Challenge,  publishing

Fun Comments

Read All the Series Comments…

There have been some really good comments.

More than likely I’ll cover a couple more myths that infect both traditional and indie. But not going to deal with the beginning writer myths like writing quickly equals writing poorly, or that all good writing is rewriting. Those are beginner myths and not what I am doing this series for.

But I will talk about the new path for Indie writers a little more. And where I see traditional publishing in a decade, using the history of the Dime Novels into Pulps and then the history of Pulps into Paperback publishing.

The Pulps were dying a slow death toward the end of their run (just like traditional is now), but then they were killed suddenly be the distribution collapse in 1957/58. I don’t expect traditional publishers to go away suddenly. They will hang on for the regular trade books and also movie star and political and sports books. But most fiction lines will be gone, shifted to indie and the new electronic distribution methods.

Trade paper and hardbacks will still be done by indies, but mostly for stores and library sales as more and more of us old-time readers fade off.

So got more topics to cover. Just want to get to writing tonight. But if you haven’t, go back to the first post and read the comments. Fun stuff.


  • S. H. Miah

    Hi Dean,

    In light of our email conversation, do you plan on covering the advertising myth for indie authors? Or is it one of those beginner myths you mentioned?

  • JR Holmes

    I like to think of the celebrity/political/sports books as a form of ‘stunt’ publishing. It is deliberately intended to be splashy and attention grabbing and will overshadow other books that are released by that publisher for a given time period. Going along with that will be the attention of the publisher’s marketing department and they will have less attention to spare for the other books released at the same time.

    But one thing leads against that, and especially so for the celebrity books: the big advance. Just as traditional advances have stagnated or declined for normal authors, we would expect the same to be happening for the high-priced stunt books. I haven’t noticed that the amounts are declining (a $million advance carries its own publicity), but it does appear that the frequency of those $million advances has declined.

    • dwsmith

      JR, big advances are so rare now as to be news as you said. Used to be even genre writers could get big advances. Nope. Not a chance anymore.

      I used to get $25,000 to write a Star Trek book. I bet that number today is closer to $5,000.

    • dwsmith

      I’ve noticing that as well, but indie publishers can do paper easily these days. Especially with Ingrams dropping their set-up fees. We have three different places that print our POD books for different reasons. No shortage of paper being sold.

      • Elina Winterstrang

        I remember you mentioning this in an earlier post or comment too. Do you mean different POD places for different books, or sometimes for the same book? Any downsides or things to think about when printing with more than one POD service?

        • dwsmith

          Just confusion of stores is all.

          We use one POD because it gets to bookstores. We use another because it links to our Shopify store that we are building. Amazon we tend to use for the cheaper editions on smaller projects.

    • Alex

      Well that’s encouraging. I’ve often thought that if vinyl records can make a comeback in the face of digital music and streaming, there’s really no reason it shouldn’t happen for books. Besides, you don’t need to plug in a physical book.

  • Jason M

    The younger generation (<25 yrs) has been raised on screens and are very enthusiastic about reading on paper. As AI changes our perceptions of reality — nothing can be trusted anymore — I expect this need for tangible items to intensify. Trade paperbacks should be an essential part of our future businesses.

  • Annemarie Nikolaus

    Maybe there is one other myth worth to tackle? That a writer needs different pen names, if they endeavor to write in different genres? I see people struggling wiht marketing because they try to produce brand after brand to cover their pen names. Espercially when they don’t use open noms de plume.

    • dwsmith

      That’s an old practice from traditional publishing. Even with their big staffs and such, they are not capable of handling more than one book or maybe two from the same writer in a year. That’s why I had so many pen names I wrote under in traditional. I wrote far, far faster than they could publish,

      Indie you want everything under one name for discoverability, but just be super clear what genre each book fits into with the art and the sales copy. No one needs more than one name in indie anymore.(Unless you write porn, put that under another name.)

  • Alexander Boukal

    Do you have an updated opinion on the legality around using ai generated art?

    I’ve seen that Shutterstock has its own ai art generator now.

    And shows great promise, with the ability to quickly touch up images also.

    Is it still too early to jump in (in your opinion) and use ai to generate book cover art for us indie writers?

    • dwsmith

      Too early. Far, far too many lawsuits happening and it is not settled yet on AI art being theft from the artists who it was scraped from without their permission. So too early.

      Also, you do not own copyright on anything done AI. Commercial covers have copyright value if done with correct licensing. They do not have value with AI. You can’t own public domain. That might cause issues in licenses you might do later.

      There are many other reasons to just wait for now. Indie publishers are not short of high-quality art licensed cheaply from artists.

      • Kate Pavelle

        My daughter, who is a professional illustrator and animator working for a game development company, is furious that her art got scraped (even though she’s far from alone.) Her company doesn’t alow any sneak releases on social media anymore, and they don’t even do it to generate pre-release excitement. When it’s out, it’s out.
        This being said, it’s possibe to embed code into images which will turn them into , essentially, GIF’s, when viewed through the right app. I bet people will come up with code embedded into their art as a form of DRM. Something that will sabotabe the alorighm’s effort to translate the original, human-eye-normal image into useless garbage.

  • Bryan Rivera-Rivera

    Thanks for this series of posts, Dean. I’m writing my new novel using a single draft, cycle method and I feel it’s turning out many times better than my first novel.

    Keeping my voice and rolling with my instincts.

    My first book was too many drafts, and while I’m proud of it, it taught me what NOT to do with my novels. I won’t call it a complete loss, because it is an example of what not to do with future projects. So it’s still a win.

    Still had a blast writing it. Learned about better sales copy and changed the cover to something cleaner.

    I can’t go back. Just have to write the next one. And the next.

    But I’m a convert to the one draft method. If Ellison could do it with typewriters, then what’s stopping me?



    • dwsmith

      Bryan, Harlan did it one draft, from a phrase someone gave him, in a bookstore window, while taping up each page off the manual typewriter on the store window for people outside to read as he went. And other than fixing a typo or two per story, never changed a word and those stories won all sorts of awards. He did the bookstore thing a lot.

      Back in the Pulphouse days, we tried to do a three-book collection of those stories called Ellison Under Glass but he kept doing more and wanting to add in more and we never got it off the ground.

      • T Thorn Coyle

        I got to watch Ellison pound out a story in the window of Booksmith on Haight Street in San Francisco once.

        Folks gathered outside the window, with a whole troop of us inside the store.

        It was great fun.

        At one point he called out, “I need a name!”
        Someone shouted out a name in reply.

        When Ellison finished, he looked up and said, “That was your name, wasn’t it?”
        The guy laughed in agreement.

        “Clever bastard,” Ellison replied. Or something like it.

        The whole store laughed.

  • Fabien Delorme

    About pulps, and short fiction in general. There’s a whole lot of myths around short fiction among indies those days it seems (it wasn’t as bad a few years agos it seems).

    It’s deemed “worthless”, because short fiction clashes with several myths at the same time:

    – the “write to market” myth (“most people read novels so that’s what you should write!”),
    – the “you must be in Amazon’s top 100 to even exist” myth (as if a single book with 1,000 sales was better than 100 books with 20 sales each),
    – the “you must spend $1,500 on your book before you dare publish it” myth (and I’m not even counting ads).

  • James Palmer

    Fun addendum to the Harlan Ellison writing in bookstores thing.

    I heard him in an interview talking about how he only did that because he had read somewhere that Marcel Proust or somebody had done similar. Then, after doing about a dozen or so of these, he learned that this was false and Proust or whomever had not in fact sat in a bookstore window and wrote an entire short story.

    It’s like the story about that college kid who solved a supposedly unsolvable math theorem just because he didn’t read the instructions that said it was “unsolvable.” Sometimes we do things successfully by not listening to the conventional wisdom that says the thing can’t be done.

    • Rikki Mongoose

      I guess, it wasn’t Marcel Proust (who was suffering from asthma and almost never left his apartment when he finished his epic), but George Simenon, author of about 400 novellas. He never wrote big novels and mostly famous for his Maigret mysteries.
      Simonon mentions in his memoirs that he agreed (he was fantastically prolific in his youth, he wrote in 4rd or 5th pulp speed) for it, but the newspaper who payed for it went bankrupt and it never happened.
      I’m not sure, is his memoirs available in English. I had Russian edition, bought in second-hand bookstore right next to residence of president of Republic of Belarus.

      Since that the president moved to another residence and I moved to another country.