The Publishing Cart Before the Storytelling Horse

This post, by Chuck Wendig, originally appeared on his terribleminds site on 10/5/11.

I got a little rant stuck between my teeth. It’s like a caraway seed, or a beefy tendon, or a .22 shell casing (hey, f*** you, a boy’s gotta get his vitamins and minerals somehow).

Self-publishers, I’m talking to you.

[Publetariat Editor’s Note: strong language after the jump]

And I’m talking to the pundits, too. In fact, I’m talking more to the pundits than to those actually walking the self-publishing path. Not everybody. Just a handful.

If you get a little froth on your screen, here — *hands you a squeegee* — just wipe it away.

Here, then, is the core of my message to you:

It is time to upgrade the discussion.

Let’s talk about what that means.

First, it means: we get it. Self-publishing is the path you’ve chosen and further, is a path you believe is lined with chocolate flowers and hoverboards and bags of money and the mealy bones of traditionally-published authors. Self-publishing is a proven commodity. You can stop selling the world on its power. This isn’t Amway. You don’t get a stipend every time another author decides to self-publish. You’re not squatting atop the pinnacle of a pyramid scheme. (And if you are, you should climb down. One word: hemmorhoids.)

Instead of trying to convince people to self-publish, it may in fact be time to help people self-publish well. While self-publishing may by this point be a proven path it doesn’t remain a guaranteed path. In fact it’s no such thing: I know several self-published authors out in the world with great books, kick-ass covers, and they are certainly not selling to their potential. In fact, if they continue to sell as they appear to sell then I would suggest these books would have done much better had they been published — gasp — traditionally. Succeeding in an increasingly glutted space is no easy trick. Every bubble pops. Every gold rush either reveals a limited supply or instead ends up devaluing the gold one finds there. The reality is that it’s going to become harder — note that I didn’t say impossible — to succeed in that space and so it behooves the Wise Pundits With Their Long Beards to acknowledge the realities and help authors do well.

It may then be a good time to acknowledge some of the challenges of self-publishing rather than ignoring them. Filter, for instance? Dogshit. Total dogshit. Discovering new self-published authors is left almost completely to word of mouth or to the marketing efforts of one author’s voice. The discovery of just browsing a bookstore and finding great new stuff to read is gone. Amazon offers little in recompense: browsing there is like trying to find a diamond in a dump truck full of cubic zirconiums. Marketing as a self-published author is a whole other problem: it’s tricky as hell. Half the self-publishers out there still manage to sound like Snake Oil Salesman — myself included — and so why not try to discuss the best practices? Why not talk about the way forward?

 

Read the rest of the post on terribleminds.

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