Interesting concept, paying to have your book published.

I know I have said before on this blog that that seems to me like the money flowing in the wrong direction.

This bumped up against my consciousness again recently because I read an article which suggested that paying for publication didn’t make the writer a bad person. I didn’t know anyone had ever suggested such a thing. I certainly wouldn’t. It might suggest they are a bit needy, and in this case, short of perceived time. Age can focus your mind quite strongly on the mills of the publishing world.

But a bad person? No.

The frustration element I can understand and I suppose one of the reasons the article sprang off the page at me was empathy.

I have a collection of short stories that have not seen the light of day and probably won’t by the look of things. Getting short story anthologies into print, hard copy or eBook for hard cash seems to be one of those Sisyphean labours of the modern age. My short stories tend to be of a length suited to an older interpretation of short, at least for the online platforms and even many of the remaining traditional hard format magazines. One particular SF story I wrote came out at just over 12 thousand words. I edited it down in successive submission formats to below 12 and then below 10 and then below 8 thousand words. I confess I thought the below 10 one was better than the initial version, but the last one was a cut too far for me (and still didn’t land a publication slot). I have lots at c3-4 thousand, a few around 5 thousand and a couple over that. Below 2k seems the standard requirement for online stuff now. Assuming the platforms are still running. A quick run through online lists of openings for short story writers, both online and hard copy mags is a sad journey to dead links, optimistic holding pages stating ‘will be accepting new submissions again soon’ –  dated five year ago and the whistling blackness of the internet ether.

So what do I do? I could put them up here, and that still seems like the most likely end result. However, if I do, that immediately disqualifies them for most other purposes. It counts as publication for competition entries (not too much of a problem – not a fan of paying for the lottery of publication), and for submission to magazines. And publishers of anthologies may take them if I were A L Kennedy or the ilk who have taken blog posts and published them in more traditional form, but I am not one of them.

So pay to publish?

I don’t think so for me.

I have been published in magazines before and have e-published things myself and been in traditional hard copy anthologies, and at no stage did money flow from me. I never made a fortune but I have never been out of pocket at the end of the deal. I hope that doesn’t come over as arrogant because we are definitely talking small potatoes here. But if I just want people to read my work I am more than happy to put it on here and people can read it for free. Or publish it online and take a small remuneration. Readership will be small, but that is true of most traditionally published books as well. Independent E-pub in spades.

I was talking to a publisher some months ago and he suggested to me some figures for sales for new authors that scared the living daylights out of me. Now the worst figures were for poetry and self published at that, but c20 copies seems unbelievably low. Traditional route hard copy was better but not by much for new authors without the heft of a big publishing effort and a hook into an established publicity base. Perhaps a few dozen books in the first quarter sales, with a few hundred copies over the lifetime of the book!

Sure, some big authors, who were first time authors once, sell tens of thousands of copies, but not many writers fit that bill these days despite the hype you see in publicity material.

The main initial push for an unknown, or little known author used to come from publishers. That seems to have largely gone. I’ve seen publishers blurb seeking new authors that basically leaves you under no illusion that they want the author to have an almost cast iron interest group following them already and a solid commitment to tours and appearances and festivals that make you wonder what the ****! they are doing for their money. I mean if you just want to print the book and do the publicity yourself – you might as well and keep the percentage the publisher would take.

Back to the article that sparked this moan down memory lane for a moment. It ended suggesting that paying for your book to be published made your book available to read and enjoy, which was what every author wants. I suppose the last bit is true, but given the evidence suggests that hardly anybody will buy it if I do pay for it to be published in traditional format I’d rather put the work out there for less or no cost on here or online and reach a bigger audience.

Of course I still rather like the idea of the labourer being worthy of his hire.

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