Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

To Indie or Not to Indie, part 1

In Uncategorized on February 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm

To Indie or Not to Indie, part 1

As if the writing life weren’t complex enough, now we also have to face a new sort of decision-making.

Should I become my own publisher?

There certainly hasn’t been a better time for it. In years past, there was vanity publishing, where you paid thousands of dollars to some company to print your book and fill your garage with beautiful copies you’d probably never sell. Sure, if you were a marketing whiz, you might sell some, or all. The mythology is full of stories in which inspired writers went out and hand-sold so many copies that they were noticed by Big Publishing and given huge contracts and advances and then they Had Arrived. For every one of those stories there were probably ten thousand less exciting tales of garages and basements filled with dusty unsold books.

But, hey, people play the lottery, and look at THOSE odds!

There was also self-publishing, which differed from vanity publishing not because of a lack of vanity, but because at least you spent your money as your own publisher. Like building your own house by subcontracting out the work, you were in charge and contracted out the printing to a company that didn’t care to fleece you, they just got paid for their work. If you were a good cover artist, or had an artist or graphic designer friend, this might work reasonably well. You’d probably spend less, have more control, and end up with a better product. But maybe there’d also be the same full garage or basement.

The web brought about self-publishing with POD, where you could do all the work and pay only for a small batch of copies, sell them, and reprint more, all for much lower per-unit cost. Better, but still not likely to rocket to the top of any bestseller list. And places like Lulu came about where you could do the POD thing much more easily and without any major outlay of cash, paying only a percentage of every sale. Not bad, and a fair amount of books came about this way. Some small-time publishers used this method, like POD, to print some books that might otherwise not have existed. I know, because I had stories in a few such anthologies. Good credits, even if I didn’t make much money, or (in one case) any money at all.

And then ebooks came along… ten years ago. Yes, by the year 2000 there were ebooks and ebook readers. And barely anyone noticed. Well, some folks did. Romance and erotica readers, I’m told, embraced the new technology. I did, too, publishing my first collection as an ebook through one of those ebook publishers who sprang up seemingly overnight. Sold a few copies, too – enough to buy a couple pizzas. Eventually, my publisher disappeared… or was swallowed by another, like fish in the big, bad ocean. I’m not sure what even happened to my ebook. Spit out into the sand, deep underwater.

And then the REAL ebook revolution came along, the one named Kindle.

And the rest is and will be history.

Because it started a gold rush of sorts, a gold rush that in a couple short years is coming close to toppling traditional publishing as we knew it. There may be a little life in trad-pub yet, but it’s a fish gasping for air on a beautiful, sandy beach. Maybe the tide ill bring with it a little life, but then it’s get swept up again and left high and dry. Just a matter of time.

Now we have good options for self-publishing, because Amazon, the Kindle’s Dr. Frankenstein, gave its Creature more than life. It gave the monster a backstory and a personality and a humanity you can’t argue with: actual money payments to writers who decide to upload and sell their own books. And a marketplace full of people looking to buy.

Suddenly “going indie” means a lot more than it ever did.

Going indie can really pay off. Just look up Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, Karen McQuestion, Zoe Winters, and others (name-dropping here courtesy of the legendary Konrath blog). And even if you aren’t like any of those lucky people, it can pay off well enough to make a lot of sense.

Books agents couldn’t sell, or backlists that had been forgotten, books that were “close” but hadn’t passed some arcane test of whether readers would buy them, tests administered by admittedly myopic publishing houses… these books suddenly gained new life, or first life.

The monster begat more monsters.

And the decision became both easier and more complex.

To go indie or not to go indie.

NEXT: Let’s take a look at the implications, and why the decision can still be complex.

W.D. Gagliani



Coming soon…

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm


Coming soon in all e-reader formats.

Making It.

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Farther back than I can remember, probably as far back as my mother can remember, I’ve felt compelled to express myself creatively. Whether it was sitting with pencil and paper after watching the late Saturday night monster movies, to sketch my designs for the next mammoth foe Godzilla should face, or attempting to create a new fiend to terrorize some future AD&D campaign, or listening to – subsequently learning – and then mutating a Geezer Butler bass line to make it my own, this compulsion has never waned.

As people tend to gravitate towards others with similar interests, in the course of years I’ve had to good fortune to meet a lot of very talented individuals. It’s humbling when I think of all the truly gifted musicians, artists, and writers I’ve had the opportunity to meet and, in some cases, work with. And this doesn’t even take into account the great deep thinkers with whom I’ve discussed and debated ideas until the candles burned low.

And yet I don’t know anyone personally who’s “made it.”

Despite knowing musicians who have had major label record deals, preformed with bands that had gold record sales numbers, or recorded albums that inspired future generations of musicians, and knowing award-winning writers and writers with multiple mass market paperbacks in print available in every major bookstore chain, I personally don’t know any who’ve been able to quit their day jobs and create – on their own terms – full-time.

This isn’t to say that I don’t know writers who earn their living writing; writers who teach creative writing or English classes, writers who write for the local newspaper, or who work as technical writers during the day so they can knock down a few precious words of fiction at night. I can only assume that most of them still hope to one day land the major book or movie deal that would free up their time and allow them to put their imaginings to paper day in and day out.

I can say the same for musicians, as I know many who earn a full-time living by giving lessons during the day, and playing a variety of music styles (generally to whoever pays the most) at night, working as studio engineers, or manning soundboards at concert venues. This is a far cry from signing tits with a sharpie and taking a limo to the Lear jet.

It’s not for lack of talent. And it’s not for lack of work ethic, as many of these individuals are tireless. And I would hate to think that it all comes down to luck. As I age, I tend to think that maybe it’s about skewed expectations.

When I was younger, I just assumed that anyone who had a major label record deal, or sold a book to a publishing giant, was set for life. As I study it more closely, I find time and time again these individuals returned from the experience and settled into a life more ordinary, usually never reaching the summit of the mountain, but finding a niche somewhere on the slope before descending again: writers who penned one great novel, or one unforgettable short story, and then disappeared never to be heard from again; musical groups who created one masterful recording and then disbanded, or were never again able to capture the perfect blend of rhythm and melody to keep them relevant. Or even more often, artists who were inspirational to me but were somehow overlooked by the rest of the world, the ones who made such a small ripple in the pool that if you weren’t in the right place at the right time you would have missed it entirely.

The bottom line is that, though it would be nice to see some money trickling in, I don’t expect to retire early. And maybe I’ll never be able to quit my day job. Maybe I’ll never “make it” as an artist, a writer, or a musician.

But that’s okay, I’m in good company.


David Benton 2/12/11