Sunday, November 20, 2011

How to get published

When I went for advice on how to publish a book from young, tech savvy authors who have big web presences I assumed it would tell me to avoid big publishers.  I figured they would advocate self publishing, or posting work online for free to generate buzz as good strategies.  Yesterday I went to a few sessions at the Toronto Science Fiction Convention and got a hard nosed lecture on how those things are terrible and anyone who is serious about getting published should go to a publisher.  I think these folks must get a lot of people trying to convince them that the new way is the better way and so they squash it hard and fast whenever they see it.

This makes sense to me.  If you want to be a writer, why would you try to be your own artist, marketer, editor and accountant?  If you are really good at writing you should write and let other people who are already great at doing all those things do what they are good at.  Specialization is what allowed humanity to drag itself out of hunting and gathering to the society we have today so we should leverage it whenever we can.  Karl Schroeder in particular talked about how he was a money loser for TOR books even though he was a successful science fiction writer by any standard - Robert Jordan essentially paid his salary because no other author publishing with TOR was actually making the company any money.  According to Schroeder the norm in publishing is a few massively successful authors keep companies afloat while the rest of the authors lose the company just a little money each.  Effectively the publishers are acting like patrons, keeping authors around so they they will have a chance to make money off those who happen to hit it big.

Not that I have a book to publish, mind.  I do find it encouraging to know that if I decided to write one that the best way to do it is not for me to start my own business though.  The best thing to do apparently is to make something awesome and then let other people do all the grunt work of turning awesome into cash for me.  I approve.


  1. Now your talking!!!!! As Nikie says " just do it"


  2. Isn't this the same argument that medical insurance companies use in the states? Why go directly to a doctor when you can pay a middle man to tell you to get out of here....

    No wait... The recording industry is a much better example....

    Does that mean that the publishing industry is going to collapse as soon as we get better at pirating books?

    I think...... likely.

  3. I think the publishing industry is somewhat different than the music industry. The authors talked about that point explicitly actually and said that the reason they thought the publishing industry had done so much better was that they jumped on ebooks very quickly. Every publisher aims to release a new book in every format simultaneously to maximize revenue.

    The other big difference is many people really do want a book over an ebook and many fewer want a CD over an mp3. Having a process for art, printing and physical distribution is going to continue to be valuable for writers; not nearly so much so for musicians.

    I suspect the publishing industry will decline in importance but I think it is due for a much slower fall than the music industry.

  4. And by every format you mean every format except softcover, right? They seem deadset against letting me buy books I want in softcover until years have passed.

  5. Yes, they do seem desperate to milk you for hardcover prices first. Whether or not this is a good long term business plan I don't know but it does piss people off for sure.

  6. The publishing industry has been dealing with public libraries for a long time now, so the idea that people can get books for free isn't actually much of a threat to them. They also do something real - they make physical objects that people want.

    The music industry is a distribution network that thinks it is more important than the content creators and the customers combined. I don't think they are really that comparable.