The DIY Journal: Finding Good Information

Pile of books on a black backgroundI debated with myself for a long time over the possibility of doing a blog series about publishing and writing, with a focus on educating others on the indie world. For a long time the answer was “no”. I honestly don’t think I have that much to contribute, and there are plenty of others who know so much more than I. The plethora of knowledge in the independent publishing world is astounding, to the point that no one person can keep track of it all — anything I add will be trivial, redundant, and obscure in comparison.

More important, I’m still learning my trade. I’ve published only a handful of short stories and have written between five and eight novella to novel length books (that’s only a guess, I don’t really know the number off the top of my head). Also, I’ve only dipped my toe in the publishing industry waters. In January of 2014 I started my own publishing company, Hermit Muse Publishing.

So, I’m still in the newbie stage. Whatever advice I give shouldn’t be taken seriously, or at least should be fact checked. If you wanted to learn guitar, you wouldn’t take lessons from a dude who has only played for a few months and has never been in a band. Just as bad, if you wanted to learn blues guitar, you wouldn’t take lessons from a classical guitarist. Writing and publishing are no different.

Why am I doing this blog series?

Frankly, because I’m pissed off at how much misinformation is out there about indie publishing, and this is a way of doing something about it. Let me explain.

David Gaughran has done an excellent job of covering the multitudes of Author Solutions scams out there, go read those articles to learn some scary shit. Not kidding. He’s been fighting the good fight, thankfully he has a huge audience of like-minded people supporting his efforts.

Unfortunately, the modern publishing corporations and many literary agents earn their lunch because of the Barnum Principle: “there’s a sucker born every minute”. And they’ve developed a talent for separating the suckers from their money. I believe most writers begin their careers as suckers, I was certainly no exception. I got scammed in a poetry contest I entered as a teenager. I also nearly fell for the agent scams when I first started taking writing as a serious career path.

The problem is finding good information. The internet is loaded with resources about do-it-yourself publishing. I’m a mostly self-taught writer, much of my knowledge has come from blogs and online news. I’ve had the fortune of belonging to Forward Motion for Writers, where the good people there have directed me to many useful resources. I remember the “early” days when I was outside looking in, trying to figure out how this industry worked and how to make money from my writing.

So I’m writing this blog series as my own little way of fighting bad information and the scammers that are so prevalent in our time. I likely won’t have a big audience, and that’s okay. If I influence even a handful of people, that’s less lunch money for entities like Author Solutions. I may not even update this series for long, as I have a habit of starting projects and not finishing them. Again, that’s okay. The internet is forever, and whatever I do accomplish will remain on this website for as long as I own the domain.

I’m also doing this to keep myself nimble. Publishing is a fast changing industry, scary fast.  Five short years ago, indie publishing was the kiss of death, only the naive and the desperate went this route. In fact, indie publishing was equated to vanity publishers. Print-on-demand was expensive and controlled by companies that lacked the means to get books into bookstores. The e-book market had yet to really take off. Starting up a new company to publish and distribute your books was laughable back then. Who knows how the market will change in the next half decade. I’ve struggled to keep up, and I hope writing about the changes as I experience them will help me learn new tricks along the way.

Finding resources and information can tricky at best of times.

What are my resources?

I have four “go-to” gurus I keep track of on a regular basis: Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the Passive Voice, and David Gaughran. Whenever I talk to other writers, these are the names I usually bring up. These are the sources I trust the most. There are lots of other great resources out there, some of which I plan on bringing up in future posts, but these four are the ones I like and refer to the most.

Smith’s Killing the Sacred Cows series originally got me thinking about indie publishing, and I highly recommend reading that series, especially now that it’s been updated and put into book form. Think Like a Publisher was also incredibly useful, and frankly served as a model for setting up Hermit Muse. I also recommend Smith’s video lectures, though they aren’t free (but well worth the money).

Every Thursday Rusch writes a blog series called the Business Rusch. Her background includes journalism, radio, business, writing in several genres (SF, romance, mainstream, fantasy), editing, and experience with both indie and traditional publishing. Her weekly blog discusses all kinds of important issues — promotion, discoverability, contracts, distribution. The oldest posts are now out-dated, but still worth looking back on.

The Passive Voice is a blog maintained by a semi-anonymous attorney and writer. This is an excellent place to find “news of the day” articles from around the internet, often with a focus on legal and business issues in publishing. He posts multiple items every day (or close to every day). I try to stop by at least once a week to see what he’s pulled up.

David Gaughran is an Irish fiction writer with a deep understanding of the indie market. I don’t know much about his background, but I’ve come to respect his opinions. He wrote the books Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible. I’ve read the latter only, by the time I discovered Gaughran I had already published digitally. His website is full of good material, including excerpts from Let’s Get Digital.

What’s next for this journal?

Not a clue. I hope to post something to the DIY Journal every now and then… once a week, every other week, not really sure. This will be part of my professional development — research a new topic and write it down in bite-size pieces, for my enjoyment as well as my education.

I also hope to attract other indies to the discussion. If there’s a topic you want my opinion on or want to debate, send me a message or leave a comment.

By David Anthony Brown

Indie writer and publisher. Among other jack-of-all-trade skills...

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