self-pub/traditional pub

No, this isn't about beer.

I'm throwing my hat in the traditionally published/self-published debate, as seen here and here. To define: self-published is when an author pays for the production of their work, be it electronic or paper. Traditionally published is when someone pays an author for the right to produce their work. By any definition of the words, I am both.

With two friends, I fund and run a long-standing ezine called Electric Spec. By long-standing, I mean three years. Not as long a history as Asimovs, but pretty good for the ezine markets, where I think the half-life is something like six months. (I joke, of course. It's actually about two months.) I'm proud of it. Our stories are as good as what we can cull from our slush. We're a paying market and I think our slush is pretty damned good. [I believe] we have a decent reputation in the marketplace: fair turnarounds on our slush, a friendly rejection letter, we're accessible to our readers and submitters, and we support our craft and those who practice it. We are publishers.

Our own stuff also appears within our pages. We have an "Editor's Corner" for those stories that we all think are great but just don't sell, for essays, for book reviews, or for whatever else we want. The two pieces of mine included in Electric Spec I wrote for the magazine. And incidentally, they were edited by my fellow editors. (We do edit each others' stuff.) But the pieces ended up there by my choice and no one paid me. I am self-published.

The other authors between our pages are not self-published. They go through the same slush as everyone else, and more importantly, the stories are edited. You might find a mistake in one of our issues, but rarely, and we go back and fix it as soon as we find out. Our process is always the same: stories are voted on out of a pile between 20-30, the top 5-6 we contract to buy, we edit the stories and send galleys back to the authors, we discuss them, lay out the issue, find art, and then we pay our authors and cover artists.

We are rigorous editors. Some of these stories, you understand, have had hundreds of words cut. I've changed first lines of stories; I've put in punctuation where I thought it should go; I've fixed grammar and even edited for content. Our stories are, hands down, cleaner than the ones that appear on blogs and other places that self-publish (and, I would argue, many ezines). The reason? They're edited by someone other than the writer, and those someones generally know what they're doing.

I also have been paid actual money for my writing, (more to come soon, yea!) and I have been edited. I am traditonally published.

My feeling on the whole self-pub/pub issue is this: there is room for both in the process and marketplace, but self-published works are, and probably always will be, regarded as inferior. Someone argues in Mark's thread that independent filmmakers are artists, so why aren't self-published authors considered artists? That's arguing apples and oranges. Films--the indies that you hear about-- are mostly collaborations. It takes a village to make a really good film, just like it does a book or a story. (I've participated in two small films. There are more folks doing stuff than you can imagine.) Good independent films are as heavily edited as stories and novels paid for by publishers. So comparing the individual who writes and edits their own work with independent film really doesn't fly with me.

Everyone in the industry is waiting for the bailout Big Name Author to strike it out on their own and publish their own stuff. It hasn't happened yet, and I think I know why. Most Big Name Authors understand the value of editing (which is a different animal than critiquing, btw) just like most filmmakers understand the value of collaboration. And I've yet to meet the author or filmmaker who wouldn't run laughing to the bank if someone paid them for their work. We live in a market economy. Payment is actual validation.

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