Tag Archives: e-books

A New Player

I started a draft for a post titled “Self-publishing: too easy?” just about two months ago, and I promptly forgot about it in lieu of graduate school applications. However, a recent news article caught my attention and had me thinking about self-publishing yet again. I recommend you read the article, but to sum it up: “The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has introduced a new MA program in self-publishing, the first of its kind in the U.K.”

Very interesting.

At first I was surprised. Isn’t the nature of self-publishing “do-it-yourself”? But after more consideration, I thought “maybe this is actually a good thing.”

I checked the university’s description of the program, curious to see how the faculty was planning to approach such a degree. Turns out, it’s pretty comprehensive, theoretically speaking; topics such as “The Publishing Environment” and “Editing Principles and Practice” are good foundational topics that, honestly, any writer/publisher ought to know about. Other topics like “The Production Process” and “Electronic Publishing and the Creation of E-Books” are standard for publishing degrees, from what I’ve seen during my research of similar programs.

Anyway, I’ll be curious to see the outcome of this new program. Will it be the parent of other programs like it, or will it be a short-lived experiment? I wonder at the cost of tuition too. Most self-publishers do it themselves because of the costs: advertising, editing, marketing– the whole package. Isn’t a Master’s program counter-productive, in terms of money-saving. Then again, “teach a man to fish.”

I talk/think about self-publishing a lot. My biggest qualm with the rise of self-published books is the concurrent rise of bad or underdeveloped writing. I’m not saying that all self-publishers are bad writers; there are gems out there, but it’s a matter of slogging through available books  and finding those that are worth reading and promoting. The move to create a Self-Publishing MA degree could very well be the answer to cutting down on the number of badly-written pieces out there. But, it will take time. You have one school offering the program, but for there to be any effect, similar approaches would have to be adopted. Can that happen, though, if traditional publishers, who have the upper hand, want to preserve their dominance? Self-publishing MA programs may have to grapple for a foothold for awhile, but their presence may, in fact, be a game changer.

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Fantasy Novels?

Hello, readers and writers alike!

Earlier this week, I had a friend ask me for my thoughts on this blog post , and I thought I’d share my thoughts here, one, because it’s got to do with writing and publishing markets, and two, because it’s relevant to me because I’m in the process of writing a fantasy novel.

Summary of the blog post (in case you’re too lazy to read it… I suggest you do read it, though. Informative and over all, a great post): Fantasy author Greg Hamerton discussed a variety of challenges that a fantasy author will face when he or she goes to publish their book. Namely, the challenge of deciding whether they’ll publish online, in print, or both, and the implications of their decision on distribution of their books. He talks about the prices associated with printing, and how the number of books published affects the overall selling price. His post ended up illustrating the difficulty of making a return on the hard work a fantasy author puts into his or her book, and the elements in publishing that need to be considered when making important decision, and he highlighted how the fantasy genre, to an up-and-coming author, is a gamble. A very insightful post, but it certainly made me think of my in-progress fantasy novel and what I’ll do when it comes down to publishing. Honestly, I got worried and a lost a tiny bit of hope in ever getting it out to the public.

This blog post brought a couple things to mind that I’d like consider here: Why is fantasy so much of a gamble to publishers? Is there any hope of changing that perspective? How?

The biggest thing that I struggled with was why fantasy has a stigma of being unpredictable. Everyone likes a good, imaginative story, right? I’d say the answer is yes; the problem lies in the issue of finding “good” and “imaginative” stories that aren’t mere copycats of the famous JRR Tolkien and other such like elf/dwarf/wizard/human stories set in a world that still uses bows and arrows, and swords, with people who live in thatch-roof cottages, who farm half the day and drink beer in community in the other half.
This isn’t to say that all fantasy is like the above paragraph. Without reading a wide selection of fantasy, I know for a fact that it isn’t, but in my experience with authors who are thinking about, or in the process of, writing fantasy, this is predominantly true. Why? Probably because their earliest, most impressive experiences with fantasy have been with that type of story, which is something you can’t criticize. As humans, we all pull from the things that have impacted our lives; it comes out in our lives, our writing, our art… that’s natural. I’ve struggled against writing stereotypical fantasy stuff; it’s a battle we all face in our writing, being influenced, not indoctrinated, by other creative works.

This all goes back to my original question, why do publishers view fantasy as an unpredictable genre? Fantasy can be anything, literally. You can do anything with it, within very broad outliers, which is both a wonderful thing, and a potentially bad thing. Your crazy ideas could be received with cries of “genius!” or they could be rejected with a simple, exasperated shake of the head. Because people and their interests, likes, and dislikes come together in a pot of weird, varying with each person, how can anyone ever predict how a certain audience will respond to YOUR book of weird, strange, exciting, mystifying stuff? You may have chosen to write to an audience of “young adults,” but in that audience, there are lots of different kinds of young adults. It gets complicated.
As Hamerton suggested in his post, publishers are more  likely to prefer relying on the popularity of an already-established author instead of taking a gamble on something that is equally able to lose them a good deal of money, or give them a good deal of money. Who wouldn’t rather invest in something sure?
The stereotype of fantasy, and what the general populace believes of fantasy, is what I believe to be the reason publishers aren’t more willing to take a gamble with fantasy. I know for a fact that my book is not going to fit under the typical “fantasy” impression, and I know without having to do very much research, that there are MANY fantasy books that also refuse to be categorized under “typical fantasy,” yet the stereotype remains. Sad, really. This leaves us authors having to deal with what Hamerton summarized in his post.

Well… that’s a nice plight in which to place unknown or little-known fantasy authors in, isn’t it? Which brings me to my next question: is there any way this can be changed? How?

I think it can be changed, though with a lot of work on both sides, authors and publishers. I might just be talking ideals here, because I tend to care more about getting creative and interesting things out into the world than money, but bear with me.
The growing trend toward online publishing and self-publishing (which I wrote about in a post here ) is probably a good thing for fantasy authors, because of the problems listed by Hamerton. Because of the ridiculousness of the costs of production. Producing books in ebook format? Saves a lot on printing and distribution costs, no doubt. I hate to admit it, but I’m beginning to believe that there is hope in ebook publishing; people are more likely to read something if it’s easily accessible to devices they already own, and unless they’re book enthusiasts, they’re not as likely to peruse the shelves of used (or new) bookstores. Also, the generally-cheaper prices of ebooks are more conducive to buying than retail pricing. Everything points to ebooks.

Ebooks allow the author to be the publisher; it allows a good fantasy author the chance to publicize their book and redeem the fantasy name. It allows readers at large to experience fantasy at its best (which will hopefully help publishers change their minds in the future about fantasy, at least to some degree). Of course, there is the fact that e-publishing allows the bad work in, but there’s a pretty dependable way to distinguish good from bad: the quality of a book. Because e-publishing is easier and less demanding than a traditional publishing house, most authors who’ve written mediocre stuff haven’t often gone through the harrowing process of editing, revising, editing, revising, editing some more etc. Authors, even if their quality is so-so, can have a good polished work after it’s been worked over and over again. In fact, that’s what often makes a book good.

So, e-publishing is the hope of fantasy, I think, at least for a good while. Thanks to Hamerton, the website CompletelyNovel has been brought to my attention. In my brief look-over of the site, I’m excited to see what treasures it holds (and you should go look too)!

The thing about e-publishing is the work that it takes. If you want to be successful with it, you can’t just submit your manuscript, get the book out there and sit back. You have to WORK. Network with other writers; promote, promote, promote; follow and participate in other writer’s blogs; create a following through your OWN blog and social media; promote some more, and review other writer’s works, sometimes in return for them reviewing your work. After the editing and revising and the final publication of a book, more hard work and investment might not be high of your priority list. But it HAS to be. And be aware, I’m preaching this to myself as much as I am to anyone who is reading this, because I don’t like the promotion part of publishing… I’m the one who’ll sit and revise, edit, and proofread until dawn. But it’s necessary in order to make your book a success… at least, that’s what I think. Because, you know, I haven’t actually published a book yet =)

So, those are my two cents on the issue of why fantasy books aren’t regarded very seriously by publishing houses, and what hope that fantasy authors have in getting their books recognized. Eventually, I hope to write on WHY fantasy books ought to be regarded more seriously, but in order to do that I have to go find some to read first… to widen my horizons. However, I did buy a fantasy book by Diana Wynne Jones (author of Howl’s Moving Castle, for those of you who don’t know) titled “The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1” that I plan to read before the summer is out. It’s a gigantic, thick book, though, so we’ll see how far I get!

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1

Also, just as an Allison-update: I am participating in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo challenge (sitting on 32,000/50,000 words as of the publishing of this post), which is why I have written hardly anything on this blog. I have virtually 3 days left to write the final 18,000 words, and with a lot of patience, I think I can do it. I’ll let you guys know if I survive (because, you know, if I don’t, I won’t be here to post that I did).

See you on the other side!

Self Publishing? e-Books?

We’re all familiar with the wonderful world of e-Books, right? With the rise of iPads and Nooks and Kindles and every other kind of tablet and e-reader, e-books have risen in popularity. Naturally. One tablet or reader is easier to carry around than a sack of books, especially when there’s limited bag space (airplanes, buses, etc), there’s little need to actually HOLD it  (so if you’re one of those weirdos who can work out and read at the same time, kudos to you!), and it’s significantly cheaper. All of these are pros, technically, and I’m sure they’re good; I’m convinced they’re good and beneficial for the constantly moving world we live in.

However, I grieve for the plight of real books. I’m one of those people who absolutely LOVES the feeling of a hefty book in my hands; I like the fact that my bag is heavy because of all the different books I have in there, I treasure the smell of an old book, and the way it’s easier to engage with a story if I’m actually turning the page. Naturally, I’m very determined to try to go the way of traditional publishing… I want the satisfaction of being accepted by an established publisher.

There is a problem, however. The more I think and talk about it, and the more familiar I become with the publishing world, how it operates, and the future of books, the less hopeful I am that my dream will come true. Self-publishing has this stigma attached to it because literally anybody can do it, and as a result (so I’ve heard, anyways) crap can be spread all over the place, and because of that, the good stuff that is self-published often gets overlooked. There’s also something ridiculously unofficial about self-publishing.

And now, I realize that I started this blog post on one leg and have switched to the other (e-books to self-publishing). However, these two are so closely woven together that it’s hard to talk about one and not the other. As much as I don’t like to say it, publishing in e-book format is a necessity these days because of the popularity of the e-reader. And I’m sure that it’s a helpful tool that allows people to read more than they normally would. However, that still doesn’t really help the sadness I feel when I think of a coffee shop filled with people reading electronically. There’s something very, very wrong with that picture…

But back to self-publishing. As I’ve probably mentioned in another blog post, I’m enthralled with the idea of working for a publishing company, be it as someone who sorts through unsolicited manuscripts, or as a basic editor, or someone who works with the author through edits; every aspect of that kind of job makes me SO excited and pumped. However, the realization that good publishing companies whose main priority it is to publish GOOD material (and not just the stuff in high demand *coughvampireromancecheesyscrapboardstuffcough*) may not be around long enough for me to really get my hands in, or they might run on volunteer-basis more than position-basis (which would be sad… particularly from a survival standpoint). So, I’m concerned.

So I decided to start networking on Twitter, and that’s proved a little fruitful. I found AEC Stellar Publishing, and I’m on a list of editors, so that’s a beginning. I’m starting to wonder if my future isn’t in outsourced editing services… and I’m scared about that because that means a LOT of initiative that I was not born with (or nurtured into), so it will be an uphill battle. But being an editor is something that I’m convinced I’m called to do, and by editor I mean that in whatever way you want to take it. I usually imagine myself sitting in a coffee shop or a sunlit living room surrounded by manuscripts and colorful pens… sometimes with an author sitting opposite or beside me, discussing their manuscript. There’s a passion for storytelling and words in my soul that I can hardly express, and discussing story ideas and plot points are just the beginning of what really makes me excited and inspired. It’s a cool passion and I’m really curious how it pans out, especially post-grad. Should I go to grad school? Try my hand at teaching? Part of me expects that I’ll be put in an instructor position at some point, and that freaks me out. Talking and workshopping writing is one thing, being the leader of something like a workshop is quite another. I’m sensing there’s a lot of fear that I’m going to have to get over at some point… but I’m okay with that. Might be a struggle, but it’ll be worth it.

So to sum up this post, I’m realizing that it’s vital to recognize the trends of the day, prepare myself well for the skills that I may need to know with a changing publishing environment, and embrace the change rather than try to pretend that it isn’t happening.

I’ll still be a firm believer in the hard-copy though. I will have a big, special place for my books in the house of my future.