Today’s post is a transcript from a recent conversation with Wrey Fuentes which occurred during his visit to my little corner of the etherverse. Wrey is an aspiring novelist and a moderator on WritingForums.org.
Fuentes: Coffee sounds great. A writer’s best friend. Thanks for having me.
J. Aurel: Certainly, will you take cream or sugar with that? You and I met on Writingforums.org, where you now serve as a moderator. I particularly remember our exchanges in the ‘Golden Orb’ thread, which were quite fun. Would you care to tell our readers a little about the Forum and what it means to you?
Fuentes: As forums go, I think it’s a great place to be. Not so small as to seem like an island and not so large as to get lost in a sea of people. I’ve been with writingforums.org since 2008 and I’m starting to chuckle at the fact that you remember the Golden Orb thread. It was a fun thread. RPG with no strings attached. Anyway, I became a mod shortly after joining and then in 2011 I had to take a break from forum life because of work. I came back to the community in 2013 and was asked to take up my old post as mod, which I was happy to do. The forum, like any community, has seen many changes over the years, which is only natural and healthy in my opinion. The owner has started 2014 with a very ‘community oriented’ message and I support him 100%. We’ve added lots of new sub-forums for different conversations, some of which were once not really embraced by the forum. These changes that have been instituted are in order to welcome a larger writing audience and a greater diversity of people within our community. I’m very committed to this and to a positive, forward thinking, inclusive frame of mind. It’s the right direction and I’m excited about seeing the forum grow.
J. Aurel: I hear there have been some interesting discussions over this dawning age of self-publishing over on the writing forum. What seems to be the general consensus?
Fuentes: Well, I don’t think there is a general consensus as of yet, but to be honest, that’s the part that excites me. Compared to traditional publication, be it in hard copy or digital, self-publication is still fledgling and finding its footing. There’s a lot of very passionate conversation happening, both pro and con, and I think that’s a sign of its power to change the way we look at publication. People don’t usually get so passionate about things that don’t look like game-changers. This is, in fact, one of the topics I mentioned earlier that at one time was not so embraced in our community. I am committed to changing that. It would be a huge miss to brush sulf-pub off as a passing fad. I’ve also been trying to reach out to other communities like Deviantart where I am seeing a profusion of really excellent artists embracing writers looking to self-publish and creating fantastic cover art. The fact that other communities of artists are paying attention and getting involved is really awesome and a sign of things to come. Artists taking control of their art and of the communities to which they belong and interact.
J. Aurel: A most excellent observation. I suppose that the birth of the internet opened the door for ‘self-publishing’ in the visual arts whereas it has only recently become possible for writers to open their works to the masses. And what is your experience of feeling on the matter?
Fuentes: My experience at this point is as a customer, and I’ve been happily surprised in that many self-pub titles I’ve purchased have proven to be very satisfying. My feeling on the matter, as a mod in an active writing forum, is this: I see a lot of conversation concerning self-publication center on the idea that it’s a cheat, a way to circumvent the withering eye of a traditional publication house. I personally feel that this is the wrong focus and the wrong attitude on the topic. Anything that motivates people to write is a good thing. If the writer who self-publishes finds that he or she has an audience, even if just a small loyal following, that is a treasure. That is validation that they should keep at it, keep honing their craft, keep writing, keep wearing that pencil down to the nub. That motivation is fuel to the writer. They may keep at it as self-publishers and find great satisfaction in it, or they may go on to the attention of a traditional publisher. Either way is a win.
J. Aurel: That’s certainly true, but what about the bottom line? Is there profit to be made in self publishing?
Fuentes: I think there is. Entities such as Amazon and Apple would not be investing money, space and time for self-pub if there were no money in it. The writer needs to have expectations that are correct to the paradigm, though. When one self-publishes, certain aspects concerning promotion and getting one’s work into multiple venues to maximize exposure are not automatic services at one’s disposal. This is where some good old-fashioned elbow grease, hard work and determination come into play, which is no different than in the traditional model. You can make it happen, but you have to make it happen. It won’t just magically show up. You need to promote your work, you need to network, you need to embrace other related venues and capitalize on anything and everything at your disposal. Whether you loved it or hated it, 50 Shades of Grey is an excellent example of how a self published work can capture the attention of the buying public.
J. Aurel: Between self-publishing and traditional publishing there has also arising a plethora of ‘independent-publishers’ what’s your take on these venues?
Fuentes: This is the part that really gives me goose bumps when I think about publishing. Independent publishers represent the bridge, the gap between the two paradigms of traditional and self-publication. Writers like Storm Constantine, author of the exceptionally excellent (traditionally published) Wraeththu series, have led the way. She was one of the first to really get on board with independent e-publishing, offering not only her services, but the very worlds she has creating by also embracing fan-fiction writers of her work with gusto. Independent e-publishing also gives writers who focus on certain genres – sometimes thought of as niche markets, though those niches may be quite large – an avenue to really get their work looked at. Be it religious lit, LGBT lit, erotica, these markets are booming and the buying public is making its wants and needs known through their credit cards and Paypal accounts. Independent publishers offer a way into the market that benefits from both sides of the paradigm.
J. Aurel: Brilliant. Lastly, where do you see your own path leading in this brave new world of publishing?
Fuentes: I’m leaving all avenues open, all of them. I exclude nothing. That’s the great part of being a writer today. There’s a choice. Several, in fact! Right now I’m focusing on my current WIP and getting my protagonist and the love interest together in a way that’s believable and relatable. There are some great members in the forum who have been helping me in my endeavors and I feel that this is the year when I will come to the point of really having to chose the direction I want to pursue as regards method of publication. My eyes are open to the strengths and shortcomings of all the different routes that I might take – because they all have some of each – but one way or another, I feel like come 2015 my focus will be on promotion, not publication.