Another Round of Jack (Squat)

About fourteen months ago, a webzine called Darwin’s Evolutions went on hiatus. That made me sad, mostly because I know Darwin and he’s a good guy. Also because at the time, before the explosion of ebooks into the mainstream, there were very few epublishers who were accepting unsolicited works. That, of course, has changed over time due to the emergence of Amazon’s Kindle and self-publishing line.

But now…

Darwin’s Evolutions is back and accepting novellette and novella-length submissions. Instead of going after the short story market like before, they are going to try to build anthologies in the neighborhood of 120,000 words (twelve 10K word stories.) and focus on novellas. This means that maybe, just maybe, Christian Cole might find a home.

I’ve wrestled with the self-publish/small press decision for Christian Cole for quite some time now. I’ve done the research and found that with the advent of Amazon’s self-publishing feature (and, to be honest, amazed at Amanda Hocking’s success), there’s only a smidgen of difference between self-publishing and a traditional small press publisher. For example…

Corruptor, as I may have mentioned (bajillions! it’s freaking bajillions!) a few times, was published by a small press publisher named Twilight Times Books. It’s a decent little publisher, one I’m not ashamed to pimp out occasionally (as long as baby brings daddy home some cash, we cool). However, their publishing system, I have discovered recently, is a print-on-demand format, which is why big bookstores like B&N have slapped Corruptor with a non-returnable label. Can’t return something which hasn’t been printed yet, right? Right. While TTB’s ebook section of their website is pretty solid (non-DRM, good rep for fast service, etc.), their print books are hit and miss at times. Now, to clear the air, I haven’t seen anything that might say they’re a bad print publisher. I’ve heard from third and fourth parties, though, that they’ve seen and heard issues with TTB. I take it with a grain of salt.

But the POD format… tells me much. First, that with the advent of Amazon’s self-publishing ebook and print-on-demand system, the only difference for me if I published Corruptor through one or the other is that TTB provides the cover art, as well as gets the book listed at B&N, Fictionwise, etc. Publicity, promotion, everything else under the sun falls onto me (which is cool, I like a challenge). Which brings me to the primary question: do I self-publish the sequel (already been denied by the publisher, who has first refusal) through Amazon, hire a cover artist and an editor and work my tail off , or do I rewrite it, send it to TTB and upon acceptance, work my tail off like I did with Corruptor?

The real difference, to me, lies in the paying for an editorial service as well as a cover artist. The good thing is that I’m becoming decent enough with PhotoShop that I can almost create my own cover. The bad part is the editing service, which doesn’t come cheap. A good editor charges upwards of $35 per hour. A great one in the neighborhood of $75 an hour, though those are hard to come by. Plus, do you have a cool grand to drop on editing alone? If you do, I have a bridge to sell you…

But the debate rages, as does my indecision.

What to do, what to do?

2 thoughts on “Another Round of Jack (Squat)

  1. It’s a question well worth asking, Jason. I find myself questioning whether or not I should even be doing this with the enormous tidal wave of self-publishing going on.

    The word “self” is the kick in the nuts, though. I think that there’s a couple of things that make working with an appropriate house worthwhile in the long run as opposed to flying solo from zero.

    I agree with you that the primary thing is the editing support, of course. A serious self-publisher will always seek out an external editor and copyeditor for support. Anyone who attempts to edit their own work is not really thinking with both oars in the water. Authors are tunnel-visioned with respect to their own work, albeit through no fault of their own. They already know what they mean and what they intend and their eyes can easily glaze over errors that less invested individuals might catch. It’s a rare bird who can actually edit their own work to pro standards.

    One of the other things a house can bring is a “name”. For startups and small presses, of course, the “name” is a goal, not an actuality. Still, it’s something that can be created with consistency in editing and product quality. What an established name brings is a readership or, in another word, broader distribution. So, it’s a time and quality dependent variable, which I think you can see is directly tied to how a house conducts its business.

    The third pillar is “push”. Many authors don’t want to deal with that. Sadly, it’s the least equitably distributed function of houses. It seems that far too few authors ever receive push in the current model. I think the new small e-pub and PoD houses are still trying to figure that part out. I know I am, but I openly recognize that it’s a crucial factor for the success not only of my efforts but also for those of the authors and artists who contract with me.

    This brings me to another advantage of working with an appropriate house: synergy or, if you prefer, teamwork. Editing is really only part of the equation. A good house is a team by definition and a good team is something that enables a group of individuals to exceed the performance of any single individual. There’s a lot of personal chemistry issues in team building, but if properly fostered between the various interests, it can be a powerful force for providing quality products.

    Finally, I’ll mention something that an author mentioned to me. The sole reason this person submitted to DE was that they wanted to “get the word out” about themselves to a broader market. Ergo, they view my efforts not so much as an end in themselves, but merely an avenue to creating their own “push”. The fact is, I don’t begrudge this at all since it gives me copy to work with. I’ve done similar things with established authors before, so doing them with previous self-published authors doesn’t faze me at all – so long as the story is worth using.

    Anyway, that’s what I’ve come up with so far as I ponder this same question. Only time and effort will determine if the world still wants pubs like Evolutions in the post e-book world.

    • Those are excellent points, Darwin. I hadn’t thought much about the push (save for the publicity, which is always a pain no matter who you are) but using a publisher like Evolutions to help get both party’s names out makes a lot of sense.

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