Sunday 7 February 2016

Instant Gratification Takes Too Long

I invited Mike McClung to guest blog on his experience in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (which ends on March 1st!).

And he did...


I am not a patient person.

Good things come to those who wait? Are you kidding me? The entirety of modern society is founded on the principle of faster, better, more. The Industrial Revolution happened because nobody wanted to wait two weeks for Mom to finish making them a new shirt. (Mom probably wasn't particularly thrilled about it either, admittedly.)

Patience is a virtue? Well, honestly, it's not like I don't lack a whole host of other virtues, so missing that one doesn't really shift the balance pan much. And call me a cynic, but this one is generally uttered by those who've already got theirs, so to speak, to those forced to come along, cap in hand.

Both those old homilies have always struck me as condescending pats on the head, and are followed up with a silent but understood “now run along and don't bother people with your not-terribly-important wants and needs.”

That's all well and good, McClung, I hear you say, but what has that got to do with fantasy or publishing or the #SPFBO? Be patient, I'm getting there. Heh.

The publishing industry, my friends, is about the worst sort of industry someone like me could ever have to deal with. Say you finished writing a book. After months or perhaps years, you finally wrote 'the end' and really meant it.

Oh, my sweet summer child.

The traditional publishing system is so Kafkaesque, even the gatekeepers have gatekeepers. You will likely spend months if not years searching for an agent, because traditional publishers will not accept unagented submissions. In order to be accepted by an agent, you'll need to learn the dark arts of query and synopsis writing. Yes, you must learn to write about your book in such a way that people who do not have the patience time to read your book will want to read your book.

If you secure the services of an agent, he or she will then shop your book around to publishers. This may take months, possibly more than a year. Be patient. At some point in the (distant) future, your agent will either find a publisher who wants to publish you, or they will tell you that, despite their herculean efforts, no publisher is interested.

But let's say you grasp the golden ring. You receive a publishing contract (which might take a month to actually receive, and then a couple more to negotiate). Soon you'll see your book on the store shelves, right? I suppose that depends on your definition of soon. Your editor might have it for 2-5 months, and then it'll take around 9-12 months to, you know, actually be published.

Good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue.

Now let's contrast this with self-publishing: I write a book. I write 'the end' and really mean it. I upload it to Amazon and 12 hours later it is available for purchase.

Ah, but traditional publishers add value, you say! Sometimes yes, sometimes no. If you'd like to take a look at the 'value' Random House/Del Rey added to my first novel in the form of its cover. 

But even if traditional publishing always added value to a novel, the time frame it takes for such value to be added is simply unacceptable. My time on this earth is finite, and I have less of it every day. I am impatient because I am not immortal. I get to make the value judgment regarding what is worth my time. Traditional publishing isn't worth the wasted time, especially when you consider the uncertain outcome. There is no guarantee your book will ever find an agent, or if it does, a publisher, after years of effort.

To put it succinctly, oh hell no.

But McClung, I hear you say, didn't you just sign a multi-book contract with Ragnarok Publications? I am confused/you are a hypocrite!

Here's the thing: I've given away nearly a hundred thousand ebooks in the last five years, over various platforms. Free. Gratis. Mian fe. I have done everything I can to reach those readers who are willing to take a chance with their own time to try an author new to them. I've reached only a fraction of the readers I believe will enjoy my books.

Many readers, especially fantasy readers, won't read a self-published book. Their time on this earth is finite, and they have less of it every day. They get to make a value judgment on what is worth their time, and in their estimation, self-published fantasy books aren't worth their time.

That's why I submitted Trouble's Braids to the #SPFBO when I heard about it. Social validation is a valuable thing, like it or not. It isn't infallible, but it's a hell of a lot better than blind, random choice. If a jury of my peers, so to speak, found value in Trouble's Braids, I knew it would go some way towards lessening the stigma of being self-published. (Yes, there is still a stigma attached to it. I don't think we really need to debate that.) More readers would be likely to gamble their time on the book.

Going with an independent publisher was a logical next step for the Amra Thetys series on the validation curve, so when Ragnarok approached me, I said yes. Judging by the covers Ragnarok's Shawn King imagined up for the series, I think I made the right choice, even though I had to push back the publication of the fourth Amra book in consequence.

So. traditional publishing, self-publishing, independent or small press publishing. There are proponents and opponents of each. I'm neither. I'm just an impatient guy who wants to get his stories into as many hands as possible. Sometimes that means having to be patient. (Irony, you can kiss my


  1. Great article. I can relate to it, that's for sure. Good luck with the rest of the #SPFBO