Why the web?

Just curious about you guys, why are you posting your stories online for free instead of getting published traditionally?

My book doesn't really have a place -- illustrated YA doesn't exist, as far as I know. If it does, it doesn't do well enough for my book to get picked up. But I still believe in the story and characters, so up it goes online. :) What about you guys?

I don't think I have much interest in the traditional publishing world right now. Not when the ebook market has totally turned everything topsy turvy.

But as for why I didn't wait until I was "done" to simply go straight to e-book? I don't think I'd have the same work if I just wrote in a vacuum. My initial outline put me at 16 chapters and probably around 75k length. I think I blew that up a while ago because I could. There's no "box" I have to fit in if I write for myself.

I really want to write Jane Austen in fantasy... and so, I just can't stomach the idea of revising stuff just to sell. If I had to fit my work in with the current genres in traditional publishing, I know already there'd have to be more sex, violence, romantic angst, elves, and other formula items that I didn't really want to deal with at this time.

(And ultimately I want to own my IP. I want to leave options open to myself to go back and do a graphic novel someday.)

That aside - I work best under a deadline. There is also no better accountability partner than your handful of loyal readers waiting for your next post and telling you so :)

Oh, lots of reasons. More reasons than I could ever list.

I should mention that I have been published traditionally. I have been a teacher, editor, competition judge, and screenplay story analyst. This isn't an either or thing. It's about a different venue, and a different paradigm.

So here are some thoughts, in random order:

*I like to blog. I like the web. I think the web is the new pulp magazine (especially if we remember that "pulp" didn't just refer to a specific kind of tough guy fiction we associate it with today, but rather to an extremely wide variety of things, in any and every genre, and non-fiction as well as fiction).

*I write things that ... aren't exactly what people expect. I learned a long time ago that my most ardent fans almost always start out thinking they won't like my work. It takes a lot of exposure to my work before people realize that I'm not doing what they think I'm doing. (And telling people that doesn't help.) So... it's in my best interests to expose people to as much of my work as possible. Especially in frequent small doses.

*There are many different audiences out there -- and there always has been. Library books, and piracy and lending and used books have always been a huge market, and it is NOT the same market as the folks who buy new hardbacks. Or buy new paperbacks, even. There is overlap, sure, but there is a very large audience who will never see your book if it isn't free or cheap. If they buy anything, it'll be books by authors they have become long hooked on, and can trust to be worth every penny. But a lot of those people can't even afford to buy much of those.

*Um, I hate to break it to you, but "traditional publishing" (that is, where you go to a publishing house and sell your soul so they will put your work out in book form) has been seriously broken for a long time. Signing a book contract these days is probably the worst thing you can do for your work or for yourself. It's one of the quickest ways to kill your book/series forever. Even the best contracts these days are downright unconscionable. If you're going to go with books for sale, go with self-publishing. You can always go back to traditional publishing once the traditional publishers get their act together, plus you've got learning to do anyway.

*There is just something fun about a serial. This is separate from my first point about liking the web. The serial form is all around us on television and comic strips and even certain kind of narrative column writing and radio. But in paid publishing, the serial has become very limited in scope. If you want to do this form professionally, AND do it in a way that suits the story, you will generally have to do it yourself, whether you want to or not.


When you get published, there's a certain respect that comes with passing the various hurdles, but there's also a whole lot of challenges one faces in terms of discovering the audience, discovering what they like, interpreting their responses (or lack thereof) to shape your future work, and generally finding the market. In the end, it's a bit of a gamble. Either you guessed right and you wrote something that the audience wants, and you found the venue to market that thing they want to them, and you make money if you did it right. On average, people make something like $500 from their self-published work. Maybe only 1% of the people seeking serious publication get what they hope for.

It feels backwards.

With a serial, you're conceptualizing the work, you're gradually coming to meet the audience as the work takes shape, you then handle many of the hurdles as they come up, in a very natural fashion - editing, marketing, earning money. If your work doesn't have an audience, by virtue of a lack of talent, a bad guess on your part as to what people might be interested in, whatever, then you find that out before you've written those 60,000, 100,000 or 800,000 words, edited them as close to perfection as you could get, started contacting interested parties and finally put the books on the shelves.

That's the rough-hewn explanation.

I believe in using context and situation to try and address problems in my writing. I went 10+ years where I rarely got past two pages before getting frustrated. I'd get bogged down in editing and trying to get things perfect and I'd lose whatever spark or emotion was driving me to write in the first place. I'd put the piece down and never get back to it (despite fervent promises to myself that I would). Writing as a serial was how I forced myself to keep moving forward. I didn't/don't want to disappoint my audience, so I stick religiously to my set schedule.

Personally, I've always wanted to figure out a way to be paid to tell stories for a living. I'm nowhere near there yet, but I've been doing it in various, unpaid forms (writing classes, workshops, and, for that matter, running role-playing games with the scope of novels) for much of my life.

Five years ago, I ran across Tales of MU (an online serial), and found that the writer was getting paid to write. I thought I ought to try it.

I actually deliberately chose to do something I couldn't see a market for at the time (superhero prose fiction) with the idea that at least I wouldn't lose the ability to sell first publication rights (because no one would want them). Ironically, Legion of Nothing was published through 1889 Labs (indie publisher) because I published it on the web first, and not in spite of that.

Also ironically, there's now a lot of prose, indie superhero fiction (which either makes me look prescient, or like a copycat).

In the meantime, I've still got a novel I'd intended to write and submit to traditional publishing houses. Depending on how Legion of Nothing does when I get a few more sections into books, I may not bother. We'll see.

EDIT: And just to be clear, I am getting paid at this point. It's not anything like a livable income, but the fact that I'm getting a combination of donations, book sales, and advertising is pretty cool.

I don't post them for free. Online serials pay my groceries. Actually the last one, Black Blossom, paid my daughter's schooling.

I guess that's the foremost reason I do it. It works.

But I also enjoy the communal thing. When I issue an e-book/print book/audiobook, someone buys it and reads it privately, and maybe I hear about it later but usually not. It's a private thing, between them and the text. When I post serials, though, I get to hang out with my readers as they experience the text, and we can talk about it together, and that's a different kind of fun. :)

Yeah, what MCA said. (and what other folks have said too.)

That second point of mine, about exposing people to my work, IS about making money.


I'd done the web comic for long that it seemed like a pretty natural thing to do.

Well it's more complicated than that, but the short version works for now.

... so this post made me think more about it, and I created another post on my site as a result:


... which led me back here to talk about that post. A feedback loop of... proportions!

Ubersoft: great post. I think we all had similar (and yet so different) journeys. It's funny how you can look around and suddenly realize you already are where you want to be.


Wayne Gretzky said he doesn't go where the puck is, he goes where it's going to be.

Ubersoft: I find it interesting that you took that long to realize that you were self-publishing.

When I started writing online, webcomics were what I looked to to find an example of how to do things (and still do to a degree). Of course, with Legion, I always intended it as a web serial, so when indie (self-)publishing came along, my major realization was "Hey, I own this, and I can do anything with it--ebooks too."

Unlike Gretzky, I go to where puck's going to be more by luck than skill.

Gavin, that quote is awesome.

And Uber, that post was fantastic!


Jim, yeah, I was kind of thick about it. But I got there eventually. :)

Thanks MCA!

Unlike Gretzky, I can't ice skate. So I stumble around, and occasionally I stumble into the puck. Then I think "what was that?" And when I notice it's the puck, I then think "maybe I have a concussion."

When I started writing what I'm now publishing, I wasn't thinking at all about what I'd do with it one day. By the time I'd finished what I'm now thinking of as the first book, however, I realized that I strongly wanted my first 'completed' work to be given as a gift, free to anyone who wanted to read it. (Sadly, now I realize that 'completed' was really a very optimistic assessment; I don't know if this work will ever finally be finished, since the characters seem to continue to want me to write it.) I've gone into more detail about how and why I came to this idea in my story Dedication, for anyone interested in knowing more.

At any rate, when I started looking into publishing on the web, I began sharing some of the other reasons people have given for wanting to publish on their own, such as the state of the publishing industry and the fact that my story doesn't fit neatly into any particular category, but this is the idea that started me down that road in the first place.


Super: Sci-fi/suspense/adventure, with superheroes

I love reading all these responses. They make me even more excited about posting my book online! Everyone is so... I dunno. Awesome? haha :D I just love the independent spirit I guess, and I haven't encountered it in years.

Ubersoft -- I feel like I can relate to your journey a lot, coming from a webcomics background myself. I don't know about you but for me I felt shame in my prose partly because I felt ashamed for "abandoning" the comics community. They were my church in a sense. All my friends, my husband, even the guy who officiated my wedding were all really great comic artists. When I posted Rema online I felt like I was going naked in public! But you're right in that it's something we have to get used to. Also, prose is a much more intimate medium, IMO, since writer and reader are almost equal participants in bringing the story to life in their mind's eye. At least, that's the goal no? :)

Yeah, I guess I didn't feel abandonment, partly because I still update Help Desk and partly because I was never really deeply embedded in the community to begin with. I don't think I was even loosely embedded. I was sort of tangentially aware.

I started writing for the publishing world, but I also ran a lot of crit groups back in the early to late 90's, dedicated to helping each other get ready to publish, and the instant feedback was fun. Then I started reading fan fic now and then, and the same, the sense of community, of being right there, was pretty awesome. I realized that what I WANTED to get out of writing was the audience, not the money. So I started serializing online. I'd love to one day make some money, but providing stories that people enjoy, having fans to chat with my creations about, means a lot more to me.

Alexander - your response captured a lot of what I feel about fiction/community. Some of my best friends now are those I met through fanfic and sharing stories. I am very grateful for the band of readers I have who talk to me through the site or at conventions... these are people who I did not know two years ago.

My biggest reason for writing has to do with sharing my creative view with others.

Maybe someday I'll monetize a bit but hopefully I don't have to go that way for a time. I like my freedom a lot and I want to be free to write what I want to write... we'll see how well that goes.

Writing for money doesn't have to mean writing something you don't want to write, especially now!