Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Sigma of the Stigma

I've been catching up on some writerly-world blogs lately, including Dean Wesley Smith's. I just finished his sum-up of the year 2013 in publishing. Plenty of good thoughts and observations in there, as is expected from this particular industry vet. If you haven't yet, definitely peruse his and his wife's blogs: they have lots of info for aspiring authors of all stripes.

A few of the comment's to the post I was reading sparked my memory of a topic I'd wanted to revisit for some time now. The stigma of self-publishing: how it continues to affect reader perceptions and how it is changing. Especially in the area of copyediting.

I can say without a doubt that two out of the last four traditionally-published books I've read recently had a higher rate of typos and other proofing errors than my own offered books. I've been hearing more and more from non-writers who are beginning to notice this downward trend in quality from the major houses.

Yet, in most reviews I see of trad-published books, such a thing as a typo is never mentioned, whereas in reviews of indie-published books they are mentioned with a high frequency even when it is to say "I didn't find many."

In many ways, the stigma of the self-publisher is dying. People rarely bat an eye anymore when I say I'm self-published as opposed to traditionally published. The world of the serious indie publisher is becoming more refined and polished, with business and production practices trending to a standard much closer to the major houses. In a lot of cases (including, I hope, my own) you cannot tell the product of one from the other.

Except, it seems, in the case of editing, in which self-publishers are taking the lead in quality. Because we have to. When a reader stumbles across an error in a book they know is self-published, it becomes a major event. That still-present stain is seen more clearly; the book feels soiled in their hands. It becomes a confirmation of the "not-quite-there-yet" status of the indie crowd.

But the same reader takes no similar notice of errors in traditionally-published books, even when present at a higher rate. With indie published work, the reader is on the lookout for that confirmation of a second-tier status they still believe in. Thus to be taken seriously, self-publishers don't have to be "as good as" a traditionally published work.

They need to be better.

I Made a Top Five List! and other things

I managed to rate a mention over at the Fantasy Review Barn with their 5 Self-Published Gems of 2013 list. Yay for the Wandering Tale!

There should be more of the Wandering Tale published next year as well - I'm hoping to finish at least two additional novellas, and one of those will be continuing the saga of the malevolent blade, Peace.

On the immediate writing plate I have a story I'm writing for a contest submission (alternate history) as well as the ongoing effort to gather enough SciFi shorts for the anthology I mentioned in the last post. Following that, I intend to make it a priority to get the first Wandering Tale collection and Twixt Heaven and Hell out in paperback. I've been dragging my feet on those for too long.

Speaking of the Science Fiction anthology, if you happen to know of any good scifi artists, please put me in contact with them! Browsing DeviantArt is fun, but a lot of those guys are hard to get a hold of...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Back From Another Blogging Sabbatical

Forced sabbatical, really. Another semester down, and finally the degree is within reach. That should be the last time I can accuse school of pulling me away from other things. I'll need to find different excuses in the future.

Fortunately, despite not blogging over the last few months, I was still doing plenty of writing. 13th Night is not complete - I and the professor decided to amend our goals to three completed acts rather than an entire five-act play, which turned out to be a bit too ambitious given both of our schedules. So, yes, I have about half of a play. It needs a lot of work, but it was definitely cool to be able to get credit for a creative project. I wish I'd clued in to the possibilities of Independent Studies ages ago.

I've also completed a couple of short stories and made beginnings to several more, in anticipation of publishing the SciFi shorts anthology sometime next year. I still don't have quite enough finished material to round out the entire anthology in the theme that I originally intended. I may decide to loosen up the theme itself, or simply work on writing more stories that belong within it.

Consciously attempting to think up stories that conform to a certain theme, or feeling, is an interesting experience. I've never lacked for a pile of story ideas to start my next project with, even after discarding many as simplistic, unworkable, or more fit to include as subthreads within another story (a planned fantasy series of mine has absorbed a lot of stories into itself over the years). Now I find myself actively trying to create concepts that revolve around this unifying idea, and it is... more difficult than I expected. A lot of the ideas end up being too similar, derivative. I'm okay with a certain amount of subject bleed - there's no harm in revisiting topics more than once, so long as each story stands on its own feet. Too much repetition, though, will just harm the entire group.

So, can't really say when the anthology will be published. Once I have most of the stories written I'll start putting them out individually to some beta readers, and then I'll start thinking about getting feedback on story order and other formatting issues. I'm already thinking about the book cover - artwork always weighs heavily on my mind as it's the one part of a publication where I'm not much use.