Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Note on Self-Publishing

I've been talking with a friend about an impending decision, whether or not to leave a literary agent and self-publish.  I wound up writing a long note about it yesterday because, well, I'm not sure I'm doing my friend any favors.

Hey ____,

Y'know, I'm not convinced that I'm a good influence on you.  The idea that I've actually talked you into leaving your agent has me a little nervous.  It reminds me a bit of when I got to Korea, and my roommate told me that he wanted to extend and take command.  I replied with the truth, that I'd decided to get out of the Army, and he wound up following me--a good move for me but one that proved disastrous for him.  He was back in uniform a year later, but his career never recovered, and he eventually retired as a Major.

My daughter Hannah is a lot like me, and like me, she has a way of talking people into seeing things her way.  In explaining it to her the other day, I said, "You have to remember to use your powers for good."  Which is to say that I would never accuse Hannah of being "bossy," but she's a confident person in full command of her own beliefs and resources.  This puts her noticeably ahead of her peers, especially in confused or unsettled situations.

I've been writing a long time, not always with any particular goal in mind, and I came up in comics where the Small Press is a way of life.  It's functionally impossible to break into comics without any real work under your belt, and the only way to produce that work is to self-publish and hope that people notice.  For me, self-publishing is like triathlon.  It's become a way of life.  I write for the same reasons that I exercise, and I publish some percentage of my writing under my own banner because that's the way I grew up as a writer.  It works... FOR ME.

Plus, I like all the essoteric crap that tends to find its way into small press publishing.

Anybody can write Save The Cat, there's an actual handbook for it, and once you learn to use scene structure, it's not any different than engineering, really.  Save The Cat gives you the overarching structure, scene structure tells you how to navigate through the actual events, and now all you need is an idea.  I know, let's cast Vin Deisel as a Witch Hunter!

No seriously, this is why these guys all talk the way they do about ideas.

The small press is different.  Sure, there's a TON of crap out there, but it's not ALL recycled garbage.  Some of it is really, really interesting.  I mean, it's out there.  For example, my buddy has a successful, long-running web comic about a women's professional wrestling league, and it's not a T&A story at all.  It's a (relatively) serious soap opera about women's wrestling.  You may not like it--certainly, you don't have to--but it's well-executed, and it has a certain following.  Never gonna be a major motion picture, but what can you do?  In its own market, it's a big thing.

The SNEAX books haven't been wildly successful or anything, but my blog makes a certain small amount of money.  It's usually $2 or $3/month, depending on how much D&D I write and how much I don't.  I like D&D, but I don't love writing about it all the time.  For better or worse, though, that's what brings in traffic.

I mention this because I want you to have an idea of what you're leaving behind when you leave your agent.  Maybe the right answer is to self-publish this particular project in whatever form and then work with her on something else.  Speaking personally, I've been considering running the SNEAX stories sequentially on the blog just to bring in more readers.  At this point, the blog is making at least as much money as actual book sales, so there's really not a profit motive behind doing it another way.  Regardless, there is more than one way to self-publish and reach people.  Keep that in mind.

Good luck,


  1. Hmmmm, I'd love to have a literary agent. It's just as hard to get one as it is selling your book, so I'm guessing that this literary agent isn't doing their job. !!

    1. I see why you would say that, but I don't think it's corr ft in this case. This particular book is so far outside the mainstream that I just don't think the publishing houses know what to make of it or how to sell it.