The League of Shattered Authors

antique bookpileIn the process of disseminating my long post on the evolution of publishing, and then adding a personal note about what it’s done to me and how I’ve managed to be fit enough to survive, I’ve heard quite a few stories from and about other authors in similar situations.

One that really struck home was a comment on livejournal from an author who, ten years ago, had occasion to interact with a number of up and coming, very fine writers with books in print or about to appear. It was a lovely time, I’m told; people were excited about the books, working on new ones, looking forward to the future of their careers.

Most of those authors, the commenter told me, are gone. Books out of print. No new books published. Sales weren’t high enough, new contracts weren’t offered, buh-bye. The commenter had tried to contact some of them, and found that many didn’t appear to be on the internet. Those who were reachable were, almost without exception, crushed.

Writing is a very personal thing. We’re told to just open a vein, write with our skin off, put our heart and soul into it.

Publishing, on the other hand, is as cold and hard as any for-profit business has to be. There’s some heart in it, many editors and publishers who will try to keep an author or a book or a series alive for the love of it, but realistically? If it doesn’t sell, the publisher can’t stay in business.

So authors are told that after we open that vein and pour out that heart, we have to turn into cold, hard businesspersons on the publishing and promo and sales end, and develop skins of industrial-grade plasteel. And if our sales aren’t good enough and we can’t sell any of our new mss. or ideas–that’s the way it is. Tough luck. Hope it finds a home elsewhere.

Ten years ago, or twenty, that home was pretty much nowhere. Another publisher wasn’t likely to take the risk on a property that was known to have sold poorly. A small press might try it, and the author might go broke (since very few small presses can pay advances) but at least have a chance to see their work in print.

Now, of course, there are so many more options. Chances are the author will still go broke–all those stories of ebook gold mines are exceptions, not the rule, especially for authors without large followings or very up-to-date, popular, trendy subject matter. But the books will see the light of day as ebooks, print-on-demand books, audiobooks, even games or graphic novels.

That doesn’t help the authors of ten or twenty or more years ago who saw their hopes crushed, their dreams shattered, and their books rejected by the one standard that validated them in publishers’ terms: money and sales. It doesn’t matter how many great reviews a book gets, or how many awards nominations or even wins it may receive. If the next book doesn’t sell well enough to keep the contracts coming, that career’s dead, Jim.

For authors brought up in this world, conditioned to judge their validity as authors by their ability to land new print contracts, the new world is pretty much beyond comprehension. Worse, they may not even be able to write, because writing in their minds and hearts became equivalent to writing to deadline, under contract. No deadline, no contract, no incentive to write, or perhaps more to the point finish, a book. Why bother? Who will even care?

Their readers do care, of course. And there is a chance that a book that didn’t find its audience then may find it now, at least in numbers enough to pay the monthly rent. But will the authors realize this? And if they do, can they piece the shards of their art and heart together well enough to be able to write again? Or to have the confidence (because it takes a whole lot of that) to put that writing out in a world that, the last time they tried it, smacked them down flat?

Book View Cafe is one way that a group of authors found to stand up against the pressures of a rapidly changing market. By banding together, pooling resources and skills, and being both big enough to be noticeable and small enough to be quick and agile as the sands shifted and shifted again, they–we–have managed to keep our collective careers alive, and in some cases, to raise them from the dead.

Not everyone has the time or the particular slant of personality to do it our way (all-volunteer, high-workload, consensus decision model), but I do believe that some form of banding together is essential. If nothing else, validating each other–convincing each other that yes, they can write, their work is of good quality, and readers should have the opportunity to find it again–can be a literal lifesaver for an author whose publisher cast them out into the cold. Low sales need not mean no sales. It may simply mean that the work appeals to a smaller slice of the audience than publishers need in order to keep up their profits–and that slice, at current royalty rates for self-published works, can be enough to live on. Frugally, maybe, but still.

It’s not really about the money, either. It’s about the heart of the matter: the joy in creating new stories, generating new words, making something that wasn’t in the world before. Giving authors back their happiness. Forging a new dream–maybe not the dream of a printed book with a major publisher’s colophon on the spine, but something that can be just as valid and worthwhile and exciting: to find new readers, and bring back old ones.

So many talents lost. So many series unfinished, books unwritten. In the new world, there’s room for them. I’d like to ask the hive mind of the internets: What can we, you, all of us do to help mend those shattered authors? How do we find them, and how do we encourage them to go back to writing again?

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About Judith Tarr

Judith Tarr is a writer, a freelance editor and writing mentor, and a lifelong horse person. She lives near Tucson, Arizona, where she raises and trains Lipizzan horses.
This entry was posted in Community, Publishing, Writers on Writing, Writing life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

83 Responses to The League of Shattered Authors

  1. Leigh says:

    An excellent question. It’s something I’m pondering right now in a slightly different context. I have a friend who’s near the end of her rope, with a book that had been getting some interest “but it needs a rewrite” from agents, now after rewrite not getting any responses at all. I’m trying to figure out how to convince her to maybe try self-publishing, certainly a better alternative than sticking the book in a drawer and forgetting about being a writer.

    • Judith Tarr says:

      It’s incredibly hard for the writer at that stage, because there is still something to be said for the validation of being told by a publisher, “You are good enough. We want to buy your book.” Publishers also, still (but not for much longer, I think), can get the numbers and reach and attention that a debut author mostly can’t get elsewhere (exceptions exist, but for the most part, this remains true).

      So for the debut author, the new landscape can be a real problem. How and when to decide to go indie? And should she? Is she quitting too soon? Is her work really ready for prime time?

      Endless reams of blogs and articles talk about this, however. What’s not talked about to nearly the same extent is what happens after the first contract (or second or third or fourth or more). What happens if the contracts get smaller and then dwindle to nothing. How the author deals with it–or not. How to survive when the bottom has fallen out. That audience, I think, is relatively underserved.

      • Kate Elliott says:

        I agree so much that the midlist midcareer authors are underserved and especially the ones coming out of the old paradigm who can be so well served by the many new options.

        • Judith Tarr says:

          And it is hard for many of them to realize this, or to figure out how to make the new paradigm work. It’s so different.

          • I consider myself fortunate now not to have broken into print during the 90s or even the early ’00s. It’s far too likely I’d have ended up amongst the rolls of those who were crushed by the system.

            (and it totally surprises me to be writing this)

            Nonetheless, I have to thank Phyl and a lot of other folks in my writing life because I’ve been aware of these pitfalls. But I still want to thank Kate, and Judy, and Phyl, and Ursula, and, and, and…because it’s been helpful. Thank you so much.

            • green_knight says:

              I consider myself fortunate now not to have broken into print during the 90s or even the early ’00s.

              Sing it loud.

              I might have done it if I’d persevered (I didn’t feel I was there, though I had a book that’s no worse than a lot of books that *did* get published). If I’d made it, I would have concentrated on the new world of how to stay published, write to order, etc etc rather than having the time to work on my craft and find out what I *want* to write. And I would not have been able to stay the course, so not only would I be looking at self-publishing now anyway, I’d have one or more books with my name on them that have major problems (very male-centric cast etc).
              I’m better off where I am. Which doesn’t mean that I’m not looking for other writers to network with; but right now I’m still less interested in ‘how to sell’ than ‘how to write well’.

      • JR Tomlin says:

        While those of us who “came up” the new way–the indie route–might tell you that it is actually more likely that a new writer, if they are good, is more likely to do basic things like make a living by going indie. Going indie is not “quitting”. It is simply taking a different route to the goal of having readers for your work and actually earning your daily bread from opening that vein. I’m not sure whether the subject of what the mid-lister can do if (or more likely when) they are kicked to the curb. I think it actually is discussed a lot on blogs like that of Joe Konrath who, after all, had that exact experience. Anyway, I assure you that the water is just fine over in indie-land. The new paradigm works for both the old authors and the new, if they choose to take it.

        • Judith Tarr says:

          You’re posting on the blog of a 40+-member cooperative founded to support midlisters (dumped or otherwise) as they go indie, which has morphed into a publisher (incorporated as a Publishing Cooperative), so. Yeah. We know. Look around, click some links, see what we do. We’ve found one way of surviving and thriving–of many.

          What I’m talking to/about is the damaged author who either hasn’t learned this or is struggling to learn it. It’s a steep curve and there’s a lot of traumatic stress involved. Just making that first step, realizing it is possible, is huge.

  2. I don’t know: I wish I did, because I have a litany of authors whose work I love, who are gone, who didn’t make those magic numbers, whose talent and skill are set as naught. Places like BVC are great, but I wish there were more of you, to bring back those writers.
    Sheila Gilluly
    Claudia J Edwards
    Graham Dunstan Martin
    Anne Gay
    Rosemary Edgehill
    Donald Kingsbury
    I know some of these are out there — I *know* Anne in person, and I’ve had the huge honour of corresponding with Sheila Gilluly. And then there are all the great writers who were dropped by the big six and are still writing — Liz Williams, Barbara Hambly, R A McAvoy… What is wrong with this world? And why are so many of these writers female?

    • Judith Tarr says:

      Rosemary’s still there. Saw her on facebook just the other day. I believe she’s gone the pseudonym route, and/or changed genres.

      I would like to see more groups of authors that support each other and help each other write and edit and publish their work. In my dreams, it’s like Professor Xavier’s school, except for writers, with one or two or more people running the business end and helping create an environment in which the writers write. Maybe it’s a job for a new kind of agent–the old kind is becoming obsolete, but there’s still room for someone who serves as a facilitator/legal advisor/contact with the book people (designers, formatters, editors, etc.).

      The thing is, nobody has to disappear the way they used to. There are so many options now, but I’m afraid many authors are just too crushed to realize it.

      • Yes! I’d be open to participating in something like this with writers at my current level (I have no illusions about being able to get in with folks who are further along the curve, but I’d like to ride the wave with others). I plan to spend this summer looking into various options, some of which incorporate my teaching experience.

        If I had more time, I’d love to check out trying to do the new kind of agent…but right now the Day Jobbe calls. OTOH, my son is doing some of this type of work for me, including the IT and promotional side of things.

        But I’d love to be able to network with gamers and graphic artists for some of the work I write. I know it’s possible, I’ve just not formed the connections yet.

      • CE Murphy says:

        Yes. This is what I want to see too, but I can’t do it from the business end *and* write. #frustration!

    • havocthecat says:

      Do you know how fast I’d buy Sheila Gilluly’s books if she were publishing anything new?

    • I *THINK* because I researched it once, that Claudia J. Edwards died in 2010 (unfortunately there is no clear description in the obituary, so it might not be her). But that still was a whole lot of time since her fourth book came out.

    • Barb Caffrey says:

      Rosemary Edghill is still publishing under her own name, at least in part. She’s put out a three-book teen series called “Shadow Grail” with Mercedes Lackey (I’ve reviewed the first two at Shiny Book Review, and plan to review the third), and put out another book of the teen variety as an independent, also with Mercedes Lackey. (Both of the series list Lackey first, but I’m reasonably sure this is due to the fact that Lackey’s name is better known. The books do not read like Lackey; they read like Rosemary Edghill.) And she wrote a book called “Dead Reckoning,” also with Lackey, which I called a “zombie Western steampunk thrill ride” over at SBR when I reviewed it last year.

      So she is still active. And last I checked, she’s trying to get her Regencies and her time-travel romance “Met By Moonlight” back out (now that the rights have apparently reverted) . . . she has a Dream Width page where she’s discussed some of this.

    • Sheila Gilluly says:

      Oh, my gosh, I just stumbled on this site, and I feel like I’ve come home! Everything that people are saying here is so absolutely true–it’s the soul-worm left by being dropped by a commercial publisher that does the damage. (Although I will say that Headline in England was very nice to work with right up until the road ran out.) havocthecat, I am writing, but I haven’t been able to pin the beast to the page long enough to finish the book. Your kind words give me a bright spark. Thanks!

      • Dirk Folmer says:

        I just discovered The Boy From Burren, and thought it truly wonderful. Madame, you a a painter with words, indeed. Thank you! I looked for you full bibliography… which lead me here. So, thank you for that, too!

        • Sheila Gilluly says:

          Dick, I’m so sorry I haven’t responded to your beautiful compliment sooner, but I just found it. Thank you, and I’m glad you liked the book. Skellig Inishbuffin may rise again soon in e-format…

    • Sheila Gilluly says:

      Hi, Kari! Thank you again for your kind words.

  3. Upstream, Kari made a good, and scary point.

    A lot of the authors that come to mind that are shattered seem to be women. Is it because I keep thinking of authors like Liz Williams, or Martha Wells (fighting but woefully underappreciated) or MacAvoy, or Elizabeth Willey, or Lyda Morehouse (who changed names and only now is having her original novels reappear)

    Now, an author doesn’t have to disappear, but is it too late for the ones that did? Once the sword is put down, *can* it be taken up again?

    • Judith Tarr says:

      Well, I took up mine–and the battle against the block continues.

      That’s the next post. Having just seen yet another “Gee, I can’t understand why people give up writing, I just keep on, I never gave up, I can’t see how anybody else would, writers write, gee gosh” post that made me want to smack the poster upside the head with a blunt laptop.

      • Elizabeth Moon says:

        The chipper chirpers drive me nuts, in any situation. “If you’d JUST do what I do, you’d be fine.” HA!

        Blunt laptops upside their heads forever!

        I tried to steer one novice away from a very bad contract a month or so ago, only to be told “But nobody else wants it so I have to take the deal I can get.” He was adamantly opposed to self-pubbing, even though for this particular person, it could have worked well despite no publishing history (he has a platform, so to speak, in a nationwide organization where he’s well known and respected.) Infuriating. He’s giving rights for life of copyright (headdesk!)

      • Cat Kimbriel says:

        Would you please smack a few times for me, too?

        It would be greatly appreciated!

      • Ashley McConnell says:

        Oh lord yes.

        Once you’ve been convinced that nobody wants to read what you write anyway, it’s damned hard to keep trying. You can only get kicked in the teeth so many times before you run out of teeth.

  4. Linda Nagata says:

    “Now, an author doesn’t have to disappear, but is it too late for the ones that did? Once the sword is put down, *can* it be taken up again?”

    I have to answer that with a resounding “yes!” I disappeared for many years, and while I never entirely stopped writing (meaning at least once a year I would decide to try again), I definitely stopped publishing. The first step to recovery for me was republishing my backlist–the sense of control that brought was truly empowering, revitalizing. That was in the fall of 2010. I’ve indie published three original novels since (all available at BVC), and a short story written since that time was recently named a Sturgeon finalist. So yes, it’s possible.

  5. houseboatonstyx says:

    I suspect the need for such projects as BVC may become even greater, when Amazon / Kindle / Nook / etc are no longer so fiercely competing with each other for new material. If indie writers must rely on them for exposure, they will gain the same power as traditional publishers have now; and, I fear, cut their royalty rates among other things.

    Publishing co-ops that help with art, editing, etc would be nice. But imo the essential thing is exposure and validation of quality. BVC is a great model for that: the known authors are endorsing the work of the less known.

    I hope the exposure / co-op marketing side will grow without waiting for the more difficult production side.

  6. Liz Williams says:

    Thank you for the mentions, folks – it’s much appreciated.

    A couple of thoughts. It isn’t really the changes in publishing that have caused my problems. I’ve always had a day job, because writing really doesn’t pay all that well at my level. I could always see a point where I turned into my own mother – published by Robert Hale in the 1970s, for about 12 novels, then dropped, and now writes purely privately. The issues that I’ve been facing aren’t so much to do with the changing face of publishing, because it’s always been such a rocky industry, but have been to do with being widowed, subsequent multiple bereavements, partner’s cancer, and trying to keep a struggling business (and the house) in the face of a worldwide recession. For me, compared to this, not being published again really feels pretty minor in comparison.

    I took to self publishing in various forms out of economic desperation and have learned a lot from it. There is a possibility that I will be going back to a mainstream publisher and possibly more than one, but in non-fiction (I can’t say more about this at present). What happens to the fiction remains to be seen.

    With Night Shade, I was pissed- off, but not massively emotionally engaged – probably because I don’t know the protagonists personally. The whole thing was a pain in the ass, but compared to other issues at the time, it took something of a back seat in my life.

    I would not describe myself as ‘shattered’ – not by setbacks in publishing. By a terminal illness, very probably. But not being published is just – not being published. I’m very fortunate in that although I’ve had a lot of success in my life, I’ve also had quite a lot of failure, and failure teaches you more: it teaches you to be patient, to look at things in relative terms, sometimes to give up, and sometimes to fight on.

    • Kate Elliott says:

      Don’t know if I’ve ever said this but you are such a role model for me, Liz. Just how you’ve negotiated everything. Respect.

    • Liz, I really like the way you phrased all that about success and failure, especially the bit about failure teaching you “sometimes to give up, and sometimes to fight on.”

      I look forward to reading more books by you.

  7. When I decided to self-publish my father’s Memoirs I thought who would be interested in a ‘woe is me’ type of war story. We have enough of those so I decided to write a Trilogy mystery series incorporating some of his writings with a blending of my favorite writer’s – JRR Tolkien’s – quest motif. It seems to be doing well and I got my lst big check for Book 1 – Lair of the Jade and Book 2 – Threads of the Jade is out on all e-readers.

    DARN – the eye-opener has been realizing that my age bracket are not e-readers so the promotion has been daily and critiques almost impossible to get. Seems like 200 friends are waiting for a hard cover which may come later! Now I have to reach out to other author groups…so in essence the plan changes daily.

    Writing is fun for me – sharing ideas with other authors is the icing on the cake so the dance goes on to Book 3 and who knows what will happen next.

    • Judith Tarr says:

      Best of luck to you and your dad.

    • MisterTeatime says:

      For the problem of your 200 friends who want a paper copy: I recommend checking out the nearest Book Machine. http://www.ondemandbooks.com/

    • Createspace is also available for POD, and they’re making it easier and easier to put your work there. You don’t all have to be ex-typesetters who re-learned Adobe Indesign and typeset her own novel.

      By the way, I stopped writing for about a decade, and two years ago decided to give it one last try. Book two in my YA fantasy series will be out this autumn. Self–pubbed.

      You can always come back. The problem is finding a way. It took a lot of hard work to keep getting past the blocks, and just as much to keep moving on book 2. If there’s a writer out there who needs a sponsor to keep writing, well, my email address is myfirstname-at-mylastname.com. What worked for me may not work for you, but something will.

  8. Rose says:

    I’m a first time author.. (editor, publisher, marketer, a do it yourselfer) I’ve always been a poet and I saw the “beauty” in self publishing, keeping my “authority” over the written word. I’ve gained a sincere appreciation of the business that so many writers supply globally to people. Every movie, TV show, every song, all starts with the written word… so many people are employed because a writer sat down for countless days and nights, ALONE, and wrote and wrote and wrote…. when the book “A Spirit Called Alcohol” first started writing itself through me, it was exhilarating. This movie played in my mind’s eye for 4 months and I took it all down… chapter after chapter. Then I had to change hats, and do the editing (living on unemployment, with no means for hiring an editor) and that job was grueling… but after 8 edits, it looked alright, so off to Kindle we went, then to CreateSpace.com… but how would I find my readers, so off to Facebook… I have about 100 readers since January 2013, and it’s been a challenging process… my readers contact me, and let me know how they like the book, almost all good so far… Marketing is tough and I’d like to know how to do it better, but I don’t care if a publisher picks me up or not. It’d be nice to have some help, but I don’t want to sell my soul to someone for money.. I can’t do it. Thank you for the article and now I know I’m not alone. Writing is such a lonely business… I put my heart and soul in the book and mistakes or not, that’s just how it is… peace and blessings, Rose

  9. That’s a scary article, Judy. And even though I never was a “real, advance-earning, big publisher” author, it feels like you’re talking about me, as well.

    Ten years ago, I was writing like a madwoman, talking to authors, having fun, dreaming of getting published. I even had an agent marketing my German novels. I thought I was up and coming, getting praise for the manuscripts. And rejections.

    My dream never happened. I turned to another career path while still holding my day job. Four years ago I ditched the agent.

    Even so, I had my first novel published (co-authored) last year, by small press, in German. It’s not selling well. I don’t have the time to do the marketing for the publisher. (And he’s not using the big distributors, either …) At least he’s going for ebooks now.

    So this year I decided that my writing really is mostly a hobby, and I self-published my first ebook and PoD. It’s only a short story, and I hope that I can recoup my investment for formatting and graphics over time. A second one is in the works. But those are old short stories. I’m hardly writing anymore. I just can’t really give up the dream …

  10. houseboatonstyx says:

    Okay, here’s an iconoclastic idea. Editing and layout, fine, these count while you’re reading a book. But cover art? Big fancy professional expensive cover art?

    Couldn’t that go the way of the other dinosaurs: the agent, the contract, etc?

    So much trouble and money, such a bottleneck … for something most people will see only as a thumbnail if at all. Didn’t first generation ebooks do well enough with just a good cover text layout and maybe an icon or two?

    • I think it might be an attention grabber now that more indie published books come out. Especially if it’s good enough people don’t realize it’s not traditionally published – I read the romance review blog DearAuthor.com a lot and while that itself is very ebook friendly, there are lots of discussions of commenters who don’t want to try indie published books unless they know what they’re getting – they don’t have any problems with small e-presses by the way.

      When Andrea Höst published And All the Stars with a cover she herself had fiddled with via stockphoto and photoshop (I presume about the software), quite a lot of people picked it up (I read most of the GR reviews) because the cover spoke to them, and only later realised this was wholly self-published. Interesting to me was that people either love the cover or really hate it ^^. The fact that AAtS got on the Cybils and Aurealis Award shortlist is only the gravy.

      Another thing Andrea did, but she did mention it cost her $500, was to put AAtS on Netgalley herself – it certainly generated more reviews on various blogs and on Goodreads in a shorter time than her previously most review book there, Stray (first in the Touchstone Trilogy). But not everyone has money to spare from wherever to pay for that privilege – she also has three books (one of them to be published still) with Julie Dillon cover art (and since she also does POD books those rights include print book cover cost), I bet that can’t be cheap. The Medair books and the original Stray covers were also comissioned artwork.

      TL;DR: with the ebook only reader losing ground and more people reading via smartphone and tablet (at least the ones with good eyesight), I think cover art will remain one of the causes for an impulse click or buy or to distinguish yourself from the masses.

  11. The PhantomofIT says:

    Cover art is not that hard. I know because I have done my own for a self published chapbook of poetry on Smashwords. You need a Camera and some kind of photo editing software with special effects or a friend with those things. You have two easy choices. Shoot the photo you want (preferably in black and white mode for this style) and use special effects to render it to a line drawing. Or shoot it in color and try “oil paint”, posterize, or sobel effects. And you can use the resize feature to get it to properly fit your medium. I will warn that for most brains Photoshop is a royal pain to use which is why I use ACDSee which I find fairly intuitive. As a matter of fact, I might be convinced to help out with photo art since I dabble in photography for fun.

    • Judith Tarr says:

      Here at BVC we have used some original art, got rights for some print covers, and done a lot of photo-manip and DIY. When we started we were kind of feeling our way along, but now we have some members who are actual graphic designers, and they’ve taught me, for one, about stock sites and proper choice of fonts and many other tricks of the trade.

      There are companies that will do this for quite a reasonable fee. Patrick Samphire comes to mind–I love his work. Some wonderful artists will work with indies, too. They are not cheap or free, but if you’ve got the means, they’re a definite option.

      When I look at the covers I’ve had from print publishers, I’ve had some lovely ones (Tom Canty, notably, and Donato, and at least one that won a Chesley for its artist), but then there are the others. Many others.

      • Judith Tarr says:

        Oh, and our guys who don’t use Photoshop recommend the much cheaper but quite powerful Paint Shop Pro. Also they talk about the open-source Gimp, though I hear that’s a challenge to learn.

      • SnickerKitten says:

        On sites like modelmayhem.com and onemodelplace.com you can often find photographers/artists that will do work for you in exchange for being able to use the result themselves as well. You get a cover for your book and they get something for their portfolio and/or a print they can sell.

  12. Susan Kroupa says:

    Thanks for that moving post, Judy. It’s tough to do without the “validation” that traditional publishing offers, and you describe well how shattering it is to lose a dream that has been the focus of intense work over many years. It was with great reluctance that I finally went to self-publishing (well, a very small press) amid feelings of failure and isolation. And while getting books out is a daunting amount of work and validation is slow to come, I’ve finally had some of the response from readers that I’ve dreamed about with my Doodlebugged mysteries–a rave review from a very-well read mystery bookstore owner and another one from a very picky children’s library, and a reader who wrote to thank me for making his mother, who was undergoing chemo, laugh out loud again and again. This has mitigated some of the feelings of profound failure I’ve experienced over the last decade, and has reminded me not to feel sorry for myself, because now I have the opportunity to at least find SOME audience, even if it’s small, and since, as Kris Rusch likes to say, books don’t spoil like produce, the chance exists to continue to grow that audience. And the barriers–still huge–continue to come down. Baker & Taylor and Ingram are now offering the same discounts for most self-published books as they have always given traditional publishers, which means that libraries and bookstores don’t have to take “loss” to buy a self-pubbed book. (Getting them to even notice that a particular title exists, of course, is another daunting issue, but at least the discount is possible if/when they do.)
    Anyway, great post. Thanks!
    Sue

  13. Michael J. Totten says:

    I’d start by republishing their backlist. If they start making money again on the old books, the wounds might heal or at least scab over.

    • Judith Tarr says:

      That’s how it worked for me. But who will do it for them? That’s the question. And who will encourage them to think of it, and then to put in the work (or the funds) that it takes to get the books scanned (since most won’t be in digital format, or will be on old floppies), cleaned up, formatted, and adorned with cover art?

      It’s a lot of work. I’ve been putting in long days lately, getting half a dozen backlist books ready for e-publication. Just cleaning up scanner weirdness in the docs takes hours and hours.

      BVC has been awesome for me in that regard, with co-op proofing, formatting, cover design, ISBN (so I don’t have to pay the fortune Bowker wants for small quantities thereof), etc., etc., etc. For the shattered ones, it’s hard to know where to even begin.

      • Lotus says:

        As a reader and big fan, I am very excited that your backlist will soon be available as ebooks! I read every book by you I could get my hands on over the years. I hope you continue to encourage other writers to explore the indie options. And for the earlier commenter asking about Rosemary Edghill, I just tracked down the 3rd book in a so called “teen” trilogy (kind of an American Hogwarts school) recently out co-written by she and Mercedes Lackey. For writers with backlists, search engines are a wonderful things for readers, although I will admit it is only in the last couple of years that I have come around to ebooks (I love my iPad). Thank you and please keep writing!

  14. One of the things that SFWA could do, IMO, is to help members get their backlist up in e format. This is however such a huge task that I don’t see it happening any time in my lifetime.

    • Judith Tarr says:

      I doubt SFWA as currently constituted would even consider such a thing. If by some miracle it did, more likely it would be a case of someone setting it up and then getting backing a la Writer Beware.

      Much more likely the romance field will pioneer this–they’re so much stronger as far as ebook readership goes.

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  18. Glynn James says:

    Why does BVC only allow previously “traditional published” authors?
    What about new writers who couldn’t do it themselves?
    Is it just a case of not being able to vouch for quality?

    (I’m not judging the choice. I’m just curious.)

    • Judith Tarr says:

      We have discussed this at some length and acknowledged that at some point we will have to change the policy, but at this point the number of trad-pubbed authors is high enough and the question of quality (who judges? by what standard? where do we draw the line? etc. etc. etc.) so complicated that we’ve opted to bump it down the road.

      We realize we’ll have to address this eventually. For now, we’re taking the simpler route. We have so much else going on–BVC is Much larger behind the scenes than it is out front–and so many irons in the fire, with so much volunteer time taken up with all of it (for some of us it’s a full-time job that we do in addition to our paying work) that we have to streamline what and where we can. So, we draw that line. For now. Five years from now? Who knows?

      • This writer will be watching for that decision. :)

      • M. M. Justus says:

        I would give my eyeteeth to be able to belong to a group like Bookview Café, but I’m self-published, not traditionally published and highly unlikely to be so. I have plenty of time and energy to volunteer, but I have no clue how to set up a group like that, or how to find people to join. So maybe what I’d give my eyeteeth for is lessons on how to do what you guys are doing. Seriously.

        • Judith Tarr says:

          We’re talking about a blog series about how we do it–probably in the fall. Mostly it adds up to: Enough people who get along well, with enough time and skills to set up a group and basically become a publisher.

          It’s definitely something we need and want to talk about. And share. The more authors can band together, the better–and self-published authors need it at least as much as shattered midlisters.

        • Justus, why don’t you start your own? Yes, it’s a hassle, and the learning curve is stupendous, but you can network with other co-ops (ask us what we did!) and maybe build a better mousetrap than ours.

          About the same time we started BVC, two other groups started up, both out of gangs of Novelists, Inc. members, I believe: BacklisteBooks and AWritersWork. One (BeB) is a site where multi-published authors with majorly deep backlists can have a page on a gigantic aggregate site; they can list URLs to locations where readers can buy all their books, old, new, paper, ebook, audio, everything. The other is more of a service, where members pay to have their books formatted and prepared for epublishing.

          Each of these groups works a little differently, costs more or less in time or money, and has different goals and functions. Each is tailored by the needs of its members.

          They all were formed on one basic principle: Pooling the talents, energies, and resources of every member for the good of all.

          There is plenty of room in this jungle for more author co-ops!

        • green_knight says:

          Want to chat sometime? (As yet unpublished, not writing stuff that is likely to fit into the catalogue of big publishers. Cooperative sounds good.)

  19. Glynn James says:

    *traditionally published
    >_<

  20. allynh says:

    I did my yearly search for books by Phillip C. Jennings and spotted new e-books on Amazon, but he is doing things all wrong. HA!

    I have no idea were he is on the net, so I left a note on one of his book pages, with no reply so far.

    The Chosen People
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Chosen-People-ebook/dp/B008YL7SQG/

    If you guys at BVC knows where he is on the net, you might bring him up to speed, and let him know that I want all of his stuff in paper books ASAP. HA!

    Thanks…

  21. Great post that really got me thinking.
    I never tried for traditional publishing, but I can only imagine how confusing this “do-it-yourself” world is for those who started out when there was no other option.

  22. The Rodent says:

    The suffering of invisible writers is mostly generated by the driving need to be visible. If one is secure and content with tinkering in one’s garage, none of this need be a problem. The one thing every writer should face is the simple fact that, like any art, there is generally no money in it. Keep the day job and find joy in cooking, not in opening another restaurant on a street already crowded with eateries trying to break even.

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  24. What I don’t understand is why Book View Cafe will only allow people to join their co-operative who have been traditionally published? “Membership in Book View Café is limited to authors who have been published by traditional, advance-and-royalty paying print publishers.” If traditional publishing crushed so many careers and e-publishing has resurrected them, why do you judge who is worthy of joining your co-op by this standard?

    • green_knight says:

      ‘Worthy of joining’ is something I cannot answer. But why a coop would choose authors with a backlist seems self-evident to me: they have a backlist to sell. It is *much* less risk to sell reprints of well-beloved OOP books from authors who already have a following than it is to publish new books, much less new books by unknown authors.

      Also, there is a very good chance that writers who have been through the publishing process will understand it – not only that they have skills to contribute, but also that they will be able to take editorial direction and are able to put their egos aside. Those are very, very important assets, and while no selection process is perfect, this one stacks the deck in BVC’s favour.

  25. Nicole Montgomery says:

    I don’t know how helpful this will be, but JA Konrath has *tons* of articles on self-pubbing, marketing, effective blogging for exposure, newsletters, just about anything you could want to help figure out how to start. I found this site from a link in a guest post on his. His site and this one are inspiring to hopefuls like me and serve as great resources for writers of all levels.
    Thank you – Nicole
    PS: I have no words to express how excited I am that some of my very favorite writers, like Judith, are finding a way to publish again.