Facing Facts

The Hard Truth About Self Publishing

It is time for us to have 'The Talk' about self publishing. Being a Spec Fi author is a tough row to hoe, particularly in the self publishing and small press fields, and you face a daunting task to be heard. Hopefully the harsh realities won't discourage you in your writing career, but you do need a realistic idea of the challenges you face as a self published and small press author.

Surprisingly, the Speculative Fiction market is tiny. The two big magazines have circulations of less than 30,000 each, and the typical press run for a new author's book from the New York houses will be about 15,000 copies in mass market paperback - this in a US/Canadian market of more than 340,000,000. (By comparison, a typical press run in China is as high as 1,000,000 copies!)

Moreover, everybody and their dog thinks they can write Spec Fi, which means there is a lot of competition out there. The big New York publishers alone produce some 1000 titles a year, and that number is tiny - in selection if not in volume - to the self pub and small press markets.

Another problem is that there are no clear cut channels for marketing and distribution, which means you will have to beat the bushes for each sale. (See Guerrillas In Our Midst for further details.)

Finally, there is an awful lot of poorly written drek out there (even from the big New York houses), which leaves many readers reluctant to lay their hard-earned money down on an unknown.

What it all adds up to is that being heard is not easy. Unlike the successful 'names' with their cozy relations with New York, you can figure on spending as much time and effort on production, marketing, and distribution as you do on writing - if not more. It's not like it can't be done, but it won't be easy, and realistically you will earn a better return for your effort working at MacDonalds.

You need to think of self publication as a hobby whose payout comes in the satisfaction of creating works of literary art, and the recognition you will earn in the spec fi community. True, self publishing can serve as an entre into New York, and if it does, all to the good. But the sensible thing to do is focus on the enjoyment of creative writing, and whatever happens - happens.

Now, that said, let's get to work.

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