I came across a website last week that had yet another un-known, un-proven writer with pie-in-the-sky ideas of making his or her fortune with a subscription-based online novel. This happens now and again, someone gets the idea he or she can web publish a novel and expect people to pay a subscription fee for the privilege of reading it in weekly, or monthly installments.
If that author had a proven track record of quality writing, perhaps had a few traditionally published novels that sold moderately well, or at least could boast a massive online audience who had expressed a willingness to pay for a chance to read their work – great. Go for it.
I don’t expect them to succeed.
The one in particular, I’m not linking to mainly because I can’t for the life of me recall the url for, happens to be “writing this as I go” in a completely unpolished, unedited form. He or she expects the readers to pay for the chance to watch this novel take shape in real time. Okay, sure, to each his/her own. I was reading the standard “About Me” information and following along well enough, ignoring spelling and grammar errors in that page, and trying to ignore the use of “Fiction Novel” in one sentence. This author was taking the Indy stand, and I was prepared to at least offer a golf-clap, if not full-on applause, until I reached the final line . . . Asking any Publisher who may want this novel to Please Please Please email at this addy.
Well alrighty then. Completely lost the point, my respect, and frankly any hope of happiness until that huge wrinkle gets ironed out.
Contrary to popular belief, and the stories traditional writers will tell Indy authors until they’re blue in the face, is the truth that Yes, you can still become a traditionally published writer even if you’ve self published, or give your work away for free online. You’re not shopping those novels to an agent, you’re shopping something new that’s never been seen before. You haven’t completely tarnished your reputation with other work, and you don’t have “cooties“.
The point of this post today is two-fold.
Firstly, I’d like to address the All In concept. You may or may not agree, and I’m not offended either way, but in my opinion – what worked for ME in going Indy – was finally reaching the commitment stage of This Is It. This is what I’m doing. I’m not producing my own work in the hopes that maybe, possibly, some day an agent will come along and “discover” me.
That’s rubbish, and isn’t ever going to happen. To any of us. Trust me.
It wasn’t until I crossed completely over the line that I became fully committed and capable, not only to produce work myself, but to be happy about it. I’m not pining away in the dark, secretly hoping to one day become a traditionally published writer. And I’m not shunning you if you still are. But for me – and I think it’s true for a lot of writers who still aren’t willing to admit it – you can’t do it, and be good at it, or find happiness, with one foot on either side of the fence. First of all, it’s really hard to get anywhere straddling an old dream like that, and secondly – you could chafe.
If you’ve decided to go Indy for only certain titles, and still hold the dream of writing other fiction that will be published traditionally, that’s great. But I’m certain you realize you’ll have to still do all the work – writing, researching agents, submitting, waiting, all that. No one’s coming along and reading your webpage or your Lulu novel and offering you up a three book deal with Del Rey. You’ll have to go out there and work for it, but rest assured your self publishing days did not ruin you.
If you’re going Indy right now because it’s your only option right now, that’s fine too. Things may change for you in the future, they may not. You’re going into this knowing it’s the right move right now, but later on you may change your tactics. Again, your fairy god-agent isn’t going to flutter down on wings of contracts and spot you there, just remember that.
Which takes us to my second point – There’s no pot here.
Unless you rolled your own, this isn’t the end of the rainbow. You’re not gonna get rich being Indy, but nine out of every ten traditional author isn’t, either.
When I decided this was what I wanted to do, and then became fully and wholly committed to the idea that I’m an Indy author, everything fell in place. I knew I’d be giving away my fiction online for free, and I knew, deep down, that the free option was going to be the biggest hit. I knew I was offering up eBooks and paperbacks basically at cost, with little to no profit margin. I knew the idea of readers making donations was extremely low. But I did this will the full understanding that years of writing and research afforded me.
I do sell some copies, although the eBook is the biggest seller, it’s the online free version that gets the hits. Thousands of readers per month are taking advantage of the read-online version which – while it doesn’t fill my wallet, most certainly warms my heart. I have a day job that pays more than any mid-list writing contract ever could, so the real pride and pleasure for me is to see my novels reaching readers. To see my characters gain an audience.
I think that’s where most people choke up.
You’ve got a whole rash of writers out there who figure they’ve just stumbled on to the greatest idea since individually wrapped soy cheese slices, who then rush out and build a subscription-based online novel, with no proven record of sales or readership, no proven ability to even complete a cohesive novel, and completely lacking in any sort of advertising campaign.
All too often I see these appear, only to vanish a few months later when the lack of paying readers causes them to give up not only on the idea, but on the novel as well – proving once again they were just another in a stream of “oh, I could write a novel and get rich quick” thinkers who found out the hard way, it ain’t never gonna happen.
Does the idea of signing people up to read your work online only if they’ve paid you money sound appealing? Sure. Who’s gonna turn down dollars, right?
Does the idea of writing and posting a novel online that only two people have paid you to read seem like fun?
Respect yourself and your readers. Either Fold, or go All In.
Power to the People!
Make Love, not War!
Give me twenty on the number two horse in the third race!