Folks--I'm letting Kate Milford take over the blog this week as which she ruminates on the pitfalls and rationale for self-publishing while still also contracting with publishing companies. Kate, is without a doubt, one of the most fascinating, insanely brilliant and creative people I know. (And I really do know her---live---in person for five years in which she has been a member of my killer critique group, the Cudas, and a very good friend). I hope you'll help Kate with her new project, THE KAIROS MECHANISM. I've had the good fortune to have read it and also, (oh yeah!) I am designing the book cover which will feature more art by illustrator Andrea Offermann (of whom I am a fawning art fan girl).
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I’m now a week and two days into a project that, if successful, will be the first installment in this mad idea I have to write and self-publish a companion novella alongside every traditionally-published book I do from here on out. Each will be related to the novel it accompanies, either directly or indirectly. The idea will be to provide extra content in different formats, and to try and use self-publishing and traditional publishing in tandem, to see what they can do to work for each other.
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There’s a lot of flak flying back and forth right now between the two big camps in publishing, especially with the DoJ nonsense going on at the moment. On the one hand, I’m firmly in the pro-publishers camp, or I would be if you put a gun to my head and made me pick one. I like my publisher, I think my editor forces me to make smarter choices in my storytelling, and my first two books are truly beautiful objects. I couldn’t have afforded to do what they’ve done. On the other hand, I don’t like being made to take sides, and I think it’s silly for anyone on either side to ignore the potential of the entire field. And I’m just organized enough—just barely, mind you—to pull off this self-publishing thing. I think. Early indications are that I am. Whatever. I’m not worried about it. (Actually—obviously—I’m totally worried about it, but I’ll deal.)
I’ve discovered in the last year that I have WAY more stories in my head than anybody’s ever going to pay me for. Some of them are too short to be good prospects for a publisher to take a risk on; some of them are just too weird. Mind you, I like weird, and I know there are readers out there who like weird, too—but weird is notoriously difficult to sell at the publisher level. I understand why. Still, all these bizarre little stories in my head interconnect and relate to each other, and to my two first books, The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands, which makes me think readers might be excited to have them.
They come to me at night, when I ought to be dreaming. That sounds so much nicer than the raw truth, which is that I’m an obsessive-compulsive, occasional insomniac with breathing problems who frequently wakes up at 3am and doesn’t fall asleep again until 5. How do I spend those hours? I lay awake in bed and try unsuccessfully to shut down my brain so I can go back to sleep. During this time I have racing thoughts. Usually they’re worries, or regrets, things like little panic attacks about the post office box I forgot to renew or a maybe-dumb thing I said to someone a week ago or how long its been since I last went running. But I’ve learned that if I give my brain some direction, I can turn those racing thoughts toward more productive work. Like stories.
They also come to me when I’m trying to work on something else: research for Project A I suddenly throws in my path something glimmery and distracting that just begs to be turned over and over until a story begins to evolve around it. Some of these shiny bits of things will combine with others, or will turn out to be exactly what I need to solve a story problem I’ve been grappling with in a different project. Some will germinate into separate books of their own. Still others will not immediately fit with anything else; nor will they immediately feel like the kind of things I want to expand into a full-length novel. But some of the ones that fall into this third subset will still be shiny and glittery and enticing enough to keep me from being able to put them away. They’re like the little bits of ephemera I keep on my desk that I find myself staring at when I need to turn my eyes away from the computer screen for a bit.
These little baubles, it turns out, are perfect candidates for my self-pub project, which I’m calling the Arcana. The first installment is The Kairos Mechanism, which is on Kickstarter now through June 9th. The next few volumes are still taking shape. Some are novellas; a couple are looking like they might morph into collections of folk tales; others are still just shiny and hanging around at the edge of my peripheral vision, waiting to take their final forms. Here’s hoping you find them to be as delightful a set of little gems as I do.
Now, I know how I got to thinking this project would be a good idea, but I’m curious. Readers: what kind of extra content do you long for when you’re immersed in a world? Writers, how do you go about using extra content to enhance the reader’s experience? Have you experimented with ways to use both self- and traditional publishing?