Balance

In the last couple of years at When Words Collide (a writer’s conference put on in Calgary during August), I've attended workshops and panel discussions on the emergent world of self-publishing and hybrid publishing. The changing world of conventional publishing has pushed authors to alternative action to get their work out to the public.

Self-publishing circumvents the long lead times of non-simultaneous submission, follow-up query and moving on to the next market. Most big publishers (the 'big 5') won't take unsolicited or un-agented submissions and the task of finding an agent for an unknown writer is often as daunting as finding a publisher.

Self-publishing provides the prolific author with the opportunity to publish more than one book per year; conventional houses rarely release more than one book per author per year, particularly for a mid-list writer. Frequent releases actually benefit the self-published e-book author as readership can be voracious, especially for series work.

Self-published books also do not have to conform to the conventional wisdom of one-hundred-thousand-word epics which look great on bookstore shelves; a thick, meaty read, thinks the prospective buyer. Self-published e-books apparently sell better, especially a series, if they run fifty or sixty-thousand words.

Hybrid-publishing refers to the author who sells to conventional publishers but is too prolific, prefers writing shorter novels, or has books out of their usual genre. This writer needs another outlet and follows both paths.

So, what about balance? Every single panel and workshop about self-publishing stresses the time and effort the independent author should spend creating a personal brand. Writing, editing, formatting and releasing your book is only the first stage. Promoting your work is a continuous and consuming task. Mark Leslie, Axel Howerton, T.K. Boomer and other presenters at WWC offered numerous suggestions for using social media to increase potential readership.

How does one balance energy and time between self-promotion and putting words to paper and screen? Every hour spent on social media is an hour of not writing. I look at it as another discipline of the same overall task. I had to learn to self-edit, not the most creative endeavour. I am not a gregarious person by nature and I value my privacy, whether in the real or cyber-world. Yet I recognize the need for some presence, if you will, and maintain a profile through these blogs and author dashboards on Goodreads and Amazon.

Guy Gavriel Kay summed it up best for me at this years' WWC guest of honour speeches. An acclaimed writer in the conventional publishing world, Guy must continue to maintain and grow his readership. For even such an award-winning author, conventional publishers devote little time and even fewer dollars to promoting his work. Outside the self and hybrid-publishing regime, the author must be the publicist. Guy's advice paralleled my sentiment, and I paraphrase, 'do what you are comfortable with'.

My passion is writing, creating stories which reflect my sensibilities. I'm happy to talk about my work more than myself. I've been lucky, in my opinion, to have a small-press publisher for my SF novels but I'll consider hybrid-publishing (I have a fantasy novel making the agent rounds but will look at self-publishing it if necessary). And refine the balance to promote my works.

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