Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Personal Problem With Self Publishing

(Or I Meander And Babble And Don't Say Much Of Anything - You Know, Like Usual)

There's a lot of discussion lately about self/indie publishing, or whatever you want to call it. Even ten years ago it was a joke. Now not so much.

eBooks (or is that Ebooks? I still don't know) have changed the landscape. Writers and small presses, and even big ones, are finding success with the model. Joe Konrath, John Rector, quite a few others.

Sure, not everyone is finding success with it and there are a lot of factors that will or won't lead to sales. Marketing, getting the word out, playing the long game, being patient, pushing the book without being annoying and on and on. But enough are that it's something every writer should be thinking about.

I like the idea of digital and self publishing. Power to the people. Telling a story outside the constraints of the book as a physical object. Using digital as a means to cover a wide range of media and connect to an audience. The more formats a story is in the more likely someone is to experience it.

And really isn't that what it's about? Experiencing it? If done well I don't read a book or watch a movie. I get taken in by it. I get invested in it. I live it.

Anyway, that was a tangent.

Over the last couple of years, particularly the last few months, some fantastic writers who I have enormous respect for have been jumping on the self publishing bandwagon.

Allan Guthrie's Bye Bye Baby and Killing Mum

Anthony Neil Smith's Choke On Your Lies and reprinted Psychosomatic.

Chris F. Holm's 8 Pounds.

Chuck Wendig's Irregular Creatures.

Anne Frasier, who pretty much has her entire backlist on Kindle.

And (no, it's not "self published" strictly speaking, but it's the equivalent of two guys selling stereo equipment out of the back of their van - in a good way) Needle Magazine with Dave White's short story collection More Sinned Against.

But as the title of this meandering and pimp-ridden post implies I have a problem. It's my problem. Completely my problem. And isn't even about the idea of self publishing.

About a week ago I was talking with a friend who was having some publisher drama and we were talking about possible options. One that kept floating to the surface was self publishing. Every time it came up it got shot down for very good, very specific reasons I won't go into here.

But one of the things that came up as a factor for success was the idea that if you want to go the self pubbed route you damn well better have something you can self pub.

Yeah, I know. Duh, right? Only I don't think a lot of people look at that.

One of the reasons I think writers like Joe Konrath are successful is that they have a backlist. Before he got his deal with his Jack Daniels series he had something like nine trunk novels sitting around (though, to be honest, I don't know if those trunk novels ever got out of the trunk). And he didn't go the self published route until he had an audience through his series.

And that leads me to my problem.

I'd love to put together a collection of, say, short stories and drop it onto the Kindle. I just don't have any.

Well, no good ones, at least. I have one floating around for an anthology that may or may not happen. It's a Lovecraftian Western that I'm particularly fond of. And one about a dead drug runner that has problems I haven't had time to fix and... that's it. The rest are starts and no finishes, meandering messes that I don't even know what to do with yet. Many of which feature drug addicted hookers.


Anyway, yes these are excuses. Only they're not. I'm in the middle of rewriting DEAD THINGS that's due in, oh, a month or so (!!!!!!)

And I'd really like it to not suck. So far I'm largely happy with it. I have lots of ghosts, lots of violence and Santa Muerte as a pretty nasty antagonist. I've thus far resisted making any sort of Femme Fatale comments. Be proud of me.

But at some point I will do it. I'm a short story writer at heart. Besides, all the cool kids are doing it and I'm nothing if not a follower.

Sure as shit not a trailblazer.


Chuck said...

You could pretty much self-publish a book of like, Chinese Restaurant menus and with your name on it, I'd buy like, three of those fucking things.

And then I'd order some hot and sour soup.

-- c.

Dave White said...

Uh, just so you know, we got DVD players, Blu-Rays and surround sound in the back of this truck too. At a good price. C'mon man. You know you want some.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

@Dave Damn right I want some. That shit's top notch.

Chris said...

I got around that hurdle neatly by only publishing old stuff. It's such a silly, lazy model I'm still shocked people are buying it. (Yeah, okay, some of that stuff's unavailable anywhere else these days, but still.)

Funny; I apparently am an e-publisher, and I still don't know what I think about it. But that's kinda why I waded in. I thought to myself, "I wonder what's up with that? How 'bout I try it and find out?" You know, like my policy toward illicit substances in college.

Kidding. In case you're a narc.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

@Chuck That's not a bad idea. I'll call it Hop Li's Fast Food.


That actually gives me an idea. Thanks.

S.P. Miskowski said...

Good point. Thanks for posting and thanks for the links. I will check out the work of the writers you listed.

After getting quite a few stories published in magazines I decided to put together a collection of my remaining stories that I felt were ready, but which I just didn't feel like shopping around individually. There was a free pub opportunity at a company that had a grant, and I wanted to see what the process was like. It's been interesting. The collection has done better than I expected.

My horror novel is almost ready to send to an agent now, and I've decided to attempt the more traditional route with that. At the same time I plan to make the story collection available via Kindle.

Each project has its own niche and its own audience. There are so many options, and I like that.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

@Chris I thought about doing that, too. And I might. I have a couple that you can't read anymore because the venues are, sadly, gone.

One of the problems with online venues.

On the one hand I don't know if I want to charge people for things they can get for free.

On the other, well, baby needs a new pair of shoes.

So, who knows. Want to get some new stuff put together before I dig into it too much.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

@S.P. Best of luck with the agent hunt. Crossing fingers.

Is the shirt story collection currently available electronically or is it in print?

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Cool post Steve. Found out about your site via Dan O'Shea's.

Maria Alexander said...

I didn't hesitate with Samantha Blazes, but I'm gun shy about a collection -- even though these stories have all been published in well-respected, award-winning magazines and anthologies. I'm doing this genre shift and I don't want people confused about what I write. Then again, it's the intertubes. I dunno. Fuck it. I should just put together all my dark erotica, give it a vampire name and let 'em lap it up.

Stephen Blackmoore said...


I say go for it. Personally I'm against being pigeonholed (that sounds so rude) into a genre.

I like the Joe Lansdale model. He writes horror, crime, science fiction, dark, gonzo, weird shit.

That's what I want to do. A lot of my short fiction is crime, but I've done horror, science fiction, erotica. My book's urban fantasy.

That still surprises me.

Point is I think your fans are more likely to read you, rather than a particular genre unless you stray so far out of their comfort zone they don't know what to do with it.

And then you get a whole NEW audience. And you keep some of your old audience, too.

I say don't worry about it and just do it.

Keith Rawson said...

I've got to admitt that's my one hang up about doing a Kindle book is publishing it myself. I know, it's silly, but I want an editor, a designer, the whole publishing experience so to speak

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