Friday, December 30, 2011

If You Are Going To Publish Your Own Work...

As I said in my previous post, the digital explosion in Ebooks has certainly created many an opportunity for those who want to get their feet wet. But first let me make this clear. It still is an excellent idea to attempt to publish your material via the "traditional" method of query letter ---> agent ---> publisher. However, whereas 3-4 years ago I would not have put caveats in that statement, today with just a cursory look around and reading the material that comes in, there is a big difference. So as not to disappoint my old readers of this blog I still do not follow the tried and true path, and I will just give some impressions here, before my next few posts which will try and explain in a step by step method of exactly where and how you can publish your E books. The three dirty words here are:

1. Self-Publish
2. Vanity Publish
3. Indie (a fairly new buzz term or old depending upon what you consider new and old!)

Now Down To Some Pointers & Observations:

1. Agents are more bitter about the business then they were a few years ago. The model they are used to has gone topsy-turvy on them and they are scrambling to keep up. 

What does the above mean? 
It means still the best way to be published is the old query letter--->agent--->publisher route. I will not argue with that point. It is definitely the way to go if you can. 

[As an aside, and I am sure I am not the first person to say this, the fact that some agents and publishers today still "demand" snail letter queries and snail mail ms. is just ludicrous (and a few more choice adjectives can be put here, none of them endearing). But it does show how deep the publishing industry is entrenched in its own hype.]

However, the ability to write electronically - even just doing a blog post, has turned the writing world on its head. We consume more "information" whether needless or important, than any generation before us. We Facebook, Goggle+, Twitter, Blog, LinkIn and everything else you can imagine. Thus the actual "act" of writing a book is also part of this scenario.

The following may seem a digression but please follow. Any book on telling you how to sell and market your work, will tell you that even after you have a contract with a publisher, you will need to do a lot of your own self PR, unless you are a major league author, and even then - you still have to do it.

That little fact has come back actually to bite both publishers and agents in the good ole' backside. Technology passed them. People who know technology moved way faster than agents and publishers. So it was not a big leap of intelligence to say:

"I have to suffer this agent route, where half of them do not bother even answering me. I have to suffer the fact that my query letter must be one page, printed, sent in an envelope, and then wait 4 months for an answer. Then I have to wait until the agent does find a publisher. IF they find a publisher. Then I have to wait another year before the book may come out, if it is not cancelled. Then I have to market my own book which I have to do anyway if I self-publish. So forget that!"

Thus Ebook publishing, with self-publishing, indie, vanity publishing, whatever you want to call it was born. And it is exploding. Because there are now blogs, forums and web sites which actually recommend books to people. Books no one would have ever knew existed before. And these blogs and Facebook groups, and Lord only knows who else, do NOT look at who published they look to see if people actually read and liked the book to give their recommendations.

Agents and Publishers both, do not yet know what to make of this revolution. They do not know yet how to produce a "financial model" in which they can co-exist with the new technology.

One thing is clear. Beforehand the role of Agent was akin to God. Now they are not even ministering angels. Before they could be very picky, not answer email, let queries languish on their desk for months and months, or just junk them - and make an extremely good living. Now they have to figure out just how to fit into this model, where slowly, though not very slowly, they are being tossed aside for the direct route. They now have to rely on agenting and negotiation of rights that go beyond the scope of a digital book.

Why? Because most people reading this, can do more in "electronic PR" than any agent can. Because any person can learn or hire an SEO expert, take their book, whether it is junk or not, and upload it to a myriad of places for sale or free. They can "brand" their name better than any publishing house or agent can do at the moment. In other words the sanctified, mysterious and snobbish world of "Publishing" is slowly being taught a lesson or two in what happens when you wait too long and do not follow what is going on around you.

Writing is a lonely experience. Some, the lucky ones, manage to go that agent-->publish route without much frustration along the way. Others can rely on their names having already been "made". Some, each year will find fame and fortune and satisfaction in this route. And it surely is the way to go if you have time, patience and are very lucky.

Make no mistake. Go the electronic route by yourself and you still have a 99.9% chance of being delegated to oblivion. That is simply fact. 

But it still gives you another option. And that option, once shunned, has certainly entered the world of legitimate.

In the next posts, I will share some of the experiences I have had with publishing and the actual HOW-TO of how to publish on Kindle, at the very least. 

Meantime of course, I have do my own PR.

So..."Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" has had really good success so far. The books are priced @ $1.99 in the USA. (Other countries Amazon adds VAT etc.)

Ancient Tales, Modern Legends

A Tale That Is Told - Part I (The Chronicles Of The Children Of Heaven Series)

Please remember to write a review as well!

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Anonymous said...

Of course you make some valid statements about the publishing industry and how its arrogance has come back to bite it in the ass. You didn't mention that what they were doing, choosing only 'marketable' books based on the moods and foibles of their target audience, which are fickle at best, they have been in essence censoring the books we do get a chance to read. It's no different than a real estate broker tells the new person to town exactly where the 'in' place to live might be, the 'in' place that day being where the realtor has the most listings. If, in the past fifteen years, Hemingway, Steinbeck or Dickens had tried to get published for the first time, we would never have heard of them at all, because 'marketable' right now is vampire, thriller, or romance (sometimes all in the same book) and anything that didn't fit into those parameters was passed on by agents and publishers. We were 'told' that no one was interested in westerns, that literary was 'hard to sell'. It was laziness and manipulation on their part, and we let it work.

They won't embrace digital until it is too late for all of them, and that's maybe a good thing. The industry needed a shake-up. That said, there is something to be said for the new smaller houses, where writers are people, a writer's voice is heard, and the key word is cooperation in marketing, not competition.

Tom Bryde
(published through

Writers AMuse Me said...

Thanks Tom, for pointing me here. Hi Ted :)
This has been my argument for years. It's too much work for the mainstream publishers/agents to do a damned thing other than take in the money. Short stories? Forget it. They don't want them and they tell us that we don't want them either. Poetry? Same thing unless you get the royal blessing of the Boston Review, in which case the marketing is already done for them. Why do agents make more money than the writer? It's not right. You'll get more garbage out there as more people publish their own work, but one man's garbage...

My problem is that you are promoting Kindle, which promotes Amazon, which is the one biggest problem in the new digital age of publishing, because they will screw you over every chance they get, and will rob you with a smile on their faces. The point is to get people to use other readers, other distributors, other places to sell their books and to promote their books, and take the monopoly away from Amazon. You want to help writers, you need to tell them something other than amazon, because that is just trading one problem for another.

The other thing you didn't mention is that the traditional way of publishing leaves an absolutely massive carbon footprint. Some publisher pays for 5,000 books to be printed, then ships those books, then puts them in a warehoue then ships them again, then ships them again, then stores them, then ships them to a store where they sit and eventually have the covers ripped off, the books tossed into a truck and hauled away to where they are burned. As writers and publishers, we can do better. The money goes where is should -- TO THE WRITER. It's that simple.

Mary Walkden
Writers AMuse Me Publishing