Scott Sigler Sez It’s Good: Indie Publishing for Aspiring Authors

Greetings, my interwebby minions! How are things out in the intertubes? Sweet ass sweet, I hope.

So just recently I took the advice of a friend of mine and started subscribing to podcasts from the folks at Nerdist.com. What is this “Nerdist” I speak of? Well, friend, Nerdist is a sweet site created by Chris Hardwick, this dude who hosted some dating show on MTV. I’m not so stoked on MTV, but seeing as there’s twenty-thousand pounds of all-things-nerd packed into the site (twenty thousand is actually rounding down, FYI) I can forgive his music television shenanigans.

The bit from Nerdist I’m most stoked about is this super-duper dope interview of author and indie publishing master, Scott Sigler! Hardwick asks the tough questions, by which I mean the questions I’m interested in, about how Sigler got his start. Apparently Mr. Sigler went from unsuccessfully shopping his books around for about nine years before finally giving the publishing industry the finger and releasing his books as serialized podcasts. Since then the guy has become a NYT best seller and has had a story optioned to be a movie. Pretty successful so far, right?

Despite all these bitchin’ little facts about how he’s succeeded in the indie publishing world, I was way more stoked on his advice for aspiring authors. Here’s what he says in an interview from his website, which is pretty much the same thing that he said in the interview:

“There is no blueprint, things are changing too fast. The first piece of advice is get used to the fact that you are in the minor leagues, there is clearly a minor-league system, and in the minors you have to give your content away to build up a following. Be prepared to do that for three to five years before you have enough people to make a difference. It will not happen overnight for you, nor do you want it to, because audience feedback will help shape your storytelling style.

The second piece of advice is that the days of ‘just writing’ are gone. You may hear the old guard talk about how a writer should write, and how they ‘let other people handle those other things.’ Well, that was because these guys signed their publishing deals fifteen, twenty years ago, when there weren’t 500 channels, when there weren’t metroplexes, when video games were nothing like they are today and the internet was basically non-existent. People have so many entertainment choices now, you have to fight for your customers’ time. You have to market AND write, you have to be a businessperson AND an entertainer.

Third and final bit of advice, understand the fact that readers want to connect with the author. Embrace social media, reply to emails, to blog comments, interact with them whenever possible. Don’t be an arrogant douchebag. You are not important. Your work is not important. What’s important is giving people value for the time they spend with their works — write great stories, and be accessible. The days of the author’s ivory tower are long gone.”

Holy crap, I love this for so many reasons. Sometimes I think writers forget that in this age of social media, everyone is accessible. Got a Twitter account? Then you better get used to people directing questions and comments straight at you. Look at /r/ama and you’ll see tons of celebrities willingly answering direct questions from normal schmoes out here in the interwebs because they know that interacting with fans gives you, like, at least twenty-five XP for a fandom level-up.

So my question to all you webby minions is whether you’re down with the indie publishing scene or are you holding out for a “real” book deal? I’m a little on the fence about this thing, mostly because I don’t know which is going to be the best in the long run. I feel like legacy publishers would just as soon give me a kick in the ding-dong as give me some sweet publishing deal, so why not get out there and do this thing on my own?

Oh yeah, and here’s those links again for Nerdist and Scott Sigler. Both of them are wicked awesome and guaranteed to make you better looking.

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16 thoughts on “Scott Sigler Sez It’s Good: Indie Publishing for Aspiring Authors

  1. I’ve published a few short pieces under a different pseudonym (“Seiðman” is my first full-length novel), and I recently attended a workshop by my publisher. They had some discussions about marketting your books, which partially agreed with this. Certainly, the writer does have to put himself or herself out there these days and push their books. The days of a writer just writing and leaving all the promotion to their publisher are long gone. (My publisher, Dreamspinner, does do some promotion, but I still have to do some myself.)

    With Facebook, Twitter or just blogs in general, they were saying it’s all good, but don’t open a Twitter account if you’re not going to keep updating it. (I know I never would.) Don’t start a blog, if you’re never going to post. Nothing is worse than an excited reader checking out your blog, only to discover it hasn’t been touched in a year.

    It is certainly easier to get started through smaller publishers, many of whom are entirely electronic. I’ve heard several stories of authors who get started this way landing agents or deals with mainstream print publishers on the basis of their online sales.

  2. His advice sounds pretty solid, but like James said, if you have no intention of updating your blog or Facebook or Twitter regularly, don’t bother with it. You’re just wasting a reader’s time.

    As for me, I don’t plan on dealing with traditional spheres outside of short stories. It’s too unstable right now, honestly, and I don’t like the contracts. I don’t care about this traditional vs. indie crap, I care about the fact that these contracts are horrible for the author and great for the publisher, when it shouldn’t be so unbalanced.

    But I’m not sure about the offering stuff for free for three to five years part. I mean, post on your blog, maybe put up some short stories, but I’m not sure if I’d put anything more substantial on my blog for free.

      • Freebies are a good way to stir up interest in your work, but three to five years worth? No. Free work still comes across as inferior to published work and it works best as an occasional supplement to published stories. I have a lot of respect for online publishers, but there are alot of them, which means that it’s easier to get published online than it is to get published with mainstream publishers. And even though some people might look down their noses at eBooks, a good publisher will provide editing and cover art, giving you a much more polished product. Readers are getting pickier again and they don’t want to read stuff that looks hobbled together. And why not get paid for your work?

      • It seems like the publishing game is like playing the lotto. With so many writers out there creating so much great stuff and it seems like luck if you get picked up by one.

  3. I’ll be honest: I’m completely and totally dreaming of a “real” book deal. Self publishing doesn’t interest me at this point. It will probably only interest me if the more traditional publishing channels fail me. I’m not going to look into self publishing much (or at all, really) until after I’ve queried and seen if that gets me anywhere.

      • Yes, good point. My ultimate goal is to be published the traditional way, but if I had to self publish for a while in order to reach that goal, I’d consider it.

  4. Self-publishing can work, as it did for the author of “50 Shades of Grey” (which I am not a fan of, btw), but I think the number of successes are far outweighed by the failures. On the other hand, there are a lot of online publishers putting out good quality fiction now, and publishing through those does allow you to build up a resume you can present to an agent.

      • I should point out that there is an enormous difference between an online publisher and self-published. I’m still leery of the latter. But a good online publisher will put your work out in a professional format and pay you for it. They’re publishers — just in a different medium.

        I’m not up to date on science fiction online publishers, but here’s one that my husband reads and it seems to have a good reputation:

        http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/submissions/

  5. I think I’m still going to try it the good old fashioned way, first. Maybe it’s naive, but it’s still a dream of mine. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll reconsider my options, but for now, I’m still holding out for the traditional agent querying route.

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