Monday, April 28, 2014

On Publishing vs. Self Publishing

Today, my thoughts are focused on a topic of great import to many writers in the modern age. I just completed what is potentially my third novel, and I don't know whether to self-publish it, or try to go the "for realsies" publishing route. It's not a Jake Price book, so I'm comfortable at least trying to go with a traditional publisher, but my head just keeps spinning around about it.

By focused, I really mean that while on the same topic my brain sounds a little like cats in a dryer right now.

Both sides have their pros and cons. Self Publishing has the allure of immediate gratification, more control, and a larger cut of the end product. Traditional publishing means that my books would reach a much larger market than I currently can with my meager resources. Even smaller presses manage to hit at least two conventions a month and are available to brick and mortar stores, whereas I tend to average a con every two months and am currently only available through the internet. I'd still have to do a fair amount of self promotion with either for the book to be successful.
Me, self-promoting at LA Sci-Fi festival. A fan added the "The" to my sign.

The real problems come in when I start thinking about where I want my career as a writer to take me. While I am one of those guys that's not really in it for the money, I do have bills to pay just like everyone else. I also have a few awards I'd like to be considered for some day, like the Nebula and the Hugo, and a long term goal of getting accepted into the Science Fiction Writers of America. Currently, most of these establishments look very poorly upon indie publisher types like me. The SFWA in particular, will not allow membership unless you have been published in "accepted markets" meaning high-end publishers and magazines. This means that even though I've sold six or so stories to small presses over my career, I do not qualify by a long shot. This means that if I'm serious about having "Hugo nominated author" in front of my name, or "SFWA member" on manuscripts I send out, I need to really consider going through the traditional route.

The big drawback to that is that it takes time. Most publishers on SFWA's list will not even look at unagented, unsolicited manuscripts. Those that do have turn around times that require multi-year calendars to keep track of, and get pissed if they find out you sent out multiple submissions (two year turn-arounds are common just to be rejected). The last thing I need is to get rejected after rising to the top of an editor's slush pile, only to be rejected by another publisher just for having been in said slush pile. As a writer, it's a frustrating and painful process at best. This is why my "for realsies" writer cred comes in the form of the short stories I've had published. The turn around times are much shorter, and if it's an anthology with a specific theme, my odds rise slightly as humor always grabs an editor's eye.

So I sit here printing up a copy of my latest manuscript for my beta readers, unsure if it will see the light of day anytime soon. I know full well that if I self-pub, it's an immediate windfall as I would likely sell at least fifty to a hundred books at the next con I attend, and because it's a departure from my other work, I would pick up a bunch of new readers as well. Would this advance my career in the direction I want it to? I'm not sure. More fans means more buzz, more popularity, and in a very real way these awards I covet so much are a popularity contest. The current controversy behind the Hugos shows that very clearly. I could probably go to a Worldcon and make enough of an impression as a person that I could conceivably get on the nomination ballot... but I don't want to be that guy. If I'm to be nominated, I want to know I deserve to be there.

Boy, after reading this all back to myself I realize that for a guy that writes comedy, I sure am taking this all very seriously. Maybe I should just bang out a book of fart jokes, publish it on kindle, and call it a day.

1 comment:

Kirsten Corby said...

So what did you do?