Take it away, Janine:
Recently, I finished writing a young adult, space opera novel. Like any author, my first thought was "where can I place this?" Like somewhat fewer authors, my conclusion was "let's try Kickstarter". Stevie pledged to my project and suggested I write a post about how I made that decision.
Why self-publishing? Three reasons in descending order.
When setting out to sell a novel, you have to think about your audience. Not the readership, but the person who will buy the novel rights directly from you. Usually, this is a large publishing house. (Side note: Agents are intermediaries with the exact same goal as you, so I'm grouping them into this category.)
Background. Here's the single-sentence hook for my novel Queen and Commander: A group of teenagers run away from society as fast as their illegally-obtained spaceship will take them.
Foreground. Here's why I know a large publishing house isn't going to buy it:
- It's a young adult novel, but it doesn't have a romance sub-plot.
- It takes place on a spaceships, but the current SF/F trends is for paranormal.
- It's an ensemble piece, not focused on just one pretty girl.
I could wait for spaceships and non-romance to come back in fashion with the people who have the money, or I could find another way.
2. The difference between self- and indie- publishing keeps shrinking.
Once I crossed major publishing houses off the list, that still left indie publishing houses. Indie houses can be great. They assign you an editor and an artist. They deal with the details like ISBNs, accounting, and printing proofs.
In return for this, they take the same benefits that a major publishing house does. They have the rights to your books for a specified period of time; they choose your editor; and they choose when to send you a royalty check. Speaking of money, they're running on tight budgets, so you aren't going to see a very large advance.
But, do you really need a publishing house for those things? I thought, if only I could rack up the initial capital, I could handle all the work myself. For instance, a self-publisher gets to choose her own editor. In the case of Queen and Commander, I know the novel will be edited by the very talented Cat Rambo, who has not only polished a variety of novels and magazines but specializes in literary science fiction and fantasy.
What about money?, you ask. It won't make much difference early on. This will be my first novel under my real name. (I do other work under pen names or for videogames that don't give individual credit.) As such, I expect it to make close to nothing. But with my copyright protected, if that changes three years from now, then the uptick will be mine mine mine.
3. If everybody jumped off a bridge...
Years ago, I wrote up a business plan to open my own publishing house. (I had a printing press contact in Hong Kong at the time.) But, I admit that the stigma of self-publishing or vanity pressing got to me.
Nowadays, though, everyone knows that good self-pub exists alongside the less-well-produced stuff. When I gave a reading at Foolscap 14 last weekend, I mentioned that my work was part of a self-published project, but quickly pointed out that I had a pro editor in the wings. One of the audience members laughed it off. "There's self-publishing," she said, "and then there's self-publishing." We all knew what she meant.
I'd like to say smart things about how I chose to try Kickstarter because
- I work in gaming, and I've seen indie games have success there.
- Stevie did it with a recent collection, and it worked out!
- It's free advertising for your project.
- I'm an utterly awesome trendsetter.
Really, though, I got bullied into it. Everyone around me said things like, "Are you going to try Kickstarter?" or pointed out that "Kickstarter is free if it doesn't work out, you know.".
I had no plan when I started my project, other than to say: "Here's what I'm making, and here's my plan for the money." And, hey, Queen and Commander already surpassed 50% funding.
If you like spaceship novels or want to support self-publishing endeavors
So, if you like spaceship novels or want to see how self-publishing might work in the current climate, please lend your support to Queen and Commander.