Thoughts on publishing after attending Worldcon (2012)
|Publishing is in a time of transition. I’ll give you an example that I found striking when I recently attended Worldcon (September 2012). I met an author who has published two trilogies with a renowned New York press, a publisher whose books are emblematic of “what I like to read.” For the author’s first trilogy he wrote under his own name, but in these times of shrinking shelf space at book stores his second trilogy was written under a pen name -- as a new author again. He told me that his agent and publisher are encouraging him to write under another pen name as a new author again for his next trilogy. What’s wrong with this picture? The author gets top reviews, has an agent, is making a living as a writer with a very well respected publisher. But physical books require shelf space and if he can’t get it, the publisher can’t do a significant print run to get the orders across North America to make publishing his novels profitable for them or him… but they know he’s a great author, hence the pen name strategy.
So, here I am a new author without an agent with one novel, Highmage’s Plight, available as an ebook and hopefully before the end of the year in print-on-demand from the small press that “discovered” me. This style of publishing puts me in the “Indie” publishing side of the 21st Century equation where shelf space doesn’t have to hold a writer back from being published. Other challenges can, but that’s not the point I want to make with this article.
What I feel is important for those dreaming of being published one day is… is that there are realities to being published and being successful. Having the dream isn’t enough, you need to work hard at it (write and finish what you write), have goals and objectives. You are responsible for your own destiny as a writer. Okay, “luck of the draw” may have something to do with it, talent and imagination definitely do, copyediting with a good editor may have a lot more to do with it. But you don’t need to have an agent, which can be a good or bad experience depending on the agent and your goals. Writers today have to promote their own work, become salesmen and marketer, while honing our craft and writing. This is our business and it’s not necessarily ever going to be very lucrative – but I don’t write for the money (though, earning lots of it is one of my long-term goals).
At Worldcon I also participated in a New Writer’s Panel. Ken Lui sat next to me. He won a Nebula for one of his short stories and was up for two Hugo Awards (he won one). A well-renowned agent called him and now represents him, and is working with him on his first novel. There were three other new authors on the panel with me, all had agents, who they adored, who handled all their contracts and worked closely with them. I was the single unagented, “Indie”, author. What was crystal clear to me is that I had skill set they didn’t. I had learned to read and negotiate contracts, I was on the same map of the world but on a different road leading me to the same place they were going, even if I hadn’t got acclaim or as large an audience of readers yet. And I knew from the experience of the author with many pen names that they would face challenges on their road as I would on mine. Oh, and another thing, we started in the same place… writing and imagining people and places that have a life of their own.
That was true for the veteran authors at Worldcon too, authors like George R.R. Martin (whose autograph I managed to get) who was relatively unknown twenty years ago when I first started reading his stories like Tuf Voyaging and Windhaven, long before Game of Thrones built his reputation after his ten-year career as a Hollywood writer (he was the writer of Beauty & Beast which introduced actor Ron Perlman to the world).
So, dare to believe, my friends and Write-on!
Highmage – D.H. Aire