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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Trying To Work Out My Digital Age Issues

Don't know if you've noticed it, but I have some "digital age issues".

I'm not a fan of either the ebook, Kindle, Nook, or any of the other options.  In my wrong-headed, irrational way, all I want to read is a BOOK printed on paper.  In fact, I can confess to going on a book-buying tear this whole past year in response to an irrational fear that soon enough, book stores and new paper books will die out completely. 

Now, that probably won't happen for a real long time.  In this case, we can thank POD (print on demand) technology.  It gives most folks an option to buy either the digital or print version. BUT, many new authors or even some of my fav's are popping out new digital-only works, which leaves me out of luck, because I just don't want to read anything on an ereader.  Call me stubborn, backward, romantic, I really don't care.  

If I had a choice between an instant-download, .99 ebook and a $10 used book I had to hunt around for, had to wait to have shipped to me...I'll take the second option, every single time.

Also, I'm not a fan of the new self-publishing craze, which the digital ebook craze has kicked into high-drive, overgear, with an addendum: authors who have proven themselves as good writers, okay.  Authors who are trying to get out-of-print works back into circulation, definitely.  Not to offend, but unproven authors who've never published anything anywhere else? Sorry,  not a fan.

But as a young writer facing his own uncertain publishing future in a publishing world that has become more and more uncertain, I HAVE to face the fact of digital publishing.  And doing so doesn't mean giving up on traditional or print publishing.  But facing it, examining, seeing if it can be used to expand my reader-base (nearly non-existent as it is)....

Here's the thing.

I don't own either a Nook or Kindle.  Doubt I ever will.  Maybe I'll get an Ipad someday.  But the idea of reading a digital book does nothing for me.  So is there something wrong with self-publishing digital content then asking folks to read me in a format I don't prefer myself?

Again: I'm not against being published digitally.  I'd like to be available to folks in all formats.  Case in point, Shroud is working on getting Hiram Grange e-books ready to go, and that's cool. That way, options are open.

But trying to build a platform on self-published digital content, when I'm not sure how I feel about it myself?

Seems like a conflict of interest. Or cheating.  Or something.

Of course, blogs like this make the issue even harder to ignore.  Say what you want about Brian Keene, I've come to place that when Brian talks, I believe all young writers should buck up and listen.  And I'm listening.  And he makes an excellent case, talking about ebooks and authors like Robert Swartwood, who are pioneering their way into the digital self-publishing field.

Cases like Robert's and author Mike Duran's (self-publishing a novella that couldn't find a home anywhere) have really set me to thinking.  I don't think I'd ever want to abandon traditional publishing, because somewhere, at some point, I WANT that publisher's seal of approval.  I WANT to know that what I've written has passed muster at Abbadon Books, Angry Robot Books, Apex Publications, Medallion Press, Samhain Publishing, Cemetery Dance, Thunderstorm Books. 

But maybe...if you've got really good beta readers who are gonna call you out, push you hard to write the best story you can and not crap...if you've got access to professional editors and cover artists to do a bang-up job...maybe a platform could be built....

Except I'm not a fan of digital itself.  For example, if he's got Brian Keene's stamp of approval, I'd like to check out Robert Swartwood's work....except it's all digital.  Which I have no interest in.

So how could I turn around and ask readers to buy into that format?

I'm probably just turning myself into useless knots over the whole matter.  BUT, I'm nearing the end of a "work for hire" project that will take me through the ropes of digital self publishing - both print and Kindle - for the first time.  And for a reason, I think (other than the fact I'm getting paid).  But the question is, what to do with this new knowledge?

Still figuring it out.  Push comes to shove, I'd probably go Mike Duran's route.  After intense critique and editing, publish a novella I'd like to see get out there in both print and digital formats. But I'm still figuring that out.  Still fighting with myself.

Still wondering if maybe, even if I've got the talent, if I've got the spirit to figure all this out and find my place in publishing...


  1. Thanks for the mention, Kevin. Many of the books are also available in print (via POD, of course), but sales-wise, digital outshines my print sales about 50 to 1. I talked about why I eventually decided to self-publish at Joe Konrath's blog here: With whatever you end up deciding, good luck!

  2. Thanks, Rob! I look for the books in print, definitely!

  3. I just read the post, and a big thing for me is the issue of costs. Because as much as Joe wants to say "every day you wait is a day you don't make money", you yourself note people who've done the deal, invested well, and still aren't selling. Financially, it makes far more sense for me to pursue legacy publishing at this point, especially because they are no guarantees, period.

    Also, I haven't really tried as long as you have. Think I need to do that first, and actually build up a body of work, before I dip my feet into the self-publishing pool...

  4. And just picked up your "Man of Wax" - paperback, of course - look forward to it!

  5. Luck does play a big factor, both in traditional publishing and self-publishing. There are pros and cons to each. Like I said in the post on Joe's blog, just because you can doesn't necessarily mean you should, and as you noted, many authors going the digital route aren't doing well at all ... just as many authors going the traditional route aren't doing well either. But -- and this is Joe's term, not mine -- digital publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. What doesn't sell today could sell thousands in another year or two (or might not sell at all). There are uncertainties with both. For me, I look at the fact more and more bookstores are closing (I wouldn't be surprised to see Barnes & Noble shuttering quite a few stores soon), and the shelf-life for most books is only a month or two ... books that initially only have a print run of 10k if that author is lucky, trying to compete against bestselling authors who have print runs of 100k (not to mention the royalties major publishers offer for digital are so low it's almost insulting, but that rate has become the standard so it's almost impossible for agents and authors to try to negotiate a better deal; this is why major publishers had such great earnings last year, because of the rise of e-books, in which they made out and the authors did not). With digital, at least, there's infinite self space, making it a level playing field.

    Anyway, enough of that. Again, what works for one person doesn't mean it'll work for another. In the end you just need to go with your gut.

    Thanks so much for picking up MOW. Hope you enjoy it!

  6. These are excellent points, none of which I refute. I guess... like you had mentioned...I have an idealized view of publishing that I'm having a hard time letting go of. So I'm grappling with the whole thing, trying to find out where I should fit in.

    Thanks again for posting!

  7. And I did see this:

    "just because you can doesn't necessarily mean you should"

    which is something I wish more self-publishing folks would encourage in young writers. Thanks again!