Alternative Publishing…

Okay, I’ve been attempting to get published for about eight months, now. Something like that. Maybe ten. I don’t remember. Heck, I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, I can’t possibly hope to remember when I submitted my first story for consideration.

Point being, I haven’t been doing this a real long time, compared to other writers who have been trying to get published for years. So, a lot of what I’m saying might seem like initial disappointment, or whining. But, it’s not. Contrary to what multiple blog posts might tell you, I’m not an emo kid, who does nothing but whine. I’m mainly writing this to gather my thoughts, to decide what direction I want to go.

When I write a short story, I usually invest around an hour per thousand words. So, a short story of mine, My Father’s Eyes, clocks in around 10,000 words. So, that’s roughly 10 hours of work just to write the thing. Then there’s about ten to twelve read-throughs, each roughly an hour per 10,000 words. So, that’s roughly ten to twelve hours in the post-editing process.

Of course, the total length of this process needs an additional variable: Cool-Down Time. This is the period in which I step away from the story, and come back with fresh editing-eyes. For a story this long, this can be anywhere from a day to a week. At this point, I’m sitting at about 2 to 3 months for the actual creation process.

Then, I’m ready to submit. So, I pick a publication and submit. Then, there’s a down-time, where I wait for the result of the submission, which is invariably a rejection letter. This period is roughly four to six weeks. So, I read through the story one more time (about an hour) and find a new publication to submit. Again, I wait four to six weeks, get a rejection. Rinse and repeat. As my good friend, the King, would say: et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

My point is, I invest months upon months into a single story, but I can’t seem to sell it. At first, I thought there was something wrong with the story. Then, I got depressed. (I actually DID emo). Got drunk. Deleted my entire writing folder. Sobered up. Replaced my writing folder from backups. And started the whole dang process all over again.

Then, I started to think maybe it’s the publication. So, I resubmitted it to another. Again, rejection. Then, something happened… I submitted to Clarkesworld Magazine. Now, Clarkesworld boasts one of the highest rates of all Sci-Fi magazines, roughly 10 cents a word. They also boast the quickest turnaround time.

So, I decided to give it a shot. I took a short story of mine, Elizabeth, made sure I was happy with it, and sent it their way. Now, their submission system is slightly different than the rest. They have a numbered queue, so you can see where you are in the process. Over the course of four days, I walked that queue tick down from around 200 to rejection.

During this whole process, I realized something… I was behind 199, or so, other people, when I submitted. Since it took four days, you can assume they get through about 50 a day. Times that by 30, you’ve got 6,000 submissions a month. Now, this might be a pretty exaggerated figure. I’d expect the actual number to be a little closer to 2,000 – 3,000. But, it could be even higher. I have no clue.

Now, this is the process that not-famous writers use to get published in Clarkesworld, of which the editors choose one story a month. One out of thousands. You can’t tell me that out of the thousands that are submitted, only one of them is good enough to get published. I don’t buy that for a second.

I think so much of this process comes down to luck. You’ve got to catch the right intern, on the right day, to where your story resonates with him or her, and they choose to push your story along to an editor. But, you have to wait a month to find out if your luck has held out? Is this really an efficient process?

When it comes right down to it, how is a writer supposed to know if their stuff is worth a shit, or if they’re just wasting their time? I don’t think it’s this process. It can’t be. I hate the idea of luck dictating whether or not I’m successful, regardless of talent or skill. I can’t stand this concept.

I’ve been looking into alternative publishing. I’ve been reading up on it. I know to avoid Vanity Presses. That shit will just take me for a ride, and leave me high and dry.

So, I’ve been considering self-publishing. It worked for Christopher Paolini and Eragon They made a movie out of that book.

But, unlike Paolini, I don’t have parents that own a publishing company, and considerable resources to help promote my book. Compared to Paolini, my self-publishing venture would basically be me blindfolding myself and throwing my book in random directions, hoping I hit someone in the head.

I’ve been looking at releasing an E-Book. But, I’ve been struggling. There’s a stigma attached to self-publishing–especially an E-Book–which states that it’s only for those who aren’t good enough to get published or the extremely desperate. Which category do I fall in?

Honestly? I believe I fall in the desperate category. But, I’m not desperate to see my stuff in print. I don’t really care about that. I’d go with a Vanity Press, if I was only out for that. Then, I could buy up a few copies of my book, and sell them to friends and family, expecting them to pat me on my head and tell me how great it is. And they would too. I’m not desperate to get published.

I’m desperate to know if I fall in the other category–the one filled with writers who aren’t good enough. I’ve got to know if I’m wasting my time, or if there’s actual skill hidden within me. I can post my books online, hoping I can get enough strangers to come and see them, offering me an extremely low chance of feedback. Or, I can go the Amazon Kindle route, and throw something up and see what happens.

With millions of people shopping the Kindle Story at any given moment, your chances of them stumbling upon your book is quite high. And, then, if it’s reasonably priced, the chances of them buying it is also pretty high. And if they buy it, they’ll review it, hopefully. And maybe, then, I can decide if I should just walk away, and learn to enjoy my fallback career–space pirate!

I’m currently putting together a collection of six short stories. I’m going to put it up on the Kindle store for two bucks, and I’m going to see what happens. Best case scenario, I sell a million copies and become an overnight sensation. Worst case scenario, it sells a few copies, I get a check for two dollars, and the people who bought it rate it one star. Then, I know… it’s time to take to the stars for piracy.

Somewhere in the middle… I sell a modest amount, a few people review it well, and I walk away knowing that I’m not wasting my time. Honestly? This is the one I’m shooting for.

2 thoughts on “Alternative Publishing…

  1. Well, I didn’t exactly set the world on fire with my self-published e-book … but I sold a few, and got some good reviews, and I can’t help but think that might have helped me get it published. (Albeit by a small press, but still, it counts.) Basically it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot.

    Let me know if it goes up. (I don’t have a Kindle, but I could still read it.)

  2. Yeah, Andy, if I e-publish it, I’ll promote the heck right out of it. I hope to have it ready to go in about six months.

    I’ve decided to increase it to eight stories. I think this will be an excellent amount of “bang for your buck”. And, from what I understand, that’s what’s required to get people to buy it at random.

    In the meantime, I’ve continued to submit the stories I’ve finished to publications. I figure it can’t hurt.

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