Indie publishing, traditional publishing or both?

First of all, a brief housekeeping note. I have added links to the dedicated e-book pages on the bibliography page, because I noticed that a lot of visitors only click on the bibliography and not on the e-book pages. This makes it easier for casual visitors to find and browse our books.

Yes, I’m talking about myself in the first person plural again.

And now for some links:

In the latest installment of his New Worlds of Publishing series, Dean Wesley Smith tackles the question of whether writers should indie publish, continue pursue traditional publishing or both. The answer, to make it short, is that Dean Wesley Smith advises writers to continue self-publishing and putting traditional publishing on hold during the current changes in the US publishing industry.

At SFR Brigade, Heather Massey wonders whether pursuing traditional publication is still worth doing at all, particularly for writers working in niche genres. SFR Brigade focuses on science fiction romance, which is considered a niche genre (Women! Writing and reading SF! And there’s love and sex in it, too! Say it ain’t so!) though it shouldn’t be.

Meanwhile, David Gaughran asks writers to consider what their priorities are.

I must say I’m on the fence here. So far, all Pegasus Pulp e-books are either previously published short stories and novelettes or works for which there is no market at the moment, either due to genre, subject matter or length. These pieces are ideally suited for electronic self-publishing. And there are more Pegasus Pulp e-books coming. I still have several out of print stories and “unpublishable” novellas in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, new short fiction will still be submitted to the appropriate markets. There are so many markets for short fiction that it would be stupid not to take advantage of that.

That leaves the question of Colfrith. Colfrith is the first full length novel I wrote, a sort of steampunk regency romance. I finished the book, did a revision pass and gave it to a beta reader. At the time, there wasn’t really much of a market for a hybrid of steampunk and traditional regency romance (in fact, I’m not convinced there is much of a market for that sort of thing now), so I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, though I did plan to submit it eventually. Then I started working on my MA thesis, which ate my brain for the next year or so, and Colfrith landed in the drawer. Eventually, I recovered from my MA and started my next novel, which was completely different from Colfrith. Different period, different genre, different style.

This left me with a new dilemma, namely that the novel I would be submitting was no longer representative of what I was writing now. So in the event Colfrith found a publisher, I might well find myself pigeonholed in a subgenre I was no longer writing in. I actually did send out one query regarding Colfrith to a small press print publisher. However, the publisher in question announced that they would focus exclusively on urban fantasy about a week after I sent that query letter, so Colfrith no longer fit their new profile. It seems that book really can’t get a break.

To complicate matters, there is also Prisoners of Amaymon, the SF novel I started after finishing Colfrith and worked on throughout the MA thesis, because I had persuaded my supervisors to let me incorporate creative writing elements in my MA thesis on science fiction. As a result, once I was finished with the MA thesis, I was not only heartily sick of science fiction but of Prisoners of Amaymon as well. It currently stands unfinished at 65000 words. I will get back to it eventually, because I still like the story and I also think it’s a pretty good novel. Alas, it’s also first person present tense, which makes it very difficult to market.

You can probably see my dilemma here. I’ve never been the sort of writer to stick to one genre or subgenre. Instead, I write all over the genre map, as a casual glance of the Pegasus Pulp list shows. Whereas traditional publishing very much likes writers to stick to writing one sort of book only. There actually are certain themes that keep popping up again and again in my work and Colfrith, Prisoners of Amaymon and the current manuscript have definite thematic parallels. Which doesn’t change the fact they are of completely different genres.

In fact, one of the things I like most about indie publishing is that it gives me the freedom to write what I want. Yes, I would probably sell better if I wrote and published only series in a popular genre, instead of the crazy genre-mixes I write. And I do write series – the Silencer stories (the first volume, Countdown to Death, is available now) are a series. But I’m not just in this for the money and I can’t really write the same sort of story over and over again. That’s not how my brain works. Pen names wouldn’t be a solution either, because a) I don’t write fast enough to sustain multiple pen names, and b) using a pen name is a major deal breaker for me.

So indie publishing is probably the best option for me at the moment, though I will continue to pursue traditional publication as well for future novels. One thing I’m not willing to give up, whether going indie or traditional publishing, is print. Because even though I publish e-books, I really like print. 98 percent of what I read is print.

Besides, I live in a country where e-books are less than one percent of the market according to recent studies. When I tell people about Pegasus Pulp, I have to tell them what e-books and e-readers are, because the overwhelming majority of people literally don’t know. You hardly ever see e-readers on the tram or at the train station or at an airport. An e-only novel doesn’t even exist as far as 90 percent of the German population are concerned. So I want a tangible print book I can actually show to friends and family, none of whom have e-readers. It doesn’t much matter whether it’s POD or traditionally published with a print run of X, though. Sure, walking into a bookstore to see my book on the shelf would be nice, but it’s not a “must” for me. I write in English, so the chance of a German bookstore carrying my book is rather slim. Though I might get in via the local author angle.

As for Colfrith, I will have to reread it to see if it’s actually any good. And then I will decide what to do with it, whether to trunk it, submit it to a publisher or publish it myself.

Though I actually do have the perfect (well, with a bit of Photoshop magic) cover image on my harddrive.

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