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Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

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Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The New Year in Writing

I greeted this new January with enthusiasm, after a couple of tough years. Hey, my indoor citrus trees have all blossomed today, what can be bad about a day perfumed with the scent of orange blossoms in January? And it's a new start for many writers, as well. I have quite a few students and the trend to self publishing is accelerating. It's so much easier to simply self publish your book than to suffer through the tiring and discouraging process of querying agents and getting a lot of rejections. And you have no editor, nobody to tell you that the story or memoir you love so much isn't perfect.
But increasingly, I'm seeing sad results from students who blithely published that mystery, romance, or memoir. They sell three copies or maybe ten in a year. Most go to family and friends, one or two to strangers. Alas, the really tough part is that many of these hopeful new writers have paid thousands of dollars to 'publishers' with the profound belief (usually supported by these 'publishers') that they'll make all that money back and more, that a New York editor will notice their book and probably buy it or at least buy the next one.
These 'publishers' now tell novices that in 'today's' publishing world, it's now accepted that authors share some of the risk and pay for the production costs.
This rapidly growing cottage industry saddens me. These 'publishers' are preying on the dreams of novices and they know exactly what to say in order to make the novice believe that All Will Be Well and Lucrative.
Now there ARE reasons to self publish, and you can make decent sales in the self published market, but it takes a LOT of work on the part of the author. The 'build it and they will come' belief is a lovely Hollywood myth, but doesn't apply very well when your book is swimming in a sea of (often very poorly written) self published books.
Where does today's reader look for their next read? Sadly, most of the people I ask still mention a brick and mortar bookstore like Barnes and Noble or Powell's here in Oregon. And they're looking on the shelves, not in the data base that allows a 'publisher' to tell that hopeful novice that his or her book will be 'available from Barnes and Noble'.
Self publishing does open up a world of possibilities, but it requires hours and hours of self promotion on the author's part. The internet is a great way to reach a lot of potential readers, but you have to REACH them. Aha, therin lies the rub!

If you're considering a non-New York publisher for your book, by all means do yourself a huge favor and visit Preditors and Editors and the SFWA Writers Beware pages. These sites both carry a list of publishers who have been flagged for charging fees for their services.
Remember....if it's a REAL publisher, the money flows FROM the publisher TO the writer. It does not EVER flow the other way. If you are paying to publish your book you are self publishing. Since you're writing that check and buying that publisher's services (no matter what that publisher claims) then be a good shopper and see who will give you the most service for the best price.

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