As of this week, I've made the decision that when (not if) I finish the book I'm currently writing, I will publish it as an eBook through Amazon and B/N's self publishing portals.
I've come to this decision for four reasons.
1. I'm tiring out. Writing part-time while there are a million other things vying for my attention drags this process out to an intolerable degree, and once it's done, I simply don't have the stamina to then spend months - hell, years - finding an agent and a publisher who'll take my novel. I just can't wait that long. The way I see it, writing for publication is like gambling; you can play the short odds and be careful and amass a small but tidy sum cautiously, or you can keep throwing money on the long odds and hope that someday - someday! You will win it big. I see Indie ePublishing as the short odds, and traditional publishing as trying to win the lottery. And for the record, I don't play the lottery.
2. Electronic Self-Publishing is here to stay, and I want to ride the wave while it's still growing. What was considered a "vanity press" idea ten or fifteen years ago is now becoming a viable alternative to finding a publisher. This is something indie game publishers have know for a while now, but non-game book publishing is taking a while to catch onto the idea that someone being able to publish their own work != the downfall of the literary world. This was the case of all the Web 2.0 technologies as they came along, taking the ability to "publish to the world" out of the hands of certain gatekeeping individuals and giving that power to the masses. Yes, it's given us some stupid crap on the internet (okay, a LOT of stupid crap), but it's also created some truly amazing things as well. If you're one of those "All People Are Idiots!" folks, the ability for just anyone to write a novel and potentially have someone pay to read it is anathema to you. But on the other hand, five years ago, I thought "blogging" was stupid, and here I am. A year ago I thought Twitter was stupid, and yet, I'm on it, Tweeting away. People make money blogging and Tweeting, too. People even make a living teaching others how to blog and Tweet, shockingly enough. Journalism, Film (see: Youtube et al), and now Fiction publishing is all shifting to a Web 2.0 paradigm; it's Publishing 2.0, and it is only going to get bigger.
3. Indie ePublishing suits what I want to write. Quality aside, I honestly do not think there is a viable market for what I want to write in today's dead-tree publishing paradigm; the short serial action thriller as was popular back in the 60's - 80's in titles like The Executioner, The Death Merchant, Able Team, Longarm, The Ninja Master, The Survivalist, the Richard Blade series, Casca the Eternal Warrior, and so on. There have been dozens of these titles over the years, cheap "post-modern pulp" paperback novels out of those few decades selling for $2-3, averaging less than two hundred pages and 50-80K word lengths. These books were enormously popular at the time, and I think the sort of serial fiction they provided is still viable, but no one is going to see the profit in that kind of publishing in today's print fiction market, at least not outside of Young Adult fiction (which I don't write...yeah no). On the other hand, a short novel format would be perfectly acceptable - even preferable, on an eReader, and the price point hasn't changed much, either.
And finally, one last big reason. I want to be paid to write. I've been writing fiction since grade school. I might not be a great writer - I might not even be a "pretty good" writer, but I am a passable writer, and the more I write, the better I get. I've got ideas, I have some modicum of talent, and if properly motivated, I can produce copy quickly. But the motivation is the key, and my motivation right now, as I close in on my mid-30's, is income. I'm not satisfied with my current job, but it pays better than some, and that keeps me locked in. If I could supplement my income with a small but steady stream of royalty payments, it would be both encouraging and pleasing to the pocketbook, and I could consider a less stressful job even if it meant a pay cut, in order to put myself into a better frame of mind for writing. And Indie ePub money - that's money now, as in within a year, not fantasy dream lottery money that I might get if I'm one that one single writer out of every ten thousand potential new fiction writers that gets picked up for distribution by one of the Big Six, and then waits another year to eighteen months before my book hits the shelves. There are fiction writers out there in the hot genres - not a lot of writers, but a fair few - who have seen real, I-can-do-something-with-this amounts of money within just a few months of putting their eBooks up for sale, and we are talking rookie authors who are doing it all by the skin of their teeth and the sweat of their brows.
I'll conclude this little soapboxing session with the link to the blog that's turned me around on this idea: J.A. Konrath's "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing". I read an anthology of hitman stories edited by Konrath a few months ago, "These Guns For Hire", and having looked him up, I now see that he is a very big proponent of "Indie Publishing" as he likes to put it (sound familiar, gamers?), and his blog has become a rallying point for Indie authors who have started to make a living publishing their own eBooks. Anyone who's interested in self-publishing fiction - or anything, really - should read through his blog.
And with that, back to the typewriter...