Kicking It to the Man

There’s this Kickstarter frenzy going on these days. College-mate Jason Harrod‘s got a new CD coming out and is Kickstarting it. You should check it out. Also check out his CD that Uncle Phil produced some years ago. It’s one of the ones I keep in my car because I don’t mind listening to it straight through since I only have a CD player in there and no way to listen to my iPod while driving.

Evidently Neil Gaiman‘s wife Amanda Palmer (who I’m sure I should have heard of before, but hadn’t until I joined Twitter) is Kickstarting a new album for her band, too. I think she funded in like a day, and she, and he, and plenty of other people were tweeting jubilantly about how “This is the future of music!” In her intro video to her Kickstarter site, she mentions being glad not to be under a record label anymore.

What do you think?

Kickstarter funds other artistic projects, too, including books. Right now numerous blogging friends are publicly wondering about the various publishing avenues open to writers these days. There’s the traditional route, which I went down before, and check it out! I got published! However, given my publishers’ size, and niche market, and obscurity (they’re in Scotland, for goodness’ sake), and probably relative budget, marketing seemed a bit minimal, there was no advance, and I haven’t seen any 10% royalties since the year it came out. I never planned to get rich off of writing (or in any other way, really), and at the time I was mostly grateful to get published. On the other hand, if you’re going to write a book, I guess you naturally want as broad a readership as possible, and being on the receiving end of a little bit of money at least, would be nice.

Blogging friend Jasdye has recently self-published two ebooks through Amazon. (Why am I not getting a commission from all these people the last month or so?) Amazon has various package options, priced according to services rendered. Back when Trees got published (and when I “met” Jasdye), self-publishing was like signing your own publishing death warrant; if you ever hoped to go mainstream, you could just forget about it when you self-published, you self-aggrandizing, attention-seeking wordie. But it’s not like that anymore. Now, if hearsay and even Writer’s Digest are to be believed, it’s almost like you gain some credibility (as long as people actually buy your self-published book) if you go that route. And it’s sure a lot quicker and easier than trying to get some agent or publisher to notice your work in the morass of words that flood their desks and/or inboxes.

The thing is, there’s still a part of me that feels like, if an agent or publisher does notice your work first, it provides some validity to your writing. Right? I’ve read some self-published books that would never have gotten published by a traditional publisher, and shouldn’t have been. I don’t want to put another book like that out there. And, well–that third book I mentioned having written? I’m happy with the ideas. I’m happy with the voice. I’m happy with the way the story and the character progresses. But something’s off. I think it has something to do with my difficulties in “showing, not telling.” I don’t know. I think I’d be okay with self-publishing it (for many reasons, some of which will be highlighted in another post), but I really kind of wish I had a professional editor who could read it and advise me on it first. I don’t want it facing the rest of the world until it’s absolutely the best it can be. I did have The Item read it for me once, and while he’s a good writer whose literary opinion I respect, he’s also my friend and I just can’t feel sure he’s entirely unbiased. And our respective writing styles are so different, that when he offered stylistic suggestions, I couldn’t quite bring myself to agree with him because I don’t express myself the way he expresses himself. And it would be boring if all books sounded the same.

But maybe I could start a Kickstarter project. Maybe I could find out what a reasonable self-publishing package (with both electronic and hard-copy book options, and decent marketing) cost, and what it would cost to hire an editor to vet my story, and see if my next book could hit the shelves (and people’s Kindles) that way. I don’t know. I’m not famous. Could I? Would you back it? And what do you think would make good incentives?

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3 thoughts on “Kicking It to the Man

  1. I can see the value of having an editor but I’m reading more books by self-published writers that are very good, and I think they’re making plenty of money (i.e. being read).

  2. All good questions! I think I still share your skepticism about self-publishing. I want an editor to help me with my work, but I also kinda want that gold-star-feeling when the teacher pats you on the back and tells you you’re doing good. The publishing industry is certainly changing and agents and professional publishers are going to have to work harder to prove their worth in the face of successful self-publishers, but I still think they have a role – I still think we need some kind of gatekeepers. The problem with the self-publishing route becoming more affordable and less shameful is that we’re heading towards total saturation. Yes, some self-published books are brilliant, but my worry is that the majority should have been left in the slush-pile.

  3. What a difficult position that we all find ourselves in! I consider myself lucky that I haven’t finished writing my book, and I don’t even want to consider publishing options until its done. Still, that time will come – I had thought self-publishing would work, but I also am attracted to the idea of a writing and editing professional being able to review my work. That is, if they ever actually read it. At the moment, I feel that I can’t honestly feel satisfied with my book until it’s been rejected a couple dozen times!

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