I would definitely recommend traditional publishing over self-publishing

Early on in college, I had a love affair with self-publishing. I loved the idea of putting everything online under the Creative Commons license, sharing what I wrote freely, and self-publishing so people could print my work out if they wanted. I loved the idea of information being free, and I figured that if my work was good, people would give me money for it out of the good of their hearts.

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Can you deliver?

An interesting discussion has taken place over at scraplab about “delivering.” Whether it’s a program or a book, we deliver when we put something out for public consumption. We’ve taken our baby and sent it out into the big, scary world, and now it has to stand on its own. Or, as might very well be the case, fall on its own.

  1. you’ve either shipped or you haven’t
  2. Shipping news
  3. greys

The second entry is a response on another person’s blog to the first one in the list. In this exchange, they talk about deliverables, and then about journalism/news. What about blogging?

Blogging seems insignificant next to a newspaper, though there are certainly blogs with larger readerships than many newspapers. Either way, both have to keep feeding the press, coming up with new words and putting them together for hungry readers. We still deliver, but I like how number 2 up there puts it:

It’s not that the media critics have never shipped, it’s that they do so much shipping they’ve stopped caring about product like anyone else would.

I still get a bit of nervousness when I publish something I’ve written, even though I publish something most every day. There’s a vulnerability inherent in putting words into the database, formatting that for public consumption, and sending it out into the world. Will anyone notice? Will anyone care? How many will hate or like this thing in which I have invested myself?

Some people point at the current state of writing as “the death of literature.” When everyone writes, can anyone be called a Writer? And if everyone is a Writer, is there anything special in it? If everyone is published, is it worth “being published?”

The shift is this: if anything, there is greater emphasis on writing for the self than for others, because in the great noise that is the Internet, it is becoming increasingly rare for others to notice that we deliver.

If no one notices, does it still matter? I dare say it does.

What do we seek when we write?

I’ve had a variety of internal debates, or considerations, or discussions going on recently. The uncertainty on its label is due largely to the lack of time I’ve had to really puzzle this all out, and these are topics it would really do me well to sit and talk about with someone artistic who engages in similar things that I do, and since that isn’t happening anytime soon I am left with (and subsequently can only deliver) ambiguity. If you made it past that sentence, thanks–the next paragraph won’t be so bad.

For years, I’ve wanted to be a writer, and only recently have I wanted to write. I envision this work as something I do alone, privately, toiling and drafting, throwing out and creating, and eventually handing to an editor before re-writing for a third or fourth time. When I finally feel something is completed ((Probably after a fifth go.)), I’ll put it out for the world to see, critique, and appreciate or detest. It’ll be a polished, finished project though, to the best of my abilities.

As I look at my lifestyle, my time, and the nature and style of my writing, I wonder if that’s the right method for me. There is certainly value in it, but I can’t help but look at webcomics. ((As is so often the case. I’m not quite sure what inspires my obsession with webcomics, but the webcomic artists I read are really inspiring to me.)) These are serialized, produced as the artist/writer goes along, and by and large they weren’t all that great at first. The art is usually rougher at the beginning than at the end, the writing improves over time, and most of the artists I read remark on how they have improved since they began, or since last year, or over the last few months.

I wonder if I need to get something perfectly polished before putting it out there. What if I were to write and post as I went? Never worry about going back and fixing, or about having everything done before I publish.

The question I reached was, “What am I looking for? What’s my motivation for writing?” Yeah, I do it because I enjoy it, but is there something else? I don’t do it for money, nor exactly for fame. Rather, what I’m seeking is community, and I don’t so much want the community of fans ((Though that’d be great and I really appreciate those people.)) who enjoy my work and tell me so, but rather the community of people who are all doing the same thing: producing because they enjoy it and sharing freely what they do.

If that’s my motivation, what would the best method be: a long crafting of a work to publish after the final polish, or serialization with the recognition that my work will be rough at first and gradually improve? I’m beginning to wonder if I should be doing the latter rather than the former, on which my attention has been for the last two years.

To put it another way, if what I want is more like what webcomic artists have rather than what an established and published traditional author has, then maybe I ought to be doing what the webcomics are.

I’m not sure about it, but I’ve been thinking about it an awful lot lately.

Why do you want to be published?

I was reading a discussion on Writerface the other day where the poster wondered about getting published. He was having quite an ordeal, having received numerous rejection letters and the like, and as I read through the forum thread I received confirmation that everyone deals with the same issues. It has always been difficult to get published, but with the current state of the economy and the decline of print media in general, publishers are even more hesitant to put work into print, especially for untested authors.

Being the sort of Internet-junkie I am, though, I couldn’t help but wonder why people want to get published so much. Yeah, I fancy myself an author, or at least I will do once I finally finish writing a book, but I’m doing it because I like to write. As I read through the forum, the fight to be published was portrayed as a fierce struggle, but for what?

Why do people want to be published? I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who not only intends to self-publish but who gives his work away for free online, so my thoughts are probably more cynical than accurate, but I could only come up with the following two reasons.

1) For the money

Shakespeare got to get paid, son, and I recognize that. I also recognize that publishing companies have far greater marketing capabilities than an individual, and one shouldn’t expect any marking from a Print-on-Demand (POD) Publisher. It’s hard to get your name out there and get noticed, and having a real publisher pick up your book and print/advertise it makes a huge difference.

But I can’t help but notice all the independent online businesses that are doing pretty damn well, and in particular I look at webcomic artists for a lot of my business inspiration. They put their work online for free, sell art and merchandise, and I read a great many who make a living off it. But even if you don’t make a living from the work, you can at least supplement your income. They do their own advertising, their own work, and most of the webcomics I read have visitor counts in the tens of thousands every day.

2) For the recognition

Maybe it’s just gratifying for a publisher to select you for publication. I could see feeling like you’ve really made it as an author when someone gives you the external feedback of publication + money, and that pat on the head would go a long way towards legitimizing one’s work. After being published, you can be secure in knowing that you don’t just think you’re a good writer. You’re good enough that someone else was willing to pay you for it and stake their own name, money, and time on your writing.

Part of me can’t help but point out that you can get that same recognition by working independently, if that’s what you really want, but seriously… if that’s your motivation, you should probably close your laptop and stop turning out crap just to make people like you. Write what you want because you want to write it. Communicate something you’re passionate about, and if it’s good, people will read it. If it’s not, well, at least you tried, I guess. Maybe learn to write better?

Recognition will come if you deserve it.

There’s no Rhyme or Reason, or is there?

Part of me can see the following logic. You wrote this because you want to communicate something, so you want that to get to the most people possible, and a publishing company can do that a lot better/easier/faster than self-publishing. Most self-published work gets read by only a few dozen people due to lack of advertisement, so if you really want to get your words out there, you have to go through a publishing company. Self-publishing, either through POD or on the Internet, just makes your message part of the noise, and you’ll get lost in it.

That’s a valid argument, but I don’t think it’s true. There are more books published in a single year now than in all of history, so being in print doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get noticed. Obviously, advertising makes a huge difference (do you really think Twilight would have been a hit if it had been POD published with no marketing?), but there are plenty of examples of run-away-hits (such as The Shack, apparently) that spread due to word-of-mouth.

You can’t account for what Makes It and what doesn’t, so I’m inclined to think that good work will be rewarded. If what you write happens to be good and liked by people, you’ll get noticed regardless of where you are or how you’re publishing. Just make sure you’re enjoying yourself along the way and the rest will fall into line.