I'm home from the fabulous SFWA Mill-n-Swill in New York City. Picture two large rooms with three free bars, thronged with publishing professionals, and you can imagine the clamor. Loudest damn get-together of the year.
But a productive one. My traveling companion, Tom Purdom, and I had dinner with editors Sheila Williams and Neil Clarke, and up-and-coming editorial professional Emily Hockaday. I talked over my new novel with my agent, Martha Millard. I learned a lot of useful information. And I picked up a fair amount of gossip.
None of which I'll share with you today. Instead, I want to pass along eleven words of wisdom from Tom Purdom. I like traveling with Tom because he's a serious conversationalist, a witty man, and someone whose memory goes back further than mine. I enjoy talking with him and he's always worth listening to.
We were talking about the mania new writers have for self-publishing e-books and how unprepared most of them are for the enterprise. Yes, there have been successes. But those I've talked to all emphasized how much hard, pragmatic work they put into it. If you aren't already famous and you want to self-publish, you really should have a business plan, I said, and it shouldn't be based on wishful thinking. Word of mouth is all very well and good. But it didn't kick in for Moby-Dick until long after Herman Melville was dead.
But Tom cut right to the core of the matter. "There's a big difference," he said, "between publishing something and making it available."
There it is, in a nub. If all you want is for your work to be available, it's never been easier. But if you want thousands of people to read it . . . well, you've got to be published. By professionals. They might be the staff of a major publishing house, who are prepared to offer you money in advance, send out ARCs to reviewers, and distribute your fiction to bookstores. Or they might consist solely of yourself. Both routes are possibilities.
But in either case, you want people who know what they're doing.