I suppose I should go back to the beginning and talk about why I decided to self publish instead of go Traditional.
There were numerous reasons, some of which were: fear of rejection, inability to find agents that were likely to represent the type of work I do, inability to find publishing companies that were likely to represent the type of work I do, uneasiness about the fate of the industry as a whole… There were a few other things going on in my head at the time, but those were the top ones.
When I decided that it was time I put my work in print, I did a lot of research. Looking at editors and agents, and publishers, and trying to find somewhere my books and writing style would fit. And I looked at the market – what was selling now, and what had sold in the past, and what the industry as a whole was likely to do, and I honestly didn’t think my chances of getting picked up traditionally were that great. Then again, I’ve been told by many that I’m stupidly good at selling myself short. *shrug*
It still boggles my mind when newly published authors post something like “I got rejected 300 times before getting this deal.” Mostly because either they were using the Writer’s Market as a phonebook, or – I don’t know. How DID they find 300 agents and publishers to get rejected by? And at the same time it makes me wonder about the whole process and how it’s broken. Like a friend of mine (Levimont) said: “…why do they keep quoting these statistics as though they were something other than an indication that the system needs to be replaced?”
But anyway – the point is: I write teen/adult space opera with aliens as the main characters. Right now, Vampires are in. When I started writing Playing the Hero, Boy Wizards and high fantasy were in. I”m sure eventually space SF will come back in style, but I get the feeling that not many people are quite sure what SCIENCE FICTION really IS anymore. In Azimov”s day it was “I ask questions about the future of robotics, science, and how humans will interact with these things. I won’t always have an answer, but the IDEA is what matters!” and it moved from there. I actually got quoted in an article discussing what SF used to be and where it”s going. And that”s essentially why I write what I write. But I don’t think the adult SF audience is going to READ what I write.
It’s not about the money for me. (not that Trad-Pubbed authors get much money either) It’s a nice side benefit if I ever get any, but breaking even is nice. That’s about what I’ve done so far. And those in favor of Trad-Pubbing will say “but you get an advance if you trad-pub!” and I say: Yeah, okay. An advance. And then I don’t get paid again until the publisher has made back that money off my royalties plus the cost of printing, shipping, distribution, and all that jazz. That could be never.
But with POD, I don’t have to worry about that. All I’ve really got to worry about is crappy printing on account of my printer. And then I just eat the cost of replacing a customer’s book. Because I haven’t heard from anyone else saying “Pages fell out of my book!!!” Though seriously!
If you bought a book from me and pages fell out, please tell me so I can raise a fuss at my printer because that’s just not cool and if enough people have this problem I’ll have to change printers.
Another argument: Trad-Pubed books get super distribution – aka, put in stores like B&N and BAM, but the problem is that %90 of books end up on the Midlist and only a few end up in the prime shelf space upfront. Here is an article that is a prime example of why it’s said that “Bookstores are where books go to die” and why online shopping is now the In Thing. The distribution options of Trad-Pubbing aren’t so enticing anymore if you’re A) not going to get prime space in the store unless you’re deemed by the marketing team to have an MS that will sell like hotcakes, and B) most of the customers who would have bought your book have gone blind to what’s on the front tables, or don’t even go to the stores anymore.
And it irks me on a level that the marketing team decides the fate of a book before its even printed. They make a decision to print only 5k copies, or 20k. And if they print 20k, they’re gonna put more money behind that book in distribution and marketing than they’re going to put behind a book they only printed 5k of. So how can someone become a “best seller” if their definition of “best seller” is 8k books sold. Can’t sell 8k of a book with only 5k copies floating around.
Hooray circular logic. And clutter. What a waste! Especially if they print 20k of a book that totally flops and the bookstores RETURN most of them (or more like just the covers of those books because shipping is expensive). Think of all those poor TREES!
Which is why I like POD much better. I might pay more per book, but I’m also not wasting anything. I have as many books as I can sell at a time.
Recently, I came across This, which explained the pros and cons of various publishing options without much bias towards any one. Which was nice to see for once. Usually it’s diatribes about how Self Publishing is BAD BAD BAD! and it’s like AIDs… you say “I self published” and people step back a little. Like it’s infectious. Maybe I’m just being dramatic. But that’s the reaction I get sometimes. They’ll come around eventually though. Although I got some good reception at Dragon*con when I spoke to Ms. Skyler White. She was pretty cool about it all.
But it really boils down to “Just what DO I want out of publishing?” and the answer is “to entertain” and all the hoopla of Trad-Pubbing gets in the way. If people like my stuff, they’ll buy it. If they don’t they won’t. I sink or swim on my own rather than dragging a bunch of people down with me – people like an agent, editor, publisher… And at the same time if I swim, boy, that’s an accomplishment to brag about, eh?
“I self published and WON!”