Friday, June 13, 2014

The Changing of the Guards (A Comment on Self-Publishing)

    • I couldn't resist jumping in on this one. Here's my comment to Saurav Dutt's blog post, "The Changing of the Guards."
      @intralingo [Lisa Carter] tweeted this blog post, which is how I found it. I didn't have it served up to me in the NYT or whatever. The whole writing & reading scene is going horizontal & networked, that's the thing.
      I'm a writer now working on my 7th book, not counting anthologies, and, variously, I've been published by big commercial publishers, small independents, and university presses. For my latest book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual-- rather niche, as the title suggests-- I looked back on my experiences and the kinds of contracts & PR & marketing I could expect and I realized (in about 2 minutes) that trying to find a traditional US publisher would be in neither my nor the book's best interest. Frankly, it amazes me to say this. But I say this.
      Strategy: Kindle (done), POD CreateSpace under my own imprint (done), IngramSpark (in-progress) and once that's done, a postcard mailing to libraries, review copies to Mexican historians and others who would find the book of interest,, and my newsletter will go out to subscribers. And I'll give a few talks here and there. So no, I'm probably not going to be able to buy a yacht, but I do think I can expect, over the long term, to do better than I would with the typical small or university press. Maybe I'm wrong about that. But I'm willing to take the risk and find out. And I will admit that, despite my previous experience as a literary magazine editor and as an author-- translation: I get it about hiring an editor and quality book design-- I have had to climb a bit of a learning curve… alas… but one big help has been joining the Independent Publishers Association. I do warmly recommend that.
      My take on publishing now is that, for various reasons and in many (though I hasten to add, not all) cases, publishers are simply not doing enough for their authors. They are struggling, they lack vision, and too many of them are trying to market books as if they were tubs of cottage cheese. But generalizations can only go so far; authors and their titles are an extremely heterogeneous bunch. For some authors and some titles a traditional publisher is, in fact, the best option and I think that will continue to be the case. (If I were not an independent writer but a faculty member aiming for tenure, I would not self-publish, for example.) But this is no longer the case for many authors and books, and increasingly so. The stigma of self-publishing is definitely less than it was only a few years ago.

      [This last bit is in response to examples of editorial arrogance Dutt cites:] 
      I do have sincere and enormous respect for many of my editors and the marketing staff I've worked with in the past. I say many, not all. As in any industry, or any society for that matter, there are some insecure, ignorant, and unhappy people. But bless 'em. One day they'll figure it all out. Meanwhile, one can fly wide of their orbit. Or maybe write them into one's next novel.
      COMMENTS always welcome.

      Freedom in writing is akin to knocking down walls. Tyranny is a process of building them.” --Saurav Dutt