On Daniel Shortell's acknowledgements page for his debut novel, Where's Unimportant, he thanks his wife, his sister, his editors, many self-publishing resource sites, and lastly, his READERS. As a final point, he adds: "Please note, when buying my work, you will never be spending your hard earned money paying the inflated salaries of the creativity leeches listed in the 'No Thanks' section below." - - - - - - - - - - "NO THANKS" "To the many agents, publishing houses, media gatekeepers, and 'taste-makers' who, for too long, have decided whose material is worthy of attention, and whose voice gets heard. None of the aforementioned entities played a role in the realization of this project. As the new age of media evolves and the need for these antiquated businesses continues to diminish, I will be there to wave them a hearty goodbye :)" "Adieu Publishers, Adieu!"
I Don't Need You
Daniel Shortell interviews Daniel ShortellDaniel Left: So, you must be a complete narcissistic jerk to interview yourself.
Daniel Right: It's more of a practical thing really. The self-publishing world can be blissfully lonely, and, since I no longer work in a big building full of people, I must be creative in my approach. Plus, my name is not Dan Brown, so I don't have people lining up to ask me inane questions about Christian symbolism.
Daniel Left: Hmm, not convinced. Anyway, why are you here talking to yourself?
Daniel Right: Well, I thought I'd start by answering the question, "Why did you decide to self-publish?"
Daniel Left: I thought I was interviewing you? I'll ask the questions.
Daniel Right: It's your world, boss.
Daniel Left: So Daniel, why did you decide to self-publish?
Daniel Right: Excellent question. After working in the corporate world for roughly ten years in a range of professional positions (typically me on the receiving end of the doggy-style position), I became thoroughly jaded with the corporate environment. I decided to quite my software career and formalize my writing hobby. While working through the first draft of my first novel, I spent my leisure time learning the biz encapsulating my new professional focus: publishing. Through research, I decided that, considering the free/inexpensive tools and services available to everyone, I'd take on the publishing task myself.
Daniel Left: So, you did a little bit of research and now you think you are a publisher?
Daniel Right: Yeah, guesso. My acute contempt for large, speech-controlling, politically manipulative corporate entities and the stuffy elitism of a self-validating publishing industry combined with the amazing, free Internet-based toolset available to everyone had me scratching my head thinking, “self-publishing is the future.”
Daniel Left: You're full of it. Publishing houses have been around for scores of years, know their markets thoroughly, are knowledgeable purveyors of top-shelf literature, bring special skills to the table and have a knack for cultivating fresh talent. Enjoy your ride to the bottom of the stack.
Daniel Right: I trust Kool-Aid is your favorite drink. I disagree with all of your points apart from the fact that big publishing houses have been around for a long time. Do you really know what publishers do? I anticipated this question and put together a little flowchart:
(Link to larger version: http://www.danielshortell.com/files/big6-pub-process.JPG)
Daniel Left: Wunderbar! You've proved my point. Your chart clearly shows the necessity of big publishing houses and the special skills, knowledge and ability they bring to the table.
Daniel Right: ...and here's the same process for self-publishers. It really only scratches the surface, sort of like a highway roadmap:
(Link to larger version: http://www.danielshortell.com/files/self-pub-process.JPG)
Daniel Left: Good luck with that; looks like you have about 10 full-time jobs in excess of writing now.
Daniel Right: Yeah, it's time consuming and not for the faint at heart, especially if you want to do it properly. I have a couple tools at my disposal (business and technology background) but anyone can acquire these skills with a little BST (that's Blood, Sweat and Tears for the consummate loafer). But, in the end, I answer to no one (apart from my wife), I have 100% creative control, my business can turn on a dime (change course midday if necessary), my products are delivered at a substantially lower cost than the competition, profits from my novel aren't funding further expansion of a wealthy aristocratic, speech-controlling few in the pub biz, and I get to maintain an intimate relationship with my readers in a manner I deem appropriate.
Daniel Left: Ok, I'm going to call “bullshit” on your points above and reference Amanda Hocking. She abandoned the glory of self-publishing for a multi-million dollar contract with St. Martin's Press.
Daniel Right: Well, everybody has different motivations in life. I must say I was bummed when I heard she signed. She could have gone on a hiring spree; instead, she just gave her deck to a stack of suits. Now St. Martin's Press (Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group) will be profiting nicely from her grassroots. She sold 1 million books on her own; she doesn't need big media. They need her, and sadly, they got her. As a rebuttal to your Hocking though, I proffer Locke.
Daniel Left: Yep, they got her all right. And you know what else? Your wonderful self-publishing platform is starting to look like a turd factory. Just look at some of the headlines today: Amazon is constipated with spambooks, slightly altered pirate material, useless instruction books written by “experts” and a whole range of substandard word-garbage that people don't want to sift through. Self-publishing is delegitimizing itself from the ground up -- how's that for a future?
Daniel Right: Well, my crystal ball is as good as yours I suppose. One thing I do know is that all emerging technologies go through bumps in their infancy. Amazon has a great track record as an innovator, so they seem a reasonable risk for one aspect of the self-publishing paradigm. Self-publishers shouldn't worry about how Amazon handles their business challenges; they need to focus on elements within their control: create the absolute best content possible. Anyway, I'd rather rely on my abilities rather than be a cog in a big dog's game. A dog, I should say, being made redundant by disruptive technologies (Blockbuster, Kodak, Borders, Ma Bell, AOL and MySpace come to mind).
Daniel Left: Hmph, well, not that I'm really interested, but we have some time to kill yet...when writing do you have any unusual habits?
Daniel Right: I don't know if it qualifies as unusual, but I like to write in my underwear and eat breakfast twice.
Daniel Left: Oh, you are so interesting.
Daniel Right: Backhanded compliments leaping across the longitudinal cerebral fissure are my favorite!
Daniel Left: Ok smartass, hypothetical. Random House approaches you with a five-book deal and a $1 million advance.
Daniel Right: I'm not for sale, but my novel Where's Unimportant is and you can find purchase links here: http://www.danielshortell.com/index.php?/writing/novels/
Daniel Left: Big talker. Random House approaches with a $2 million advance.
Daniel Right: Killer! That will be twice as enjoyable to turn down. Big Pub's aggregate profit margins for fiction are low enough that if they can justify $2 million for an advance, they're expecting easy sales in excess of $2 mil, meaning the material is good (or at least fiscally viable) with a known market. St. Martin's Press isn't taking a risk with Hocking, they're plugging into a previously established fan base, aiming to use their media/sales connections to hopefully expand her market, make a little surplus profit.
Daniel Left: Ok, so your verdict is that Big Publishing is completely void of value?
Daniel Right: Well, not quite. Let's separate the wheat from the chaff. "What matters?" -this is the question. The answer? From what I can see it's not the brilliant business minds who are guiding Big Publishing into the ground. What matters are the people with real talent and skill: the writer, the editor, the designer, the typographer, the webmaster, etc. Let the suits and "business geniuses" sit in their offices, clicking the web browser refresh, sweating their ever-diminishing portfolio value. Those with talent can pick-up lucrative gigs in the new publishing model and take a larger portion of the revenues not being siphoned by executive sycophants.
Daniel Left: Well, at least those executives are going to have a nice golden parachute to sail off in, what've you got?
Daniel Right: Commercial success is not controllable or guaranteed. It's a dice roll like most things in life. I'm focused on executing my strategy - that piece is in my control and I can succeed at that. Above all the business plumbing, I'm more interested in one thing and one thing alone: Creating the absolute best content that I can create.
Daniel Left: Hmmm, I don't know; your tone, anger and self-righteousness convey narcissism to me.
Daniel Right: Answer me this...What is more narcissistic? A smug, exclusive industry continuing to haughtily steer a ship even as it sinks on their watch, or some ambitious guy talking to himself in his underwear while munching on a bagel?
* * * * *
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Shortell is a thirty-something currently holed-up in a fourth-floor walk-up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. At university, he earned degrees in ridiculous, boring shit like finance, computer science and information systems. His real education came from wandering around the world. When not writing, he enjoys thinking about writing. He wrote a book. You should buy it. It's three bucks for the bits and bytes, eleven bucks for the paper or free if you tell him (firstname.lastname@example.org) how you plan to spread the word (He'll even wrap it nicely for you).
276 page paperback; $10.99 (June 2011)
Find out more at www.danielshortell.com.
Follow Daniel on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/danielshortell.
Join his blog: http://danielshortell.wordpress.com.