Are you experiencing the frustration of trying to sell your novel? Maybe it's time to consider publishing it online?
Almost all writers dream of traditional publication, and those who have succeeded tell you that holding that first paperback proof or ARC is a high like no other. Three years ago I finished writing and rewriting (and rewriting) my debut novel, a YA fantasy entitled Mortal Ghost, had a good look round on the internet to see how these things are done, and followed the recommendations to a letter—the synopsis, the three sample chapters, the stamped self-addressed return envelope. Within a few months I had an agent in the UK, one of the original six I queried. Wow, I thought, this is easy. I undertook the rewriting she suggested, cutting my original ms in half and reworking most of what remained. But by the time she demanded further revisions, I began to ask myself what I was doing. Of course my novel wasn’t perfect. Of course it wasn’t sacred. But an agent is supposed to sell the thing, isn’t she, not tell me how to write it. (Now I know a bit more about the publishing business!) We parted company when I refused to undertake any further changes without a publisher’s contract.
By this time I was already deeply involved in writing my second novel. What to do with the first? I may have been naïve in some ways, but I was well aware that few writers earn more than a paltry sum from their fiction, certainly not enough to live on, usually not enough to pay for a handsome new Moleskine notebook every few months. Why not put Mortal Ghost online?
And so I did, first by serialising it in weekly instalments from a blog, then as podcasts with the support of a college in Wales, and finally as a complete PDF file and in multiple e-book formats. Probably most online writers cherish the hope that a publisher will stumble across their websites, be struck speechless with amazement at their genius, and rush to offer them a contract. Yeah, well …
A lottery ticket is a sure bet in comparison.
I’m not a gambling sort, and in the meanwhile I’ve come to realise that conventional publication doesn’t make you a ‘real’ writer. Mortal Ghost is currently downloaded 50-100 times per day, and there have been ca. 25,000 podcast downloads to date. It’s read or listened to from China to Chile, from South Africa to Sweden—in places whose names I have to google! And I’m not particularly interested in the numbers game. A writer’s satisfaction comes from writing well, then learning to write even better; the challenges of craftmanship.
At reader request I’ve recently made a POD paperback available at cost for those who find reading fiction in e-format, especially longer fiction, tiring.
Conventional publishing is a business. The internet guarantees my independence from market considerations, though it means a trade-off in other ways: fewer readers, perhaps; the stigma of failure; and absolutely no way to make a living by writing. But it also means empowerment: I can write exactly as I see fit.
At the centre of my work is a strong conviction in open culture, freely available to all.
Once I’ve completed Corvus, my new novel, I will be doing exactly what I’ve done with Mortal Ghost. As e-readers like the Kindle improve in quality and drop in price, I’m convinced that more and more readers will search out their fiction online. It’s not that I’m opposed to conventional publication. Both electronic and print publication will coexist in much the same way theatre and film have continued to coexist. However, I would only consent to a contract which allows simultaneous free online availability. And anyone who seeks to make money from my work will have to query me, not the other way round.
Read Mortal Ghost online
Mortal Ghost Podcasts
Read an Excerpt from CORVUS
L.Lee Lowe's Short Stories
L.Lee Lowe's Personal Blog