Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Some thoughts on self-publishing

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Some thoughts on self-publishing

So. As part of my daily routine, I read two publishing-related trade publications: Publisher's Lunch, which I pay for, and the Publisher's Weekly Daily e-newsletter, which is free (woohoo!). The reading takes up a lot of time (usually an hour or two), but it helps keep me up-to-date on the industry I care most about in the world and is always well worth it.

Today, as I was reading the industry press for January 30 (I'm three weeks behind on my reading. It's very easy to get that way.), I discovered a couple of very, very interesting links to articles on self-publishing, right next to each other.

The first describes it as a bubble, a la the housing industry in 2006-2008, the dotcoms in the '90s, etc. And the scary thing is, the description fits very well, especially in light of the second, which includes the following gem of a statement:

Don’t have time to write it. Then tell it to a ghostwriter you outsource to for almost no money. You don’t need 60,000 words. Do it in 20,000 words. Throw some pictures in. Just do it. Then when you meet someone and they ask for your business card, how cool will it be when you can say, “here, take my book instead.”
Interesting to note the sources of each article. The "it's a bubble, react cautiously" article comes from The Guardian, a prestigious UK newspaper, while the "OMGGETRIIIIIIICH" article comes from Techcrunch.

Reading the Techcrunch article, it's very, very easy to see the author of the first article as entirely correct. I do sometimes wonder if the window for massive success as a self-published e-author existed only when the technology was brand new, and it's quite apparent that even if the window is still open, the number of people trying to climb through it is absurdly higher than the number who can actually fit.

At the same time, self-publishing has strengths where traditional publishing has weaknesses (namely cost and time to market). It's an incredible place to experiment. And one thing the author of the Guardian article fails to note is that it's entirely possible to go through all the rigamarole of the traditional publishing process and still only sell a few hundred books.

In the end, I do believe it's still a viable option both for getting your writing out to the public and for making money doing it. I think the cream will rise to the top and be swept off the top by traditional publishers. And most importantly of all, what I have always taken as the one necessary to having success as a writer still holds true: You just have to be great. For what it's worth, the one self-published Kindle bestseller I've read was actually pretty good, though it needed an editor.

In the end, it got one. It was picked up by a traditional publisher a few months back.

Things to keep in mind.

Oh! And a third interesting article from today's (well, last month's) reading. A press in Canada let a journalist sit in on one of their editorial meetings. The result is a very candid description of what they look like, and well worth reading for anyone interested in the industry.

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