Saturday, January 08, 2011

Publishing And Writing

Two very different skill sets. Results vary. Interests vary, and for more reasons than mere mechanics; ask any writer who's had to do a book tour just how much energy they would choose to spend on self-promotion vs. actually writing, then extrapolate that to having to do every step but feeding the press yourself. There are good reasons for dividing that labor.

Larry Correia did a great job on his self-published first novel. His subsequent works from a bigtime pro publisher benefit, I strongly suspect, from his attention to detail and understanding of the process. SF and fantasy -- perhaps especially his style, a cross between Travis McGee, Doc Savage and Unknown -- is pure-dee hell to proofread unless you're hip to it.

M. Z. Williamson probably does his first drafts longhand and works 'em over into fast-moving narratives by hand; he's published by one of the big guys, too, and I'd bet his MS is pretty error-free.

Typesetting these days is a lot more GIGO than it used to be.

Me, I struggle; even in the second edition, I'm catching mistakes. I like my writing but by the fourth time through, readin' that stuff gets to be real work.

On the other hand, Carl Bussjaeger writes interesting stories and turns out as clean and well-formatted a manuscript as the first two guys cited...and A) his publisher has yet to send Check One plus B) they didn't properly reformat for publication. I know this because reading Net Assets the book is like reading over Carl's shoulder with added typesetting typos. Simple stuff, straightforward stuff that even I know as standards in the biz, like the _italicize_ convention or closing paragraph breaks, he did as it should be done and they failed at. (They did even worse besides, like omitting intros and entire stories; his reaction to seeing one book -- The Anarchists -- was "I am appalled.") He's had about the worst luck I've ever seen when it comes to getting into print and then his publisher upped and died.

The widow's not being helpful, either; grief or whatever, it's small consolation to the guy left holding the bag.

So he's doing the next better thing: Bargaining Position, the sequel to Net Assets, can be yours for $5.00, free, though hitting Carl's tip jar would not be remiss (ahem!); the download which gets you the Word .doc file. I don't know if e-readers will cope with that but turning it into a PDF is a pretty darned fast process, not to mention simple.

Take a look. It's enough to have even me pondering a Nook or a Kindle.

(I'm very sorry to read in comments that he's done with writing. Dammit. D'jever notice how the best ice-cream shops go out of business in what feels like much too short a time? His referenced last piece is a depressingly perceptive market analysis of libertarianism; right as he is, I can't change my spots: I was born with 'em).


Ed Rasimus said...

You've made a great case for avoiding self-publishing. Even the cleanest manuscript from the most accomplished writer will reveal amazing syntax, spelling and typo errors to the professional proof-reader.

You've also uncovered the dirty truth about book promotion. There are only a small handful of folks who get the corporate-sponsored book tour. All the rest get to do as much as they can with phone calls, pleading, social-networking, etc.

Landing a major publication review does wonders for sales. Sitting for an afternoon in a bookstore suffering fools gladly will drive you to drink in short order.

Bottom line remains that for most of us writing book(s) is a labor of love and if money were the concern we would be flipping burgers on the midnight shift at Mickie D's.

perlhaqr said...

Part of Larry's secret to success is a small cadre of alpha readers who get the raw manuscripts and marching orders to note bloody well anything that's misspelled, grammatically incorrect, or just seems wonky.

If anyone wants to go the self-publishing route, I think putting other eyes on it first is almost an absolute requirement if you want it to have a hope of being error-free.

Old Grouch said...

Don't know about Kindle, but Nookwise: Google has a (beta) ePub creator available for free download. The ePub format is text/styleheet based, and can do some rather nice typographical stuff if you want to dig into it.

Roberta X said...

Ed: I think there's an even stronger case for avoiding small-time publishers, or at least insisting on galleys. If your market is small and you don't mind the grunt work, self-pub is fine.

PH: aha! Excellent. I'd do it online myself but because I'm writing pulp rather than Great Fiction, I disallow comments on the stories to avoid discussions about lack of character development. (I'll also note that George O. Smith wrote about perfectly ordinary techs and engineers in Venus Equilateral and was accused of "cardboard, unbelievable characters" for his pains).

O.G.: Very kewl!

Carl Bussjaeger said...

Roberta, thanks for the kind words.

I would like to make one correction. Bargaining Position can be downloaded for no charge. Nada, nothing, free. Both BP and NA links can be found on the main page. But I won't refuse tip jar donations.

I won't be reassembling the "Anarchists" stories; just doesn't seem worth while. For that matter, barring multiple miracles, I won't be writing anything for publication any more. My last public piece ran in The Libertarian Enterprise last week.

B Ellis said...

If you don't fancy the Google route, you could have a look at Calibre:

Its an ebook library management tool that comes with a format converter which will take just about any common text or ebook format and turn it into .epub, .pdf etc.

Roberta X said...

I'm sorry to hear it, Carl. I read a lot of those stories in Doing Freedom! and enjoyed them.

Jerry said...

Most of the common ereader programs are available for your smart phone. I have an HTC-Evo with Acrobat, Kindle, Kobo, eReader & Nook installed. Most of the legacy formats are available with the exception of the Mobipocket. Amazon bought Mobipocket and pretty much killed any business in the format.

Carl Bussjaeger said...

Roberta, it wasn't really "much too short a time". The stories selected for The Anarchists alone represented almost 40 years of fiction writing. My first published work (a comic strip in a local paper) was more than 30 years ago; I was still in school. My real push to get my fiction published started roughly 15 years ago.

So this wasn't exactly a freshly blooming career cut tragically short.

Whether you're counting 30+ years, or just 15, the fact is that I could only break into very small niche markets. I'm really only known to a handful of bloggers and libertarians (niches don't come much smaller than that). In the end, I was so desperate to be published that I let myself fall for a scam, a con.

Too short a time? No. I should have cut my losses back when not a single publishing house would even return a rejection in the SASEs I sent. The signs don't get much clearer than that.

Roberta X said...

I was being more selfish than that -- writers whose work one enjoys never write as much as one would prefer. Stephen Robinette or Robert A. Heinlein, just the same

SF is supposedly a broader market than many sorts of fiction but the pockets do not seem to be very deep. :(

Very sorry to hear "scam;" I figured they were just clods.