Will I ruin my career?

I've written a novel, but it's short. Not too short-about 65 000 words- but short in a way that most publishers are reluctant to look at with new authors. I'v considered putting it somewhere online, posting it in serial format and gaining word of mouth support. I've heard of it working before, but on the other hand I may be putting a book out there and never seeing a cent.


Any thoughts?


If you want it bought then don't put it on the web. Pursue agents and publishers.


Then again if you're more interested in feedback and don't care about money the web is a good route.


65000 is short for general fiction. Usual novel length is 80000. Rejecter has had some posts recently about this which might help you.


http://rejecter.blogspot.com/2010/06/revising-your-word-count.html


Sorry for the bad link. Fixed now.


If an artist said "I can't display my work online, it won't make me any money, and people will think I'm not a true professional," or a band said "we're not putting our music on MySpace because it won't make us any money, and no one signs a band that starts on MySpace," you would rightfully laugh in their faces and tell them in your best Arnie voice to STOP WHINING! and do it already.


Why should writing be any different?


Because it is different, and the industry at large doesn't treat writers the same way as artists or musicians. An illustration portfolio shown online, or an album posted to MySpace, doesn't immediately become unsellable the way a story does. These prejudices are not of our making but anyone professionally-minded can't afford to ignore them.


The simple fact is, until you arrive at the point where you're regularly selling short and/or long manuscripts to places for cold hard cash, you don't have a career -- you have a hobby. Putting a piece of fiction online pretty much kills your chances of making any money from it, barring exceptional circumstances. If that is your goal then keep pursuing traditional publishing options.


On the other hand, a manuscript doesn't do you any good sitting on your shelf, either. If you find yourself striking out a lot or if you want to gauge audience response to your work, then going online is an option. The professionals won't hold it against you, as long as you don't claim it as a published credit, so nothing is 'ruined'. It just means that this particular manuscript would be very unlikely to bring you fame or fortune.


Regards,

Ryan


So long as people cling to the old system and let their fears hold them back, then the old system will remain in place. Saying "that's just the way it is" is surrendering. We need people to stand up and shout, not hide away in their rooms behind piles of rejection letters because they've been groomed into thinking there's only one way to become a "professional" writer.


If the "industry" says we can't do any way but their way, fuck them. It would be like having a music industry where the only acts signed were those under Simon Cowbell! I've known far too many writers who have given up because of the ludicrousness of such an archaic, elitist system. It needs a good punch in the face. And maybe pushing off a cliff.


I don't necessarily think publishing something online completely ruins your chances of ever getting it officially published through an agency. I've heard of several authors (one being a friend, actually) that published their work online when it was in the form of a first draft, or a work in progress. Later, they took down the finished products and sought book deals.


I think publishing online is a good way to see whether or not readers enjoy your work. For me, it gives me an incentive to keep writing, knowing there are people gauged enough to be excited for the next chapter. In all reality, this is no different than going to a (considerably large) "critique" group, or sending your rough draft of the story along to others for peer evaluation.


Dary: Um . . . Good luck?


Regards,

Ryan


Dary: I'm very uncomfortable telling people to use something they've poured their heart and soul into to make a statement. I'm worried you're characterizing someone's resistance to this sort of thing as cowardice--when it's really just realism tempered with a very healthy dose of self-interest. Publishing completed books online all but absolutely destroys your chances of publishing it in a paper book market. That's just a fact, and asking people to ignore that fact and throw themselves into the fire for the interest of changing the way things are is a little over-the-top.


Speaking of from my own experiences--I'm someone who self-published (and would never make the claim of being 'professionally published', or list it among my credits as anything but a self-publish)--and did so fully aware that the act of self-publishing would forever render my book unsellable in any bookstore environment. When you put something online, that's just something you need to accept. Right or wrong, good or bad, that's how it works.


I imagine it will eventually change. I don't imagine it will change because of a decision you or I made.


No, you will not ruin your career, though you probably won't be able to market that particular novel to traditional markets. Put that one online, if you wish, and write a new one and try the traditional path.


I admit I am skeptical of someone saying that unless you sell to the mainstream, or even reguarly, you are a "hobbyist." Is earning a single $8000 advance a year enough to turn you into a professional? I hate to say it, but I made more money working part-time as a student behind a helpdesk. How much money do you have to make in order to cross the line between hobbyist and pro? Enough to make a living? If that's so, almost none of the authors I know (traditionally published included) make the cut. Is it that you have to treat it like a business? That's the IRS standard. Even if you're selling your work for "cold hard cash" to more than one market, it's hard to make a living unless you are writing more than fiction. Making a living at freelance writing is an extremely arduous task and requires you to wear a thousand different hats for many different venues.


Some of those venues (shockingly!) may be your own blog or website. :)


I know people publishing online making more money a year than some authors qualified for (and members of) SFWA. It's not as simple as "if you sell a book to Tor, you're a pro."


@M.C.A Hogarth: Depending on the context of the discussion, I agree that the label 'hobbyist' and 'professional' are unnecessary and more an expression of elitism--however, there is some utility to be found in them--if I claim to be a professional writer, there are certain assumptions that go into that--if I claim to be a hobbyist writer, people understand that I'm unpublished, or self-published. There are contexts where that distinction is a useful one.


That being said, Luis Borges wrote for his personal inner circle; he'd probably have described himself as a hobbyist, and yet he was one of the best mother-fucking modern authors ever to put pen to paper. I think that throwing that term around into people's faces because they don't pull the numbers or don't publish to the right spheres is often just a way of reinforcing an arbitrary hierarchy. Good writing is good writing no matter where it comes from, and a distinction between 'hobbyist' and 'professional' is probably more often a way of discrediting someone's work rather than merely pointing out whether or not they've been published. I'd certainly hesitate to call someone *else* a hobbyist (though I have no problem applying the term to myself).


Agreed, Robert. That's why I have to poke holes in it every time I see it. If we're going to discuss the viability of a writing career--where career is (as implied) a day job that lets you pay your bills--let us be very clear about what it entails.


Alright, let me try and clear up, I'm not trying to put anybody down or devalue anyone's work by saying 'hobby'. I've still got a few more sales to go myself before I'll consider myself to have a proper _career_ in writing, where I can expect to keep selling material to a variety of markets.


However, I think my words have been misrepresented a little here. I never used the word 'mainstream', nor did I try to bill myself as 'professional', nor did I put some kind of minimum figure in my statement. That's because I don't believe it matters how much you make out of it. The fact that people are willing to pay for what you're writing is the significant quantity in making a future out of your work, 'cause there's plenty of competition out there, and many of them are willing to give it all away for free.


I don't know where you got the idea that I meant the ability to make a living, because that's nowhere near what I said.


Regards,

Ryan


All right, that's fair, Ryan. I'll try to figure out where my assumptions came from. I think it was from this statement: "until you arrive at the point where you're regularly selling short and/or long manuscripts to places for cold hard cash, you don't have a career -- you have a hobby." Because it implies that you can only regularly get cold hard cash by selling it to "places," which suggests gatekeepers and mainstream-style 'people who buy it to post it/package it for you' models. And you say straight out that you don't have a career until you do that.


My problem with that is that selling to places doesn't mean you've got a career: most people still can't pay their bills selling fiction that way. And you can get cold hard cash by selling work directly to readers. The line just isn't that clear between the two styles of compensation, and telling someone you can't have a career via selling webfiction is giving them the false impression that selling their novel to a New York publisher is somehow going to result in them having a career. Few are the people who make that work. :,


First off, let me apologize and beg pardon in case any of my words felt like an attack--I was speaking to my own personal experiences with others, not with what you (Ryan) were saying. Nevertheless:


"However, I think my words have been misrepresented a little here. I never used the word 'mainstream', nor did I try to bill myself as 'professional', nor did I put some kind of minimum figure in my statement. That's because I don't believe it matters how much you make out of it."


"The simple fact is, until you arrive at the point where you're regularly selling short and/or long manuscripts to places for cold hard cash, you don't have a career -- you have a hobby."


To be clear here, I think that the problem is this: If the distinction between a career and a hobby is regular sales for cold hard cash, but it doesn't matter how much you're regularly making, would someone who regularly sells the rights to his books for a dollar (and publishes ten books a year! what a haul!) be a career writer or a hobbyist writer? The definition you're working with is a little murky, and murky definitions are ripe for all sorts of shenanigans involving hierarchies of who's a "real" writer and who isn't.


I don't think you're interested in that sort of distinction at all, and I'm not accusing you of elitism. I just think that this definition is sloppy--and sloppy definitions lead to the elitist shenanigans I'm talking about.


Edit: Beaten to the punch. Alas!


I had a long thoughtful post written up, and it promptly got eaten. Sigh. Here it goes again:


That's the thing, though. There are so few people _able_ to make a living from writing that you can't easily generalise it. That's why I make the distinction this way; if you can repeatedly convince people to buy your work, be they markets or readers directly, then there's got to be something to it. Obviously the very word 'career' is going to mean different things to different people.


However, I really don't agree with the general sentiment that editors are the enemy of writers. Maybe it's because I've spent time with both sides in the editorial trenches, or that one of my oldest friends is now an assistant editor at a wee magazine. Gatekeepers they may be, but they provide an important vetting process that most people don't see or realise exists. Thing is, no matter the size of the market, 95% of submissions received are truly, unpublishably wretched. I've seen slush piles that just about made me weep (especially the ones I had to read!). This is the kind of stuff that usually gets rejected fast.


In the self-publishing world, however, there's no such vetting process. The 4% decent material and 1% genuinely good material end up fighting for sunlight among the weeds, and it becomes less about who writes the best as about who can shout the loudest.


It's just as flawed as the established system which the more aggressive self-pubbers want so badly to replace, and it's not going to be any kinder to them.


Regards,

Ryan


PS. There's absolutely no reason not to submit to traditional short story markets. The best thing that can happen is that you have some money, bragging rights and another mark on your CV. The worst that can happen is that you get rejected. It's a no-brainer! ;)


Ah so. I appreciate the resolved nuance, Ryan.


I don't think editors are the enemy, and in fact I'm hoping things shake out that freelance editors can now be hired by freelance writers to perform their useful services on manuscripts. While I don't believe that all quality must be the result of collaboration (as in the collaboration between writer and editor), I do think it often helps.


We're in the middle of interesting times. The barrier to entry for writers is now much lower. But it's just as hard to reach the threshold of survival, and in some cases harder. Everyone who's playing the game now is forging entirely new paths. We're all bushwhacking here. :)


Me, I like the self-publishing model. It makes me more money than selling short fiction to magazines used to, and more consistently. Is it 'pay all my bills' money? Absolutely not. But I buy a lot of groceries with it, and I do it regularly. I'd love to win the equivalent of the writing lottery that bestselling authors have managed, but I'm pleased as punch that I can now buy tickets more often.


There's a difference between an editor saying "hey, this could work better if we change a few things around," and a publisher who says "well yeah, this is great, but unfortunately it won't sell because the market isn't interested in medieval robot dinosaurs...but if you make them ZOMBIES then maybe we can work things out?"


lol


Dary: Yes, the main difference is that it doesn't happen. Both of those things are the market's editor's decision, because it's up to the editor to judge what will and will not sell, and there's three possible responses to a submission. Acceptance, request changes, or rejection. If the changes required to satisfy the editor would be that sweeping, he'd sooner just reject it, and a writer with any sense would simply pick up his story and try it at a different market.


It's not some soulless corporate machine. It's operated by people who have to make value judgements about writing style, story subject, general level of polish, market fluctuations, and a hundred other factors. They do their jobs as best they can. Nobody should expect any more or less.


Regards,

Ryan


Ryan Span: "Because it is different, and the industry at large doesn't treat writers the same way as artists or musicians. An illustration portfolio shown online, or an album posted to MySpace, doesn't immediately become unsellable the way a story does. These prejudices are not of our making but anyone professionally-minded can't afford to ignore them.


The simple fact is, until you arrive at the point where you're regularly selling short and/or long manuscripts to places for cold hard cash, you don't have a career -- you have a hobby. Putting a piece of fiction online pretty much kills your chances of making any money from it, barring exceptional circumstances. If that is your goal then keep pursuing traditional publishing options."


That is NOT true. Posting on the Internet or any website DOES NOT kill your chances of getting your story published. That is a very generalized statement to make. I read your post where you said you worked on both sides of publishing spectrum and your friend is also a assistant editor of wee publishing house. Your Publishing House may have the rule where Posting on the Internet is considered "PUBLISHED" but the ENTIRE Industry does not follow suit like they do. Poetry Houses and a small minority of Small Press Houses follow that rule but not everyone.


At Fictionaut, we had this debate a few times that I would like to point to:

http://www.fictionaut.com/forums/general-forum/threads/117


http://www.fictionaut.com/forums/general-forum/threads/209


I also posted my Short Story The First Run in Fictionaut, and submitted it to Asimov Magazine, told them that this story was posted on the interent and they still reviewed it and gave their remarks.


Here is their Submission Guidelines:


http://www.asimovs.com/info/guidelines.shtml


Nowhere does it say they don't accept works "Published" on the Internet.


Cervana Barva Press, a small press house, who's editor is also a member of Fictionaut, has no problem publishing works posted on the internet let alone Fictionaut.


The problem I have with your comments Ryan is that you think Writing is all about the money and only the money, and every writer is in it for the money. Again a very generalized and stereotyped perception about us writers. If that's the case, then there would be more writers like Stephanie Meyer than quality writers in the market, because money is the center of the universe in that world your thinking of. That's why Slush Piles exist, so those who think like that are weeded out, and quality writers get through. Writing is an art first and foremost, and should be respected.


Quodo, you are NOT killing your chances if you post on the internet. However, IF you do decide to post your story on the Internet and want to still get it Published, research the House your Submitting, read their Submission Guidelines, and if you are unsure, send a letter to the Editor asking if they accept such Submissions. All of us writers do not get published on the first try, and sometimes, we may have to go back to third or fourth drafting our novels to better our chances, or write a whole new novel, but that's name of the game. It's work.