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With the upsurge of e-readers, there has been an accompanying growth in the impulse to self-publish. I really have no problems with self-publishing. If I had any out-of-print titles, I’d probably put them for sale online.
A lot of people love their direct, author-to-reader book sales. J. A. Konrath is one of the more fervent proponents, and if you’re interested, you should by all means read his blog. I’m not about to argue with what is clearly working fine for him and a lot of others. But at the same time, I sit looking at my own copy edit for Pirate King—

—and I wonder, How on earth I would do that on my own?
It takes me just about a year to finish a book. The last couple of years, I have put a whole lot of online work on top of writing, in the promotion/celebrations of the Russell stories for 2009 and 2010. It was fun, but left me with absolutely no slack time. If I were writing and selling online, wouldn’t it be like running my own miniature publishing house?  I would have to summon a critical eye—for my own prose, which is tough. I would have to hone my skills in grammar, punctuation, and double-checking information—no more passing over the positions of a period in relation to a parenthesis because somebody will catch it if it’s wrong, no more trusting that 1910 is right because that’s how I remember reading it.   I would have to come up with a really professional cover because 75% of book buyers admit they judge a book by its cover. I would have to figure how to format the book for the growing number of e-readers, and wrestle with any non-print matter such as maps and illustrations, which some e-readers balk at. I would have to decide whether to trust that people are going to find the story and read it, or whether I should spend a whole lot of hours promoting the story (subtly, since nobody likes a pushy salesman) on Facebook and Goodreads and in blogs and wherever else I can think of.
Or I could pay people to do these things: freelance editor, artist, tech support, publicist. And maybe a housekeeper because I’m going to find it difficult to perform three full-time jobs: human being; publishing house; and writer.
Oh yeah, writer.
I need a dozen weeks to write a first draft, another fifteen or twenty for the rewrite. I often have some other project going as well—short stories, Edgars judging, editing an anthology. If I were only able to write a polished first draft and free up half a year, I might have time to run my own publishing industry.
Or, I could write a second book.
Which do you suppose I would choose?

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  1. EBPitcher on January 19, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Please write the book! I believe you should be your own person and not just do what everyone else is doing because they are doing it. A wise person once said (and I believe in it thoroughly) that you should know your own strengths well enough to hire out those things that are your weaknesses. So please write the book.

  2. Pat Floyd on January 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Furthermore, when would you find time to read!?!

  3. RussellHolmes on January 19, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Please continue the Russell series!! I bet this would be the time when you wish to conjure up clones of yourself to be able to accomplish everything (don’t we all wish we had another pair of hands to do more?).

  4. Chris on January 20, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I’d rather have one book from you every 12 to 18 months than the 2 to 3 books a year that some writers are ‘writing’…!


  5. Teresa on January 20, 2011 at 7:00 am

    …and thank god you would choose that. 😉

  6. strawberry curls on January 20, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I’m with you, Chris!


  7. Carol M on January 20, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Write the book! That’s what is important to us readers and I think that’s what would make you happy, too!

  8. TheMadLibrarian on January 20, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    “There are nine-and-sixty ways/ of composing tribal lays/ and every-single-one-of-them-is-right!”

    Kipling said it best: do what works for you, and nevermind what ‘everyone else’ is doing. It is very satisfactory to me, at any rate.

  9. Tina Hoggatt on January 20, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Oh, Laurie, what a great and simple post about this thorny subject. i am totally linking to this! You are in an enviable position in publishing. For many, self-publishing may look like the only hopeful route, though many of those writers will be overwhelmed by what it takes to publish and market successfully. It’s all a moving target. I’m with these other guys – spend your time writing books – I love them so.

  10. Tim H. on January 26, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Hopefully the market will be kind enough that you never need to resort to self publishing. Some authors have found that it’s a good tool for marketing out of print titles, for instance, Norman Spinrad.

  11. Mom of 6 on January 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    You are in a position that many writers envy: you are in demand, something publishers seem to want right off the bat. I would be interested to know (subject of a future post, maybe?) how the marketing aspect has changed for you as a writer over the years, specifically how much you as a writer (a best-selling one!) have been asked to contribute to marketing and whether you feel it furthers your aim of putting out good books that we love to read.

    As a side note, in my opinion your blog posts are always fun to read and well-written. I can think of one prolific author whose website contained her obviously unedited posts, very unlike her polished publications. They had the inadvertent effect of making me admire her editor all the more…

  12. Dot on February 8, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Also, time needed to be Grandma!

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