In the last week or so I've been looking for a venue for my other writing, namely, my fiction.
I've written fiction ever since I can remember, starting with some truly dreadful stories when I was in middle school, fortunately none of which have survived, a fact which will probably frustrate my future biographer but for which the rest of us should be extremely grateful. I have written fairly steadily thereafter, and probably passed the mark of "marginally adequate" when I was about 25, thus proving that if you keep doing something long enough, eventually you get better at it.
I have, at last count, three full-length novels, seven novellas, and six short stories that I consider reasonably good. I have tried repeatedly to get something published through the traditional route of querying an agent, submitting manuscripts for perusal, waiting 18 months for them to return it with a note that says, in toto, "No thanks," and then going on to the next agent. At some point I realized that at this rate, I would be 450 years old before I would have even odds of having something published, and I sort of gave it up as a bad job. As a result, all of my writing is now slowly mildewing in the Black Hole of Calcutta, a.k.a. my bottom desk drawer.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine passed along an article about the new "e-publishing" route, in which authors can upload their work onto a server, and readers can download them for a small fee (think iTunes for writing, and you've got the idea). My first thought was that it was cheating -- that it was a little like vanity publishing. My pride rebelled. Then, realizing that I could keep my pride at the cost of keeping my status as an "unpublished author," I decided to look into it.
I was surprised at what I found. Through sites such as Smashwords, Lulu, and PubIt!, authors can submit their work, along with cover art, and actually get their work out there more quickly and effectively than traditional publication. The author retains all rights, and gets a cut of the proceeds. Because of the low overhead, the cost to the reader is much less than a printed book (downloads generally run between $0.99 and 5.99). Some new, previously-unpublished writers have gone viral, and had tens of thousands of downloads. So that part, naturally, sounds pretty intriguing.
The downside is that the author is also completely responsible for publicity -- I would guess that the great majority of works uploaded to these sites only are downloaded a handful of times, mostly by the author's friends. And I know about myself that self-promotion is not something I'm very good at, notwithstanding the fact that this entire post is basically self-promotion, which I felt that I should point out before someone else did.
On the other hand, some readings are better than no readings, which is more-or-less where my writing has been for the past fifteen years. So I've decided to give it a try. To quote Hilaire Belloc, "When I am dead, I hope it is said, 'His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.'" For no particular reason I decided to use Barnes & Noble's service, PubIt!, and this weekend started messing about with cover art for three of my pieces (two of the novellas and the short stories, which I intend to submit as a collection). This entailed that I learn a little bit about Photoshop, further bumping up the angle of the learning curve on all of this.
The long-and-short of it is that I have three pieces of cover art I'm actually fairly proud of, and am ready to go to the next step, which is to register, write up blurbs for each of the pieces, write an Author's Bio (I'm thinking that it probably needs to say something more than, "Gordon used to really suck as a writer, back when he was in middle school. Now he doesn't suck quite so much. We hope you'll agree.").
After all this, in my opinion, comes the hard part. How do I sell my work? I have a couple of ideas, mostly revolving around sending a broadside email to all of my friends saying, "Please please pleeeeeease buy my stories," but I'm suspecting that there's more to marketing than that or otherwise people wouldn't go to college and major in it. My problem is that of all of the jobs in the world that I'd really hate, "salesperson" would fall somewhere near the top of the list, probably immediately after "cat groomer" and "arctic explorer." So I'm going to have to give this some thought.
Or maybe just write a blog post ending with "Please please pleeeeeease buy my stories." $2.99 each, available through PubIt!. Release date to be announced presently.