The Ides of December
When I first started this blog, I subtitled it “how not to succeed in publishing”. Or something like that. I changed it because I ended up talking about a whole bunch of stuff that had nothing to do with writing. I tend to blather when I don’t have a plot to keep me in line. At any rate, here I am talking about writing again, and I hope that that original subtitle doesn’t jinx me, because I am also hoping (probably against my better judgment) for a modicum of success at publishing.
Fortunately, despite the sort of stories I tend to write, I don’t believe in jinxes.
Tomorrow, December first, I will be releasing my latest book for the potential consumption of the reading masses. “Ruins of Camelot” has been a long time coming, which is sort of ironic* since it was one of the quickest books to write. I love this story. For that reason I tried –fruitlessly, as if it needed to be said– to get it fer-real published. No dice. Thus, as I indulgently explained in my previous post, I determined to throw caution (and perhaps good sense and my few remaining shreds of pride) to the wind and publish it myself.
Tomorrow, I will have my first glance at whether or not that gambit paid off.
At the risk of sounding like a bit of a megalomaniac, I have an idea that “Ruins of Camelot” might be worth keeping an eye on, even if you don’t like strong-female-lead, not-quite-high fantasy for the young-adult-crossover market (although really, why wouldn’t you, you old stick-in-the-mud?). Here’s why:
Self publishing might be on the verge of becoming a legit force in the book market. There have now been a few (a very few) bestsellers that were self published. The paper ceiling (ha-ha *cough*) has been torn through, paving the way for potential success for anyone who has a good tale to tell and the marketing savvy to promote it. For the first time in the history of books, the traditional publishing model can be bypassed on the road to mainstream success.
But it won’t be easy, and the problem is very simple.
If you happen to be a wannabe writer like me, you know that literary agents and publishers set up obstacle courses to purposely complicate manuscript submission. They insist on seemingly arbitrary rules and arcane style preferences. They demand perfectly formatted manuscripts, written only in Times New Roman, double-spaced, on virgin recycled paper. They look for subtle hints that you don’t know the business and are therefore a talentless hack– things like book titles in ALL CAPS (a good sign), or query letters of more than one page (a bad sign), or whether you did enough research to know the names, species, and reading preferences of their pets and were sure to greet them all individually in the first paragraph (exceptionally good because it is impossible).
And as much as we hate this, there is a good reason for it: everyone thinks they can write.
I mean that literally. Everyone thinks they have a “book in them” (often the story of their life, which might be a distinctly American brand of self aggrandizement). Every moderately successful actor thinks they can turn bestselling autobiographer. Every radio talk show host catches the popular delusion that they harbor latent talent as a novelist. Everyone has a story to tell, and they believe that the only thing keeping that story off the bestseller charts is the writing of it.
Unfortunately, a lot of them do write it, and therein lies the problem. There is a tremendous– a truly monumental, earth-shaking, awe-inspiringly enormous– amount of completely hopeless dreck out there.
Literary agents and publishing houses handle this fact by the aforementioned obstacle course of rules, pitfalls and hurdles, thus weeding out the less-than-wholly-dedicated. By making the door into the publishing world very, very small and hard to squeeze through, they keep the flood of dreck manageable and hopefully only allow through that which is nominally worth reading.
Now, however, self publishing has created a whole new door– an enormous door that absolutely anyone can fit through, along with their one-thousand-page novel about time traveling puppies (“it’s like Air Buddies meets Back to the Future!”) and their collection of nihilistic free-verse anti-poetry (“Sign Language in Oven Mitts”). This avenue doesn’t generally bother with such mundane things as editing, promotion, or packaging (much less grammar or spell-checking). Thus, the mountain of dreck gets dumped directly into the consumer market, warts and all.
This is the problem that any good independent author has to struggle with. And this, I submit, is why “Ruins of Camelot” might be worth watching. All modesty aside, RoC has a great cover. It has a professional-looking website. The animated trailer is engaging and has an original score by a fantastic composer (Isaias Garcia, thank you very much). All told, RoC has gotten the sort of star treatment that would normally be reserved for a potential bestseller from a large publishing house. Furthermore, I have a dedicated FB page with over 5000 fans, and I have been shamelessly promoting the story to them for months, offering contests, excerpts and giveaways. They seem eager to get the book when it comes out.
In short, everything seems perfectly aligned for “Ruins of Camelot” to break through the mountain of self published dreck and emerge as a viable contender for anything published by the traditional method.
So will it?
It may not. No matter how shiny it is, RoC may stay buried like a Rolex watch under a pile of manure. Success will depend on one thing, and one thing only:
When a book sells well in the first week or so, it climbs the bestseller charts. When it climbs the charts, it becomes more visible. The more visible it is, the more people will find it and consider buying it. This worked for my previous book, “The Riverhouse”, so I know it is possible. It just can’t be relied upon.
So there it is. This, if you are interested to know, is what I am fretting about today. “Ruins of Camelot” could be a bestseller. It could achieve the initial sales numbers needed to propel it up the charts and earn the consideration of the average reader who wouldn’t know my name if I kicked them in the shins wearing a clown suit (which I may resort to as a marketing plan if things don’t work out).
OR, RoC could just as easily be a complete dud. It could languish with limp sales because everyone is busy Christmas shopping for their great Aunt Martha, or is waiting to buy it on sale after Christmas (not gonna happen), or just plan on reading a free version that pops up on a file sharing site somewhere (I will come to your house with a baseball bat. Not really. But maybe yes.) In that case, RoC will be forgotten just like that Rolex watch buried in the dung heap. I will continue to crawl along under a crippling pall of self doubt, and most likely somewhere, somehow, a puppy will die.
More importantly, for those of you who like my James Potter books and want to see the fourth book, “James Potter and the Morrigan Web” completed soon, I can only say that if RoC sells well, JPMW will come along a lot faster, mostly because I won’t have to spend all my time making inane animations to sell car insurance and checking accounts to hapless television viewers. To put it bluntly, sales of RoC mean more free JP stories.
But enough of that.
The point is this: if independent authoring (I do so dislike the term “self published”) is going to ever be a truly viable option for anyone who hopes to sell more than a half-dozen copies to their immediate family, “Ruins of Camelot” might be a good canary-in-the-coal-mine. Everything is lined up for it to succeed. It has the promotion, the packaging, the potential audience. If it does, then maybe this truly is a viable option for the dedicated indie writer. If it doesn’t…
Well, maybe the book just stinks. It’s possible, yes?
(sigh!)*”ironic” in the Alanis Morrisette sense, not the Webster’s Dictionary sense, so keep it to yourself, smartie.