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All changed, changed utterly…

April 22, 2012

All these things happened in the space of a week or so:

1. My friend Pat reported that the POD paperback of the book he’d co-authored with my friend Dick had gone on sale quietly at Amazon, with a score of copies sold in the first several days. (The eBook has already been selling for a month or so.)

The book is Bitter Medicine: What I’ve Learned and Teach about Malpractice Lawsuits (And How to Avoid Them), and I’ve been peripherally involved with it since Dick showed me some chapters he’d written several years ago. Dick is Richard Kessler, a retired surgeon and professor of medicine, with extensive service as an expert witness in malpractice lawsuits. Pat is Patrick Trese, also retired after a distinguished career as an Emmy-winning writer and producer at NBC News; in the course of it he’d also written and published a couple of books. I’ve known them both for thirty years or so, and they’ve known each other for about as long, and the partnership turned out to be a good fit. They put in a lot of hours over a couple of years, and wound up with a solid professional manuscript that told important stories in an accessible manner.

But nobody was interested. A couple of agents agreed to look at the manuscript, kept it forever, and then returned it. A publisher, in an uncharacteristic moment of candor, said essentially that every retired doctor wants to write a book, and many of them do, and nobody cares.

And then Pat had a revelation. Neither of the book’s authors was in it for wealth or glory. Dick had had a very important and useful tale to tell, and Pat had found a way to tell it clearly and forcefully, and what they both wanted was for it to be read. And Pat knew a couple of people who’d embraced the revolution of eBooks and self-publishing, and figured why not?

Pat’s work on Bitter Medicine is done, but he’s keeping busy. His first book, Penguins Have Square Eyes, grew out of his experiences as a TV reporter in Antarctica; it came out in 1962, and now fifty years later he’s tweaking it for self-publication. And he’s hard at work on the revision of a big thriller he’s had in the works for as long as I’ve known him. Some agents have seen versions of it over the years, and encouraged him, but this this time he plans to publish it himself.

2. My agent told me about a new client he’d just signed, a romance writer. She’d published several books with a commercial publisher, and then they dropped her. So she started publishing herself in eBooks, and in a little over a year she was making eight or ten times what she’d been earning in the past. She’d tried handling her own foreign rights, but it took too much time and she didn’t really know what she was doing, so she needed someone to represent her overseas, and negotiate other sub rights.

Now that she was doing so well, she said, publishers had come around, telling her how much they could do for her. “I tell them I already know what they can do for me,” she said. “They already did it.”

3. A few years ago I led a seminar at Listowel Writers Week, in Ireland’s County Kerry. There were ten or a dozen participants, but I’ve forgotten everything about all but one of them. She was a young Englishwoman whose stories just sprang off the page at you. And she was a demon for work, too, with a trunk full of unsold novels.

After class I took her aside and told her how much I liked her work, and that she’d probably have a hell of a time getting published. Her stories were a mix of genres, all the products of a wholly original imagination that defied categorization. But if she kept at it, I said, something would resonate with the right person, and it would all Work Out Fine.

We’ve stayed in touch. A few times I’ve suggested she try this editor or that agent, and nothing’s ever quite come of it. She got a gig writing a pair of biblical romance novels, and they’re better than they have any right to be, but her own work hasn’t made anyone stand up and salute.

She emailed me last week, and here’s what I found myself writing in reply:

“Have you thought about self-publishing? It seems to me you’re a great candidate for it, with a stack of unpublished books waiting to be shared with the world. I know that you know how much the publishing world has changed, and that self-publishing does not have the odium that once attached to it. And I know you know, through personal experience, how the gateway to commercial publication keeps narrowing—and what’s on the other side of it isn’t so great, anyway.

“What strikes me as wonderful about self-publishing is that it allows material to find an audience. What struck me about your work way back in Listowel was the originality of your voice and vision; I think I said then that it might be a while before you found an agent and/or an editor who shared it. (It’s taken rather longer than I thought it would!)”

4. The very next day an old friend emailed me; his daughter, who’s gone from being a falling-down drunk to a standing-up comic, wants to turn her own story into a book. She’s a good writer, does a weekly column that has amassed a strong following. He’s written successfully himself for film and TV, published several books early on, and is not unfamiliar with the business. Could I recommend an agent who might look with favor upon his daughter’s work?

My reply: “I can’t think of anyone. My agent wouldn’t be good for it—or interested. I no longer know anybody else well enough to point at them.

“One caveat: if she doesn’t find an agent who’s wildly enthusiastic, and if that enthusiasm is not shared by a publisher, she’d be well advised to consider publishing it herself. It’s fast and effective, and these days it’s often the best route to a decent book deal with a commercial publisher. The column gives her a platform, and she’s energetic and savvy; I would think she could generate strong sales with a self-published eBook, and whether or not some commercial house took it on afterward, she’d still be in good shape.”

5. While all this was going on, well within that seven-day span, I okayed the proofs of the trade paperback editions of three of my Matthew Scudder novels. Monday I gave the printer an initial order for a hundred copies of each title, and Wednesday UPS delivered thirteen cartons of books. We had a couple of busy days here, but by Friday we’d shipped around 250 autographed copies, and the POD books had joined their eBook fellows on the Barnes & Noble website. (We’re waiting on Amazon.)

THERE’S A WORD FOR ALL OF THAT:

Remarkable.

When I began writing professionally, not long after the invention of movable type, people who published their own work were self-deluded ninnies, the natural prey of the jackals and bottom-feeders of vanity publishing.

Which is not to say that one didn’t get caught up in do-it-yourself fantasies. When my fellows and I would gather, glass in hand, for an evening of sociable shoptalk, the inanities of agents and editors and publishers were a frequent topic of conversation. Hell, all the bastards did was screw things up. But if we could do it ourselves—

Thinking back, I’m reminded of Henry Clay’s frustration at his nation’s incomprehensible refusal to award him its highest office. There was only one man who could guide his campaign properly, and the fellow as not available. “If there were two Henry Clays,” he groused, “one of them would make the other President of the United States of America.”

Right. And, if only the world were blessed with two Lawrence Blocks, wouldn’t one of them boost the other onto the higher rungs of the bestseller list? It certainly seemed probable, at least as long as one had a glass in one’s hand…

But the day after, along with sermons and soda water, one returned to one’s senses and saw the world in the light of cold reason. Tempting as it was to demonize editors and publishers and agents, it might not be entirely their fault, dear Brutus, that we were underlings. More to the point, they were indispensable, because successful self-publication was a pipe dream.

Except I knew, at least as far back as the mid-1980s, that this was not necessarily so. That’s when John Erickson told me (along with a whole roomful of people) about Hank the Cowdog.

I was one of the speakers at a writers conference in the Texas panhandle, and John Erickson’s talk is all I remember of the couple of days I spent there. (I remembered his first name, and I remembered Hank’s first name. Google got me all the way here.)

And I never forgot the story he told. He’d tried hard to break into the New York publishing world, and for ten or fifteen years he wrote books and stories, and he never got anywhere. But he was convinced that he was able to write what the sort of people he knew would like to read, and he wrote a book from the point of view of a canny old cattle dog, found a printer, set up shop in his garage, and offered the book for sale at feed stores. Now at the time nobody had ever bought a book at a feed store, but all that meant to him was that he didn’t have to worry about competition.

Just about every feed store and ranch supply outlet took a few copies and put them on the counter. And they paid him on the spot, and there wasn’t any nonsense about returns. And folks bought the books, and they liked Hank, and they liked John’s writing, and when Hank’s next adventure hit the feed stores, they bought that one, too. And the one after that.

The books found an audience.

Did this mean that the New York publishers were idiots? No, not at all. Put old Hank on the counter at Madison Avenue Bookshop and he’d curl up and die of neglect. The publishers were right to pass on Hank’s adventures, and John was brilliant to refuse to take no for an answer.

It made an impression. And I was to note that books with a pronounced regional appeal—Ghost Stories of the Susquehanna Valley, say, or HIking the Widdeshins Trail—were being successfully published by their authors; local interest kept them selling, and one man or woman with a station wagon could handle sales and distribution.

But if you were writing fiction for a far-flung audience, you wouldn’t get anywhere publishing it yourself. How were you going to get reviewed? How were you going to get the book in stores? How would anyone who might want to read it ever learn of its existence?

THAT WAS THEN…

And then, of course, everything changed. Computers happened, and the internet happened, and eBooks happened. And so on.

Meanwhile, publishing continued to evolve—or devolve, if you prefer. The industry, largely partnerships and sole proprietorships when I started writing, had become increasingly corporate, and the corporations set about swallowing one another. Books had to sell an ever-increasing number of copies in order to show up in black ink on a corporation’s balance sheet.

But bookstores were closing, and sales were down. Authors of mid-list books, many with lengthy backlists and no end of flattering reviews, found themselves cast adrift. Some of them were trying to do something about it.

I thought this was interesting. But I wasn’t having trouble getting published. I’d been doing what I do long enough, and had built enough of a following in the process, so that first-rate publishers were still willing to print and distribute my books, and to pay me decently for the privilege of so doing.

Still, I could see changes. My advances were down. And my books were getting harder to find. The new ones got shelf space, but the mass market backlist titles did not; for years my paperbacks filled two shelf sections at a Barnes & Noble, and then one day I stopped at a B&N and could only find one copy each of four titles. And it’s been like that ever since.

I moved very tentatively into self-publishing. Some publishers who’d reprinted early titles of mine—Hard Case Crime, Subterranean Press—were good enough to furnish word.doc files, and I taught myself how to publish them for Kindle,and had a few others scanned to keep them company. I withdrew them when I made an eBook deal with Open Road for 40+ backlist titles, but soon found myself back at the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, offering uncollected short stories at 99¢.

And so on. I’d been active on Facebook for a while, but I swear it took a long time before I saw it as anything other than a way to stay in touch with high school classmates and former neighbors. But I kept getting friended by people who knew my work, and I accepted anyone who friended me, and before I knew it I had an audience of a couple of thousand people out there. I don’t know that they were hanging on my every word, but neither were they hanging up on me.

…AND THIS IS NOW

Well. It was in June of 2011, ten months ago as I write this, that I got a Twitter account and started a WordPress blog. The following month, while I was thinking about having some Matthew Scudder short stories scanned for Kindle, I got the idea of bringing out a full book of them.

I could have proposed it to my publisher. Mulholland Books had brought out a new Scudder novel, A Drop of the Hard Stuff, in May; they’d done well with it, and I had no reason to doubt that they’d be receptive to a collection of Scudder stories.

But how hot a ticket would such a book be? There would be two new stories in the book, but all the rest had been published over the years. I figured a new collection would get respectful reviews, and sell reasonably well in mystery specialty bookstores, but would it fly out of the chains?

OTOH, here was a book I could publish myself. I’d spend a couple of dollars and do it right, hiring Telemachus Press to get it in shape and get it on the virtual shelves of the appropriate eTailers. Originally I was thinking in eBook terms only, but as it took shape I decided to publish a print-on-demand paperback as well, offering signed copies through my online bookstore and those aforementioned mystery booksellers.

Remember, I got the idea for this last July. The eBook of The Night and the Music went live the last day of September, and two weeks later we were carting paperbacks to the post office. (If I’d taken my notion to my publishers, and if they’d been enthusiastic, it would be coming out sometime this summer or fall.)

The book covered its costs within the first month or so, and continues to sell well. It seems to me that I’ve already netted more from it than the modest advance a publisher might have shelled out, and from this point on I can market the book at least as effectively as a publisher would, can keep the price point where I think it should be, and will receive a significantly higher portion of every sale than would ever appear on a publisher’s royalty statement.

Is The Night and the Music making me rich? No, hardly that. But it’s making me happy.

And, when my agent was able to retrieve the rights to A Stab in the Dark, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and A Long Line of Dead Men, I did not even consider trying to find a publisher for them.

WHO KNOWS WHERE IT GOES?

I don’t know where all of this is going—which gives me something in common with everybody else in the world. The publishing landscape is changing almost daily.

But I know this: my default response, when someone asks how to get an agent, or how to find a publisher, or any writerly version of what-do-I-do-now, is to suggest publishing it oneself. That’s a course I never would have recommended to anyone, except perhaps the occasional dotard who’d penned a memoir he hoped his grandchildren would read. And now I’m urging it upon everyone—writers whose publishers have dropped them, writers who never had publishers in the first place, writers whose early books have gone out of print.

Will everyone have a good experience with self-publishing? No, of course not, nor will every book show a profit. But it has never been so easy for readers and writers to find one another, and for any book to find its proper audience.

It’s pretty exciting. I’m no authority, and people like Joe Konrath and Lee Goldberg and Dean Wesley Smith know much more about the subject than I, and share what they know more effectively. Even so, I expect I’ll have more to say on the subject over the months.

AND WHILE I’VE GOT YOUR ATTENTION…

Two weeks ago I posted about having just listed the manuscript of a Bernie Rhodenbarr novel on eBay. After spirited bidding, it sold for $1125. I found that encouraging enough to round up some other manuscripts, along with some scarce and collectible books more suited to eBay than my online bookstore. I’ll need to find time to get them listed, but when I do I’ll let y’all know. (If you click the button to Follow my blog, you’ll be sure to get the memo.)

This ties in with the rest of this post, actually, in that eBay does for buyers and sellers what self-publishing does for readers and writers. We can all find each other—quickly, easily, and efficiently.

And I’d be breaking a cardinal rule of self-publishing if I didn’t leave you with the reminder that signed copies of the three new Scudder books are available from LB’s Bookstore or these six fine booksellers, that The Sins of the Fathers is eVailable for 99¢ (limited time only) for KindleNookAppleKoboSony Reader, that all my HarperCollins eBooks have been reduced in price to $3.99, and that the full list of my work at About LB’s Fiction has been updated to contain live links to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble…and I’m adding links to Audible.com, too.

Whew. A couple of years ago, that last paragraph would have sounded to me like something in another language. And, just in time, I’ve figured out what title to hang on this post. (The line’s from Yeats. But you knew that, right?)

LB

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116 Comments
  1. My new favorite post.

    I’m glad you mentioned the “happiness” part. With traditional publishing, that stretch of time (it can be a loooong stretch of time) between finishing a manuscript and seeing it on the bookshelves tends rate about a minus-five on the fun meter. It can be stressful and crazy-making and if you’re a nobody author (or maybe even a high-profile author) getting a straight answer out of anyone is tougher than prying a bone from a bulldog. It always baffled me as to why it had to be that way. Self-publishing is fun. For me, anyway. I enjoy the challenges. I enjoy keeping my own schedules. I enjoy the privilege of being able to rise or fall based solely on my own merits.

    As a reader, I’m in heaven. I’ve yet to discover a downside (well, except for my habit of busting my book buying budget on a fairly regular basis, but in the big scheme of things, that’s nothing).

    • Jaye, Don Westlake wrote about a character whose goal when he got behind the wheel was to get from Point A to Point B in zero seconds. When I finish a book, I want to walk around the corner and find it on a bookstore shelf. And now, with ePublishing, that’s not so farfetched anymore.

  2. Jerrold Mundis permalink

    Outstanding post on this subject, Larry! Couldn’t be more dead-on on every point.

    I’m slowly getting those books that are appropriate from my own backlist – which will be about 20 of them – up in “print” again as ebooks and maybe will do of a couple in POD editions in time, too.

    Again, a great post, Larry. Flourish, my friend.

    • Thanks, Jerry. And in the highly unlikely event that anyone reading this ever has trouble getting the words flowing, clicking here wouldn’t hurt a bit.

      • Thank you! ! ! Bought it; read it; did the exercises; already feel a great weight off my shoulders. I look forward to putting the techniques to work. The Atom Bomb is a real eye-opener.

        By the way, Mr. Block, the first work of yours that I ever read was your column in Writer’s Digest, nearly thirty years ago. Finding your blog (via The Passive Voice) felt like meeting a long-lost friend.

      • Tom, thanks. It wasn’t until I started blogging that I realized how much I missed the WD column.

  3. “Publishing has only two indispensable participants: authors and readers…. any technology that brings these two groups closer makes the whole industry more efficient — but hurts those who benefit from the distance between them.” The Economist newspaper, 2008

  4. Nice quote, Chap, and hard to argue with. Thanks for it.

  5. a guy trying not to promote anything permalink

    “In traditional publishing, in the best case, an author earns 17.5% off an e-book’s list price.”

    I just read that factoid today. Twenty years ago I wrote a police detective book set in Waikiki, one of those regionals you mentioned, and my agent couldn’t even begin to sell it. Nobody in NY cared about Hawaiian detective fiction. Three times over the next fifteen years I would tinker with it and try again — nope, nobody wanted to look at it. I put it up on Kindle last year — and it’s my best selling piece. It seems a lot of West Coast people fly to Hawaii for the weekend and stock up on mystery fiction for the trip. OTOH, I just spent the last eight years writing my “big book,” the one I want to be, well,, you know … and my agent is floating it around New York right now … but nobody wants “a big book” unless an even Bigger Name Author is attached to it. In the past I would have despaired. Now I patiently wait for her to give up… and two days later I put ‘er up on Kindle.

  6. Thomas Pluck permalink

    I’m still going for the traditional route for my first novel. If they drop me after two, or never pick me up in the first place, I’ll hire an editor and self-publish. I have a small following of loyal readers and they’ll spread the word. I’ve dreamed of having a book in bookstores for a long time, but that’s only because I equated seeing my book on a store shelf with having a great readership. That is no longer always the case. It’s time to alter my dreams.

    • Hard to know what’ll work best, Tommy, and circumstances alter cases. I suspect you’ll be fine whichever course you take.

  7. Exciting. especially when I think about that back list of yours, Larry. I hope you get a hold of all those titles.

    I have one question for you, a business question. When you self pub, have you acquired some sort of liability insurance that covers you the way the houses used to cover in case you piss someone off and they want to sue you? This is the big IF for me about indie publishing.

    • Naw, screw ’em. Bringing a lawsuit against a guy who writes about serial killers and hit men strikes me as a foolhardy idea.

      • ::dying laughing::
        Just bought Sins of the Fathers… something tells me I won’t be getting much sleep tonight!
        Thanks for an inspiring post. As soon as I finish reading a couple of blogposts (and retweet this one!) I’m firing up the laptop for the third time today!

      • Thank you, Julia! Another sale— Ka-ching!

  8. Oh yes – I would NOT be published without indie-publishing. I did get many of my poems and short stories published, but no one wanted my novels. So I am happily putting them up on Smashwords, Amazon, and CreateSpace.

    It has been one year since I started this adventure.

    Cyn

  9. Of course your self-published books make you happy! The little secret that nobody tells you about self publishing is just how much *fun* it is. I enjoy choosing my own editor to work with, hiring my own cover artist, and finding my own formatter. My happiness has translated over to the the writing itself and I come to the blank page with more enthusiasm than I ever did when I was trying it the traditional way. Life is good.

    • Hi,Margaret. Yes, you’re right, of course—it’s great fun. Even tracking sales provides instant gratification. Instead of waiting forever for a publisher’s sales reports (which I sometimes suspect are no less creatures of the imagination than are my novels) I can click a button and get an instant update on what’s sold since I last clicked that button. (Now if I could only learn to limit my clicking to, say, once an hour…)

      • Great post!

        It is great fun. Especially compared to NYC publishing. 🙂

        And I understand a writer wanting to “traditionally” publish. I wanted it, too. Badly. And I found out that the reality is much different than the dream. I’m enjoying the control, the marketing experimentation, better covers, more access to readers. You name it. And sales. Though I had those before…the money never hit like this. Actually, I’ve only been an indie publisher since Oct/2011, and I’m still amazed by the changes. This new world we are experiencing.

      • The good word keeps rolling in, doesn’t it? Thanks, Tracy!

  10. Larry, I think when guys like you who’ve been around the publishing block a few times write an article like this, it’s got to make a few believers. You’ve seen it all, and you know the increasingly limited opportunities in establishment publishing. When you talk, writers oughta listen.

    I can’t tell you how many newbies think it’s okay for me to publish my own stuff because I’ve already been kicked to the curb by New York, but not for them because they don’t bear the ritual scars of literary “manhood.” So they stalk the wily agent, hoping for their break. May they beat the odds and find it. And may they be happy with what happens then.

    For myself as a reader, I’m really grateful you’re making your books available again. I’m working my way through the Scudder books at present, and loving them.

    • Very true, Bridget, and it’s not hard to understand. A new writer wants the validation of professional establishment approval. There’s a world of difference between reporting “Yes, my first novel’s being published by Random House,” and “Yes, I’ve decided to self-publish my first novel” —especially when you’re on the phone talking to your mother.

      Ah well. If we emerged from the womb fully self-confident human beings, what are the odds we’d have felt the urge to write?

  11. Yvonne Montgomery permalink

    Larry, thanks so much for this.

  12. Amazing article, Mr. Block. You continue to inspire writers as you have for, what thirty years now? I want to say thank you for all of the articles, non-fiction books and novels you’ve written over the years because they’ve ispired me and continue to do so. Thank you, sir.

  13. Terrific post, Mr. Block. FB’d and tweeted.

    • Dana, thanks so much. (And thanks, by the way, to everybody who’s been helping this post go bacterial, if not totally viral.)

  14. Thank you for this information and for encouraging folks like me to try self publishing. Now to decide on who to choose for my new manuscript.

  15. I’ve been involved in self-publishing for about five years now, first as an author publishing with Lulu.com, then working briefly for them on customer (dis)satisfaction … I’ve since moved two books to CreateSpace and Kindle, selling about 10 books a month with absolutely no marketing or publicity (I’m British, we don’t do that kind of thing … )

    All of which is a preamble to saying thank you for a really sensible and heartfelt article about something which those of us interested in writing know is ‘in the air’, like a revolution. Of course I’d still like to get published commercially – and my books are currently with a small British publisher, being pored over, I hope – but getting through to agents seems hard enough, never mind publishers themselves (who often won’t even look at ‘unagented’ work).

    I guess in the end readers will be savvy enough to sort the wheat from the chaff – using online reviews and so on – and it’s going to be interesting watching the publishing dinosaurs either die lingering deaths or transform themselves into online behemoths instead.

    If you’re interested in crime writing, I blog about crime writers’ style and technique at http://www.cwconfidential.blogspot.com. (Sorry for my effete and passive-aggressive plug…)

    • Thanks, Keith—for the kind words, and for sharing your own experience. “In the air” indeed—everybody in the business is talking about it, except for those who are very deliberately not talking about it.

  16. I wrote a book, and I have sold a few copies (paperbacks and ebooks). I have received royalty checks totalling about $120 (I like to quote you and tell people, “it’s a slow way to get rich”), which I know is $120 more than I would have received without self-publishing. I would like to echo the sentiments of the others who have said how fun it is. I have received emails from strangers who liked my book (which is actually more “strange” than “fun”), and I had a blast creating art for my dust jacket. I even used Lulu.com to produce a signed limited hard cover edition of just ten copies. My book is the exact same size as the Sub Press edition of “Tanner’s Tiger”, so I swiped the slipcase and put my own book (copy #1) inside; I hope you don’t mind 🙂

  17. This might be of some interest to you and a bit a shameless plug (my apology):

    135 authors who have sold more than 50,000 self-published ebooks
    http://selfpublishingsuccessstories.blogspot.com/

    • The WordPress spam filter blocked this one, but I took a look and decided it’s interesting enough to haul out and share. Thanks!

  18. wordguise permalink

    After 89 Real Publishers rejected one of my books, I started my own publishing company in 1990 and did it myself. That book has now sold 100,000 copies and continues to pay my mortgage. i’ve watched the self publishing “industry” evolve; it’s hard to keep up. Weirdest little thing: the new self publishers find me old fashioned because I released my books as paper books before E books existed. They can’t imagine such a thing. I sit in my basement, quietly watching my kindle sales clinking dollars into my bank account, then I go over to my warehouse and ship boxes to Ingram or Barnes and Noble. I was before my time before I was after my time.

    Always enjoyed your writing. Glad to see you’ve come over from the Dark Side.

    Kenn Amdahl

  19. It’s alarming to see someone as established as you embracing self-publishing. Leave some room for the rest of us, whydontcha?

    I’m currently playing both ends against the middle. I have my Big Book – which is with a publisher at the moment – but I’m also working with a small group of new writers who are keen to explore the possibilities of self-publishing via a loose collective.

    The internet doesn’t only make it easier to be quicker and cheaper – if not necessarily better – it’s also ideal for collaboration. We’ll be publishing two collections this summer – one noir, one erotica – and we already have plans for the next three. The reason I was so astounded by Getting Off is it combines what we’re trying to achieve with our first two collections into one lovely book 🙂

    I do wonder about finding an audience. It’s relatively easy when you’re Lawrence Freaking Block but more difficult otherwise. Because if we’re going to be honest, the problem with self-publishing is not that you can do it – or me, obviously. It’s that everyone else can too. Readers are being inundated with crap – often supported with a flood of five star reviews – and the risks seem obvious. Either they’ll get turned off or the good books (by which I mean mine, of course) will get lost in the self-pub slush pile.

    That said, hell yes this is fun. Actually doing something and seeing it become real is far more satisfying than checking my email every day to see if someone I’ve never met likes my Big Book enough to tell me how they want me to change it. Thanks for providing a platform to discuss it.

    • Evie, I’ve heard the argument that self-publishing drains the moat that keeps the barbarians of bad writing from storming the citadel of Literature. Well. Look at the bestseller lists, all composed of books the enduring quality of which has been guaranteed by traditional publishers and their high standards.

      I’m comfortable letting readers and writers find each other. I’ll trust the market to sort itself out.

      And it is fun, innit?

  20. Thanks, interesting experiences. I read more of these each day. It seems like a groundswell away from traditional publishing to indie.

  21. matthewasprey permalink

    Nice post, LB.

    On a similar topic is a two-part PopMatters interview feature I published last year: Print-On-Demand and the Future of Independent Publishing, Part 1: A Conversation with Matthew Stadler and Part 2: A Conversation with Matthew Moring.

    The Matthew Moring piece might be of particular interest to readers here – he’s the publisher of Altus Press, which specialises in reprints of vintage pulp and ‘Lost Race’ stories, pulp histories, and contemporary pulp writing.

  22. bidinotto permalink

    Lawrence, that was a great post. If anyone wants further validation for your conclusion about self-publishing, consider my case:

    I’ve been an award-winning professional nonfiction writer and editor for decades. I also have been a life-long fan of thrillers and always dreamed of writing them myself. Since 2004, I’d been contemplating a new thriller series featuring a mysterious journalist named Dylan Hunter. However, from horror stories I was hearing from fellow authors, as well as bitter personal experience with a publisher and agent over a nonfiction book project, I wasn’t eager to jump on the Query-Go-Round.

    But in 2009, I unexpectedly lost my magazine-editor job, while my wife—an accomplished piano accompanist—saw her regular income slashed in half due to the recession. By 2010, I was past 60 and unemployed; our bills were daunting; and our savings dwindling. We faced financial ruin and the eventual loss of our home.

    During this time, I’d been reading about the evolving world of self-publishing, and its remarkable stories of rags-to-riches successes. I knew that I would always regret it if I died without having at least tried to write and publish a novel. Desperate, and with nothing to lose, I set a goal of finishing my first novel by June 5, 2011—my 62nd birthday. At 11 p.m. on June 4th, the last pages of “HUNTER: A Thriller” rolled out of my printer. And on June 21, just 17 days after completing the manuscript, “HUNTER” went on sale as a self-published ebook and POD edition.

    I felt like the aging Rocky Balboa, taking his one, last, desperate shot at the title.

    By mid-November, “HUNTER” had sold 4,000 copies. Then, on November 27, “HUNTER” was featured in an Amazon promotion and as an “Kindle Editors’ Pick.” It rocketed overnight into the Top 25 titles on the Kindle Bestseller List. Over the ensuing week, “HUNTER” continued to climb the ranks into the Top 10—past the latest blockbusters by such icons as Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, and—for a few sweet hours—even Suzanne “Hunger Games” Collins. On December 3—the final day of the promotion—”HUNTER” sold nearly 5,000 copies, topping out at #4 on the Kindle Bestseller List and also hitting the Wall Street Journal’s “Top 10 Ebook Fiction” list.

    To date, my debut thriller has sold over 60,000 copies, the overwhelming majority of them Kindle ebooks. Within months, self-publishing has completely changed our lives, providing my wife and me an income surpassing what we lost from our previous jobs. It has allowed us to save our home. And it has enabled an aging nonfiction writer to realize his life’s dream by launching a brand-new career as a best-selling thriller novelist. There even have been nibbles from Hollywood.

    Lawrence, I am now happily at work on the first sequel to “HUNTER.” And no: I won’t be looking for a traditional publisher for it, either.

    • Wonderful story, Robert, and my thanks for sharing it. And congratulations!

      Note to readers: Your mileage may vary…

  23. Nynia Chance permalink

    What a fantastically optimistic, kind and generous rundown of the whole publishing situation! The greatest takeaway is, “Is The Night and the Music making me rich? No, hardly that. But it’s making me happy.” That resonates with me to a sparklingly bright degree.

    This is because seven months ago, I considered myself not an author, but a haphazard poet. I’ve reviewed and edited novels and even screenplays by indie filmmakers, but I felt myself too random, too unfocused to do any such thing myself. Then a book grabbed hold of me and told me to write it and get it out there, and I’ve had a wonderful time getting it done and then figuring out how to self-publish digitally. It hasn’t convinced me yet to plink down the (small) capital to go POD and start selling hardcopies, but learning how to manually edit ePUB containers was a blast. I may even see about making the eBooks for my friends’ backlists if they’re interested.

    Where’s it all going for me? I haven’t the foggiest. But it has been such an incredible ride, and I’d recommend it to everyone who’s curious about what it’s like to see their words out there.

    It’s our life, and all we have to lose is opportunity.

    • Thanks, Nynia. Great comments keep pouring in, and I find myself both awed and inspired by them. Extraordinary, all of this.

      • Nynia Chance permalink

        I’ve found that when you give voice to your brighter side, it’s often reflected back to you many-fold.

        Have a truly marvelous evening!

  24. Debbie permalink

    I just have to say that when I was a teenager, I read your column in Writer’s Digest every single month and loved it! Your words were the seeds that helped me to grow into the writer that I am now. I can’t believe I can actually read and comment on your blog now. Also, my 9 year old daughter was reading Hank the Cowdog at the breakfast table this morning!

    Self-Publishing is amazing and fun. It’s taken the scariness out of trying to get your work published. I can do it myself, and best of all I can encourage my writer friends to publish their novels as well. And there is no better feeling than when you find your audience.

    • Debbie, thanks. And it shouldn’t be too long before your daughter’s ready to move on from Hank the Cowdog to Bernie the Burglar.

  25. Great stories and great post! I started self-publishing collections of romantic short stories last year, and it’s now providing a nice, low 4-figure income bump every month. I don’t know of a publisher out there who’d release a collection of romantic shorts every few months from one author. So for me, it’s the freedom to publish what I love to write, that might not have a market elsewhere. But I also have a big 6 deal for my debut Middle Grade novel because I think it’s the best path for that book. It’s fabulous to have so many options today.

  26. Cliff Ball permalink

    Great post. Nice to see some formerly traditionally published authors who don’t stick their nose up at self-publishing.

    I’ve been doing this since 2008, but the first two times I published, I went with vanity publishers like iUniverse. It took me nearly three years to make that money up. After that, I discovered Createspace and Lulu, and have published four more novels. I’ve also been on Kindle since 2008, and at first, I thought ebooks were a fad, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’ve sold more ebooks than paperbacks on Kindle, Nook, Apple, etc. I always wanted to do it myself, and I never really considered going the traditional route. I waited for the technology to enable me to do this, and so far, I’m halfway to the 50k mark.

    The only thing I don’t particularly enjoy, being the introvert that I am, is promoting and marketing. I’d rather just put my books out there and let people discover them on their own without a word from me. I tried that at first, and I think the only novels I sold were to friends, family, and acquaintances. So, I stepped up my efforts on Facebook & Twitter, along with various other social sites and message boards and here I am.

    Sometimes, it feels like one has to have a small fortune to make an even bigger fortune, especially if a self-published author spends all of his money on stuff like Kindle Nation Daily and those other sites that help you promote your work, if you’re a relatively obscure author.

    • Interesting, Cliff. I wonder how useful paid-for promotion is. I’m not questioning it; I just don’t know much about it.

      • Cliff Ball permalink

        From my own experience, I think an author’s genre depends on their success with paid promotion. I know that YA does real well, as does romances (and the more hard-core stuff), and the paranormal genre, but I write mostly speculative fiction (alt history, End Times, etc), so I’ve had very limited success with those. For the most part, I think it comes down to word of mouth.

  27. george permalink

    So many stories about e-publishing, and all so similar.

    Here’s mine (the short version):

    1. the wife had an affair (I think)
    2. I had an e-affair
    3. they both ended
    4. we’re still married
    5. some part of ‘me’ wrote a book about it all
    6. it’s been downloaded over 10k times (mostly free)
    7. it’s pretty cool that anybody can write a book about anything and find an audience

  28. Thanks for the inspiring post, Larry! I’ve been a fan for many years. What a treat to discover your blog.

    I wrote a mystery/adventure novel that takes place at a lighthouse on an island in Lake Superior. For more than a decade I had infinite monkeys, er, agents, trying to place the book with infinite publishers (or so it seemed). The gatekeepers seemed to feel the story was too regional. I finally took matters into my own hands and self-published for Kindle. Now that I have a couple thousand sales under my belt (!!!), I’m ready to do POD and sell the book to little shops all around the Great Lakes. The “Hank the Cowdog” sales model seems pretty great to me, especially since I can double up and sneak in some hiking along Superior, my favorite place in the world.

  29. leonardhilleyii permalink

    Thanks, Lawrence, for your candor on a very informative blog posting. I tried the traditional route for many years and came very close with Baen Books. But, after three years of sitting on my first novel, saying that they liked it, I received a formal rejection on the hard copy. I chose a POD company in 2007 (bad experience) and on the same day I received my paperbacks, I also received a letter from Baen Books with my CDr formats. They wanted me to resend my manuscript in Word because they couldn’t read the file. Sadly, they had been on Jim Baen’s desk, and he had expressed that he wanted to read them, but he passed away.

    Due to many other factors, I chose to continue self-publishing. After all, I had waited three years just to receive a “no.” I dropped the POD company and went with Kindle Direct and Createspace. I have seen a steady increase in sales each month. Am I rich? No. But I have the satisfaction of knowing people are reading my series and the feedback has been wonderful.

  30. As a rural kid I enjoyed “Hank the Cowdog”. Thanks for rekindling that memory.

    I’m also a successful self-pubbed author and loving it (western historical romances, a contemporary thriller, and my father-in-law’s WWII letters). The best thing that happened to me was being rejected by traditional publishing (I almost made it — full MS sent and reviewed, but they said the space was “crowded”).

    Now I’m helping a friend to self-publish the ebook version of his mother’s amazing story. She was a prolific writer (her own writing included over 6,000 pages), the daughter of immigrants who lived through the Great Depression, suffered mental illness, taught in a one-room schoolhouse, raised 11 children (two of whom suffered from schizophrenia and committed suicide), and ultimately worked to raise awareness about mental illness at the national level. My friend spent years condensing her work and writing the book, and now he’s selling it locally in hardcopy. He has pancreatic cancer, so he didn’t have the time to go through big publishing. Needless to say, the book is incredible (I read it in two days, couldn’t put it down), and it quickly sold out of the first printing. At local bookstores it sells hundreds of copies, and people are now calling my friend and asking to buy more for friends and relatives.

    We’re hoping to have it on Amazon this week. Writing the book was an act of courage, and it is a story that must be shared. Just a few years ago this wouldn’t have been possible. Ebook publishing has utterly changed lives.

  31. tonidwiggins permalink

    I’ve got two of your writing books on my shelf, and been a fan for a long while. Great post.

    My agent suggested I take the Indie route when she couldn’t interest a publisher in my hybrid forensic geology/ecothriller. When four editors did not even respond to her request (and she’s a top agent) for an update…we both shook our heads and said there’s got to be a better way.

    There is. I don’t want or need editors who refuse to respond. I want readers, and I’m finding them.

    • Fascinating that agents are starting to offer this suggestion. Some of them, of course, are scared of it all; others are figuring out how to work with it.

  32. Scribbler permalink

    Useful information, but you do sort of skip over all the things your publishers did for your work to make it successful in the first place. You’re a bestselling writer; your name does a great deal of the marketing work. But your publishers helped you make that name, and their editing, typesetting, marketing, etc., made your books available and readable.

    You were a good writer to start with, and the process made you a better one. I worry about the oncoming deluge of terrible writers selling their self-indulgent unedited crap online. Print publishers, difficult and disappointing as that process can sometimes be, undeniably added value at the front end. Though you are making a lot of money from selling this way at this stage of your career, you wouldn’t be where you are without that front end.

    Agents have taken the place of editors, and publishing is struggling along (partly because print publishers, like record companies, resisted, instead of imagining, what the Internet could do), but most of the books that traditional publishers have made available on e-readers involved exactly that same kind of up-front investment in time and expertise, something most beginning writers could certainly use but don’t understand. People will read what’s available, unfortunately, and nobody ever went broke underestimating the American people’s intelligence, as P. T. Barnum knew.

    But the complex, insightful, well-expressed piece of writing, including the kind of work you yourself write, is even more likely to be a casualty as dumbed-down books flood through keeperless gates to a dumbed-down public. As in so many other cases, the free market is a Ponzi scheme that rewards mass distribution at the expense of excellence. The bad drives out the good even more energetically when no agent or editor is there to read your work and say, “Have you thought about doing it this way?”

    So I have significant reservations about the brave new world of self-publishing. Writers generally (I am one myself) are blind to their work’s flaws, and indulgent when they should be strict. Selling such work unmediated does nothing to curb this, and tends to allow writers to settle into an unquestioning, if lucrative, mediocrity. All who believe they have a book in them ought not to be too easily able to inflict it uncorrected on the rest of us, even if droves of us buy it.

    • Well, I get what you’re saying.

      But just who is it that you don’t trust? Readers, to know whether or not they like something? Writers, to do their best?

      Never mind. Thanks for sharing.

    • george permalink

      Scribbler, don’t you think that the cream will rise to the top? Just because there is a lot of e-crap out there doesn’t mean that readers are incapable of discerning what is good and what isn’t.

      I think the evolution in publishing today is analogous to the demise of the Salon in Paris in the late 1800’s. I also think you are underestimating the ability of readers to sort things out and find what they like and need, and disregard the rest.

  33. Thomas Pluck permalink

    While I still hanker to be published traditionally, I’ve actually self-published an anthology for charity. In just over 6 month, we raised over $1000, split beween PROTECT.org in the US and Children 1st in the UK.

    And you’re right, it was a lot of fun to do. After you tackle the learning curve, it’s almost addictive. I am editing a second anthology for this autumn.
    If anyone wants to sell books for a cause, this is the way to go. Otherwise the donations get eaten up by the costs.

  34. Larry, you’re blogging. How wonderful. I still remember your column in Writer’s Digest years ago. I used to buy it just to read you. It was a joy, and I was so sad when you stopped as their fiction columnist.

    I was at the Vista Hotel for the RT conference in 1985, and took your workshop. Loved it. It had a huge effect on me; made me much more confident as a writer. Thank you for that experience. I wish I had that workshop on tape, or DVD, or even that I still had the notes.

    Sorry if I’m gushing. Can’t help it. You’ve long been a writing hero to me.

    Happy days — your backlist is on Kindle. To put it mildly, I’m thrilled. I’ve just bought “The Liar’s Companion: A Field Guide for Fiction Writers”, so I can reread your columns.

    (“Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print”, which I bought in 1979, is on my desk, and has been for years.)

    Thank you for your writing. You’re always an inspiration.

    All best wishes

    Angela

    • Angela, thanks so much! It’s a treat to hear from you, and gratifying to know that Write For Your Life served you well. I’m afraid nobody taped it, and as for your notes—um, did you check behind the convertible sofa in the guest room? Failing that, I’ll mention that it is in fact available as a HarperCollins eBook, for Kindle or Nook, and other eReaders as well. (And, like all my HarperCollins eBooks, it’s on special these days for $3.99.)

  35. Barry Eisler, a well-known writer of thrillers who has been published traditionally and through self-publishing, wrote a very interesting article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper. The comments afterwards also reveal some interesting attitudes towards self-publishing:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/apr/24/amazon-publishing-establishment-monopoly?INTCMP=SRCH

  36. Excellent article. And it echos m y thoughts on self publishing exactly. And my own experience (in a more modest way) I was a mid-list author with four well-received novels under my belt. Fairly successful, selling quite well.

    Then my fifth novel was turned down by my publisher because I had ventured from chick-lit into contemporary fiction with a more serious story(Swedish for Beginners), which didn’t fit into the ‘brand’ they had created for me. That was three years ago. A year later, I fired my agent, published number five as an e-book and then on the strength of the e-book sales, in paperback form. I then asked for the rights back of all my backlist and e-published that too, along with a novel that was sitting in my computer waiting to be submitted..

    Now, two years later, I have e-published nine novels, all in different genres and am looking at sales and earnings far greater than when I was a trad published author. The creative freedom is also hugely satisfying.

    I would think twice about ever signing with an agent (I have had three) or publisher again. In fact, that seems so yesterday compared to what is going on the world of publishing today.

    The self-publishing stigma is disappearing fast and as a result readers have a much bigger and better choice, thanks to Indie authors.

    • Thanks for this, Susanne. Hmmm. I’d say a subtle pattern begins to emerge…

      • On a whim, I stopped by the Mystery section of the B&N in Prudential Center in Boston. I also saw just four Lawrence Block books, but two of them were “A Drop of the Hard Stuff” and one of them was Ed McBain’s Trangressions, which they could have filed under “M” for McBain or “K” for Stephen King. That has to count for something, right?

      • Further evidence that backlist = eBooks, period.

  37. Great post. Thanks for sharing these experiences. Like the lady in Ireland, I tend to write undefinable fiction so this story really caught my attention. I have sold novels and short stories to traditional publishers, but much of my stuff is just too strange for most mainstream publishers.

    It just seems odd to me that we hear all around us how being different, putting your own stamp on something, is good yet in publishing they want everything to fit inside a neat well-defined box. Of course, my wife and i have been indie publishing since May 2011 and we have over 100 titles. Yes, they sell. Everything sells. Every story has an audience. It’s nice all of us can now have an audience.

    • Thanks, Russ. There was a time when I was worried about the future of publishing. Not anymore. Writers are the future of publishing, and we’re doing fine.

  38. Once again, Larry is able to both encourage and comfort.

    Such a stark contrast to Franzen’s recent comments re: self-publishing. Franzen believes print books are inherently superior to digital, that this horde of self-published authors will distract us from the genius being printed every day by traditional publishers.

    I call bullshit. Why? Because during those days when I’m not feeling so great about my career, I agree with him. It’s a sign of Other Issues Being Played Out.

    Here’s the thing: the writer’s ego is often fragile, and since validation rarely comes in the form of sales, we search for other sources. A big agent wants us, a big publisher offers an advance…it convinces us that our work is good. It also separates us from all those desperate souls who don’t have the chops/luck/endurance to see their book published. Self-publishing–and I know many published authors feel this way even if they’d never admit it–is seen as the last option for a shitty writer. What “serious” writer would want to be part of that group? We tell ourselves it’s safer on the other side. Our comfy little club must not be overrun by talentless hacks. We tell ourselves the gatekeepers are necessary; they nourish and sustain literature.

    And yet, it doesn’t work that way. Are there terrible self-published books? Yep. Tons of them. Are there terrible traditionally-published books? Yep. Tons of them. Genius doesn’t stay undiscovered for long–if it’s good, you’ll hear about it. I have yet to see any evidence that the gatekeepers are infallible, and while the publishing world certainly has its share of excellent readers and editors, it also has its share of absolute dolts. As with any industry. So what are we left with?

    The writing itself. Whatever the process, and whatever the medium, when readers find work they like, there’s your ideal publishing model.

    • Franzen? Bullshit? Jesus, I’m shocked.

      • I take this as a sort of a subtle intimation that you haven’t the highest opinion of Mr. Franzen. I knew there was a reason I liked you.

  39. Lorraine permalink

    Thanks. This was the encouragement I was looking for; most of the writers I hang out with look down their noses at any sort of self publishing. Taking a deep breath and going for it.

    • No guarantee—for any of us—that self-publishing will pay off. But you can’t win the prize if you don’t buy a ticket.

  40. One of the most inspiring indie success stories that I have found is Theresa Ragan’s.

    She tried for 20 years, came close, but no taker. In her own words (excerpt from her blog):

    “For a week or more, I didn’t care if I ever sold a book. I just walked around the house telling my kids over and over again that I had an agent. Theresa Ragan, former waitress and Legal Secretary turned romance writer, had an agent! Sadly, four years later, my first agent and I parted ways (amicably I might add) because time-travels weren’t an easy sell and I was ready to try my hand at writing contemporaries and romantic suspense.

    Fast forward another decade. I had a new agent, more than a few near misses with editors, but still no sale. In 2009, my husband tried to convince me to self-publish, but I wasn’t ready to give up the idea of working with a publishing house, so I kept on writing, hoping my agent would make a sale. By the time February of 2011 rolled around, I had just finished my first thriller and I felt re-energized. As I waited for my agent to read my newest manuscript, I re-read my very first romance novel and by the time I read the last page I knew what I had to do. Return of the Rose deserved to be read. It was time to let readers decide if they wanted to read my work. By March 18, 2011, I had released both Return of the Rose and A Knight in Central Park. Hoping to sell a few dozen books, I was flabbergasted when I saw that I had sold hundreds of novels in a matter of weeks. I began receiving e-mails from fans and that’s when I broke down and cried.

    This writing stuff is tough on the old innards, but so rewarding after writing The End and especially after hearing from happy readers.”

    ——————————————-

    She began her publishing journey on March 18, 2011.
    A year and 1 month later:

    BOOKS SOLD as of April 15, 2012: 266,933

    *Total(s) are as of April 15, 2012 and do NOT include over 185,000 FREE downloads
    (Amazon and B&N combined Sales)
    Borrows have NOT been included in total sales

    ——————————————-

    Most self-published works do not sell well. But those with a good story and cover have a decent chance of finding readers. The cream will rise to the top.

    • Thanks for sharing this. What struck me as most remarkable is how many responses like this have been coming through.

      And it’s good for all of us. One of the affirmations in Write For Your Life is “I gain whenever another writer succeeds.” The innate truth of it has never been more evident.

  41. Great article! Thanks for sharing. I published my first romantic thriller in August and haven’t looked back since! Love your books, especially fond of the writing book.

    Ageism is what turned me to indie pubbing. No one wanted to take a chance on someone who might give up the ghost before the damn book got printed LOL.

  42. Extremely interesting and helpful post, but what has really impressed me was how you’ve managed to answer everyone who came to comment!

    I have a non-fiction book out through traditional publishing that is doing quite well, but I doubt my fiction will see the light of day unless I take the initiative to publish it myself. I’m getting closer and closer to that option. There is no longer any stigma to the self-publishing avenue, but I don’t want to publish anything I don’t feel proud of either. I’ll tell myself reviews won’t matter, but they really will.

    • Thanks, Deborah. Reviews matter a little less over time. One learns that the good ones, while always welcome, don’t do that much for you. And the bad ones don’t do that much to you. And the fellow who wrote, “I don’t read reviews, I measure them,” was on to something.

  43. Lawrence, Danny Bloom over there in Taiwan, we meet a few years ago when you visited Taiwan to give some lectures at local colleges and at Chung Cheng University in Chiayi we met briefly and said hello. Hello again. I get your newsletter by email every time it comes out and love your stuff.

    As for ebooks: I used to be a sworn enemy of eBooks. I felt real paper books were all that mattered. But now i have seen the light, the backlight, the pixie light in the pixels machine, and a new CLI FI book that i produced as book packager, with Jim Laughter of Oklahoma doing the writing and getting all the cover credit and all the royalites, his book, not mine, titled “Polar City Red” and we call it a cli fi book because it is climate fiction, not sci fi per se, because it’s set in 2080 in Alaska in a polar city where survivors of global warming have come to, well…survive. Pure fiction. It’s out now, self-published, or vanity pubbed, or whatever they call it, no advertising, no bookstore window display, although there is POD format too. I am excited for Jim’s book. But without marketing clout, without advertising, the book is likely to go nowhere. 300 to 1000 copies and game over. So what to do? The mainstrream media wion’t review the book, and the science blogs think the entire book is meshugganer, so here I am in Taiwan up a creek without a paddle. But I am a happy camper, and the entire process was FUN. So yes, eBooks are real and they matter. Great blog post, sir!

    • Hi, Danny, and thanks. But there’s ways to help your book find its audience without advertising. Check out and follow the blogs I mention in this post—Dean Wesley Smith, Joe Konrath, Lee Goldberg. There are plenty of others as well that focus on self-publishing. You don’t have to do this, the market can be surprisingly effective at bringing reader and writer together, but if the process has been fun so far, well, might as well keep the fun going.

  44. Larry permalink

    Hi there, I just found you and your blog. What took me so long?
    Anyway, I am having a common dilemma. Although I do have a Very Big Agent, but after several rejections from publishers she is giving up and telling me to write another one. Excuse me, this took five effing years. Write a new one? And then another? She thinks the book is brilliant and accessible and SHOULD sell, but her common refrain is “well the business has changed and books that used to have bidding wars now aren’t selling at all so it’s too bad you weren’t born earlier. Sucks for you.” I’m paraphrasing. She’s basically telling me the industry is in its death throes and that I should self publish (without coming right out and saying it).

    So, I shall. But I would like to talk/connect/learn from people who have done it before AND who have ideas for self-promotion. I wouldn’t just put it on Kindle, and sit back and wait to see what happens. This could be a full time job, the promotion part. Are there any classes/seminars/workshops on how to do this?

    • Larry permalink

      I should mention that this MS isn’t the first thing I’ve written, though it is the first book (I have two more in the pipeline). I’ve been a screenwriter for years, and I’ve noticed that what is happening to Big Publishing has already happened to Big Movie and Big Music industries. I wrote script after script after script and my Very Big Deal Agent couldn’t sell them. “Write another and try to make it a recognizable blockbuster so my job is easier.” Meanwhile the most interesting work was being done on shoestring budgets (For film that means under $100K, still daunting for many). It hasn’t meant that there are more great films out there, just more films, but it has opened the possibility that a great low budget script will see the light of day.

      Oh one more thing. I hope I don’t sound like I’m whining. I don’t think I am. But I do want to say that agents, in my experience, are the biggest whiners in the universe. Bar none.

      • Larry, I don’t know of any classes or seminars on self-publishing, although I’m sure there are plenty of them. I suspect you can learn most of what you need to know effectively and at no cost by digging around in the blogosphere. There’s a ton of us doing it, and we natter on about it quite effusively. A friend gets a lot out of the discussions on the Kindle boards. And I have to recommend John Locke’s book on how he sold all those books on Kindle; you may not want to swallow it whole, but you’ll find ways to adapt his approach to fit your own writing self.

        Good luck!

  45. Larry permalink

    Thanks LB. One more thing, for you or anyone else here. My first book is YA fiction. Anyone know how well those do as ebooks? My hunch is that it’s a good genre for this, but I’m just learning about the kindle world. Do they sell by word of mouth? Are there YA sites where they discuss books?

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