Pseudonyms and other career plans


I’ve been following a few pro-authors in the past year, two are very much for self-publishing on Kindle, one is still the voice of reason. While Joe Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith keep showing indie authors can have success and the old world of publishing is slowly crumbling, David Farland is still cautious about it.

I think it depends on each writer’s expectations and capacities. Dave is right that most writers are delusional, both in Hollywood and New York (depending if you’re writing screenplays or novels). It’s true that some indie authors are awful, but not all of them. And I think readers are smart enough to pick good stories, well written and well presented, without bothering to check if there’s a publisher behind it or not.

Kindle (or Lulu, or Smashwords) allow a preview of the first, ever-important pages of any book, so readers will immediately know if it’s crap or not. As Dave pointed out (in his newsletter, you should subscribe to it even if you don’t write genre fiction):

I’ve done that same experience on more than one occasion, picked up a self-published novel only to see a dozen horrible mistakes—everything from typos to misspellings and just genuinely terrible prose—all within two pages.

So, depending on what kind of writer you are, self-publishing e-books might be for you or not. If you plan on being the next Amanda Hocking (who, BTW, worked her ass of, if you check her blog), it’s a gamble, just like trying to be the next JK Rawlings in traditional publishing. If, like me, you’re a prolific writer and you’re sick of watching your stories gather dust on your hard drive or old notebooks, I think you have nothing to lose. Dust them off, make them shine and put them out there. It’s a brand new world opening for us, and like Ollin said, it’s think it’s time to join the party and start taking our chances.

Here’s David Farland’s test to know if you’re ready – again from his unmissable newsletter:

So how do you know if you’re ready? There’s an easy test:

1) Write a book.

2) Print it off and pass it around to twenty people.

3) Wait for two weeks.

At the end of two weeks, if you have only a few people, say five or six, who have read your book, it’s not holding your audience. If you’ve got a book that has had fifteen or so people who’ve read it with excitement, you’re doing well.

But what you’re really looking for is “pass-along rate.” If at the end of two weeks you have people who are passing the manuscript to friends to read—to sons and daughters and neighbors—then you have a potential hit. If you’ve got thirty or forty readers at the end of two weeks, then you know that your book will have a life.

Hopefully, you’ll soon find an editor or agent who agrees with you, but if you don’t, that’s when you really begin looking at self-publishing.

As for me, it’s difficult to find 20 English-speaking people in Rome (although officially on the offline writers group there are 30 people) and mostly hard to find fast readers (there’s only one in that writers group). But I’ve done some self-publishing with comic books in the 1990s, so it’s not totally new to me, it’s just the media that is different.

I will use different pseudonyms for different genres, so if one doesn’t work I can rely on the other. I’ve used Barbara G.Tarn since the 1990s as creat0or of Silvery Earth, so I’ll keep using it for my fantasy world and a couple of sci-fi alternatives, but I already picked up two more, for the historical novel(s?) and for contemporary stories (and I might pick up another one if I decide to write in Italian again as well). I’ve seen on Smashwords I could upgrade to Publisher (recommended also for authors who use two or more pseudonyms) and I already have my own “imprint” on Lulu (as Unicorn Productions), so it shouldn’t be too hard…

I will take down everything from Serial Central this weekend, and reissue Modern Fairy Tales on Smashwords with another pen-name, along with the prose version of some of my screenplays, so those stories can see the light of day (and then Hollywood can come a-calling, I’ll be ready for them! ;-)). I won’t mention the historical novel anymore here (except maybe when I finish it), and I’m still looking for critique partners and/or fast beta-readers – I’m fast, compulsive, prolific. But I still need external eyes to see plot holes or inconsistencies.

I feel like a pro with lots of back catalog and I’m very excited to finally be able to put it out at my own pace, without waiting for anybody to tell me I’m ready! :-) I’ve written for long enough to be confident in storytelling, I know you never stop learning and look forward to this new lesson, and I hope to find my readers soon.

It’s the beginning of a new era. Let’s celebrate it! :-D

4 Comments

  1. subcreator

     /  17/02/2011

    I think the people who go on about “self publishing is mostly crap” are delusional. In my opinion, most traditionally published books are crap as are many books that are celebrated as “classics” by critics and high school english teachers from coast to coast. What is and isn’t “awful” is HIGHLY subjective. And in a business (publishing in any form is of course a business) it’s what the customers say that matters.

    If customers like a book it will sell well, if they don’t it won’t. In the publishing business that’s the only true test of quality.

    • Like William Goldman says (about Hollywood, but I think it’s valid for NY publishers as well): “Nobody knows anything”! ;-)

  2. Interesting blog post.

    I know that some self-published novels can be really good. Know two people who have published their books and I definitely think they are of good quality. However, there are some who barely edit by themselves before self-publishing. Those who take a nanowrimo novel or others, edit for one month and then start selling are what gives it a bad name.

    I’m going to try for an agent and such first, though self is always in the back as a possibility. Since I write different genres, including YA and romance/erotica. Need those under two names at least, lol.

    • I’m not going to try for an agent because my fantasy is unconventional and unmarketable (for mainstream publishers, I mean), but I do understand the wish to try.
      It’s true that self-editing gives self-publishing a bad name, I’m certainly going to hire a pro-editor to at least copy-edit my manuscripts, and rely on beta-readers for plot holes and other “problems”… I’m aware that my eyes aren’t the best judge for my writing! ;-)
      Happy writing!

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