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March 6th, 2007, 11:25 AM
I have been thinking a lot lately about the reasons that I write, what I hope to accomplish, etc. and I have come to the conclusion that mainstream publishing is probably not going to happen for me at this point. My long work is not commercial. Plain and simple. I think itís good, but definitely not commercial in the sense that a Tor or a Pyr is going to see dollar signs all over my manuscript in the slush pile.

Perhaps I can eventually get the attention of a small publisher, maybe even probably if Iím patient and persistent. But publishing at all in the traditional route means Iíll be giving up control over many aspects of my work. Of primary concern, artwork and layout will be taken totally out of my hands. That inevitability just leaves a coppery taste in my mouth.

Iíve been thinking about why I have been writing, particularly why I wrote my first novel. I write because I think I have interesting stories to tell, and that I can do it well. I donít want to make money at it. Frankly, Iím in a profession where I could never justify becoming a professional writer unless I was making at least six figures just from the sale of books. (That ainít going to happen.)

So, Iíve been thinking of doing something radical: Have a website designed and hosted (not something slapped together) where the book can be downloaded in a series of PDFís absolutely free. The only payment requested would be [1] if you like the book, and only if you like it, then you spread the word to your friends, and [2] post a comment, any comment good or bad, on the website forum. I would commission artwork and illustrations for the PDF (I have the resources to do this), so I think that would be a lot of value for nothing more than a promise to email the link around if you like the story. The manuscript has been polished and edited, and vetted for ridiculousness by someone who does not pull punches (thanks again HE), so Iím pretty sure that I would not be embarrassing myself by releasing the book publicly. The website and PDF version of the book would look as good as anything that a traditional publisher could do (again, I have the resources to make sure of this).

The downside to this is twofold: The (perceived) loss of respectability; and, the loss of publisher marketing. To paraphrase KatG, traditional publishing, whether by a large or small press, means that at least one person other than the author thought the book was good. Thereís something to be said for this, even though publishers have put out a lot of crap over the years. Having someone put their money behind your book says something, but does it say anything other than they think it will sell? I think, however, that people can be convinced by the quality of the writing, hopefully. At least, Iím willing to take that chance.

The other downside, marketing, is utterly up to the resources and whims of the publisher anyway. Thereís no way to know what Iíd be giving up here. Publishers can send out ARCís, garnering advance reviews, they can place ads in magazines and on websites and they can arrange for reviews and interviews, in-store displays and book signings, etc. The question is, even if the book was published, will they? Maybe or maybe not but I would have no control over that.

So, am I insane? Is there anything that Iím not taking into consideration? Would you be willing to read a book that does not come from an established publisher, especially if you did not have to pay for it?

(I'm not getting frustrated by the process, by the way. It's just that I'm beginning to realize that the end result of the publishing process may not be what I care most about anyway.)

Hereford Eye
March 6th, 2007, 12:26 PM
As you know, I've already reached that point with my writing. But, my motivation is laziness. I'm retired, you know, and want to stay that way.:cool:

However, one aspect you should visit at least one more time is that feeling that comes when you have a book in your hands with your name on it, indisputable proof that you wrote it, for better or worse. Ask GW or Holbrook or the Radical Thorn. There is something powerful in holding your own book in your hands.

Second point: marketing remains a problem. Maybe the art work you want to commission will aid that process but marketing e-books is a particular chestnut to roast. Our site [holbrookandhe.com], lacking the art that you propose, takes minimal hits - probably due in part to our lack of advertising but equally possibly due to the sheer quantity of stuff out there. Differentiation becomes critical.

At about this point, don't you wish Juzzza would publish his thesis/research where we could see what might work?:D

March 6th, 2007, 02:32 PM
As you know, I've already reached that point with my writing. But, my motivation is laziness. I'm retired, you know, and want to stay that way.:cool:

Huh??? Now I was going to make a suggestion regarding your Yellow Sub story... but....;)

First off another idea;

Brian, Have you thought of self-publishing?? both Lulu.com and Erebus's EQ books (Especially EQ) gives you a hell of a lot of control, with regards to art and format. If, as you say money is not the point. If you can sell enough to cover the costs and get a couple of good reviews as well.....


Have you tried the small presses yet? If not I have a few that might be of interest to you. Often they allow the author's own artwork.


I do understand where you are coming from. I go in waves of dejection and down right bad temper over submissions. I get annoyed when agents don't bother to even reply with a rejection, even more so when they have a blog where they spend time writing about their cat.

I have so far three novels, which I feel are good, yet no bites. In my heart of hearts I know I won't get any, but I keep trying. Even if I do sell one, don't expect a fortune at all. Maybe one day all three will end up self -published. Who knows. All I can say, Brian, follow your heart, but please don't stop writing....

March 6th, 2007, 03:49 PM
If you do opt for sticking up a website with a downloadable book I will read it! :)

Worthless Post
Selfish Motive

March 6th, 2007, 04:21 PM
Holbrook, I think self-publishing is not quite right for me, because if I went that route then money would still have to be charged for the book. I'm willing to front the money for a good website and artwork (I'd probably even do some of the artwork myself, I ain't too bad with a charcoal pencil). But I'm not willing to underwrite the cost of hardcopy publishing and then give the books away. That's too much for me to justify to the bank (i.e., my wife). What I want is for people to read the book and, hopefully, like it. If I did a POD sort of thing, then I'd have two barriers: respectability and price.

So I've been thinking about why, if I don't really care about becoming a 'professional' writer, then why do I care about traditional publishing in the 21st century? And the answer, increasingly, is that I don't. It's not frustration, and I'm certainly not going to stop writing; it's about reaching an audience that (may) appreciate what I've done, and if that audience is miniscule then I'm fine with that too.

Is any of this making sense?

March 6th, 2007, 04:46 PM
Is any of this making sense?

It's making perfect sense. Have people who enjoy your story read it without jumping through hoops and giving up control; and don't have people who don't enjoy your story pay for it. A computer analogy would be "Freeware" (like OpenOffice; see quality is possible!).

If you do this, maybe you could also have a section dedicated to your submission efforts? Print rejection letters, queries etc. Could be interesting; could gain your site more hits and spark a debate among interested parties. Just an idea (downside: might distract too much from your story).

Basically, not a bad idea. I half thought of something along those lines myself (although I have no finished novel yet :o ).

March 6th, 2007, 05:33 PM
Sounds like you've worked yourself into a bit of a rut there, Brian. It's a tough one.

The way I see it, if you've shopped around a fair bit and no one's biting, you might as well publish it via your website or by another means. I doubt it'll do you much harm; in fact, the opposite could happen.

Look at G.P. Taylor. He wrote Shadowmancer, which many people (including myself) think to be a terrible novel. He sent it to a literacy agency and they rejected it, saying it was the worst submission they'd ever received (or something similar).

Taylor self-published the book and it was soon picked up by a major publisher. He signed a multi-million deal for a series of books and never looked back.

I still think his writing stinks, but it's an example of what can sometimes happen. So go for it and see where it takes you.

March 6th, 2007, 06:57 PM
Oh you know exactly what is and isn't commercial, do you now? And what is important to publishers, and all that. Well, you are very knowledgable then.

If you don't want to go chasing the small crowd of biggums, or even the somewhat smaller ones, or an agent anymore (Option #1,) because the whole path in that direction doesn't interest you that much, then you do have three other options:

2) A small press like Windstorm. Talk to Gary Wassner and Kevin Radthorne for the ups and downs of that experience. It might work for you, you would have control over the cover art, there's a chance of getting books into the stores and it's somewhat easier than self-publishing.

3) Self-publishing in hard copy. This option clearly works better for non-fiction than fiction. Nonetheless, a number of fiction authors have done this as the technology for doing it gets better and better. A few have been very successful. Others have only sold a few hundred copies, but that can be enough for many authors. The downside of self-publishing is that you have to do not only the publicity and marketing, but all the rest of it too, as you are the publisher. It's a lot of work.

4) Self-publishing as an e-book/online. This option is the newest one, and if you want to do it online and do it for free as well, no reason why you can't. As with hard copy self-publishing, you have to do all the work, but since you're just letting people come find it on-line, rather than dealing with boxes of books, it's a bit more reasonable.

Now, if you managed to get a book deal with say DAW or Tor or Pyr, the publisher may do a bit to help you, but as you note, not necessarily much. Even with a publisher of decent size, publicity and marketing falls largely on the author. Where a publisher is most useful is in distribution and in their marketing to the main supplier of books for sale -- booksellers. (This is not because the booksellers are snobbish, but because publishers are reliable, do returns, can ship effectively, have more than one book to offer, etc.) With an online publication that is not even being sold, only distributed, this isn't really an issue, however.

If you do go this route, you might want to consider if a portion of your book would work as a separate short story or novella, and see if you can market that to a print or online magazine. That wouldn't be a bad way to get some pr and readers for your online offering. But again, it depends on what you want to do. There are a lot of options on the Web -- podcasts, video piracy, online dating -- and so there are a lot of different, creative, open things you could try, if you feel they are right for you. If you do go electronic, the people you want to talk to are the tech people, who know all this stuff. They'll be able to give you the best sense of what's happening out there and what's possible.

March 6th, 2007, 09:31 PM
The posters above have given out a lot of information, provided a lot of different options.

In my brief side career as a literary agent, I failed to commercially sell a book for any of my clients. But I because I believed in three of those projects deeply, I assisted each of those three authors in the submission process for iUniverse.com, a POD publisher much like Lulu. I didn't charge anything for that process, because I didn't sell any of the works in the way that an agent is expected to. That process was instructive. At least two of the three books sold enough copies to make back the raw cost of submission (one made consdirably more--a Rock and Roll Trivia book) and all three remain available on Amazon, BN.com and the publisher's site.

As KatG mentions, fiction may be a bit more difficult.

With my own novel(s), I have yet to begin any submission process to publishers (I won't be seeking an agent--which may keep me from some of the bigger houses, but so be it), but I am seriously considering the self-publishing route for the pure control of the work. I know exactly where you are coming from, Brian, when you fear the loss of artistic control.

I have mentioned this in other threads, but blogging your novel in serialized installments on a well done weblog can be a good compromise to giving away the book in pdf installments. If you blog draws in the readers and you can create buzz with your story, you can use that to your advantage. You have complete control, and if your writing and your stories are compelling enough, you will have a dedicated following for readers.

My own blog (see my profile if anyone has any interest) is used for the raw material for the books that I am working on--the books will have content that the blog doesn't, and will be more refined, but the blog will still be there to hopefully create a kind of synergy that will allow the readers of the book to keep up with the characters adventures, but also to give the readers of the blog story elements they haven't seen before.

I really like the options that the internet has provided for writers, but you just have to realize that there are hundreds of millions of websites vying for peopel to read them, a number that dwarfs the number of books that will ever be published. And only a few of those sites will generate any sort of profit.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do Brian! Feel free to PM me (anyone) if you have any questions.

aka Agent Rusty Bones

James Carmack
March 6th, 2007, 10:54 PM
A lot of us here are in the same boat. It not news to say that it's hard to get into the traditional publishing industry. I haven't made a lot of submissions myself. I tried three different publsihers early on. I knew my chances were next to nil and in retrospect, I'm glad I was turned down, because I had made a lot of compromises to make my manuscript meet the submission requirements. My novel has come a long way in the successive edits that followed, so I'm not complaining.

I didn't have any illusions starting out. I knew it could take ten years or more, with unflagging effort, and still stand a high chance of never being published. I'm out of the country right now, so playing the industry is a touch inconvenient. However, in the midst of this, inspiration struck.

I'm a fan of several different webcomics. I've noted that the best of these artists can actually support themselves doing this and their work finds its way to the presses. I saw a business model worth imitating.

With the right sponsors, a site can basically pay for itself, but for the real key to making money, you needn't look any further than Yogurt's Maxim: "Merchandising, merchandising, merchandising!" A company like Cafe Express not only offers the venue for selling said merchandise but also the capacity to produce it. T-shirts, mousepads, coffee mugs... Those things are easy to sell.

Of course, the most important thing is the stories themselves. Whether you use a blog roll (like Rusty) or serialize your story one chapter at a time, you give yourself a regular schedule to develop your work (because deadlines can do a lot to spur us into action) and give your guests a reason to keep coming back. Once the whole thing gets printed, I figure a print-on-demand self publisher will answer the call. Yes, the individual unit cost is a bit higher, but you don't have to worry about the cost of inventory.

"If they can read my story online for free, why would they pay for it?"

That's a fine question. No doubt there are plenty who won't. I'm probably being naive, but I'm counting on real fans to step up to the plate. I perhaps am being too hopeful, but I'm not trying to live off my writing at the moment, so I can afford such laxity. If you want to give your readers a little more incentive, you might choose to only make, say, half the novel available to the public or leave off the ending.

Even with this plan, I don't plan on giving up on the traditional publishing industry. I'll still make submissions. However, what I'm hoping is that my online venture will succeed in building up a fan community that'll give me some leverage. As JamesL note with the example of GP Taylor, self-publishing can be the doorway to a traditional publishing deal.

Will this strategy work? Well, there are no guarantees in life, but it can be done with a relatively small investment.

I came to a realization (as have many of the others here) a while back. I realized that the act of writing in and of itself is enough for me. I've got a day job and I intend to keep at it. Does it mean I've given up? Of course not. Would it be nice to make a living off my writing? Yes indeed, but I've got a realisitic view of my chances.

By all means, go the online route, either as a supplement to your effots to get into the traditional publishing industry or as an alternative approach. You have little to lose and potentially much to gain.