The Curse of Self-Publishing

These days many authors see an easy way to get published. Hook up with Lulu or Publish America and you too can have your own book! And look, it even gets listed on! It must be legit!

Well, if all you care about is having your novel available for your friends and family to buy, that’s a fine way to go. But if you really want anyone else to consider you a real writer, avoid these things completely.

Here’s a true example: Last year I went to a writer’s conference. It was the first I had ever attended and was not sure what to expect, but knew I could learn something. The conference had a number of guests who had published novels and more than a hundred participants who were, like me, there to learn and receive critiques. Quite a few of these people, I discovered, had already published their own books. One fellow was very proud of his Publish America novel.

On Sunday, they set up a question and answer period where the published authors would sit in front and discuss whatever the participants wished. I was honored when the organizers came to me and asked me to join in. The people with the Lulu books and the Publish America books were ignored completely. Even though my novel is with a relatively minor publishing house, the editors and writers who organized the conference considered it worthy.

After all, unlike these self-published books, mine had gone through the process and had been accepted. It had then been edited by a professional editor and I had worked with them to make changes. It showed a level of professionalism that the others did not.

And that’s the image you want, after all. Your work could be great, but if you publish it yourself, the message professionals get is that it was so bad that no one would publish it and that you were forced to put it out yourself.

Of course there are exceptions, which the self-publishing industry will point out as they try to get your business. There’s always that one-in-a-million time when a self-published book grabs the attention of the public and does well. Then there are the other 999,999 books that didn’t. You want to play the odds?

There are times when self-publishing works just fine. The books I edit for my live action role-playing game, for instance, are all self-published. However, I didn’t use a vanity press, because I wanted it to look more professional than that. I set up my own publishing company, paid for a bunch of ISBN numbers I could assign my books, and had them listed in Books in Print. Amazon sends me orders every now and then and Double Dragon (my publisher for the novels) has been distributing the e-book versions of them. But those are non-fiction rule books geared to a small but significant audience. They’re not the kind of thing you’d necessarily find in your local book store. If you’re pushing a novel, that’s not the way to go.

So don’t give up. There are publishers out there who might just love your book, but you may have to take a very long time to find them. And if you get absolutely nothing but rejection letters, maybe your book needs some more work. Maybe it shouldn’t be published yet.

Even by you.

Bloodsucker: A vampire runs for President

Every politician has some skeletons in their closet, but for only one is this literally true.  Presidential candidate Norm Palmer’s road to the White House is progessing smoothly but for those crazed right-wing fanatics who are accusing him of being a vampire!  Their accusations are the laughing stock of the campaign, until one investigative reporter stumbles across some very interesting evidence — but who would ever believe him?

“Bloodsucker!”  It’s the West Wing meets the bat wing.

Yes, I’ve started work on my next book.   More on this later.

At the recent Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ writers conference here in the Poconos, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of great writers, agents, and editors.   As one of the few in attendance who wrote Young Adult novels, I sometimes found that I had little in common with those who wrote children’s picture books, but it was still a learning experience especially since the things we did have in common (finding agents, dealing with publishers and editors) provided fuel for conversations.

I was honored to be asked to participate as a moderator for a group of aspiring unpublished writers and to join the other published authors in a question-and-answer period.  

There were seminars and group sessions where we had our work critiqued, and I was able to pitch the idea for Bloodsuckers to other writers and editors, where it was well received —  well, except for the “Oh, not another vampire novel” comments.

I’ve never been a huge vampire buff.   I haven’t read or seen “Twilight” or “True Blood.”  But I am a big political junkie.  I graduated cum laude with a degree in Political Science before going off to law school, and have worked as a lobbyist and political reporter as well as spending a summer as a campaign manager for a state representative up in Boston.  I’m still actively assisting local campaigns.

Anyway, when someone made a comment about all those “bloodsuckers in Congress” recently, the proverbial comic light bulb illuminated the brain.   I expect this will end up more as a political novel than a supernatural one.

In some ways, I plan on making fun of those extremists who believe in every conspiracy about a candidate.  Of course, this time they happen to be right…

I see this on the political boards I visit.  The right wing crazies who hate Obama attack him for the stupidest things:  He wasn’t born in America!  He is a closet muslim/socialist/drug dealer!  He wants to create a North American monetary system and work toward a world government, making us all subservient to the UN!  — You know the type.  

The problem with this kind of “Chicken Little” hysteria is that when they finally have a real issue to criticize him on (and there are real issues, of course) no one pays any attention to them.

So what if these same loonies uncovered the fact that the candidate was a vampire?  I mean, they’re crazy already, but this is going too far, right?

I should have a lot of fun with this!

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