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Self-publishing has become a cult

31 May 2013

From Salon:

Ten years ago self-publishing was viewed as a fad rooted in vanity; only those who couldn’t hack it under the traditional system went the do-it-yourself route. With the advent of digital publishing, the paradigm has changed, self-publishing is a legitimate choice, master of your own destiny, blah blah blah, you’ve heard this story before.

What’s funny is, the adherents would have you believe that once you self-publish, the scales will fall from your eyes and you’ll recognize self-publishing as the One True Path. Traditional publishing will reveal itself to be a lost circle of Dante Alighieri’s Hell, full of damaged souls who want to enrich themselves off your work while destroying every shred of your creativity.

I call shenanigans: Last year I self-published a novella, and all it did was encourage me to get an agent and seek a traditional deal for my full-length novel. If indeed there are scales on my eyes, they are still firmly in place.

. . . .

Since publication, I’ve sold around 200 copies, and given another 800 away for free through Amazon’s KDP program. I’ve made enough money to cover the cost of the cover and a nice bottle of whiskey.

. . . .

Yet, not for a second did I consider self-publishing my full-length novel. The goals here are different: I want this book in bookstores. I want the cachet that comes with getting a traditional publishing deal. I want to get invited to better parties.

. . . .

Here’s the thing: My dream career as a writer involves a mix of self-publishing and traditional publishing. One supporting the other. I want to be a hybrid author, a model used successfully by authors like Chuck Wendig (a man often shouted at by self-publishing proponents for taking a middle position).

My novella is available now, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for a deal on my novel. Then maybe I write another novella, or I collect some of my short stories, and I self-publish that. Afterward, I write another novel and hand it off to my agent. The cycle repeats. I have a mix of books, some of which earn me the perks of being a traditionally-published author, while others offer me a greater return of profits and more creative freedom.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t fit the narrative of self-publishing’s champions. But here’s the truth: Some of them are just as bad as the evil traditional publishing executives who want to ride your work to fame and fortune. Because those self-pubbing pros are doing the same thing—staking out “expert” positions and writing glowing blog posts about self-publishing, and the link to their Amazon storefront is at the bottom of the post.

Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to L for the tip.


121 Comments to “Self-publishing has become a cult”

  1. Good call posting this – the article is worth a column all on its own, since that seems to be all we’re commenting on in the previous column. 🙂

  2. ” I want the cachet that comes with getting a traditional publishing deal. I want to get invited to better parties.”

    Sounds like vanity to me. 🙂

    • Sounds like fear and good old fashioned wanabee author grovelling to me. Like the way we all used to (hopefully past tense)read those agent blogs going on about how stupid writers were because they made a slip on a submission package, and we’d agree with the agents because that was surely going to get us a deal.

      I’ll be glad when the ‘work hard enough, be good enough and you’ll get a trad deal’ fallacy is done with. I could sort of understand it before indie broke, we all needed the encouragement to carry on, but now it’s at best deluded at worst intended to destroy confidence.

      As for people ‘staking out expert’ opinions…

  3. Reposting my comment, ’cause I’m just THAT egotistical:

    First Mistake: Putting the word “novella” on the cover. The majority of my books are novellas. The majority of my sales are novellas. I occasionally refer to them as novellas in the teaser text, but I would never EVER put that on the cover. Nobody knows what a “novella” is: you’ll mystify most, confuse others, and put off the people who do know when they see your price. (I sell more novellas in a month than he has total, at the same price point. Of course, different field.)

    Second Mistake: Good covers are nice and certainly help. Good reviews are nice and certainly help. But what sells titles is titles. He has one title. He has one chance to be discovered. He is off the new listings list and the search algorithms will deprioritize him for it. “I didn’t do much marketing” is a red herring. If he wants to sell titles he needs more titles. Period. If we know anything about e-publishing, we know this. If he thinks he can plunk down one book and get anywhere, he’s not being an indiepublisher, he’s buying a lottery ticket. Nothing wrong with lottery tickets and somebody will, eventually, win. But the people who win usually buy more than one ticket.

    Third Mistake, related to Second Mistake and alluded to by you above: He doesn’t understand the long tail/marathon nature of e-publishing. 25 copies a month with one title in a supersaturated field IS in fact, extremely good. Assuming the book maintains 20 copies a month for ten years, that’s 2400 copies or ca. $5,000. Like to see him get a $5,000 advance on a novella from anybody, anywhere, ever. (We won’t even talk about the possibility of getting $5,000 in ROYALTIES from a tradpub deal on a novella.) If the book took him a hundred hours to write (which would be a RIDICULOUS amount of time, but hey, it was his first one) that’s $50/hr total revenue. Not bad!

    The thing is, though, if the book is in fact good – I’m going OSC on him and refuse to read it – it should at least maintain that level and could in fact go up as it continue to garner reviews and get added to “also bought” sorts. I have some books that just don’t sell well and have a good month to hit double digits, but the ones that sell tend to do a very little bit better over time (although some months are just bad across the board – April kinda sucked, and I heard that from a lot of writers.) So again, on average, that $5,000 which is THOUSANDS more than he could ever hope to get from tradpub is a floor, not a ceiling, and it’s a sunken floor at that.

    • Replying to something different than my reply in the other column…

      Regarding “First Mistake”, very much in agreement. Recently a friend of mine was asking cover advice from his blog audience, and had a few variations on a cover for people to vote on. I advised he remove “A blah blah blah novella” from the cover because, as you say, everyone’s impression of what a novella is, is different. If you’re worried about people quibbling over the price/word count ratio, put the word count in the description (I do with with all my short fiction). And of course, Amazon does list estimated page counts, so unless someone is completely oblivious, they’ll know the title’s approximate length.

    • “OSC on him.”

      I gotta remember that phrase.

  4. That’s funny because I’ve always thought traditional publishing was very cult-like. Or at least comparable to some secret society like the Freemasons. I bet they even have separate secret handshakes for apprentices, midlisters and best sellers. Who will help the Penguin’s son?

  5. Then maybe I write another novella, or I collect some of my short stories, and I self-publish that. Afterward, I write another novel and hand it off to my agent. The cycle repeats.

    Or maybe you’ll take your strawvella on a travellin show and beat it with your whiskey bottle while cryin us a river.

    Just drink the punch, honey. It’s good for you.

  6. “I want the cachet that comes with getting a traditional publishing deal. I want to get invited to better parties.”

    “Actually, I’ll take one parting shot: I know self-publishing offers the best royalty rates, but if you got into this game with the sole intent to make money, you got into the wrong business.”

    For some being publishing is a status symbol. For others its a business. One guess as to who usually does a better job making a living at it.

    • +1 for this.

      That’s what I don’t get about this article. He spends the first part complaining about the money he didn’t make on the books he didn’t sell. But then he does a 180 and sneers at anyone who wants to make money by writing, since he’s only in it for the status (better parties).

      So he’s pissed that he wrote and published a single novella and didn’t immediately join the big-name author club, where he calls Stephen King by his first name? Pu-leeze.

  7. *yawn* Same old idiocy here, different author.

    Although I have noticed something that’s getting pretty common in these pieces: thinly-veiled shots at Konrath.

    Worse, a lot of them create false expectations and alter their own histories to sell their story. Suffice to say that if you’ve got a deep backlist, you started with traditional deals that helped build your rep, and you’re the voice of the self-publishing movement, of course you’re going to make bank. Pretending like those things have nothing to do with your success is disingenuous (to put it kindly).

    Also common is the fact that the writers don’t have the guts to actually name him, because that might actually lead to a response, and we can’t have that.

    • I’ve heard that if you say “Konrath” three times in your article, he will actually appear before you and beat the snot out of you.

      Or was it something about saying it in front of a mirror?

      I forget.

    • I don’t think it’d be a response from Konrath – he seems too busy these days writing and rolling around on a huge mountain of cash to give a crap anymore.

      EDIT: Forgot to add, he is hardly “re-writing” his own history, either. He freely admits he felt one way a few years ago, and now feels another. So anyone who accuses him of this clearly isn’t actually reading his blog on a regular basis.

      • Author Larry Correia v. CNN Blogger Dean Obeidalla on Twitter last week:

        Dean: I’ve been writing for CNN weekly for 2 years Where have u been?!

        Correia: I’ve been a NYT bestselling novelist sleeping on a big pile of money.

        Dean: That’s impressive – Im going to Google u later so I will know how famous u are

        Correia: CNN’s new slogan: “Hold on. Let us Google that.”

        For the rest: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/twitter-fun-with-cnns-best-and-brightest/

      • If Konrath was ‘rewriting his history’, he wouldn’t have kept years and years of old blog posts up on his site. Reading them all the way through from the start shows exactly how his opinions have changed over that time as he adapted to change in the publishing business.

        The idea that he’s only successful because he was successful in trade publishing is silly, because I’d never heard of him before I bought one of his books on Smashwords a couple of years ago. I bought it because the writing was well ahead of most other book samples I’d looked at there.

    • Yes, and the “creating false expectations” line is just as egregious.

      • Konrath is exceptionally blunt about how many ways your book can completely fail as a commercial venture.

        • And all these vailed Konrath jabs, and there have been lots, never take into account that a lot of his top selling titles, Konrath Classics if you will, we’re written in the F%$ing Nineties only to be managed into complete obscurity by Big Pub.

          Instant, easy sucess by Self-Pub. Yeah, that’s his motto.

    • I’ve been saying that for years. It’s not just Konrath, it’s also Eisler, Locke, and DWS. Most of the success stories in self-publishing come from leveraging traditional success or blogging fame. But people act as if their path is easy for everyone else to follow. It’s a shameful blight on the credibility of these self-published authors.

      • “Most of the success stories in self-publishing come from leveraging traditional success or blogging fame.”

        That’s wrong.

        “But people act as if their path is easy for everyone else to follow.”

        I don’t know who’s saying it’s easy (maybe Locke has, I dunno), but it’s definitely not the people you named.

        “It’s a shameful blight on the credibility of these self-published authors.”

        Agree to disagree.

      • John Locke paid a now-defunct website which paid freelancers to write favorable reviews on Amazon for Locke’s books. Blogging had nothing to do with it.

      • I’ll be making a living at this by next year. I had no platform when I started, and I never blog and my online interactions are mostly with friends. My marketing is a few ads and my only platform is Wattpad and I had to build that. My experience is not uncommon.

        • How are you supporting yourself until the self-published novels bring you a profit? If I understand your blog correctly you have a degree in literature — are you already published in some field? That expertise helps.

          But if you truly bootstrapped yourself into a career, that’s great. More power to you! That doesn’t change the fact that Konrath, Eisler, Locke and DWS did not, and they have no credibility when they give advice about self-publishing. Unfortunately they, not you, are the spokesmen for the new indie movement.

          • “How are you supporting yourself until the self-published novels bring you a profit?”

            How do authors support themselves while they’re waiting for a publisher to accept their book?

            Don’t give yourself a hernia setting up those straw men, dude.

          • You’re struggling.

          • No prior publications. Religious Studies was my major, Creative Writing and English were minors. I spent two years learning how to write someone people would read after college. You have to unlearn that literary stuff.

            I don’t see how connections would help with indie. Readers and visibility are what you need. I’m friends with traditional editors and writers. I had an agent for four years. None of that made me any dime and the experiences don’t translate to indie at all. The two systems are so amazingly different. You have to understand that most traditionals are mystified by indie methods.

            And I’ve seen traditionally published authors release indie books on their own and bomb. The prior publications did them no good. I could write a lengthy post explaining how their prior pubs provide minimal benefit due to Amazon algorithms wanting to know what you’ve done for me lately, but I won’t. Konrath has covered that well himself.

            Konrath was a major reason I started selfpublishing. He made a lot of sense to me. The people you name, I and others have found success using the methods they promote.

        • Congrats. I don’t think anyone is saying it’s easy, but it’s really not as hard as some of these whining people want to believe it is either. And honestly I find that people who whine the most are the people who have done the least to achieve what they want.

          I put my book online and started getting sales the very next day. That was a year ago and I’m working on several more books now while constantly experimenting and looking at what sells. It is what it is. Sometimes you’ve just got to try things and keep learning (which it seems the writer of the above article does not care to do at all). Some people would just rather whine instead of experimenting and trying things. Some of these people may just not be cut out for this business. Or any business for that matter…

      • I don’t have the link at the moment, but there’s a lengthy post on KBoards listing all the known indie authors earning a living from self-publishing. The vast majority were never previously published. There are probably many more that aren’t known of, and the list didn’t count people like me who are making some nice money but not that much yet.

        Don’t assuming that super bloggers who are publishing successes are the only successes. The majority are hard to spot because there are so many books and authors out there. The names you mentioned are the tip of the iceberg. They’re just highly visibile and famous for their selfpub promo. Not everyone who does it blogs about it.

  8. I was shocked that a single 60 page Zombie story didn’t make him more famous.

    • Great, now I just laugh-snorted coffee up my nose!

    • Hee hee. I used to say that writers are some of the coolest people I know, and that’s more often than not very true. They’re more perceptive and sensitive and just plain interesting people in my view. That doesn’t mean there aren’t also a lot of entitled show ponies out there. The writer of the above article struck me as a show pony who really wants people to make a big deal out of him, whether he has done anything to deserve it or not. There are a LOT of authors out there trying to make it. It’s sad that trad pubbers keep people like the author living in their own little bubble as if they’re the only ones who matter while giving them the false notion that they don’t have to do much to earn their place. The industry is changing and these people are the least likely to have the emotional resilience to change with it. Instead they’ll sit around crying about things not being the way they once were, as they miss out on what could turn out to be even *better* opportunities for them.

      Writing is hard work and it’s still a business. Writers have to earn their reader dollars, not spend their time worrying about whether they’ll ‘make it’ in time for the next fancy industry party. If these people are more worried about the parties than anything else, they need to go be event planners, not professional authors.

  9. You know, a case could be made that Salon was a self-published magazine. It was certainly one of the first online magazines, and it was free. (I’ve no idea if it’s still all free content; I stopped reading it around 2002.)

    Ho-hum. Yet another straw man argument about self-publishing. I bet he’s going to write his next piece about how low ebook prices are ruining brick and mortar bookstores, or something.

    • Well, Salon doesn’t make any money. I think that qualifies it as a literary “little magazine” rather than a self-published “vanity” magazine.

      • Actually, I think one could make the argument that “little” magazines are a subset of fanzines (and no doubt someone else has made just that argument before — citation welcome, if so).

  10. You know that it is really bad when a non-author, namely myself, can read the article and shake their head in disbelief.

    Can somebody follow up in a year or so and see how his quest to be traditionally published is going? He makes it seem like simply making the choice to be traditionally published is all it takes.

  11. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a primary attraction to legacy cachet, or primarily wanting to see your book in brick and mortar stores. Objectives tend to be idiosyncratic, and generally what matters isn’t a person’s idiosyncratic objectives, but whether she’s chosen a sensible means of achieving them. So if nurturing one’s vanity and getting paper distribution are your primary objectives, a legacy deal will probably make sense for you.

    That said, this was a strange post. First, because it was filled with strawman arguments — and tired old florid strawmen at that (“scales will fall from your eyes and you’ll recognize self-publishing as the One True Path. Traditional publishing will reveal itself to be a lost circle of Dante Alighieri’s Hell, full of damaged souls who want to enrich themselves off your work while destroying every shred of your creativity…”).

    Second, because the writer began the piece with a lot of links to provide evidence in support of his propositions. But then he transitioned to strawman mode, and suddenly the links were gone. That was a shame — looking for links to prove his points would have helped keep him more honest. Instead, he started arguing with the voices in his head, and didn’t bother to check whether anyone else could hear them.

    Third, the narcissism: “I call shenanigans: Last year I self-published a novella, and all it did was encourage me to get an agent and seek a traditional deal for my full-length novel.” This is a lot like saying, “My friend said she really liked this movie. Well, I saw it and didn’t like it at all. That means she’s full of s*** and the movie is actually bad.”

    Well, maybe… or maybe you both just had different subjective reactions, because no movie is for everyone. And nor is any publishing route.

    Fourth, as Dan said in a comment above, this stuff is *old* at this point. The whole thing read like a rant from two years ago, the equivalent of someone calling bloggers “pajama-clad typewriter monkeys living in their mothers’ basements” or something like that. This kind of thing had already become a cliche (and a dishonest one) a long time ago, and it’s odd the writer felt he was saying anything fresh or original in attempting to resurrect it.

    All that said, it’s good the writer doesn’t have a problem with different authors choosing different paths. Maybe the problem is that “It’s okay for different authors to choose different paths” is such an obvious — indeed, almost axiomatic — argument that the writer felt he had to create a bunch of pretend obstacles to make his conclusion seem more meaningful and fresh and dramatic.

  12. Why does it have to be one or the other? Relax people. Whichever works, gives you the biggest bang for your “novella.” Money talks, everything else is BS.

  13. …calling bloggers “pajama-clad typewriter monkeys living in their mothers’ basements”

    Hey! I take exception to that. To the pejorative tone of that comment (wherever you got it from).

    I am a “pajama-clad KEYBOARD monkey living in MY OWN HOUSE” – okay, in a little yellow room, but it is the best room in the house for writing, and has a view of my perennials and the hummingbird feeder.

    Everything else you said, I agree with.

    Except that I might point out that our column’s subject would probably get invited to better parties IF he made lots of money writing as an indie, and THEN his beloved trad publishers ‘discovered’ him, and gave him his desired cachet.

    His chances are better that way.

    And my blogging is FUN. So there.

  14. I feel we should go all the way on this cult thing and have matching druid robes.

  15. Whoa…

    I haven’t bothered to follow the link and see who this person is, but I really have to question…. why would Salon run something like this? Don’t you have to be somebody interesting or at least do something interesting to get a slot like that?

    This writer comes across as so clueless. If you can’t even give away more than 800 copies of your book in a year, what makes you think a traditional publisher would want it? Giving things away is easy. Getting businesses to take a chance on it and pay you for it is a little tougher.

    I’m really having a hard time understanding why so many people seem to think they are being “promised” success in independent publishing. No one ever, ever, ever said success was guaranteed. All the “revolution” means is that you are free to try where you could not try before. If nobody even wants your book for free… maybe it’s you and your book that are the problem.

    • Because Salon still has pretensions of being an old-school ‘literary magazine” and sucking up to the traditional publishers has always been the road to success in that particular genre.

  16. Also, am I the only one that thinks that a new author getting 1,000 people to download their 60 page novella is a good start?

    • You clearly aren’t a student of the School of Instant Gratification, Unrealistic Expectataions Campus.

      • Tom

        You may be pleased with that paltry level of success but some sensible people can’t live without Hollywood and NYC calling them for movie and print-only deals after “button-push” plus 2 weeks.

        And invites to better parties.

    • Indeed. Before, he had a novella (or whatever it was) that was unpublishable by his own admission. Market value: zero.

      Afterward, he had a bottle of good whiskey, a cover, and a published asset that will continue to make him (at least a little) money for the indefinite future.

      That sounds like a decent deal to me.

  17. He lost me at the first line: when was self-publishing ever a “fad”? Certainly not ten years ago.

    Fads are not only popular, they are a kind of bubble, with short lifespan. It seems to me that ten years ago, self-publishing was about like it had been for years and years and years. And it hasn’t been popular enough to call a fad in my lifetime… until the current, er, fad of indie publishing.

  18. Someone on the KBoards mentioned this already, but I find it interesting that the argument has shifted from trad vs. indie to hybrid vs. indie. Hardly anyone seems to be arguing for a traditional-only career anymore.

  19. Well, I’m guessing the author’s intent was to make this proposal:

    “No more lines in the sand. No more judging people for the path they choose. Let’s agree to read books, and enjoy them, and support each other, regardless of the route you take to the page…..We should be encouraging and supporting each other, not taking shots at each other”

    This is terrific, but he’s not likely to acheive that from this article. His tone is attacking and insulting.

    But I suspect that under that, he’s feeling hurt and pushed out.

    I think there is something here very worth discussing.

    Here is what is happening, in my humble perspective. This is a revolution of a work force. The work force of writers is breaking free from an oppressive employer, due to the options now provided by a new technology.

    And with most revolutions, the side that is fighting for freedom moves to the opposite corner. They take a very strong stance in opposition, in order to solidify their community and their commitment.

    In this, those who want to stay connected to the previous way of doing things tend to be given a hard time. In a union battle, they would be called ‘scabs’ or thrown out of the group. In cases like this, they may be challenged and argued with without being heard.

    I’ve done this. I am left, left, left wing when it comes to publishing. I believe that the owners of the Big 5 are con men and theives (not the people who work there, the owners) and I really don’t think anyone should be willing to do business with them, until they come to terms. If there was a Union, I’d be calling for a strike.

    But this article got me thinking. The last thing I want is for moderate authors to feel alienated or, even worse, attacked. I support all authors, no matter what, other authors are my allies, my sisters and brother artists. I need to think hard about my interactions with more moderate leaning authors in the future.

    But I would add that I hope the community would think about this as well.

    In any battle like this, spokespeople for the revolution tend to appear and to be idealized. I think the current spokespeople right now are KKR and DWS.

    I believe this because if I disagree with KKR or DWS (which I frequently do, I think they are off base on some really important points), I get ALOT of backlash. The ideas of KKR and DWS are taken for gospel, and anyone who dares disagree or question, gets lambasted.

    I know this, because it’s happened to me. People I’ve never seen comment here before will angrily tell me that I know nothing, and how dare I disagree with KKR or DWS because they have so much more experience and they obviously know much more than I do and they will repeat that I know nothing.

    And I am about as staunch a support of indie publishing as they come.

    So, I can only imagine how a more moderate leaning author might feel when faced with this kind of opposition.

    Again, I understand why this happens – in a revolution, spokespeople are set up and followed. It makes for common goal and community. It’s understandable. And I do think KKR and DWS say alot of things worth listening to. But – I think we need to be careful. I think there is a danger that, in forming a coalition, we might reify our thinking and alienate potential allies.

    Again, I include myself in this – I tend to be very hardcore, and I think I need to soften.

    The battle here is not between writers – at least from my perspective. It’s between writers and Publishing contracts. So, for me, it’s good to think about who to identify as friend, and who to position to challenge.

    I think if an author goes onto Salon and claims we’re a cult, self-reflection may be valuable here. After all, we don’t want to get ‘cultish’ and we don’t want people to experience us that way. Self-reflection is good for writers, after all. 🙂

    • Pretty much agree. Except for the analogy of indie publishing being left wing–from my work with traditional publishers (as a big 5 author) — indie publishing is libertarian.

    • I don’t remember you getting jumped on here, Mira – though my memory is fuzzy of late…

      I think plenty of people disagree with some aspects of what Dean and Kris say – and they’d be the first to point out that they are NOT trying to set out a ‘one true path’ but rather encouraging people to try things, and sharing what has worked for them.

      Oh, and taking a nice strong stance against some the of the craziness that is the current state of traditional publishing.

      Heck, I love Kris and Dean, and I don’t agree with everything they say. 🙂

      Thanks for the perspective in the rest of your comment, too. Definitely worth considering~

    • Nice analogy and sentiment, but the problem is that the only time I’ve ever seen the “one true path” claim is when “hybrid” authors claim that’s what indie authors are arguing. I’ve never actually seen any indie author state that indie is the only way one should go. I’ve seen several claim it is a good way to go based on things like empowerment, higher royalties, and more participation in things like cover design and title, but that’s about it.

      I’ve never heard any indies call corporate authors “scabs,” either.

      But I hear corporations and those associated with them hurl all manner of insult at indie authors–who are “self-published” (because they couldn’t get a “real” book deal) or, now, a “cult” (this is the second time this week. The first was when Teleread called “self-publishing” that in its interview with Tobias Buckell).

      Signing with a corporation could be great. Deeper marketing pockets and the exceptional large advance could well be worth giving up total creative control (and some rights).

      I think if an author goes on Salon and calls “self-publishing” a cult, really it says a lot more about that author, and Salon, than it does the people he’s calling that.

      • To be fair, if you read some of Joe Konrath’s posts about a year ago (when he was really making big money), he talked a lot about the death of publishing. He was practically dancing around the corpse while setting it afire, viking-style.

  20. A cachet of being in bookstores story.
    I was in Santa Barbara and at that time up State Street there was a bookstore called Shakespeare & Co. I went looking around and was thrilled to find my Gingerbread: Things to Make and Bake book published by Harry Abrams and I defy you to come up with a crappier title. I wanted Homes For the Holidays, but I was just the stupid writer so we got things….
    I pick up my book and take it to the front counter. I say “Hi. I’m the author. Would you like me to inscribe this copy for you because it’s added value over the life of the book.”
    Appalled, they nearly ripped the book from my hands because I had suggested defacing the copy.
    So yeah, I loved the cachet of being in bookstores. Not.
    I like it a whole lot better to find someone left a note on my book’s Facebook Page and it says “I really loved this book!”

  21. “…take a position that’s any less than full-on worship, and you aren’t just wrong, you’re an enemy combatant.”

    I have a writer friend who can say the same thing about people in her writer’s group who are pursuing TRADITIONAL publishing.

    Not everyone has to be passionate about the same thing, but we should act responsibly when choosing whichever form of publishing.

  22. I wanna get invited to those parties! I want cache. Waaaaaa! Oh brother. But seriously, I would like to get invited to a few fun parties.
    His is an interesting perspective – complaining about everything self-pubbers who don’t become instant millionaires complain about.
    Once upon a time I planned to write the next great American novel. Spent years as the little match girl, peering through the windows at big publishings’/lit agents’ festive Christmas dinner. I died on the doorstep. Then I grew up.

    • Actually, I think hanging out here at PG’s place is one of the funnest, classiest parties on the interwebz, and no dreary chit chat or dress code required (although I am totally up for that pink bedazzled Druid robe thing. In fact, if I check my closet, I may already have something close to that!)

    • I wonder if the poor author realizes that if he breaks in – he’ll only have one book out, and he’ll be considered lowest guy on the totem pole… so he wouldn’t get invited to parties anyway?

  23. Now I worry I might have become a brainwashed cult minion without realizing the devious immoral ways you cultist seditionists have lured me astray.

    Shame on you.
    I need to get myself one of those Random Penguin Protection suits.

  24. And novice writers, hungry for instant gratification in an industry known for anything but, gobble it up. It’s the easy answer, even though it isn’t always the right one. Why slog through years of the query-agent-publisher process when you can just slap your book up at Amazon next week.

    He might have a point here. This is a potential downside. Of course some new writers might be completely ready to self-publish, but others might not be quite so polished and they might be disheartened by reader responses. But in some ways that is like dealing with the old submission system, part of the learning process. There’s no reason one less than perfect offering should finish a writer and damn them forever. Just use a pen name and keep going.

  25. “I call shenanigans: Last year I self-published a novella, and all it did was encourage me to get an agent and seek a traditional deal for my full-length novel. ”

    Just to make sure I got that right, I looked him up on Amazon –he has one novella and it lists three anthologies where his writing makes appearances (shorts).

    Am I missing something here? He slams self pub because he did not make big money on one novella?



    • And did I miss it, or is he judging traditional publication based on even less experience?

      Here’s the thing: new writers and artists are largely needy. This is true whether it’s with traditional publication or indie pub. They are pouring their hearts out and terrified they are embarrassing themselves. So guess what? Since time immemorial, they have behaved like publishing — all of publishing, not just indie publishing — is a cult.

      You follow your gurus, you hang on to every word, and then gratefully look down on those newer newbies who know even less than you do.

      We certainly had that in grad school in the eighties, and, oh, yeah, in every critique group I ever had. In every writer’s forum that ever existed.

  26. D.L. Shutter said:

    “…some sensible people can’t live without Hollywood and NYC calling them for movie and print-only deals after “button-push” plus 2 weeks. And invites to better parties.”

    Ah ok … now I understand.

  27. It should be noted that Salon has been full of this stuff recently. There was the guy who made “only” 12 grand from his book after it went viral (the headline writer overstated his argument, which was really only intended to shed light into the notion of how little money one makes when good luck strikes).

    What’s funny is that Salon has published this sort of rant before, against the publishing industry it seems to support. There was a notorious one in 2004 by “Jane Austen Doe” that was a lament that, after publishing several books and receiving great reviews, she was making no money.


    (The article got a lot of attention at the time, including a post from Neil Gaiman. If she had given her real name, the publicity from it could have resulted in sales.)

    • Patricia Sierra

      Thanks for that Jane Austen Doe link. Depressing reading on one hand, but quite informative on the other.

  28. Better parties.


  29. Kathlena Contreras

    I love the way he “decides” to get a tradpub contract. Gosh, I never knew it was that easy!

    • I know, right? I commented on this article, and I validated some points made by the author. But what I really wanted to write was, “Honey, you get to decide exactly *nothing*.”

  30. well, this kind of article by whomever, doesnt matter who, is still like raw meat to some sensibilities. Ithink articles that iterate and reiterate the same premises have become a dime a dozen.

    I think many can understand the idea of ‘a party’ for the author… and, having been to many, I’d say a drunk is a drunk, a boor is a boor, and a fascinating person is a fascinating person whether in your corner saloon or at a new yawk party at BEA–filled with mostly the former, and a blessed few of the latter.

    I just want to say something about Dean Wesley Smith and his mate Kris, and their mastermind cohort Allyson. Just my .02… of all those who help burgeoning indie authors, DWS and Kris and Allyson walk the talk, teaching, holding hands, giving feedback… all the while working ace hard on all their own projects, and producing them, putting them into the stream. Their kind of generosity and deep knowledge of publishing, writing, being award winning, successful, and especially really hard working people… is highly unusual in that there are from Dean for instance, daily responses to so many writers online–not to the topic of his post, but to their questions to him about writing, his and theirs… I think DWS and Kris and Allyson are unique and very different from other ‘fast’ runners on the ebook rock pile.

    Take one of their courses and you have their attentive time, their incredible tips and short cuts to so much [if there are any to a point of writing and publishing], and more than that, they are nice people, truly simpatico, gracious, not just opinionated. Sure they are strange and weird just like everyone else. But they also have kind hearts and good humor, and yes, like any intelligent being, have strong ideas, but I’ve yet to see them scathe anyone. They just state their piece, and go on to other things… mainly massively productive ‘things’…

    I used to think our colleagues Andrew Greeley [rip– he passed this week] [catholic priest novelist and sociological writer] and Carl Sagan, had huge output, but Kris and Dean together I think have far outdone them in terms of seat of pants to chair, and writing. To the finish. Time and again.

    Speaking of backdrafts from ‘better known’ writers who any of us might disagree with, it is true, and I certainly can attest to having been on the receiving end of being flamed angrily, and being in need of a can [fire extinguisher] right away. But too, theirs is just an opinion, even though bellowed. And still just one opinion even if repeated. Even if his/her friends show up to agree with him/her. Still just an opinion.

    We can engage or pass on by. The older I get, the more I realize I want to fill my eyes and ears and heart with things that have harmless humor, good intelligence, smart insight, wholeheartedness aimed toward lifting others.

    For me and many I know, life already provides true difficulty, harms, challenges that deepen our lives, hurt our hearts and strengthen our writing– without engaging with the petty …

    and all the while the petty is going on being petty… meanwhile the sunrise, the full flaming star over our Earth, is almost here on the horizon again.

    What we pay attention to most, matters.

    Just my .02, the writer of the salon article, is finding their own way, regardless of critiques by all or any. I wish them luck and more so, true friends who care, shelter and guide– with long term loyalty.

    • Well said. I believe Dean and Kris genuinely want to help other writers. Even when they’re being blunt, it’s to make people wake up and question the myths they’ve been told. And more than anything else, they lead by example.

  31. Been reading this blog for a while, this is my first post here (be gentle). I apologize for length/wandering/word vomit.

    I’ve been following Konrath for the last year, and Eisler…I always read what he has to say. I’m a self-published author that is just getting started, and like Mr. Hayden, I have a very supportive spouse that allows me to write full-time now. It does help that I worked my tail off for fifteen years prior and put some money away just to be able to do whatever I wanted down the road…and this is what I want.

    My first novella at Amazon got a 2-star review as being ‘gay propaganda for a gay agenda’ which is laughable since it is a science-fiction alien invasion story that happened to have some LGBT characters (no sex, no romance…just characters).

    It has made me quite upset, but instead of letting it hurt me (beyond the first 48 hours where my wife had to listen to me rage), I just changed the second genre category to LGBT. What does this have to do with anything?

    I’ve got two novels already written (need an editor to make sure they are proper), a couple of more novellas, and a load of short stories. I thought I wanted to be traditionally published for years, but the truth is, even if I were offered a trad publishing deal, I don’t know that I would accept it. I seriously doubt I would get Hugh Howey’s terms, since I’m not the author of a book/story that sat at the top of the charts for a while.

    I think I’m much more comfortable just writing and buying my own covers and begging friends to help me edit my own work, and struggling along the path. I’ll never be Konrath or King or Patterson. I’ll be me. If I sell enough copies to pay for the cover art and editing, then that is good enough for me. Would I like to make money? Who wouldn’t?

    I read these articles (and what is with Salon these days? They used to be respectable for their edgy journalism) and all I can do is agree with the comments here…more whining from authors who haven’t made it and haven’t really done much to make it other than write a story or two.

    A lot of these authors haven’t slugged it out in the trench warfare known as “I’m a nobody, pay attention to me please.” I keep replying to Tumblr posts from publishers that I follow that laud the necessity of publishing, linking them to Konrath and explaining that publishers are not necessary at all (I’ve been blocked by a few of them).

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that people like the one in this article make people like me furious in the sense that I’m doing everything within my power to write good stories and get a fanbase while these people cry about how self-publishing didn’t work for them and they didn’t even try very hard.

    It makes you wonder…do these people write these articles solely to get exposure so readers will go find their books on Amazon? That’s the equivalent to me of someone robbing houses just so they can come around later and sell you a security system.

    • If they do it to get attention and make sales, they’re doing it wrong! But then that’s pretty clear anyway since many of them are already making obvious mistakes.

      Sorry to hear about the biased, unfair review of your work. Someone I know may flag it as inappropriate … Scifi fandom has some very conservative elements within it.

      • One of the rules I try to live by comes from Konrath (and probably every other author before me) that says something like, “do not ever read reviews of your work.”

        This goes along with the secondary rule of, “never reply to negative reviews of your work.”

        I wasn’t able to keep myself from breaking the first rule (you know, the first review you see you absolutely have to look at it), but I kept myself from replying and even allowing my friends to reply to it. I believe it is bad karma to do such a thing.

        I always thought sci-fi fans were a bit more open and not still stuck in the 1950’s or earlier. Ah well, it was a good lesson learned for sure.

        Still, I have to wonder how long before traditional publishers finally figure out that they are being left behind. Then I remember the movie and music industry which still hasn’t quite figured this out yet. It’s just another reason I will keep self-publishing…the more of us that continue down that road, the quicker traditional publishers will either figure it out. Or they’ll end up like MySpace and CompuServe (blast from the past?).

        • These days, I only read the good reviews. I make friends and family read the bad ones and tell me if there’s anything in there that needs consideration.

  32. Seriously though, everyone’s missing the point: when are the meetings? Because I totally want into the cult! Is there Kool-Aid? I’ll drink it!

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