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.