Thursday, March 3, 2011

Neil Peart Can Beat Up Charlie Sheen

I just want to make a few things clear.

1) I do not discourage self-publishing.

2) I do not discourage offering works of fiction - shorts to novels - to readers for free.

3) I do encourage authors who do 1 and 2, if they want to seek publication, to start with submission of something original when you're ready to talk to editors.

4) I do encourage authors to study all submission guidelines carefully, whether it's NY or small house digital.

5) I do not believe there is anything wrong with establishing a readership through free works. If you can do that, work toward transitioning free readers to buyers while you have their attention.

6) I don't like being the bearer of bad news. Honestly. I derive no enjoyment from telling somebody I cannot accept their work because we consider it published already.

7) I do believe there needs to be a better understanding of digital publishing now that the landscape is changing. I feel I don't say these things, I'm not really helping anybody.

8) I want all authors to understand that, regardless of how your work is published, you must market yourself.

9) I also want authors to know that a rejection of a book from a publisher/editor is not a rejection of you. Some houses will turn away quality on the basis that they believe they cannot sell it, not necessarily because they think it's not well written.

10) This post has nothing to do with Charlie Sheen.

What about Neil Peart? Well, it's been pointed out to me that Neil's upcoming book, Far and Away, is merely a collection of blog posts he made over the last year or so. Every single one of them, AFAIK, is still available on his website for free viewing. So how is it that Neil Peart, drummer from my favorite band, can get away with publishing a book made of live website content, all the while I advise authors not to submit free works they have uploaded to Scribd, Smashwords, Authonomy, and the like for human consumption?

Short answer: he's Neil Peart. He has enjoyed an established fan base for 36 years, and if you track sales of Peart-related media over these last few decades you may find consistency in numbers. Peart remains active in music - Rush enjoyed a successful tour last year, exposure in a feature documentary, and he is regarded by many magazine polls as the third greatest drummer in rock behind Keith Moon and John Bonham.

Since those guys are dead, this arguably makes Peart the greatest drummer alive. Chances are high that even though a fan can print pages off his website, the book will sell because it is memorabilia.

I am not the greatest drummer alive. I have my work cut out for me, as do others.

Look at The Beatles: many of their albums were re-issued recently in mono and stereo, and their catalog is available on iTunes. Though their albums have been out in some form or another for nearly fifty years, these new formats are bestsellers! People are buying fifty-year-old songs in this day and age! I bought all the Beatles' records on vinyl, then made the jump to CD back in the 90s. Same music. I will likely buy them in iTunes when I see the need. I am a fan of that band, and the brand.

Neil Peart brings something to the table. Not everybody does that yet. You may write better than Neil Peart, but if a publisher/editor sees this work that is available and has been read there will be a reluctance to take a chance.

Now, give them something original and unpublished, and back up your query with this established readership of your free work, and you may get a foot in the door.

Publishing today is suffering an amazing series of growing pains. It's overwhelming to keep up with everything, and I admire any author who is able to produce a 60K or more word novel. This is your baby, though - think very carefully about its care before you do anything. Talk with professionals in the industry, and don't give up.

Let the beat go on.

1 comment:

Bluegrass Pundit said...

Charlie Sheen's cheese has completely slipped off his cracker. It is sad because he had a really funny sitcom. If you like funny stuff, check out the funny videos at Off Color Fun.