Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Self-Publishing in the Age of Self-Publishing

Remember when Lars Ulrich of Metallica went "crazy train" over Napster? Now most musicians purposefully give away mp3s of their music. Funny how times change.

I don't mind giving away some of my stories. (Flash Fiction Fridays, duh.)

But I won't self-publish a novel. Not yet. And I'm glad I didn't start handing out short stories on my blog when I started writing.

When you self publish (be it POD or traditional or what-ever), you eliminate competition. Yes, competition sucks sometimes. Yes, the system has inherent "unfairness". Yes, there is a bit of nepotism out there. And name? Man, once you have one, you can write your ticket. Have you ever read an anthology and felt the strongest stories came from "unknowns" while the best-sellers punted? It happens. Too much, in my opinion.

But competition breeds a better story. It makes writing better. It's made me work harder; I know that much. And yes, competition brings rejection (or losses, however you want to frame it). Yesterday, it brought three to me: one from a long-time short list, another from a pro market, and a third from a market that just decided to close, bang. I hated "writing" for a couple of hours yesterday, but I'll keep writing. It's what I do. And "unfairness" is just another excuse.

I've learned to cherish the challenge that writing brings. I don't love competition, but I love what it's done to me. I love chiseling away at a story because I know it isn't good enough, not yet. I want them all to be that story, the one readers want to share. Wouldn't have happened without competition. It wouldn't have happened if I gave up. There would be no thrill, no joy if I self-published from "go".

So I won't self-publish a novel. Not yet. But I don't mind sharing bits and pieces; I know I need to in today's writing world (remember the Metallica lesson?) Flash fiction = free mp3s, right?


Gay Degani said...

Excellent post Aaron. I just self-published my short stories, but I agree about the novel. My logic with my stories is that to get a publisher to buy them, I have to have a "name" and the only way most writers can get a name is to have a published novel. We can't afford to give away the farm just because we're generous with our hens. Anyway, lousy metaphors aside, if want to repost this at FFC, I'd be delighted.

Barry Napier said...

Yes and Lars still whines about that to this day. He even vocally based Radiohead (along ith Gene Simmons) for releasing In Rainbows for whatever price the fans wanted to pay (most got it for free but I paid $4).

Now of course, Radiohead and NIN are considered pioneers of sorts for releasing material this way.

Go I hate Lars.

Aaron Polson said...

Gay - I'd be happy to repost. (And the metaphor was perfect).

Barry - I'd rather be a pioneer than a prick. Just sayin'. Gene Simmons is a tool. Always has been.

Jamie Eyberg said...

In this age of internet readership and buying most of what we have online, especially from the small press, I think that having some of your stories out there for the potential buyer to sample is a good thing.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

I think I'm there, too. I'm keeping POD in my backup holster in case the agent/p-house route goes too far south to be recoverable. And then, maybe with a pseudonyum so I don't kill my chances of traditional pub with later books.

Anonymous said...

I know it's a couple of weeks old, but did you see Brian Keene's post on self-publishing? I can't paste links here so you'll have to look for it yourself. It's on his site, briankeene.com, dated January 4. It's an interesting post from someone who has spouted so much vitriol against POD and self-publishing in the past.

Katey said...

I paid full iTunes price for In Rainbows because I was enamored of the idea that the people who made the music would be getting most of it, for once.

Self-publishing is so viable in some ways. A good example is my friend Meghan, who writes urban fantasy... about renn faires. A specific audience + access to them = good time to self pub. (Hence the usefulness for nonfiction.) It's hard to build an audience with it, but once it's there, I think it makes sense.

And once the competition has honed the skillz a bit, of course. Skipping that step leads to nowhere, for sure.

Fox Lee said...

I love your Flash Fiction Fridays : )

Elana Johnson said...

Very true!! And I especially liked how you named "it's not fair" as an excuse. I subscribe to that philosophy too.

Cate Gardner said...

I'll never self publish a novel because I heart editors and how they make my stories a little shinier.

Aaron Polson said...

Jamie - It can't hurt...can it?

Jeremy - Kindle/ebook is always an option, too.

Michael - I read Keene's site pretty regularly in the summer, but he's blocked at school...go figure. I'll have to check that out later.

Katey - Nowhere. My point exactly.

Natalie - Me too. Usually.

Aaron Polson said...

Elana - No one ever said life was fair. If they did, they lied. Which is like stealing. Which isn't fair.

Cate - I (heart) editors, too. Short stories I can polish to a pretty good shine, but novels...thank you editors!

Danielle Birch said...

A little bit of competition is healthy.