Thursday, January 29, 2009

Northern Haunts Release, Other Thoughts on the Biz

Northern Haunts has officially been released. Buy a copy at Amazon or Shroud's website as the profits go to the American Cancer Society. I'm pleased that my work could be part of this project.

I have a jumbled stew in my brain right now, so have patience. Yesterday's NY Times article about the state of self-publishing only served to stir the pot. Thankfully, I don't use this many overdone metaphors in my own stories. (usually)

One other integral part of my brain stew is a Brian Keene interview in the latest issue of Cemetery Dance. Jeremy D. Brooks addressed part of the interview on his blog. The bit that stuck with me (other than the evil of Wal-Mart) was that Keene discussed spending his advance for a book on promoting that book. Mid-listers (and I'm paraphrasing here) receive little or no cash or support for book promotion, so it is all up to the writer.

I'm a terrible salesman. I hate promoting anything (except reading and writing); that's why I became a public school teacher. The students are a captive audience and I really believe in my product.

Look, I love writing. I do. I've talked about the therapeutic qualities of sitting down in front of my computer and hammering out a story. I just don't know if I have the marathon legs to keep running the hamster wheel if/when I have a book published. (fingers crossed here that a book of mine ever would be published)

The benefit, it seems, to receiving a book deal from a major house is that one would have the advance money to spend on promotion. This won't be the case with self-publishing or smaller presses.

Aimee (my wife) is a guidance counselor at a local high school (not the one where I work, thank God; that would be too weird). She had a student come in to her office who was interested in becoming a writer. I remember being starry-eyed, thinking: gee, once I get that book dealtm, I'll be set for life. Wow, was I ever naive.

The kids at school are definitely creating and consuming in a different way than I do. I don't think they feel the same about self-publishing. Maybe I should take a poll, but I can tell the times are a'changing. I'll always be a digital immigrant. They are the natives, and the future.

I'm not sure what to make of all this...stuff. Just my thoughts at the moment. Nobody ever said it would be easy, and the illusion that it is easy for guys like Keene, writers who have "made it", is only now beginning to crumble. Bye bye, illusion.

Writing is hard work, folks, for the published and the unpublished. It seems the game board is only becoming more slippery, at least in my mind.


Jeremy D Brooks said...

I think that holds for most industries right now, but ours is really turning into a bitch. We have three (at least three) major things against us: the economy means no advance money and no marketing money, people aren't reading anymore, and the traditional manuscript>agent>publisher>dead tree model doesn't seem to be standing the test of time very well.

It seems like the folks who find the uncharted fringes of this situation stand to do the best. And Joe the F*$%&ng Plumber.

K.C. Shaw said...

I'm with you in feeling a little confused about how the market is changing. (Or that's how I read your post, anyway--sorry if I misunderstood you!) I keep hearing analogies to the music business, where people went from buying CDs in stores to buying online music overwhelmingly, and I think that's a good analogy. The real problem isn't self-publishing or ebooks or distribution anymore, it's getting people aware of your books--and that scares me too, since I'm not good at self-promotion (even if I could afford it).

No real point here, I'm just thinking aloud too. Interesting topic!

Aaron Polson said...

Jeremy - ah, the uncharted fringes. I'm with you only if I could find them (without a chart).

K.C. - you do have a point.

It's a sad day when quality matters less than promotion. Think about the bad books you've read in the last year.

Rob Brooks said...

I edited a book for a guy who self-published a book with PublishAmerica (they're a self-publisher, no matter what anyone says). The amount of work they do for the author is depressing. Practically nothing.

I don't understand why a major house, though, would want to publish a book and not spend any money marketing it. Isnt' that just a waste of their time and money to not market a book?

Self-publishign has become really easy these days, with people being able to upload their manuscript to places like Cafepress and Lulu and have a book within days. It would be nice to have some actual copies of a book with your name on it, but if it's only you and your family and friends buying it, it seems awfully bittersweet.

I ahve thought about doing this, though, with some collections of poems and such, just to make some copies for me and the wife. But nto to try to sell.

Catherine J Gardner said...

Self promotion is an ugly word, but somebody's got to do it.

The thing I never considered until recently - you finally get that one, two, three book deal you've been hankering after, and then your books tank and they don't want anymore - :shudder: - and you have to start all over again.

Aaron Polson said...

Rob - the audience is important, isn't it? And why would a major house shell out $$ if they know the author is going to pimp the book for them to avoid what Cate mentions (the book tanking)? Scary, really.

Cate - that scares me more every day. The pursuit of the deal is wonderful; the reality could be ugly and devastating.

Barry Napier said...

I have bene considering doing the self publishing thing with a short story collection that I'd release under a pen name. But I don't IS a pretty dirty word and while it IS getting harder and harder to catch the attention of one of the bigger houses, I think I'd rather wait on them rather than smear my writing and name and time through the mire.

Jamie Eyberg said...

Publishing houses are notorious for putting all of their eggs in one basket. They admit to putting up to 90% of their ad budget toward the 'name-brand' authors (less than 1% of their stable and dividing the remaining 10% among the remaining 99%) It is a screwed up way of doing things but they realize the public is more likely to buy something from someone they know, even if their last book sucked, than an unknown.

Natalie L. Sin said...

Being introverted in general and awkward around people, I can only imagine how promoting my own book would go! Can I hire a Korean Boy Band to do it for me?

Aaron Polson said...

Barry - how about a book of bad poetry?

Jamie - making the name is the game. Everytime I see a book in our grocery store, I think "that author has really made it".

Natalie - best idea ever.

Robert said...

The way I always understood it, major publishers will buy a handful of first novels paying minimum advances hoping for at least one of them to be a hit. They can't afford to over publicize all of the books -- it's like throwing the chips and seeing where they lie.

On the flip side, if a publisher pays a huge advance, of course they're going to shell out the extra cash to promote it. After all, they want their money back.

Now how do we get to be in that second boat? As is the case most times in life, besides writing the best book we can, being in the right place at the right time. In other words, luck.

Jeremy Kelly said...

I think that the fact that the changing industry is changing makes it the perfect time for opportunity. In other words, I try to stay optimistic.

As far as self-publishing goes, I'm afraid I was one of those children who was scarred in his constant search for acceptance from others.