I am not a small press. I am an author with 18 titles for sale. That is more titles that some big publishing houses. I have advertising currently running in Locus, Publishers Weekly, Fantasy and Sci Fi, and Revolver magazines. I have blog advertising across the entire blog-o-sphere. I am not a small press or even self published. [REDACTED]’ books are PUBLISHED by [REDACTED] and should be treated no differently that any big named publishers title.
via my tumblr
The quote above is from a whirlwind surrounding a forum moving a post from one section back into their small press section where it belongs under their rules (for the curious you can read a good summary here: The Man Who Thought He Was King). I’ve [REDACTED] the author and their press as I don’t want to focus on just one author but more a principle that presents itself:
Where do authors get their validation in an age of self-publishing?
In the case of this author sales aren’t enough. They clearly want that particular forum to recognise and validate that should be seen in the same light as a big-six publisher, which they can’t be. As an individual author they are successful but they don’t have the scale to be anything but a small/inde press. I could go as far as saying they are no more than a self-published author who is very good at what they do (I’m taking their word for it that they are successful).
Personally I have issues with a self-published author with no platform apart from being self-published as, at the moment, my instant thought is that it’s not going to be better than the quite high pile of books I already have to read. And I’m sure there are examples of authors who excel but I don’t have to the time to filter out the ones that excel to the ones that are OK. I have a hard enough time doing that with books that have already been through the hands of professionals.
And before you start saying that books today aren’t edited yadayadayada it’s not going to change my mind. I’ve talked to plenty of editors and writers to know what influence they have. It’s also a straw man.
Books that go through the whole gatekeeping process that is modern publishing does give those authors a platform to launch themselves. And I’m not limiting that to say Orbit or Tor. I’m including Immanion Press and PS Publishing because they have teams (or one person) that has experience in spotting excellent writing and willing to risk their money and reputation on it.
Now if you’re bigger houses you can take that risk more often or if you’re a smaller press you specialise and build a loyal reader base. But if you’re self-published you’ve created a book and hit upload. That isn’t to say that writing a book isn’t an achievement but I’d be lying that just because you’ve written one you should share it with anyone. Agents and publishers call it a slush pile for a reason.
Yes they get it wrong, yes the miss great books, but overall they tend to publish books that attract readers. But when I say readers I’m thinking thousands, maybe tens of thousands for most published books. Most writers I know don’t solely write as they just don’t earn the same as they do doing something else.
So if you do press upload and sit back you’re probably not going to get the money rolling in. You might. I’m not sure how readers will find out about you. But these things happen. Now people write I think because they want to recognised, praised and most importantly read.
Which brings us back to; Where do authors get their validation in an age of self-publishing?
If you’re picked up and published the people who recognise and praise you are your agent and your publisher and they validate you before you get to raw readers – for me this make those chosen interesting and exciting.
If you’ve published yourself you could turn to those groups that seem to be their to pat each other on the back to raise each others profiles but I’m not convinced that they increase the quality of the work that comes out of them.
Even shorter fiction writers are need validation and getting into the right magazine makes them interesting. When I say magazine I’m pleased to see that online magazines have gained themselves a reputation for quality fiction.
Now some publishers let authors go and they turn directly to their audiences to continue their career and this is where self-publshing makes sense – they have a fan base – they’ve honed their craft even if they haven’t gained a sustainable audience (in a publishers eyes). And authors are choosing to mix self-publshing and more traditional routes, which is really exciting as they can experiment for their core fans and keep drawing in a wider audience with a bit of luck.
But after all that I still can’t really answer: Where do authors get their validation in an age of self-publishing?