This is the fourth in a series of interviews with authors about their experiences dipping their toes into the epublishing pool.
Spinetingler Magazine: The short story market as moved over to ebooks pretty quickly. Was there ever any consider to try and shop around Irregular Creatures?
Chuck Wendig: I considered it, but it’s getting harder and harder to find quality paying markets. Further, the submission process can be unpredictable. Might get a response in a week. Might get one in six months.
What led to the decision to e-publish Irregular Creatures?
In part as an experiment to test the viability of “self-publishing.” In part because I had these stories sitting around and I thought they connected very well together. Seemed to good time to combine ’em together like some kind of short story Voltron and see if they couldn’t go and fight evil. Or earn some coin, at least.
How did you decide on the price point?
I’m not really sold on $0.99 as a price point — I think that’s a race to the bottom and you have nowhere to go from there. No sales to offer, no incentive. It also suggests a bargain basement value. But go too high and people just won’t bite. $2.99 seems a convincing price point for nine short stories (some of significant length). Further, at that price point you get a bigger cut (70%) of the sales at a place like Amazon.
Would you like to share and or talk about the sales results so far?
I share the sales numbers at my blog with some regularity — at present we’re up over 200 sales.
Any feedback from readers?
By and large the feedback has been very positive. Had a couple people offer up issues and suggestions re: the layout, and I can’t necessarily disagree with that, but some of that lurks out of my control (Amazon and Smashwords auto-convert, for instance). It shows one of the issues with self-publishing, though: as a writer, that makes you publisher, with all the ills normal to just such a role. I could then pay someone to do my layout and conversion, but that’s a cost of $100-1000, and that would then cut into any $$ I hoped to make. It’s a balancing act, and one that puts the self-published author in a slightly different position.
Is this something you will consider doing again?
Maybe. Would like to try it with a novel at some point just to examine the difference in result. I’d expect better sales, but who knows?
What are your hopes and expectations? Do you hope to create enough buzz to get a print publisher interested?
Not that I’d ever say “no” to a publisher, but my hopes are to build some audience, make some $$ on some stories that were all but collecting dust, and test the self-publication waters.
The publishing industry has changed dramatically over the past few years. For you, what’s been the most surprising change? What changes are having the biggest impact?
Technology has made it crazy easy to submit and crazy easy to self-publish. It’s increasing the speed by which great writing -and- awful shit-ass writing can reach editors, agents, and readers.
The Kindle seems to be a double-edged sword. It’s simplified self-publishing, and hindered predatory presses that exploit aspiring authors, but it’s also helped open the floodgates to unedited works that could deter readers from purchasing self-published works.
Yes. Is this a question? Because. Uhhh. Yes! I agree.
This raises an obvious question. For writers starting out today, with few or no substantial publishing credits to their name, what should they do? Is it likely writers who don’t have the prior approval of established publishing houses can make a name for themselves and achieve the level of success some established authors are presently enjoying?
For now, I give the advice of: “Do both.” Reserve some works for the traditional system. But you can also write more personal or “niche” works that may be best suited toward self-publishing. That dynamic may shift one way or the other, but for now, seems wisest to walk both paths. You don’t have to do one or the other.
We’re getting to the point where print-on-demand can mean producing a book in a pretty short window of time, and ordering stock of items one at a time is a possibility with books. Do you see e-readers as a bridge to a future revolution in storytelling that allows for a whole new type of experience that incorporates reading and viewing and other sense, such as being able to hear the wind through earphones as you’re reading text, or hear music or a specific background sound? Or are the differences in the audiences too great?
No, I’m a big fan of transmedia storytelling and have done some work in this vein. No reason that a storyworld can’t have many entrance points — book, film, game, etc.
I’ve often thought that publishing was just a bit of technology away from opening the door to publishing companies started by authors, much like record labels sometimes are. We’ve seen a lot of musicians start with a known label and establish themselves, and then start their own label to enjoy a greater share of the profits and artistic control, but they also sign on other artists and the label produces music by other artists. That seems to be more possible within publishing than ever before. For example, what if Dan Brown or James Patterson started their own publishing companies? Wouldn’t that be an enormous blow to their publishers, who make millions off their books?
Probably, yeah. Thing is, while writers have to be businessmen, I don’t know that all writers are comfortable wanting to be their own publishing companies. It’ll happen eventually, and when it does it’ll send some big ripples. But for now, why should Stephen King leave the comfort of his contracts and take on *more* work to get his books out there?
Are the traditional publishers really as far behind as they seem to be? Do you think that publishers are going to change their percentages and dealings with authors to avoid losing writers? What do you think the publishers have to do to remain competitive and retain their talent over the next few years?
I am nowhere near the expert ready to answer this question. Loose guess? Smaller publishers will move faster than the bigger publishers to make this happen. Smaller pubs are like little boats: they can turn on a dime and move with shifts in the wind and the water. Bigger publishers are like yachts: far slower to turn away (even from coming icebergs).
I’m sure it’s possible that at some point, complaints and demands for refunds could become enough of a headache for Amazon to do something. Meanwhile, what do we authors do? What about reviewers and organizations? Let’s use Spinetingler as an example. We’re having an on-going dilemma. Should we run reviews of books that are self-published? Should we consider them for the awards? Behind the scenes, the writers behind such works argue their position. We’ve only opened the e-book door to anthologies, because of the realities of the short story market. What advice would you give us about how to proceed? What would you, as a writer, like to see happen?
Good writing is good writing. One of the barriers to the self-published author is that self-publishing doesn’t come with nearly the same indie spirit that you see in film or music. Band self-distributes or a director makes his own film, those artists are lauded. The writer isn’t so lucky. Now, part of that is reasonable: it takes a lot more effort and know-how to produce an album or a film than it does a novel. Any jackoff can write a novel and self-publish it.
But therein lies the value of reviews and organizations supporting that, because in this increasing age of Google-Fu, the one thing we’re all missing is filter. We gain filter from word-of-mouth, and we also gain filter from reading reviews by publications we trust. Reviewers and awards can help separate the quality writing from the trough of hog-food out there.
My hope is, at the very least, e-books and self-publishing will give new life to the short story.
What are your thoughts so far on the e-publishing experiment so far?
Jury’s out. It’s interesting. I’m not upset at my sales. But it’s also taken time that I’d have rather used to write.
Why should Spinetingler readers go buy Irregular Creatures now?
Because it has flying cats. Because it has mermaids. Because it has demonic vaginas. Really? I haven’t sold you let on “demonic vaginas?” Whoo. Tough crowd. These nine stories represent the notion of the irregular creature, and the author is himself an irregular creature: we’re all a little out-of-sorts. We’re all mutants and miscreants in our own way. These stories have a little piece of me in them, and hopefully they titillate and horrify with their mixture of whimsy, fantasy, profanity, and overall weirdness.
Alternate sales pitch: because you feel guilty and want to support a starving writer who has a baby on the way. *doe eyes* *quivering lip* *gruel cup extended*
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, a screenwriter, and a freelance penmonkey. He’s written too much. He should probably stop. Give him a wide berth, as he might be drunk and untrustworthy. He currently lives in the wilds of Pennsyltucky with a wonderful wife and two very stupid dogs. He is represented by Stacia Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.