Tag Archives: Publishing and Printing

A Short Story for the Long Tail

Tomorrow is the big day!

Those of you who read my blog and Twitter feed regularly know what I’m talking about. Yes ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow marks the midpoint of the series of “How Not To Be A Terrible Foster Parent” classes my wife and I are taking. And also, there’s some little thing about me publishing a book?

In all seriousness though, I’m super excited about this. Not really because I think this is going to be the magical day that changes everything and makes me rich, but it’s the start of something new, and in some ways, the end of something old.

See, for the longest time I looked down on the idea of self-publishing. My philosophy was basically this: if your work isn’t crap someone will publish it; if you’ve decided to self-publish it’s because your ego is too big to admit that your writing stinks.

I’ve…mellowed on that position quite a bit over the years. It’s true that there is a lot of garbage out there in the electronic publishing universe, but that only makes sense. If you create a system where anyone can publish their work, your really shouldn’t be surprised if when you get a fair amount of sub par submissions. But there are plenty of legitimately good authors who have put good work out there on the electronic marketplace, and when you get right down to it, it’s not that difficult to sort the good from the bad.

So I’m self-publishing. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the traditional marketplace altogether, but I’ve come to realize a couple of things that help me to understand the divide between traditional publishing and self-publishing that informed my decision to go the electronic route, at least for now.

First, traditional publishers are looking for traditional books. I know there are some rare exceptions out there. The fact that House of Leaves ever saw the light of day at all is  testament to the fact that some publishers are still willing to take a risk on something radical and different. But what people forget is that big publishers exist for one reason and one reason only. It’s not to promote young authors. It’s not to bring a new and exciting creative vision into the world. It’s to make money.

Some people look down on this, but these people are, frankly, stupid. If you’ve got a company, the whole point is making money. Which means that you focus on the things you know people are going to buy, like thrillers, mysteries and romances. And yes, I know that I’ve done my share of whining about genres, but the truth is the casual reader isn’t interested in experimental literature and ergodic fiction. They want to buy what they’ve always bought and big publishers would be fools not to deliver that kind of fiction to them.

The second and possible more important factor in my decision to self-pub my work was this: no one publishes novellas any more. Again, I know there are a few exceptions, but generally those exceptions are all from previously published authors with name recognition. There’s probably a fascinating discussion we could have as to why this is, but I’d imagine we’d find that the bottom line is money again.

My book fails both of the previously mentioned standards. First, it’s a story told through the voice of a dog who is facing the zombie apocalypse. I don’t even begin to know how to classify it as a genre. It’s got zombies in it, so you might say it’s horror, but the truth is there’s just as much humor woven in there as there is horror.

Second, it’s short. About 20,000 words to be precise.

But in spite of these things, I think it can find an audience. Perhaps not an audience large enough to justify a publisher’s interest, but there are enough people out there on the long tail of readership who are looking for something fresh and interesting for me to believe that this little book might actually go somewhere.

If you think you might be one of these people then I invite you to join me tomorrow for the launch of A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw. Together we’ll see how far a strange little story like this can go.

[Oh, and please don’t comment and tell me how I’m using the terms “self-publishing” or “traditional publishing” incorrectly. I’ve read all the petty arguments about semantics, and…it just doesn’t matter people. Let it go.]