leaving no path untravelled

As a writer, the hullabaloo over traditional means vs. print means can often be many things: confusing, uplifting, burdensome, and terrifying come to mind.  As a huge supporter of the small press, I tend to lean in the direction of traditional means.  There are many small presses out there and I have had the pleasure of working closely with three.  To say that there is no hope of a future in the small press is not only ignorant, but mean.

Of course, there is the dream of landing the big fish…getting a multi-book deal with a large house that would eventually allow me to write for a living.  I have always assumed that this was every writer’s dream.

However, recent events in the publishing industry have forced me to view this “dream” from different angles.  I know, just like most of you reading this, how hard and frustrating it can be to land either a reputable agent or even a mid-sized deal with a mid-sized house.  Achieving that dream of becoming a full-time writer through traditional means is very hard and even if you are writing stellar material, your chances are slim; it’s like being struck by lighting twice in the same place while holding a winning Mega Millions lottery ticket.

Note I specified the “traditional way” there.

If we are to buy into net headlines over the past year or so, it’s becoming apparent that the “traditional way” is not the only way anymore.  E-publishing (or self publishing if you can conjure the will to say that) has not only become a little less risky in terms of personal gamble and public opinion, but is rapidly becoming the quiet mistress of many fledgling writers.  Tempting as this prospect may be, I fought it with the same ferocity in which I declared I would never get an iPod because I liked my CDs just fine, thank you.

Of course now, as my iPod has reached just over 6 days worth of music and rarely leaves my side (or bedside table), I understand how minds can be changed.  My own view of it has swayed in large part by the Church of Konrath. I fully admit to originally ignoring anything he had to say because of the somewhat stable platform he began his e-venture with.  But as other names come out of the woodwork, (Amanda Hocking, for instance, whom has recently peaked half a million digital sales) I have been helpless but to take notice.

While I won’t say I am fully converted to the self published mindset, I am willing to say that there must be something to it.  It’s so easy to recall that stubborn version of me that was perfectly happy with those thick CD folders in my passenger seat, full of burned CDs, ignorant to the bliss an iPod could offer.

All of that to say that I have decided to give it a try.  I have spent the past month or so getting the framework ready and should have an announcement in the next few weeks or so.  And while this does taint the original idea of how I thought I was supposed to achieve my “writing goals/dreams”, it isn’t so different, really.

One of the main bits of information I have picked up from the slew of blogs I have read on the subject is that success in digital publishing relies on having a catalog; don’t just throw a single book out there and expect it to work.  That being said, I plan on polishing up another manuscript and re-writing the ending by the end of the summer.  Beyond that, I have 4 more of what I would consider “small press” ideas that have been calling to me for quite some time.

During all of that, I will also be working on my larger efforts (right now that would be Great American Deaths and the newer Sleepyheads). It’s really no different from how I have managed my writing these last three years or so.  I’ll still be querying and subbing to small presses, but they way I see it, self-publishing allows a third alternative.  Of course, you then get into the issue of “Well, if agents weren’t interested and small presses weren’t interested, maybe the idea just sucks and doesn’t deserve seeing print.” I absolutely agree with this.  So sometime during this little process, I am thinking that my projects will decide where they want to go…straight to digital or to publishers?

I have one in mind that, should I ever finish it, will be straight to digital.  And, for example, if I ever manage to finish Sleepyheads, it will likely see the agent/publisher process.  Hey, like I said, this is a recent decision and I haven’t ironed all the kinks out yet.

Of course, with The Bleeding Room coming out in August and the eventual release of Issue 1 of Birdwatching from Mars, I also run the risk of flooding the market with my minuscule name.  But, again, a learning process…

Thoughts?  Opinions?  Voices of Reason?



  1. I too have been impressed by the testimonial of variouss authors on Konrath’s blog. The idea of self-publishing has until very recently been a less than desirable option. I got locked up in the “all self-pubbed is crap” mentality, until I realized that a lot of crap exists in the tradition medium, and I’ve read self-pubbed books that are pretty darned good.

    I wouldn’t have considered either, but this year I am giving it serious consideration for the first time.

  2. You can count me into the bandwagon with you and Gef. I, too, have been following Konrath with great interest. I’ve made the decision to give it a try, though I haven’t announced it yet.

    I’m going over my manuscript one more time, and thinking of searching out some new beta readers.

    Once I can scrape enough money to get some cover art worked up, and have it converted to e-book format, I’m going to send it into the virtual world.

    I came to the same kind of revelation as you did, Barry. Things are moving toward a digital world, whether I like it or not. I still dream of the hardback sitting on the shelves of bookstores across the country, but if this is a means to quit the day job and write full time, then I won’t begrudge the title “indie author”.

    I’m glad to see I’m not alone. Thanks for the post.

  3. It’s an interesting topic, and I wouldn’t want to be the fly in the ointment, but I think it highly likely that the chances of releasing a self-pubbed book that ends up in half a million sales is probably similar to the chances of getting picked up by the traditional route.

    I certainly thing self-pub is an option, but I’d be concerned that the success stories get a little over inflated because of the current state of publishing. I totally agree that self-pub is marred by a lot of crap, and that with hard work and dedication, gold can be produced.

    I’m just not sure it’s any easier to gain success.

    One thing the digital revolution has done, is made self pub a realistic option for writers with little money.

    I wish you all the success with it and hope your one of the few who cracks it.

  4. Thanks for the insight guys.

    And Cate…glad to know not everyone is yet tired of waiting for Birdwatching to roll around. It IS coming…sooner rather than later.

  5. Self-publishing is the famed double-edged sword of publishing. Yes, it has worked well for a few, the famed success stories we use to tell ourselves it’s okay, but for most people… well, do I really need to point out all the stuff on Lulu, PublishAmerica, etc.?

    With the fall of Leisure there’s been a lot of talk about authors going the self-publishing route, way of the future, yada yada. But there’s a world of difference between something like me self-publishing, and say, someone like Brian Keene. An author with a built in fan base and a back catalogue MAY do well, but even then it’s not a guarantee. Of course, there are no guarantees in life, but I’m willing to make a bet that Brian Keene’s self-published is going to sell better than most of the other guys and gals slugging it out in small press horror.

    The fact is, yes, there is plenty of crap published by big presses, but I assure you, the crap quotient is much, MUCH higher in the world of self-publishing.

    Other authors have always told me to aim high. Which is why I try to get published with the biggest publishers and then work my way down. I love the small press, I think it’s a great market for collector’s editions (for authors who have the fanbase willing to pay for $50 books), niche genres, and short story collections. But it’s not where I expect to spend the rest of my life. The last thing I want to be is one of those authors with 300 story credits to publications that no one has heard of and no one is reading outside of the contributors. I’m proud of all my small press credits, but I sometimes wonder how many people actually bought those anthologies and magazines, much less read the stories.

    So while I think you should always investigate all of your options, Barry, I think your work is good enough that you should continue to aim higher, regardless of the odds. Explore self-publishing, it’s still a viable choice, but weight it against your work and your goals.

  6. I’m late to the party, I know, but I think your outlook is very sensible. Not that I’m known for being super sensible, but still, I am at least sort of well read on the subject. The idea that some projects are meant for certain arenas cannot help but be a very, very good one. It’s targeting. That’s always smart.

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