Monday, May 30, 2011

The Right Train

Once upon a time, the unknowning author jumped on the self-publishing train and rode it with the wind in her hair, waiting to arrive at the ultlimate destination...bestseller success. The train never arrived.

Today, however, one boards any of several trains to reach success. The key is boarding the right train. You can step on the self-publishing train and realize when others reach success that you left your luggage at home. You can ride the traditional train and watch others reach success while you never find the right point to disembark.

Enough of the metaphor. Frankly, you can publish any way you like and find some semblance of success. To some, success is selling ten thousand books and having income to justify not going to a nine-to-five job. Others want the fame. Some crave legendary status.

We have a gazillion options, and that screws with our heads.

Sharon Bailey wrote last week in Writer Unboxed, in a post entitled The State of the Stigma, that a lot of the self-publishing stigma is gone, and some of it still hangs around. For instance, did you notice, as I have, that one can publish an ebook without the self-publishing stigma but go with Lulu.com or AuthorHouse and you fall back into that old "stench" of being a self-pubbing novice? As Sharon states, "These firms stand at the absolute bottom of the self-publishing food chain." No wonder so many writers have swarmed to ebooks.

She practices what she preaches, too. "As an author mindful of conventions, I opted out of using iUniverse when I realized it carried a stigma, even after having signed a contract, used a number of its services and received its Editor’s Choice award. Instead I switched gears to the more widely acceptable approach of purchasing my own ISBN number, assigning it to my very own indie “publishing” company created for this purpose and independently hiring a designer, a copy-editor and a printer. Frankly, it was a hassle. iUniverse had done a terrific job holding had my hand, which made my busy life much easier. But the upshot is I can now set my own price and drop my “publisher’s” name with pride, as if it were a small, literary press."

Cost isn't an issue, though, at least in the long run. You pay for the priviledge of it all. You receive all royalties and foot the publishing bill yourself, or you pay nothing up front and take small royalties. So I don't get into too much argument about the cost. You pay now or pay later.

And while traditional publishers DO open more doors for you versus someone with an iUniverse label on his book, you have less creative license with the design, promotion and delivery of the traditional book. But then, you have to work your BUTT off finding markets for your work - markets that accept self-pubbed works and don't lock-step with the traditional world.

The difference I do see is this. It's only in some circles, but it's in most book review circles and contests, which can make a difference in your plans. A traditional author gets to lead with the name of her publisher. Instant credibility since everyone knows that editors and a board or two approved this book's integrity.

If you fight as a self-pubbed author and build a name for yourself, however, you become a celebrity. Someone from the masses who rose up and thumbed his nose at the powers-that-be. Like Amanda Hocking, you become somebody who defied the odds yet still belongs to the ranks of the common man.

So, you can find success on any train. It's a matter of studying each route, determining which stops you want to make along the way, deciding if the end success is the one you want. I think it's time we realized that we can do whatever the heck it is we want to do. It's nobody's fault, and there is no one publishing savior. There are enough options out there for us to find a way. And if we choose the wrong one, it's on our shoulders, not necessarily the industry's.

1 comment:

Sioux said...

You're so right, Hope. The definiton of "fame" or "success" depends on the writer.