Self Publishing As A Religion

And a missionary religion at that.

There’s a phenomenon that I’ve observed. Or maybe I should say “had shoved down my throat.” This is definitely not true of, or directed at *all* self published authors, but there is a subsection of them that are…annoying.

They are the ones that find some way of getting your attention, either by compliment, or otherwise expressing interest in your writing, and then the second thing they say is “Have you considered self publishing?”

Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior, Amazon, and their Great Plan for us, Kindle Direct?

Because if you’re not self publishing, you are obviously unaware of the glorious benefits of being in complete control of the publishing process. Because if you knew, you’d agree with them, right? And no matter how you explain that yes, you’ve considered all your options, and after careful deliberation decided that self publishing was not the best option for you, they  will conclude that you be misinformed in some way – you must be, otherwise you’d agree with them. No other possible explanation.

They will remind you that traditional publishing doesn’t guarantee quality, no matter how many sub-par self published books you tell them you’ve read. They’ll tell you the publishers are just out to screw you out of your money. They’ll explain that a good editor will make sure the book is ready for publication and that it’s just as well edited as any traditionally published books. And publishers don’t even market books these days you know.

And when you tell them, thank-you, but not interested, they get that tone like the Jehova’s Witnesses telling you that they’ll be sad to see you go to hell, and say, too bad, sad to see a book like yours that will be years before it gets into the hands of readers. If it ever gets published at all.

Why do they do this? Is there some pyramid scheme where Amazon gives them a commission for suckering people into KDP? They’re not even trying to sell you *their* book – they’re trying to convince you to self-publish *yours*. They don’t benefit from it at all. There’s only one explanation that I’ve been able to come up with.

They’re insecure. They’re worried they’ve made the wrong decision, so they try to convince others to join them to reassure themselves that they’re okay.

Don’t be that author.

And by “don’t be that author” I don’t mean don’t self publish. I mean, don’t treat it like a religion that you need to convert people to your way of doing things. Don’t self publish your book until you’re so confident that it’s ready for the public that you won’t need validation from fellow authors of your decision.

I’ve put a lot of work into my writing. When I talk to some writers, they’ll say oh, I’ve been working at this so long – it’s been like three years I’ve been writing. Or a year, or five years. So they know they’re ready to be published. They’ve put in their time. I’ve been writing since I was fourteen. That’s about sixteen years of developing my craft. And maybe a year or three years is enough for some people to hone their craft to the equivalent of traditionally published authors. But looking at most of the self published novels I’ve read at this point, more often that they think, it’s not. And people like the aforementioned make me think they know it, and they just desperately don’t want to admit it.

I know self published authors who were ready, and who self published for the right reasons. I’m not going to go into what the right reasons to self publish are – there’s tons of that on other blogs. But look at your work and take a step back and really ask yourself, are you doing it because you’re impatient? Are you doing it because you know it’s not good enough for an agent to say yes, but you’re tired of developing your craft and just want to get to the part where people pat you on the head and tell you it’s wonderful? Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and you won’t sound to others like you regret it.

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Post Keycon

Keycon was awesome as always. Met even more of my blog followers, and got to chat more with some of the fellow authors I’d met previously, but didn’t have time to talk to as much previously. And even so, I wish I’d had more time to talk to some of them!

I got out of work early on friday, and made it to con in time to hear Samantha Beiko read from her upcoming novel, and it was creepy and messed up enough to make me pick up her (Aurora award nominated) “The Lake And The Library.” Looking forward to that, as well as finishing Chad Ginther’s second book, “Tombstone Blues.”

My first panel, on engines went swimmingly – the room was full, which, even for the smaller boardroom is pretty impressive for ten PM on Friday evening. The discussion was lively – I geared it toward people who know nothing at all about any sort of engine, but there were a couple of people who were less novice. One who knew engines  quite well, but less about aviation, and he had tons of great questions along the lines of “okay, I know with a car engine, this works this way, is it different with a plane engine?” And the other was Timothy Gwyn, a commercial pilot and writer working on a sci-fi novel, who was a great resource for when other attendees asked questions about larger, more sophisticated aircraft that I’m less familiar with. I’ve been considering what sort of panels I’ll offer to present next year, and I’m thinking I’ll have him as a fellow presenter for one. But along with them, came a number of other attendees with questions, and it made for a lively discussion.

I went to a couple of Karen Dudley’s panels, where she talked about world-building, and food in fantasy, and learned all about bread dildos. Yeah, and I’m not even going to explain that one – if you want to know, you’ll have to pick up her book, “Food For The Gods.” The Sequel, “Kraken Bake” is being launched on June 3rd, at Mcnally Robinson, Grant Park.

Tanya Huff had some good panels too – the one on non-heteronormative characters in fiction I particularly enjoyed, seeing as “Redwing” has a gay viewpoint character. It was good to hear that getting flak for including homosexual characters in fiction has been very rare, and that I’m not likely to be asked to remove it by an agent or editor. In TV and movies, it sounds like a different matter, but at least in literature, writers are free to be liberal.

Another panel I enjoyed was the Marketing and Publicity for Writers panel with Robert J. Sawyer and Samantha Beiko. A lot of it I knew, but I got a chance to ask about suggestions for how to organize a book launch as a debut author. Also, Sawyer said something that I’ve heard a lot of agents complain about, but I like the way Sawyer phrases it. The agents’ complaint is that writers querying their novel claim that their novel will appeal to *everyone*, rather than nailing down their target audience. Sawyer reminds us not just to not make the mistake of doing that with an agent, but not to do it with potential readers either. Nothing is more annoying than an aggressive salesperson, and he gave anecdotes about how he’s often got compliments on his personality just by not being an aggressive salesperson. And the reason, he explained, is that people who aren’t interested in your novel, even if you get them to buy it, and to read it, won’t enjoy it. Your job as a writer marketing your book is to find readers who are going to enjoy what you write. It’s what Holly Lisle calls you one thousand true fans. To build a core audience that really loves what you do and will buy everything you write should be your goal, not getting everyone and their dog to read it and then write nasty one star reviews because it wasn’t their shtick.

I’ve definitely been trying to do that with the blog, and I hope I’m succeeding. A lot of unpublished writers fill their blogs with writing advice and contests geared toward drawing agents and fellow writers to their blogs to build attention. I agree with Sawyer that this is a bad idea, for two reasons. First, it’s a tad pretentious for a writer to publish writing advice on their blog before they’ve proven they know how to write a story by getting their book published by a traditional publisher. But second, fellow writers are not your target audience. I mean, the odd one might be, but for the most part, they’re more likely to buy your book because they feel obligated to support a fellow author, not because they expect to enjoy the book.

On the other panel I was on, the home grown writers one, several authors spoke about one thing I’ve heard said before, but Karen Dudley’s description of the phenomenon made it clear I hadn’t realized how huge it was. That’s the support for the arts we have in Winnipeg. Karen is from Alberta, and she apparently had a hell of a time getting grants and such from the government to get started writing. But when she moved to Manitoba, things were completely different. People showed up to signings, and cons. There are tons of writers based in Winnipeg – Sawyer has said before that’s the reason he visits so often, because he’s made so many friends here in the writing community.

Anyway, Sunday night I had a great time chatting it up with Gerald Brant and Shayla Elizabeth, both writers of sci-fi, talking about the querying process, and critique groups. Also got to chat with Timothy Gwyn a bit more. That’s one I wish I’d had more time to talk shop about the sky with, but I was rushing off to something or other. I’ll have to hunt him down at the dead dog next year, or possibly at Word On The Water in Kenora, if I make it out there this fall.

Anyway, I had a great con, and I’m looking forward to next year. Hope to see you there!

Keycon This Weekend

With Keycon coming up this weekend, I thought I’d better throw up a post letting people know I’ll most definitely be there and what panels I’ll be on.

First, on Friday at 10:00 PM, I’ve got “How a Four Cylinder Carbureted Engine Works” which will be exactly what it sounds like. Steampunks and Dieselpunks are encouraged to come for a primer on the mechanics of internal combustion.

On Saturday, I have two panels – the first is “Locally Grown: Authors and More You Likely Missed”, where I’m appearing with several other local authors including:
Writer Samantha Mary Beiko (The Lake and the Library)
Writer and Illustrator Gmb Chomichuk (The Imagination Manifesto, Raygun Gothic)
Fantasy and Mystery writer Karen Dudley (Food for the Gods)
Historical Fantasy author Leia Getty (Tower of Obsidian)
Novelist Chadwick Ginther (Thunder Road, Tombstone Blues)

 
The second is another of my own panels, titled “Why Thunderstorms Are Shaped Like Anvils.” And it’s not because Thor is making horseshoes. Come learn about weather. It’s sciencey.

 
When I’m not in panels, I’ll be figuring out what all Nnedi Okorafor’s panels are, and going to all of them, (apparently Nnedi cancelled last month sometime and I did not notice, bah!) and hanging out with fellow authors. Last year I met some of my blog followers, which was cool, so if you’re there, feel free to introduce yourselves. I hope to see you there.

Levels Of Validation For An Author

I posted this on facebook, but it was a popular post so I’ll repeat it here.

1: Your mom/friend reads it and says “That was lovely!”

2: Your critique circle says “Definitely a good start.”

3: Best critique partner says “You’ve got a novel here.”

4: Pro author in a blue pencil session reads first 3 pages and says “This is good, send it out to an agent.”

5: Agent reads first 50 pages and offers to look at revisions.

6: Agent reads revisions of first 50 pages, gushes and asks for the full manuscript.

7: Agent has taken the time to read full manuscript, gives feedback, and offers to look at revisions.

My friends and family have mostly encouraged me along the way, but lately I think it’s sinking in to the people around me that I’m not just an aspiring author who’ll get published someday if I work really hard at it. A lot of them have seen how long and hard I’ve worked at it now, and they believe me when I say I’m close to breaking out. I’m at that point where instead of begging people to read my work, people are expressing curiosity and asking to read it. I’ve had people online asking if I needed a beta reader and saying it’s okay if I don’t have time to return the favour. But the reality is, I think the novel’s at the point where a novice author may not have much to offer me that I can’t figure out on my own.

Maybe that’s what’s making my friends realize I’m close to getting published. The fact that I’m not showing my work to anyone who expresses the least bit of interest. When people say, “I’ll wait till it’s published,” I’m not frustrated that they’re not so excited they want to read it now.

And now I’m back to revisions, and I won’t say too much other than if I have anything to announce, don’t worry, I’ll be letting people know. But the feeling an author gets from knowing that an industry professional made it all the way through their manuscript, not just the polished first 5 pages, without throwing it in the garbage… not only that, but thinks it’s close enough to good enough to be worth the time it takes to provide feedback. Knowing they don’t *do* that if they don’t think you’re worth their time.

This is the fuel driving me through revisions 😀