Well, I’m back from looking for a new house, and we now at least have somewhere to rent while we look for somewhere more permanent to house two people, one cat (hopefully rising to more than one cat when we’re properly settled), a huge number of books and fewer old computers than we owned last week. Writing and planning on various projects is going ahead slowly, but obviously the move is taking up most of my attention at present, so don’t expect much in the way of updates on that for the foreseeable. Picture is of me wrapped up like a Michelin Woman on the beach at Portreath because why not.
I don’t normally read reviews because I have a tendency to fixate on the negatives and go and hug the cat while making inarticulate ‘whyyyy?’ noises, and my view is that reviewers write for readers and that my cat-hugging is completely extraneous to the whole business. I am, however, making an exception for this thoughtful review of The Maker’s Mask by writer and friend Dave Higgins. His short stories, Thieves in the Night and Shoulders of Giants, will be published in Fauxpocalypse, coming soon.
Since I make no secret of the fact that I came up through the world of fanfic (I was writing for years before I found the online fanfic community, but fanfic gave me the impetus to polish my craft and a community to encourage me) a couple of people have asked what I think of this Kickstarter.
My main thought is ‘you’d have to ask someone more familiar with Kickstarter than me’. I’ve never done crowdfunding for my books, though I know people who have done so very successfully.
My second thought is that it’d take a lot more than $500 to make me finish some of the projects I’ve left unfinished over the years. When something doesn’t work, generally it doesn’t work for a reason, and generally the reason is either ‘it would need the kind of work you can’t actually pay me to do’ or ‘it is just unfixable, ever’. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about here. I had to do open-plot surgery on Heavy Ice twice, once to take out a main character who will probably get his own book at some point but didn’t fit into this one, and once to weave the whole Prémontré plotline (which is, what, a quarter of the book?) into the structure, and it was only my determination to see Kallisty and Strat and the rest out there finding readers that kept me going.
My third thought is that reading ‘We wish we could get all the books to you sooner, but it does take a while to finish, edit, format, print, and mail out one book, never mind three.’ rings some warning bells with me. Personally I would only give money for a project involving books that aren’t finished yet if I knew the author and her writing processes well, and was willing to shrug and count the money as a gift to a friend if it didn’t work out. The Kickstarter’s doing well and looks set to make its goal, so obviously other people feel differently, and good luck to them.
My fourth thought is that this is going to lead to yet another round of the self-publishing versus traditional publishing wars, which is in no way the fault of the people running the Kickstarter, but which makes me think ‘Well, that’ll leave me time to catch up on reading the classics until the internet cools down again, then’.
I don’t get involved in pontificating about self-publishing versus traditional publishing in the abstract or telling other people what to do. A lot of people have said what I could say better than I could. All that I know is that now my books are out there finding readers now, and before I self-published they weren’t. Perhaps there’s an alternate version of me out there in a parallel universe who published traditionally and she’s doing fine. I know I’m better off than the alternate version of me who’s still trying to fight her way past the gatekeepers rather than saying ‘Oh, sod this’ and climbing over the wall.
I remember reading a warning somewhere from a traditionally published author that self-publishing was likely to ‘break your own heart’; all I can say from my own experience is that it would have broken my heart not to.
If I was just starting out trying to publish my original work now, would I go with a fan-run press like this? Probably not if it was just starting up, to be honest; and probably not at all, to be more honest still. I’m a control freak who really likes having the final word on things like cover art, though I appreciate the hell out of my wonderful beta readers who tell me when I’m sending a comma to do a semicolon’s job or when a metaphor just doesn’t make any sense. Also, while I was really lucky that friends I met through fandom were enthusiastic about the books and willing to recommend them, I never had anything like the reputation in fandom at large that would make something like this worthwhile.
I don’t have any quarrel with the project’s goal of proving that fan writers can write as well as anyone else. Personally, I feel that the best way to do that is to carry on writing and let the readers be the judges. It’s certainly what I plan on doing. I won’t be contributing to the Kickstarter or submitting to the press for the reasons I’ve outlined above, but I’ll be watching the project with interest.