Vanity, vanity, all is vanity

Somehow, in the midst of my preparations for NaNoWriMo, I got caught up in the eddy of a tangent to return to what remains undone on my old novel. When last we saw aforementioned novel, I had just finished my final edits and was hunting for a freelance proofreader to give it the professional eyeball. I had several inquiries as a result of that, but only one of those inquiries followed up to my own reply asking for a resume (which is telling). I fear any old schmuck can hang out a shingle as a freelance proofreader. But the proof is in the proofing, as they say.

That’s neither here nor there, though. A recent response to my inquiry just jogged me out of the NaNoWriMo-induced procrastination I had been happily engaged in regarding the old novel and got me thinking again that I need a publication strategy for this thing.

(1) Now, I have always written this thing for the traditional literary agent/publisher route. And the sole reason (besides mind-numbing fear of rejection) I have not plunged into researching that route is my novel is much longer than is usually considered acceptable from first-time authors. And that’s after working my tail off to cut 50,000 words off the damned thing. And considering every suggestion friends have made for turning it into more than one book.

At this point, the story is what it is–one entity, and long. And if my unwillingness/inability to cut it down further is a sign of ego, then you understand why I am tip-toeing past the traditional publication route. So I won’t hear, “But you must simply cut this down, bottom line.” If, after 17 years, I have not managed to bunch it into a neat 100,000 words or less, it ain’t gonna happen at this point. I’ve poured enough sweat and blood into this story. I’m done.

It must simply see daylight anyway it sees daylight now. This novel is not a precious baby I am clinging protectively to my breast; it is a twenty-something adult child I want out of my damned house one way or another without the kid getting ax-murdered in the process.

(2) I was quite excited when I first heard about self-publication, print-on-demand, and vanity publishing houses. But of course, the dire warnings against any and all of these came quickly on the heels of my furiously scribbled notes about my new Game Plan.

So what have you heard about any of these: LuLu, CreateSpace (Amazon), XLibris, Author House, etc?

From the “Writer beware” websites out there, you’d think these were all thieving pirates out to screw you over, but I can’t help but wonder how much of that is an honest attempt to protect writers and how much of it is influenced by traditional publishing houses trying to deal with new competition. Maybe it isn’t. I have absolutely no way of knowing.

Either way, I plan to micro-manage the whole thing. I have already started (a) searching for proofreaders myself, (b) getting in contact with local artists who could do my front cover for me, and (c) taking lots of seminars in online book marketing thinking again I could do much of this for myself if I set my mind to it. (e.g., building a website/online “platform”, using Facebook and Twitter and LJ/DW and any clout I might have as an online Personality to get people reading and buying my story so word of mouth can do its job and maybe someday a traditional agent will take my novel seriously as is.)

So I don’t have to trust these things completely to a vanity press/POD company.

Which leads to (3) real self-publishing, which means doing the whole damned thing myself. I think I could conceivably do much of it myself (hire proofreaders and artists, etc, work out a marketing strategy for at least the online mediums). But printing. That would still need to be researched.

To be honest, the whole thing makes me want to curl up in a ball and go back to the part that’s fun…writing.

23 thoughts on “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity

  1. I’ve heard of LuLu of course, but not SmashWords. Can you send me the name of those friends so I can talk to them (DW/LJ name is fine, and you could send it via private message).
    Thanks.

  2. seems to be pretty happy with his self-publishing situation. You could go over and look back at his old posts on that, or maybe he has some tags. Fun guy, anyway.
    But I feel your pain.
    Revision never seems to improve my fiction. I don’t mind doing it, but I have a hard time making major changes in plot, character, structure. As a result, various manuscripts existing in the limbo of my computer and nowhere else.

  3. I have revised this story to DEATH. When I say I’ve been working on it 17 years, that’s a literal 17 years. It’s gone through 6 drafts. Benefited enormously from workshopping, writing coaches, and more revising than you can shake a computer keyboard at. I need to stop that already and send it out into the world. Just have to figure out the best way.

  4. I’ve bought stuff from Lulu, and if I decided to go the self-publishing route, that’s who I’d use. I’ve even seen respected, published authors use Lulu for little side projects. The downside with Lulu, for me, is that you then have to market the hell out of the book all by yourself, and marketing is my weakest skill, after math. Then again, I do accounting for a living, so . . .
    Anyway, what I think you should do (like I have the right to an opinion) is shop it out the traditional way and actually get those rejections you think you’ll get. Because you might not. Publishers aren’t quite as into making you submit your will to an editor these days — editing costs money, and if they think you’ve got something marketable, there are some that’ll just push it on out there for the public, editing be damned. So shop it around and see if you find someone who won’t make you fuss with it. If not, then go with Lulu.
    Trying to do self-publishing the hard way seems like a buttload of unnecessary work, in my opinion. But bottom line, you have to do whatever makes you happy. Just do something! Some of us would like to read this thing.

  5. I’ve been writing for so long, and reading about the writing and publishing process for so long, I’m convinced I’ll be rejected before I even start.
    It’s a thing.

  6. Well, you’re preaching to the choir with that fear — you can see how hard I’m trying to get published — but I think you need a few rejections anyway. Besides, there’s a publisher out there that will only consider works that have 3 rejection letters. They actually use that as a marketing pitch. (I don’t remember the name, but I could find it again with moderate effort.)

  7. For what it’s worth, Scott Lynch (The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies) began by publishing his novel a chapter at a time on his blog. Word of mouth got round to an editor who found it, got in touch with him, had him pull the online material, got him a contract, and voila! Now he has two books under his belt with Gollancz/Bantam Doubleday Dell. He still publishes online fiction, in addition to the more traditional stuff.

  8. Also: I recently attended a talk with Jon Weir and Julie Crisp (Gollancz and Tor senior editors). During the Q&A session, multiple people asked about the piracy issue. Both Weir and Crisp were fairly nonchalant about it; they counseled that one take reasonable precautions and document everything, and not worry about it too much.

  9. My impression is that the hostility you get on author blogs is in response to scam-artist pay-to-publish firms who claim or do their best to imply that general bookstores will be interested in stocking your work, that you will get the level of marketing a pay-the-author publisher will give you, and that you have a good chance of becoming the next JK Rowling. I have purchased books from Lulu at work, but those were examples of probably the only area where pay-to-publish or self-publishing has an actual decent chance of financial reward: specialist non-fiction in a non-academic subject that is too niche for a traditional publisher, where the author is already personally well-known or has respectable credentials in the community in question.

  10. Those are the kind of stories you hear that make you go “Hmmm…do this right, it could happen to me!”
    Of course, all those years saying profound things about Buffy on the web never got Joss’s attention, that I know of.

  11. When I’ve shared this story with friends or acquaintances, part of me is nervous about doing so in fear they’ll “steal my story” or my premise or something. That assumes it’s worth stealing. And that I need to be in fear of someone running out to write a Lesbian Scientist with Mommy Issues novel sometime soon.

  12. Most of the self-publishing seminars I’ve been to warn against POD trademarks being on the spines of your books–bookstores won’t touch them, because they (reasonably) fear bad quality.
    That’s why marketing is so crucial to all of this. And of course, it is the thing I probably suck at the most in this world.

  13. “vanity press/POD company.” These are not synonyms and the difference is very important.
    Stay away from Author House or anything associated with Author House. They are evil, unethical and downright bad news. Xlibris also gets low marks.
    I have heard lots of good things about Lulu, as in “if you are going to self-publish, Lulu is your best choice.”
    Are you looking for copyediting or a professional critique. If the latter, I’ve seen several recommend Tracy Marchini of Curtis Brown. I’ve met Melanie Rigney of Editor for You and would trust her with my MS.

  14. I forgot the best one Lea Schizas of Perfect Pen Associates. I can’t say enough good things about Lea. She is the founder of the Muse Online Writing Conference and has helped me personally tremendously. She also proofreads, if that is all you want.

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