Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Publishing - self and otherwise

I just read Gordon's post on Self Publishing. I do not disagree with any of his points on procedure for self publishing.  I do think though that a lot of would be occult authors jump to that step without even considering traditional publishing.

There are a lot of advantages to having a real publisher that has books distributed to big box bookstores and lists the title with major distributors.Yet, more and more I am meeting potential occult authors who do not even want to try to get their book published widely.

There are a number of reasons that I have been given for this. These are actual reasons that people have given.

1. They are afraid of editors messing up their work - Folks, let me tell you, you are not that good. Unless you are a master writer or doing poetry the editor is not going to mess with your work to the point that it changes drastically. On both my books the editor did nothing but make the book better. I WISH the editor of TSS paid more attention to it, thankfully this should be fixed in the next printing. Chances are that your book needs editing. Almost every book I have gotten from Lulu does.

2. They want to make more money per copy - Yes, its true you will make only a couple bucks per copy if a publisher handles your book. You will however sell a hell of a lot more books than if you self publish. You can make 4 grand from selling 400 copies OR you could make 4 Grand from selling 3000 copies. In the first case you will be pretty much maxing out everyone you know and everyone that they know and you will be lucky to sell those 400 copies in a couple years. In the second case people you have never heard of will be picking up the book from book shelves and spreading your meme way further. Also, you don't have to do any of the actual distribution and shipping crap yourself, leaving time for your next projects.

3. They are afraid of rejection - If your fear of rejection is actually stopping you from trying than you need not to publish anything at all because even if you protected yourself from a publisher rejecting it, somewhere a reader will reject it by giving it a bad review. Either way you are going to go home and cry. Boo hoo. Man-up for Christ sakes. (Unless you aren't a man. In that case do whatever the female equivalent would be).

4. They want the book to be only seen by those that deserve it, and a small run makes it more occult and special - Oh for crying out loud. Who the hell do you think you are? Really? Thats how you judge the value of a book, by how fricking hard it is to get? Pathetic.

5. They want the book to be talismanic and be constructed in a certain way. - This is one of two good arguments that I have been given. I would argue that some books really should be done this way, but no where near as many as there are currently. In the UK for instance, it seems that every occult book of any kind must be bound in goat scrotum and printed with dragons blood on virgin parchment. If that is what you want, than fine, that is what you should do. Just remember though, for all the hullaballo that gets made about the various Chumbley books and their amazing quality printings (which I love) the first edition of the Azoetia was a paperback.

6. No one is going to publish my book on Lovecraftian BDSM Wizardry so it is probably not worth my time trying. Hmmmm. This argument get a maybe. On the one hand, I respect the management of time. If you are doing something really weird that only a very small publisher with no distribution would pick up anyway, than perhaps it is not worth your time. On the other hand not only did magical child publish the Vodou Gnostic Workbook, but Weiser re-published it. If your book is weirder than that, than I fear for your sanity.

So why bother to go through a regular book publisher? Here are a few reasons:

1. Widely published books that are actually sitting on shelves are ADVERTISING THAT YOU GOT PAID TO MAKE. Lots of people that will find you no other way will be interested in contacting you. You can than sell classes, courses, services, as well as more advanced or specialized POD books that you will make more money per copy from.

2. The book will survive longer. Today, my first book, published four years ago is #35,243 in all books on amazon and number 27 in books on magic. I dont check often, but once this year already it broke through to 9,482 in books and #5 in books on magic. My friend who self-published a book at the same time as my book is listed at 3,077,422.

3. You can sell the book before you write it. For me, this is huge. I can tell you for sure that I would never have finished a book if I had not been paid for it first. The motivation to produce was not strong enough to overcome both laziness and the need to perfect and revise endlessly. The motivation to not get sued was stronger.

4. It is just cool to have it on a shelf in a store that you wander into. Sounds silly, but it is fulfilling. Imagine you are on vacation and you wander with a friend into a Barnes and Noble. Whats that on the shelf? Why its your book! Imagine now that you are on date. Thats a big value builder.

5. You might get it translated into other languages, spreading your message even further. Yes, if you self publish you could pay to have someone translate it, but lets face it, wouldnt it be better to actually be paid to sell it to a foreign language publisher? P&RM has been in Spanish for quite a while now, and just last week I received a suprise package in the mail containing 10 copies of my book in Russian. Side note: if anyone reads Russian, I will send you a copy so you can tell me how good or bad it is. 

7. Its a qualifier in a way that self-published book just are not. Lets say you want to pimp yourself out to profnet in hopes of getting interviewed as an expert. Or maybe you want to give a lecture at the local college. Having a publisher publish your book says that your ideas and writings were at least good enough to get published. Self published books do not say this in the same way.

Since Crowley was used as an example by Gordon, lets talk Crowley. He did a lot of self publishing and no one can argue that his work has made an impact. There are two important points to keep in mind though. First, Crowley had very little competition. There just were not that many books on the occult when he was writing. Today there are thousands, making it very difficult to find you without good distribution. The second point I want to make is that Crowley died broke. He blew through a small fortune and died in a small public hospice only to have his ashes dumped on a tree in New Jersey by the drunk wife of the man he put in charge of his cult.

By all means, self-publish if that is what you want to do, but don't dismiss the idea of a widely published book.


Psyche said...

Agreed. As a reviewer of occult books for the past six years, all self-published titles are immediately thrown in the slush pile. It is extremely rare that I'll read and review them. They're very rarely worth the time.

Serpens said...

A minor niggle -- but Crowley died in a hotel in Hastings (UK). This isn't the same (in the UK at least) as a "small public hospice". In the late 1940s and early 1950s a great many elderly people lived in similar residential establishments.

Jason Miller, said...

I shall edit it to reflect that. Thank you.

Jason Miller, said...

I shall edit it to reflect that. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Very good points.

There can be though one additional challenge when publishing in a language that is not very widespread. For example, there are only a few million people who speak my native tongue. The challenge is that there simply are not any real publishers who would publish anything about occult topics - at least out of mainstream.

There is of course the possibility to write in English, but it is not as simple as writing with one's own language. In addition, there are also things that cannot be expressed properly in other languages. For example, my language has considerably richer vocabulary concerning nature than English has.

You might not want to write in a foreign language. In that case, self publishing might be the most practical option.

- Fractal Based Life Form

JustSaying said...

Your writing is just wonderful. Great info, well said and helpful. Thank you! It's also the best argument I've heard for finding a publisher. The second being that newspapers and the mainstream media in general have firm policies about NEVER reviewing self-published books - even good ones. So, you lose that angle as well. I should know - I was a journalist for 22 years...and that rule was written in stone!

Miss Sugar said...

Agreed. This conversation is also being had over in the sci-fi/fantasy comm too.