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In recent days, there's been some, shall we say 'spirited', discussion amongst my friends at the  the Greater Lehigh Valley Writing Group about whether or not our annual Write Stuff Conference should cater for folks interested in self-publishing.

There's no doubt self-publishing is here to stay, and while it's not a route I'd choose to take for myself (at least, not for a previously unpublished book), there are plenty of folks who would. In fact, if we're not there already, I suspect there'll come a time when self-pubbed authors outnumber the traditionally published.

Personally, I wish anyone who decides to go it alone the very best of luck, but as a matter of principal, I don't think self-publishing has a place on the program at a regular writing conference. Let's face it, there are already more writing subjects than a typical conference could hope to cover.

Besides, self-publishing has so many different aspects to it, I think it makes far more sense to devote an entire program to the subject.

How about you?

Do you think there's a place for self-publishing panels and workshops at a writing conference?
Poll #1788683 Self-publishing at a regular writing conference?

Would you like to see the subject of self-publishing on the program at a regular writing conference/

Something else, which I'll explain in a comment

ETA: Just in case I've given anyone the wrong impression, as a writing group, GLVWG certainly respects self-publishers. Self-pubbed members will be invited to take part in next year's post conference book fair (as they were in 2011 and previous years). GLVWG recently held a 'Writer's Cafe' on e-publishing your own work. In January 2012, the group's main meeting and afternoon workshop will also be devoted to the subject.


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( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 22nd, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
Perhaps if it was a talk detailing your options, listing it as an option would be valid. Or if you are a doing some sort of a 'writer beware' to help people avoid scams, talking about some of the pay to publish scams that are going on out there.

But if you have a lot of other subjects to cover, I don't think it should be a high priority to include. So no-ish. :)

Also, when is this writer's conference? It sounds like something I would like to attend.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
Hi Laura, It's on March 17th next year. The details are on the GLVWG website: http://www.glvwg.org

Sadly, I won't be attending this year (I went to the last four). I'll be at the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference that day.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC)
if folks are going to do it, shouldn't it be a topic for discussion?
Oct. 22nd, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
I don't think so, no. My objection isn't because I think traditional publishing is the better option (though I do), it's because, for better or worse, a large part of the self-publishing industry is in direct conflict with the traditional method.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
in that case, perhaps you should call it a "traditional-publishing-oriented" conference, rather than overall a "writing" one.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 07:41 pm (UTC)
Lol, maybe we should at that :)
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 22nd, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
One of the many undoubted attractions of self-publishing is the fact that you, and you alone, get to decide what constitutes 'good enough to publish'.

Trouble is, when it comes to our own work, we're not always the best judge.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC)
Since getting my kindle, I have seen just what a wide range there is in terms of those who self-publish. I can see why the indy writers get so steamed up about these guys.

One prime example springs to mind. An acquaintance, (not friend), recently stuck up a historical romance and it was self-published in the exact sense of the words. I purchased because this is someone who takes money off other people to get their manuscripts in order for publication. I figured that this person, (who doesn't call themselves an editor), must surely be able to write decent narrative with acceptable grammar. I gave up counting the mistakes after chapter two. I had scored one hundred and twenty-three by that stage. And then there was the problem of the plot, or lack thereof. What the book was was a series of erotic fantasies loosely tied together with some fairly improbable characters. The first three pages had obviously received a lot more work than any part of the rest of the book as these were not too badly written and at least quite gripping in the sense that they contained the story I thought I was buying.

I don't see the point of self-publishing being on the program at a regular writing conference because these people in general, and I know there must be exceptions, are not prepared to put the work in to make their book presentable. They are not prepared to pay an editor to go over to check for the many errors. They are not prepared to pick up a Chicago Manual of Style, or any equivalent how-to grammar book, and they seem to not possess a dictionary. Also, having recently been in the company of a goodly number of such people, I found them to be unlike real writers. There was a sense of arrogance I thought particularly unattractive and also a dogged belief in their own way of writing, warts and all, that was advocated to any new member, despite people pointing out to them that they were not correct. I simple couldn't stand the bad manners and pulled out.

This is why I think the whole subject doesn't belong in a real con. If it was offered then droves of these people probably would show up to bray their own wares. I actually know of someone recently banned from commenting on Amazon because she was plugging her own book with every comment she penned. It would be a bit like expecting the Morlocks to develop table manners when visiting the Eloi. Just won't happen.

Oct. 22nd, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC)
'...expecting the Morlocks to develop table manners when visiting the Eloi. Just won't happen.'

Regardless of which side of the argument folks are on, I hope they appreciate that line :)

Oct. 22nd, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
Why not? Unless it's a writing conference specifically geared at traditional/commercial publishing, then I don't see a reason for excluding something that's become a significant part of the publishing landscape.

I do see problems sometimes in that there seems to be a greater tendency for the self-publishing experts on panels to focus on promoting their own work and/or pushing self-publishing with an almost religious fervor as the One True Way. (Not saying everyone does this; only that I've seen it more frequently with self-publishing panels.)

But self-publishing topics in and of themselves seem relevant and important for most writers to know about, and I don't personally see a reason to exclude them.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC)
What self-publishing topics would you put on the menu?
Oct. 22nd, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC)
Hm ... maybe a panel on what you realistically should and shouldn't expect from both traditional and self publishing, if you can find the people to do it.

Get some experienced folks to talk about the basics of creating e-books and what's required to do it *well*.

Might be fun to see a panel on what commercially published authors can learn from self-publishing successes and failures. That might work the other way too, with a panel for self-published authors taking lessons from successful and failed trad. published books.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
That could work, but the kind of panels folks seem to want are nuts & bolts workshops on how to go about self-publishing.

I'm not saying those aren't valid subjects, but like I said in the main post, I think they're better dealt with in a separate program.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
It depends on how large the conference is, of course. If it is big enough to have different tracks, then having a track for self-publishing makes a LOT of sense to me. Traditional publishers can train their employees--but for self-publishers, where else can you go to learn the skills of the trade? Where can you go to meet people who have the skills you don't?

If you have a smaller conference, with less function space, it can make sense to specialize to match your available space, your available speakers, and your participants' interests. There are lots of topic of interest to writers, from grammar and genre to discipline and inspiration to the different paths to publication. If you want to delve deeply into one or two aspects of writing and related topics, you probably don't have room for introductory panels on everything that is of interest.

Leaving out self-publishing panels is one way to specialize, of course, but is it the best choice for this particular convention and its participants?

Certainly, I don't agree with the position that leaving out self-publishing is a valid choice because it's not an appropriate topic for a writer's conference. I think it's both appropriate and interesting.

I do agree with you that no convention can offer all of the appropriate and interesting topics, however. There's only so much time and space at any one conference. But I'm more likely to go to a writer's conference that welcomes and respects self-publishers, even if they don't have panels on the topic, than one that believes self-publishing doesn't have a place at a writer's conference.

Edited at 2011-10-22 09:55 pm (UTC)
Oct. 23rd, 2011 04:18 am (UTC)
As a writing group, GLVWG certainly respects self-publishers. Self-pubbed members will be invited to take part in next year's post conference book fair (as they were in 2011 and previous years).

GLVWG recently held a 'Writer's Cafe' on e-publishing your own work. In January 2012, the group's main meeting and afternoon workshop will also be devoted to the subject.

For me, it's not about respecting self-publishing, I just think their are more important subjects to be covered.

Oct. 23rd, 2011 04:21 am (UTC)
As much as I hate it, sometimes appearances matter as much as substance.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 04:38 am (UTC)
Oct. 23rd, 2011 01:17 am (UTC)
I do think self-publishing topics have a place in writers' conference programs. People want to know how to fold self-publishing options into a career that also includes traditional publishing; what the steps are to self-publish; what's the difference between vanity presses and self-publishing; what to know and consider before you self-publish; self-publishing success stories and pitfalls; how to produce, edit, design, and promote a self-published title; how to decide whether to go the traditional or self-pubbed route for a given project; just for examples.

I do think a professional conference should avoid any session that is intended just to sell a particular vanity service, or anything like that. The conference organizers should ensure that each panel serves the interests of the writers in the audience, and will give them fair and honest information.

Sessions on writing craft (e.g., creating memorable characters, plotting, critiquing, etc.) are the same for both traditional and self-pubbed authors.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 03:39 am (UTC)
I do think a professional conference should avoid any session that is intended just to sell a particular vanity service, or anything like that.

I think that's my problem. A general 'Is self-publishing right for you?' workshop, like Jim mentioned above, could work. Other than that, it's hard to see how you could cover the specifics of self-pubbing without recommending folks use (or avoid) a particular service.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 03:59 am (UTC)
i wouldn't say it doesn't BELONG there - but i'd much rather hear tips on the craft itself - the writing process, the world-building process, the character/conflict-building process, etc.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 04:25 am (UTC)
Thanks for the input :)
Oct. 23rd, 2011 05:29 am (UTC)
yes, yes, yes
All types of publishing, marketing and sales methods should be discussed at all stages of of a writers skill level and career.

Use all means to get people to know that you've written something you want them to buy. For example with my book "Rockabilly Haiku & Swingin' Tails' I printed 5000 copies, I went to tradeshows, I am getting it reconverted to all E-formats and put on popular sites all over the world. I heard that Sony s coming out with a new format, so I will jump on that. During the last 30 hours I was at Narita airport in Japan, and left my Rockabilly cards everywhere.

It is such a huge part of selling books now that waiting a year not to have someone speak about the options would be foolish and harmful to the education and incomes of our members.

I'm back and as soft spoken as always.

Oct. 23rd, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)
Re: yes, yes, yes
Welcome home, Albert :)
Oct. 23rd, 2011 08:25 am (UTC)
Why ask this question?

At all the cons I've been to recently, self-publishing is already on the program. At a con earlier this month, there was a panel that included publishing options, and the table was shared by representatives from a large publisher, an editor, a traditionally-published writer who is now self-publishing, and a writer who is doing very well never having published traditionally.

Why the animosity?

OK, to use the clicheed words 'there is a lot of crap out there', but isn't a con the place to find out what is required if you want to self-publish (and, perhaps, that it isn't as easy or as advisable as you first thought?)

Seriously, unless the con is held by publishers, I think self-publishing SHOULD be covered. The con is for WRITERS, and this is an option open to them. Not everyone will take it, but at least give people the chance to find out what they're letting themselves in for, to avoid situations mentioned above.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 11:36 am (UTC)
Why the animosity?

What animosity?
Oct. 23rd, 2011 10:58 am (UTC)
Absolutely yes. A large-scale conference could easily support a panel on self-publishing and there's a lot to be said. I feel there's a lot of...misinformation? around about self-publishing (it's too easy, it's too hard, it's the only sensible route, it's the loser's route, it creates too much crap, it costs too much, it costs too little... take your pick).

Th fact is, self-publishing is now a viable option for writers and therefore there needs to be education available for people who choose it.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
There's certainly a lot of misinformation out there. I can see how a general, 'Is self-pubbing the right route for you?' would be helpful.

Thanks for sharing, Naomi :)
Oct. 23rd, 2011 05:15 pm (UTC)
There was a self publishing panel held at BaltiCon and moderated by JABberwocky literary agent Joshua Bilmes (agent to Charlaine Harris). I was a panelist, though I did not self publish. I am published through a small press that began when the owner of the press self pubbed his own well-received SF novel. I became his second author and now he has a third coming on board, etc.

The panel did not attempt to sell anyone on a particular publishing service but talked about the advantages and disadvantages of that method and the elements that went into making the decision to self-pub.

Later in the weekend, there was a panel that talked about marketing your self published works using sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing, setting up your eBook on Smashwords, etc. etc.

In my opinion, it's difficult to ignore self-publishing as a method for getting your work to market but if the focus of the Write Stuff conference is to hone craft, then no extraneous topics should intrude on that. BaltiCon, for example, is a four day convention with a wide and diverse range of topics. Thus, a few self-publishing panels fit easily into the programming.

At the same time, however, I have noted some comments here disparaging the quality of self published material. I respect that, and yet I've started many traditionally published novels that ended up tossed unfinished into the "for the used book store" pile or the "donations" box due to poor quality writing, editing, or convoluted, stultifying plots, etc.

So if we could put aside the bias, I certainly think self-publshing is a valid topic of discussion if the conference has the time and space to accommodate.

Oct. 24th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Interesting viewpoint. thanks for sharng, Phil :
Oct. 23rd, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
Of course! With Amazon, Lulu and other established, legitimate routes to self-publish, Self-publishing is a part of the writing landscape. For books and stories publishing houses are not interested in, like your Grandparent's favorite childhood stories or quirky unusual books, Self-publishing is the way to go, and the authors of those great unusual stories need the information on how to get their stuff out there.
Oct. 24th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
'For books and stories publishing houses are not interested in, like your Grandparent's favorite childhood stories or quirky unusual books, Self-publishing is the way to go'

For some of those books, sure.
Oct. 23rd, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
Isn't it a bit like sec ed for kids? It's not whether you for or against kids having sex, it's that you're for them having information before they make a decision.
Oct. 24th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Lol, you know, that makes a lot of sense.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 24th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
I'm okay with the idea of a general panel/Q&A on the subject.

I can see the use of a nuts & bolts workshop on how to actually self-publish your book. I just think there are better subjects to offer at a writing conference, though as Phil said above, if you've got an event spanning several days, with several consecutive programs for folks to choose from, I'd have less of an objection.
Oct. 24th, 2011 03:37 am (UTC)
There are some brilliant self-published books out there, but these are from writers who have worked hard at the craft. I have friends who self-published and I have their books, which I greatly enjoy. They are very well edited and formatted.

The problem arises from John/Jane Doh of the streets suddenly coming up with this unamazing idea and sticking up a 150k plus groan-worthy tome on a site such as Smash Worlds or Amazon the moment the very first draft is completed. There is no attention to detail and the author regards the work as the next best thing since sliced bread. Think back to that viral argue months back, when a new writer stuck up an unedited book on the web and then went ape shit when a professional reviewer gave her a very generous review. He didn't pan it. In fact, he liked the story a lot, but suggested some great improvements. The writer's response was in the blue air zone. This is the difference between writers and wannabees in a nutshell.
Oct. 24th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
'The problem arises from John/Jane Doh of the streets suddenly coming up with this unamazing idea and sticking up a 150k plus groan-worthy tome on a site such as Smash Worlds or Amazon the moment the very first draft is completed. '

I imagine those folks would have benefited from a basic panel/Q&A on the subject, which makes a compelling argument for including one.
Oct. 24th, 2011 01:16 pm (UTC)
Sure, I guess, a class or two, why not? I wouldn't want the whole thing overtaken by it, but a few classes won't hurt. All the agent and editor panels/appts were worthless to me, anyway, so I wouldn't miss them.

I'm traditionally published by Random House but also just released a YA ebook that I self-published, for the fun of it. It's not like it's an either/or thing... you can do both, if you do it right and keep your contracts in mind. And also if you take your time, produce a quality product, and keep in mind that you're probably not going to get rich off of it.

Oh, and aren't there already more people who are self-published than are traditionally published? Traditional publishers are selective, and it's not like self-publishing is a new thing.

And I do understand the animosity toward self-publishers. Editors and agents are gatekeepers. Most of what they take on isn't crap. When you work for years to perfect a book and get it out there, it's hard sometimes to see your book pop up on the shelf next to books that were produced in a day. Which unfortunately, is what some of these books are. I suppose you can let the public police these books with their ratings and make the really outstanding ones rise to the top, but I have fallen victim to many a poorly-produced self-published book that got 100 5 star reviews from relatives and friends. That is why I now lean toward only reading traditionally published books.
Oct. 24th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the input, Cyn :)
( 38 comments — Leave a comment )

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