October 2006

Just Say No to Vanity Publishing

Since I sold Nurk, I’ve been gettin’ the occasional e-mail about “How do I get published?” which scares the livin’ crap out of me because–dude–I’ve sold ONE book to a major publisher, and a couple to a small press. I am not rippin’ up the charts. (Yet.) I twitch when people write me asking how to be a successful artist, and I’ve been doing that for the better part of a decade. I know very, very little.

And then Mizkit writes this, which is good, because now I don’t have to.


However, out of what I do know, let me address the vanity press issue.

Don’t do it.

Never, ever, ever pay money to be published. Publishing is like love–if you have to pay for it, it ain’t real.

There is exactly one time when you pay money to get your work printed, and that is when you have produced an item so specialized that it’s simply not worth a publisher’s time to touch it, but which you need a few copies of for reasons that are not financial. A webcomic collection is a great example of this–if you have a fan base of a few hundred people, it’s not worth a publisher’s time to print your comic, but you can sell a coupla dozen copies. In this case, your best bet is a POD service like Lulu–a place that is absolutely clear that they are printing your work on demand, and that they are not marketing it, not claiming that you are now “published” not pretending you’ll become a famous author from this work. You run off a dozen copies, people buy them and stop saying “When will the print volume be out?” you turn a probably very small profit and everyone is happy.

This is more like merchandising than anything else. Do not think of this as “publication.” Think of this as running off a whole assload of prints that you have to sell as a bound set.

And this is perfectly respectable, provided you don’t delude yourself that this will ever be on the best-seller charts. Self-publishing is great for stuff with a small audience, which you’re printing more or less as a public service–webcomic collections, family histories, regional folklore, haggis cookbooks, political manifestos, etc.

It is NOT NOT NOT good for your precious and beloved novel. No one will read it, you will lose money, and the process will ultimately leave you sad and disillusioned and old before your time.

Only self-publish if you already know who you’re selling it to. Self-publishing is a wretched way to build an audience. Self-publishing is what you do for a known, limited audience. Great for haggis cookbooks! Bad for novels.

Now, I was lucky. “Digger” had a large enough potential following that the print version got picked up by a small press–a very small press, granted, but a thoroughly respectable one. And that means that I did not pay a dime for Digger to be published. I signed a contract, chugged some scotch, and pick up my checks. A legitimate small press like Sofawolf knows that money always flows toward the author.

Shit, they even buy me dinner when we see them. And occasionally roses.

If you are going to spend money to have your work printed, you should ALWAYS be the one to initiate that decision. You should wake up one day and go “Hmm, my friends keep nagging me for this manual of obscure cross-stitch methods–I’ll run off some copies on Lulu.” Never, ever, ever respond to people who say “For X$ reading/printing/agenting fee, we will make you a published author.”

That’s not how it works. People pay YOU to publish your work. YOU have something THEY want.

Or you don’t, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of worms.

I had just finished levelling my druid to 54 when James appeared, wringing his hands and giggling.


“It just hit me!”


“If a bear–if bears–if–”

I waited. James gets a little incoherent when a really great idea has him.

“If a bear can ride a bicycle, why can’t he steal a car?!”

Once again, the circus has reduced James to a panic. I would like to say it’s the first time, but…well…y’know.

Woke up this morning with a sore lower back–my right lower lumbar was in pain.

Of course, today was the day that this painting HAD TO BE WORKED ON. It wanted to be worked on NOW. If I did not work on it NOW, it might not be around later.

So I worked on it, because hey, what else can you do?

This involved sitting on a stool hunched over a table, a bit sideways.

By a little after noon, I’d gotta a good bit done and I couldn’t handle that any more, so I took a nap–a restless, painful, wiggling nap–and now I’m in some pretty good agony. Stretches with the knee help for a few seconds, shifting position helps for a few seconds, but for the most part…yow. It’s gettin’ to the walking-the-floor stage at a pretty good clip, and I’m outta valium. Advil and Ben Gay aren’t making much of a dent, and I’ve never been real fond of heating pads.

May have James set the inversion rack up–I haven’t needed it since we moved, my back’s been very well behaved, even with all the yard work–but for some reason today…whammo.

It’s the sort of pain where you wind up working anyway, because you’re gonna be in agony no matter WHAT, so you might as well be productive during it.

So, the time has come. We’re gonna get another cat.

After Loki died, we moved immediately, and then we were in a fairly small rental, so it never quite seemed like time. However, now we have a big house, and Athena is obviously getting increasingly bored and lonely during the day–I’m good for snuggling, but I can’t provide the kind of constant interaction she got with Loki–so now that she’s up on all her shots and her intestinal disorder is nicely stable, I figured it was time.

I was kinda waiting for a cat to present itself, the way that they often do–generally by appearing on the doorstep going “Mowww!”–but for once, that didn’t happen. I definitely wanted to get an adult or older juvenile–kittens don’t really need me as much as an adult cat would, and the older I get, the more a cat with a settled and mature personality appeals to me over the admittedly adorable rambunctiousness of kittenhood.

Since Athena herself was a shelter cat, part of a fostering program, and has been far and away the best cat ever, I asked the vet today if she could recommend a good local shelter or a fostering program that does adoption events or something. She pointed me to Safe Haven for Cats, a local no-kill shelter, and I filled out their on-line application and made an appointment to go in and meet some kitties on Sunday.

I’m taking James with me, which may be dangerous. James put up a token grumbling about getting another cat, but I know him too well–confronted with a dozen cats in need of homes, I may be dragging him away with kittens clinging to his pantlegs.

I would have gone Saturday, but he reminded me that we’ll be spending much of Saturday trying to perfect our zombie makeup for the office Halloween party, and that might have made entirely the wrong impression on the shelter staff.

I rarely plug Digger over here, figuring that if you want to read it, you’ve found it by now, but today’s Digger features a brief shot of a blobby baby wombat in diapers, and…well…y’know.


Ah, technical experiments…the last refuge of an unproductive artist.

If someone hasn’t said that already, consider it said.

I got nuthin’. I got a painting 3/4ths done and no motivation. I’ll finish it–James likes it–but at the moment…nuthin’. So I went over to the art supply store, grabbed some more pen nibs and some oil paint sticks–one of the few readily available media I haven’t tried yet, without getting into crap like egg tempera and boiling lead–and now a set of 5 x 7 gessoboard, clayboard, and textured clayboard samples have acrylic dryin’ on ’em round the studio, to see if I can do the scratchy inky thing over the top–and possibly, if I get very very ambitious, see how the paint sticks work. They’re supposed to be a lot less trouble than oil paints to work with, without getting into the problem of water soluable oils, which, after multiple experiments, I find I just don’t like. They go chalky and muddy too easily. I mostly want the paint sticks for very delicate smeary background color, but if they prove workable, they may find their way into the last bits of the foreground.

I have a particular vision for what I’m trying to claw out–sort of Christensen-swaps-brains-with-Palencar-and-there-are-no-survivors–but the key is the textures. The key is always the textures.

The big problem, being a mixed media fiend, is finding a surface that takes everything I want to throw at it. My usual surface must take ink wash, ink pen, colored pencil, acrylic–fine, I’ve got illo board for that. But if I want to use oils, I have to find something else, because illustration board is not archival with oil–the oil will eventually eat right through the board. So I’m trying various Ampersand clayboards to see if I can get what I want on one of those–gessoboard is probably the best bet, it’ll take a lot, although the colored pencil is occasionally iffy, but if it takes the nib pen well, I can dispense with a lot of the colored pencil work.

Of course, I may hate the oil sticks as I have hated every oil thing so far, rendering it moot, but you never learn if you don’t try.

Round 1: All three surfaces will take dip pen and india ink fairly gracefully.

Round 2: All three will take white ink, but clayboard doesn’t take it as well–the individual strokes stick out more, and parts are blobby, whereas the two textured boards suck the ink right up.

Round 3: All three will take colored pencil. Clayboard gets a smoother and crisper line. Textured clayboard builds up much quicker and gets harder to work with, but does get a nice solid color.

Deathmatch: We have a winner! Gessoboard, not to my surprise, takes the oil stick very well. That’s no surprise–oils and smooth clayboard don’t mix at all. The textured clayboard wasn’t bad, but you couldn’t get good coverage over a dark color, whereas the gessoboard could (although you had to work at it.)

The paint sticks are kinda neat. I used them more or less like pastel–lay a swath, blend with fingers. Had a nice creamy consistency, and they actually dry, unlike oil pastel, which only hardens. They’re big clumsy things, though–although you can apparently use ’em with brushes as well–so I don’t see much hard detail there. But they go lightest-to-darkest, instead of the other way around, which is definitely a plus. I have a bloody hard time going darkest-to-lightest, the way you’re supposed to with oils for some reason.

I could wish that gessoboard took colored pencil better–it will, but not half so well as the clayboard–but you can’t have everything.

I just watched “Heathers.” Ah, nothin’ like the classics.

I recall, about a thousand years ago, some law or other making it highly suspicious and likely to be investigated if anyone anywhere wrote about blowing up schools. I posted something to the effect of “Does this mean that we’ll never see “Heathers” anymore?”

To which some wag replied “There is no such movie. We deny the existence of any such movie.” Which I half expected, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it again.

Obviously my brain is fried from all that Elf vs Orc, and my inner teenage girl is coming far too close to the surface, so I’m just gonna say it–

Christian Slater was pretty hot once.

*cough* And now, back to your regular lumpy squirrel programming…

Elf vs. Orc, Part 8

Celadon’s viewpoint always seems to be rather grimmer than Sings-to-Trees–which makes a certain sense, granted the sort of life she’s apparently led–and yet I can’t escape the feeling that she’s got a far more developed sense of humor. Funny how that works out.

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