have been edited. At best, a person might wade through 1000 book covers, but even that's a stretch.

For indie authors, a clean manuscript that combines good story-telling with satisfactory editing is critical for long-term success. But a good manuscript by itself won't get the job done. For most folks, a book has to pass a series of "quality tests" before they give the writing a chance. These tests often include assessing the cover, reading the book's blurb, and scanning the book's reviews. If any of these quality test fails, the reader moves on... without ever giving the manuscript or story a second glance.

Over time, the junk (indie or traditional) will sink to the bottom and disappear.

In response to Mr. Rocker's question regarding which books will sell more... The professionally edited work will have a higher percentage of success, at least short-term. Professional attention to the cover, blurb and manuscript will allow it to more easily pass the quality tests. But beware the "lipstick on a pig" efforts. Professional assistance is crucial, but at the end of the day, the story is always king.
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  39
Total posts:  90
Initial post:  Jul 7, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 30, 2012

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