More thoughts on self-publishing

August 16, 2010

I was talking to my brother yesterday about my anxiety at the notion of self-publishing without an editor. As I was saying that I was concerned that any dumb writing mistakes I made would cement my reputation as a bad writer, I realized that there are four possible combinations of audience size and perceived quality:

Size  Quality How It Affects Me
Large Good    Jackpot!
Small Good    Something I can build off of...
Large Bad     How did I get a large audience for a bad book!?
Small Bad     There aren't many of them, so no big deal.

I’m still going to give my outstanding queries time to get resolved since lightning might strike, but I think I’ve convinced myself that the lack of an editor isn’t a good reason to hold back from self publishing.

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Novel Update: Rethinking My Strategy

August 12, 2010

I’ve been in a pretty deep funk lately. A few days ago I realized it was the same kind of feeling I used to get at work when I felt my managers and/or leaders didn’t have a good plan. Since I’m essentially working for myself now, that pointed the finger squarely at me and… now that I look at it I don’t have much faith in the plan I’ve been executing to. It’s certainly possible that the depression is the cause and the lack of faith the effect, but beating myself up for being depressed has never worked before, so I’m trying to rethink my big picture plan to see if that helps. I’m not done yet, but I wanted to get some of my thoughts written down.

Querying agents about my novel has been nothing but heartache so far. I’ve queried 16 agents with my first novel. I got 6 form rejections and 2 queries that have been sitting so long that they’re effectively rejections. The other 8 might still get replies, but I’m not really holding my breath. I could keep researching more agents to query, but I think I’ve hit all of the ones who both seem interested in my kind of novel (epic fantasy) and would do a good job representing me (I’m dealing with far less than perfect information there, so I may be making some poor assumptions, but I’ve got to work with what’s available to me, even if that means I sometimes need to do things like use an agency’s website design as a proxy for their competence and professionalism).

One alternative to submitting via agents is to go through the various publisher’s unagented submission process. Unfortunately, they generally have rules against simultaneous submissions, and give themselves six or more months to respond. Maybe there’s some subtlety I’ve missed somewhere, but that just strikes me as ludicrous in the internet age (and don’t got me started about how most of them still want submissions on physical paper). I can’t see any good reason to have a low-bandwidth high-latency interface with authors, unless it’s to explicitly funnel them to the other avenues by making this one so obviously lame. The third alternative appears to be meeting editors in bars at conventions, as far as I can tell from the advice people give in interviews, etc. Even if I was good at convincing people to like me in face-to-face interactions (I’m not) and even if I had the money to spend on conventions (I don’t) and even if I had other reasons to go to conventions (I hate travelling), I would still think this was a pretty unreliable way to do business. So that’s more or less off the table.

If the traditional publishing route is looking unlikely, what are the alternatives? The obvious way to go there is e-books and/or Print-On-Demand. Getting a print book up on Amazon via CreateSpace looks pretty straightforward, and putting out a kindle edition seems even easier. My big fear with this approach is editing. I would really like to have a professional editor give me feedback on my novel, but hiring a freelance editor is not cheap (I should probably do some research on my own, but one of the hosts on a recent Dead Robot’s Society podcast said that getting a novel edited would cost around $1000). E-books and POD books are not well known as big money makers, so I don’t want to start deep in the hole before I sell my first copy (besides, I’d need a cover design and possibly a map, too). The counterpoint here is that, as the publishing industry slowly collapses, nobody else will have good editing, either…

If I do self-publish, I’d need to build an audience. Since I listen to a lot of podcasts, the podiobooks route is one that I’m considering. There are a few hurdles to overcome with that. First, like nearly everyone, I hate the sound of my recorded voice so I’d need to get past that. Second, I have nearly perpetual sinus issues which isn’t a great trait for a voice performer to have, so I’d need to see if I could figure a way around that. I’d probably also need a better mic than the one on the headset I use for Skype (I’d need to do some experiments to be sure), and I don’t have a great recording space (my computer is really noisy, and my office in general doesn’t have the best sound quality).  And, of course, recording and editing all that audio would be a lot of work. I’m also not a big listener of audio fiction (I’ve only listened to a handful of the novels on podiobooks) so mastering the medium will be tricky. There’s also already a lot of competition in the space, and financial success stories seem few and far between. Still, it’s better than nothing…

Obviously, the plan is still a work in progress, and I’ve identified a lot of hurdles without any silver bullet solutions, but I’m hoping that this will be more productive in the long run than just moping around and being unmotivated.


The Query Process Sucks!

August 4, 2010

I’m still querying my novel (no luck yet), and it’s really driving me nuts. I just sent out a query e-mail and I realized a second after I hit “send” that I messed up the gender on the salutation. Argh! The whole “wait and see” aspect of querying is bad enough, but now I can obsess over whether I just shot myself in the foot, and wonder how many other little mistakes I’ve made in the process, and whether I should send a follow-up e-mail apologizing for the mistake or if that would just make it worse… It seems like there has to be a better way of doing this whole thing.