Self-Publishing Done Right

Many of the literary agents and writers whose blogs I follow have a very dim view of self-publishing. They're referring to a particular subset of it, in fact - companies like iUniverse, PublishAmerica, and others who specifically target authors, promising them a chance at best-sellerdom in exchange for too much money. I suppose I'd call it vanity publishing, but that's normally done by people who know that they're paying to play instead of selling their work.

The print-on-demand outfits are shady, much of the time. It's s real shame that people are so desperate to see their work in print that they'll get suckered in by them. Writer Beware does a fine job of tracking and warning aspiring authors about the scams going around - major kudos to Victoria Strauss, A.C. Crispin and Richard White for it, and I'm sure they've saved many innocents with their careful advice. The jist of it is all the same - you pay fees on top of fees, and buy copies of your book at full price, but you'll have no real distribution or marketing and your work will never, ever get onto bookshelves in stores unless you beg the owners for a favour. You'd be better off going to Lulu.com and doing it all yourself for less money if you really just want a physical book, because anything else they promise is 99% bullshit.

The other shame about all this is that it gives proper self-publishing a bad name.

A while back, I stumbled across a blog by Zoe Winters, an author who's side-stepped traditional publishing altogether and gone into business for herself. She's known for being an advocate of self-publishing - I actually found her after reading a particularly vitriolic comment elsewhere in defense of it, and I had to go see what all the fuss was about. I'm not sure what I was expecting; perhaps another deluded author, who had already thrown thousands of dollars at AuthorHouse and couldn't admit they were going nowhere? She seemed a bit too rational for that, and her blog bore out my initial interest.

Zoe's published herself on Amazon, in ebooks and in print, and she's doing everything herself: promotion, networking, platform-building, all the random shenanigans that a publisher usually handles on behalf of the author. What I've read on her blog suggests that she's got a strong handle on everything that needs to be done to be successful, and as a marketing manager myself, I can see she understands how to handle her brand and get her products (the books) sold to her customers.

Ok, hand on my heart here, full disclosure - considering the fact that I can read faster than Einstein on speed, I did download her free ebook called Kept to take a look at her writing. It's a novella, which is probably about an hour of my time if I push it even if I'm reading on a computer screen. And... I hated it. Violently. Paranormal is not even in the same star system as my thing, and I hated Twilight for the same reason.

But that's just me, of course. I really didn't like Kept, but that's got no bearing at all on whether that and the other novellas are marketable, sellable products. (I can't stand Tom Clancy books, for example; thank the gods they made a movie out of The Hunt for Red October, because the book was a waste of paper.) Zoe's obviously made a living out of selling her work, and she has Amazon numbers to prove it. Clearly enough people are willing to give her money - I am not one of them, but that hardly matters - that she can live the writer's dream, so maybe we should be giving credit where credit is due and stop slamming all self-published authors?

For once, it's good to see it done right. I hope more people take notice of how and what she's doing, because if they see a self-published author being successful on their own terms, it'll pull them away from the POD scammers. Anyway, I like to ramble on about ebooks and copyright online, and here is a perfect example of what I've been lamenting that mainstream publishing isn't doing - a pioneer advancing a new business model that works with the realities of the internet instead of against them.