[identity profile] moth2fic.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] broadstairsbacc
This is the text of the talk I gave at the con in September. I had it printed out as handouts and [livejournal.com profile] margaret_r had made it all pretty with text boxes so that it was easier to read and refer to but LJ doesn't seem to encourage that kind of thing... So you get the unadorned version.

I'll start with an overview of three methods of getting your work to other people's eyes - fanfic, mainstream publishing and self publishing. I am not even going to touch on vanity publishing which is where you actually pay someone to publish your work. It was valid once upon a time - early nineteenth century? Not any more.

Pro fanfic
• Write what you and your friends want to read - publishers will not provide this! Intelligent women over 20 who are not into chicklit are nobody's target audience.
• Don't worry about length - though LJ and FF.net will both produce problems. (NB FanFictionDownloader can help there) http://www.fanfictiondownloader.net/download.php
• Write it as a WIP or a series if you like - publishers would accept/reject each part separately
• Get fellow fans/writers to beta - they are better than most mainstream editors - they know your subject, listen to reasonable arguments, and are not constrained by the Chicago style manual or marketing needs. I can share examples of hilarious but heartbreaking mainstream editing from friends' experiences but they are too long to go into here.
• Don't worry about being Brit - or anything other than American. It is OK to use your own slang/dialect/spellings. Really.
• Enjoy instant feedback (though beware trolls).
• Control the way your story is posted - headings, illustrations, summary/blurb, etc.
• The site you choose holds your hand through formatting and posting

• Choose a site where your readers find it easy to access your work and to download. Then 'market' it elsewhere e.g. on comms or in your blog. Get your friends to pimp it. Don't expect to become a BNF - they are as rare as mainstream best sellers. Don't angst over comments, kudos, hits, etc. You wrote for yourself and your friends, didn't you?
• Obviously I recommend AO3 but there are others!

Anti fanfic
• You only get paid if you sell your soul to e.g. Kindle Worlds
• Some people still regard it as vaguely unacceptable - and I'm not talking about sex here - the copyright barons have made a lot of people see transformative works as somehow criminal.
• Some people still think you are a weirdo
• Instant trolls are a fact of life but they are in other spheres, too.
• Your story is constrained by worlds other people have initiated.
• Your readers will expect sex. Explicit sex. You won't always want to write about sex.
• You will never be famous unless you publish like EL James.

• Ask yourself why you are writing. And remember, if you decide to file off the serial numbers to go ‘pro’ that will take as long as writing something original in the first place.

Pro mainstream publishing
• Possible fame (vanishingly small possibility).
• Possible fortune (even more vanishingly small possibility).
• Qualified editorial support (but see comments above about how betas are better).
• Qualified illustrators (but you get almost no choice).
• Marketing (except that unless you are a big name, it's non-existent and you pay your own expenses).
• You can tell people you are a writer and they won't laugh, sniff, snigger - much. You can then legitimately spend time on your craft. close the study door, etc. To those of you who do not live in a family situation this might not seem like a big deal but believe me, it's the one thing that might have swung mainstream publishing for me.
• Someone else does the formatting - well, this too.
• Participation in the great gamble.

• Ask yourself why you are writing

Anti mainstream publishing
• Publishers believe they are the custodians of literature and morally bound to guard the 'gateway' from an invasion of hordes of illiterate wannabes.
• Publishers do not understand online reading habits.
• Publishers provide virtually no marketing etc.
• Publishing houses provide poor editing and an expectation that you will use a spell checker and present perfect work although they will quickly correct Brit English and convert it to the garbage demanded by the Chicago manual of style. They will not notice plotholes or inconsistencies. They will misunderstand passive verbs.
• They will push your book into a specific genre, even if it's a bad fit.
• They care deeply about length - something to do with archaic printing and bookbinding traditions...
• You may find yourself feeling sick when the dreaded reply arrives - or even when you post your submission. (That’s the main thing that drove me away.)
• It's a great gamble.

• Run (unless your name is EL James or JKR)

Pro self publishing
• You control the editing, cover art, headings, style, length, everything.
• You choose your market and if it's a small niche, that's your choice.
• You do your own marketing so if it fails you have only yourself to blame.
• You can tell your friends and family you have a book for sale so it's marginally more 'respectable' than fanfic and you can tell people you are writing and they might be quiet. Might.
• There are those moments when you get a royalty cheque and realise you can afford a take-away this week.
• It's an interesting hobby.
• You are not constrained by anyone else's canon.
• If you used a fanfic and filed off the serial numbers you are no longer constrained by anyone else's canon.

• Investigate.

Anti self publishing
• Formatting.
• More formatting.
• And then again...
• Even though Smashwords and Amazon provide detailed advice they disagree and it's all still a steep learning curve.
• Marketing. If you are not good at selling yourself online your marketing will suck. But then mainstream publishers are not much better. Keep telling yourself that.

• Find a friend who will hold your hand. Many heartfelt thanks to Marg (LJ margaret_r and AO3 Fictionwriter). As with other kinds of publishing, don't set your initial expectations too high. You are probably not Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.

My own experience:

I have 57 works on AO3, most of them long, in multiple fandoms (some of them crossovers). I had 60 but I took three down - they were in legends and fairy tales and it dawned on me that they were not in breach of copyright and I could publish if I wanted. So I did. The plus side was that it gave me terrific experience with formatting etc. with things I already had feedback on. The minus side was that I stopped getting much in the way of feedback and I suspect I'd largely saturated the market during the fanfic period. I now think I could have left them where they were (without using any links, of course) but that might have reduced my sales even further. Oh well.

I tried submitting to publishers - one of these, and three of my original works. There was very little interest. 'We love your story but it is not a good fit with our present plans blah blah blah'. 'We love your story but the market for this type of work is currently saturated blah blah blah.' 'We love your story but it is the wrong length for any of our current submission calls blah blah blah.' I have to say I have not had any outright rejection of the work itself. Maybe they actually hated it but saved themselves having to tell me so with the other excuses? And it all took for ever because they all hate multiple submissions and they all take ages getting back to you.

I talked to published writers, followed a couple of blogs*, talked to editors I know including someone who worked as a commissioning editor. All these are people I met online (and some I have now met in real life) and they are an incredibly helpful and friendly bunch. I realised that I was all about control and that I could never cope with an American editor, that I want to choose/design my own covers, and that I hate other people managing my life. I realised that I was not into gambling and that even if my books didn't do well I would be happy selling them to a few people. I write for me, really.

So I also realised I would have to learn about formatting - or hire an expert which I wasn't prepared to do because I didn't feel like spending money upfront. How hard could it be? (See my Wordpress blog*.) Stupid question.

I also needed to get details about things like IRS requirements but other writers are helpful and I soon got the information. Again, my Wordpress blog details the adventure.

I now have four books on sale - two novellas, a collection of three short stories, and a novel that is the first in a series. My only expense so far has been a small payment to Skype to enable me to talk to IRS without paying BT international charges. My royalties have been less than stellar but they exist and I have straight-faced annual conversations with the Inland Revenue. I don't count the expense of my laptop and programs like Word and Photoshop because I wanted/needed those anyway, but publishing helped me justify their purchase to myself. If I ever made much money I could offset part of the cost of e.g. laptop renewal against tax.

Would I do it again? Certainly. I have other books in the pipeline but I am lazy and I run out of time - well, not time, exactly, but the kind of longish, quietish time needed for formatting.

Regrets - my marketing sucks big time and I have no idea what to do. On the other hand..... let me tell you about the possible class set. (An online friend wants to use my novel with her creative writing class, to make podfics of it and to have me talk to the students by Skype.) Socialising online pays much more than merely advertising!

Do I still write fanfic? Of course, and that is in no way a springboard to original work even though three of my books came from that field. I started writing original stuff before I knew fanfic existed. In fact, I think my original work, particularly some I did in an online writing group, has informed my fanfic rather than the other way around. The two kinds of writing are separate but complementary activities. All writing and feedback helps to hone writing. All writing is pleasurable. Pity it comes with formatting...

*Have some links:

1. The first one is my go-to place for info about self-publishing. He is a missionary for this, writes copiously and aggressively and gives loads of ammunition for arguing with nay-sayers. I usually read his posts and some of the comments.


2. The next is our own [livejournal.com profile] beren_writes from [livejournal.com profile] connotations. As well as being able to follow the fortunes of the indie press she and her twin have set up you can get links to all kinds of things like free illustration sites and of course she's very approachable and gives advice! I am irregularly in touch with her...


3. Then there's a publisher giving some useful insights into publishing in general - worth the occasional glance though I believe the site is currently on hiatus. Scroll or click back.


4. David Gaughran is a writer who shares his own experiences and backs up Joe Konrath. Found during my research into the mysteries of US tax law. Interesting but I only read from time to time.


5. Even if you don't want to use them the cyberwitchpress does proofing, formatting, etc. and there are tips and idea to be had. Have a look around rather than following slavishly.


6. Finally there are more details on my writing blog; click on the 'publishing' tag/category but everybody is welcome anyway and I love getting comments. So many of the friends/followers I have comment elsewhere in emails, phone calls, social networks, etc. and it looks as if my blog isn't read, but it is!


(I have chosen the 'public' security option because I hope to send some of my f'list here and they aren't - yet - members.)


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