Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Only Constant Is Change - Part 2

Currently reading - Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordin

WARNING:  This post contains mostly my opinions plus a few facts.  I make no guarantees or warranties.  Your mileage may vary.

To NY publish or not to NY publish?  That is the question.

I've always considered Hamlet a wuss, but for the first time, I'm starting to understand his dilemma when it comes to publishing a novel.

Even as little as three years ago, self-publishing was considered a major no-no.  Quite simply, the distribution companies would not deal with anyone who wasn't one of the Big 6 or an affiliate.  Without an adequate distribution system, writers had a difficult time getting their products into the hands of consumers.

Despite many slams against the publishers, simple economics rules their actions.  They cannot possibly publish every single writer who comes to their doors.  They pick and choose which books to publish, and it's an acknowledged fact that they don't always pick right.  But on the other hand, readers were generally assured they would purchase a quality product.

Therefore, self-publishing was considered by many folks (agents, editors, published authors, organizations such as RWA, etc.) as the mark of an amateur.  The prevailing wisdom was that if you couldn't make it in New York, then your work couldn't be quality.  Add into that mentality the failure of the early e-reading devices such as the Rocket Reader in the late '90's, and you had a recipe for a paper-books-only-through-publishers world.

Then came an upstart little company out of the Cleveland/Akron area.  Tina Engler Keen had been writing erotic romance, only to be rejected repeatedly by agents and editors who claimed there was no market for this type of story.  So in 2000, Tina created her own company Jasmine-Jade Enterprises, Inc., to publish her erotic romances as e-books under the imprint Ellora's Cave.  Within five years, Jasmine-Jade was a multi-million dollar company doing the two things New York said they couldn't do--e-books and erotic romance.

Is what Tina pulled off easy?  Hell, no!  The woman worked her butt to the point she wasn't writing novels anymore.

But the playing field has shifted radically in the eleven years since Tina pulled the rabbit out of her garter belt.  Writers can now upload their novels to Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, and/or PubIt (among many other e-distributors).  The author sets the price in most instances.  Then the reader picks out their purchase, plugs in their payment, downloads the book, and (hopefully) enjoys the read on their Nook, Kindle, Sony Reader, and/or their PCs (among many other e-devices).

So what put the nugget of an idea that I could possibly self-publish as well?

A little over a year ago, I had one of those days.  You know the type, multiple rejections from agents hit your Inbox within minutes of each other, and you just want to drown yourself in Haagen Daaz Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream.  At the same time I wallowed in chocolatety soothing, DH was listening to Memories of the Future 'Cast, a series of podcasts by Wil Wheaton.  Wil promoted his book, Memories of the Future, Vol.1, a part-review/part-memoir of the first half of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation he self-published through Lulu, by reading excerpts of his prose and adding in verbal bon mots not found in the book.

DH pulls off his headphones, looks at me, and said, "Why don't you self-publish?  Wil Wheaton's great at it."

TOMORROW: What happens when a writer's kernel of arrogance gets popped?

In the meantime, what are your thoughts, opinions, experiences in the Big 6 vs. Self-publishing smack-down?


  1. I think you can do very well self-publishing these days. Kris Rusch's most recent chapter of The Business Rusch is on making that decision here:

    Good stuff.

    New York still has some things to offer, but if you're looking to sell your books and make money, the advantage in the long term seems to be with self-pubbing. I like her idea of publishing some things with the NY pubs, some with small presses, and the rest on your own, to get readers in various audiences who might not have run across your stuff if you focused on one kind of market only.


  2. Definitely agree with you, Angie. In addition to Kris Rusch and J.A. Konrath, I would also suggest Kris's husband, Dean Wesley Smith for info.

    The nice thing about Kris and Dean is that they're not rabid, anti-NY like some self-pubs.

    In the interest of full disclosure: Way back in the '90's, I submitted a couple of short stories to Dean when he was an editor at Pocket Books. And yes, he did the right thing rejecting my work. It totally sucked at the time.

  3. I read Dean's blog too. [nodnod] Love his Sacred Cows series. :)