What Flavor Of Publishing Will You Choose?

Should you be your own publisher, or should you find someone to publish for you?

That’s a question that pops up in my inbox often enough it might as well be a coked-up gopher — so, instead of hitting each twitchy gopher with a tiny hammer, I figure I’ll write this one big-ass motherfucker of a blog post to serve as the Mjolnir that will eradicate all the pesky gophers into a fine splurch of bloody mist.

I’m going to answer the question now, up-front, with a somewhat controversial answer.

You should try the traditional route first.

All right, all right, stop yelling, indie authors. Cool your inflamed genitals.

Stop throwing things at my head. Because, seriously, ow.

Let’s offer up a couple disclaimers: first, this is me talking about my experiences and should be viewed as such, and you can of course take my advice or you can wad it up into a ball and shove it deep into a bison’s rectum. You may disagree with anything I say here and have entirely different experiences and that’s all good, dude-bro or lady-bro. I’m shining a flashlight on the path I’ve walked and the things I’ve seen while on it. You may do differently.

Second, I like to approach publishing as a hybridized endeavor, meaning, I do a little bit of everything. Traditional, DIY, crowdsourced, small press, the mystical Akashic Record, stone tablets hewn by the gods, whatever. As such, I am a fan of self-publishing. I do it. I have self-published releases out there. I will continue to self-publish in the future. My self-published releases in 2012 will equate to approximately 20% of my total writing income, which is pretty rad. I will not tell you to never self-publish.

But, I also get to hop the fence and frolic tra-la-la in the meadow of the traditional, as well.

Blackbirds is published via the “traditional method” (which is to say the fiction lay with a publisher in the missionary style and together with a midwife they birthed a book baby in a muddy trench under the eyes of a vigilant god).

In the grand scheme of things, Blackbirds is a fairly small release.

And yet, Blackbirds has been very good to me.

It has an amazing cover.

It’s been published far and wide. Indie bookstores, B&N, airport bookstores, online e-book distributors, and so on and so forth.

It’s received a boatload of reviews across both digital and meatspace. It’s shown up in places like the Guardian, the Independent, SFX, Starburst, Publisher’s Weekly, The Financial Times, io9. It’s got scads of commentary at places like Amazon and Goodreads and even still I get Google Alerts of bloggers talking about discovering the book and digging it.

It made it on a number of “best of 2012” lists.

A number of authors I admire and adore have gotten a hold of the book and told me how much they enjoyed it. Seanan McGuire’s very kind review of the book still gives me a giddy shiver now and again (and further, I’m quite certain it sold more copies of the book).

The book had foreign rights sold in two territories.

The film rights are thisclose to being wrapped up (hopefully this week).

The book ended up in the hands of a different film studio and off that, I was able to pitch a project to them and then to the head of a major film studio. (The pitch went through its paces and didn’t quite land, but gave me great contacts in both studios.)

The book ended up in the hands of a major comics publisher and allowed me to pitch a comic for a character I adore (no word yet on how well that pitch landed, sorry).

The book comes up routinely in conversations with other editors. The book’s relative success has led to other publishing opportunities and deals.

The book has earned me bonafide fans that appear at bookstores and conferences who seem to be (much to my bepuzzlement) genuinely happy to meet me and to have read the book.

The book is a super-weapon that conjures a fire unicorn from the heavens and together we are able to ride on the tail of a comet dispensing food to the hungry and sweet jamz to those without music. …okay, I might be making this last part up. SUE ME. (Please don’t sue me.)

For those of you crass commerce-hounds out there, I will note that a good deal of this has translated into money, as well as that most insubstantial of resources, “exposure.”

Now, the corker:

Most of this in my opinion would not have been possible if I self-published Blackbirds. I would never have gotten such a beautiful cover by the inimitable Joey Hi-Fi. Would’ve never sold foreign rights or film rights or had great reviews that multiplied exposure to the book. I probably wouldn’t have sold as many copies as I had (if sales of Bait Dog are any indication at all). I damn sure wouldn’t be in bookstores. And again, to revert to crass capitalism, I likely would’ve made a lot less money on the book had I gone the DIY route.

Yes, yes, I see you hopping up and down over there — I agree with you. My experiences are not going to be repeatable. Your book may do much better than this, or far worse, in a traditional space. Alternately, if you self-publish, you may end up having the blistering success that many worthy indie releases never seem to find. (Though, I’ll note here that the pot of gold at the end of many self-publishing rainbows seems so often to be a traditional publishing deal.)

So. Okay. All that being said, let’s give some reasons why you should try traditional first.

1) Because all that stuff I just said. Rights, reviews, access, bookstores, authors, $$$.

2) Because submitting to an agent and/or publisher will teach you things about the industry.

3) Because you may receive excellent feedback on your book for free about things that work.

4) Because you may receive similar feedback on your book (for free!) about things that don’t work (and should you end up publishing this way your book will be refined even further by agent and editor).

5) Because if you don’t get a deal, you can always go back and self-publish anyway.

6) Because if you get a deal but don’t like the terms, you can self-publish anyway.

7) Because if you get a deal and take it, and one day they no longer want to publish your book anymore because of sales or because Barnes & Noble shit the bed or because something-something Mayan Flu Gonorrhea Epidemic, you can take your book and self-publish anyway.

8) Because even if you don’t like the Big Six (er, five — or is it four by now?) you still have options to “traditionally” publish with smaller- to medium-size publishers or even with Amazon. Other options exist outside the mainstream, is what I’m saying.

9) Because not that you’re in this racket for respect (writers and respect are like oil and water), but you will get more as one who is traditionally-published than one who is not. Again: not a real good reason, but hey, maybe that sort of thing matters to you.

10) Because a more traditional path to publication may build fans who will then take a risk on your self-published work (where they may before have been averse to it).

11) Because flaming unicorn comet riding. Okay, I said I was making that one up, sorry.

12) Because patience is a virtue writers need to learn and going the traditional path will sure as the sexual charity of Sweet Saint Fuck teach you a mega-uber-ultra-dose of patience.

It mostly sums up to: “It can’t hurt, and it may help.”

Your mileage may vary, of course. Do with this as thou wilt. If you want to self-publish first and only, that’s a path that offers many authors a potential wealth of success in differing ways — so, I’m not knocking it, and I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. I just figure, traditional offers things right now that many writers seek (including cold hard cash), and blah blah blah.

Though, hey, certainly there are reasons to go straight to self-publishing, too: certain genres, for instance, tend to be exploitative toward traditional authors while rewarding indie writers. Further, self-pub allows you to publish risky material in terms of content or format.

Maybe you just got a burning middle finger for authority.

That’s all good. You do as you like. Do what makes you happiest, penmonkey.

*drops mic*

*takes a nap on snoozing unicorn*

76 responses to “What Flavor Of Publishing Will You Choose?”

  1. I occurs to me that you have the creds from your previous successes to get the attention of a traditional publisher.
    Not so with an unknown.
    From networking and author’s groups, I know several writers who have written killer novels and waited years without any offers. Getting an offer from an agent or publisher is like winning the lottery or being struck by lightening.
    The process takes months for just one query. A writer may only get to submit four queries or less per year. I’m sixty-nine years old and I don’t have that much time.
    No thank you, I’ll self-publish.

    • Most authors start out either as unknowns or as people with small amounts of success out there. So in that, you’re in the same boat as everyone out there sending in their work.

      One of the best selling books I read in the last two years (The Night Circus) was written by a complete unknown who still managed to get an agent and an offer.

      Do plenty of good novels not get picked up? Sure. But that’s often because, sad as it is, this is still a bsuiness and the people reading them don’t think they’ll sell.

      If you want to self-publish first because you think it’s the best way to your goals, go ahead. In general I don’t think self-publishing is good for first-time novelist (unless you intend to self-publish your entire career) because it is incredibly rare to get picked up by a publisher later. Once your work is out there you are no longer a first time novelist, a new writer. And if your sales are poor, well, they’re even less likely to take a risk.

      Some books genuinely do better in the self-publishing arena, however, and if you have one of those, why not stick it out there?

      • I don’t think Night Circus should be looked on as a “standard release” – it was sold for huge sums of money and was the “premier” title for that year from the publisher. Or if you do…then compare it to Hugh Howey’s Success with Wool. The more meaningful thing to look at a “standard book” that is picked up by traditional and how THAT book would fare in both routes. Unless you have huge amounts of foreign sales, on a purely financial basis THAT book will sell more self-published (where the list price can be lower but the profit higher) than traditional.

  2. I’ve always planned to (when I finally finish my book!) try traditional publishing first, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I would go to self-publishing at all (at least not without having some success in traditional publishing first). I think one of my big fears with self-publishing is… what if I self-publish utter crap? At least if I go the traditional publishing route, I will be forced to keep working until I produce something that is actually decent, because I’ll get turned down if it’s not. And I think that will be good for me.

    Of course, there are many books that get turned down by publishers, despite being very good and of very high quality. On the other hand, there are many traditionally published books out there that aren’t very good. But there are so many self-published books out there that haven’t even been edited for grammar mistakes, let alone the rest of what makes a book good, that I’m afraid if I self-published without a name already in traditional publishing, my book would get lost in the sea of books that no one bothers to even browse through to find a gem. And the danger there, of course, is that my book wouldn’t -be- that gem, anyway, because I published it when it (or myself as a writer) wasn’t ready yet.

    Getting a traditional publishing contract doesn’t guarantee you success, but I think it raises your chances much higher than if you go with self-publishing. There are always the self-publishing outliers that become filthy rich, but most hardly make anything. And all of their promotion has to be self-promotion. It might be good for someone who is a better salesperson than me, though. x)

  3. Right. Thanks for that. I may do BOTH. I’ve got an ok first draft, with half of a sequel also in first draft form, AND a completely kick-ass idea for a book that I think (hope) readers will LOVE, so maybe I will take the self-pub route with the first and the traditional route with the second and see what happens.

  4. I have always planned to try trad publishing first, primarily because I am far too LAXY for all the work that seems to go into self-publishing! Having to organise everything msyelf! I’m fine with doing the promotional gubbins the publisher tells me to, because I won’t have had to organise cover, distribution, reviews etc.

    However, I am likely to self-publish some things in the future. I also write short stories and would like to bring out a collection in future and unless you are Neil Gaiman/ Stephen King HUGE publishers tend not to print collections of your shorts. So I would self-publish that – hoping, of course, that my trad publishing endeavours have built me enough of a fandom to sell plenty of copies.

    Anyway, that’s my (currently unpublished) opinion out there. Must get back to blasting those words out of the mines.

    • Perhaps HUGE publishers like you say don’t publish story collections, but smaller ones occasionally do take the risk. For example, Paolo Bacigalupi’s “Pump Six and Other Stories” by Night Shade Books. Now, his stories are award-winning stuff, but I think if your material’s good enough, it’s never really NECESSARY to go the self-publishing route, at least not where science fiction / fantasy short stories are concerned. 🙂

      • Thanks! I’m hoping to have an agent by that time as well, so presumably we’ll discuss all that stuff and agent will help me decide whether to self-publish ’em or try sending them to a small publisher.

        I am pro small pressess in general. Obviously if one of the big guys offered me a contract I’d jump. But I like small presses (as long as they’re good at what they do).

  5. For me, for now, I’m banging on the door of traditional.

    I’m not an editor. I’m not a cover artist, I’m not a layout person, and I don’t have the cash to freely spread around to those people that make a book happen. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses, I think it would be suicide right now for me to self-publish.

  6. I’m with a small press, which feels sort of middle road in a not-quite-traditional-but-better-than-self-publishing way. I’m not getting record sales or film right offers, but I think for now, for where I am on the writer growth scale, that’s fine. I’m getting stuff Out There without the stress of agent deadlines. And I know I couldn’t cope with that right now, so I’m where I should be at. Which is nice.

  7. I admire all those who go through the time, trouble and effort of self-publishing. I considered it myself, but I opted for the traditional route. One, I simply didn’t want to spend money up front. I’ve been paid for my writing in one form of another for 20 years, and I had rather gotten used to the idea that my writing *makes* money, without an up-front investment.

    Related to that, I also wanted to know that I *could* actually land my novel at a traditional publisher and get paid. I saw the statistics about how many writers failed to get a traditional book deal, and the prideful penmonkey in me, never having before written fiction, wanted to see if I had the chops to break in.

    That’s not to say I’ll never self-publish. I might be doing a little something-something this summer, actually. But I wanted my novel to be in bookstores, to have that publisher take it and run with it, and to make enough cash money to, you know, buy a fancy espresso drink.

  8. This perfectly sums up my feelings towards the subject, as most of your thought-provokers do. Damn you Wendig get out of my head.

    I’ve tried (admittedly not as hard as I could try) to get noticed by traditional publishers but to no avail, part of me wants to go have a little cry and accept that my work isn’t good enough. The bigger part thinks it is worthy of being read by eyes other than my own and should not just be confined to the archive on my hard drive.

    It’s that possibly misguided belief that is leading me to self-publish said work… but to start on something new and likely better whilst I do. Even if my first effort only gets three downloads from somewhere I’ve never heard of, I believe having it out there and visible is a great persuader and point of differentiation for any agent or traditional publisher who might decide to google me on a whim.

  9. Thanks for the post. Technically, I agree…

    However, my doomsplan goes like this: finish first book. Edit first book. Self-publish first book and release for free under a pen name. Write second book. Self-publish second book. Release for free under a pen name. If by third (fifth?) book I feel like I’m doing a better job, try selling rights to a traditional agency under my real name. Now, this first book I’m writing isn’t exactly jaw-dropping material, but it seems to be turning out much less terrible than I had originally expected.

    A few rounds of edits, and then all I’d have to do is catch a fairy, chain it to a tree, and wish really, really hard, and a reader or two might even enjoy it.

    • @Tyro —

      The only thing I’d caution there is, though these early books will be attached to a pen name, just the same — why would you self-publish work that wouldn’t be good enough for traditional-publishing? Self-publishing shouldn’t be a venue for your leftovers or ill-fated attempts. Works that aren’t good enough to meet human eyes from bookstore shelves shouldn’t be good enough to land on a digital publishing shelf, either, right?

      — c.

      • Hi Chuck,

        Thanks for writing back!

        My bad for failing to use the Reply button as per design, and therefore not utilizing the commenting system to its full potential. Potentially, my lack of WP skills is but another potential nail in the potential coffin of my potential career. Some comments below. 🙂

      • Self-publishing shouldn’t be the fallback position for leftovers or ill-fated attempts. I would never publish anything that I didn’t think already met the quality standards of traditional publishing…I may end up self-publishing that for a number of reasons, not wanting to sign over so many rights, monthly payments, higher income, faster time to market…but the decision between the two paths should NEVER be level of quality.

  10. @terribleminds

    Short answer: practice.

    Long answer is what’s “good enough” for traditional publishing is relative, like we all know. There are plenty of stories about good (even great) works being turned down left and right. Not saying I’m one of the greats here (or even the good ones, heh), but I’m sure you’ll agree that being turned down is not necessarily an indication that your work is total crap.

    Either way, I’m pretty sure that the 2nd and 3rd books are going to be much better simply on the basis of how much I’ve learnt by starting to work on my 1st. That month or three waiting for a rejection slip per publisher / agent can be used to edit the thing and write something else instead. Not to mention that doing this “for myself” eliminates ZOMG I’M GONNA BE A ROCK STAR mentality, meaning less fear of failure, which is a good thing (at least for me, but everyone rows their own boat, of course).

    I understand what you’re saying, of course, but my intention isn’t to self-publish a book so terrible it’d melt its readers’ eyes and deflower the 72 virgins of Jannah via the act of its existence alone. Quite the contrary, I actually want to do the best job I can possibly do — and then release it for free, all for the sake of practice. I enjoy writing, and I hope that someone will enjoy reading whatever it is that I’ll come up with. At least, that’s the theory. Let’s see how the cookie crumbles.

    • I guess the point is, you can practice in private. I’m not sure why so many writers want to practice so openly in public. But if it works for you as a motivator, then more power to you, sir.

      — c.

      • You know what, you might as well be right.

        Anyway, all this is talk from my end, bla-bla with 0 substance. Having thought a bit about what you’ve said, as soon as I’m done with the editing, will try to sub to traditional — chances are that I will fail miserably, but will get more relevant experience, and can self-pub afterwards. I think what I really want is an excuse to use this awesome pen name somewhere, hehehe.

        But, anyway, less bla-bla, more writing! IN POTENTIA, HERE I COME! 🙂

    • That being said, it’s my firm belief that I should have at least 3 short stories sold to pro paying markets before self-publishing. Because then, if somebody down the line talks crap about that first self-published book, I could always put on my Rayland Givens hat and say, “It was justified.”

  11. That being said, submitting it to a few traditional houses for the sake of “good advise” is still a good idea, even if the plan is to self-publish in the end. 🙂

  12. Is it okay to self-publish a book in the spirit of getting it out to the world and seek an agent/publisher at the same time? Good Morning!

    • I think so, and many agents are saying that they are actively watching the Amazon best-selling lists and querying authors based on their sales – talk about setting the industry on its ear…agents…querying authors!

  13. “Because submitting to an agent and/or publisher will teach you things about the industry.” Ain’t that the fracking truth.

    I self-published my first book, but I’m >this< close to wrapping up a deal for my second book, my better book.

    • On the other hand…self-publishing taught me a ton of things about the industry as well. The more I learn about “traditional” publishing – the more broken I find it. There were some very minor (and logical) things I wanted adjusted in my second contract – but even though I earned out a six-figure contract in 7 months, on my first contract – my publishers wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t worth walking from another six-figure contract over clauses that weren’t huge issues from a financial perspective – but it still got me mad as hell.

  14. Can you talk a little bit about how each path leads to the audiobook world? I found you from audiobooks. And I have no idea what the process is from publishing to audio book. You’ve got two books on audible, and both are from the big-league publishing house I guess? Did you have a part in those, or did the publishing house handle all that?

    • As chuck mentioned it depends on the contract, but most will want print, ebook, and audio, and so you are powerless whether the publisher will put efforts toward audio. I considered myself lucky that my publisher did exercise that right as I was pretty sure they were going to “sit on them” while waiting to see how my sales went.

      For my future self-published works I can go to my audio book publisher direct – but that is mainly because I have a VERY strong track record on audio books (Routinely one of a handful of authors with titles in the top 25 of Epic Fantasy), and I’m sure they’ll sign me based on that history.

      For self-published authors without any traditional contracts – the best way to go about audio is ACX which will get you on audible.com. Also a lot of self-published authors use podiobooks.com (which gets you into itunes). I know quite a few self-published authors that do well with audio.

  15. Yes, age is against me. If I was twenty years younger, I would attempt the trad-pub route. But I don’t see indie publishing as settling for a home for a less-than-finished novel. I’ve met a lot of indie authors with hammer novels. What I’d like to see in the next few years is these indies building a strong network of promotion. Really strong.

    I am often disappointed with trad-pubbed novels. I expect a lot more from them, especially if they have a slew of people behind them: editors, agents, promoters, you name it. I’m reading a book now (trad-pubbed) and I’m highlighting all of the passages that would get an indie a slap. I’m so surprised that such mistakes could possibly get through all those ‘professionals.’

    I write. I want people to read my stuff. I’ve finally stopped buning it.

  16. Self publishing can make bank if you’re willing to spend a lot of time self-promoting and building a reputation. And your reputation is built by writing stuff that is par excellence with traditional work.

    This year, my goal is to publish short stories so I have a few clips out there along with readers. I’m only submitting to magazines that pay pro to semi-pro rates. I’ve had several pro-writers say don’t bother with publications that pay in copies or don’t pay at all. I’ll write for non-paying mags if they offer high-visibility and allow me to promote my ebook.

    As for my trad publishing quest, I’m collecting rejection letters like dock hooker collects STD’s. Getting 20-30 rejections is normal for a nonentity writer. Also, the second best piece of advice I got was, “Keep creating work.” The more work you create, the better you get, and you have more wares to sell.

    • Ladies of the night with multiples STDs usually don’t have bright whoring careers in front of them, so a change of tactics might be in order. 🙂

      Other than that, I’m kind doing what you are, submitting to pro markets only. I’ve sold a story to Abyss & Apex a few years ago, a semi-pro market, and while I think it’s a great magazine and lots of fantastic authors appeared on its e-pages (Tim Pratt, Jay Lake, many other award-winning, fantastic writers), while it was definitely an honour, I realized that the standards for semi-pro pubs are indeed different.

      I think traditional publishing beats self-publishing any day when it comes to the question of reputation. It’s like giving birth to a book-baby in a private hospital vs giving birth on a hay bed in a barn in the middle of a cornfield, at midnight, when the vampires are out.

    • Your need to self-promote is about the same whether you are self-published or traditional. My marketing activities are the same in both routes, and those that go traditional and think they can avoid promotion will find (more often than not) that their books won’t perform well. I get some good promotion from my publisher but my advances are larger than most. For those with standard advances ($5,000 – $10,000) you’ll not get any meaningful promotion from your publisher.

  17. Is it just me, or do books containing Werewolfs/Vampires seem to have a 50% more chance of getting published than everything else?

    • From the agents I’ve researched, claim they don’t want vampires, Katnisses, or angsty magical girl books, yet I’ve many of the authors they represent fit that bill. Supernatural and urban fantasy is strong although steampunk has peaked.

  18. I’m in my early thirties, love writing, but I’m also discovering that I’m fascinated by the marketing aspect of things. I love talking to people and making virtual connections and learning about social networking (P.S. Chuck, you have one of the best blogs I’ve ever seen).

    That’s why I decided to try the self-publishing with my first book Shadow of Wrath and try to build up my own network of followers through blood, sweat, and witty banter.

    At the same time, I highly respect traditional ways of doing things and was leaning towards going that root for my second project as another learning experience. There are some self published books out there I think are brilliant and there are others that are just god-awful…so I do see the truth behind the idea that there is less respect for self-published authors.

    But my question Chuck is, with good writing, isn’t it feasible that one could self-publish first, generate some success and learn a lot about the social networking aspect before doing the entire published thing? For example, the brilliant Hugh Howey who’s writing should be a STANDARD for all self-published authors. Or can we assume that it was just lightening in a bottle?

    • Hugh was/is lightning in the bottle – but there are many other of us “mere mortals” who either started in self-publishing and then went traditional, or are doing very well staying in traditional: H.P. Mallory, David Dalglish, Anthony Ryan, Michael G. Manning, M.R. Mathias, Lindsay Buorker, Daniel Arenson, David A. Wells, I could go on and on and on.

  19. This is always what I’ve thought when it came to publishing. Assuming I’m ever so lucky to get an agent and a book deal, I’d like to publishing books similar to you and Tobias Buckell–have both books traditionally published as well as self-publish some stuff if I think it can float well on its own.

    Not that I’m at any place near needing to think about this stuff yet.

    • I do think that “hybrid” will be the the way that most successful authors go in the future.

  20. You may have buried the headline here about the film rights being wrapped up. Great news. I hadn’t heard. I want to play Homer in the movie version of Mockingbird.

    I devour your posts on subjects such as these.

    I’m about to finish my third novel which is so awesomely horrific that, when read, you hear a random Nine Inch Nails song play in your head. (First draft Prologue is on fictionaut right now). But most indie-published folks I know would love the choice but simply don’t have one. Meaning, Indie is resorted to after traditional efforts are unsuccessful. The question is how extensive of an effort to make before doing the KDP dance. My main goal is to be read, so I’d rather have thousands of copies get downloaded for free on amazon prime and a third of this number actually be read than for the novel to gather e-dust in the “My Documents” folder. Of course, validation is nice, as is making enough funds to justify all this typing time to my wife.

    So, I will be going the small publisher and agent route, but either way, keeping my day job. (until, of course, my IT department restricts access to your blog or realizes I’m writing novels on company time.)

  21. God I personally hate books like that. “Magical-girl books” such as Twilight (and shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I feel “defanged” vampires and werewolfs. They simply are not scary anymore.

    I guess this is why I justify plopping in Werewolves in my fantasy writing. I feel like we need Werewolf badasses in our lives.

    As for Vampires…. eh. Their time will come. Perhaps the next great Castlevania game will earn back people’s respect for bloodsuckers.

    • Have you seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer? IMO, Joss Wheddon is a pretty talented storyteller. There’s some good paranormal fiction out as well. For example, check out Tim Pratt’s (writing as T.A. Pratt) Blood Engines, first book of the Marla Mason series. Giant evil fucking gods? Check! Exciting story! Check! Kick-ass heroine? Check! Pornomancers? Check, pornomancers!

  22. Great post. My thoughts exactly (bar the expletives, but your turns of phrases pricked my attention).

    Note: while endeavoring via the traditional route regarding my crime novel(s), I’ve found self-publishing short story collections to be worthwhile exposure-wise, to make good use of the ‘waiting time’. And, there’s mileage in submitting to ezines for feedback and development – that’s where I picked up my agent.


  23. Great information as always – thanks much.

    On a total side note if you do plan on using a Print-On-Demand publisher; I have some ‘current’ experience to share. We (my publishing group) are publishing a fantasy (sword & board type) novel via OutSkirts Press right now and would like to say it is going very well. It is nice that they choose each book (as we have the next book completed) as individual projects with assigned Program Managers from their company. I’ll post more as it progresses if you guys are interested. It has been in their step-wise pipeline since right before the holidays and has gone through many steps and is scheduled for February.

  24. Oh man, Chuck. Two amazing hits out of the freaking park in a week!
    I expected you to rip my heart out of my chest and stomp on it while singing a little dirge and dancing a jig. Instead you put it into a plexi-glass box and saved my life.
    There is something so gratifying in hearing what we want to hear. When I started writing two years ago, this plan, your plan, was my plan. Then the whole publishing industry blew to Hell and everyone jumped on the E-book Magic Bus. I never felt comfortable with that idea. Some of the books I have read have been rush jobs and are pretty shitty.
    So, I kept my head down and kept working on my little project and my little blog while building a little author’s platform for who knows what and figured that someday I would hear that familiar tune and go back to my original plan.
    All I can say is a simple Thank the Lord for Chuck Wendig’s little tune!
    I can’t wait to hear the details about the movie. How exciting is that?? Another friend, Lorna Suzuki is having her Imago series made into a motion picture this summer. The other books in the series are optioned.
    How cool are you two?

  25. I love how much sense you always make in your posts.

    A lot of commenters point out the pain and torture of submitting and receiving rejections and so that’s their reason for solely self-pub.

    But I think those rejections can be seen as feedback.

    If a writer is getting nothing but form rejections , then I think that’s a sign the work isn’t good enough even for self-pub.

    If a writer is getting custom rejections ( a no because it’s not for them or they don’t want to take a risk cause they’re not sure it’ll sell despite how much they love it) or even requests for partials, but still no dice, then I think it’s a sign that self-pub is the answer.

    Which you’ll never know unless you query. And again, you can always say no if you decide you’ll make more money self-pub. But at least not you got some free, experienced feedback (you don’t owe them anything, so you can say no).

    I agree with the idea of increasing patience. I need some patience. Also, I need to learn how to ABW: always be writing. I send a query out and instead of waiting and doing nothing, I gotta force myself to work on something else as I’m waiting. If I self pub, I might spend ALL my energies on ONE book that may not even be that good anyways and won’t sell no matter what, and instead I can let someone else be the judge of that while writing and increasing my skills that way and have more product to sell in the long run, meaning more money.

    By going for traditional publishing first, you have can overcome a temptation that I think the concept of self-publishing offers. The temptation of taking the easy way out.

    Easy or faster doesn’t always mean better.

  26. I am both traditionally and self published. I started with a traditional small press which was beneficial. It taught me a lot. I also met my editor through that pub who now works with me on my self published stuff. For me traditional publishing was a valuable learning experience but it was only when I started to self pub as well that I saw a jump in sales and began to make enough money to write full time. It won’t be the same for everyone but that’s the beauty of the industry now. So many ways to publish. What works for one may not work for another. Explore all options.

  27. So here’s the great thing about the current environment…we now have choices! In the old days (all of three years ago) the only way to make any money publishing was to go the traditional route…and that puts the author in a huge disadvantage in terms of power with regards to the publishers. Now self-publishing is viable – I made several hundred thousand dollars when I started out there, and my traditional publishing contract was MUCH higher than if I had signed traditional first.

    There is no right or wrong way to go – for Chuck he thinks traditional should be first…for me going self first was absolutely the right way to go. Some stay full indie, others full traditional it’s a world full of opportunities and that’s a good thing.

    Since Chuck shared “his experience” and made the disclaimer I’ll share mine which is a bit different. First a bit of background.

    * I self-published 5 of my 6 books from April 2009 – Aug 2011. All told I sold 70,000 copies (priced $4.95 – $6.95) and my top selling months were in excess of 11,500 books sold.

    * I DID get foreign rights deals while self- published: Czech Republic, Poland, and one other I can’t recall. BUT…I did get more once I traditionally published (I’m currently at 14)

    * When I switched to traditional I got a MUCH bigger deal (six-figures for 3-books) than I would have if I had never self-published (standard debut is $5,000 so I would normally have gotten $15,000 – $30,000 if I had gone traditional first.

    * I did my own covers but you CAN get top artists to do covers for your self-published books. My French covers for traditional were done by Marc Simonetti (who also does Rothfuss’s France covers). I have a self-publishing project coming up and I’m going to hire him for it. Yes, it costs a bit…but it is worth it and I’ll probably do a KickStarter to fund it like others have done.

    * Yes you can get lots of good reviews and “blogger buzz” when self-published. I had more than 100 reviews for my self published works on sites like Fantasy Book Critic, Fantasy Literature, and dozens of more. Look to see how many reviews Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song has from the big bloggers, or M.R. Mathias…bottom line – secret to getting reviews is write a good book – this is the same for traditional or self-published authors.

    * I have no film rights, but other self-published authors do: Hugh Howey’s Wool was optioned by Ridley Scott, On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves is being made by MGM. Many books get “optioned” few are produced…if you are looking for “film production” to be your bar for success – you are likely to be disappointed no matter how you are published.

    * There were things in my contract that were deal breakers (for me) . If I hadn’t been self-published already I would have had very little leverage to get them amended. As it was, me “walking” was a very real possibility and I would still have been making similar money, so I was able to get them changed.

    So….Unlike Chuck, I’m not making a definitive statement that Self-publishing first is the way to go. But I do know I’m much better off because I did. There is no one size fits all – keep up on the changes in the industry and evaluate all the options. Having choices are a good thing…make use of the them.

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