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View Full Version : Neil Gaiman and self publishing



RightHoJeeves
02-15-2017, 08:10 AM
One of the things I've noticed recently is how seemingly the one group of people we don't hear from about self publishing are the big trade names (or maybe we do, and I'm just not looking).

In a chat on BBC Radio 4's Front Row show (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qsq5) about self publishing (featuring indie author Mark Dawson, Neil Gaiman, and a lady whose name I didn't catch), Neil talks about his thoughts on self publishing. He says he's not going to be self publishing now because he's been doing it the trade way for so long and has great relationships (fair enough), but he does say he'd definitely go that route if he were starting out today.

Helix
02-15-2017, 09:07 AM
Listening to it now.

The woman is literary critic Alex Clark (https://www.theguardian.com/profile/alexclark).

RightHoJeeves
02-15-2017, 09:08 AM
The woman is literary critic Alex Clark (https://www.theguardian.com/profile/alexclark).

Right, thanks for that!

Helix
02-15-2017, 09:13 AM
Damn! We were just getting to the good stuff and they had to cut to another segment.

I will listen again, but I thought that Neil Gaiman said that if he were doing it all over again, he wouldn't go the Kindle route, but would opt for Patreon etc.

RightHoJeeves
02-15-2017, 09:44 AM
Damn! We were just getting to the good stuff and they had to cut to another segment.

I will listen again, but I thought that Neil Gaiman said that if he were doing it all over again, he wouldn't go the Kindle route, but would opt for Patreon etc.

Yeah I think he was referring to being able to produce really good physical books, since he is so involved with comics. Obviously a kindle store comic book is quite limited in how much of a beautiful object it could be.

Helix
02-15-2017, 10:05 AM
Oh, yes! Also, I think, he was concerned about ensuring an income.

As an aside, I love Front Row, but it's unfortunate that the format doesn't allow longer discussions. It's the sort of topic that might be better suited for Open Book. And Mariella would have made the effort to read some of Dawson's books before the programme.

RightHoJeeves
02-15-2017, 10:30 AM
Oh, yes! Also, I think, he was concerned about ensuring an income.

Haha, so said every writer ever.


As an aside, I love Front Row, but it's unfortunate that the format doesn't allow longer discussions. It's the sort of topic that might be better suited for Open Book. And Mariella would have made the effort to read some of Dawson's books before the programme.

It's the first I've heard of Front Row. I love the Documentary podcast the World Service does though.

Helix
02-15-2017, 10:54 AM
To hijack your thread for a moment, here are some books and writing progs on the Beeb that you might like.

Open Books (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qp6p)
A Good Read (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006v8jn)
Book Club (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006s5sf)
World Book Club (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p003jhsk)
The Verb (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tnsf/episodes/downloads)

ASeiple
02-15-2017, 09:01 PM
It was a very good show! Then they cut away to a visual artist, in the middle of it. Ah well, that's fine.

Got to hear about Mr. Gaiman's next book, so that's all well and good.

I did rather think they were pressing him for answers, and he was quite cognizant of the waters he was treading in. Would have been disrespectful to all the industry professionals he's interacted with over the decades to beat the self-publishing drum too loudly.

Cobalt Jade
02-15-2017, 09:38 PM
Is there a transcript of this?

RightHoJeeves
02-16-2017, 06:04 AM
I did rather think they were pressing him for answers, and he was quite cognizant of the waters he was treading in. Would have been disrespectful to all the industry professionals he's interacted with over the decades to beat the self-publishing drum too loudly.

Indeed. As he did say, he has many great relationships and the trade way works very well for him now. That seems very fair enough. Neil Gaiman would get one hell of a sweet deal, I'd think. But he seems to be self aware enough that if he were starting today, and not 30 years ago, things would likely be very different.

ASeiple
02-16-2017, 07:33 PM
Yep.

He said it a bit nicer than Alan Moore did, last year, but the conclusion seems the same.

the bunny hugger
02-16-2017, 09:16 PM
Gaiman is assuming doing so would have approximately the same results in terms of finding an audience. Which I suppose is possible, but it's also true he is not short on ego.

Helix
02-17-2017, 03:12 AM
Gaiman is assuming doing so would have approximately the same results in terms of finding an audience. Which I suppose is possible, but it's also true he is not short on ego.

Maybe. But it's also true he's not short on talent.

RightHoJeeves
02-17-2017, 03:28 AM
Gaiman is assuming doing so would have approximately the same results in terms of finding an audience. Which I suppose is possible, but it's also true he is not short on ego.

I think Gaiman is also the sort of guy who would have so wanted it that he would have done it right instead of half-assing it.

veinglory
02-17-2017, 05:41 AM
The alchemy of finding an audience is not covered by talent and not half-assing it. I know two graphic novel writers who have both qualities in spades, one works for Disney and the other works in a supermarket. They got close to breaking through with their own work... but didn't.

RightHoJeeves
02-17-2017, 07:12 AM
The alchemy of finding an audience is not covered by talent and not half-assing it. I know two graphic novel writers who have both qualities in spades, one works for Disney and the other works in a supermarket. They got close to breaking through with their own work... but didn't.

I would agree. I'd also say the the exact same thing applies to finding a trade publisher and making it that way. Many, many writers (of novels and comics and everything else) who have pursued trade deals, and they have never gotten anywhere despite years of hard work. Of course, many have done very well too. Both ways require a degree of luck.

VeryBigBeard
02-17-2017, 09:52 AM
It's interesting that he mentions Patreon rather than Kindle.

Many of comic artists I know and follow are on Patreon now. I'm not intimately familiar with how comics and graphic novels work as an industry, but Patreon seems to work for some, anyway.

It's a very, very different system than someone with a manuscript trying to figure out how to sell it to people. I've yet to see many fiction writers on Patreon, though I'm sure there are some.

Bear in mind how well social media works with images. If I follow X artist on Twitter or FB, then I see their work. Over time, I develop affection for the style or world or whatever. X artist launches a Patreon drive or mentions it once in awhile. Having seen the work I'm more likely to drop a few dollars. It works best, I think, with a fairly steady drip of regular new content. I also see a lot of critics and reviewers on it.

I'm not getting into it a book just because I saw it on social media. We all know how infuriating people who spam their Amazon pages on social media are.

Different media, different rules.

the bunny hugger
02-17-2017, 06:53 PM
I would agree. I'd also say the the exact same thing applies to finding a trade publisher and making it that way. Many, many writers (of novels and comics and everything else) who have pursued trade deals, and they have never gotten anywhere despite years of hard work. Of course, many have done very well too. Both ways require a degree of luck.

Which is exactly the point. Gaiman is assuming he is choosing between what kind of success to have in this AU self-publishing discussion.

ASeiple
02-17-2017, 07:12 PM
Well... that's the thing of it, really. There's no guarantee of success whichever direction you go. It takes both good stories and good luck.

JJ Litke
02-17-2017, 07:19 PM
Which is exactly the point. Gaiman is assuming he is choosing between what kind of success to have in this AU self-publishing discussion.

Excellent point.

I'd swear I've seen stories about authors established in trade also using self-publishing (a few quick searches didn't break through the tons of articles about how to self-publish, or move from self-publishing to trade). Aren't there some successful authors who've done that?

Old Hack
02-17-2017, 10:04 PM
Excellent point.

I'd swear I've seen stories about authors established in trade also using self-publishing (a few quick searches didn't break through the tons of articles about how to self-publish, or move from self-publishing to trade). Aren't there some successful authors who've done that?

Quite a few writers have done this. I'm not sure of many names, but it's particularly common in romance, for example, where there's a higher turnover of titles and large consumer base using e-readers.

JJ Litke
02-17-2017, 10:23 PM
Quite a few writers have done this. I'm not sure of many names, but it's particularly common in romance, for example, where there's a higher turnover of titles and large consumer base using e-readers.

Thanks.

So is Gaiman could move to self-publishing, or do both, if he wanted. And yet he's not.

ASeiple
02-17-2017, 11:55 PM
He's found a good way that works for him. No real reason to change right now. Especially with the friends he's made along the way.

ASeiple
02-18-2017, 12:11 AM
Thinking about it, I have a hunch that it probably is all about the people. From what I've seen of him, Neil's a personable sort, the kind to build relationships and make good friends along the way. Can't imagine he hasn't been doing that throughout his career. He's helped them, they've helped him, and mutual respect and joy has had to flourish along the way. He probably takes pride in the fact that he's helped put food on their table. He's a good man, can't imagine he hasn't.

Hell, I've only been walking my path a couple of years now, and I take joy in the people I've been honored to meet and work with. My cover artist, my editor, my betas... they're good friends, all of them, and it's a joy when they drop me a line. If I switched over abruptly and went to trade publishing only I don't know if I could bring them along, and that makes me hesitate. I LIKE these people. I like the books we put together as a team. Giving that up... that's hard.

And if it's hard for me after only a few years, me who's nowhere as warm a person as Gaiman... well, I imagine it'd be bloody rough for him.

It's all about people, in the end. Y'know, life and everything. Help the good ones, steer clear of the bad ones, and it all works out eventually.

Old Hack
02-18-2017, 01:02 AM
It's all about people, in the end. Y'know, life and everything. Help the good ones, steer clear of the bad ones, and it all works out eventually.


Whether you trade publish or self publish, this is true. Connections, friends, engagement. That's how you get on. (As well as great writing, a lot of talent, and a lot of hard work.)

whiporee
02-18-2017, 04:43 AM
With all due respect to Gaiman (and I'm a big, giant fan of his stuff, and have been since Sandman #1 24 or so years ago) I don't think his decision to stick with trade publishing has nearly as much to do with people as much as it has to do with marketing. He may quadruple his royalties by self publishing, but his ability to reach his beyond his devoted readership is vastly limited in self publishing, unless he extends some real money himself. He may be making more per book self publishing, but the people who know about his books is smaller (like I said, I'm a big fan, but I don't follow his blog or twitter, and the only way I learned about Norse Mythology was when it appeared on my Kindle screen). He's be sacrificing his bookshelf space, and that's also a big push for sales and also name recognition.

I'm sure he could make it work because he does have a devoted fanbase and because he's supremely talented. But I think it's difficult to extrapolate what he's saying --and even the way he see the world right now -- because he already has a following, and one that was created by marketing departments of trade (and comic) publishers. Suggesting that the average unpublished author is going to be able to create the same sort of following gives short shrift to just how difficult that really is, and it's an idea I wish more established authors -- especially ones who have built their names and reputations in partnership with marketing departments and publishers -- would stay away from.

Old Hack
02-18-2017, 12:22 PM
I agree, Whip. Also note that his wife, Amanda Palmer, makes her living through a form of self-publishing and does it very well. If he wanted to take that route he she could advise him very well on how to market and promote his work. And yet he sticks with trade publishing. I assume because of the reach of it. And also because he gets to do all the writing, and hand all the publishing stuff to someone else--which allows him to be more prolific.

RightHoJeeves
02-19-2017, 06:13 AM
I agree, Whip. Also note that his wife, Amanda Palmer, makes her living through a form of self-publishing and does it very well.

Slight side note. I met Amanda Palmer in Melbourne a few years ago. She was so great. Such a legend. My friend was a massive, massive fan, and Amanda was happy to chat to her on the phone. They spoke for like 7 minutes. Really nice person.

Cobalt Jade
02-20-2017, 09:33 PM
With all due respect to Gaiman (and I'm a big, giant fan of his stuff, and have been since Sandman #1 24 or so years ago) I don't think his decision to stick with trade publishing has nearly as much to do with people as much as it has to do with marketing.

That's true. The guy had a major Hollywood movie made of a short, slight novel of his. That never would have happened if it was self-published.

Old Hack
02-20-2017, 09:59 PM
It's less likely to have movies made from self published books because self published authors don't usually have the systems in place to sell their rights appropriately. But it has happened, I'm sure.

Also, note that shorter books tend to work better as movies: longer books end up being cut dramatically (did you see what I did there?) in order to fit into a couple of hours on-screen, and often people who loved the book don't like the cut-down movie version.