Thursday, August 26, 2010

Money should flow to the writer, but always?

Among fiction writers there is an old saying that "money should always flow to the writer." Basically, this means fiction writers should be paid by publishers, and should not pay their own money to be published.

It's become a cliche.

However, most times it is true.

That old saying is basically an attack against vanity publishing, in which a publisher charges the writer to be published. By many fiction writers, this is considered a scam, and they're not necessarily wrong. If a writer is paying to be published, the publisher is making their money from writers, not from the readers, and that's not really publishing, at least not traditional publishing.

Until recently, most self-publishing ventures were some form or other of vanity publishing, and have long been looked down upon by more traditional writers and publishers.

But technology has changed much in the book publishing world in the last few years. Digital books are exploding, becoming more and more popular by the day. With digital publishing of e-books, writers can now publish their own works online at sites such as Smashwords or for e-reader devices such as the Kindle by Amazon without having to lay down any cash because these companies make their money through percentages of sales of the writers' e-books.

The writer doesn't have to shell out any money, the companies distributing the e-books make money, and everyone's happy. Right?

No, not really. Technically, this new wave of digital publishing is still self publishing, though it's no longer vanity publishing because the writer doesn't have to pay to be published. Unfortunately, self publishing raises the hackles of a lot of people, many of them working within the traditional print publishing field.

But not everyone. Some writers and even editors and publishers are joining in this wave of digital publishing.

The arguments on blogs, boards and forums become quite heated at times, but the truth of the matter is that the technology is here to stay. Currently there is nothing to stop a writer from digitally self-publishing their own work, despite a number of people frowning upon it.

It's also generally looked down upon for writers to spend any of their own money to promote their own work. The publisher is traditionally supposed to take care of that.

But does that thinking hold with today's technology?

Not entirely.

Yes, money should flow to the writer, and yes, writers should not pay to be published.

But guess what? Once a writer begins publishing their own works, they are no longer just a writer. They are also a publisher.

Which means, maybe there's nothing wrong with a writer spending his or her own money for promotions, marketing, etc.

Please don't get me wrong. I don't believe writers should go out and spend tons of money to get published or to purchase advertising or anything like that. But I also feel writers shouldn't limit themselves because of some stigma of spending their own money to promote their business.

Because a self-published writer is indeed endeavoring upon a business. In the U.S., if you make more than $600 a year from your writing, that's a business. If you make less than $600, that's a hobby.

One secret successful writers have learned is that the writing is the easy part (and often the most fun part). It's the promotions that's the real hard work. Promoting one's own writing, especially in an appropriate manner that is not spamming potential readers, takes a lot of time and effort. In fact, it can take more time to promote a book than it can to write the book!

Again, I'm not advocating writers spending a bunch of money. But I am suggesting writers consider doing some research into promotions, then possibly spending wisely. Remember another old saying, "if it's too good to be true, it probably is." So beware of all the scams trying to take your money, because plenty of them are out there.

Related links
New for epic fantasy fans, The Kobalos Trilogy
Writing for a Living, a blog for online writers
Logical Misanthropy, horror and fantasy author's blog

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