Friday, July 25, 2014

Thoughts On Publishing.

I don't want to get sucked into your debate.

Louis Shalako

Whether it’s the debate over traditional publishing or the whole Amazon-Hachette dispute, I don’t much like being sucked in.

I kind of resent people assuming I’m on one side or another. I don’t like it when people assume which side I am on, or try and tell me which side I should be on.

Sometimes I don’t really care at all; about who does what, and with which, and with whom, or to whom they do it.

I don’t have any major criticisms of traditional publishing. I don’t have any major criticisms of Amazon or Hachette.

Quite frankly, I don’t really give a damn.


When I write a book or story, and then publish it myself, one could say the job is done. I like that feeling.

For better or worse, I’ve accomplished my primary mission, which is to write worthwhile stories and then get them into the hands and in front of the eyeballs of readers.

If I went the traditional route, I might submit a manuscript to any number of agents or publishers.

That’s the classic theory.

When submitting a short story, the classic theory is to submit it over and over until it is sold.

If an agent accepts a book, for example, my job is still not done. The agent submits it here and there.

They call me up once a week, or once a month, or once a year and tell me what they’re doing, and ask what I’m working on.

They submit it around some more.

And even if an editor or publisher is interested, my job is still not done.

Classic theory holds that I should have written my next book at least by this point, (or more) in which case we would start a whole new process for each and every book. Some of those books might never interest a major or other traditional publisher.

And my job on the first book is still not done. There is an in-house process, one that ultimately could take many months or even years before I achieve the laudable and reasonable goal of seeing the thing on bookstore shelves. Only then could my job be said to be done, if we ignore the need to engage in at least some promotion. If we can get it. Otherwise we’re on our own, and it might be six months more before the first royalty cheque rolls in.

Nothing in my experience has really prepared me for this kind of long-term, high stakes kind of game. It’s a whole ‘nother line of thinking.

They say poor people are their own worst enemies, but there are times when immediate needs take precedence. Money coming in right now might not beat a lot more money coming in two years from now, but until one actually sells a manuscript, that’s all just pie in the sky anyways.

And there really is more than one way to skin a cat.

In the ‘classic’ theory of modern, digital self-publishing, you write, you publish, write, publish, write some more, publish some more, and then you just keep going on like that.

With appropriate choices of material and genre, over time we will build up a readership and eventually build up our own business. We do it all on our own, and in my own case, without a lot of outside or expensive help. I don’t need an IP lawyer to interpret what I’m signing, and I don’t have to worry about pleasing agents and editors, who may like the basic story but want a lot of changes when I’ve already sort of put a book behind me. Because of course I want to move onto the next project. That sort of process might be stressful and distracting from what I really want to do now.

It’s still a long-term game, but the thinking is clearer, it requires less patience. You do it in small, incremental steps. You don’t have to rely on other people, and if you don’t like the terms of service, you can just take your books down and go elsewhere.

That’s not a criticism of anybody, it’s just an observation.

But we all have our own needs, our own goals, and our own strengths and weaknesses.

Honestly, if someone had offered me a hundred thousand dollar contract for my first or second book, I would have been scared shitless. I wasn’t sure I could really write professionally at the time, and of course I would be dealing with professionals of long experience.

It might have been intimidating or something.

It says something about where I was at the time.


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