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RemusShepherd
05-10-2013, 09:17 PM
I need some advice, but let me start by quickly framing my situation.

In 2007 I was told by several Hugo-award winning authors and editors that I was 'on the cusp' of publication. Since then I've written three science fiction novels and had no success publishing any of them. So let's assume that I'm a reasonably good author, but either I'm terrible at promoting myself and/or my stories are too niche to interest major publishers and agents. (Note, however, I've only applied to top names and companies. I'm starting through the minor agent list now, but I don't know who to trust among small presses.)

I also write and draw a webcomic, which has attracted about 2,000 dedicated readers. I am going to publish the first compilation of webcomic pages in a 160-page graphic novel (both electronic and in print-on-demand form) sometime later this year.

My goal is validation; I want to stand on the Hugo stage one day, at least as a nominee. That's my motivation, I have no illusions about it. I do not need money. I am a scientist in my day job and I make a decent living. In fact, I have a little spending money to throw away -- I could probably sink about $10k into publishing (counting editors and ads and such) and not feel it.

So here's the question -- is it worth self-publishing one of my novels alongside my graphic novel?

Pros:
*-- The more offerings an author has, the more attention each one gets. The sales of my graphic novel should boost the sales of my novel and vice versa.
*-- Indie sales might attract attention from agents and publishers. In fact, that seems to be the main way to get an agent's attention these days.

Cons:
*-- I will be 'wasting' a novel -- it will never get traditionally published. Since I am not that prolific an author, one novel is a big loss for me. Since my goal is acceptance into a peer group of established science fiction authors, any self-published novel will not help me obtain my goal no matter how popular it becomes. It could be the next 'Wool' and I'd still count it as a waste unless it nabs me an agent.
*-- I'll have to do more than twice the work in a short amount of time. I say 'more than twice' because the prose novel will need proofreading, formatting, and a cover. All those are already done for the graphic novel.

What do you think? Can you add to either the list of pros or cons, and help me decide whether it's worth it for me to dabble in self-publishing? I'd appreciate any and all advice or opinions you have.

Sheryl Nantus
05-10-2013, 09:44 PM
I don't think you can "dabble" - it's a serious commitment not for the faint of heart. You'll have to devote yourself to finding good cover art and paying for it along with other expenses and then promoting it to the best of your ability.

*insert Yoda quote here*

I think if you do you need to apply yourself wholeheartedly and devote yourself to it. Otherwise you'll be stacking the odds against yourself.

jmo, ymmv.

shadowwalker
05-10-2013, 09:47 PM
I dislike the wording of your title - no one should 'dabble' in self-publishing. Either commit to doing the work of publishing in as professional a manner as possible or go the trade publishing route and let the professionals do their job. As far as which is better, you just have to look at each (in detail and using objective information) to determine which would work better for you and your book.

Tezzirax
05-10-2013, 09:54 PM
If you don't need the money, and you are getting validation of your talent through your web comic and the fan base that is forming, then you don't stand to gain much by self publishing.

It sounds like the main validation you are seeking for your written work is through traditionally published science fiction authors.

If you were seeking the validation of readers, then I would suggest picking one and self publishing. You have an existing fan base that could get you a large boost in getting the initial notice that self publishing requires. You know already that your book, self published, would be read and that's a huge reason to move forward in that channel.

I would suggest a half-way method... This is very very hybrid and I have no idea what the resulting fallout may be, but I will throw it out there for you.

Pick the book that you consider the best, the one that's going to get you up on stage. Get it proof read. Get it edited. Get a cover made. Exactly as you dream the ideal big six publisher would. You have the money. Put your finished book together with CreateSpace and have a proof run made...you are NOT self publishing, don't list it for sale or any of that. What you are getting is a professionally bound book you can hold in your hand and the back page will have a big "proof" written on it. Other than the cost of editing and designing, you are only going to pay a few bucks for each proof--you do not have to vanity press a run of hundreds of books. You do not have to hit the "publish" button.

Now write some letter's to the authors whose validation you are seeking and offer them a copy of your potential Hugo winner. Not all author's will accept this, not by any means. I wager that some may, and if you put a professionally printed and designed book in their hands, some of those who are accepting of this will actually read it and give you some form of feedback.

So now you haven't self published. You have a few copies of your book to hold in your hands (which is a very cool thing). And you MIGHT get some feedback and validation from those authors you approach--which you are not going to get any of unless you land an agent otherwise.

What's more, you will have a fully edited and polished manuscript to approach an agent with. I have to think that's going to help get through some gates.

If you do decide to self publish now, the work is done. You are just a few button clicks away.

C. Greenwood
05-11-2013, 12:16 AM
If your goal is peer validation and not money I think you're approaching the idea of self-publishing backward. No other writers or industry professionals will be impressed by the fact you've self-published - not unless (possibly) you hit a major bestseller list. And I'm afraid the odds of being successful at self-publishing by dabbling are very much against you. As someone above said, it's a major commitment. You'll have to assemble a team of freelance editors, proofreaders, cover artists, and formatters. Either that or learn all those skills on your own, which few people are capable of doing proficiently. The competition for reader dollars is fierce and very few writers can just put one or two titles up for sale, forget about them, and see decent sales. There'll be promotion and continual effort required.

All that said, good luck to you in whatever you decide to do.

FionnJameson
05-11-2013, 03:46 AM
My goal is validation


Can I be honest? This post made me see red. If you seek validation, please volunteer at a soup kitchen or adopt a dog.

Everyone here on the boards are working hard towards their goal of whether it is to have more creative control over their works or make money but I'm fairly sure no one who posts here regularly is doing it just to "validate" themselves for an award that brings you ultimately what again? Recognition? Validation?

Please.

shelleyo
05-11-2013, 04:39 AM
Cons:
It could be the next 'Wool' and I'd still count it as a waste unless it nabs me an agent.


That alone is enough reason not to self-publish. If it could become wildly successful but not help you meet your goal of getting an agent (and most successful self-published novels won't gain their writers agent representation) then you'd be wasting your time.


*-- Indie sales might attract attention from agents and publishers. In fact, that seems to be the main way to get an agent's attention these days.No, it's not the main way; it's a way. You were correct in saying that indie sales might attract attention. Could.

Here's the thing, Remus--the stories you hear about people like Hugh Howey and those who had great sales and then got an agent and a trade deal are wonderful and inspirational stories. But how many stories have you heard about the people doing really, really well who've never gotten an agent, even after trying to get one? You ONLY hear about the ones that do, so essentially all the stories are about them, which makes it seems like omg that's mostly what's happening! This is the perception, and I believe it's wrong.

There are plenty of people doing very well who do not get approached by agents and have been turned down repeatedly by agents they wanted even after the sales started pouring in. You just don't hear about them, because those stories aren't "news."

If an agent and winning a Hugo are your goals, submit your short stories, novelettes and novellas to places like Analog and Asimov's, and keep sending those novel queries to agents. If you really feel like self-publishing a novel would be wasting it unless you hear from an agent wanting to rep you as a result, I don't think self-publishing would be a good choice for you. And for the record, I'm a fan of the process. :) I think you'd end up feeling like you threw a good book away, and you'd come out of it horribly disappointed.

If you decide to try it anyway, hire a professional editor and have a professional cover made, at minimum. Of course, if you've never gotten any feedback on your fiction, you'd do well to at least have a hardcore science fiction fan beta read the novel first. Maybe you already know your fiction is good, I have no idea. If not, get some opinions first. Paying an editor anywhere from $300-$1000, depending on the service you want, would be a huge waste for a novel that's still several degrees away from publishable. I'm guessing you know that, but I thought it worth adding, in case.

BenPanced
05-11-2013, 05:51 AM
To paraphrase Blondie singer Debbie Harry, you don't "dabble" in self-publishing or drugs. You either don't do it or you're a user.

Terie
05-11-2013, 11:08 AM
Would someone who dabbles in medicine turn into a successful doctor?

J. Tanner
05-11-2013, 11:32 AM
My goal is validation; I want to stand on the Hugo stage one day, at least as a nominee.

This is one of those "goals" that's completely out of your control no matter how well you write. It's like having the goal of winning the lottery. Does buying two lottery tickets instead of one double your chances of winning? Sure. But the odds remain astronomical regardless.

Self-publishing is a second lottery ticket in this situation.

JournoWriter
05-11-2013, 12:13 PM
Following on the Hugo point - there have been, what, 300 novel nominees since 1953? Out of how many books in the genre each year?

christwriter
05-11-2013, 12:16 PM
REMUS! HI REMUS! HI! Yeah you probably don't remember me but FELLOW KEENSPACER AHOY!

Okay. Now that I've gotten the "Squee" out of the way...

I can only tell you what my experience has been. And realize that this is going to be VERY pro self-publishing because at the moment, I love it more than kittens.

Attempting traditional publishing was like hooking myself up to an IV drip of pure depression, tempered by unholy aingst (BUT IF I TRY ONE MORE TIME IT MIGHT WORK) that, according to everything my parents ever taught me re: mental health, was unutterably wrong. (The definition of insanity is preforming the same behavior over and over, expecting a different result. AKA, IMHO, querying agents). By the end of my attempt at trade publishing I was suicidal. Most of that is on me, I should have handled it better, I should have known (HOLY HELL SHOULD I HAVE KNOWN) that rejection letters were my kryptonite FOR REASONS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH PUBLISHING OR AGENTS and everything to do with personal issues, but my point is I was miserable, and continuing to persue trade publishing was making me more miserable.

Self publishing has not resulted in big sales (...273 books total, out of about ten books in just under ten months) or big money (I think I cleared 25 bucks last month?)and because I am a lazy ass, I cannot justify recommending my books to another soul I have met in person (...I only just told my boss I self publish, and that was to request the fourth of July off so my family and I can have a private "hey we're still alive and we have accomplished things" party, and this confession did not go well) But it has been FLIPPING FUN. OH MY GOD HAS THIS BEEN FUN. It's fun! Writing is fun again! I don't have to hate myself for not accomplishing anything BECAUSE I AM ACCOMPLISHING THINGS. Small things, but they are things! And working on books is fun again! And the best part is, I have this awesome little collection of readers that I get to play with. It's like having a better version of the webcomic again. Better, because I AM GETTING PAID FOR IT THIS TIME and I am on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Kobo and did I mention how much fun I'm having? It's like, maniacal glee. Like I ought to be medicated for having too much fun.

Yes. My latest book (released on Monday of this week) has only sold four copies so far. (...and if you add in the twos and threes of the other books, I've sold 27 copies. Having more than one book adds up) But I *think* I know who each of these people are (with one possible exception) and I'm kind of sitting here rubbing my hands together with this evil expression of glee on my face because it's that kind of plot, and the only thing better than writing a story is knowing what it's going to do to the people who read it. And I've managed to find a few people who will like it.

THAT SAID.

I do not think you are ready to self publish. There's a kind of rock bottom mentality, at least in my experiance, that helps you power through the bad parts. Which will be bad. I'm not going to lie about that. Your first book will tank faster than you can imagine, and leave you feeling like writing "Pupkin" is something to aspire to (...look, that damn orange dog...thing scarred me forever, alright?) Failure is something you should expect and plan for. If you're not in a place where you feel comfortable letting your first book fail, you're not ready.

The goal of self publishing, in my VERY humble opinion, should not be success. Or failure. The goal of self publishing is to publish a story and have people read it. As should be the goal of trade publishing. If all you want is to make money, there are an awful lot of jobs who pay better. If the sheer fact of being read isn't enough...well, I don't think either path would be all that satisfying, but self-publishing would definitely be a land of thin sand and dry weeds.

I also wouldn't recommend publishing ANYTHING you feel attached to if you feel like it's "throwing it away". IF you want to self publish, I'd recommend spending a year publishing little things. 20, 30K word things that you don't feel too overly attached to (THAT ARE STILL GOOD! That you still spent time and effort on! Because people notice when you don't!) and start seeing how things go. Give yourself a sales number for new releases. When your sales for a new book reach that number, publish The Book. Bonus points for tying the little things into your main novel.

(you also get to play with ideas and writing methods that wouldn't fly with a traditionally published book. Just an FYI. The one book where I played fast and loose with my narrative is now my bestseller. You get to take risks with self publishing that you wouldn't DARE try with an agent) (...in my very very very humble opinion)

You ARE in a unique position, because not only do you have a significant pre-made audience, you have money to sink into the process. I had to start from just over zero. You've got 2K dedicated readers and ten thousand dollars to play with. You could probably pull it off IF you've got the right mindset.

I have no idea what "it" would be. Probably not "Wool", but probably not utter failure, either.

Personally (and realize as a self-publisher I am biased as heck) I'd recommend it. But ONLY if you are as sick of smashing your head against a wall as I was, and ONLY if you are willing to consider trade publishing and agents as all those awesome things sitting behind the bridge you burned.

If you can't bring yourself to write off trade publishing, don't self publish. Full stop. You've got the stamina to make it if you're willing to keep trying. Self publishing isn't any easier than trade publishing. It requires the same amount of work, and if you're going to be successful, the same amount of time, that trade publishing does.

...but this way is still more fun. IMHO.

cornflake
05-11-2013, 12:23 PM
I think it's more in line with winning an Oscar than the lottery.

I also don't think seeking validation is so rare.

Defining validation as winning, or being nominated, for a Hugo, however, is. A nice dream or hope sure, but as how you're defining validation? That's kind of troubling - same as an actor who said he or she wanted validation for their skill at acting, and then defined that validation only in the form of winning an Oscar.

This -



*-- Indie sales might attract attention from agents and publishers. In fact, that seems to be the main way to get an agent's attention these days.

Is way wrong. That's not even close to the main way to get an agent's attention.

A good query and ms. is the way to get an agent's attention, same as it ever was.

Which makes me wonder, though you've been here for a long time and all so I suspect you have, but have you put your query through QLH and excerpts into SYW?

Polenth
05-11-2013, 12:37 PM
Whichever way you publish, you're likely to be disappointed. Few people win awards.

But if awards are all you want, novellas are your best bet. There aren't enough every year, and nominators often put out calls for anything eligible. Self-published authors could do really well in this category, if they were more proactive about making sure people know about the story and know it's eligible. Also, sending review copies to nominators goes a long way.

From my own experience, when I say I'm open to review copies during nomination season, I only get trade published stuff. Self-published authors are their own worst enemy here, as they assume no one will consider their work, rather than giving it a go.

sarahdalton
05-11-2013, 12:46 PM
With self publishing you get validation through sales and reader reviews. If you want an agent/editor to tell you you're good - it's not for you.

RemusShepherd
05-11-2013, 04:44 PM
Thanks, folks! I don't remember the last time one of my questions got a unanimous answer. What you're saying is very clear and makes a lot of sense -- thank you!


Can I be honest? This post made me see red. If you seek validation, please volunteer at a soup kitchen or adopt a dog.

Everyone here on the boards are working hard towards their goal of whether it is to have more creative control over their works or make money but I'm fairly sure no one who posts here regularly is doing it just to "validate" themselves for an award that brings you ultimately what again? Recognition? Validation?

Please.

Yes, well, human psychology is weird, and mine is weirder than most. Always a nerd, always picked last for sports teams. When my father won me in the divorce he threw me into boarding school to be rid of me; my mother sent a Christmas gift one year, then forgot I existed. All I want is to be part of a family that values me.

I'd love to be validated by readers, but honestly I think getting a big readership would be less likely than attaining the status of a solid mid-list writer. The Hugo awards are a popularity contest by a select group of people who already know me, so getting nominated sounds feasible. I may not be a Secret Master of Fandom, but I'm one of the known hangers-on. (Winning is not feasible, I know that, I'm not that popular. :) )

Everyone has their motivations; everyone has their goals. At least I know mine and I'm comfortable with them.

RemusShepherd
05-11-2013, 04:54 PM
No, it's not the main way; it's a way. You were correct in saying that indie sales might attract attention. Could.

I know. I think I have a leg up on the process, because I'm a pretty good author, I'm an artist who can do my own cover art, and I have an established readership. But that readership isn't big enough to catapult a novel into the best-seller list, so it might not matter.


Of course, if you've never gotten any feedback on your fiction, you'd do well to at least have a hardcore science fiction fan beta read the novel first. Maybe you already know your fiction is good, I have no idea. If not, get some opinions first. Paying an editor anywhere from $300-$1000, depending on the service you want, would be a huge waste for a novel that's still several degrees away from publishable. I'm guessing you know that, but I thought it worth adding, in case.

Finding betas is a lot harder than it sounds. I tried to get betas on AbWrite for the novel that I was considering self-publishing. One person replied -- I'm not very well-liked around here. The sum of that person's feedback was that the story was niche, but it was as publishable as any novel they'd ever seen.

But if I ever do self-publish then I'll be sure to hire some professional editors to make sure the material is polished. Thanks.

RemusShepherd
05-11-2013, 05:06 PM
REMUS! HI REMUS! HI! Yeah you probably don't remember me but FELLOW KEENSPACER AHOY!

Hi, Christwriter! Yes, I remember you. I think I saw you on AbWrite once before -- welcome!


The goal of self publishing, in my VERY humble opinion, should not be success. Or failure. The goal of self publishing is to publish a story and have people read it.

That's why I do webcomics -- to tell stories that would never be publishable, but that at least someone will read.


You ARE in a unique position, because not only do you have a significant pre-made audience, you have money to sink into the process. I had to start from just over zero. You've got 2K dedicated readers and ten thousand dollars to play with. You could probably pull it off IF you've got the right mindset.

Maybe. But you've got something that I don't -- you're a prolific writer. Is that eleven novels in the past year? Congrats! From what I hear, the more product you get out the more they build on each other. And even if you sell only a few copies per month of each, the sales accumulate forever.

I'll be self-publishing my graphic novel, at least. I think I'll see how that experience goes before I commit any more.

J. Tanner
05-11-2013, 10:21 PM
...I have an established readership.
...
Finding betas is a lot harder than it sounds.

No "superfans" among your readership that would love to BETA read your next thing?

christwriter
05-11-2013, 10:51 PM
Maybe. But you've got something that I don't -- you're a prolific writer. Is that eleven novels in the past year? Congrats! From what I hear, the more product you get out the more they build on each other. And even if you sell only a few copies per month of each, the sales accumulate forever.

.

Ah, they're the short little things I recommended. In my overall plan this is still the "Let's build an audience" phase. It's a lot easier to do a 20K book than a 80K book. In reality, it's more like two novels, serialized in four parts each, and a lot of little short stories.

cornflake
05-11-2013, 11:00 PM
I think, from the perspective of someone just reading the posts, the difference between christrider and remus is not to do with how many offerings or audience or sales accumulation at all.

It's about what's important to someone and only the someone can answer that.

One of the Boston bombing victims gave a news conference last week, from hospital, discussing her decision to have drs remove her mangled foot. Reporters asked the dr. about how they helped her to that decision (because it wasn't a clear-cut thing apparently), and he said that they discuss the various outcomes of either decision and the pros and cons and that for some people, keeping the limb would be more important, even if it entailed more therapy and etc. For some people, the road to faster functionality was more important, even if it involved a prosthesis. He emphasized that that was a completely individual thing, based on someone's personality, priorities, feelings, etc.

Christwriter is loving selfpubbing - I don't think because of the sales or number of offerings. It doesn't generally sound like similar or even greater levels of what most people would consider success at self publishing would get Remus what he wants. :Shrug:

shaldna
05-11-2013, 11:36 PM
I don't think you can "dabble" - it's a serious commitment not for the faint of heart. You'll have to devote yourself to finding good cover art and paying for it along with other expenses and then promoting it to the best of your ability.

*insert Yoda quote here*

I think if you do you need to apply yourself wholeheartedly and devote yourself to it. Otherwise you'll be stacking the odds against yourself.

jmo, ymmv.

This is exactly what I came here to say too.

Self publishing is HARD WORK - you must be writer, editor, publisher, marketer, salesman, promoter, accountant all at once. It takes a huge amount of commitment to do.

I'm not saying don't do it, but I am saying that if you do it, be prepared, know what's coming and be ready to put the work in.

Self publishing is a great vehicle for a lot of writers, but it's not something you 'dabble' in.

shelleyo
05-11-2013, 11:39 PM
Finding betas is a lot harder than it sounds. I tried to get betas on AbWrite for the novel that I was considering self-publishing.


There are lots of other writing forums to look for betas. In fact, I don't think it's advisable for a beta reader to actually be a writer. You said you had an audience. Hopefully you have a mailing list or some way of determining this? Can you advertise for a beta among your readers somehow? Most people who love someone's work would jump at the chance to read something else before anyone else in exchange for feedback.

Having one or more writers read it is fine, as long as you're aware that other writers worry about things that don't matter to readers all the time, and often simply want you to make your prose more like theirs. And unless they're well-published writers, they might not have a clue what they're talking about.

Find a fan of the genre willing to read. You won't necessarily find the right person in a writer's forum. Look in places where fans of your type of stories gather. Make friends. See if someone, preferably a few someones, will read and give you an honest opinion.

Treehouseman
05-12-2013, 10:13 AM
Do you publish short stories in any of the main SF/F magazines? Having those credits pretty much guarantees a phone-call in to any publisher or agent. Turning up to conventions gets you known as well.

Also the Hugos are very "who you know" so everyone tends to vote for their well-known friends and people who make a big noise in social media. I wouldn't think anyone who is not one of the lads would get a look-in.