Today in McAfee Land, we have a guest speaker. Scott Fitzgerald Gray is in the middle of a blog tour to promote his newest book, We Can Be Heroes, which he describes as a “high school coming-of-age SF techno thriller.” I asked him to tell us a little about his individual publishing journey. Here is what he had to say:
When David very generously offered me a spot at McAfee Land for the blog tour, he asked how I’d feel telling folks about my publishing journey. The answer, of course, is, “I’m a writer, so the hard part is trying to shut me up about my publishing journey.” I’ll try to hold it together, though.
My name is Scott, and I’m an indie publisher. [Insert support-group chorus of “Hi, Scott.”]
Through several accidents of fate, I’ve worked in publishing and media most of my life. At various points, I’ve been a page-layout artist, a technical editor, a content editor, a graphic designer, a production manager, a web specialist, and — most ultimately satisfying — a writer. I made a living messing around in film for a while, and have written a smattering of freelance journalism, and in more recent years, have worked pretty steadily as an editor and writer/designer for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. (Geek card: played.) I’ve worked for trade magazines, small-press book publishers, mainstream magazines, alt-weekly newspapers, daily newspapers, and new-media outfits. These days, I split my time pretty evenly between roleplaying game work, freelance editing and story editing for fiction and film, and writing and publishing my own fiction.
My publishing journey is a little bit different than many self- and indie-publishing authors, because my journey has taken me on a grand tour of the publishing industry through all the years that I’ve been bashing away getting better as a writer. And because I was fortunate enough to work in publishing for a long while, and because I was doubly fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people, my sense of what’s involved in being an indie publisher begins and ends with two simple facts:
Publishing is a complex process. Publishing is hard work.
I publish my own works and call myself an indie publisher, which I know annoys a number of honest, decent small-press people who are used to referring to themselves that way. And I apologize to them in advance, because I’m sticking with this nomenclature for its ability to most accurately capture what I do and how I do it. I’m a writer who publishes on my own — which is to say, independently — maintaining complete control over all the complications and the hard work involved in the publishing process.
When I call myself an indie publisher, I do so knowing that all the things I do in the process of publishing my own work are the same exact things that I’d be doing if I were publishing other people’s work. I remind the writer that knocking out a first draft isn’t good enough; I want to see work that’s revised and polished before I’ll even consider whether it’s ready to be published. (Thankfully, as a self-publisher, the writer and I are on pretty good terms.) I look for and find people who can produce the kind of cover art that I think works for a particular book. I have experienced editors and proofreaders that I call on to make sure every book I unleash on the world is as solid as it can possibly be.
The world of self-publishing and indie author-publishing right now is filled with equal numbers of inspirational tales and horror stories. And as the latter get more circulation, we hear more and more about the problems with this new model of indie publishing. People decry self-published books as buggy and error-ridden, as lacking in the quality that comes from traditional publishing. And the thing is, those people are often right — but it’s important for proponents of indie author-publishing to understand why they’re right.
I know that sloppy books exist in self-publishing, because I’ve read (or at least started to read) more than a few of them. But here’s the thing to realize. If the books of a self-publishing writer are coming up short, it’s most likely a sign that the self-publishing writer isn’t living up to the full implication and obligation of that title.
It’s not enough to want to be a writer who self-publishes. You need to be a publisher who specializes in your work as a writer, because publishing is a separate process that’s just as important as the writing is. Publishing is a complex process. Publishing is hard work. Not impossible, though. Not so difficult that writers shouldn’t take up the challenge of being publishers.
But as self-publishing writers, we all need to be as committed to publishing as an art and a craft and a process as we are committed to the writing. Because publishing isn’t the singular act of clicking Send on the Kindle Direct website or Smashwords. Publishing is all the stuff that happens before that.
Scott Fitzgerald Gray has been flogging his imagination professionally since deciding he wanted to be a writer and abandoning any hope of a real career in about the fourth grade. That was the year that speculative fiction and fantasy kindled his voracious appetite for literary escapism and a love of roleplaying gaming that still drives his questionable creativity. In addition to his fantasy and speculative fiction writing, Scott has dabbled in feature film and television, was a finalist for the Jim Burt Screenwriting Prize from the Writers’ Guild of Canada, and currently consults and story edits on projects ranging from overly obscure indie-Canadian fare to Neill Blomkamp’s somewhat less-obscure “District 9” and the upcoming “Elysium”.
More info on Scott and his work (some of it even occasionally truthful) can be found by reading between the lines at insaneangel.com.