As I mentioned in my last post, I recently went down to Cincinnati to visit my sister and her family.  We had a lot of fun and it was great to see everyone.  But one of the things that stuck with me was a Q & A I attended with three well known science fiction and fantasy authors: Quincy Allen, Todd McCaffrey, and Kevin J. Anderson.

At first, I have to admit, I hemmed and hawed about going to the panel in the first place.  Over the years I have read and read about writing, the publishing industry, and all the different aspects that lie inbetween.  What more could someone really teach me?

Then I realized two things:

First- There are a lot of different people with a lot of different view points on the craft.  And I get most of my information from the same four or five.  That’s not a lot of input over the long run.  Or even in the short run, really.  And the people that were in that room knew more than a little about writing and publishing.

Second- This was the big one.  I realized how short sighted that position to be.  I don’t know a damn thing in the long run.  Who am I besides an aspiring writer?  Sure, I can put two words together in a way that’s entertaining, but that means a whole lot of nothing when you get right down to it.  The proof is in the pudding, and I am fresh out of pudding at the moment.

So I went.  And it was good for me.  You see, it made me accept a few things about myself.  It made me question some decisions I’ve made.  Over and over again, I gained information that will help me better understand what it is exactly that I’m trying to do.  Let me give you a few tidbits that I brought back with me.

First and foremost, they talked about writing.  And mostly writing short stories.  This is perhaps going to be the hardest bit of advice that I have to accept and work on.  They heavily suggested that people write short stories.  It was brought up countless times.  Enough so that I might have to suck it up and actually write some.  You see, that is the format that I have the most problems with.  All it comes from the length restrictions.  I just have no luck keeping the word count down most of the time.  But several times they brought it up as an important exercise.  Writing short stories and mailing them off to be published.  More on that later.

The second thing I want to bring up was their thoughts on social media.  Sure, they said it was important.  And that you should be doing it.  But it isn’t everything.  There are other important aspects to being a writer, and social media is only one small bit.  As they put it, anything that takes you away from the writing, can sometimes be nothing more than an unneeded distraction.

Now, they did acknowledge that several well-known authors have a successful and popular social media presence.  But in doing so, you have to be aware of what you are saying.  Do you want to carefully craft your posts as not to disrespect anyone or any point of view?  Or do you want to stand firm on your beliefs and share them with the world, whether others agree with our opinions or not.  But in doing so, we risk alienating half our possible readership on the sole fact that they may not agree with our position.  Do you want to take that risk?  It bears thinking on.  Doubly so for me, since I have been considering taking that step.

The final thing that they discussed that hit especially close to home; self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.  And then within traditional publishing, whether or not to consider getting an agent.  I know that personally I have struggled with that particular question now for years.  There  are a lot of things to consider in my mind.  These authors seemed to agree that there were a lot of considerations, but it basically boiled down to two questions:  Do you think or know that you enjoy all those other aspects of self-publishing beyond the writing?  How much money do you want to make?

Let me explain.

For the first question, they pointed out how much work self-publishing was; all those other things you have to do in order to get your name and your book out of there.  As most of us know, only a little bit of that time is actually involved with the writing process.  We have blogging, tweeting, designing, formatting, cover design, ex cetera.  The list goes on.  When you are choosing to self-publish or not, you need to take into consideration all these things.  Sure, some things you might be able to cut corners on, but the vast majority, you won’t.  Not if you want to do it right.  That’s a lot of extra time and effort you will be putting into it.  And money.  Which leads to the second question.

The self-publishing aspect has one great aspect going for it: the money.  Your rate of return on the book is much higher than that of traditional publishing.  75-80% compared to 15%.  Traditional publishing has to pay for their marketing, their editors, and all those things that makes the system work, where as you are doing it all yourself in self-publishing.  So of course your profits would be higher.  But on the other hand, are you paying for editing and marketing beyond what you are doing?  As they put it, you typically want the money to run toward you rather than away.  You need to bear that in mind.

I know which side of the line I sit on.  I’ve tried to fight it or work with it for years now, but I can’t really deny it.  It won’t change how I handle The Red Dress, but it may very well impact how I handle my other novels.  Perhaps it is time for me to turn into the skid instead of trying to constantly fight it.

There were many other things discussed.  Most of them were of interest, but didn’t stick with me as much as those three points above did.  I’m glad that I went.  There was a lot of information they put out and a lot to absorb.  If you get a chance to sit down with these same authors or other authors of their caliber, I’d highly suggest that you do it.  It will be worth it.

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