Thoughts On Self-Publishing

Mama Fisi
Mama Fisi's picture

The Web is a strange place.

Years ago, if you were a writer, you jealously guarded your original ideas, looking for an agent, an editor, and a publisher to accept your work and put it out there, and hopefully you would gain fame and fortune for your efforts. You dreamed of the world knowing your name.

With the Internet, thousands of merdiocre hacks churn out millions of pages of piffle for free, hiding behind pseudonyms, and completely ruining the trade for the few good writers out there.

Last week, I very nearly posted an excerpt from a science-fantasy story I'm working on, but The Husband warned me that publishers don't want to consider anything that's been put up on the Web. So I took it down.

Then I found a recent news article on a Texas woman who self-published a romance story on Amazon's Kindle, made it onto the New York Times bestseller's list, and now has book and movie deals on offer.

I wanted to go throw myself off a bridge.

We all hear these rare success stories--J.K. Rowlings, and the ladies who wrote "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" are probably the most recent ones--and they tend to give the rest of us hope as we peck away in our spare little garrets, dreaming of hitting the big time and trying to decide which A-list star should play our lead character.

The truth is, the odds of this happening are astronomically against us. Even if you're good, it's still nearly impossible to find an agent, let alone get a deal from a publisher.

Which is why self-publishing seems so attractive. Cut out all the middlemen and get your story in print, or what passes for print these days. Even if you get only .99 per sale, that's still almost a buck more than you had when the book was sitting in your file, right?

But there's a saw about how the Internet has proven that the maxim about an infinite amount of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters eventually producing the works of Shakespeare--is wrong.

There are people out there writing vast quantities of really terrible fiction, on every subject imaginable, and each one of them thinks they're brilliant. And they have just enough "fans" to stoke that ego. But nobody is ever going to offer a book deal for "My Little Pony" fan fic, or publish a seventeen-part magnum opus based on a mash-up of an old Star Trek episode and the Tiny Toons, no matter how many years the author lavishes on polishing it.

It helps if you write in a genre that's currently popular and starved for content. Right now, it seems that romantic stories of vulnerable virgins being swept off their feet by noble yet tormented (and incredibly rich and good-looking) mystery men is the topic du jour. I guess the hook-up culture is leaving a vacuum in the hearts and minds of the female book-buying public. Vampires and sadomasochists are OK, so long as they're romantic about it.

The thing is, I don't know what is best. Getting published is like a lottery--some folks win big, others throw money down a rathole for years, and don't even get a fat rat's ass to show for it.

The Webcomic artist Ursula Vernon recently published her thoughts on the subject in a blog. She's the talent behind the now-retired comic strip "Digger" which won a Hugo Award and was nominated for an Eisner award, so her words hold some weight. You can read them here:

So what do you think? Anybody have any advice or opinions on self-publishing? Can it truly be a path to the big time, or is it basically just "giving the milk away for free?"

Below is the link to the Texas woman who found success through self-publishing: