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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Publishing Piranha

Not everyone is happy with the Amazon, Smashwords, Nook, etc. self-publishing craze. I used to belong to an MSN group called Writer’s Café, and after its demise along with all other MSN groups I’ve kept in touch with many writer friends from the site. The ones who were already published have been a tremendous help in tips on publishing trends and recommendations over the years. They have legitimate gripes about the publishing marketplace created by the advent of easy self-publishing. It was pointed out to me, rather humorously I might add, that by selling novels at 99 cents to 2.99, people actually depending on their writing for a living find their livelihoods in jeopardy. I’m now known to my handful of published authors from the group as Freebie. Every e-mail I get from them starts out with Dear Freebie now, which cracks me up to no end. We’re friends and they were overjoyed when I landed contracts for Lancelot and Cold Blooded. It was one of them who told me to quit giving Wild Child Publishing so much time and find out what happened to Cold Blooded. It’s past the editor now and in copy edits at this time, finally. Anyway, I never take offense at anything they tell me. In this case they’re probably right, but I did defend the decision pretty well.

Look, we all know how hard it is to get an agent or publisher. It’s nigh impossible. Keep trying, keep trying… blah… blah… blah… I know, and I do. But… when no one’s buying what you’ve created and an opportunity comes around to at least reach a few readers, it’s just too hard to resist. At one point I had six manuscripts on the query trail, with no takers, even though I had accumulated a couple of publishing credits, and I’m now 90,000 words into my latest. When Charles Gramlich and Jordan Summers illustrated the ease of Amazon publishing I just couldn’t pass it up. Monster and Archangel were two non-stop action novels which were too long and too political for agents and publishers. I had an agent from Canada request a full look at Archangel who gave me one of the greatest let-downs ever. She said, ‘I couldn’t stop reading it, but it was like driving by a ten car pileup. I couldn’t stop looking but felt guilty the whole time. Thanks for the look, but I can’t represent this.’ I still have her e-mail rejection on my back room wall at work. I made the case to my old friends from the defunct Writer’s Café that it was impossible to sell Monster and Archangel to anyone in publishing, and I pulled the sixty card on them – wahhh… I’m old and I don’t have the time to wait.  :)

Then I got an e-mail that started out Dear OLD Freebie, how would you like it if people were giving away free automotive repairs all around your business? Heh… heh… heh… I nailed my buddy on that one. It just so happens there are what we call in automotive repair ‘Backyard Bobs’ doing free or next to nothing vehicle repairs all around me. They’ve generated many new customers for me. I’ve even consulted and bailed out a few of the nicer ones who didn’t realize their limitations until it was too late. Point being – if you’re good at what you do or you create a product people want, they’ll pay what the market dictates. At this time the publishing market is in a state of war because there are a plethora of frustrated writers marketing their goods cheaply. I’m sorry I’m one of them and my 99 cent specials selling a few copies a month are adding to the degradation of the publishing world. Wait a minute… I’m not sorry… light a candle… cry me a river… my querying list is about to go up to five novels again and if I don’t sell an agent or publisher on any of them in the next few months there may be a bunch more 99 cent specials on the way.  :)

If it seems like I had a good time with this, you're very perceptive.  :)


Charles Gramlich said...

LIke with anything, quality will out, at least at some point. All of us, including every writer making a living from writing, does things to take money out of the mouths of the "professionals." If I hand deliver a letter, change my own oil, give free writing advice, I'm giving away something that other people charge for. Do not doctors and lawyers sometime give free advice? I can see the writers side of it, but mainly because of the fact that material is being produced and sold that really isn't of any quality. If the material is quality I'm not too worried about how it got published.

BernardL said...

I agree, Charles. This craze ain't going away either with all the hand held readers out there.

Vesper said...

Just a few days ago I heard the story of Amanda Hocking who has self-published a few of her books and became a millionaire by selling them on Amazon, and then had a book optioned for a movie, and now got a 2-million deal for four books from St. Martin's Press. Amazing!
I read some excerpts though and I'm sorry to say but the quality is not that great...
Now, it's easy to buy a 99 cents or a 2.99$ book for Kindle, but will people buy a hardcover? I suppose the editors will work with her, but anyway...

BernardL said...

That's a good point, Vesper. Ms. Hocking made a name for herself first before landing a 'real' publishing contract for millions. I'm going to download some excerpts of her stuff. There has to be something there to attract such a following or she might just be an exceptional self promoter. If there's one really tough drawback to writing it's the relentless promoting an author must do now after landing a contract.

whydibuy said...

It sounds like it comes down to the classic profit/promotion/push required for many entertainment items. Cos need to control the media to generate profits. Otherwise the market gets too diffused and then these cos can't get the critical mass to earn big bucks.

For ex. , singing is not a rare commodity. Many, many people can sing well. But a record co can't take them all so they get behind a few and give them the big push.
The cos promote the chosen few and ignore and silence those others since its not at all in their financial interest to acknowledge a singer who may best their promoted star.

This Lady GAGA is a great example of a big push and how well they can manipulate the market.
She was a nothing for years but a few years ago you can review how she suddenly got the big push by the industry. Suddenly, this nobody singer was performing on a rooftop, complete with backup dancers for select entertainment types such as paparazzis and writers. And the big push was on. She adopted this bizzare look thing( she was never like that before...odd isn't it? ) which smacks of promoter invention.

They can't promote every writer so only a few are lucky or somehow influential enough to get the big push.

BernardL said...

That is it exactly, whydibuy. Narrowing the product available keeps the price up. Unfortunately, for the big publishing houses that is no longer possible. Amanda Hocking who Vesper mentioned made it big on her own and then landed a contract with a major publishing house - so maybe the opposite of a Lady GaGa can happen now in the writing world.

raine said...

I have no problem with self-publishing. May indulge in it myself in the near future. And the fact that so many authors are testing the waters would indicate their dissatisfaction with the current publishing model.

Does that mean I'm not going to pursue regular print publishing? Nope. It means I don't see why I can't try it all.

I will add that, as with any pubbing venture, people should temper their expectations. The fact that we're hearing Hocking's name means it's not the norm.
And yes, it's a thrill putting a story out there. But I hope the authors remember that quality is important to many readers. Can't help it, some of the excerpts I've read have made me cringe.

BernardL said...

All true, Raine, and self-publishing means marketing like a five legged dog at the carnival. :) Too many believe you can just put one out there and let the money roll in. It's still vanity press... only now it's free, which is just too hard to resist. :)

I haven't given up either. I'm finishing the first person POV novel this weekend. It will not be going out as a 99 cent special until I exhaust every avenue of the non-self-publishing world. :)