Publishing: The Industry and You?

11 years ago | Lucy Weaver (Member)

I’ve been an editor for a little book and a few articles, working in what was vaguely mainstream publishing for the library market. The vibe I tend to get from web authors is disdain for traditional publishing, or at least contentment with alternative publishing methods and no urge to go traditional.

Personally, I plan to keep my short stories and my current project nontraditional and internet-based and maybe pursue a book contract in a few years with a more traditional house. I figure that will be the best of both worlds.

What I’m wondering is this – what are your views on mainstream publishing? Where do you think it is going? Where do you see yourself going with it, if anywhere? What have been your experiences or plans regarding self-publishing services like Lulu?

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Page: 12

Responses

  1. Stormy (Moderator)

    Posted 11 years ago

    I think mainstream publishing is great...but nearly impossible to break into. An incredibly small percentage of books submitted to slush piles get published, and of course, even less make it to the bestseller lists.

    You might not make back all of your advance, your contract may not get renewed, they might not like to pick you up for a second book - there's all kinds of factors to consider, and that's without such things as the publisher going out of business (small-to-mediums do this, not such an issue with the giant powerhouses), or a similar book being released at the same time.

    I'm not sure where it's going - I think they may slowly open up to recognise/work with the new media (example: American Gods was put up online for a couple of weeks, free for everyone to read). They may start releasing podcasts/side stories along huge releases (I mean, how popular would even a 10-minute HP story have been? Like a spooky/true story being told at Hufflepuff sleepover or whatever? Even just selling adspace on the site that hosted it would have made the money back ten-fold).

    I'm new media, so I can laugh at some of the decisions they make (like "dear god, what's with all the vampire books?") but I think, deep down, a lot of people want to get signed with a publisher. They want to be able to say "I write for Tor/Ace/whoever" - a label that people recognise - it's like signing a record deal, it being an instant sort of respect.

    I can also understand the people who want the creative control, to micro-manage the project in every aspect. Some people need to control that, and I can respect that.

    At the moment, web fiction is rather incompatible with traditional publishing - when we post our chapters, we're throwing away our first rights to whoever follows our PW advertising. Most publishers don't want a work unless its virginal - they don't want it soiled by the eyes of the internet, or by any other self-publishing measure.

    (Some small presses have exceptions to this - for example, Swarm Press published Brave Men Run and Playing For Keeps - both of these started as podcasts with ebook downloads).

    Further down the road, I might think about throwing a book at agents/publishers - one that wasn't serialised first. I have an idea for which book too - one that's easily a one-shot, but could sequels if people like it (set in the Mirrorverse, but not dependant on any established characters or places - so not something that requires having read the serial, but the experience could be enriched it did), or another (aimed at YA) which is...I think the only work I haven't retrofit to work in my big 'verse.

    Should it fall through, I can always stick then up on the site. Should it succeed, it could be another new media/old media breakthrough.

    I have no intention of looking for a traditional publisher for Mirrorfall/Mirrorheart etc. Wibbly's got its very own business name, and is merely a block of ISBNs away from being a publisher. (This isn't pimpage, it's relevant). So, all of the Wibbly fiction has guaranteed publication, and I'm more than open to the idea of publishing other people. We'll be going to LSI, not Lulu (cheaper PPU, same quality).

    As a side note, Lulu is great (slightly less subjective on the matter), and we'll be getting all of our editing copies done through them (especially as now they have an Aussie printer, the shipping is nice and quick).

    A $5k advance would be nice, but I've got no dire need to be accepted by a mainstream publisher. So long as I have people reading my work, I won't look back in twenty years and feel regret.

  2. Ryan A. Span (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    I'm definitely going for mainstream publication. I want to make a living out of my writing and I want to do it as soon as possible. This'll sound extremely arrogant but I know my work's good enough to get that far, I just need to create more material to sell.

    With a few small-press titles under my belt and some upcoming short form credits, I'll have a decent CV with which to run the barricades. I'm simply going to keep at it until it happens.

    Regards,
    Ryan

  3. Jim Zoetewey (Moderator)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Personally, I'd like to get traditionally published. I've got a novel that I'm working on (and have been for a while). The stories that I place on my website are a separate thing.

    Interestingly, I've recently learned that some agents will actually consider fiction that's been on a website first. They just regard it as harder sell than fiction that hasn't. So, in theory, one could actually try to shop around things you've published online. In practice, however, it would make things harder.

    That may not be the case forever though.

    With regards to Lulu... I've never tried Lulu or any other means of self-publishing in print.

  4. Sonja Nitschke (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    I would like to become eventually published one day.

    Mainly, I see online publication, for me personally, as simply a stepping stone. I know I'm not good enough to get published yet, and I know that I don't have the energy or the time to learn the rules and play the game.

    But, at the same time, that's not going to stop me from writing which is one of the many reasons I love the web.

    I've been meaning to try Lulu but again...time, energy, reformatting, re-editing, re-writing...one day, eventually, I will.

    Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand. -- Kurt Vonnegut
  5. EJ Spurrell (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    I think my eventual goal is to be published mainstream. I've got a project planned out that I don't intend on posting online at all (short of e-mailing it to a few select proofreaders), but I also intend on continuing with online publishing, simply because I like the level of control I have. I can hire my own artists, earn my readership on merit rather than marketing, and retain complete creative control. For me, this is the best method of publishing. Which isn't to say that I wouldn't snap up an agreeable deal should it fall into my lap, just that I prefer the webfiction, "blooking" medium. That way, the only buffer between me and prospective fans of my work is a web site, rather than some big conglomerate who would essentially make me a slave for pennies on the dollar.

  6. Big Melly Mills (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    The members of GGCT, myself included, all have professionally published works of fiction and/or non-fiction, so that's our bread and butter while "Giant Girl Rampages" is a fun experimental project we're doing on the side as long as it doesn't distract too much from our paying gigs. That said, I can't help looking at what's happened in the music industry since the introduction of burnable media and MP3 players and seeing, perhaps, what's in store for the publishing industry once wireless ebook readers become more widely adopted. There will be book piracy, a lower threshold for small press access to the market (even more than we're already seeing with POD), more authors who will be able to bypass the editorial gatekeepers, and more choices for the reading public. It's going to be a very confusing time--which is another reason why we're excited to dip our feet into digital storytelling and get some experience in a segment that could really explode over the next ten or so years.

    Also, GGR as it was conceived and as it is currently being written, could not be made into a book without a whole lot more time and effort than we're willing to put into it. It was designed as a web-only project and we're pretty much consigned to the idea that none of us will ever make a penny from it.

    Giant Girl Rampages - 18 Feet Tall...and Blogging!
    http://bigmellymills.blogspot.com
  7. Stormy (Moderator)

    Posted 11 years ago

    There will be book piracy, a lower threshold for small press access to the market (even more than we're already seeing with POD), more authors who will be able to bypass the editorial gatekeepers, and more choices for the reading public. It's going to be a very confusing time.

    The Japanese seem to have survived the advent of cell phone novels without society collapsing. :P In essence, they're the same thing - even if the majority are focussed on the more shojo aspects of life (love stories, coming-of-age, stories of the city etc) than some of our works.

  8. MeiLin Miranda (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Trad publishing would be nice, but I have too many friends with book contracts that brought them more heartache than joy. I look at all the work they have to do to push their own books, and then make pennies per book, and I'm thinking, WHY?

    Would I like to be as famous and adored as Neil Gaiman? Heck yeah. I doubt it'll happen because I'm not as good, for starters. For seconds, I just don't see how the kind of thing I write would work with a traditional publisher.

    "An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom"
    http://www.meilinmiranda.com/
  9. Cory Cramer (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    For me, it depends on the story. The stucture of the stories in the Hades Rising universe are more along the line of television plotlines (ongoing serials). This makes them difficult to package and market using traditional publishing.
    I'm working on a new story which will be much more traditional in terms of story structure, making it easier to pitch to agents, Hollywood etc. I won't be post this story online, because it's intended for a traditional market.
    I think web novels/zines may be able to replace the old magazine and digest-sized short story markets because it reduces the production expenses dramatically while at the same time reaching a larger audience. A look at quality markets like Clarksworld or Apex, each of whom posts their stories online, are good examples.
    I think the most important role the web novel can play for writers is in offering an audience for one's work. Writing is very solitary. And you can only write alone in a cave without honest feedback for so long before doubt creeps in. Feedback is important. Knowing there are a few hundred (or dozen) people out there waiting for you to write something is important. You just can't get that kind of feedback in traditional publishing where you might have three novels writen before you even hear back from a publishing house, or land an agent.

  10. allantmichaels (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    This is a tough question. I've been published, non-fiction, as part of my day job, and it's a great feeling. I would love to have a similar feeling with regards to my webfiction. I'm just not sure I'm good enough, yet. I know my writing has improved since I've started. But I also have a hard time dreaming up episodes that take more than 500-700 words. Some of my chapters have been longer. But most of what I need to say can be said in less.

    That being said, AEOL takes up over 50 pages so far, single spaced, with a space between paragraphs. And it's about a third to half done. So who knows? Maybe by collapsing some elements, it'd be more publishable.

    I enjoy the freedom I have with digital publishing.

    Also, from a Hollywood perspective, it's actually better to walk in with a property that has a built in audience. Gives the studio guys and gals confidence in what you're selling. And I love movies enough to want to go that way at some point.

  11. Donna Sirianni (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    "I'm definitely going for mainstream publication. I want to make a living out of my writing and I want to do it as soon as possible. This'll sound extremely arrogant but I know my work's good enough to get that far, I just need to create more material to sell.

    With a few small-press titles under my belt and some upcoming short form credits, I'll have a decent CV with which to run the barricades. I'm simply going to keep at it until it happens."

    That second sentence alone makes me cringe. It just screams of blatant naivety and it's the kind of thinking that gets people embittered with the publishing world. Everyone things their work is good enough to get published when they're querying. Otherwise they wouldn't query it. But the harsh reality is that 95% of the slush isn't good enough so the statistics are stacked up against everyone. And the reality of the matter is the vast majority of fiction writers DO NOT making livings from their writing. The vast majority of fiction writers DO NOT make six figure deals on debut novels and none of it works at a pace any faster than a snail. Publishing is a very slow-moving world so if you're looking for a quick fix, you're in the wrong game.

    Agents and publishers also aren't going to bypass your writing to instant publication because you have some writing credits under your belt. Depending on where those credits are from, they might not even matter. Sure, they're a mark for you in knowing that someone other than your mom likes your work but if it's some teeny tiny publishing firm that next to no one's heard of, it's certainly not going to carry the same weight as a short in The New Yorker. Your writing is what trumps all. Yes, decent pub creds may get you out of the slush pile but you still have to pass the final test. It's certainly not a guarantee for anything.

    "Also, from a Hollywood perspective, it's actually better to walk in with a property that has a built in audience. Gives the studio guys and gals confidence in what you're selling. And I love movies enough to want to go that way at some point."

    That built in audience needs to be HUGE in order to give it any clout. And people can't go straight to Hollywood with a book. 99.999999999% of the time, it doesn't work like that (have to cover my bases, I'm sure it's happened once or twice). Breaking into publishing is hard enough as it is. Trying to break into Hollywood is even harder and that's after you have a publication deal.

    Yes, just call me the dream destroyer.

    As many people already know, mainstream publication has been my goal since I started writing. I really don't have any desire to go any other route. That being said, I've done and have been doing my research on the industry. I think it should be a requirement for anyone who wants to submit anything to any agent or editor. That way any delusions of grandeur are firmly quelled.

    Everyone thinks that their book would make a great movie (I'm not exempt from that, I've already started casting, Ha!). Everything thinks they'll break into publishing and everyone thinks they'll make loads of money doing it. The harsh reality is no to all of the above. No, no, no, no, no and perhaps a you suck thrown in for good measure. All things we as writers heard during our careers.

    People think I'm joking when I say writing for mainstream publication is a masochistic tendency. It really is. Everyone, EVERYONE, including those huge name bestsellers, have stacks of rejections under their belts prior to getting where they are. Stephen King wasn't "Stephen King" when he first started submitting. You punch out work after work after work in the hopes that one will stick and will justify what you're doing and prove to you that it is worth it. This is a hard, hard business and your skin needs to be thick and your head needs to be grounded in order to succeed in it. Are there horror stories around traditional publication? Being it's an industry run by humans, it's bound to make mistakes. That's why you, as a writer, need to be knowledgeable about the business and have someone working for you (i.e., an agent) that knows what they're doing so you make out the best you can.

    Self-publishing is great. Instant gratification from online visitors is certainly an ego-boost but for me, nothing will beat seeing my name in print sitting on a shelf in Barnes and Noble. Lulu can't do that. Lulu is not proof to me that my writing is good enough for the world to read. Having an agent fall in love with my work, then having an editor fall in love with my work only to have them present it to an editorial board and they equally love it and want to publish it is the justification I'm seeking. Am I a good writer? Yes. That's something I'm not modest about. I'm confident about it which is what keeps be writing in the face of rejection. Does my writing have flaws? Of course. Do I work to solve them? I'd be an idiot if I didn't. Is it good enough to get published? Only the query process will tell.

    So flame me, call me a meanie for smearing the writerly dreams of others. I really don't mind. I'm not above dreaming of a half million dollar advance on a three book deal (which is actually not too great of a deal, especially if the first one soars, you've just screwed yourself on future, bigger advances) but that's all that it is, a dream. Research quickly removes your head from the clouds and also puts a more positive light on the publishing world as opposed to is being some conglomerate that holds your work ransom and you must do their bidding to get a penny thrown at you every once in a while. If you earn out your advance and you start getting royalties, are they low? Pretty much. But what that also means is the publisher has faith in you as a writer and that will pretty much guarantee you more contracts, higher advances, and greater marketing for future works. People have a tendency to look at a very small picture when it comes to publishing. You need to step back and look at the entire thing.

    The most important thing is to understand that publishing is NOT lucrative. These gigantic publishing houses are dependent on a few individual best sellers to keep their incoming flowing. The rest is a matter of risk-taking in the hopes that a debut will sell. The backlist is where the real money is, not the frontlist. Agents don't get paid unless you get paid and editors have the insane task of, you know, keeping the business afloat and finding the next big thing. People, on any end of it, do not go into publishing for the money. They go into it because they love books, not because they want to squash people's dreams but want to make them come true. When a publisher wants to make changes to your book, it's not because they want to monopolize your writing. They know what they're doing and nine times out of ten, the changes only help the book. Editors burn out after a couple years because of the large work load, lack of a paycheck and high stress that's put on them. And people VIE for these jobs. Obviously they're not doing it for the money.

    Ok, I've ranted enough. In case the point was missed, I'm going for mainstream publication.

  12. Ryan A. Span (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    I have no illusions about my writing or the industry I've worked in for quite a few years, thank you. Please stop putting words in my mouth.

    In fact, most of what you said is stuff that's common knowledge to everybody with any writing aspirations whatsoever. I've written some of your exact statements in the past only I didn't use your tone to pretend I was spreading some kind of enlightenment from on high. The fact that you posted a long, self-important tirade about it doesn't show any kind of wisdom or experience, it just shows that you like the sound of your own voice.

    Let's all treat each other like equals here, shall we?

    Regards,
    Ryan

  13. Donna Sirianni (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    "I have no illusions about my writing or the industry I've worked in for quite a few years, thank you. Please stop putting words in my mouth."

    I'm not putting any words into your mouth, just using the ones you did. Considering your statement about making fast money in publishing spoke to the contrary, I had no reason to feel otherwise. Also considering I was responding to the posts above, just without quoting them, I'm within my right to have a long-winded response. I'm allowed. When I see people making statements about the publishing world that's contrary to what I've learned directly from those professionals, I'm going to say something. I'm allowed. When you say things like--

    "I want to make a living out of my writing and I want to do it as soon as possible. This'll sound extremely arrogant but I know my work's good enough to get that far, I just need to create more material to sell."

    it's going to lead me to believe you don't know how the industry works. If you knew that the vast majority of writers don't make a living off of their writing and know that publishing works at half the speed of a tortoise, not to mention it's not about quantity but quality, then why would you say something that completely contradicts the information you claim to know?

    Choose your words wisely. If you've worked in this industry as you say you have, then you wouldn't be making such grandiose statements as that, unless you were joking, of course. You'd also know that such information isn't as common knowledge as you say if you've worked in publishing or read any of the plethora of agent blogs. Or even just been to a standard writing site. I know quite a few people with writerly aspirations that are quite ignorant of the industry. Not every writer is born with the inherent knowledge of the publishing world. I know I had to learn the old fashioned way: by researching it myself.

    No need to get defensive. I just go off of what I see. I didn't think I was looking down on anyone. In fact I was pretty self-deprecating. I say what I say in the hopes that other writers get the right information, not to make them feel like shit. I'd never do that. That's what our rejection piles are for.

  14. Ryan A. Span (Member)

    Posted 11 years ago

    Forget it, I'm not getting drawn into an argument where there can be only losers.

    Regards,
    Ryan

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