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Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Riposte To Ros: Why Self-Publishing Isn't all Gloom and Doom Part II (By J.P. Ashman, D. Benem, J, D. Cormier, B. Galley, P. Jack, G.R. Matthews, B. McGregor, & D. Moonfire)

Continuing from yesterday, here's the rest of the responses by Blair, Geoff, Jack and David. Read and enjoy...

Blair MacGregor: Almost a year ago, I wrote Dichotomy is Easy, and Easily Dismissed, related what I'd heard from up-and-coming writers about the whole self/trad pro/con debate. Really, it's like debating cats versus dogs or whiskey versus wine. Which "side" comes out on top is dependent more on a person's goals and wants than the comparative facts. (For the record: dogs and whiskey. Always and forever.)

Take the early discussions on Kindle Scout—Amazon's crowdsourced slush reading that can land a writer an Amazon imprint contract at 50% royalties. Among many self-publishers, the first debate was whether the marketing power of Amazon was worth the lower royalty rate. Among many trade-published writers, the first debate was whether the lack of a publisher's editorial and design control was worth the higher royalty rate. (Here's the post I wrote at the time, discussing perspectives.)

From different perspectives come different priorities.

What many writers like Barber fail to acknowledge—or perhaps simply don't realize—is their side-swipes at self-publishing are increasingly smacking their peers, including authors they might admire, in the face. While Barber snarks at writers who market their other skill sets as "the new 'authorpreneur' pyramid scheme," and others sneer at author-publishers as being like a "Rogaine Hair Club," their fellow professional writers—trade, indie, and hybrid—do indeed take notice and adjust their professional circles accordingly. Over time, the results will resemble the "Online story markets aren't real and professional!" cries of the previous decade: those who mock them will gradually quiet as their peers move on and pretend nothing happened.

Besides, I can name off the top of my head three major SFF writers—all traditionally published—who offer their editing services to aspiring writers.

Now, if the validation of awards—indeed, if just being eligible for specific awards—is the cornerstone of one's career plan and personal fulfillment, then one must make one's professional choices based upon the judging criteria instituted by a few. However, the number of awards closed to self-published works is shrinking (even the Pulitzer is open to self-published works!), and while some pools of awards-voters are adamantly opposed to self-published works, other pools are beginning to reflect the broader experience of readers. The rest will catch up eventually.

Which brings me back to the notion of different perspectives yielding different priorities. For most self-published writers, the connection with readers is of the upmost importance. That's the award they seek, and the technology and platforms making it possible are of far greater importance to them than the ones that continue telling writers they lack the ability to do more—and, indeed, will be belittled if they attempt to do more—than provide a story others will mold, package, and distribute as they see fit.

For me, it isn't about the money. It's about the time and the flexibility, the direct connection with readers, and the power of knowing I'm responsible for every little step of my own career. I understand others would rather hand over a great deal of control, just as many travelers prefer pre-packaged tours and all-inclusive resorts. Alas, I'm more of a "Throw the tent in the back of the car and head out alone" type of gal. :)

G.R. Matthews:

You have to forget writing for a living. - Really? Tell me some more I didn’t know. Or in fact, tell me that all Traditionally Published Authors don’t also have a job; Jen Williams, Den Patrick, Lucy Hounsome – all fantastic traditionally published authors who have a job. I don’t write for a living, I have a very time consuming, stressful and rewarding job. I do write because I have a passion for writing and stories.

Self-publishing can you behave like a fool. - No, it can’t. Being an idiot is a personality trait, like arrogance. If you’re predisposed to being rude, pushy, holier than thou, then you’ll act that way. It is that simple. I cannot accept that just being ‘Traditionally’ published will suddenly turn you into a paragon of etiquette. You’ll be as you always were. Alcohol can make you act like a fool – I’ll accept that. Self-publishing, no.

Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego. - Are they? The cabinet building is a nice analogy but I am shit carpenter. I did, before putting pen to paper, go and study (for 3 years of formal education) how to write. Will that make me perfect? No, of course not. Just as being ‘Traditionally’ published wouldn’t either. I’ve given up on Trad and Indie books in equal measure. And perhaps, just perhaps, these gatekeepers have all the adventure of a stick – only picking books similar to others that already sell? Look at J K Rowling’s rejections as Galbraith – advised to go to a writing group and learn to write?

Good writers become good because… - This was just a filler paragraph that should really have been edited out to improve the pace of the article.

You can forget Hay festival and the Booker - And here is a telling phrase, “literary novel”. Damn it. If that had been in the first paragraph I’d have known the rest of the article wasn’t worth my time. In “genre fiction” self-publishing can be good (gee, thanks) but with proper “literary fiction”? No chance. Right. I call that the “snob factor”.

You risk looking like an amateur - “Why not practice your skill until you’ve written something a publisher will pay for?” Simply because many publishers are looking for something similar to the last big seller. Again, to repeat myself (why not, you did), look at the JKR rejection letters – a very successful author who makes a very good living out of it got rejected (at least twice) by respected publishers.

70% of nothing is nothing - But you’re complaining that even in Traditional publishing that you’re poor? I can write for enjoyment, hone my story, my prose and characters. Have them edited and proof-read. Get a good cover designed and made up for me. And I can still work for a living in a job I enjoy. In all of that, I don’t have to worry about living in poverty.

I’m sorry you’re living in poverty… perhaps you should try self-publishing? You might be one of the lucky few that gets rich. Clearly, if you’re poor, Traditional Publishing isn’t working for you. Just a thought.

Plague Jack: I actually agree with many of the article’s points about editing and covers, however I don’t know if they matter. Unprofessional products tend to sink in the self publishing world. Most of Ros Barber’s arguments are about the literary fiction genre, and for what she wants to do self-publishing is probably a poor choice. I don’t care about literary festivals. She does, but if you want a career as a writer self-publishing is a valid option.

What self-publishing offers, which Ros Barber doesn’t mention, is total and complete creative freedom. If I want to pick a stupid pen-name and pretend I’m a gorilla on my Goodreads profile I can. If I want to write a hyper-adult grimdark novel series, and simultaneously write its sequel, a YA webcomic about an inter-dimensional library, I can and no one can stop me. Amazon lets me patch and edit my own work instantaneously, and the freedom they enable surpasses anything traditional publishers offer. The trade off is that self-publishers have to invest their own money into their work, and their own time promoting it.

The publishing gatekeepers can be seen as guardians of quality, or the enforcers of monotony. I see big most big businesses as opportunistic carnivores, constantly on the prowl for prey. Sometimes publishers launch an author into super-stardom, most of the time they don’t and the author doesn’t earn back their advance. I believe that in the future self-publishing will be where publishers get most of their talent, and we’ll begin to see agents requesting that authors list how many Amazon reviews they have, Twitter followers, and Facebook likes.

TLDR: Who gives a shit as long as you’re successful.

David Benem: I take exception to a great many of Ms. Barber's assertions on the business, quality, and ambitions of self-publishing. Much of her proffered "evidence" is anecdotal at best, arbitrarily contrived at worst. In either case, her positions are misleading to anyone considering self-publishing as a possible avenue for getting their book to market. They also insult indie authors with the implicit accusation that we don't care about the quality of our work. I disagree. We write because we love it.

Ms. Barber contends self-published authors spend 90% of their time promoting. This "fact" comes from some anonymous someone who posted on her blog. I'm sure the experience is different for everyone (a position not seemingly shared by Ms. Barber), but I spend hardly any time promoting. I post the occasional tweet. At present, Ms. Barber's "pinned" tweet, from April 5, is her promo for her book "Devotion." I write an occasional post on my blog. The header on Ms. Barber's blog is presently, again, a promo for her book "Devotion." There's simply not much of a difference in the effort, but one thing that's clear is that Ms. Barber finds value in time spent promoting herself and her works. I presume she wouldn't be doing it otherwise. Neither would a lot of other authors, traditional and indie alike.

Ms. Barber also contends that indie authors don't make money. In support, she offers the anecdote of a writer who wrote seven books and made money (less than 100 pounds) on only one, and concludes that "70% of nothing is nothing." While her math is correct, her facts are not. Sweeping accusations and gross generalizations about a publication path that has given us the likes of Michael J. Sullivan, Anthony Ryan, and Hugh Howey simply don't work. There are plenty of self-published authors who make money doing it. Heck, I do--my book earned enough in a month and a half to qualify me for membership in the SFWA. Am I quitting my day job because of it? No, but the vast majority of traditionally published authors aren't doing that, either. Including Ms. Barber. We write because we love it.

Most of Ms. Barber's remaining points are various forms of insult, claiming those who self-publish haven't spent time learning how to write, don't take writing seriously, or are mysteriously compelled to act like twitchy tweet monkeys on social media. I know several self-published authors, and a few traditionally published authors as well. These points apply to none of them. Rather, the arguments are specious and one wonders if they serve any purpose other than elevating Ms Barber's ego.

We write because we love it. We care about our words, we care about our stories and the worlds we create. We put our books on the market because we hope others will be moved or entertained. For people who care truly about their work--who take it seriously--it doesn't matter if the work gets to market by indie or traditional means. And it doesn't matter if the work makes millions or wins the Man Booker.

We write because we love it.


Official Author Website
Order Sand And Blood HERE

Dylan Moonfire  is the remarkable result of the intersection of a computer nerd, a scientist, and polymath. Instead of focusing on a single genre, he writes stories and novels in many different settings ranging from fantasy to science fiction. He also throws in the occasional romance or forensics murder mystery to mix things up.

In addition to having a borderline unhealthy obsession with the written word, he is also a developer who loves to code as much as he loves writing. He lives near Cedar Rapids, Iowa with his wife, numerous pet computers, and a pair of highly mobile things of the male variety.

You can see more work by D. Moonfire at his website and get more information about his entry, Sand and Blood over here.

Official Author Website
Order The Stone Road HERE

Geoff Matthews (G R Matthews) began reading in the cot. His mother, at her wits end with the constant noise and unceasing activity, would plop him down on the soft mattress with an encyclopaedia full of pictures then quietly slip from the room. His father, ever the pragmatist, declared, that they should, “throw the noisy bugger out of the window.” Happily this event never came to pass (or if it did Geoff bounced well). Growing up, he spent Sunday afternoons on the sofa watching westerns and Bond movies with the self-same parent who had once wished to defenestrate him. When not watching the six-gun heroes or spies being out-acted by their own eyebrows he devoured books like a hungry wolf in the dead of winter.

Beginning with Patrick Moore and Arthur C Clarke he soon moved on to Isaac Asimov. However, one wet afternoon in a book shop in his home town, not far from the standing stones of Avebury, he came across a book by David Eddings – and soon Sci-Fi gave way to Fantasy. Many years later, Geoff finally realised a dream and published his own fantasy novel, The Stone Road, in the hopes that other hungry wolves out there would find a hearty meal. You can follow him on twitter @G_R_Matthews or visit his website.

Official Author Website
Order Exile: The Book Of Ever #1 HERE

James Cormier went to law school and spent years as a practicing attorney before realizing that what he really wanted to do with his life was sit around and write stories about imaginary places. Which is why you're reading this now. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, his son, and the requisite two cats that every writer of fantasy and science fiction is presented with upon the publication of their first novel.

Ben Galley was born in 1987 in the British Isles. As a child, exposure to the works of Tolkien and Greek mythology helped fire his imagination and left him with a great desire to spin his own stories. Ben wrote the first book as a DIY project and since then has written several self-help blog posts and also offers consultancy services for the same. He’s currently hard at work with the next book.

Official Author Website
Order What Remains Of Heroes HERE

David Benem resides in St. Louis, Missouri, where in his free time he pursues his passion of writing fantasy fiction. What Remains of Heroes is his first novel, and he is presently hard at work on its sequel.

Official Author Website
Order Black Cross HERE

Born Lancashire, England, J. P. Ashman is a Northern lad through and through. His parents love wildlife, history, fantasy and science fiction, and passed their passion on to him. They read to him from an early age and encouraged his imagination at every turn. His career may be in optics, as a manager/technician, but he loves to make time for writing and reading every day. Now living rurally in the Cotswolds with Wifey and their little Norse Goddess Freya, He's inspired daily by the views they have and the things they see, from the deer in the fields to the buzzards circling overhead.

Writing is a huge part of his life and the medieval re-enactment background and tabletop gaming lend to it; when he's not writing the genre, he's either reading or playing it. He plans to keep writing, both within his current series, and those to come, whether short stories or epic tomes.

Blair MacGregor writes fantasy—adventurous, epic, and dark. Her debut novel Sword and Chant was included in the first Indie Fantasy Bundle through StoryBundle, and her more recent novel Sand of Bone was included in the 2015 Fantasy Bundle. Her short fiction has appeared in Cicada and Writers of the Future. She is a graduate of Viable Paradise and a member of SFWA.

She also teaches and speaks on a variety of topics—education, wellness, failure and resilience—for audiences ranging from a double-handful to a couple thousand. In years past, she acted and worked in thirteen Shakespearean productions, spent a dozen years teaching martial arts while homeschooling her son, and once learned how to drive a combine from an Amish man who couldn't drive it himself. In between all that, Blair hikes and camps, grows organic produce, and indulges in the occasional ziplining excursion. She loves traveling to places both wild and domesticated. She currently lives in Colorado with her one son and two goofy dogs.

Order Sins Of A Sovereignty HERE

Plague Jack is a pseudonymous author who dislikes writing writer bios. Plague Jack loves Gorillas, comic books, rock climbing and conventions. He currently is writing two different series. 

NOTE: "Someone's wrong on the internet" art courtesy of Louise Wei and Dave Hodgkinson.


Andrew Guile said...

Great post. A lot of this resonated with me. I write and self publish children's stories (at present). I write what I think kids will find funny and exciting. Their experience is all I care about and I care A LOT! I want to produce the very best work that my time and talent can achieve. I don't claim or assume that I have a sufficient supply of either in order to write a best seller but I love the process and am proud of what I have done so far. I applaud all like-minded individuals whatever their genre.


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