Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Let’s not give it all away… or should we?

I feel like I’m on the edge of starting a debate. I am curious to know what people think about self publishing, publishing online, or waiting for a more traditional outlet. More importantly, what are the reasons for the decision?

I will admit it – I’m part of a generation that expects instant gratification. Most of us want something for nothing, or at least for little effort. And when we don’t get what we want? Yeah, that’s when we throw tantrums. Or just give up.

My point? I believe that this is the reason for popularity in online and self publishing. I’m specifically talking about fiction and poetry, because this has many more caveats than publishing articles or non-fiction topics online.

It’s not all bad – there are plenty of success stories for self publishing. Take Christopher Paolini for example. He’s the writer of the Eragon series, a young man that self published his first book. And where’s that book now? It’s a top seller, along with the other books in the series. It’s been made into a movie. He did not have to initially go through traditional publishing channels to get this kind of success. But if he had tried to get it published with someone from the beginning, would he have had the same success? But then again, self publishing should be approached with caution, since companies ask for a lot of money without a significant return in many cases.

There are some people that also have a bit of success with publishing their works on their blogs. They have a ton of daily readers, most of them very loyal. And while these writers may only make money through advertisements or donations, they get the instant gratification of having people read and enjoy their work.

As for me, I was taught in school not to give your work away unless it is to a prestigious outlet. When my teachers were brave enough to actually discuss the publishing process with me and my classmates, they told us that publishing through literary journals was the way to go, at least until you can establish your name. Once you have a few pieces published, then maybe you could approach a publisher with a book idea. But since short story collections and poetry books are not equal to a novel, a publisher will eventually need a novel from you.

I really thought this was the safest way to go. I even made sure to cover up my fan fiction from high school, which is still floating out there somewhere on the internet. I asked webpage hosts with my stories to cover it up and change my real name to a pen name. I stopped trying to publish fiction through online outlets and kept all the good stuff to myself. I’m still in the process of trying to get my first work published into a journal, but I have loosened up my standards. Works I wrote high school do appear online under my real name. This is because I’m satisfied with the writing, but I know it is not of a professional caliber, so no one in their right minds would publish it. I’m not necessarily looking to branch out more into publishing fiction online, but if I spend a few more years at this with no success, maybe I’ll end up giving it away just so I know that someone has enjoyed it.

What do you think? Is one outlet better than the other, or can someone who is determined to find success find it with any type of fictional outlet?


Jena Isle said...

Either way, it is still published work. I would not have written 15 chapters of a novel if it hadn't be for online publishing. My blogs had allowed me to write over 200 articles and now I'm ready to have them compiled in a book form.

I'm thinking of also opting for e books. Cheers.

julia ward said...

I agree with Jenna...

Write, write, write...
and publish, publish, publish

I had someone on a forum tell me to be like Mike Meyers "don't be stingy with your writing".

I think that's good advice

Come on over and visit us tomorrow...
It's Poetry Friday

Richard Perkins said...

There is something to be said for self publishing. It is a medium for getting your early works out to a small but appreciative audience. As a previously unpublished author, the inertia of traditional publishers is definitely working against you. Self publishing can help get your name out there (though not always in a good way...).

The waters of self publishing are murky. Author Piers Anthony has compiled a very good review of electronic publishers at his website. It's a must read if you're thinking of self publishing.

And before you wade into the deep end, you should be aware that traditional publishers do have a bias against previously self published work. Whether or not that bias is universal or universally deserved is beside the point. Just know what you're getting into before you get into it.

If you're certain you're ready to go the self publishing route, I've read only good things about CreateSpace. Good luck, and keep writing!

Patricia Rockwell said...

It seems to me that all of the avenues you mention can be used together--Internet publishing, self-publishing, traditional publishing. You have to figure out the proper mix that works for you.