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Why I Don’t Self-Publish. Me. May Not Apply To Anyone Else. - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
May 3rd, 2012
09:47 am


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Why I Don’t Self-Publish. Me. May Not Apply To Anyone Else.

My friend Kat Howard had an excellent post yesterday on why she doesn’t self-publish, in which I had to admire the way that she avoided the usual self-publishing nuttery.  Usually, most self-publishing arguments boil down to “ZOMG I DO IT AND SO EVERYONE SHOULD” or “ZOMG I HATE IT AND SO EVERYONE SHOULD,” and Kat – as she is wont to do – admitted that self-publishing works very well for some authors, but not for her.

Part of it is that she doesn’t want to burn her writer-energy on things like formatting manuscripts and copy editing and finding good cover art.  But the other part is notable:

“…Which leads me to the other reason that, right now, I’m not looking into self-publishing as an option: audience. The problem with the fact that it’s so easy to self-publish means that a lot of people do so, and it’s very hard to find the signal in the noise. Books get lost. And again, I understand that this doesn’t always happen, and that traditionally published books can get lost in the crowd, too.”

Now, I do have an audience, and I’m pretty sure I could use my blogging as a platform to sell my stories profitably.  I’ve had my publishers note that when I point people at my stories, there’s a notable uptick in traffic.  So why don’t I skip the middleman?  And there’s a very good answer:

I write better for publishers.

I’m inherently lazy, and I’m pretty sure if I was just writing for people who already liked me, I’d do two or three drafts and call it a day.  I’m not in competition with anyone but myself, and revising is a real pain in the ass, so without that pressure I’m pretty sure I’d slack off.

When I’m submitting a story to Asimov’s or Lightspeed, however, I know my story has to compete with, quite literally, the best authors in the business.  These are people with quantifiably more talent, bigger audiences, better storytelling.  And so before I send it on there, I sweat every line, revising five or six times, getting more crits, getting more feedback…

…and what emerges is a better story.  Some people don’t revise well, but I’m not one of them.  I get stronger with each draft (as you’ll see from my notes on the first draft of my Nebul-nominated story “Sauerkraut Station”).  And I hate revising so much that unless I’m really driven to it, I won’t.

My novel that I’m flogging around now?  Was exhausting.  I’m pretty sure if there wasn’t a big ol’ toll-taker sitting at the gate, demanding my very best work, I would have said, “That’s good” after three drafts and called it a day.  As it was, I did six drafts, and I’ll probably do two more before I can call it a day.  And revising 105,000 words takes weeks, man.

Now, this is a highly personal opinion, because I’m sure there are self-publishers who can treat it like a job and do the seventy necessary revisions, and there are of course writers who polish off two drafts and it’s as good as it’s gonna be.

But me?  I have a reasonably large audience which I could sell my stuff to… And what I give to them can’t be substandard.  That’s the contract I have with them.  My blog posts are as good as I can make them, and my stories – which are far harder to write – need to be even better.  Because I’m a blogger who’s becoming a writer, and I’d say my audience at this point is now roughly 65% “I like what Ferrett says in his blog” and 35% “He’s a good fiction writer.”

To get those percentages to keep tilting to the fiction end, I need to be driven.  The idea of the gatekeeper may be old and inefficient, but damn if it doesn’t light a fire under my ass.

And that’s why I don’t self-publish.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/208927.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.


(6 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

[User Picture]
Date:May 3rd, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
The nice thing about Rome Girl having self published her book is that it's cool to randomly get a couple hundred bucks from Lulu every so often.

The downside is never knowing what the book would have ended up being like if she'd worked with a publisher and an editor.
[User Picture]
Date:May 3rd, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
Self-publishing is a patent example of Sturgeon's law in action.
[User Picture]
Date:May 3rd, 2012 04:20 pm (UTC)
self-publishing just seems exhausting to me. that and trying to find editors and cover makers - i don't have the resources to hire them if i did find them. i'd rather spend what energy i do have on the writing and revising side.
[User Picture]
Date:May 3rd, 2012 04:21 pm (UTC)
i think its very important to know how YOU work.. before starting a business.

if working from home lets you actually accomplish stuff, then working from home is good. for you.
it would destroy a lot of other folks.

i expect the same is true of publishing methods
[User Picture]
Date:May 3rd, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
That said, would you consider self-publishing after you've shopped something around and found no buyers? Maybe it's not worth it with the short stories, but maybe with one of the novels?
[User Picture]
Date:May 7th, 2012 04:14 am (UTC)
Usually, most self-publishing arguments boil down to “ZOMG I DO IT AND SO EVERYONE SHOULD” or “ZOMG I HATE IT AND SO EVERYONE SHOULD,”

Does this sound eerily like most arguments for or against poly to anyone else? I wonder if people just identify extremely closely with their publishing models or if people in general are bad at coming up with solid arguments no matter whether they're about how we handle relationships or how we put our creative works on the marker.
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