Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Decisions, decisions

I've been making quite a few of them lately, most of them connected with my ongoing journey as a writer.

Earlier this year I was just a lifelong writer with a number of unfinished works-in-progress. There was one in particular I felt pretty good about, a novel called Saviors of the Galaxy that was about two-thirds of the way done.

I was in no particular hurry to finish it, although I'm sure I'd have gotten around to it eventually.

Because--according to the 2010 Writer’s Market--there were only 3 major SF publishers that would look at an unagented manuscript anyway.

I had tried to get a novel published once before, in the mid 90s (when there were many more places where you could submit your work) and I had found the process to be somewhat discouraging, even then.

You sent your novel off to the first publisher on your list. And then you waited.

(Actually, even then few of them would look at a complete manuscript--they wanted to see a "proposal": three chapters and a synopsis. Or, wait a minute, some of them wanted to see a query letter first.

All the writers whose work I admired had lived in a world where you could submit your stuff "over the transom" (so to speak) with some reasonable expectation that it would be given a cursory glance, at least, so the query letter thing and the synopsis thing didn't sit too well with me--but I figured, hey, that's what we're faced with these days, so I'll just have to deal with it.)

The waiting was something you simply had to accept. It would be "unprofessional", you were told, to call them up after six weeks had gone by and politely  ask them if they'd even gotten the thing.

And we all bought into that. We had no choice.

Publishers were "inundated", we were told. It was like we content providers were inflicting some sort of plague on them.

Only when you finally got your manuscript (or proposal) back were you free to then try the next publisher on your list. And start the whole dreary waiting process anew. Because you had to try them one at a time, you see. Simultaneous submissions were not only frowned on, they could get you blacklisted.

In his book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card, bless him, tried to make a distinction between simultaneous submissions (not okay, as he admitted) and simultaneous proposals (perfectly all right, he opined), but I was told in no uncertain terms at an SF convention by an editor for Baen that the publishers didn't see it that way. And that you could get a bad name in what was really a pretty small community (New York SF publishing) if you took Card's advice.

When you exhausted all the possibilities on your list, you could start submitting to smaller publishing houses, or try to find an agent (but we were repeatedly told not to bother an agent unless you'd had something accepted somewhere).

I saw all of this as my only path to publication.

Now fast forward to June 17, 2011. That was the day I first learned about indie publishing, when I discovered a new indie publishing board on a writer's forum I frequently visit.

That was when I made my first decision, to forget about traditional publishing and go the indie route. As I said in my very first blog post here, that decision took all of five minutes to make.

My next decisions were to release my first e-book as soon as I humanly could, and to make it an anthology of short pieces I had written over the years.

I'm perfectly well aware that no traditional publisher will release a book of short stories by an unknown writer these days. But I decided to go with what I had on hand, and that decision felt right to me.

Next was my decision to do my own cover. That wasn't so much a decision as a forced necessity--I don't know any artists and I have very little money. But I do have a bit of artistic ability, I think, and I actually rather like what I finally came up with.

Some people may think it's laughable, or that it sucks, but them's the breaks. I'm satisfied with it for now, at least, and nobody has any veto power in the matter.

Then I had to make a decision about the price.

There's been a lot of discussion about price on various blogs, and I was mainly interested in it because it wasn't an abstract debate to me, it was a real actual decision I was going to have to make.

The topic has been more or less beaten to death at this point, so I'll spare you the details of my ruminations. I finally settled on $1.99  as an introductory price, but I'm keeping my options open.

It's been a great deal of fun, this whole journey. And I'll be releasing my first e-book very soon, just as soon as I can get certain computer issues ironed out.

Meantime, thanks for dropping by. 



  1. I first started publisher shopping in the late 90s, so a lot of this reminds me of that. I remember going through anthologies of writers' digest and the like and researching (this was before we had internet, of course) who would be the best, who I was most likely to score with, etc. I never did submit anything, although I did write up some query letters and synopses. Because, like you said, that was the game.

    I've also decided within the past couple of years to go the self-publishing route, concentrating on e-books but also offering "real" copies. I love that this is what it's come to. It's like we pushed and pushed the publishers until finally we overflowed and are now taking matters into our own hands. I can't even imagine going the traditional route now.

    Mostly, just stopping by to say "thanks for the 90's nostalgia", haha.

  2. Ah, yes, the '90s are long enough ago that we can be nostalgic for them now. Amazing...

  3. I'm definitely going to drop by a lot!