I recently spent an enlightening week attending IndieReCon, a fantastic online convention focusing on publishing and authors, with an obvious emphasis on those involved as “Indies,” an evolving term encompassing small publishers and the authors whose works they publish, as well as self-published authors and authors publishing under their own imprints. I should add that the team who put together this Con did a spectacular job and made a point of not bashing the traditional publishing world. On that, I highly commend their professionalism. There’s plenty of room for everyone in this industry. (Twitter hashtag #IndieReCon)
“So, what’s IndieReCon got to do with epic revolutions and branding?”
“I’m getting there.”
I love books and everything about them, including the evolution of the publishing industry, and IndieReCon made me think about all of that and about how to define my unique brand. We are at a true juncture in publishing history, one in which evolutions have enabled revolutions.
We can thank technology for bringing us here.
Ease of file conversion and simplified uploading, along with opening up international distribution channels, have enabled mass Indie entry into the ebook market. Advances in print-on-demand technology also have made entry into the print market a viable option for Indies (publishers and authors), as well.
“Okay. So those are evolutions in technology. What do they have to do with epic revolutions and branding? Stay on topic, woman!”
“Oh ye of little faith.” *gratuitous eye roll*
Technology has brought us to this juncture, and I feel pretty safe in betting that it will continue to aid all sides of the publishing industry in more ways than we can count—from encouraging more artists to join the party to bringing global entities together in new ways. But technology is mostly an enabler. What it has enabled isn’t just evolutionary. It’s equally revolutionary.
Technology has opened up a lot of festering sores, on traditional and Indie arms of the publishing industry. Prior to Indie feasibility, authors felt the tightening throttle of narrow (and seemingly becoming even more narrow) opportunities to get their books in the hands of readers.
“So did everyone else in the business, including agents and editors and designers!”
“Yep, they did. Stick with me, dude. I’m focusing on writers at the moment.”
So, when technology made publishing feasible for the average individual, some authors decided to practice a publishing paradigm already established by predecessors like Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia Wolff, to name just two. Revolutions don’t always move forward. Sometimes they move back to something that came before, something that was necessary at the time and may have succeeded to some degree. In this case, a depressed traditional publishing environment, coupled with advances in technology, facilitated a move to a model that had worked in the past (though differently and some might say “improved” owing to the technology aspect, which Indie predecessors didn’t have at their disposal).
What makes the move revolutionary is the motivation of the authors. Some embraced Indie publishing for monetary gains, including authors who saw a lucrative market and some authors who had published traditionally in the past and wanted to regain rights to out-of-print works. Some embraced Indie publishing because they had become discouraged by rejections from the traditional arm of the business (agents, editors, publishers). Some lost patience with or got pissed off at the traditional arm (in some cases justifiably, but not in every case). But in all cases of going Indie, authors strayed from the pattern followed by the traditional wing of publishing. That’s a break with what has been the status quo for a very long time. Any break with the status quo is a revolution, no matter how minor or major in scale.
“Okay, so it’s a revolution. What’s that got to do with your branding?”
I’ve come to a decision about which path I’ll take with my work. I started out the traditional way, feeling that no matter what happened, I’d learn something valuable, and I have! Right now, though, the Indie route is the right one for my work, which doesn’t mean I won’t consider all options on an ongoing basis. Status quos make me itchy, even my own. Of late, my work has grown some tentacles that make Indie publishing something I want to do. It will give me space to play (and to work like a mutha!). And to satisfy my greed, it will afford me the opportunity to join not just one revolution, but at least one more that isn’t likely to be something the traditional publishing path would welcome in a debut author.
“What the hell, lady? You’re all about revolutions. Are you some kind of hippie?”
“Hmm. I guess I am, but that’s not the point. Or maybe it is. Don’t confuse me. I’m on a roll here.”
“Let me finish!”
“I wish like hell you would!”
A few brave souls have returned to their literary roots of late, two of which are John Scalzi and Hugh Howey. Both of these authors are serializing their work to some degree.
Through traditional publisher Tor, Scalzi is releasing weekly ebook episodes of The Human Division (set in the Old Man’s War universe). In and of itself, serialization is a revolution from the traditional approach to publishing a series (the status quo), and it’s a revolution that readers seem to welcome, as the episodes have garnered enthusiastic acclaim. Scalzi’s writing is the draw, most certainly, but readers seem to have latched onto serialization, maybe because they’re revolting against the long waits that typically accompany a lengthy series or maybe because they prefer stories broken down into less daunting pieces.
Another reader favorite, Hugh Howey, has taken a similar approach. In Howey’s case, he released Wool as an ebook novelette under his own imprint (Broad Reach Publishing). Readers loved the story, and Howey went back to the creative well and wrote four more novelettes to accompany the first. He published each separately in ebook format and then put all five together as an ebook collection (Wool Omnibus Edition). In the U.K, Random House is publishing a hardcover version of the Omnibus (as per Howey’s site). What is revolutionary about Howey’s model is that he retained his ebook rights and the rights to continue publishing ebooks in the same series. He’s now published Wool #6 in ebook format under the Broad Reach imprint, too, so he’s made it clear to readers that he will continue to do what they love, and he will continue to do it non-traditionally–at least in e-book format. It will be interesting to see what he does with his next Wool omnibus.
An interesting note in this part of the current publishing (r)evolution: the traditional publishers working with both Howey and Scalzi are in the U.K. I see that as a trend that shows U.K. publishers acknowledge, take seriously, and are responding to publishing revolutions—perhaps a bit gingerly, but most definitely dipping a toe in the water—to see what might evolve. I eagerly await determination of the outcome(s).
“Okay, okay. I got it. Another couple of revolutions. Epic? Branding? Get to the damned point, hippie lady.”
Howey’s novelettes and Scalzi’s episodes are epic in scope. So is my work. I write speculative fiction, and my current work is an epic science fantasy series set in the Shifting Worlds universe. The series begins with a trilogy collectively named The Staves of Warrant. Each book in the trilogy will be released in parts and then, as with Howey’s Wool Omnibus, as a complete book.
So, in addition to joining the Indie revolution as an author and a publisher (under my own Bookmite Press imprint), I’m also joining the serialization revolution, but in my own way. The first book in The Staves of Warrant is Incorrigible: Secrets Past & Present. It has four parts, and each part builds on the next. That means readers will get an unfolding story and, thus, need to read the parts sequentially. All four parts are completed, so readers won’t have to wait long between parts. I welcome reader commentary about timing the releases. (Click the pale comment bubble at the top of this post and share your thoughts, please.)
“You’re only going to give me part of the story?”
“Yep. Do television series writers give you parts of the story?”
“Okay. That’s what I’m doing, but in print instead of on your television.”
“I like episodes in television, but I like my fiction in one chunk, thank you very much.”
“That’s okay. I’ve got that covered, too.”
After all four parts are published (in ebook formats), a complete ebook version will be published, as well. I have plans to publish a trade paperback version after that.
Books Two (Discordant: Kin Foreign & Familiar) and Three (Seditious: Promises Broken & Bound) of The Staves of Warrant will be released in the same way and in the same formats as Book One.
Another reason I chose Epic Revolutions as my brand was that the stories I tell are about revolutions. I want readers to know that’s what they’ll get in my books. Revolutions without and within. Revolutions epic in scope. My stories’ revolutions are battles that take time to win and are not always fought in traditional style, but they are battles worth fighting.
Yet another reason this brand works for me is the flexibility of the word “Revolutions.” A revolution is not just about rebellion. It’s also the complete turn of an object, a cycle, like a planet spinning on its axis and revolving around the sun. In a sense, the serialization of The Staves of Warrant is a cycle, as well.
And finally, I chose Epic Revolutions as my brand, in part, because of its philosophical and creative associations with the concept behind the Shifting Worlds universe and with the title (and poem from which it comes) of this blog: World Enough and Time. I aim to have fun and do some unorthodox and goofy things just to see what will happen while there is still World Enough and Time for me to do them. My earnest hope is that readers will have some fun, too.
I invite you to join me on this journey. Invite your friends to come along, too! The more, the merrier.
Vive la Révolution!
“*snorts* Shouldn’t that be Vive la Révolution Épique?”
“Good point. Now, hush. It’s time for you to sleep, muse.”
“Whoooooooooooa! I have been patient beyond all measure. I have a story to tell you.”
“Once upon a time, someone noticed the worlds were shifting . . .”
“You’re not going to shush, are you?”
“I’m taking a shower and going to bed.”
“I’ll just follow you.”
“In your dreams.”
“*snorts* Close, hippie lady. In yours.”