Posts Tagged With: Self-publishing vs traditional

An Interview With Matthew Williams: A Science Fiction Writer’s Perspective on Self-Publishing

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Matthew Williams is the author of several science fiction novels, including Source, Data Miners, and the riveting zombie thriller Whiskey Delta, all of which are self-published. I recently had an email exchange with Matt to discuss his views on self-publishing and his own experiences with this radical new form of publishing.

Rami Ungar: Matt, why did you decide to go into self-publishing?

Matthew Williams: It was a mentor of mine, Mr. Fraser Cain – creator and publisher of Universe Today – who first got me interested. For years, I had been writing and seeking a book deal, but all in vain. It seemed that publishing houses were taking less and less chances on new manuscripts and would always respond (when they responded at all) with form letters saying what my writing was “not what they were looking for.”

Mr. Cain was the one who told me that this was to be expected in this day and age, where new media and indie writing was making the traditional publishing route a thing of the past. It was a paradox, to be sure, and I understood what he meant. On the one hand, it was harder to get published because of self-publishing and new media. On the other hand, these same phenomena were offering opportunities for authors that were never before available.

After speaking about it a few times, I came to see the wisdom in what he was saying. By becoming an indie and using all the tools that were at my disposal, I could bring my message directly to an audience without the approval of the “gatekeepers” – i.e. a publishing house. This meant I would have to do all the legwork, but it would also mean I would reap all the rewards. On top of that, it would get me out of the slump I found myself in, waiting for others to recognize me and give my work its big break. This way, I could make that break happen for myself.

RU: What was your first step when you decided to self-publish?

MW: Well, the first step was finding a press where I could get my books into a readable, buyable format. I already had some experience with Print-On-Demand and did not want to repeat that, seeing as how that route requires you to shell out a chunk of money in return for basic services that do not guarantee any sales. What’s more, there are renewal fees and the price for an individual book can be prohibitively high. But after talking it over with Fraser and a few other people who are experienced on the subject, I learned of Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, Lulu, Createspace and a host of other services where you can do publish your books independently and have a far greater degree of control over the process. I shopped around and experimented for a bit, but finally found a combination I liked that allowed me to publish ebooks and paperbacks and get them to a wide audience.

RU: You have several titles out now, including the widely reviewed Whiskey Delta. After so many books, do you feel like a pro at putting together your own books and publishing them?

MW: To be honest, no. Sure, I sometimes feel like I have a lot to share whenever I’m giving advice to people who are completely new to the indie writing game. But there is always someone more experienced, as well as new and humbling experiences that make you realize you’ve still got a lot to learn. I imagine that at some point, I’ll feel like I’ve got things down pat. Perhaps when I’m moving enough books that I can dedicate myself to writing full time, or have several titles that are all making an impression. But for now, I still feel like I’m relatively new to this business and toiling in relative anonymity.

RU: What are some techniques you use to spread the word about your books?

MW: Well, there are plenty of ways. Social media presents plenty of opportunities for new authors to get the word out and online writing groups are also effective at times. These include groups like Authonomy, Wattpad, and services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And of course, it’s crucial to have a website that presents followers with updates and insight into your ideas, process, and inspirations. And the most important thing is to make sure that they are all linked, so that any and all updates can be shared across multiple forums, and potential fans are given every opportunity to see where your books can be bought.

RU: Potential fans? So that means you have some sort of fanbase. What’s that like?

MW: Ha, yeah it’s nice. It’s a modest following, but from what I can tell, some people seem to enjoy what I have to offer. It does bolster your efforts, I’ve noticed. Hearing that people like your work and are willing to pay you regular compliments really does make you feel good and spurs on your creative efforts. But it also makes you aware of the fact that now there are people out there whose approval you want to keep. When you’re starting out, the only person you want to please is yourself. So in a way, having a fan base can take away some of your creative freedom. But no artist wants to toil away in anonymity forever!

RU: Yeah, that’s true. Now here’s a question that burns in every self-published author’s mind: if a traditional publishing company offered you a contract, what would be your reaction?

MW: That is a good question, and one I’ve struggled with of late. On the one hand, I would be losing some of the freedom I have right now if I signed a deal. On the other, a publisher could offer me promotional and editorial services I don’t currently enjoy. And in the end, any indie writer has to consider whether or not they would be willing to compromise on their independence for the sake of a comfy contract. I guess it would all depend on what they could offer and if the price was right.

RU: How do you see the publishing industry as it stands today?

MW: I guess the best way to look at it would be as a shrinking community. The gatekeeper gets to decide who comes in, and membership has its privileges. But the community is shrinking and its resources are diminishing. So they’re naturally letting fewer and fewer people in and, if I may say so, lowering their standards. At some point, the community is likely to be gone altogether, though I imagine that will take some time.

RU: That sounds rather apocalyptic, in a way. My final question is what would you say to someone who is considering self-publishing and you wanted to encourage them to try it?

MW: I’d most likely say, “Good for you, because that’s the way to go these days. Most people want to be discovered, to be given a big break, but that’s rarely the case anymore. This way, you can make a name for yourself and make your own breaks happen. It might take longer, and it will all be on you – so prepare to work hard – but the rewards will be yours as well. And if it’s what you love, it will well be worth it. Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing your writing in print and knowing that people are reading and enjoying it.”

Matthew Williams books are available in both digital and print formats on Amazon, Lulu, and other distributors. You can also read his work and receive the latest updates in science, science fiction, and geekdom from his blog, Stories by Williams.

Categories: General Writing, Publishing Basics, Self-Publishing, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Reasons to Traditional Publish and 5 Reasons to Self-Publish your Book

There is nothing wrong with wanting to traditionally publish your book, just as there is nothing wrong with wanting to self-publish your novel. The US versus THEM mentality is amusing for only so long.

Traditional and Self-Publishing are just two roads to the same goals. Depending on what your goals are, one might be better than the other for you. Although I’ve noticed a trend were best-selling authors have turned to self-publishing their back-list or new books. Some authors even straddle the fence and do both.

Sometimes one option is better than the other for the author or the books.

Reasons to Publish Traditional

#1: because that’s the way the market currently works. Publishers have built-in credibility that self-published books have a hard time earning.

#2: the “big name, big-budget” publishers offer advances, promotional material, and gather reviews from major publications. (True, but how many authors actually earn that advance. How many have to pay it back? Then there is the marketing and promotion of the book that, unless you are a big selling name, you have to pay for, usually with that advance. So either route you’re paying for it.)

#3: Publishing houses can get the books into stores where customers may buy them and self-published books may not be accepted.

Reasons to Self-Publish

#1: Your project doesn’t fit the mold or format of traditional publishers. (Richard Paul Evans’ The Christmas Box, too short to be a novel and too long to be a short story.)

#2: Don’t have time to wait for acceptance. Or the information in the book is time sensitive. (Lu Ann Brobst Staheli’s When Hearts Conjoin, the author and mom of the conjoined twins wanted it done before the surgery to separate the twins, the documentary, and their appearance on Oprah.)

#3: Closed or limited publication opportunities.

#4: There is a targeted niche for your book and it won’t fit with traditional publishers.

#5: to break into traditional publishing (I’m adding this one, because the entire article implies this a few times.)

I had more to say, but rather I’m just going to link to this post because Kristine Kathryn Rusch says this so much better than I tried to. It starts out as a bit of a rant and moves into the Pros and Cons of Traditional and self-publishing in regards to business.

Do you agree or disagree? What are your reasons for Self-Publishing?

My reasons? I want control over the content of my book. I want to have a say in the rewrites. I don’t want the added stress involved in the traditional publishing route, the need to produce on a deadline rather than at my own pace. After all, I’m a full-time writer, mother of two rambunctious girls, and a rancher.

Categories: Self-Publishing, Traditional Publishing | Tags: , , ,

Writing a Series: Cliffhangers?

I had a conversation the other day about when it is – and isn’t – appropriate in a book series to have a cliffhanger.  Common rule of thumb is that each book in a series should be a stand alone book so that a reader need not buy the entire series, but only read one book and know what’s going on.

At the same time, many authors, both traditional and self published, employ the cliffhanger ending. The Morganville Vampires is a good example of this. The first book drops off in the middle of a “battle”, like the old serials with the main characters in deathly perril.

That seems to have worked for Rachel Caine since she’s ready to publish book 11 in the series.

So, when should an author leave an open ending and when should they be sure that each book can stand alone?

I think genre may be an important factor.  Thrillers and mysteries are more likely to draw in readers who will not go back and read earlier books, or who may not read the series in order. On the other hand, a fantasy epic will likely attract readers who want a huge story arc that spans several novels.

I believe another factor is how much time passes between one book and the next. If an author takes two years to finish that dramatic fight, readers will likely lose interest. If you followed the Rachel Caine link above you can see a list of her novels with publication dates, and see how close together the books are. Even if she drops off at the end of her book, fans only have to wait a few months before they can have the conclusion; and the set up for a new cliffhanger.

At the core I’m a fantasy reader, so I find that I prefer books that have a long story arc. I want to “have” to buy the next book, and I want to “have” to read them in the correct order. I want characters and situations to pop up five books down the line that make me have to scramble back to the first book in an effort to remember what the heck the author is talking about; I want a whole world. However, I don’t like it when a book drops off in the middle of a scene. If there’s a fight, then I think that fight needs to end, or else the next book should open with the fight in it’s entirety.

What about you? How do you feel about cliffhangers or stories that arc from one book to the next? Do they make you want the next book or do you prefer a book that can stand alone, even if it’s part of an ongoing series? What genres do you think lend themselves to long story arcs? What genres don’t?

Categories: General Writing, The Reader | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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