asking a question about publishing choices

Stephen Watkins has done a lot on his blog to try to separate the thinking from the chaff in all the verbiage being thrown around these days on The State of (and The Future of) the Publishing Industry.

I always read his posts on the subject, though I don’t always read the posts he links to and quotes from (my interest only goes so far, since I’m not really considering either independent or major publishing). But sometimes I do follow the links, and the thing which has struck me most is how emotional some bloggers get about the whole thing.

A lot of independent-publishing enthusiasts talk like they’re plucky Rebel fighters trying to explode the Death Star of traditional publishing (and they seem confident that the Death Star is about to implode anyway). Others stand firm in the camp of the traditional publishers, sarcastically dismissing small-press and indie works (often while cheerfully admitting that they’ve never actually read any).

My comment on one recent post (“Logic Error“) said:

I’m getting the idea that some people have a really strong emotional reaction against traditional publishing – the endless waiting, the rejection, the loss of control – and so they decide to go indie. But then, since this is a “business decision,” they feel obligated to construct an edifice of logic (good or, in this case, bad) to justify their choice. (This goes back to what we were discussing a few days ago – the anger that some people seem to feel about Big Pub.)

This goes the other way, too. To some people, publishing doesn’t seem “real” if it isn’t with a major. That feeling doesn’t have any effect on whether the traditional publishing model will continue to be viable over the next few decades or not, but once the decision is made, the retroactive logic is brought into play.

My reaction to both camps is the same: if your decision is based on logic, your logic needs to be good; but if you’re going with your gut, just relax and say so.

I publish the way I do because it gives me great pleasure to do so. Period. And for me, that is more than adequate reason.

So, here’s my question for any and all writers. How have you made your decision yet (small/indie press vs. trying to get picked up by a major)? If so, how much of it was based on analysis, and how much by gut? Or, if you haven’t yet made the decision, are you tending in one direction or the other? If so, is the tendency more from your gut or your head?


Speaking of which, more of Stevie One is posted. The new parts begin here. If you have been wondering whether there was going to be a murder in this story, the answer has turned out to be yes.

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11 Responses to asking a question about publishing choices

  1. tsbazelli says:

    The ‘passionate’ responses from either camp really take me aback. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t one right way for anyone to do it, and one person’s idea of success may not be the same as another. It’s not all about money for some people, and by that note, it is others and that’s ok too.

    I haven’t made my decision, but I’d like to keep my options open. I’m watching what’s going on with a little interest. In the end I think I’ll make my decision as a mix of gut and logic. I’ll need to sort out what I really want to get out of publishing, and what it would take for me to consider myself successful.

  2. sonje says:

    My decision to go with self-publishing was because I could not make peace with giving up control of my work to a small press–and there aren’t any major publishers publishing the sub-genre I was writing. I’m very happy with my decision. Now I just have to self-publish the damn series. June. I’m saying June. You heard it here first!*

    *book #1 at least, hopefully more.

  3. Theresa: I think that’s the key — to figure out what will be satisfying to you. Not always easy to figure out in advance, of course, but realizing that there are different options is the big first step.

    Sonje: If you weren’t happy giving up control to a small press, I would imagine (not based on any experience, mind you) that it would be even worse with a major publisher.

    June, huh? I’m ready. :-)

  4. Kristan says:

    Absolutely 100% ditto what Theresa said. I’m too emotional of a person to take gut/feelings out of the decision, BUT I think I’m openminded enough to recognize that there are lots of different paths, none “better” than the other, just different, and my circumstances might make one path more logical/smarter from a business-sense.

    I think your observations about emotional reactions vs. logic are really key, though. People feel like emotion isn’t a good enough reason, but why not?

  5. I hope it’s clear from the way I post, but I’m mostly in the same place as Bazelli.

    In fact, that comes from a key lesson in one of my favorite classes in my MBA: that success is defined differently for different people (and can even be defined differently for the same person). It’s not always useful to boil measurement of success down to one single, supposedly universal metric.

    So I, for one, am glad that there are multiple viable options for authors these days.

    I haven’t yet made up my mind, but I tend toward preferring the traditional commercial publishing route. At an analytical/evidentiary level, the evidence on that is mixed. And there are some things I’m not willing to sacrifice in order to achieve traditional publication. But at an emotional level, I recognize that I have a strong affinity for the kinds of books I’ve read and enjoyed in the past, and those have always been traditional books from traditional publishers. And I crave that same emotional connection. That’s not rational, of course, so I do seek some rational basis for whatever my decision will be. But I recognize that what will work for me, eventually, will not necessarily work for anyone else.

    • Stephen: I’ve seen the same phenomenon (different definitions of “success” for different people) in bands, too. When I was a regular at CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City during the New Wave years, it was pretty easy to tell which bands had their sights on big-time stardom and which were really happy to be able to pack a small, sweaty club from time to time and be big stars on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (and not have a day job). Both are perfectly valid goals.

      (A band I was in did a gig with Madonna once, when she was just starting out, and backstage she advised our lead singer to be more sexy on stage and to fire the rest of us. She also got very huffy about having to share the only dressing room with us. She was clearly not looking forward to a happy life playing small clubs. :-) )

  6. Kristan: The reverse, though, is that there are some decisions where people want to make the choice mostly (or entirely) by emotion. I’ve never known anybody who made up a spreadsheet to decide who they wanted to marry.

    Of course, I have known some people who would have been better off applying a bit _more_ logic to that decision, so maybe the moral is that there should be a balance, with all decisions.

    (Edited to make it clear who I was responding to.)

  7. Stephen (#2): I just thought of another example. When I put out an e-book (whenever I do) I’ll also do a hard copy book, even though it’s a lot more work and it’s quite possible nobody will buy it.

  8. Hey Anthony! I just awarded you the Sunshine Blog Award! You can read about it here: http://laurastanfill.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/the-joy-of-sunshine-2/

  9. sonje says:

    The differences with a major publisher are that the advance would likely be 5-6 figures and their marketing and PR would be 10-100 times better. It’s one thing to give up control for something like $$$$ and marketing. It’s another to give it up for basically nothing.

  10. Laura: Jinkies! Thank you very much for the award, and for the very kind words over at your blog. I have a feeling I didn’t pass along the last award I got (I don’t like giving them to the same people over and over) but I will pass this one along, at least partly because I want to answer your questions. :-)

    Sonje: That’s my thinking also. I’m fiercely protective of my characters, However, if I should get that call from a big movie studio, wondering if the Jan Sleet mysteries could be modified a tiny bit so they could be a vehicle for Robert Downey Jr. — well, I’d take the call. :-)

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