First Publishing Rights (by )

As some of you know I am taking part in NaNoWriMo this year (or National Novel Writing Month) and I am writing a long complicated historical cyberpunk type novel that is part of a larger story. I am putting all the plans and notes for both the full series and the specific novel on Purple Monster.

But I am also doing something which is a bit more controversial, and I've had quiet a few people being either angry or concerned about it. Firstly thankyou to the people who have endevoured to protect me from something that I may not have known about - First Publishing Rights.

What I have been doing, and what I plan to keep doing is placing novel excerpts on the blog - I am writing the whole novel straight onto the blog unless there is no internet in which case I am writing it in Text Edit. Obviously it is not a locked blog and the story is basically going out in chronological order (though only cause I have not hit a stumbling point yet where I have to jump over something I'll go back to later on!) in chunks of roughly 2000 words.

It is unedited and raw and I invite feed back and ideas as I write but what I am doing is giving away the First Publishing Rights - in me putting it out there on the blog in this way I am 'Publishing' it meaning that traditional publishers and many small Independents will not even consider publishing it when it is all finished and made smooth and shiny by editing.

So why am I doing this? Why am I apparently hobbling myself in this way?

The factors are I suppose three fold.

Firstly after having my work sat on by traditional publishing and the disheartening affect this had on me I decided I wanted control over the process and yes I know this means everything will be slower and there is no back up for marketing, but I have discovered that even in the traditional publishing arena you are now expected to do all or a lot of this yourself.

I'm not saying I'm guarenteed to become a huge success or anything like that, but this approach will give me some sort of control on how quickly I grow as well - and hopefully people will read my books not because I've been hyped in some media circus but because people like them and have told their friends.

This is a slow way to grow a fan base and I am aware that I may be damaging it by having unedited stuff out there as some people can't see past spelling mistakes, but that is the version that will be there for free so I don't see they have any room to complain. I know there's already eight people who are waiting each day for the next bit of the novel and I hope I don't disappoint them.

And here is another issue I have - I am finding it alot easier to write this novel than The Drs Wife was as it is going out instantly as blog posts. I am thinking of it in segments - it's such a large project that if I think on it as one whole great big thing I would never write it. But though I find writing for the audience/readers important I also don't want to be driven by their expectations.

And it is the expectation and deadline part of the publishing world that has also lead me to attempt things this way - why? Because, let's face it, my health is all over the place and I can't cope with stuff that has hard deadlines and meeting specific word counts because thats what your contract says is just not going to work - if I could cope with that I would be doing my science again.

And then there's the fact that this is really just an experiment - there are lots of arguments about Self Publishing versus Traditional Publishing and I am taking things a step futhur still by offering the entire novel in one form or another for free to the reader. Now obviously through Alaric's associations the authors I have been following the most have been people like Reynolds whose blog become Sweat, Blood and Tea (ambulance driver, quite funny, does a blinding impression of Holly from Red Dwarf) and Cory Doctorow (though I have to confess the only thing that I really remember about him is that he had a jacket full of zips - though I do now follow both on twitter).

Now obviously they both give stuff away for free and still they get money for their books; but they were before the curve as I term it and now there is a flooded internet and google have mucked about with how they rank blog archives which is a right pain the bum. So I thought about it and I came up with an experiment.

I wonder if self publishing by building yourself a reputation by giving away free stuff will work. I wonder if I'm likely to actually complete a novel if it is being read in serial form like Jules Vern's stuff was written?

Let's bung the whole lot on a blog including the stages of idea building and editing - do it as part of nano as that will jump start it and give me a sense of community and stop me from stalemating myself on research.

Polish it and sell e-book and self published physical books with the free unedited version up and see what happens.

Ok as an experiment it is bad - there are no controls and there is definitely more than one variable - maybe it should be seen as more of a simulation type thing - I am creating a system and seeing how it behaves.

I am also assuming that Cory and Co are not the norm as they were the spark that caused this reaction to occur.

This may seem like a stupid dangerous gamble with my precious novel that I've already put a lot of work in and indeed the whole series but I am an ideas generator - I can at the end of the day always write another of my novel ideas to sell in the traditional way if this fails - it is not designed to bring in money instantly either.

As to what I would decide if a publisher then offered me a contract I can't tell you - it would probably depend on what was in the contract to be honest!

And this leads me to my finial issue - people are very edgy about all this self publishing and the like but with companies like LULU and print on demand machines I just can't see the traditional models or systems holding up - this doesn't mean the end of the book or good quality writing at all but it does mean that perhapse a system based on the concept of needing large warehouses to store tones of books which periodically get pulped if not sold in time is maybe out moded? (not to mention environmentally damaging and wasteful of resources.)

I believe there were similar issues when the printing press was invented and everybody could just make their own newpapers.

My work is free because I stagnate otherwise - I have just crossed the 10 k word barrier and so am a 5th of the way to completing the nanowrimo challenge - I am excited about my experiment and have expanded it to my poetry on Turquoise Monster and a picture book challenge on Orange Monster - I'll cover why I've done this in another post or two 🙂


  • By Patricia A Hawkenson, Sat 7th Nov 2009 @ 11:32 pm

    Sarah, I read your Chaos poem with interest and the wings of your butterfly pulled me here to comment. I have struggled with the same issues of whether or not to post work on a blog. For me, I have chosen to post ALL my work on my blog: Expressive Domain. With over 300 poems on the pages, I am self publishing a collection of 100 poems into my first book: Magnetic Replusion. It is being published by Outskirts Press, with hopes to be on shelves before the new year. I am not delusional as to its marketing success, but I did want to see my work in a more traditional hold-in-hand form. It feels like a tangible legacy that I can say I accomplished. Best of luck to you in your work, which is so thought provoking. Be sure to share your results in Twitter. I'll be watching and reading.

  • By sarah, Mon 9th Nov 2009 @ 10:14 am

    Thankyou so much 🙂

    I will indeed post on twitter.

    What is your url of your poem site?


  • By Lionel, Thu 12th Nov 2009 @ 2:39 pm

    Myself I favour the give-away approach. I see it as "casting bread upon the waters". When I started doing e-books we pitched the price really low because we could not afford protection software and thought we'd just make it hardly worth copying or stealing. Soon people began saying "can we have a proper book of this please?"

    So my own preference is to let it go free until it becomes loved. Then make a book, but make it what the magicians call a "talismanic" work - somehow beautiful, nicely bound on good paper etc. So the loved content gains so much in the final book that it is wanted for its own sake – and the fact that digital copies are going the rounds makes little difference.

    People who worry overmuch about piracy sometimes reveal a fear that their genius is finite, like "I mustn't let that be stolen in case it's the last good idea I ever have". What can happen is that the acceptance of early work – even if it is no more than acceptance by plagiarising and theft – is so encouraging that it fosters feedback and releases a whole lot more ideas. Rejection by publishers is such a downer that it has snuffed out many writers, but a positive response from even a stolen copy of your work may inspire a whole new writing impulse. And you, Sarah, have a lot more to give the world.

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