Friday, January 14, 2011

Embracing Indie eBook Publishing

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...


Empress said...

A really great, thoughtful analysis--will be retwitting the link.

You turned me on to Konrath's blog at the beginning of the week; I have to say, it was a major eye-opener.

I'm seriously starting to consider the indie route because of this. You and I had an off-line discussion about this--my current WIP might technically be classified as paranormal, but it's also a philosophical treatise and serious social commentary told in a very arch and satirical voice. While I know how utterly amazing the writing is, I also know how hard it's going to be to market.

One of the publishers I know might jump on it pays absolute shite in royalties, and the author does almost all the work to prep it for publishing (seriously). After all the blood, sweat and tears put into the writing... nah. Sorry.

I have two really good friends who are in the agent process; one has successfully found an agent for his YA. She has dilligently been trying to sell his book to a publisher for TWO YEARS. I am so not kidding.

The other writer has put incredible energy into her WIP and finding an agent without success. I don't get it--her writing is EXCELLENT, and she's speaking to an audience that I don't think is being reached right now. I also don't like the way the professional critiques have gone--they've filed off a lot of what made the story unique and appealing (to me, as a reader) to make it more generic, more "appealing to a wider audience." I also hate the effect the rejections have had on her as a writer. (Made her stronger in some ways, but in others...)

So, you almost have me convinced (like, 95-98%).

Jim said...

I have several friends who are successful authors. By "successful," I mean they bring in enough money to support themselves and their families. Almost all of them are slowly turning toward indie publishing, one way or another. I know one guy who has had several novels traditionally published and he makes more $ now with ebooks he's published himself than he ever did with "real" books.

The only downside to self-publishing is you are still just one voice among the thousands and thousands of other writers out there. But instead of clamoring for the attention of a traditional publisher, you're clamoring for the attention of readers.

A writer of even average ability can make good money if he or she has some talent with self-marketing.

Hank Brown said...

Your epiphany mirrors my own, almost, though I rejected indie publishing for years because of the box I had though myself into. I certainly can't claim wild success yet, but I wouldn't go back to that masochistic trad-pub route for anything (save maybe a 6-figure advance).

I blogged/ranted a little about the state of publishing a while back.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, very well said. I had been writing a long time for myself, sharing short stories with friends who told me I should write a full novel. I felt the same way as many of you, feeling that it was to much hassle to go the traditional route and that my writing would be filtered through a corporate committee that would want me to rewrite my war stories to include love interests and so forth for that "wider audience." When I read Konrath's blog, his message really hit me. This is an exciting time to be a writer, and as individuals, well, we are all out of excuses now.

Congratulations on your decision, now why don't you tell us a little about the book? I'm guessing it's a PMP?!?


Jack Badelaire said...

Congratulations on your decision, now why don't you tell us a little about the book? I'm guessing it's a PMP?!?

It's a little post-modern pulp, a little crime thriller. I've got a new teaser page set up now - "Killer Instincts". Let me know what you think.

Anonymous said...

Looks pretty cool. I've thought about this in the past. Most books in this genre feature a protagonist who is ex-something. Ex-SEAL, Ex-Special Forces, Ex-Cop...which makes all of those characters somewhat generic. Instead by having him be a "regular guy" he has to seek out training from the underworld which makes for a unique story. Make sure you also check out Andrew Vachss' "A Bomb Built in Hell" which you can get for free off his website.

Jack Badelaire said...

Thanks for the comment!

I am in agreement with you, definitely. I don't think it's the sort of story I'd want to write constantly, because let's face it, either your learned amateur becomes a professional, or gets killed off.

The original idea for the KI story stemmed from me wanting to write a story about a mercenary who had never been in the military, and how that set him apart from his peers on missions. From there I began to wonder how a civilian would become a mercenary and acquire those skills, and a story of revenge began to take shape, eventually culminating in the story I'm writing now.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to barrage you with my personal reading list, but you might want to take a look at "Dirty Combat" by Dave Tompkins. You might have to special order it...I picked it up while I was in London. Tompkins was one of those non-military mercenaries. He got demolitions experience as a safe cracker in England's underworld. Later he freelanced with Callan's boys in Angola, did security in Rhodesia, and participated in an assassination attempt on Pablo Escabar in Columbia, that last job got a brief mention in Bowden's "Killing Pablo." Just thought you might be interested in tracking that book down. Some influences from it show up in my own book as well.

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