Sunday, May 15, 2011

Putting a Toe in the Water

In her recent blog Writing Like it's 1999 Kris Rusch describes the radical changes in the publishing industry over the past ten years (or so) and how this has affected publishers, editors, agents, and especially, writers.  She contends that this allows the writer to bypass all of the middlemen and directly access the reader.  Before one steps into this brave new world it might be important to understand who those "middlemen" are and what roles they perform.

Historically writers petitioned agents and/or publishers to consider their works.  The traditional process meant the writer had to first submit a proposal and, when that was accepted, submit a synopsis and the "first fifty" pages to demonstrate the quality of the writing.  After an agonizingly long delay, the response would appear, stating that it was not "suitable" or that the writer should now submit the entire manuscript for editorial review.  After more delay, the editor would request structural changes - meaning major rewriting of the manuscript.

When this was accomplished to the editors satisfaction, the copyeditor would comb the manuscript with the finest discernment and produce an affliction of alterations, corrections, and suggestions more numerous than fleas on a scrofulous dog. Remember, this is all to get the piece started toward the actual  production, which will involve the wrap-around cover, writing back and front matter, page setting, galleys (which again needed correcting by the writer), before going on to printing, binding, and distribution all of which means that the final book appears years after the proposal acceptance.

Todays environment allows writers to go directly, as Kris points out, from a final manuscript to production as a Print-on-demand book or as an ebook in any of its many forms, and all within a few months at most.  Those who have the rights, such as Mike Resnick and others, have successfully e-published their out of print books.  There are many tools avaialble for the would-be writer/publisher that make production of an ebook a relatively painless and certainly faster process.  The downside of doing this is that such productions lack professional editorial input and probably suffer as a result.

 I've begun producing thematic collections of my fully edited and published stories as Kindle editions and e-pubs.  After discovering how easy that process was, I published a make-up novel composed of already published novellas and novelettes, through Smashwords as Distant Seas.  Wildside Publishing also released my mass market paperback Vixen as an e-book as well.

With somewhat of a presence in the e-publishingworld I decided to test Kris's premise by e-publishing Magician! - an old novel of mine based on the Nebula finalist novella "Magic's Price" to see if it will develop legs, produce endless criticism, or fail to reach a single reader. If this test proves successful I might try another completed, but unsold novel instead of waiting years for result.

We shall see.

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