Self-Publishing

I began self-publishing with Cat Tales, in 2010, originally Kindle only, as an experiment, just to see if I could do it. I found that I could, at no cost, and was quite pleased. (I did an Ogden House paper edition in 2016, to give to people at conventions.) I did nothing more until A Closet for a Dragon, in 2014. Technicaly it’s an Ogden House book, though it doesn’t bear the imprint. I didn’t know much about book design back then.

In many ways, I would rather have a traditional publisher, and I tried to find one for several of my books, using Ralan [Ralan.com] and Duotrope [duotrope.com] for my research. I read through publisher’s guidelines, looking for someone who was interested books like mine, but I was extremely frustrated. The first problem was that my books were either too short, or too long, and they wouldn’t even look at them.

Sturgis is only 80,000 words, too short for anybody except certain kinds of romance publishers. A writer, who I otherwise respect, asked me why I didn’t just add 10,000 words to it. I thought about that, having already published it myself, but the story was complete as written. Adding more would have been adding puff. I refuse to do that. Readers recognize puff and fluff when they see it.

Stroad’s Cross was originally, after several revisions and development, about 225,000 words. I tightened it down to 137,000. The upper limit for those publishers whom I thought might want it was 125,000. But the only way I could reduce the story further would have been to cut scenes, or dialogue, or description, or characters. This version of the story was complete as written, and I didn’t want to cut off it feet to make it fit the bed.

The second problem was that in both cases, it was impossible to determin a single genre. Both had horrific elements. Both had supernatural elements. Both had something like magic/fantasy elements. Both had mysteries. Both were character studies. One had a bit of strong romance. And publishers insisted that I classify my stories, but it didn’t fit any of their categories, so they wouldn’t even look at them.

My other books had different problems, which made it difficult to submit for traditional publishing, Closet for a Dragon is a collection of early tales, and collections by unknown authors (despite Pursuit of Diana) don’t sell. Freefoot was another collection, of previously published Elfquest stories, for which I had gotten permission only to publish myself. Dead Hand is long at 161,000 words, is 92 scenes with 52 viewpoint characters, and again unclassifiable as to genre, containing horror, romance/erotica, mystery, adventure, crime, supernatural, spiritual, and other elements.

So I more or less had three choices. I could butcher my books to fit a publisher’s guidelines. I could put them on the shelf so they could gather dust. Or I could publish them myself, which is what I decided to do.

I’m glad I’m not Hemingway

I think I was in second grade when I started writing. The teacher put these lines up on the blackboard and told us to finish the poem.

“Where are you going little leaf/I hope you don’t meet any grief.”

Most people added a single couplet. Some added two. I added twenty couplets and a four-line ABAB stanza. It was shown all around school, and put on the bulletin board for a PTA meeting. I may still have it somewhere. My mother was pleased.

A few months later I was sitting in my father’s chair with the lapboard, writing something. My mother asked me what it was. It old her it was a poem. She said, “You’ve written one poem, why would you want to write another?”

Several years later I was writing stuff, ideas for stories, lists of things, I don’t remember. I wrote a lot of lists. My father asked what I was doing, and I told him I was working on a story, that I wanted to be a writer. He said, “You’re not Ernest Hemingway and you never will be.”

Many years later I actually read something by Hemingway. It could have been the first pages of “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” I never got any further. I remembered what my father had told me, and if he had been still living I would have told him that he was right. And that I was grateful that I would never be like Hemingway. Because I did not like the way he wrote. Not at all. And I still don’t.

Let’s Talk About It

Writing is a major part of my life and I talk about it a lot. I speak on writing panels at SF conventions. I run two workshops at cons, about how to start, and about how to plot. I have posted to my Facebeek page about how I work, and the things I’ve learned, and I’ll be reworking some of those to be included on my Books page, which is not yet brought up to date. I love to talk to people at conventions, to help those who want to write get started, and to encourage them to do so. I have read over 120 books on writing and authorship, about a dozen of which I have found useful, a few of which I have thrown away. But the most important thing I learned was from writer autobiographies, who tell how they did it, not how to do it. And that is that every one does it differently.

Writing is Difficult

It is demanding, it is frustrating, and sometimes it is disappointing. Some of the people who take my workshops decide that they don’t really want to become writers after all. And that’s fine, their energies are better spent doing something more satisfying and rewarding.

But when I succeed, I have created something out of nothing, just a spark of an idea which is completely intangible. From that spark comes a world, people, events, desires, all of which seem so real to the person reading it, that for a little while the reader loses track of the real world.

After all that effort of creation, I had to take some time off. Maybe a year, or a month, or a day — or an hour. And then a new spark comes and, despite all the hardships of the last time, I do it all over again.

Epigram

Allen L. Wold

Writing fiction is part craft, part art, and part dream. The recipe is never the same twice. It is a skill that can never be mastered, because with every story, you learn something more. It brings joy, and frustration, and sometimes despair. But the thought of giving up is intolerable, because every story is an act of true creation.