And here’s the last bit of my thoughts on the SFFWorld discussion on factors regarding self-publishing and partner publishing with a publisher:
But that’s what you will run into sometimes marketing a book to publishers, asking them to invest in you — the people who hear about it or read it will have different reactions and different readings of the market. These readings, as I said, are not based on market research. It’s pretty much anecdotal and sometimes quite inaccurate. I knew a writer once who was a producer in British t.v. She had a woman’s fiction novel about a middle-aged woman dealing with a life crisis, with some humor. Perfect for the audience that was reading Joanna Trollope and Maeve Binchy type stories into bestsellerdom. She ran into a couple of agents who liked her writing but announced that it must be considered “chick-lit” — female driven comedies (it wasn’t; it was a drama mostly,) and that chick lit was dead and over in the British market. Then she found another agent and an editor who loved it and gave her a two book deal. And chick lit in Britain expanded over the next five years, produced numerous bestsellers and wasn’t dead. But the two agents who thought it chick lit and chick lit dead were high powered and probably didn’t enjoy female comedies and were dealing with whining from editors who were tired of female contemporary fiction submissions. They tried to predict the market and guessed wrong. But the other agent and the editor had a different take.
If you are very interested in partner publishing, finding an investor partner takes time and will not be a united front. You have to go beyond two or three editors or agents. But if you decide that you’re willing to make attempts on your own and that this will suit you better than trying to find people to back it, then self-pub is a solid option. But partner publishing is really not drying up. They are putting out more books than before. But with the economy uneven and repeated recessions in Europe, acquisitions (getting them to invest in you,) is still tough in many areas. But two no’s don’t mean it’s all no’s or that the no’s really know what’s going to happen in the market and with your work. Every editor and agent, no matter how high, has at least one if not several cases of a book that they turned down and let go which ended up being a success for some other agent and/or publisher. If you get them drunk enough in the bar at a convention, they’ll tell you the stories. There have even been a few books published through the decades that are collections of rejection letters received by bestselling and acclaimed authors. If you are going to try partner publishing, you’re going to get rejected. It’s a given. And if you try self-pubbing, you are going to get rejected by readers and people will write nasty reviews. If you get successful, the percentage of people who hate your work will expand accordingly. But if you get a partner publisher who goes for your stuff and the book does well, or you self-pub and you find an audience and the book does well, it doesn’t matter. It was just part of the process.
A good part of your “success” depends on your writing, but not all of it. The part that depends on your writing depends on your work connecting with people, entertaining them and interesting them, which is again, not a school assignment. It’s not about whether your writing is “good” to some imaginary objective standard, nor whether it is “commercial” to some imaginary objective standard. And that you are writing something “popular” or “not popular” has very little to do with your success. For every “teen vampire romance” that you think you see doing well, hundreds more didn’t do well at all and thousands more were never picked up by publishers or self-published. For every teen vampire romance, there are thousands of YA novels that are not teen vampire romance. Writing a teen vampire romance or not writing a teen vampire romance gets you nothing either way. Being cheery and good with social media is certainly nice, but you can do that and still not get sales and word of mouth. The writers you see who seem to be good with social media? That was a trait about them noticed by others once they had large sales, which then gave them more of a reputation on the Net, not the other way around. You can certainly get some folk willing to give your novel a go if they are familiar with you, but you can’t make them like it and talk about it and you can’t get a guarantee. If your publisher does a large campaign to back you up, it may be enormously helpful. Or it may not sell well enough. If your publisher ignores you or you do self-pub and can’t do much, your book may still take off. When other people’s books do well, it helps you have more of a chance to find an audience for your work. When other books do badly, it doesn’t really effect your book. (It does in non-fiction, but not fiction.) You do not compete with other fiction authors directly. Stuff happens in your life. Economies change and effect market factors. So one writer’s path is not like another’s and nobody knows what will happen for sure with any book, any author at any time. Predictions you get are guesses. They may be guesses with decent information and experience behind them, but still just guesses.
You do not know what will happen to you unless you go out there and see. And you don’t have to be a bestseller to have a career in fiction writing. How much you try, what you do, what’s your limit is all personal to you. My suggestions are don’t assume that you know who the audience is and what they want. Don’t assume that they will hate you either. Work out what will work for you and what you want to try to do. The rest is in the wind, pretty much.
Hopefully all that is not too disjointed. You can check out the full thread (link above) where a number of people made some good points and talked about their experiences.