Monday, January 04, 2010

Brian Keene on self-publishing and surviving as a full-time writer

Brian Keene is one of the finest horror/dark suspense writers around. He's also one of the finest commentators on various aspects of publishing I know of. His blog almost always gets your juices flowing. Today he filed his tour-de-force. He touches on several key issues that effect writers and readers alike. This is a must-read. And be sure to read the comments, too. Lots of good ones.

Brian on self-publishing:

3. They’re all gonna laugh at you: Yes, self-publishing has become more commonplace, but it still carries a stigma*. That’s not your fault, and it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. What you need to understand is that for every decent self-published novel there are 1,000,000,000 really shitty self-published novels. That’s what you’re competing against. Maybe your novel is the greatest thing since War and Peace, but in the minds of the general reading public, it’s another groan-or-giggle-inducing paranoid rant on how Princess Di was killed by the same Reptilian aliens who ordered Nixon to order Stephen King to kill John Lennon. (I am not making this up. Google it. There are people who really believe these things, and sometimes, they believe all of them at once).

If you’re writing with the ultimate goal of becoming a professional author, then you need to conduct yourself accordingly. You need to approach publishing professionally. You need to make a good impression. No matter how good your first novel is, if it’s self-published, neither you or your novel will be received fairly.

*This does not apply to comics, a field where self-publishing is often a badge of honor.

Brian on trying to make a living today as a full time writer:

As a mid-lister, I make my living by writing at least two mass-market books per year, and supplementing that income with small press work, primarily targeted at the collectible market. I’m not alone in this. Most of my mid-list friends earn their livings in the exact same way. Sometimes, you get a movie option or some comic book or media tie-in work, and that helps out. But you can’t count on those. For the last decade, the way many of us put food on the table was to sell one or two novels a year to a mass-market house, and then sell a few novellas or a short story collection to a reputable small press who specialized in producing books targeted at the collectible market.

Sadly, earning a living in such a manner is no longer viable in this economy. The collectible market is in trouble for a number of reasons. Here is the Cliff’s Notes version:

For the rest go here:


Richard S. Wheeler said...

Great stuff. Vanity or self-publishing is lethal, not only in terms of the impression it makes but because it is rarely edited properly by a copyeditor as well as a good story editor. The only place seriously selling the dreck is Amazon and they can't sell much of it because it just doesn't move.

His notes on survival are fine, too. I never made mid-list but have survived writing two or three low-advance low-sale novels a year, and tightening my belt when things are tough. said...

You have a good point. I think self-evaluation and overhaul assessment can strongly help improve one's writing. But i firmly believe that a publication should adhere to professional standards. Thanks for sharing this post.

Kenneth Mark Hoover said...

Fascinating, thanks for the link.