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!


  1. I loved this. I have issues with self pubbing myself, although I did do it (full disclosure). I may have to share this and even blog my response to it. You hit the nail square on the head.

  2. Thanks! Feel free to link away. I know that self-pubbing has been very popular among the graduates of SHU, which is why I was hesitant to post this. Didn't want to antagonize. But I had to speak my piece. I think that if self-publishing worked for you, that's great, but traditional publishing isn't the impossible goal that some SP cheerleaders seem to think it is.


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