I have a problem. It’s this: there are many publishing options available to me at the moment. I don’t know which to choose. That’s a problem that most writers throughout the history of commercial fiction (let’s say the last 200-300 years) would have loved to have had. They had very few choices. That doesn’t make in any less of a problem.
Here are the options, as I see them, with a quick run-down of advantages and disadvantages:
Web-based serialization: put up pieces of the work, maybe a chapter at a time, for free, on a regular schedule, and hope to attract an audience long-term, then sell them ancillary stuff. This strategy has worked very well for people in the webcomics field. There are at least a dozen, maybe more, webcartoonists who can believably claim to make a living from their free serialized online comics — or, at least, from t-shirts, books, and other merchandise — or even, in one case, a massive fan convention — arising out of and/or relating to their free serialized online comics. I haven’t seen any webfiction properties succeed to the extent that the top webcomics have succeeded, though. Have you? It’s possible I’ve missed them. My guess is that the visual aspect of webcomics makes them a better match for this business model. T-shirts are easier to sell if your characters are already visually-appealing cartoons, for example.
Traditional publishing. I am not without connections. My first novel was published by one of the Big Seven, after all, and though I doubt they’d ever want to touch anything written by me ever again (let’s just say I wasn’t the next Tama Janowitz — a hot young writer at the time), I do have friends who work in New York publishing. It’s still a thing. They have their strengths. On the other hand, I’m not in the mood to wait five years.
No. Seriously. Five years.
Let’s break that down:
- I’m guessing I won’t be finished with the whole book for about a year.
- Then I’m looking for an agent. Let’s say that takes another year. That’s very optimistic, even with my connections. It’s an odd, odd book that services a niche (gay fiction) that pretty much died in the 90s (about the same time my first book withered on the vine), a victim of the success of the gay rights movement. You don’t find Michael Cunningham books in the “gay fiction” section, you find them in “fiction,” right? I’m no Michael Cunningham, though, and the gay hook is a necessary part of my sales pitch. So yeah. Optimistic. One year. Two more likely.
- Now let’s continue to be optimistic, and say that it only takes the agent another two years to land a deal.
- From signing the contract to holding the first hardcover copy in my hands took nine months for my first book. I imagine that that hasn’t changed.
Yeah. Five years. LIkely more than that.
Note that I haven’t even mentioned the economics of the traditional publishing situation. Others have covered that sufficiently well. Apparently it’s even worse now than it was in 1991, the last time I played that game — and it was bad enough then to put me off of my career as a writer for decades.
eBook. It’ll still take about a year to finish the thing, but once I’m done, it can be in reader’s hands almost immediately. I’m a pretty good online marketer, and I’ve still got a little bit of notoriety from other projects I’ve worked on, so I could possibly make a go of this. It’s the most likely scenario. However, I’ve heard that you don’t necessarily do well in the eBook market until you have 7 or 8 books out there, and that’s not something I’m going to be able to do anytime soon. Unless …
eBook serialization. Given that my book is about superheroes, I’m thinking I could possibly release it in Kindle Single “issues,” the way that comic books are released. Each “issue” would be a little more self-contained than a typical book chapter, but a little more connected to the rest of the work than a typical short story cycle. I could sell these for $0.99, and very quickly have a bunch of them in the store. When I’ve completed the work, I can either pull the “Singles” and sell an “Omnibus,” or … not, depending on how well it all seems to be working. Disadvantage: people may think I’m nickle-and-diming them to death. I could easily see backlash.
What do you guys think?