We all know the best career course for the hopeful speculative fiction author is to be accepted by the major New York houses, get a first rate agent, release a steady stream of mega-hits, win a case full of Hugos, Brams, Nebulas, etc, and become a household word. Who among us doesn't dream of being the next Larry Niven?
I started writing mostly as a way to kill a slow summer break, and because the college computer center was air conditioned. I keep at it because I am a compulsive perfectionist who needs an outlet for my creative urges - and because, like all authors, I have fallen in love with my characters, and want to see them prosper.
Sadly, the publishing industry is in a sorry state because they are stuck in an outdated business model. I don't fault them, really. They have to make payroll, and pay for warehousing and print runs, and provide huge and imediate profits to the conglomerates which own them. That means they have to sell books - lots of books - in a hurry. So they shovel out dozens of editions each month. And since their economics are tight, they can't afford much promotion except for their few proven authors. And since the bookstores have limited shelf space, they have to remainder those books in short order to make room for the next wave. Short print run + minimal promotion - remaindered stock = damn little. So they have to limit themselves to proven authors and proven products. Larry Niven sells. Star Trek sells. Star Wars sells. Bad vampire fiction sells. But here is this newcomer - his writing is brilliant, plots ingenious, characters strong and vital, narrative flows like butter - but no one ever heard of him, and it isn't bad vampire fiction. What can they do?
What's worse is that everyone and his dog thinks they can be a speculative fiction author, so the New York houses and agents are flooded with manuscripts - to the point where almost all of them have closed their doors to newcomers. What kept me running in circles for years trying to out-guess this self-destructing system was that I didn't acknowledge the hard truth of our times:
New authors have a better chance of winning the Multi-State Lotto.
Even beyond the daunting prospects of getting published, the odds of achieving any sort of literary immortality are hopeless. If you somehow manage to get into print, your brilliant work which you labored over for so long will receive precious little marketing support, and will be yanked off the shelves after a mere 90 days. Moreover, if you are successful, your publisher will pressure you for more of the same, which pushes authors into drawn out ongoing story lines which inevitably lose their appeal. And if you have a single poor seller, even if it's not your fault, your career is over. Yes, Larry Niven did it 40 years ago; but I doubt even he could do it in the environment of today.
I am not young: time is not on my side; so it is foolish for me to stand around waiting to be hit by New York lighting. So I decided to step beyond the traditional role of author, and take up the banner of all self-published and small press authors. It's hard to say how successful this effort will be, or what direction it will take us. There are no end of possibilities, and how much can be achieved is yet to be answered. But I would rather do something - even if it achieves only modest success - than to stand around waiting hopelessly for New York lightning to strike. It will depend on you, the fans, of course. No one can turn the tide alone. All I can offer is a means to better our community. We shall see what becomes of it.
My best to you all,
You can learn more by checking out the Business Plan at this link.