The Final Steps


If you didn’t read my last two posts on this topic (Monday, June 6, 2011 and Wednesday, June 8, 2011), this one won’t make sense to you.  Just so you know.


In August 2010, after researching how to publish with Amazon Kindle and seeing months of startling sales figures from Joe Konrath – who is always clear to say he doesn’t guarantee anything for anyone but does point to a lot (a LOT) of people making more money than he is selling ebooks on Kindle — I knew the odds of matching or exceeding his success weren’t even, not by a long shot. Still, how many people would read my work if I didn’t try? I decided the numbers were in my favor. It was, after all, free. Since I’d been unemployed since November, 2008, and it was August, 2010, I decided I didn’t have anything to lose. It was time to at least give it a shot.

AFCC Cover 2I formatted my book into an ebook format easily digestible by Kindle, uploaded it and … that was it. No fanfare, no tickertape parade, no cheers from the throngs. Nothing. I just uploaded the book and it was there, waiting for approval by Amazon.

I used a collection of short stories as an experiment because short story anthologies are laughed out of the industry by gatekeepers, so publishing them wouldn’t hurt my chances if ebook self-publishing turned sour on me. The only thing I’d lose is some blog posts because I pulled them down to make the book.

By October, I’d created a second one and put it up too. I didn’t get much in sales. Not much at all. But the experience was exhilarating and fun.

I got a job later that year. I also edited my finished book within an inch of its life. It’s not really a book anymore. I have a lot of work to do to get it there. And I’ve not gone back to my WIP either (remember, since May of ’08). So three-plus years have passed since I did any serious writing. I’ve also learned a new method of story planning, learned a ton about story structure and how to make a salable manuscript with a single pass and polishing, and have also started a PubIt! account to publish on Barnes and Noble’s Nook platform. I’m going to be looking into Sony eReader too, and Kobo. I already have those formats available on Smashwords.com, but the more the merrier, right?

Moonlit Stroll Cover copyI planned out several novels in 2010 before I started working, and have those plans ready to fire off when I finish my latest non-fiction endeavor. It will be some time before I go after another technical book for this publisher, I think. There are a lot of reasons for that, and most of them are because they now behave like gatekeeper publishers and are looking for ways and finding new avenues to try and take advantage of me. I love my agent – no two ways about it, he’s honorable and full of integrity and not at all predating on me – but this publisher has left sort of a poor taste in my mouth.

But the biggest reason is I want to write fiction again.

And I know, in my heart, there will be no other path I’ll take than ebook self-publishing unless and until that business model becomes less than wonderful. Right now, it’s better than any POD or self-publishing options I’ve ever seen, requires less effort to create a good, quality product, and is free. If that changes, maybe I’ll change my mind about it.

Until then you can expect me to crow about the nails in the gatekeeper coffins. I’ve been hoping for a sweeping change to that methodology since 2007, and now I’m seeing it come about and I can’t be any happier. And I’m even more the arrogant snobs running it are having it collapse on their heads as the new technology crushes them in a rushing hot volcanic floe.

Maybe they’ll find time to read their “slush piles” when there are no more writers willing to come to them for representation. If you’re a writer, I have news for you – you don’t need an agent. Hell, you can be one. There’s no qualifications standard for them. No certification process. They’re not any more “professional” at their work than you are at the same job. You may have even read more than they do.

But you don’t need them anymore. You can do this yourself. And yes, you can “what if” yourself into oblivion if you want. But here’s a couple of “what ifs” for you:

  • What if you tried it and enjoyed it?
  • What if you succeed?
  • What if you don’t ever penetrate the gatekeeper system?
  • What if the gatekeeper system just… goes away?

Think about it this way. What have you lost if you try it my way and it doesn’t work out? Maybe some time learning how to format and publish, and learning to promote your work. But what will you lose if you continue to bang your face into the glass wall of the gatekeeper system and nothing happens? You’ll have lost years – years – of time you could have spent developing your business and getting your work into the hands of your readers. Readers who want to read your stuff. You’re someone’s favorite writer, you know. You just have to find out who that person is and get them your stuff.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

-JDT-

Copyright 2011 DarcKnyt, All rights reserved

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5 thoughts on “The Final Steps

  1. The time is a huge factor for choosing indie. The hunting takes so long, then there’s the agent requested revisions. Then you’ve got the agent’s hunt, which can take who knows how long. Then the editor’s revisions and all that back and forth. Then, it sits, waiting to get a pass or fail by the big wigs. Then there’s a long, long wait for it to go through their system and come out in their lineup, which is on average, 18 months. That’s 3-4 years on one novel when it could’ve been out in days.

    That’s one factor which makes a huge difference, yes. And let’s think it over — we can hire a professional editing service to do editing (so the claims of “but those are edited by PROS” is garbage), we can get an artist — a good one, not some wannabe hack — if we need one pretty cheap, and we can write our own blurbs for the back cover. We can put it on Kindle, and promote it in the forums of as many writer/reader hang-outs as we can find. We can put up a web page and push the link. We can make a YouTube video for a trailer (you’ve done all of this, as I recall). Now…what’s the difference between what we do and what the gatekeepers offer? I don’t see anything they’re offering we can’t do ourselves. In fact, we’re not going to split our resources for other “better potential sales” books like gatekeepers will. You will be dedicated to your own book and may actually do a BETTER job on its promotion than they will. Just because we don’t have a couple hundred thousand to blow on it only means we don’t start out underwater on the profit. Advantage ePublishing, period. BIG advantage.

    One of the other writers in the same publishing company as me created her eBook on May 31st and it’s all over the place now. And another writer did go the agent route and one of her books had been on the table of one of The Big 6 for two years. She got sick of waiting and just went small-scale. Now both her books are out and being read. And what’s weird is the eBooks she hasn’t marketed at all are far outselling the ones she’s promoted.

    That IS weird. But good for her! And like Joe Konrath says, sometimes it comes down to sheer, dumb luck.

    I do not see the gatekeeper system as being flawed necessarily, but it is so very random and subjective and the big wigs no longer have the right to be so pompous.

    Really CV? Don’t you think the pomposity and arrogance ARE a flaw? not to mention how they try and brand their opinions as matters of fact where what’s “good” and “salable” are concerned? They’re defense of the system is ridiculous too. I think it IS broken, and has been for a long time. Agents haven’t been relevant or necessary in that industry for at least 10 years, and yet they’re still there acting as a screening tool for the publishers who need us to survive. WE don’t need THEM, THEY need US! The way they screen us out and publish junk (c’mon, STEPHENIE MEYER?), this is just another symptom of how flawed the system is! Still don’t agree?

    Not even they, with all their charts and projections, know what will take off. It’s a crap shoot for everyone. And sometimes, you’re left wondering how certain books even made it through, when you take quality into account.

    According to Kristine Kathryn Rusch — who’s been a writer for more than 25 years and is both self- and traditionally-published, and has run a traditional publishing house — there IS no projection process. They can’t do that. Corporations who own the publishers want to have business projections so the imaginary numbers of publishing are produced, but really, there aren’t any. Check out her blog; it’s really interesting.

    And AMEN! on the quality. I’ve seen books with typos, editing errors, lousy punctuation, misspellings, and overall crappy stories. “Quality” is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. I figure me, and about three beta readers, are all I need to catch most of my typos and any errors in editing. If I have story arc problems, readers will find those and let me know. As long as I have other eyes than mine examine the manuscript, I should be okay from a quality perspective. And with ePublishing, there’s no formatting to worry about. With print or POD, you have to take all that into consideration and have a terrific understanding of typesetting, kerning, spatial allowances, etc. No thanks. Ugh.

    The pros claim to be looking for the best of the best, but that’s not always what lands on the shelves. Most of what’s out is just okay. And some works that are lauded, like Blindness, have you scratching your head. What??? You mean, if I kick grammar to the curb, I’ll get an award??? You should’ve told me before I spent two years editing! I know how to work dizzying run-on sentences too!

    I agree completely! C’mon, right? If you’re “pros” (and seriously, wtf does that mean in this context, seriously?), why is there so much BAD WRITING on the shelves? PLEASE, people, THINK about this! And the counter-argument of “but there’s plenty of good stuff too!” doesn’t cut it for me. With a gatekeeper system like we have now, NOTHING bad should ever make it to print, EVER. And yet the world’s full of crappy books. In the meanwhile, good writers — like you — are bypassed in favor of people like Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer and books like Blindness (the movie sucked too). It’s embarrassing how stupid this is. But they’re not embarrassed at all. Not one bit.

    And even The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It’s okay. Not fantastic, not horrible, just okay. It didn’t impact me or move me at all. I’d take James Patterson or John Saul over it any day, in terms of a mystery core.

    I’ve only heard of those but haven’t read them. I’m just… not a YA guy, I guess.

  2. I like your closing comment – you’re someone’s favourite writer. That’s a motivating idea. Write it bigger!

    Hahaha! Thanks, Charlotte! Have a great weekend. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the compliment!!!

    You’re welcome. 🙂

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is mainstream adult with a mystery core. It was written by a guy from Sweden who died and it was translated to English and people are salivating over this trilogy like it’s the new Bible. They’re making a movie of it now. So many people LOVE it, and it was just okay for me.

    Oh, yeah, I remember that buzz.

    John Saul is a horror writer, not YA, but he ften features teen protagonists. I like his books because they often end with a chord of doom. Though the story arcs are complete, the evil isn’t always entirely vanquished. And he writes about weird things. I love me some weird.

    Saul I’m familiar with. Haven’t read ALL his stuff, but what I have read I enjoyed.

    I wrote my book in that same vein, with teen protags, not realizing that books with teen perspectives are a big no-no in adult fic from newbs. I chose to market it as YA because as soon as you say teens, people assume it is. And even though I got closer to character, so each POV has a youthful voice, giving the book a more YAish sound, my book still doesn’t have the typical YA feel. I can’t explain it, nor put my finger on it, but mine’s very different. Maybe because mine doesn’t have the coming of age element? Or maybe because I have a screw-you attitude and just use whatever words I want to use instead of simplifying anything. I also layer the prose to make my work read rich and interesting, beyond just the plot and character development, by lacing in humor, quirky turns of phrase or unexpected things. I dunno, but I was reflecting on that difference today. I can’t find another book that’s even close to mine, and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad with readers. Guess I’ll find out.

    I’d bet in your favor. People buy anything. Some of those will buy yours too. 🙂

    The crazy thing about agents is they will be working for YOU, you are hiring them, yet you have to bend over backwards and balance beach balls on your nose to get noticed, giving them this air of importance. If you don’t say precisely what they want to hear and how in the letter you’ve worked to death, automatic reject.

    I think they only SAY they work for you. Let’s face it, they’re looking for another cash cow. They only work for themselves. If they happen to be peddling your wares at the time, fine. But how hard do you think they’ll continue doing that when it’s not hitting right out of the gate? Sherri can probably tell you a lot about that. Agents work for themselves, no one else. Always have.

  4. I don’t love DIY around the house, but it makes so much sense when it comes to writing. Cut out the middle-man! Always an excellent idea.

    It’s just so superior. At least for anyone who’s writing to be READ, it is. I guess different writers have other reasons for writing. Joe Konrath had a blog post a couple of days ago which brilliantly, brilliantly expresses how some writers take the “validation” road out of doing it, but let’s face it — nothing says “author” like having people willing to pay for your work. And there’s a ton of ’em out there, Spark. 😉

  5. I think self publishing is great, you know that, and I think it’ll give the readers a chance to decide who they really like. Like a few of the other commentators said, cut out the middle-man. It just makes sense, especially with writing. Who decided there needed to be so many middle-men anyway? It wasn’t always like that (yay for Kathrine Rusch’s blog. Love her and her husband’s stuff) and I think that’s why it’s changing.

    I think, as KKR as pointed out, there was a time when the agent system WAS necessary. But it hasn’t been for a long, long time and it’s just getting abusive now. Never mind the publishers themselves!

    Personally, I’m excited. This all means that whether I do good or bad is because of my own work. How many hours I put into writing, editing, proofreading, honing my skills as a writer, developing plot, and all that good stuff will determine how well I do (mostly. I think there’s some other aspects involved that are outside of my control, but that’s up to God). My own hard work and skill, not some gatekeeper system that I have to be judged and deemed worthy by. Just saying, I like this way better.

    It is up to you to some degree, but then it’s up to readers. Yes, we have to find a way to put our stuff in front of them, but it’s there decision from there. Great writers will find readers, I think. But Joe Konrath says, and there’s only truth in it, a lot of it is just luck. Pure luck. It’s just not as big a part of the game as getting through that gatekeeper system for a whopping 17% or less of the sale price.

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