Why I Want a Traditional Publisher and Presentation on Bookstore Shelves

It’s no secret: these days a lot of writers are self-publishing, or going completely digital. We live in an age when anyone can publish anything, if they have the money or right online venue. I “publish” my writing on wordpress, although most of it is informal, stream-of-consciousness writing reminiscent of the incessant journaling I used to do. There are also sites like fictionpress.net, Fanfiction.net’s counterpart for original work. I considered once posting there, but I hesitated because of many literary magazines’ requirement that work cannot have been previously published, including online.

With the plethora of options available, and the reported increasing difficulty for new authors to be picked up by traditional publishers, it might make most sense for me to self-publish with one of these online companies. At some point in the future, it is highly likely that I will end up self-publishing some of my work. But for now, I continue to hold the dream of having physical printed copies of my work on a shelf in a real bookstore.

Why? There are a few points here.

These days, printing services for self-published works are actually getting much better, and although you can still generally tell the difference, the quality can be on par with traditionally published copies. You, the author, might have to work a little harder to make that happen, but it’s possible, and that’s great. That means that the packaging itself is not the problem.

One of the big considerations is marketing. From what I’ve heard and read, even if you’re working with a traditional publishing house, you will have to do at least some self-promotion if you want to get anywhere. However, they have a marketing department for a reason, and that reason is to promote the books they print. Self-marketing is not my strong point, mostly due to constantly fluctuating but ever-present levels of insecurity. It’s also partly because we’re constantly told that bragging is uncouth, and self-promotion feels very much like bragging. Being polite and “oh, if you feel like it…” about the whole thing gets you nowhere, but being loud and out there can make you seem either arrogant or deluded. It can be difficult to strike the balance and put out just the right level of confidence.

Author royalties are often much higher with self-publishing platforms, but of course the total made depends on the total sold, for which marketing can be a big help. That is most true in the beginning, I think. If you’ve written something really good, entertaining, useful, etc., then once a good number of people have read it, word of mouth can start to gain a wider audience. That means that getting the first 10, 100, 1,000 people to read it can be the hardest. I’d be crossing my fingers and hoping that I would sell enough copies to at least return to me the cost of hiring an editor. Putting out a non-edited work is just a bad idea, and it’s very difficult for a writer to be their own editor. You really do need external eyes sometimes to spot those things that might be bringing your writing down. A publisher would provide that, all bundled into the services they give their authors. Hiring a freelance editor for self-published work means that you get to choose your editor, which could be either a good or a bad thing.

These are good points, the things that I would imagine most writers consider when thinking about self-publishing. But now we’ve come to that one thing, the main reason I really want a traditional publisher, and it has to do with bookstores. (I think this merits a good “why we need brick-and-mortar bookstores” post, but I’m sure I’ve made at least one in the past, and there are many good posts on this out there…)

One of the biggest struggles for self-published authors can be trying to get their books into stores. Most larger stores (which, aside from Barnes and Noble, are all gone, right?) won’t consider anything that they can’t get right from their distributors, and even many independent stores won’t take the risk. From what I can tell, most self-published authors just sell online, and of the ones that do get books in stores as well (I couldn’t name one), internet and most likely ebook sales are where they make the most money.

I don’t want to imply that this is actually a bad thing. Maybe as time goes by I’ll be more accepting of the large-scale changes in how people read, and I won’t care that paper books are more or less a novelty as long as my content gets out into the world, to readers, in any form. …Maybe.

With a traditional publisher, it is much more likely that I’ll be able to see a copy of a book I wrote on a shelf in a real live bookstore. I want this to happen mainly, I think, because of how I experienced bookstores when I was younger. I loved reading as a child, and spending time in bookstores was something I did fairly often. Call me old fashioned if you will, but I find it’s so much harder to connect with a book when the pages are contained in a screen. Picking up a volume, actively turning pages, the texture of the cover, can be a very meaningful part of reading. As the technology develops, that privilege is taken away from both children and adults, and I think it’s unfair. Someday, when I have a book published, knowing that someone can find my book by taking it off the shelf and actually holding it in their hands will be reassuring. That is how I discovered many books. It’s how I hope to discover many more. And even though the convenience of e-readers is taking us farther from that, I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

 

Advertisements

A Little Levity

Some awesome rhyming/alliterative phrases I’ve come across in the past month or two while editing:

Classic Jurassic (we’re publishing a paleontology book. Why?… we’re still kind of wondering…)

Judicial officials

voluminous oeuvre (my favorite)

 

 

and I wish I had something more to say on this… I really wish I could share some of the typos that result in hilarious sentences, but that seems inappropriate. I’ll just have to enjoy them myself.

A Response to Neil Gaiman’s Graduation Address

Dear Neil Gaiman,

I would like to start by thanking you for this speech, as I did find it inspiring and thought-provoking. I think you are extremely creative, with a very unique imagination, and I have enjoyed everything of yours I’ve ever read. I do not imagine that you’ll stop working during your lifetime, and I think the literary world would be worse off if you did. It needs people like you, not thinking about the “rules” or what you “should” write, but writing what you want to write.

I would love to just be inspired and motivated by your words and leave it at that. But, as it turns out, I can’t. I keep thinking about one thing you said, about having to balance pursuing writing as a path, doing what you want, with paying bills, eating, and other such “necessities” of life.

Your name is well-known, established in the literary world. As you’ve said, all your “bottles” are returning to you. I’m sure you have to sort through many requests to write stories or episodes of Dr. Who (!). Because you’re so well-known, with all the doors open to you, while I’ve just barely got a foot in, I find myself going to the “That’s easy for you to say…” place. It is so easy in situations like this to think that the successful person speaking doesn’t understand the whole starting out and getting work out struggle. It’s ridiculous–of COURSE you understand that. You were not born a famous writer. You had to work and revise and revise and revise, and I’m sure you got your fair share of rejections when you started out. But when I am watching this speech, I can’t see all of that. I can only see someone who because so successful that he has been asked to speak at a college graduation.

The trouble with admiring famous people, aspiring to be where they are, is that no one is well-known until they are. We never see the name until it starts to appear everywhere. There is, to some degree, an illusion that it simply happens all of a sudden. You can talk about your starting-out days all you want, and I believe they really happened, but the reality of it escapes my grasp. I am unable to connect your early days as a writer with mine. For every person whose story led to success, like yours, there are probably many more who never made it. I suppose the most common difference is that all of those people, at some point, gave up. But you have to admit, there is no guarantee that it will ever happen for any particular person.

I am not trying to imply that you don’t deserve your success, Neil. I’m a fan; it’s clear that your work is well-loved for a reason. It’s just that I have never been able to understand that bridge between writing and getting the writing recognized. Maybe that’s just me.

 

Sincerely,

Deva Jasheway, long-time writer

Thanks, Mayans…

Life is a strange, quickly-moving thing. Insert Ferris Bueller’s Day Off quote here…

As a result, writing is not getting done. And I’m not too happy about it.

I’m excellent at making plans for writing, and these plans tend to be reasonable and would result in productivity and timely creation of projects. If I could ever get myself to stick to these plans.

My problem is the lack of a deadline. I need real deadlines set by someone other than myself in order to really get to work. I could impose a deadline on myself, it’s true, but I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work. I know why – it’s because the only consequence of not getting my writing done by the date I set is not getting published … which, somehow, is just not enough of an incentive. Perhaps because there’s no guarantee that I will ever get my work published – outside of self-publishing, that is.

This mostly just adds to my original point. I wanted to self-publish a novel this year, and I have yet to do the necessary research on self-publishing to know what the steps are after the straightforward part – the writing. (That’s a joke, by the way.) I have barely done any work on the project I plan to publish, and at this rate it doesn’t even seem likely that I’ll be done with the first draft by the end of this year.

 

And since the world is ending this year, I guess that means I just won’t ever be published… thanks, Mayans. You have just crushed my dreams.

(That was also a joke.)

Luck?

Well, kids, I have a very legitimate-sounding excuse for posting so infrequently this month. Two, in fact, if you count my birthday (which, if events were any indication, very few people do).

I was busy getting a job! (Well. Another job.)

That’s right. A PUBLISHING job no less. After years of hoping and wishing and occasionally interviewing, I landed a position at a small press in Boston. I am the newest employee at Academic Studies Press. Here is their website if you’re curious. It starts as part time, but it could very well become full time in the future. I’ll be starting in two weeks.

One might think that the extra employment means less time to write. I’m hoping that this will go a long way toward straightening out all my financial crap, which I find very draining, and I will have more energy and feel more motivated to write. Of course, doing healthy things like exercising would probably give me more energy than working, but I’m going to ignore that fact for now. Just about everyone in this economy gets that money troubles do not make for a good state of mind to work on things such as writing.

Sad, isn’t it? Following your passion almost always takes a backseat to somehow managing to pay all your bills. I think that’s something wrong with the world.

Still very little inspiration coming my way. Gotta do my taxes and clean my room. Also, have to somehow make a massage appointment with my groupon. Why the hell did the place have to be in Newton?

Get Ready

I’ve decided that the best way to get people to read my work is to publish it for free.

Of course, I also want to make money as a writer (eventually), so I won’t publish everything for free. But I want to start really getting my writing out there for readers. Today I dug out a copy of a short story with revision comments, to rewrite and polish and then put on self-publishing sites for free. I won’t be posting it here, but I will certainly put links to it several places on this site. It’s called Creme Brulee: A Love Story. Look out for it!

After which I plan to work on September 2042 until I’m happy with it, and that story will also be published on the same sites. (Right now I’m thinking Amazon and Smashwords, but I will have to do research on that.)

I figure that people will be more inclined to “purchase” these things and, hopefully, read them if they’re offered for free. If I create a fan base, however small, with my short stories, then they should be willing to buy my books, or ebooks, when I finally publish one.

In other news, the rapture is about to happen and I got my third tattoo. Interesting day…

Remember That You’re A Writer

To recap: I have started a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which, I have no doubt, is very different from every version you’ve ever heard, seen, or read. I wanted to finish writing my first draft by Tax Day and have it published as an ebook later this year.

I realized a few days ago: I’m doing it wrong.

I don’t mean that I don’t want to publish it as an ebook or have it done by this year. Here is what I mean –

I’ve been obsessing over my plans for the end product (i.e. something that does not yet exist) instead of focusing on the process of writing. Yes, while I’m actually putting words to the page I’m thinking about writing it, but the rest of the time I’m just thinking about publishing. And it’s great to have goals and plans for your work, because otherwise, what’s the point of writing at all? Right?

Wrong. The writing itself is the point for all born writers. We want to have our work published because we want others to read our work, but let’s be honest – we write without the promise of ever being published, even if we expect that one day we will.

I’m going back to the core and just writing the project. I’m not setting deadlines for finishing the whole book or publishing it. I am going to write, a page at a time, and make this story something I can be very proud to publish. I want there to be no question of my talent and effort when I send this thing out into the world. It’s not ready yet, and I may have been putting too much pressure on it by giving it a coming-out date too early. It will be better if I coax it out slowly. I’ll let the story unfold, see what emerges in the first draft, work hard on the first round of revisions, and THEN we’ll talk about publishing the damn thing.

In the meantime, I plan to start doing some research about self-publishing and ebooks, so that when I do start figuring out what to do with Sleeping Beauty, I’m not just launching myself blind into a vast and judgmental world.