Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blog Chain: The Brave New Publishing World

So here I am, at work at 7 PM, the first shift in my new schedule, the DuPont schedule, which is a behemoth you can read more about, here.

Anyway, partly because of this new schedule, and partly because I just suck at organization, I missed the first post I was supposed to put up yesterday for this new blog chain I've joined. The topic for today, in fact for the entire chain, is this:

Have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your writing plans/career? If so, how?

Before I get to answering that, I want to explain how the blog chain works, and introduce you to the other members of the group. It works by one member picking a topic, and then writing about it on the first day. What makes it a chain is that each subsequent blogger then covers the same topic, also linking to both the previous, and the next blog.

I screwed all that up, so I'm going to link to all the blogs.

First, let me introduce you to the other new members of the chain, most of whom you may already know. Amparo, Tere, PK, Katrina, and Jon. The already existing members of the chain, some of whom I already knew, but others whom I just met, are: Christine, Sarah, Michelle M., Shaun, Cole, Kate, Sandra, Eric, Margie, Michelle H., and Abby.

Now I realize that's a lot of blogs, but you don't have to read them all right now. Just go follow them, and I promise you won't be disappointed. For now just read the post that came before mine, Sandra's, and then go read the one that comes tomorrow (which by the way is actually today since I screwed all this up), Kate's.

Now that we've gotten all that housekeeping out of the way, let's get down to the topic.

My opinion, and please take this with a grain of salt as I am a completely amateur and unpublished writer, is that it is both an exciting and a terrifying time to be (or be attempting to be) in the publishing industry. I say that in all my comments whenever the topic comes up, and I mean it.

I used to own a small, independent record label in Minneapolis. My partner had all the musical talent, and I (supposedly) had all the business acumen. We didn't get rich, but we had a lot of fun.

You can't compare the music industry to publishing with a one to one correlation, because they're very different, but I can make an analogy that I hope will make my opinion about the state of publishing more clear.

When a record gets put out (for us it was usually 12 inch singles, which is actually just 2 songs, an A side, and a B side, and then possibly an instrumental and an acapella version of each) the record label generally recoups all costs before any artists get paid, which can be quite substantial depending on the scope and quality of the production. In general, independently produced music allows for better art to get from the artist to the fan (or listener) for a lower cost, and with more of the fair share of profits actually making it into the artist's hand (or bank account).

It seems to me that the same will eventually be true of publishing, but I don't think we're there yet, not even close. So far, self and e-publishing (or even vanity, which is NOT the same thing) has always had a very negative stigma attached to it. In the sense that self-published books are of lower quality, because the author simply got impatient about trying to get published traditionally. I can't personally tell you whether or not that was ever true, because I haven't read a lot of self-published books, but I can tell you the stigma was there.

I think all of that's changing, and fast. My friend PJ Hoover has already shown that you can write a great book, one good enough to get an agent, and then still choose to publish it outside of the traditional channels. I haven't read the whole thing, yet, but I've read an excerpt of Solstice, and I can tell you that PJ is a damn fine writer.

For my own career, I still intend to get published traditionally, at least once, if only to prove that I can do it. After that, who knows? All I really care about is telling great stories and having them reach as many readers who will love them as much as I do, as possible.

I could go on, but I've probably already said too much. Please bear with me as I try to wrap my head around this crazy thing that is my life.


Julie said...

I actually did a post about self-publishing a while back and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I own one self-published book which read exactly how you described it: 'the author simply got impatient about trying to get published traditionally'
Until I attempted to read it, I considered self-publishing myself.

Now I'm with you, I hope to do it the traditional way, at least for the first one.

I'm looking forward to checking out the blog chain!

Anita said...

I've indie epubbed two middle grade novels I think tell fun stories for the bargain price of $.99 each. I don't think they're the best books ever written, but I do believe they compete well with some traditionally published books. It wasn't so much that I got impatient with the traditional route, but that I wanted to explore all routes to getting my work read. This December, I'll epub a third MG. By mid-January, I'll have some sound figures which will tell me if the indie epub route is a good one for me. If it's not, I'll look for an agent for the YA I'm writing. It's all good, this time of change in publishing. I think people should embrace it, not fear it.

Shain Brown said...

I currently have a friend who self-published and he was exactly the person you described. At the same time I have read a couple that weren't bad.

My goal is to traditional publish.

Good Luck in adjusting to your change and I look forward to reading more of the chain.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Yeah. Fighting the stigma is huge and the flood of really bad writing that's out there. I'm seriously considering the self-publication route if only because I'm so old starting this writing thing. But like you, there's still that sense of wanting to have done at least one book traditionally. *sigh*

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

yeah i agree the stigma is changing, but it's still there in some cases. I'm like you, i'm going to try my damndest to get traditionally pubbed before i give indy or self-pubbing a try (self pubbing just seems like so much work that i'm not cut out stresses me out just thinking about it)

Sarah Pearson said...

I'm like most in that I'd really like to be traditionally published, but it's good to know that, assuming my work is good enough, there are alternatives.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Welcome again to the blog chain!

For those who want to self-publish, I think it's important to make sure your work is as professional as possible before publishing it. That means getting feedback from beta readers and (if possible) editors, having someone else proofread your manuscript, and obtaining the best cover art possible. It can be a daunting task, but I think it's doable. I hope so, anyway!

RaShelle said...

The book world is scary right now. I agree. *Fingers crossed* I'm hoping for the traditional route as well.

Margo Lerwill said...

Going self-pub for me was strictly a business decision.

I've had the agent, had a Penguin editor ready to offer me a contract (didn't work out in the end), and have two agents who want to look at the current WIP. But after talking to a major agent about the state of the industry and looking at a popular author who sells well under *two* names and still has to have a day job, I didn't feel like I had anything to lose by trying out the self-pub route for five years.

I've got a lot of years of experience, several invitation-only workshops and writers groups to draw upon, magazine credits behind me, and the good sense and financial ability to hire a professional cover design and editor.

With a short story (not even a novel), I hit one top 100 list in the US and two in the UK.

I'm aware of the stigma and how well-deserved it is in many cases. I'm out to prove self-pub isn't the sole domain of impatient hacks.

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

In many cases, self publishing (and in some cases indie publishing) prove the stigma. I've yet to read a self published book that I thought should have been picked up by an agent - as you say, they looked like the author was impatient to be published and so just dove in without thinking.

Old Kitty said...

I love that pic of you and your daughter on the sidebar - so cute!!!

Well all I can say having immersed myself in alot of writerly blogs is whatever route a writer chooses to follow to be published - they owe it to their art to make their stories as polished, professional and sparkling diamond first class a-rated as possible - whatever it takes - money wise, editing wise, whatever - just make the darned thing PERFECT! Good luck to you all!!

Take care

Jessica Bell said...

Will check out the other blogs. I'm like you. I just want people to read my work!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think it will change like the music industry did, because some of the best artists are on small or independent labels.

Carrie said...

I was just thinking about this yesterday when I was at a Borders going out of business sale. It made me wonder if there will be more and more self-published books out there.
I've read Anita's book and I really enjoyed it.

Jonathon Arntson said...

No worries on missing yesterday's post, Matt. It was your link to my blog that even alerted me to the fact that I am in this group! I misunderstood what was happening.

Anywho...I got it all figured out - looks like you did too.

I agree, the publishing industry is changing and it's foolish to equate self-pubbed novels as low quality. I have read both of Anita Miller's MG e-books and they are fantastic!

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I agree - it is both an exciting and terrifying time to be in the publishing industry. Very well put!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

That's a great post! I love how self-publishing and e-publishing are starting to get credit now - when I first looked into it, they seemed to get a lot of flack, even though talented writers chose to publish in those ways. But now, more power to them! :)

Tere Kirkland said...

I think the fading stigma attached to e-publishing is a real sign of how the traditional publishing industry has realized that it needs to embrace the technological changes that every other part of our society has embraced.

Self-published authors are no longer kissing good-bye to their chances of traditional publishing, but the ones who make it do a ton of self-promoting. If you've got a book--or series--you love, and the time to promote it, self-publishing might be right for you.

Great post, Matt!

Michael Offutt said...

I had no idea you were in the record business. That is so cool man. I hope the new DuPont schedule doesn't screw you up too bad. A man needs some time to rest eep.

Bryan Russell said...

My plans: write a good book.

I figure I'll worry about the rest later.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

After reading John Locke's book, I can see that change happening really soon.
The big six publishers own the bookstores while small presses and self-pubbed authors fill in the nitches. But look what's happening - bookstores are dying. The gatekeepers are losing their grip and smaller publishers are adapting faster. The big boys still cling to the print model with overpriced ebooks. The Internet is a level playing field and in the next few years, we're going to see some radical changes.

Cynthia Lee said...

I think it's a very exciting time for publishing. And a little terrifying.

I try not to think too much about the terrifying part because, obviously, that's not something I have any control over.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I'm figuring out this fancy blog chain thing right alongside you, Matt. I guess I'm posting tomorrow and have no idea what I could possibly add to the self-publishing chat that hasn't already been said!

I hope you're right that this thing ends with authors getting a bigger piece of the pie and more control over their art, but I don't see an end to the bottleneck caused by too much inspiration and not enough revision. :) Everybody I know wants to write a book and now they can publish it on amazon with one day of solid effort.

Does the cream rise to the top? I'd like to say it does, but we don't seem to have the attention span for making butter. Okay, bad mixed metaphor. I think I need more sleep, too. :)

Liza said...

Gosh I still crave the sight of my name on the spine of a traditional book, but I'm optimistic that validation may also arrive through self-publishing.

Em-Musing said...

OoooWEE! Yes! I now think self publishing is a viable option.

Michael G-G said...

"We didn't get rich, but we had a lot of fun."

I ♥ you, man!!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

It'll be hard to remove that stigma, but I think the more great self-published books we see, the closer we are to self-pubbed books gaining the same level of respect as traditionally published. And so far, I've seen a number of quality books get published this way.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I hear you! It's about quality.

I have to be honest - I've seen a lot of self-pubbed PBs, and the ones I saw were all definitely sub-standard. That doesn't mean they won't get better, but right now that's where they are.

Novels might be a different story, though. The proof is in the pudding.

I have a lot of frustration, though, because a lot of "successful" e-books that have sold a ton of copies have largely done so based on their $.99 price point, and I think that's leading to sales numbers not being a very good measure of quality. That makes it harder for me, as a reader, to find the quality that I'm looking for in the self-pubbed e-book market. Just my opinion.

Laura Pauling said...

I've just been keeping aware of the changes. Where my publishing road will take me - I don't know. It's changing too fast. I'm focusing on creating great content and then I'll go from there.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

You're remarkably coherent for all the crazy in your life. Plus the new picture of you and your little girl is just TOO CUTE. :)

mshatch said...

Matt, I have an award for you over at my blog today - if your'e interested, which I hope you are cuz I'd love to see your answers :)

Shannon said...

I love the idea of the chain. Hrm, maybe that's what I need to post on a regular basis? >:)

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, Matt, and I agree with stigma attached to self-published books. I think that will change as the industry evolves, but without my crystal ball, I can't see how it will pan out.

I'm also in the same camp when it comes to being published traditionally. I want to do it at least once. :)

Hugs & shit,

Christina Lee said...

Okay the record company thing just makes you even cooler--and that's a good comparison!

I have my own post coming up about all of this, but yeah for ME traditional is still my dream!

Pk Hrezo said...

Yep, I pretty much failed at my blog chain too... been a lil crazy this week. Thanks for the mention tho.
That must've been fun with the record company. I'd love it. I have a writer friend also who has an agent and was advised to self-pub since they couldn't find a trad pubber right off the bat. I love the opportunity it gives and I think that stigma is slowly fading away. readers just have to be smart and with all the free samples ePubbers give, readers have the option to read on or not.
BTW congrats on your request from WriteOnCon!! Awesome!

Michelle McLean said...

I think, as with everything, you'll find the good mixed in with the bad. Without that filtering system in place, a lot of "probably shouldn't be published" books will get put out there. But there will be a lot of really good ones too.

It'll definitely be interesting to watch what happens with all this in the next few years.

Michelle H. said...

Welcome to the blog chain, new member!

Yes, I think you're exactly right. Although music and publishing are not the same, every industry wants to make a profit. I can see traditional publishers recouping themselves before the author sees a dime. And this speaks huge volumes concerning author advances.

Abby Annis said...

Terrified. Most of the time, that's exactly how I feel about all the changes. Great post!

Welcome to the chain! :)

Eric said...

Great response, Matt. My own post was perhaps inspired by this (or at least shares the same riverbed of thought). I like the idea that you'll continue to work at traditional publication just to say you've done it. I feel similarly whenever I consider self publication.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Welcome to the chain, Matt! I think your sentiment about getting books to readers being the most important thing is dead on. I think at the end of the day, it won't matter how you do it, just that you do it.