Ravencon Panels (I DIDN’T do): Independent Publishing

I’ve had to re-write this intro three times, now.  At one point, this was supposed to cover two topics.  That changed once I learned this website had been hacked.  Now, I’m only covering one, and I’m probably cutting it short because I want to get this post out there (it really feels jinxed, in a way).

The two panels I’d hoped to be on, for Day One of the convention, were the “Independent Publishing” and the “Worldbuilding: Crafting New Worlds” panels. Go back through the past posts on this blog and you’ll find a lot of discussion on both topics (see here and here, respectively, for a couple examples, but I talk about aspects of both topics in numerous posts). That said, the world of indie publishing is always changing, and worldbuilding is a massive topic (we’re talking building whole WORLDS here… eh, so I’ve used that joke before, so what?).

To start with, on Indie Publishing:

Much of the discussion at this year’s (2018) Ravencon was not on self-publishing, as I had expected, but rather was about working with Small Press publishers.

Now, I’m almost entirely self-published (I’d say entirely, but there is that one story I did for that one anthology, and I did just have the audiobook for The Merrimack Event published through Tantor, so I can no longer say I’m wholly self-published), but I’ve been learning about the small press industry since I was ten years old, when my father was still alive and co-writing translations of Croatian Poetry.  And I continue researching it, keeping my ears open on all aspects of the publishing industry (Big 5, Mid-sized indie, small press indie, self-publishing, hybrid, vanity, etc.). So, I know a few things about it, even if my personal experience is limited.

For example, a number of successful self-publishers (or authors with even more experience) are turning their self-publishing enterprises into small press ventures.  I know of several (and I have worked with one):  Martin Wilsey, Chris Kennedy, and fellow Ravencon guest John Hartness (who was on the Indie Publishing panel).  Kevin J. Anderson (who you might be familiar with for his Star Wars novels, or for his contributions to the Dune series, but many of his 120+ novels were for original series or stand-alone novels) started a self-publishing company called “Wordfire Press” to re-release some of his out-of-print and backlisted titles; he now has a stable of over a hundred authors listed as having books released under that imprint.

IN GENERAL (some time in the next week a news story will come out with a counter example, I’m sure, but I’m not aware of one now), this latest crop of self-publishers-turned-publishers are treating authors far better than the Big Five do.  Better royalties, clearer language contracts, and none of the career-killing non-compete clauses, as some examples.

But small press is (and has always been) a mixed bag.  A small press publisher might treat its authors well, and appear successful, but could go out of business overnight.  This latest crop seems to be doing well (and I’m hoping for the best for all of them), but many of them are going into business without any other prior business or publishing experience.  This can be good (they may not have picked up on the bad habits of the industry) or bad (they may have no head for business and could easily go bankrupt, taking your books with them).  So, if you go that route you need to protect yourself.  That comes down to the contract you sign, but fortunately most indies are quite willing to negotiate.  And if you want advice on contracts, well, I am hardly an expert, but there are other bloggers who are.

Also, while not as prevalent as they were before, there still are shady vanity presses masquerading as small presses that prey on inexperienced and under-educated writers.  Before going into business with ANY publisher, big, small, or somewhere in between, educate yourself on good business practices from multiple sources, first.

There was also one author on this panel presenting the “hybrid publisher” model.  At least, I think the link’s description was what they were referring to (hybrid publishing has other meanings, too).  I will be honest — I don’t get the difference between the type of hybrid publishing described and the vanity press model (save, perhaps, the hybrid publishing model doesn’t always take all comers, and their services may be slightly better for the buck), and nothing that was said on this panel changed my mind on that, but this was just a fifty-minute panel.  While the author in question claimed to have success using their hybrid publisher, she did not go into details about what that meant, or how her hybrid publisher operated.

And  while this is a short-for-me post (especially after such a long wait), I think I’ll leave it here for now.  I will likely revisit this topic later (this has all been discussed before, and it will all be discussed again), but I managed to find a couple things I haven’t discussed (at least, not with these details) before.  Next post will be on Worldbuilding  (which originally was going to be combined with this post for one large “Friday panels” blog post, but after the hacking incident and other delays I just want to get something out there).  Expect another short post, but who knows?  Building worlds is a huge topic, after all.

Administrative Notes:

I know this blog has been quiet for the last few weeks, as far as its readers are concerned. It hasn’t been quiet here, behind the scenes, however.  I have a whole series of blog posts to write related to Ravencon (and its panels).  I’ve been looking forward to working on it, and went on to my blog a few weeks ago to start writing.

I instead had to scramble to fix the damage of someone hacking into my website. So, if you got a “this website may have been hacked” warning from Google or elsewhere… I’ve done what I can, and the problem should be fixed (at least nothing popped up in the scans), assuming nothing gets through between when I write this post and when I post it. I’ve been trying to fix it, myself, but since my tech team (me) is part time and under-educated for this sort of thing, it took me a while to take care of things.  I’d replace me, but it’s not in my budget to hire someone else.

Since the repairs have been completed, however, I’ve been trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening again without reducing functionality or spending way more money than I can afford.

Curiously, I only found out about the hack not because of a warning from my security software, but because Google had detected I was using an “outdated” version of vbulletin’s forum software. Since I’d deleted any forum software from this website years ago (and before it was deleted, that forum software wasn’t vbulletin), I knew something was wrong.

The hack appears unrelated to the problem from earlier this year that took this site down for a month, but it’s still troubling on that issue’s heels. Both problems seem related to plug-ins; one was a bit of old code that confused my security software, the other was a security hole in a different plug-in that a bot was able to use to hack into my website.

That hole that may have since been patched, but now I’m going through my old widgets, plug ins, etc, and deleting some old stuff that hasn’t had any updates for a while and may be vulnerable.  Much of it is stuff no-one out here will notice, but there are a few things you might see if you go digging deep in my blog’s archives.  The old polling plug-in that never worked right is now gone (which may mean the three year old posts that had been using that plug-in won’t display correctly, any more; I don’t think that’s a reason to keep the plug-in, however). I’ve also removed some broken links from previous blog entries that were detected during the clean-up process.

The next step will be to clean up and re-purpose the “Convention Calendar.”  At one point in time, I was hoping to use that plug-in to create a resource that could help SF\F writers and fans find writer-friendly conventions… but no-one ever seemed interested, the conventions themselves rarely cared when I e-mailed them to ask for a missing piece of information, and it took a lot of work, so I haven’t bothered updating it in ages.

Clearing out the calendar’s archives (which apparently attract harmful bots) will kill that plan for good.  I still think I can use the plug-in, however.  We’ll see.  After that, I may think about changing the “theme” for this blog; the current theme is one of the WordPress default themes, and is regularly patched by them (which, in theory, suggests they’re on top of plugging any security vulnerabilities), but it’s an older one, and apparently that might increase the potential for there to be exploits.  If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

Oh, and in unrelated (but still largely administrative) news, I finally made some minor updates to the Fennec Fox Press website.  Nothing major (most importantly, I added This Book Cannot Make Any Money to the “My Books” page, as well as an audiobook link for The Merrimack Event), but in the process I went through the “Fennec Fox Press Recommends” page and updated links to reflect newer editions, and to replace items that were no longer on sale.  I didn’t add anything all that new to it, but in the process I found that a book I would recommend to any writer (indeed, most creatives), which had long been out of print, came out with a new edition.  Since I think this particular book is so important for the writer, I will highlight the newest edition of The Law (In Plain English) For Writer’s.

And that’s it.  I had a blog post ready to go last week, but I didn’t want to put it out until I was confident that all the damage had been fixed.  So, starting next week, my long-delayed series of “Ravencon Panels (I Didn’t Do), 2018 Edition” posts will begin… unless something ELSE goes wrong.  (Sheesh, this year has been hard on this blog).