Saturday, August 11, 2012

To Post or Not to Post--That is the Question of Today


Writers and the entire publishing industry are sailing the seas of revolution that can toss and drown institutions that once were the foundation to the industry (such as The Writer Magazine going on hiatus after 125 years) to new writers who tear at their hair in frustration at the contradictory advice. While the reader has access to a larger array of new authors, browsing online does not give the reader the same feel that the old brick and mortar bookstores did--where you could walk the rows of books and discover by accident a new book or new author.  Instead,  you click the "next button" to find the next list of 20 or more books in whatever category you are looking for--and the gem you seek may be around book 534 on your search list. 

There is no way to turn back the clock and the days of the standard gatekeeper is on a timer ticking away while they try to figure out how to adapt to the new world. With the obvious questions of "How do I get find new authors?" and "How do I get discovered?" comes a new paradigm coming under attack.  I have heard the following question raised at multiple writers' conferences and at workshops of writers' groups I belong to. Over the years the answer to this question has always been consistent--that was until I heard a few agents at a large writers' conference I attended change the answer.

The question is, "As an author (new or established), should I post the first few chapters of my book online?" The traditional answer has been a resounding "No." Actually, that no rings like a bell slammed with a sledge hammer.  That was until July this year when I heard some agents say "Yes."

In the past--and still many think this today--if a writer posts the first few chapters of a book on their website, then those chapters are self-published.  By doing that, the author would not be able to sell that work. Now, this hard line that had been chiseled into granite is now not so solid and the opinion is shifting among the agents and the publishers. So, what is the answer? Is there an answer?

I'm not sure if there is an answer.  I can only hear more questions like: "What if it is the next book in a series and the first book just came out? Won't it ruin the suspense?" and "What if I decide I need to rewrite? Is it too late?"  or "Will it attract agents and readers? Will they be the right agents?"

An ancient Chinese curse would be to wish someone to live in interesting times. All of us in the writing industry are living in such times. 

Please, if you would, share with us your opinion on this issue. Along with your opinion, please share if you are a reader, writer (we are all readers), agent or something else. 

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

15 comments:

  1. I'd rather not release chapters of a book that hasn't been published, though it's no new thing. Serialized fiction has been around forever and was particularly popular during Victorian times with the rise of periodicals. During the late 19th century some of the best American writers, including Henry James and Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in serial form before their work was published in book form. This is how they grew their fan base. The periodicals had a wide circulation. That's the key.

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  2. Rather than post complete chapters, why not choose an enticing excerpt from your book, or a quote from a friend who has read your book (or parts of it) and liked it? Most of us are so busy, we prefer to read short pieces. Because of the volume of material sent my way each day, I will "reserve for later" the longer postings, and sometimes never get back to read them. I don't want to "skim over" offerings sent my way in good faith, but don't always have time to give them the attention they deserve. I guess Reader's Digest has ruined me. Like most Americans, I'm addicted to short, shorts. But this past week, I've glued myself to Channel 5. How about those Olympics? Aren't they grand?

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  3. J. P. Lane: I have actually played with that idea, but I haven't executed it. Your comment is causing me to wonder if this revolution we are in isn't "closing the circle" on the industry rather than a full all out change. Thanks!

    Faye: I find myself doing the same thing. As for the Olympics--I'm taking away a few lessons.
    From the athletes: Dreams can still come true and control your pacing.

    From the commercials, especially the political ads: There is such a thing as too much advertising--have something fresh to say each time you get in front of the audience or they will tune you out.

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  4. If you want to publish and sell an e-book, place first few chapters online.

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    1. Are you thinking about self-publishing or (lack of a better phrase) traditional publishing but only in an ebook. Some traditional publishers are starting to release only in ebook form.

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  5. I'm a writer, and am reluctant to post anything about an unpublished book..such as my historical YA novel now with a publisher ( and still waiting on their decision about publishing it, although it is with the revisions they asked for!) However, I am wondering if posting an exciting or tantalizing excerpt from a chapter might be the way to go? Perhaps giving a very short synopsis prefacing the excerpt? Would that create enough interest to entice people into buying the book, once it was available?

    I don't know the answer, and am still unsure about what I will do. But it is an intriguing dilemma.

    As for the Olympics, we've been glued to the TV and DVR'd what we couldn't watch. They have been great! We can all learn from these fantastic athletes..win or lose, they all have the hearts of champions.

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    1. Mikki...you and I are in the same boat. Thanks for sharing your comment!

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    2. Hi, Mikki -- Thanks for your comment. You were randomly chosen as the winner of this week's givewaway (TORCH SONG, by Jo Hiestand). Please contact me at twfendley@gmail.com to claim your book!

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  6. Star Jesus VanAllenAugust 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    I am with Faye & Mikki. Post your book-jacket synopsis along with what I call "appetizers", a couple of short paragraphs of high suspense from your book. Writers Market (library reference book) is a fantastic source for short articles on how to write a query & synopsis beginning with movie-poster hooks. Above all, follow your instincts. The experts, as I am discovering, approve & disapprove. Who knows how it will all shake out?

    Never watch TV live. Record to your DVD, & skip the commercials as you replay them. BTW, where can I find a used DVD that permits a loop antenna & allows watching TV while recording something else?

    Dave, great hearing from you again. Please kill the suspense, though, & type your name under the title. Of course, no publisher will want to reprint your post!

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    1. But Star, I am all about the suspense. ;-) You are right, you really need to follow your instincts on this issue.

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  7. I think it might depend on whether you're going to self publish or not. If you already have a publisher, you will be limited by your contractual obligations. But if you have a good relationship with them, these things can be negotiated.

    A self-publisher has all sorts of options though.
    I'd publish sample chapters on my blog, and companion short stories, (featuring secondary characters - that sort of thing)anything that falls within my ethical boundaries, and financial means, to get readers to buy my book.

    Rewriting happens. And if it happens in the time between sample chapters being posted on my blog and when I publish the entire story, then that's an added bonus for those people who read the sample chapters - except if they didn't like the rewritten stuff though :)

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  8. I'm going to try the short story route (in the same universe as my historical fantasy/sci fi book). I'll let you know how it goes!

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  9. I don't write fiction, so I will comment as a reader: I thought as well that if you self-publish online, who is gonna buy your book? But things seem to be kind of different for short stories. They can be published in magazines or online and then a publisher could be interested in collecting them and publishing them as a book.

    I have seen this happening often with Stephen King's stories. Almost none of them was written especially for a book. 99% of them had been published mainly in magazines in the past.

    And also I recently found out about this Greek young horror writer, I'll tell you in a minute. - Mind you, there are tons of books published in the "traditional" way in Greece. How is this sustainable I don't have a clue. Because of the language, they cannot go global without a translation, so they sell just a few thousands at the best. The quality of the book materials is high, which means that the reader will pay 15-20 Euros for just one book. I am an avid reader and I certainly cannot afford it. So I end up reading anglophone fiction bought from Amazon at 4-5 pounds / book. - Anyway, this young Greek writer started writing short horror stories in Greek with the nom de plume "Toymaker" on his blog here:

    http://toumanidis.blogspot.gr/

    He likes blood and gore, and some stories are in serial form, so they tempt the reader, and it appears that with time he got a large fan club. Then, he decided to translate some of them in English and post them online too.

    Result?

    1. He collected some of them in a book in Greek, published by a small publisher: http://www.biblionet.gr/book/155992/%CE%A4%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%BC%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%AF%CE%B4%CE%B7%CF%82,_%CE%91%CE%BD%CF%84%CF%8E%CE%BD%CE%B7%CF%82/Trapped

    2. He attracted the attention of a Greek film maker who used one of his stories for her film.

    3. He attracted the attention of Darren Lynn Bousman, the director of the film "Saw", who also wrote the prologue of the book and I think bought the rights of 3 stories for a future film.

    Read the quality of his stories in English and judge for yourself. I hated them. Cheap gore that reminds me of pulp fiction of the worst quality. Characters with no depth. Dry writing in a dialogue form that is more suitable for a film script than literature. And yet, he seems to have become so successful, probably because gore-horror is not a genre used by Greek writers, but it has become fashionable and esp. the young readers love it. ... Maybe because his writing style is so simple that the not well literate can easily follow it..? Maybe because he has the potential to feed cheap horror film productions with ideas..?

    I don't have a clue, but if you are a short story writer maybe consider his example.

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  10. Interesting question! I am nearing the stage of my novel where I will soon be asking myself that.

    Thanks and cheers!
    Courtney Hosny

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