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Doing Both Self-Publishing & Traditional Publishing?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussion' started by Drae, Oct 30, 2013.

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    Drae Member

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    Hey guys!

    Since seeing @Chele going down the self-publishing route (congrats!), I realised that my opinion of self-publishing has improved over the years. When I first started looking into getting published in 2003, self-publishing options that were available were more often scams or pay-upfront £1000+ avenues. Thankfully I never went down that route back then :) Since then the progress in electronic publishing and print-on-demand services like Blurb have made self-publishing a more readily available option, even for the writer or artist with a low budget.

    It has played on my mind for the past few months - would I go down the self-publishing route nowadays? I think that yes, I would, but not for all my series and standalone. No matter which way you do it, I know there's a lot of work for us when we then go on to promote between the actual bill-paying job, social life and working on the next story. Which led me to wonder if I would ever do some Sizael pieces as self-published.

    So I was wondering two things really that I want to discuss here :) The first is should I consider writing books set in Sizael's world (it's an original fantasy - I would avoid including the few bits and pieces submitted by other members into the world)? And the other - what are your thoughts on using both self-publishing and traditional publishing? Would you do both routes, and if so, would you use one pen-name for the self-published pieces that is different to your pen-name for those traditionally published?
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    Desertpuma Growing Old is Mandatory, Growing Up is Optional

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    @Drae rock the Sizael stories. It is your home game setting. Run with it!

    I think publishing, whether self-publishing or traditional, is a worthy task. The biggest difference in my eyes is with self-publishing there is no rejection by an agency or a publishing house. One reason to use a different with pen name is when the publishing house requests/requires it.
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    Katniss' Snark Face Bitch, please.

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    2003-2007--I was in college for Creative Writing and self-publishing was considered a 'cop out' by a lot of my professors. They'd spend every free minute sending their works to traditional publisher after publisher. One of them had an office that was plastered in rejection letters. Even then, when we pressed him, he said it was better to go the traditional route than to 'vanity' publish. I guess it had something to do with getting validation as a writer if you're picked up by a traditional publisher? That's not exactly easy, though.

    Now--I think it's a lot more accepted than it used to be, especially with the rise of e-readers and tablets. Self-publishing is a lot faster, and gets your work into your hands in a finished format. You also keep a lot more control of the manuscript. Traditional publishing is still the route most people go for trying to 'hit it big' aka making money (which is still really difficult...). But the process can take months/years/never happen and then you're basically giving up a lot of your control. The publishing house will want edits and will question your work, etc. etc.

    Check out this article for some more information!

    As far as your questions...
    -If you own the idea and the content, go for it! Write about the world if that's what inspires you and makes you happy.
    -How would I publish? Personally I'd try the traditional route first, but there is a lot of heartbreak and rejection in that world. I dipped my toe into it when trying to get into literary magazines during my undergraduate years. It takes time and a thick skin. Genre fiction has a niche in both markets and I think both types of publishing could be viable for something in a fantasy universe, it really depends on what your long term goals of publishing are--attempting to make a career out of writing alone, or just to get your works out to the general public.
    -Pen names are sort of to each their own. I use my maiden name for my writing so it separates itself from my actual job (which alas, is not in writing stuff.) It's all preference.

    Hope this helped!
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    Chele Writer:odd being that transforms caffeine to books

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    Firstly, Thank you @Drae, it's been a stressful journey, but exciting just the same.

    As for looking at both avenues, absolutely! The publishing term for it is a 'Hybrid author', and you can choose exactly how you want to do it. I'll give three examples that I am familiar with.

    Hugh Howey is a hybrid author, as he self-publishes his novels, but he also has a 'print only' contract for them (at least for the Silo series.) The publishing company get all the usual rights and royalties from print copies of his novels, but they get nothing from his online sales.
    - For those who are interested, this is why Hugh Howey has become a bit of a legend. Unlike EL James, who sold all her rights the minute a publishing company was interested, Hugh turned down numerous companies because they wanted his eBook rights. Seeing as he self-published the books, paid for editing, etc, and had a product completely ready to go online, there was no point in him selling the eBook rights. He'd done all the work, why should someone else reap the profits? Instead, he held out for a publishing company who were willing to negotiate on a print only deal, which is what he got. Now he's sold in the hundreds of thousands (if not millions.)

    I can't think of a name at the moment, but I know they exist in quite a surprising quantity, but another option with Hybrid authors is to sell some books to a publishing house, and self-publish the others. This is most frequent in authors who write over a series of genres. They will keep their 'publishing house brand' as a single entity, say Fantasy, and then will write stories in other genres and self-publish them.

    The third option is more for writers who have been in the business long term. They keep their deals with publishing houses for their current novels. However, once the rights for the books return to them from the publishing house, they self-publish their back catalogue, as it were. The internet never runs out of shelf space, so they can keep all their books on sale easily.

    Now, as to the questions...

    Sizael - Absolutely. Use the elements you have created and turn them into stories. You created it! Hell, my first book is half born of Interitus. The only thing to be very careful about is who created what, so be sure that anything you are using is your own, or you have explicit written permission to use it. Even with written permission, I would keep the other person content to a minimum.
    For example of this, I used three characters originally created by my co-admin. The writing and plotting of the novel is all me, she has no input in what happens to the characters, but I didn't want to lie about it, or slap different names on and say she had nothing to do with it. - I dedicated the novel to her for that exact reason.

    Pen Name - I wouldn't say that this is a necessity if you don't want to do it. I would say that this is a branding situation and how you want readers to view you. So, let's have three examples, one where I would keep the same pen name, one where I would change it, and one where it's debateable....

    Keep it: You're a hybrid author, writing in similarish genres (say Thrillers and Slasher Horror, or Chick Lit and Erotica) for both your traditionally published and your self-published works. Readers who enjoy your traditionally published work will most likely enjoy your self-published work.

    Change it: You're a hybrid author writing in vastly different genres. Your traditionally published work is for children, and your self-published work is erotica, for example. There is absolutely NO cross over in your readership. In fact, you wouldn't want there to be.

    Debateable: You're writing in a multitude of genres and there is a chance of cross over for some of them, but not for others. So, for example, you write Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Post-Apoc, and Chick Lit. However, there is nothing to stop readers from enjoying all of them. Here, instead of an all out pen name, I would suggest the use of a full first name for one, and initials for the others. So, Chick Lit would be under Jane Smith, where as the Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Post-Apoc would be under J. Smith. Therefore, it's easy for readers to connect the two, but there is still a separation between the different genres.
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    Drae Member

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    @Desertpuma I love your view of the difference between them!

    @Happicuppa It has helped, thank you! I do not mind if I don't make money whichever route I take (though I am thinking that perhaps being a hybrid author will bring me the most fun). As a self-employed assistant director/adminstrator, I'm already paying 30% of my earnings to to HMS Revenues XD So I know that whichever route I go down, there is the possibility of gaining only 40-30% of the price. So becoming rich doesn't bother me. Sure if somebody wants to buy the film rights, I won't say no but that'll go into promotion and self-improvements in my other areas of interest (art and coding haha).

    I've tried literary agents before. Four at the current count (lots more to go). xD It's been a few years since I approached any now (last time was in 2009), as I moved around a lot and have only just settled in my current place. I'm reworking from scratch the first book in my main series again too which doesn't help xD.

    The one that will go traditional is a bit of a difficult one in terms of showing a literary agent that it has potential. I've had a few reviews done by beta readers of the 2009 completely-rewritten version which were good, but trying to make an agent go, "oo!" at a mix of fantasy crime that also included magically polluted cats that can talk as one race (everyone else is a human), is a bit difficult haha! But then that's how it is for everything lol.

    I think the way that I would do it would be to get the Sizael stories published through self-publishing, and then the main series and the majority of my other books and series through traditional still unless I really really do well (but let's not get hopeful here haha).

    Was there any reason why you chose to use a pen name to seperate it from your job, @Happicuppa ?

    @Chele you're very welcome! (Nice website by the way!)

    I find that really interesting. A few years back I played around with Blurb but held off on getting the book I was toying with from being printed. Their software was nice though, although as I was using Works instead of Word I couldn't import and had to manually copy and edit huge chunks. On the plus side, I found I enjoyed all the formatting/preparing the layout for the internals. I've also found a few editors on Google+ and Elance that look to be pretty good and recommended.

    All of my books so far have been mostly fantasy in genre, with my main series having a strong element of crime in it (because one of the main protagonists is a type of law enforcer for that serie's main kingdom). I did start once doing some sci-fi but since reading Jack Campbell's stuff realised it was too similiar to his and that I much prefer reading his work than writing something very like it xD

    I know that if I do do the Sizael books, it'll definitely only feature my bits and pieces (and character), possibly some of the Major NPCs too (they're my design and I've played them since the beginning too). I will be sure to double-check everything though :) Thanks!

    I'm still iffing and umming over the pen name. I like the idea of using Drae for Sizael (with some sort of last name), but it feels like it is only because I associate my roleplaying name Drae/Draegon with Sizael. My real name is Janine which never really suited me. I much preferred other names as a kid. I do already have a pen name thought up that isn't to do with my roleplaying alias, which my friends have called me by (well the first name at least) for a good few years now.
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    fido Member

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    Self-publishing didn't have a rep years ago because it wasn't viable. Kindle changed that, owing to Amazon's influence and the captive audience they provided.

    1. This is sticky territory. If one of your members threads a plot similar to your novel, when you publish your novel, she might have a legal claim that you stole her intellectual property. Better safe than sorry, in my opinion, but you might be willing to take the risk.

    More practically, there's a very strong chance your plots, characters, and settings are more suited to a roleplaying game than a novel simply because a novel has different requirements, e.g. purposeful storyboarding with little downtime between actions packaged in a novel with a beginning and end and one or two clear problems that must be resolved, rising action and falling action, characters with vulnerabilities and growth arcs, a villain. A roleplay is usually experimentation and a meandering stroll through a park with stops at landmarks and roadside vendors, maybe some smelling of the roses. Your characters may be underdeveloped or your setting. If you're still interested despite all that, I recommend using your setting and starting with a new character because your character's journey in-game is almost certainly not suited to a novel, because a novel has different needs and because you are not full owner of those plots since they were written collaboratively.

    2. Traditional or self publishing depends largely on your content. You said yours is fantasy/crime, I believe. While some publishers market very little, particularly in certain genres or with certain debuts, the shelf space they buy you on a retail shelf offers discoverability (connecting the right readers to your work) where many authors, especially if they aren't writing in "hot" genres, get lost in the lists at Amazon. You have a day job, so it's unlikely that you'd be able to accomplish the legwork necessary to spread your name in the way that a simple place on a Barnes & Noble shelf would. However, if your work is too niche, you may not have a choice. Publishers are being honest when they send you back a "we don't know how to market this" letter. If your work is very commercial -browse a publisher or agency catalogues and submission guidelines to figure this out- this may not be an issue for you.

    If you're writing and promoting yourself full-time and your product's rather niche, self-publish. If not, try to publish traditionally, and be aware that most writers do not sell their first books. You may try to reorganize your book to make it more salable as well. I may be misunderstanding your premise, but if you have a novel following talking cats, then your audience is probably children's/young adult, and you'll want to revise with that audience in mind. Regarding pennames, if your actual name's too common, already published/famous -I hope your last name isn't Garofalo!- difficult to remember or spell, you're interested in multiple genres or your image is important in your day job, e.g. law, or you're writing risque content in a conservative community, then it's best to write with a penname.
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    stainsofpeach One Day at a Time

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    You can definitely do both, as Chele rightly said, we call that a hybrid author. And in fact, the very idea of traditionally published is getting fixed with indie-houses springing up. You have to figure out what's best for you.

    As for Hybrid authors, unless you are Hugh Howley or E.L James, and let's face it, the rest of us aren't, it is still not really seen as good form by agents/publishers to go self-pub with your first book. They can be pretty elitist about it and they definitely look at the sales of that self-published book when considering later submissions.
    According to a lot of interviews I've read, it comes across as impatient and it turns agents off. But that is changing all the time as well and there are quite a lot of agents now, who handle international rights and stuff for self-published authors. Despite famous examples, it is still far more prevalent for traditionally published authors to sell some of their stuff by themselves rather than the other way around.

    Personally, I don't quite understand why you want to pick self-publishing before even trying anything else and waiting for the feedback. Like someone said above: self-publishing because it's niche, or because it's a genre that has a big readership but it's not currently a trend so publishing houses don't want it, those are good ideas. Self-publishing because you want to avoid rejection or feedback or just to check it out... not so much. It hurts all serious self-publishers if some do it without forethought + proper editing, and just because you can.
    I'm not saying that's what you are planning, but I would be careful there - you have no idea how many review sites and readers closed their sites to self-pubbers because of the way they were treated and the quality of the books they received. Now all of them suffer.
    You see this over and over again.

    As for pen name, that is also changing rapidly. Mostly now, especially indie authors (and here I count self-pubbers and small publishing house published) realize that their body of work propels them forward, so you kind of start at the beginning with a new name, social media-wise pretty much no matter the genre.
    Then again, in self-publishing you can easily change your name and re-release it, so you might as well use one, in case it tanks, so that you can distance yourself from it completely. For see above reasons however, I would be a little suspicious of that. I mean if you believe in what you write, stand by it, otherwise don't publish it, you know?
    [Which isn't to say pen names are bad at all, just for this particular purpose.]

    Because yeah, everybody is right, the views on self-publishing are changing, but that is a very special kind of self-publishing. The very serious and planned out and dedicated kind. 90% of self-published books are still considered utter rubbish and you have to do everything you can to show people you are the serious, dedicated kind.
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    Tallypop hooray for socks

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    Totally in favor of going hybrid myself. The costs and benefits of publishing options are so different these days, it almost feels remiss to not take advantage of all the opportunities out there! You get things from indie publishing you'd ever get from a major publishing house, and the reverse is also true, and that's not even touching the huge variety of small press options out there.

    I'll be utilizing both options myself as I wind up my first and second novels next year. @Rhi-Rhi and I are also collaborating on a series of shorts and a duet of novels which will go out under an indie plan.

    The pen name thing...man have I waffled about this constantly. Still do! Have not been able to find a consensus on this one either. You can find professionals out there who swear by one path or the other, either using different pen names or keeping everything under one author brand, and you can find people making a living doing it both ways! Lindsay Buroker recently weighed in on the topic, and you can find good arguments for both options, but easily the best breakdown I've ever heard of this whole thing was one particular episode of SPP, and gosh DARN IT I have spent like the last 20 minutes trying to track down that specific episode but I just can't find it. >_o

    The gist of it, coming from a group of indie authors making a good living off their work, was that it is way better to work under one pen name, BUT you have to do it right. Brand yourself immediately as a writer and creator of a wide body of work, rather than "I am So-And-So the MEDIEVAL FANTASY AUTHOR". If I run across the episode, I'll post the link here!
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    fido Member

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    Lol. I read the opposite about branding, but that was from traditionally published authors, so maybe the dynamics are different. I personally think multiple pen names has a pretty strong argument, unless your fan base is pretty well established.
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    Drae Member

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    Hi @fido !

    I have been a little worried about what might happen if somebody decided that they see a thread idea in my book that is similar to something they contributed to. The way to protect myself that I've decided on doing, is to focus on my characters' "untold chapters", including that of the Major NPCs.

    For example, my oldest surviving character on Sizael is a knight called Mairi that I've played since 2008. There's a huge gap in her history that has been slowly filled in over the years as she went travelling around the world - this was done on purpose so I could have excuses to explore and expand the world hehe, so I can write the tales of when she was in Fraelin (which isn't a playable area, and has different social elites and cultures to the playable areas). It also covers the Fraedab War, which though it is mentioned in the guidebook, has never been explored by anyone other than myself due to it being set in Fraelin and thus unavailable for roleplaying.

    My other characters are pretty good at wandering off too - Lord Captain Boxien (a now-retired Major NPC of my creation) was a soldier assassin of the Deabition Army, sub-contracted out by the Great Deabition General to Havazeti and Alfendyr (those three are Major NPCs, all dead, of my own design too). I also have brand new characters that were never in the previous game chapters, and races and locations I would love to explore in the books that likely will never be released on the roleplay site. In conclusion, I feel it is safe for me to explore my own world XD

    The fantasy-crime books will be going down the traditional publishing root (literary agents & publishers). It's just for the Sizael stuff that I'm thinking of self-publishing.

    Talking cats - you misunderstood ;) . All characters but one are human in the fantasy-crime series. My last name isn't very common at all - only seven people in the world have it due to my parents' registrar at their wedding spelling my father's name wrong, and they liked it so the kept it. It's difficult to spell though for those that don't sound it out xD

    @stainsofpeach

    In some ways, Sizael is very different to what I generally write (the fantasy-crime stuff), though Sizael could have elements of it, to me it is more of an action-fantasy. In my mind at least, the two would be very different in feel, so this is why I am considering self-publishing the Sizael series, if I do decide to publish them. You bring forward some interesting points though, so I'll be taking those into account.

    @Anemoi Good luck to you and @Rhi-Rhi ! I'm thinking after seeing Fido's comment about easily-spelled names that it may be better for me to use a pen name, but I'll definitely keep in mind your advice about branding yourself right :)

    Thanks to everyone for your replies. I've got editors picked out in case I do decide that I want to self-publish a few books and have decided to be a hybrid-author when it's time.
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