Tuesday, March 26, 2013


This is a comment on a post by Charles Stross on why he does not self-publish. It comes from facebook via my blog. Never waste sentences. Reuse them whenever you can:
Stross can sell the books he writes to publishers. If you can't, self publishing begins to look more interesting. It also looks interesting if you have a back list of out-of-print novels and an audience that might be interested in buying them. -- I have been thinking of self-publishing, out of curiosity. But it would have to be something I couldn't find a publisher for. A poetry book or a chapbook...

It seems to me the easiest thing is to look for a publisher. There are plenty out there. Even a small publisher is better than self-publishing, unless you really enjoy putting books together and marketing them. I'm not a designer; and I know nothing about marketing.

I have written about this before. I go back and forth about self-publishing. I think it's worth doing, if you are realistic about how much you are likely to make from a self-published book. I see the marketing as the problem. Production has become much easier, and there are people who will do it for comparatively modest amounts of money. But how do you get the word out? And how much time and energy will it take? Would you be better off spending the time and energy on writing?

On another topic, I am amazed that Stross can write two books a year. The fastest I have even written a novel was eighteen months. A Woman of the Iron People took me thirteen years. I took off a lot of time in the middle, and wrote another novel. I haven't done the figuring recently, but I used to average about 36,000 finished, publishable words a year. Some years I wrote a lot more. Some years I barely wrote.

Granted, I was working day jobs most of the time. I am writing more rapidly now, though not a lot more rapidly. It has taken me seven months to write one 12,000 word novelette, though it wasn't the only thing I was working on.

Some stories come easily and quickly. I can write a story in a week, if all goes well. But many are difficult.

Kelly and Lyda both write rapidly. Kelly's writing speed is amazing. Partly, they are more disciplined about writing than I am, and partly -- I think -- their natural speed is greater than mine. I mull and brood and revise a lot.


Tyler Tork said...

"How do you get the word out?"
That's part of the publisher's job also. Not all publishers seem to see it that way. Of course, it helps if the author takes a hand in that also.

Larry Kollar said...

A word from the other side of the fence, for what it's worth.

For certain forms, such as novellas, self-publishing is really the way to go. Novellas are too long for magazines, too short for book publishers, but just right for people reading on mobile devices. My fantasy novella Accidental Sorcerers earned me over 5¢/word (what a pro magazine would have paid if they took it at all) in 10 weeks. It continues to sell, and people are waiting for the next one (May or June :-).

And correct me if I'm wrong, but if your name isn't Neil Gaiman or Stephen King, do publishers do much marketing at all? Sure, they can get you into bookstores, but not everyone has a bookstore nearby—the nearest bookstore to me is 25 miles away, for example.

Don't get me wrong, publishers are still relevant. Some seem hell-bent on destroying that relevance, but I expect they'll turn it around sooner or later (and all authors will benefit).

Eleanor said...

Larry -- This came up on a panel at Minicon this weekend. What publishers do is get books into bookstores, which is sales. For most books, that is it. The selling to bookstores is very important, but it's really frustrating to writers see no ads, no TV interviews, no book promotion tour, apparently nothing.

Kelly and Lyda can add more here, since their experience with the big houses is much more recent than mine. Publishers do now have publicity people, who work with authors. Some set up blog interviews and blog tours and such. Others seem to do little.