Sunday, October 17, 2010

More on Self-Publishing and Marketing

According to what appears to be the prevailing sentiment among bloggers who write about writing, I'm doing absolutely everything wrong. According to some, I'm part of the problem that is about to kill off the publishing business. According to others, I'm too arrogant to play by the rules that everybody else has played by since Gutenberg's day.  (And probably before: How did the Scribes decide which books to copy?)  Those folks have some valid points.

I, however, submit that I have a right to a different point of view and my own opinion. It seems as though in the past few months everybody else has weighed in on their vision for the future of publishing and why they are using the approach they have chosen.

First of all, from what I've learned about the publishing business in the last six years of reading blogs by writers, agents, editors and publishers as well as studying publishers and agents websites, I think the traditional publishing business is doing a fine job of killing off its own self without any help from me and all the other writers who choose to self-publish. They are not keeping up with the times or with technology.  Maybe self-publishers are not good enough to get published the traditional way or maybe we're not patient enough to jump through all the hoops entailed in begging agents to please consider representing us and then having the agents beg publishers to please publish our books, most of which will wind up in the trash if the author doesn't buy the unsold copies.  How long does the average book remain in print?  Twenty-minutes?  Maybe it is arrogant to feel that going through all of that is just too much of a hassle. I prefer to think of it as a choice to go in a different direction that doesn't kill so many trees unnecessarily.

The traditional method of publishing books that involves printing off books and sending them out to bookstores which return unsold copies should end. Soon. And permanently. Does that mean that hard-copy publishing is dead? I hope not. I don't have an e-book reader and I personally prefer to read books in hard copy. [I have to tell you: one of my goals for the next year is to buy an e-Reader and convert myself to reading e-books. Time will tell if I can pull that off.]  I do shop online, and I absolutely positively would definitely be willing to pay more for print-on-demand books. Always. Every time. Starting now.

That doesn't mean bookstores would necessarily have to go the way of the dinosaur. Bookstores could be POD outlets. They could offer sample copies of popular titles for browsing and print off the books on site. I understand that the super-high quality printer-binder machine is very expensive right now, but like everything else in the sphere of electronics, the price will fall.  That will probably happen immediately after one of the big chains gets their head out of their butt long enough to figure out that they can make money printing books in the store.  That will get people in the store where they will have the opportunity to buy all the other stuff bookstores sell (coffee, bookmarks, games and picture books).  They could still do book signings and promotions. They could sponsor NaNo write-ins or book groups.

That would put more books in circulation.  Maybe the quality of some of those books might not be the greatest, but then again I have read quite a bit of traditionally published stuff that is not very well written or proofed.  It would make more titles available to more readers. There will be more crap, true, but there will also be more potentially good stuff.  The choices of books available online is already dizzying, but that's a good thing. The cream will rise to the surface. Readers will blog about good books, and other readers will read them.  The bestsellers will happen in the same way they always have: book-lovers spreading the word about good books. The difference is that there will be more players in the game.

I don't think that's a bad thing.

I have no aspirations of being a critically acclaimed literary author. The stories in my head insist on being written. Once written, they demand to be shared. I don't do it for money or acclaim or attention.  I do it because sharing stories is what storytellers do, and have done since language was invented. (I'd be willing to bet that language was invented in order to share stories.)

My reason for choosing to quit querying agents and self-publish my novels was based completely on a combination of lack of time and my desired outcome.  I have a busy day job and other responsibilities in my life.  I devote every spare moment I have to writing stories.  I don't want to spend any of that writing time querying agents or Twittering or Facebooking or doing any of the other time-consuming marketing gimmicks that the wisdom of the Internet (ahem!) says I should be doing. I don't even visit and comment on other writers' blogs much any more (although I always very much enjoyed doing that). The time that I have to spend in front of my computer, I prefer to spend writing. I do maintain this blog and my website because I agree that an author has to do at least some marketing. 

For all those reasons, I choose to self-publish my stories as eBooks on SmashwordsSomeday, I want to self publish them for POD sales on CreateSpace or some similar site in the event that someone might want to read a hard copy. If I sell no copies, I'm not out anything.  If a reader downloads a free or very cheap e-book or buys a POD copy, and doesn't like the book, how is that different from buying a traditionally published book and hating it? Who hasn't felt gypped a time or two at the old-fashioned bookstores?

I've chosen to spend my available time in way that will make me a better writer: writing stories. Story lovers are reading them.  That accomplishes my purpose, and it makes me happy.  From some of the feedback I've received from a few readers, some of them are happy, too. How can that be a bad thing?

I suppose that makes me a (very disciplined) dilettante. So what, if it means that I will never have the chance to be the next Joan Didion?  Hell, I was never going to be the next Joan Didion, anyway.


  1. Well, said, Meredith. If I had had the guts to honestly evaluate the circumstances of my IndiePub efforts and the time to write about it, I could have written this word for word. Unlike you, though, I haven't been liberated from the marketing quest. I come home from work and fill up my scant spare time blogging and Twittering and Facebooking instead of working on my next novel. It makes less sense every day. Like yours, the stories in my head insist on being written and then shared. So, it's a good thing. I think I'll get to work on that next novel and then see what the market, technology, etc. look like when I'm done. No doubt the landscape will be different six months down the road. Maybe Mark Coker was right: We have to wait to be discovered. Did you see this article?

  2. Thanks for the comment and the link to Mark Coker's article. I agree with him about the importance of being discovered. I'm going to do some new posts on the subject. Thanks for stopping by. Come back and continue the conversation.