I am nothing if not trendy
I have seen a large number of articles recently about The Future of Publishing. This may be because I spend much of my “I’m promoting my book” time hanging out on Twitter with other writers, but that doesn’t mean the question isn’t being put out there a lot.
I have only a a little bit to say on the subject but first, I’d like to clear the air on a couple of things.
- Immortal is not self-published. It is also not being published by a vanity press, nor is it a publishing company I created specifically to publish my book.
- Hamel Integrity Publishing is a very new company. New, as in “it didn’t exist legally until about eight months ago.” The goal from the outset has been to get the first set of books into the marketplace as soon as could reasonably be possible.
- If you have heard of my novel and decided to determine its merits based on a Google search of the publisher, you will find there is currently no web page and precious little else online about them. This is not because they are a scam, or a vanity, or a figment of my imagination. Once again: they are very, very new. That’s all.
I was asked this weekend why I “chose” to go “that route”, meaning why I opted to publish with a new company. This question appears to presuppose that I first turned down offers from Random House and Bantam, or that perhaps I didn’t knock on those doors. This, as you know if you’ve read earlier entries in this blog, is a silly question. The decision was not “small, new publisher or big established publisher.” It was “new publisher, self-publish or shelve.”
Which brings me, finally, to The Future of Publishing.
There was a point, not all that long ago, when I had to decide whether or not to self-publish Immortal. It had already been passed on by all the major publishers, and I wasn’t having any luck finding a new agent to either A: try it again as a rewrite to the same publishers or B: bring it to the smaller ones. At the same time I was too happy with it to want to put it on a shelf, and I thought it had significant “cult success” potential to it, and self-publishing was fairly easy, if not cheap.
So I asked around. The question I asked was, “what are the chances of selling my next novel to a publisher if my last novel was self-published?” From multiple sources the answer came back: “unless you can sell 5,000- 10,000 copies yourself, good luck.”
Self-publishing was a mark against me in the eyes of the entire publishing industry, unless the book became a runaway success.
It seemed as if the industry as a whole was saying, “not only do we not want to publish this, we don’t want you to publish it either.”
The Galileo Effect
While the idea that self-publishing could be inherently detrimental is grossly unfair, I sort of understand it, because of the Galileo Effect. In science, more or less any time someone has a crackpot idea they firmly believe to be true but which is not accepted as such by anyone else, Galileo is invoked: “they didn’t believe Galileo either” is the argument. The problem is, almost without exception the idea really is a crackpot idea that is just flat-out wrong, and the claimant is simply deluded.
(Aside: In science, the last person with an idea that was misjudged as crackpot was probably Alfred Wegener and the theory of continental drift.)
Self-publishing has a lot of Galileos: “My novel is brilliant, and if the establishment doesn’t believe me, I’ll prove it to them!” And ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the novel isn’t brilliant at all.
The hypocrisy section of today’s blog begins now
Of course, Immortal actually IS brilliant. (You don’t believe me? That’s what they said to Galileo, you know!) One of the reasons it sat for six years is that I didn’t want it to go out as a self-published novel with a small following that disappeared after a few years. I wanted to get it out there into stores and in front of as many eyes as possible, because it deserved to be, so I put it away until I could find a publisher– a real publisher– that could promise me those things.
Also, I didn’t have the cash to self-publish.
POD, E-Publishing and the Death of Publishing Houses
And at the same time Immortal is finally getting its day, apparently the publishing industry is near death, killed by any number of poisons.
It’s not true– the business model is evolving certainly, but not dying– but what IS true is that the opportunity for non-traditional publishing has expanded tremendously with the advent of e-books and Print-On-Demand and inexpensive self-publishing.
Despite having been one bad night of drinking away from being a self-published novelist myself, I’m not positive how I feel about this. I mean, the problem with everyone being able to publish is that everyone can now publish. And while there’s no way to say this without sounding unbelievably arrogant, not everyone deserves to be published.
Now, it’s very possible that self-publishing is less stigmatized than it was a few years ago, and it’s also very possible that the books being turned directly into e-books and what-have-you are solid books that deserve your time. And I’m sure some of the writers I’ve met on Twitter have written them.
But there’s a reason I have to qualify my description of Immortal with “it’s not being self-published” so often. I’m not the only one looking at the difference between house-published and self-published: the readers are too.