The five types of unpublished books

TL;DR version: go big or self-publish.

(The following was written to help me think through the possibilities for a couple of project I’m involved with. It may or may not be useful to others. Also, none of the following takes the need to diversify into consideration which could completely change the picture. As always, YMMV. And ‘book’ for the purposes of this blog post is any project, digital or print, that is primarily intended to be read.)

If you’ve written a book, there are basically five things you can do with it.

The splintered author

One of the major problems with yesterday’s blog post was my use of a derivative of the word ‘professional’ (or, ‘de-professionalised’ if you want my garbled, distorted, and modified to hell derivative).

That word, helpful and specific as it might seem at first glance, has a long history of being stretched, manipulated, and abused to suit people’s agendas. It has served very well those who have sought to be exclusionary and divisive.

It was quite possibly the worst term I could have used, except there aren’t that many alternatives with the meaning and history that fits.

So, instead, I’m going to describe very quickly the process that I’ve labeled as a ‘de-professionalisation’. That way, if you still disagree, you’ll at least know whether you disagree with my use of the term, my version of history, or my view of the present.

What ebook production problems are self-publishers facing?

Driven by curiosity (as always), I’ve just spend a large part of my lunch break browsing through various forums[1], trying to get a handle on what problems self-publishers are facing when they are creating their ebooks.

My impression is that, unlike what I expected from the work and challenges I face making ebooks for a traditional publisher, styling and formatting isn’t a major issue—formatting problems seem limited to edge cases. I’m assuming this is because most self-publishers are doing novels with very simple style needs.

The problems people seem to be facing, in no particular order:

Book contracts

Reminder to aggrieved authors: Nobody holds a gun to your head and forces you to sign a contract. > > -- Don Linn (@DonLinn) [February 12, 2014](https://twitter.com/DonLinn/statuses/433573195476508672)

Normally, whenever Don tweets anything I just nod my head in agreement and move on.

My response to this tweet, however, was more ambivalent because it seems to imply that we shouldn’t be complaining about unfair standard practices in the publishing industry.

Intermission: sorting through the banal

Everybody who knows what I do assumes that I’ve given up on print books.

You make ebooks? Haha, you don’t need any bookcases then, do you? Must be nice.

Not that I haven’t used it as an excuse once in a while. As a rejection, it’s a little bit nicer than telling somebody that I don’t want their book because it isn’t good enough to put on my shelf—oh, and the cover’s ugly to boot.

Except, except, except

—_Publishers really invest in quality and editing._ Except editors keep getting laid off as a part of cost cuts. —_If you want proper marketing for your book you need a publisher._ Except you’re expected to do most of the online marketing yourself, and online is where all the sales are happening. —_You need a publisher if you want the book to look good.

Losing faith in yourself

(This is the sixth Stumbling into Publishing post.) It always starts well because I always start alone. Working by myself, I have the peace of mind to just focus on the work, work on the components, polish the details, and simply go where my interest takes me. Sometimes you share with people you trust; never more than with a small group. Sometimes you lose interest and just stop. You are working alone and so who is going to judge you for giving up?

What I thought I wanted versus what I really wanted

(This is the third Stumbling into Publishing post.) The project idea was simple: write and publish a series of novella-length ebooks. The reason was even simpler: to learn about ebooks and publishing. I had a few requirements at the start. I was only going to put together four to six stories. Not just for my sake, but also for the reader. I wanted to make sure that the reader had an end in sight.

The last two Knights and Necromancers stories

(This is the first Stumbling into Publishing post.) A while back I started an experiment where I self-published a series of sword and sorcery novellas. I’m ready to declare the experiment a failure for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason isn’t that I didn’t get any readers (although they were very few and far between) but that I’m dissatisfied with the product. When I started I had what I thought were six decent novellas.

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