Synthesis of Publishing Research, or How My Anxiety is Slowly Creeping Back in to Power

After years of depression, anxiety, being distracted by intense social needs, and feeling overwhelmed or too damned tired, I have returned to the stressful task of researching how to make it financially as an author.  I reorganized my resources for musicians’ success some, but it has become clear to me that my highest priority is being the best and most prolific story-teller that I can be.  Even with the new realization that making video games is a real and possibly sustainable passion for me, the writing is where I live.  All of my psychological study and philosophical interests flow to and from my stories, and I probably would have lost interest in fiction writing (whether creating it or reading it) long ago, if I hadn’t realized that it can be about meaningful action and deep questions.

So, yes- if I am going to make it as an artist, I am going to make it as a writer.  That is, serious work toward making my creations profitable will be for the sake of my created stories, and, if my need to write calls for it, practically all other aspects of my life may suffer in order to accommodate that need.  This is both a frightening and liberating thought.  I’m glad that I am certain of my priorities, but it means that I am going to have to get used to suffering in the short term in ways that I am not entirely used to.  It’s not like it’s going to cause me to suffer any more financially- I already have to be picky about new employment due to discovering that my student loan payments are almost double what had been originally calculated for me!  Ha!

Right so allow me to synthesize my findings relevant to me.  First, there are my general options for publishing: self-publishing, crowd-funded self-publishing, small press, crowd-funded publishing, and big-shot traditional publishing.  I’ve been all over self-publishing and written my fair share of cover/query letters and synopses.  The crowd-funding types, particularly the publishing houses that get projects started with crowd-funding, and the small press options are the most unfamiliar to me, and I find them rather intriguing.

Small presses are more personal and accommodating, so that cuts out the need for an agent, and they typically want to see an entire manuscript up front without any sort of introduction.  This is appealing to me, as I have much more confidence in my story writing than in my writing about my story writing.  How does one effectively briefly summarize a mood, or the growth of a character from a naive thrill-seeker to a battle-worn, guilt-ridden scholar?  The first and more obvious major down side to this freedom and comfort is that they won’t make you rich.  I really don’t care right now, how ever.  Hell, man, I’d be swooning over my books just paying the damned bills!  The second major down side is that there are thousands of small presses, and most of them are bad news.  Even the good ones, well, it’s not the most stable business model.  And then, you’re still close enough to the bottom of the fame ladder to be reminded regularly that, sure, your work has reached an audience, but it is ultimately forgettable, and will likely be traded in for some thing new.

Crowd-funded publishers are a strange hybrid that are the most curious to me.  You propose a project, which either needs initial approval or not.  Then you encourage people to back it with pledges (you know.  Money).  Then, if your goal or other certain threshold is met, they publish it professionally for you.  In theory, this sounds great.  Right?  You get paid just for having an idea, and get to sit on that money while you write it (like a traditional advance), and, if your idea raises enough money, all of the publishing dirty work is taken care of for you!  There’s still the issue of actually raising that money, though.  How many people dig around through book-only crowd-funding web sites looking for projects to back?  If I’ve already failed at self-marketing and self-publicizing, what chance do I have spreading the word of any sort of crowd-funding page?  Apparently the publishers have some stake in this process, as your success is their success, but, hey- Kickstarter and Indiegogo take their cuts from successful projects on their platforms too, and those projects fail all of the time, no matter how cool the idea is.  This concept is my highest priority right now as far as continued research goes.

Otherwise, I’ve noticed that, in general, the road to publishing has become considerably less linear over the past seven years.  This is in part a problem, as more options means more research and doubt.  There is also the issue of alternative publishing methods no longer protecting the little guys from having to compete with big name authors, as big name authors are now becoming more attracted to alternative methods.  This brings me to my next point: the other change that I have noticed over the past seven years is that over-saturation of the market seems to still be on the incline.  Every where I go while reading about how to publish I come across two dozen new fiction novels that I’ve never heard of.

Who the hell has the time to read all of this stuff?  Let’s not even get started on short fiction, and then, what if my readers are also interested in history and business?  Don’t non-nerds have enough shit to read in their Facebook and Twitter feeds?  How can I justify telling people to stop reading about important world news or what’s new on the cutting edge of technology in order to read my fantasy story?  Entertainment isn’t supposed to be necessarily important, though.  People are just always going to want to be entertained!  Okay, yeah, and that’s no secret.  The world is flooded with entertainment.  Why should any one bother to take the time to look for my form, when all they have to do is open their eyes in the morning to discover what’s readily available?

Some where down the line I had this idea in my head that, as long as I made my work available, that it had a neat home page and showed up in search engines, the people would come.  I had no idea how saturated the markets were back then, but I suppose that it was helpful at the time, as even making a web site and regularly updating it was an intimidating thought at the time.  In any case, that was entirely untrue.  Sure.  The traffic to shyftedminds.com, this blog, and my Bandcamp pages has steadily increased over the years, but with forgettable fan interaction and negligible purchases and donations.   I do have a video on Youtube that has exceeded three hundred thousand views and one thousand likes, but who the fuck cares?  It’s just some goofy cover of a song by fake band.

There was also a time when I thought that artists should make art for the love of their craft, that it was its own reward.  Oh, yeah.  Because every engineer, journalist, doctor, physicist, and retail manager hates their job and honest cash comes from self-loathing.  They don’t.  It’s fucking bull shit.  The bests artists are paid for their work, because getting paid means working at other jobs less so more time to practice art.  Do you know what has interfered with my creative process even more than being a wussy?  Having a ‘day job’.  Any one who says any thing to the effect of, ‘Yeah.  Well, the rest of us have to do it too.  Suck it up,’ needs to fucking pick a passion and follow it already.  At the end of their lives, in this society, peasants were always peasants because they preferred being fucking peasants to working hard at becoming some thing else.

…Some how what I was getting at there is that the other thing that I am looking at more critically is on line presence and self-promotion.  I’m fairly confident in how I present my self in public forum.  I must be, any way, if I have this here blog!  I just don’t participate as often as I probably should, and when I do I don’t talk about my work enough.  The fear of coming off as spammy is very real for me, though, and I am in the unfortunate position of being in a social network that doesn’t exactly have a lot of spending money.  Plus, I like to be friendly, and friends don’t charge friends for art.  Right?  Right…?  So this is some thing that I need to work on.  How long does it take to make a post about writing?  Not even a ‘Hey -there’s this book or album you can buy!’ but just an insight about a couple characters or some thing.  This is the sort of thing that I could be doing every day!  And I’ve a lengthy back log of subjects for blog entries, yet I have yet to even commit to updated this blog at least once per month.  It’s not that I don’t know what to say.  It’s as easy as scheduling the time, and, the more web content I generate, the less worried I have to be about an interjecting ‘HEY BUY THIS THING’ coming off as spam!

So aside from aiming to learn more about small press publishers and crowd-funding publishers, and being my self on the Internet more often (but particularly about books), after doing the reading that I have done so far, I am looking to:

-Practice single- and double-sentence hooks for my stories, as summarizing I am bad at.  Pitches.

-Know that I shouldn’t promote in ways that don’t make sense to me or otherwise don’t suit my personality.

-Promote other people’s works of art, to gently remind people that I am an artist, and so that what I like can be related to what I do.

-In promotion, be humble but excited.

-Get back in to practicing query letters.

-TALK TO OTHER WRITERS.

The last one is the most awkward for me.  I have absolutely zero friends who are as serious about writing as I am.  Hell, I only have a few friends who consider their selves to be musicians, and most of them I’ve never even met in person!  Having writer friends and being able to talk to people about writing isn’t networking for profit, either.  It’s networking for sanity and feedback, and so is difficult for me to prioritize alongside the other goals.  When it comes to making friends, I’ve learned that those who jive with me on a philosophical level are the most valuable, so I don’t concern my self with other common interests any more.  Also, I really don’t care about writers who don’t know why they do it, or do it just to entertain, as meaningless art depresses me.  There was a time when fiction writing was generally intellectual in some way, and that time is long gone, and I’d like to have to think about that as little as possible.  While a story asking the question, ‘What if fairies existed?’ can technically land in the speculative fiction realm, I really can’t care less about finding it’s answers.

In closing: BYE!

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