Publishing as personal: lessons from giving away a debut novel online


We’ve been spelling it all wrong!

It’s not “teh interwebs” it’s “teh onlien”!


Shouldn’t it be avec un lien ?

The book has very mixed reviews.

I think the problem with self-pubbing and self-pubbing for free is the perceived value. If Cory puts a novel or any of his writing out there for free it has value because he is an established writer, people know he writes good stuff. J. K. Rowling demonstrated this with ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’, which only had 1500 sales until Robert Galbraith was revealed to be her pseudonym. Little value as Robert Galbraith, unknown author, much bigger value (and sales) as J. K. Rowling. Another example; JA Konrath; It wasn’t until he got a book deal and established a rep that he was able to make a fortune self-pubbing his previously unpublished (and unaccepted) manuscripts.

Put something out there for free with little or no reputation and the perceived value is close to zero. In fact, many people expect a ‘free’ self-pubbed book to be poor, either in terms of quality control or story construction. This, I guess, is where, niche comes in. Fan-fiction and Slash-fiction fill a certain niche (see what I did there?), so you can see how they might be popular. Some authors have found success with that route (cough E.L. James cough).

I too have dabbled with self-pubbing for free, believing naively that readers will spot my hidden genius and worship me as their god. You have to pimp like Huggy Bear on amphetamine to be any good at that game. Plus, you know, actually write something well and that people like. Apparently, I can’t do either so it’s back to the day job and commenting on Boing Boing.

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This business model looks too much like the unpaid work experience for adults business model. Do this normally paid job for free, it will give you experience and access to new clients! The problem is, while it will work for a few people, generally these will be the ones who didn’t need the money or publicity anyway and meanwhile you’re actively reducing the chance that you or anyone else like you will find a paid job at the end. If anyone gains, it will generally be your employer or the website hosting your material. It’s always been hard to make money as an author, but I very much doubt that this will improve matters.

What you wrote is true, no doubt about it, just don’t forget that when Cory started out by giving away “Down and out in the magic kingdom” he was pretty much unknown as an author too. In fact I remember hearing about his book because it was on slashdot and the very idea was so intriguing that I downloaded the book, it sat there in my hard drive for over a year before I got around to reading it.
Once I did, I thought the story was good but I can’t remember being wowed by his writing back then (Sorry Cory!), anyway, it was good enough that I read the next book and then the next and now I’m a fan.

Publishing, music, the arts in general, are pretty big crap shoot as far as careers go, seems to me like getting any attention at all is all you can do, hopefully some people will like your work and maybe, just maybe, you’ll eventually sell something.

(Of course this is different from what I would call, “Service art jobs” for lack of a better term: Journalism, photography, design, commercial jingles/music, where art is commissioned.)

I know this is super old fashioned of me but what if you just want to be a writer and not an internet personality?

That’s indeed the challenge. Publishers are looking for a “platform” instead of a book. That “platform” comprises an author, that author’s online persona, the social-media followers the author can drag into the fold, and a stash of other manuscripts that can be deployed immediately following the initial book.

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