Friday, November 25, 2011

Self-Publishing for Sandwiches

I have kind of a jaundiced view of self-publishing. Okay, so I basically think it's a bad idea. Nick Mamatas outlines most of my reasoning here and also here, so no need to go into it much further except to say that in my opinion, self-publishing fails on both ends. As a reader, I can see no reason to wade through a slush pile of potentially amateurish writing in order to find the diamond in the rough. As a writer, I can see no reason to jump the gun on self-publishing my material, when said self-publication means that I will be responsible for 100% of my own marketing (shudder), and means that I'll also be on the hook for all of my own editing (i.e. paying an editor). Also, I don't have a Kindle, so talk about reading self-published e-books (which are really what we're talking about here, does anyone who's not related to the author really drop $24.99 on a self-published print trade paperback?) is mostly academic for me.

At this point some people might be thinking: hey, aren't you a zinester? Where do you get off talking smack about self-publishing when you do it yourself? Different formats mean different "marketing strategies" (shudder again), dudes. See also: self-published comics, non-fiction books with a narrow focus, etc. No problem with self-publishing those types of things. Yet, when it comes to self-published fiction, especially genre fiction, in my opinion the results are far more likely than not to be akin to Night Travels of the Elven Vampire.

A self-published classic.
But... but... what about Mark Twain?! You mean, the failed self-publishing efforts of Mark Twain? Besides, that was a different era, when self-publishing (or any publishing, or even the purchase of books themselves) was extremely inaccessible. It's still my contention that self-publishing fiction in the modern era, especially self-publishing speculative fiction in the modern era, as someone who is pretty much an unknown, is a sucker's game. Amanda Hocking is the exception that proves the rule, and even she is going the traditional publishing route now. Which she presumably wouldn't be, if self-publishing didn't have some serious problems.

Basically, I think self-publishing has far more drawbacks than advantages and is almost always a bad idea for new fiction writers! I am, however, willing to try even dumb things at least once.

So, here's the deal: I have a short story that was previously published (back in 2005... ancient history!) in a tiny Pittsburgh SF print anthology. As it's been "vetted," it probably isn't total crap so I feel okay with it being out there on the Internets. I'm going to put it up on Kindle for 99 centibones, see how it flies, and then and only then may I revise my opinion of self-publishing from "total waste of time" to "well, it bought me this sandwich, I guess it's not all that bad." If you want to buy it, that would be awesome! If you don't want to, or are so offended by my thoughts on self-publishing that you wouldn't even if you wanted to, then that's cool too. It will be available as soon as I figure out how to put one's writing up on Kindle, which means anywhere from one day from now to several months from now. It appears that I'll make around thirty cents per download, so that means that only ten of you need to download it to buy me a sandwich, around twenty if you want to buy me a really awesome sandwich. And I'll of course be documenting the process of Kindleizing my work and the outcome of the experiment on this blog. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back in the Blogosphere, Baby

Ever since splitting off my bicycle advocacy writing to a new blog, I haven't been writing much here. Most of this silence is because I got a new job, which has been great for my fiction writing (for a number of seemingly contradictory time-management reasons I'll probably go into later at some point), less so for my social networking and "blogs." Tis no great loss, though.

In spaaaaace!!!
But! News abounds! I'm getting another short story published. This is the first short story I've sold since starting to write fiction again, and it's a new story too, not a trunk story (I don't have much of a "trunk"). I won't go into the details of the story, but think "snake handlers in space" and you won't be too far off. It's getting published in Ideomancer, which has published two other pieces by me and is an awesome magazine despite that. Look for it to drop in December, potentially.

I also went to a Nanowrimo (why did I include that link like everyone hasn't heard of Nanowrimo?) gathering last night and it was fun, although slightly deceptive since neither I, nor any of the members of my writing group, are participating. I've finished two Nanowrimii, in 2002 and 2003, and the outcome of both of those novels has sort of taken the shine out of the concept for me. The first novel, I didn't do anything with, and don't think I even have a file of it anymore. I remember it was post-apocalyptic, but that's it. The second one became my thesis novel, and basically the entire thing was scrapped and rewritten (and I'm not really fond of it anymore either, now). I got entirely no usable writing out of either one of those excursions.

And this would be okay, if not for the fact that I can't abide having writing that doesn't "count." In college, I struggled a ton with writing exercises, and sometimes wouldn't even turn them in because I found them so, so difficult. Things like character sketches, constrained writing, etc., would all have to be bent into the service of a story suitable for potential publication, and this was true even before I attempted to publish anything. I guess this is probably because I don't think of the act of writing itself as fun. (Another blog post for another time!)

So, good luck on your Nanowrimo novels, everyone who's doing it! But this year, as with the last seven, I will be bowing out.