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Silicon Rose

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Publication [Sep. 4th, 2007|10:25 am]
Silicon Rose
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Well, here goes.

To publish, or not to publish. That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to...

...aw, screw it.

I'm very confused as to what I should do in relation to publishing, and I'm looking for advice. My site has a section for original writing, but I haven't posted anything in it. That's because I'm aware that posting anything there could be the death knell for me publishing it. A second reason is that I would like to maybe-kind-of-sort-of make money off of it, and thus I would like to put up a tip jar for donations. However, I'm worried about the legal implications of having a tip jar up on my page, even if it is only in the original section. It could be seen as trying to make money off of my fanfiction, and I don't want to be sued. Lastly, I'm worried that posting my original stories online next to my fanfiction might taint me in the eyes of publishers, who would be uncomfortable with the idea that I wrote fanfiction, which is 'legally questionable.'

Point the first: I need to decide whether I want to publish the material that I'm currently producing. What do I want to publish? Do I want to try to get into a magazine for short stories? Am I only interested in publishing my novels, so that they get good billing in bookstores? Should I be pursuing publication for short stories as a stepping stool to getting to novel publishing? There are a lot of routes you can take, and that's only one of them.

Why do I even want to publish? While I'd like to receive some compensation for my writing, it's not critical to me that I become a full-time writer. I have been seeing it as a stamp of approval, something that proves that I'm not one of those 'unwashed masses', but if people are reading my stuff and liking it, does that matter? Or is it because publication makes it easier to get wide acceptance?

Point the second: I'm honestly tired of maintaining multiple identities. I don't want to separate my fanfiction from my original writing. I think it's fairly clear to anyone who has read any of my work that they are entirely distinct. My fanfiction has no more effect on my original writing than liking anime does. Secondly, I have to admit, I WANT to use my fanfiction to draw people in to my original writing. I want them to know that if they like my fanfiction, they may like my original stuff too. I don't want them to tip me for fanfiction, but if they love my original stuff after finding me through my fanfiction, I don't think that's bad. It's also a pain to maintain multiple sites when one would do. Unfortunately, this gets into legal questions, which makes it more complicated.

In a related topic, this year at Kumoricon, I talked about how making money off of fanfiction is not, in and of itself, illegal. Shakespeare is no longer under copyright protection. If I wanted to write fanfiction based on Shakespeare, I could sell it. There are a lot of Romeo and Juliet derivatives done by a lot of different people, many of which have been done for profit. We could probably get into arguments as to whether or not that's 'fanfiction' any more and the difference between fanfiction and incorporating fundamental themes and myths into stories, but I found it an interesting complement to the people who are totally, completely, and utterly against fanfiction. Anne Rice's "Christ the Lord"? Can't you argue this is Bible fanfiction?

This actually leads fairly well into my third point: some people have told me that writing fanfiction can get your name out and make publishers more willing to deal with you, because you already have a fan base. I've also heard that publishers will do a search on your name and if they find any fanfiction, they blacklist you. It's possible that both are true, only applying to different publishers or different mediums (some of the publishing information I'm aware of is related to art, not writing, and I would not be surprised to find that their treatment of these situations differs).

I'm honestly considering going the whole hog and self-publishing. Some comic artists have gone a similar route and had very good success. I'm just not sure whether I have the time and energy to do it, whether I'm going to be happy with the results, whether it will close doors on me that I wanted to leave open.

Thoughts?

Edit: Of course, if I wasn't completely lazy, a problem commonly suffered by computer programmers, I'd WRITE A PROGRAM to help me manage my identities and scrub my work for posting, but, well. Can't go against one's nature.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: froborr
2007-09-04 06:39 pm (UTC)
It is an extremely difficult question, and one I've struggled with, as well. Websnark takes an interesting approach on his fiction site, Banter Latte. Much of the content is available to anyone who wants to see it, but the stuff he intends to publish is friends-locked. (Showing a work just to your friends is *not* publishing it, his reasoning appears to run). Or you could post things *after* you publish them, as many authors with personal webpages now do.

As far as fanfiction is concerned, I would probably take the following steps: create a separate section of your site, using a pseudonym, for fanfiction, and do NOT link to it from the main page or the original fiction pages. Put links asking for donations on the regular fiction pages ONLY. On the fanfiction pages, put links to the effect of "if you liked my fanfiction, you might like my original stories at..."

I'd generally recommend against self-publishing unless you already have an established reader base to sell the book to. Without a publisher's marketing division to place the book in bookstores and reviewers' queues, you're going to have a hard time getting people not already familiar with your writing to notice your book exists, let alone buy it.

And that brings us to the really hard question, which I struggle with too: to publish, or not to publish? On the one hand, I think I would much rather be a full-time writer than work my current job. On the other hand, I have strong doubts that I *could* be a full time writer, economically and psychologically: I highly doubt I'll ever sell enough to cover living expenses, and I am uncertain whether I'd be able to get any writing (or anything else) done if I didn't have a day job to give me momentum. So if I'm still going to have my day job, what's the point of charging for my writing at all? On the other hand, if I put stuff out for free, I'm turning "little chance" into "no chance", as I have a tendency to do. I don't know what to tell you; I'm still working through this one myself.
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[User Picture]From: btoblake
2007-09-04 09:56 pm (UTC)
I think it depends on the type of work you like doing. As a caution, I'd be tempted to put all of the online fiction under a pen name or two, and stay away from websites that claim the copyright. It's probably easier to just have fun testing your work online, and make money on magazine stories. Later, when you start dealing with publishers, you're free to claim the online work as your own, if that's convenient.

Doing any artistic piecework seems like a stressful way to buy your daily bread, but it doesn't sound like either of you need to. On the other hand, doing it for fun and spare money isn't a bad thing. I've talked to a lot of people at work that attempt the profitable hobbies theory, often with enough success to make it worthwhile. I don't know if writing can be as casual as keeping a Mary Kay brochure on the desk, but it's probably better than the guy who rushes off to do remodeling after work. One of my friends made enough money (trading old video games) to cover his half of a Hawaiian vacation, and was planning to stop afterwards.. he's still enjoying it though.

I've heard theories that making money on an activity takes the fun out of it.. but I'm starting to think that's a load of hooey. Losing a lot of money attempting to make money could be a turn-off.. but in writing, you're not likely to do that, unless you jump into self publishing early. Acually, I've started to wonder about teaching scuba, but with this hobbie, the costs might be just silly.

Good luck!
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[User Picture]From: froborr
2007-09-04 10:13 pm (UTC)
Well, one of the problems is that most magazines are only interested in buying right of first publication, which is exactly what it sounds like: the right to be the first place your work is published. If it's already been published online, that right's already been sold.

Of course, the question becomes, how do you define publishing in this world of blogs, password-protected web pages, and so forth? If I serialize a story on my blog, does that mean I've already published it? What if I made the entries available only to a limited group of friends? What if I've since heavily rewritten the story?
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[User Picture]From: siliconrose
2007-09-05 02:05 am (UTC)
I think it's defined as "if we can find it using Google and read it, it's been published." If it's a limited group of friends, I think you're entirely in the clear. I think that what Banter Latte is doing, offering accounts to anyone that wants one, is risky and I wouldn't do it. If it's heavily rewritten enough, then I'd imagine you're fine. Editing for grammar and spelling? Probably not. Of course, I'm still naught but a babe in the field of publishing.
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[User Picture]From: siliconrose
2007-09-05 02:01 am (UTC)
If I post my original fiction online, it will be on my own site with my own hosting and my own rules. The only situation under which I will do something different is if I decide to offer POD, in which case I might choose to use Lulu to help list me. I'm not signing my copyright over to anyone unless I'm getting paid or otherwise compensated for it.

I'm almost wondering whether something similar to what MegaTokyo or Penny Arcade does might work for me (free provision online, sell related material and print books), but comic sites are different and I'm aware that there are very few online comics that are profitable.

My main thing is that I want people to read and appreciate my stories. Getting paid is just a nice to have.
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[User Picture]From: froborr
2007-09-04 08:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Edit

If you do write a program for managing multiple identities, could you make a version I can download directly into my brain to keep track of all the different people I pretend to be each day?
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[User Picture]From: siliconrose
2007-09-05 02:06 am (UTC)

Re: Edit

Sorry, I don't think it works that way. ^^
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[User Picture]From: mauracelt
2007-09-04 10:18 pm (UTC)
Try checking out http://www.stevenking.com

That might give you some ideas on how to deal with this problem. If you go, you'll see that some of his things are posted openly, but some are accessed by small payments only. Usually 'token payments' of about $2.00 per chapter, if I remember right.

If you set up a paypal account, it doesn't have to come straight to you, but goes to the account there instead. You only get 'paperwork' from them if you exceed the standard income amounts the IRS has put down for internet income. I know this because I have a business account with them and that's how they handle it. It started as a regular account, but I had it changed when a friend sent me some moeny for a book I sent and paypal HAD to charge me for the receipt of the incoming cash balance.
I hope this helps. If not, sorry to take up so much space. ;)
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[User Picture]From: mauracelt
2007-09-04 10:25 pm (UTC)
Ok, somehow I gave you the wrong link address and can't seem to remember the right one! *ack* Steven King has a link on line here somewhere that he sets up for his readers that they can go to and read his books 'by the chapter' for a minimal fee. That's what I was trying to get at anyway. Sometimes my brain is more full of air than I want to admit, today it's happening. Sorry, hun, I'll keep looking for that link and send it to you when I find it, k?
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[User Picture]From: siliconrose
2007-09-05 01:56 am (UTC)

Re: Edit

Thanks. I'm not sure, though, that what works for Stephen King would work for me. He already has a lot of name recognition. While that's not to say I couldn't try it, I think I might have to take a slightly different approach.
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[User Picture]From: mauracelt
2007-09-05 05:16 pm (UTC)

Re: Edit

I read the other comments just now, seems you already have a strong set of helping hands here. ;)

I can now understand better your plight and I think I would be questioning the same things. My brother is good example: He wants me to write a cookbook he can manage on line with minor profits, via paypal, that he could market to college kids, first time outers he calls them. That was the idea I was trying to express, but made a mess of. *laughs* Like I said, head full of air. ;)
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[User Picture]From: ketsugami
2007-09-05 05:21 am (UTC)
Here's my thoughts, for what they're worth.

Maintaining multiple identities is unneccesary. Fanfiction is a fact of today's writing world; the companies that hold the copyrights occasionally act to shut down specific problem cases, but there's no industry-wide bias against it. (Though who knows what specific editors think. Even so, I think you're at least as likely to come up against one who counts it in your favor as one who counts it against you.) So the fact that you have fanfiction up, under your own name, is not going to hurt you. (Writing original stuff, anyway. I've heard varying things about the world of branded-universe writing, Star Trek and Dragonlance and so on.)

On the other hand, fanfic is unlikely to get you anywhere publishing-wise. Yes, a tiny few authors have become famous enough via fanfic to break into the real world, but it's unlikely verging on impossible, especially without tons of self-promotion. When you submit something for publication, I can say with 99% certainty that the editor in question won't look at anything other than what you sent in, at least until they're seriously considering offering you a contract. So your fanfic presence, under whatever name, is basically irrelevant to the world of print publishing.

In terms of posting your stories online: froborr is correct in saying that what a real publisher wants is right of first publication, so anything you post online in a publicly available setting is considered "printed" and probably untouchable, unless you become successful and people want to buy up your back catalog. (Not impossible, actually -- it only takes a very modest level of success before, say, anthologies of short stories are willing to look at reprint rights.) You of course want to retain copyright on everything, so read your Terms of Service; it should be said, though, that stuff like the Yahoo TOS where they claim copyright to everything is legal BS and has never stood a court decision.

Posting stories behind a friends-cut is pretty safe, unless you have a really large amount of friends. As long as one of them isn't reposting your stuff elsewhere, it's not a big deal. Most magazines, as you mention, might at most Google a few bits of the story to see if it's plastered all over the web.

Self-publishing (of prose novels) is useful for self-gratification only. That may be what you need, in which case it's all to the good; if you honestly want people to read your stuff, though, you'd be better off giving it away online. If you self-publish, you'll sell a few copies to friends and family and that's about it. Also, self-publishing does use up that all-important right of first publication, so you will almost certainly not sell a self-published book to a real publisher later.

(As an aside: it's important to note that graphic novelists live in a very different world than prose novelists. Self-publishing a graphic novel IS possible, because there's actually venues available to sell it. The reasons are complicated but boil down to the fact that independent comic book stores are still pretty common, but independent bookstores have gone the way of the dinosaur; therefore, you can sell your self-pubbed graphic novel by going around and convincing comic store owners that it's good, but you can't do the same at B&N or Borders because they get everything from a central distributor.)

The hardest question you asked is why to publish. That's not something anyone can answer for you, really. I can't even really tell you why I do it (or try to) -- there's a little bit of money, sense of accomplishment and so on, all kinds of reasons. The thought that someone who I've never even heard of picked up my book in a store or a library somewhere and thought it was worth paying money for is pretty satisfying. For me I think having someone to write for outside myself (and random internet morons) gives me a sort of grounding whenever I get too ecstatic or too depressed. (If I'm shooting for publication, I can always name authors far better and far worse then I'll ever be who've done it.)

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[User Picture]From: ketsugami
2007-09-05 05:22 am (UTC)
So, if it's advice you want, here's mine: Publishing is hard, and even getting stories ready for publication is hard work. That said, I think that in this day and age it's the only way to really get to your best work. The instant gratification of online posting or POD means that standards are pretty low; even pretty crappy stuff can get lots of praise, because praise is cheap. I wouldn't quit your day job, or ever expect to (I don't) but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing. If and when you ultimately make it, the results are worthwhile.

For me, not having publication as an ultimate goal feels sort of ... aimless, I guess? But as always, YMMV.

As practical advice: if you have to choose between doing short stories and novels, do novels. It's sad, but the sf/f short story market is dying a slow death, and while the Internet venues may ride the the rescue they haven't quite worked out a completely functioning model yet. The sf/f novel market, on the other hand, is really good. A lot of writers will tell you to start with short fiction to make your name, then work your way up; that worked great in the sixties, when there were a hundred pro-level short story markets and someone was usually willing to take a risk on a new author, but now there are less than fifteen and just as many stories being written. Ten years from now, though, who knows?
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[User Picture]From: mauracelt
2007-09-10 06:20 pm (UTC)
I don't know if this will help, but I found it today while looking for books on line: http://www.lulu.com/
It's a site about on line publishing and the how to's. Hope it helps. *smile* Good Luck, I'll wait to see what you've managed (site wise) and such.
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