Mar 07 2009

Why First-Time Authors Shouldn’t Even Consider Self-Publishing

Published by at 2:53 am under Self-Publishing,The Publishing Industry

This is pretty much the most obvious writing advice I can think of. If this is your first novel or comic book, don’t self-publish unless you can afford for the project to completely flop.

1. Publishers provide editorial oversight. Editors have accumulated years of experience figuring out how to deliver stories that people want to read. If you are new to publishing, that experience is an especially invaluable asset.


2. Publishers provide promotional and logistical support. Successful self-publishers have to do it all on their own. Unless you have the skills, time and willingness to promote your book full-time, it’s not going to sell. If you’re interested in writing as a full-time career, having the support of a professional publisher to organize events like book signings will help you attract an audience and develop a reputation.  (Mind you, you’ll still be doing most of the promotional work, unless you really hit the big time).


3. You’re probably throwing away your money. Self-publishing (even with print-on-demand) is a risky venture that will require you to gamble hundreds or thousands of dollars and hours on a book that will probably not sell many copies. In contrast, publishing a first novel professionally will earn you an advance of typically around $5000, plus royalties if it sells particularly well.


3.1. When it comes to self-publishing ventures, don’t stake money you couldn’t afford to lose.  Most likely, you will lose it.  It could be a worthwhile venture in other ways–for example, self-publishing could be a great opportunity to practice valuable skills that will give you a better chance of succeeding with a subsequent self-published book or perhaps landing a professional publisher.  However, I would definitely not expect to break even on your first self-published book.  If you net even $1 for each hour of work you put into your self-publishing, you’re ahead of the curve.


4. SELF-PUBLISHING IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR QUALITY. The absolute worst reason to self-publish is because you don’t think your manuscript is good enough to sell to a professional publisher. Yes, the manuscript submission process is harrowing and frequently involves years of rejection. But forcing your manuscript through that selection process will make your work better and more marketable. Frankly, if your manuscript isn’t good enough to sell to even a small professional publisher, I wouldn’t recommend betting money it’s good enough to sell to customers.  Don’t waste your time and money printing a novel that you won’t be able to sell.


4.1. If you’re self-publishing more to practice skills than to make money, definitely keep your costs as low as possible!  For example, before hiring a freelance editor (or a “book doctor”), try free online writing circles like Critters.  Instead of giving cash (which will teach you very little), you’ll be giving advice in exchange for advice.  Reviewing other people’s work will probably help you identify what works and what doesn’t.


What do you think?

79 responses so far

79 Responses to “Why First-Time Authors Shouldn’t Even Consider Self-Publishing”

  1. B. Macon 07 Mar 2009 at 3:11 am

    In contrast, an experienced author may have the skills and audience to make self-publishing work.

    1. Editorial oversight
    –If you’ve gotten a few novels published, you probably have a good feel for your market and what makes a story good enough to sell.
    –An experienced author might want to take more unusual creative risks than an editor would feel comfortable with. Authorial independence can be a valid reason to self-publish, but only if you’ve demonstrated that you already have the authorial skills and talent to succeed on your own!

    2. Logistical and promotional support.
    –An experienced author will usually have a built-in audience. If your past works have sold well, your audience will be a major asset that can sustain you as you strike off on your own.
    –An author that has sold well will usually have superior contacts and credibility. That will make it easier for you to schedule events.
    –Experienced authors usually have some logistics in place already, like a professional-grade website and the like.

    3. First-timers that self-publish are throwing away their money.
    –Experienced authors are usually better. Like most other professionals, writers learn quite a lot from one project to the next.
    –Is your book good enough to sell? An experienced author at least knows that his past books have been good enough to sell.

    4. Self-publishing should not be used as a way to avoid the submission process.
    –An experienced author has already survived the submission process a few times, so his work is demonstrably good enough already.

  2. Jacobon 07 Mar 2009 at 3:42 am

    I don’t know much about novel publishing, so take this accordingly. When you say that even print-on-demand risks hundreds of dollars, what exactly are you risking your money on? It seems to me that the only major expense for an author doing POD is his time.

  3. B. Macon 07 Mar 2009 at 9:55 am

    Printing a book on demand is one way to limit the author’s financial risk. You don’t have to print hundreds of copies that might never sell.

    However, there are still promotional expenses.
    –The book cover (a professional publisher will provide this, but a self-published author will have to spend at least a few hundred dollars on his).
    –Website design, hosting fees and other technical assistance.
    –Low-cost advertising (online ads, business cards, etc).
    –Fees for conferences and conventions (so that you can hawk your goods)
    –Transportation and room/board to attend conferences and cons
    –Basic living expenses.

    Even more so than professional publishing, self-publishing is a cumulative process where you build an audience one member at a time. It is not remotely realistic for an unproven and unknown author to expect to sustain himself on his tiny audience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re printing on-demand or not. You will need a full-time job until your audience grows large enough.

    For example, let’s look at the Superhero Nation website as one example of how long it takes to build up an audience. It’s slow work, and some days will be worse than others. However, if you keep plugging away at it, eventually you’ll start to get somewhere.

    It took me about six months to get to the point where my readers were spending more combined time on the website than I was. However, by the end of 2009 I think I’ll have an economically relevant amount of readers. Wish me luck. 🙂

  4. Tomon 07 Mar 2009 at 10:08 am

    Interestingly enough, when Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon, he self-published it with his family. Only after a few months and a relatively large audience did a publishing company pick it up. Maybe if he went to the professionals first it would’ve been better. 😛

    Although you gotta hand it to the guy, he managed to get so many people to read his monstrously large book that a professional came to him (I think). That’s gotta take perseverance.

  5. B. Macon 07 Mar 2009 at 10:49 am

    Yeah. I couldn’t really see myself as a novelist that young, but if I were doing this differently I definitely would have started blogging earlier on in college. It’d be nice to be a year or two farther along than I am now. More readers, more material, more contacts, all that.

  6. Jayon 08 Mar 2009 at 1:12 am

    Yes, but the quandary for a new author is that you cannot get an agent unless you’ve been published, you cannot get published unless you have an agent, and you cannot get an editor unless you have a publisher’s stamp of approval.

    As far as the new batch of teen authors currently coming up, going through the motions and formalities and continually being dissuaded by editors who are looking for the next Twilight/Harry Potter and not at all looking to take a chance on a newbie with an idea that’s “out there”. Self-publishing becomes a far more viable outlet that is similar to independent filmmaking (to some at least) in regards to the author’s goals versus an agent’s goals. An author is in the business of making a memorable story, an agent is the business of making a profit.

    Though I’ll give it to you on point 4, seeking self-publishing because you feel your work isn’t “good enough” for the big boys is a very bad idea. Submitting it because it’s something different that no one else will take a chance on and you have the balls to put it out there on your own dime, admirable albeit risky. Submitting it because Microsoft Word is confusing to you- not at all advised o_o…

  7. B. Macon 08 Mar 2009 at 1:42 am

    It’s harder for a new author to get an agent, but by no means impossible. I’d personally recommend getting an agent, given that they tend to increase the author’s pay considerably. But many first-time authors get professionally published without them.

    If you have an idea that’s really out there and seems hard to market, it will probably be hard to get a publisher on-board unless you have some credibility. One way you might do that is to have published some novels that sold fairly well. Another way is to have established an audience through some other means. For example, Dave Eggers was a writer at Salon magazine before he wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

    Alternately, you can establish your credibility by accumulating an audience first. If you’re a twenty-year-old with a hard-to-market story and no pre-established audience, I’d really recommend doing some preliminary marketing work to prove that you are marketable. For example, start blogging and build an audience. When there are tens or hundreds of thousands of people that are hungry for your work, publishers will see more potential in your manuscript.

  8. scribblaron 08 Mar 2009 at 2:48 am

    I wrote a massive post on why I disagree yesterday, and lost it before I posted. Can’t really be bothered writing it again – but I will later.

  9. B. Macon 08 Mar 2009 at 3:49 am

    Ack! I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t tell you how many thousands of words of work I’ve lost because I clicked backspace and Mozilla thought that I wanted to go Back. Ick. Mercifully, I’ve since downloaded a plugin that disabled the backspace->Back hotkey.

    Would you like to do an abridged version instead?

  10. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 08 Mar 2009 at 5:05 am

    Ooh, same here! I’ll write up something really long, detailed and complicated, and then the stupid computer thinks I want to go back! Grr, sometimes technology annoys me so much. Especially my iPod, which for some reason is always making me reset it, and every time I sync up new songs it rewinds the clock by nine hours.

  11. scribblaron 08 Mar 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Paolini – his work is bad, right? But I am alone here in seeing the potential he has? If he had gone the real way of writing, and hadn’t been published, and kept writing things that weren’t published, he would have improved until he was publishable, right? I mean, Eragon was what I might have wrote fifteen years ago (I’m 26) so in ten or so years I might buy a new Paolini to see if he has improved.

    My point is, he wouldn’t have been published if he’d gone the right way. And whatever you say about him, he put the legwork in, going to high schools and doing readings and so on. That’s why he got a contract – so self-publishing can take the place of quality (I’m not saying it should, just that it can).

    Or GK Chesterton, heard of him? An English vicar who self-published a fantasy, had it selling out from his kitchen table so fast he got an agent and two weeks later had a £1/2 million contract with Faber & Faber. He wouldn’t have got that as a new unknown author.

    Publishers, in the current economic climate are paying people off. There are less likely to take on new authors. Is self-publishing not a viable way of showing yourself – if your work is good enough, and you can build an audience, a publisher will give you more for it.

    Well, that’s a cut version of what I was getting at – I might have missed a few points.

  12. B. Macon 08 Mar 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I agree that the first Eragon book (the only one I’ve read) is at least bad, and usually awful. However, a few reviewers I trust have suggested that his later works are less cliche and more stylish. That wouldn’t surprise me. Young and inexperienced authors get better as they practice. They get a better handle for what works and what doesn’t, what audiences are looking for, a unique style, etc.

    As a young and inexperienced author myself, I can attest that I’ve learned so much that what I was producing a year or two ago now causes me to blush.

    Anyway, self-publishing requires a serious commitment and substantial financial risk. It’s going to end badly for the vast majority of people that attempt it… the books won’t sell, you don’t have the money or resources to see it through, you get sick of the long and fruitless hours, there’s very little encouragement from anyone, etc. If someone wants to self-publish because he wants agents and publishers to beat a path to his door, he will almost certainly be disappointed. Exceptions like Paolini and Chesterton tend to be notable because they are so freakishly rare. And even those authors had great help. Paolini’s parents were very supportive and knew the publishing industry, and Chesterton had the experience of a career as a professional communicator.

    If a would-be author has thousands of dollars to blow on self-publishing, maybe he can risk it all on self-publishing. However, the odds of breaking even (let alone actually succeeding) are overwhelmingly grim. He takes a manuscript, edits it a few times, and then bets thousands of dollars that his manuscript is good enough to sell. But how would he know that? He’s never sold a book in his life. He probably doesn’t have a professional background in writing or communication. If he’s 15-20, his writing experience is probably extremely limited at best. He probably doesn’t even know the kind of people that can tell him honestly and knowledgeably whether it’s good enough to sell.

    If you’re a truly unproven quantity, self-publishing is a really risky and dangerous way to go about proving yourself to publishers. Here are some safer alternatives.
    1. Start writing professionally for a different outlet (like a newspaper or magazine). This will help you develop your skills, build an audience and generate income.
    2. Get a job with a publisher. That will help you learn how things work and network with the people that make the decisions. If you want to self-publish, getting publishing experience is particularly useful… if you understand what a publisher does, you can do it for yourself.
    3. Blog. If hundreds of thousands of people will read your writing, it’s probably marketable. For example, we’re going to use this blog to sell a nonfiction book about how to write superhero stories. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

  13. scribblaron 09 Mar 2009 at 4:04 am

    You make good points, but I don’t think self-publishing costs as much as you reckon.

    Here’s a breakdown.

    Set up a publishing company (this is vital) here in the UK it costs £100 to register a Ltd company with Company House. Any financial risk is now the companies risk, not yours.

    Set up a website (£150? I’m not sure, how much would you say a professional looking website would cost, B. Mac? £60? £100?)

    Set up an account with Lightning Source. They don’t deal with authors, only publishers. It costs £60 to add your title to their range, and then they take 70p per book and a penny per page.

    I got this from a friend

    “each book is 70p plus 1p per page paid to Lightning Source. Then Amazon will expect a discount, which you set. The standard is 35 or 40%.

    So, for ease of maths, if a book retails at 10.00 with 40% discount, Amazon would pay Lightning Source 6.00 for it. If it was a 230 page book, that’s 70p plus 230p to Lightning Source, which is 3.00, so you get 3.00 as well. You can set your retail price and discount however you like, but you need to offer at least 35% discount to make sure the online stores will carry it and you need to keep your retail as low as possible to encourage people to buy it. My books are 8.95 on and they’re nearly 400 pages (of small type!)

    This kind of publishing is not about making money – you can make a bit, but it’s more about getting your stuff out there without it really costing you anything. If you have a niche market non-fiction book you can afford to put the price up, but fiction is really hard to sell. There’s a LOT of competition.”

    He’s opened his own company in Australia. It’s called Blade Red Press.

    And then you spend as much or as little on the marketing as you want. The more you spend the more you have the potential to earn.

  14. B. Macon 09 Mar 2009 at 4:47 am

    Website costs… it depends on how much you can do yourself. Probably around $150-200 if you’re comfortable handling 90% of it yourself. I spent $75 on a header, $10 per year for hosting, and I probably would have spent a few hundred on startup help if my brother hadn’t been able to do that. The website will probably be the cheapest part of your promotional expenses.

    –Business cards. I haven’t looked into this too much, so these costs can probably be reduced with further research. By my estimation, it’s about $50 for 250 nice business cards (nice card stock, shipping). If I did a middle-sized or large conference, I’d probably give away at least a hundred or two. (Also, you might want to factor in some freelance art design here… if the card looks bad, it’s probably not going to interest anyone).
    –Conferences and book-signing events. When you’re a credible, desired writer, conferences and/or publishers may subsidize the cost for you to do panels, meet your audience and sell books. However, a self-published author with no credibility has to cover these costs on his own. Bleh. I hope there are a lot of conferences within 100 miles of your home. Otherwise, expect to spend a lot on hotels and transportation and/or stay with friends a lot.
    –Advertising. We’re probably looking at online ads here, most likely Adwords.
    –Ongoing expenses (food, rent, etc.) Realistically, an American will spend at least fifteen (maybe twenty) thousand dollars on basic necessities per year. Probably more. If you’re selling your book full-time in lieu of a salaried position, you have to factor your cost of living into your overhead.

    Your efforts to sell these books will probably require a lot of money. Most people– particularly young writers with inadequate savings– can’t afford to promote a book in lieu of getting a full-time job. You can promote a book on top of a regular job, but it would be hectic.

    Let’s imagine absolutely the best case scenario: let’s say you sell the book for (say) $20, and you get $10 of profit from every sale. Let’s also imagine that you’re not spending anything on advertisements or promotional expenses. Even under these ludicrously optimistic conditions, you still have to sell 1500-2000 copies to cover the absolute bare-minimum living expenses. Breaking even is quite hard for an unknown author even before you consider that the promotional expenses are actually quite considerable.

  15. scribblaron 09 Mar 2009 at 10:36 am

    Yes, but my plan was to continue working part-time, as I am now. I can afford to live, right now – plus the Scottish Arts Council gives grants to published authors to help them either work on a sequel or market their novel.

  16. B. Macon 09 Mar 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Mmm. Good luck. I don’t mean to be unduly discouraging, but it will be very difficult and will require a lot of work, without a very high probability of success. However, if you’re sure this is what you want to do, please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. (Like helping you prepare for panel presentations or linking to your website, etc). What’s your novel about?

  17. scribblaron 10 Mar 2009 at 5:43 am

    My novel isn’t superhero related, though I do have plans for others that are – tht’s why I come here.

    It’s a steampunk sword and sorcery story about an old woman at the end of her life. She was a great adventurer/warrior but now she only has months to live due to disease. And her arch enemy, a centuries old Mayan god-monster arrives in her life for one last battle.

    The story is complicated with steampunk cyborgs, socially conscious vampires, secret agents, German spies, sorcerers, demons, angels, Gods, submarines, crystal skulls, possessed weapons, war in heaven and the world’s first supercomputer. And the final battle takes place on board HMS Titanic.

    There’s also flashbacks to the first time Matilda fought the Guardian beast, as well as dreams of the beasts creation to defend the Mayan people from the Spaniards, and flashbacks to various events during Matilda’s life (which will hopefully be fully explored in sequels).

    There really isn’t much steampunk sword and sorcery out there, so publishers will probably tell me there isn’t a market for it. I’m more of the opinion that just because no one else has thought to write a story like this doesn’t mean no one will want to read it.

    You know?

    Anyway, thanks for the support.

  18. Stefan the Exploding Manon 10 Mar 2009 at 6:42 am

    Sounds awesome. I’m a sucker for steampunk fantasy. Would you consider having your story on a review forum on the site? I don’t think it matters if it’s superhero-related or not. But I like your concept and I’d be interested to read more.

  19. B. Macon 10 Mar 2009 at 7:44 am

    Yeah. Would you like a review forum? I could easily set one up for you.

  20. B. Macon 10 Mar 2009 at 7:50 am

    Mmm. I think that there are many stories about a traditional fantasy setting giving way to a steampunk setting. If a major theme of your story is that her warrior’s way of life is dying, then I think it’d fit in really smoothly in the Don Quixote tradition. The use of the Titanic strikes me as a particularly apt bit of wackiness because World War I begins a year or two later. WWI has a strong connotation of faceless, bleak and unchivalrous fighting. So, if this were about the death of the traditional warrior code, WWI is among the best possible backdrops.

  21. scribblaron 10 Mar 2009 at 11:28 am

    Not ready for a review forum – I’ve hit a snag getting the research. It’s the etiquette thing – they had like a 1001 manners. But I’m getting there.

  22. Tomon 10 Mar 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Hey B. Mac, how much could you help someone making a superhero cartoon? I know this is a site for aspiring book and comic book writers, but there’s a lot of crossover in terms of plot, narrative and character, and my ideas are still about superheroes. Is it worth you setting up a review forum for me? That is, could you help me?

  23. Holliequon 10 Mar 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Hi Tom, I think we’d all be willing to chip in and help. B. Mac is probably the best qualified, but we’re not terrible either, haha.

  24. B. Macon 10 Mar 2009 at 4:25 pm

    A cartoon show? Hmm. It would be our first, but we could probably offer ideas to improve the script and your pitch and such. That’s one part of getting your show on the air, but it’s probably not as important as who you know.

    Television companies are not as clear or welcoming to beginners as the typical publishing company. For example, most comic book publishers will have a submissions page on their website that invites people to submit and explains what they should include. That’s helpful, particularly if you’re new to the field. I couldn’t find anything like a submissions page for the television networks I looked at. The closest thing I could find was this decidedly shady “so you want to pitch a television show” advice. It could be useful, but I have no reason to suspect that the author is actually knowledgeable. Some of the advice seems downright dubious:

    Get to know your target audience’s taste. Then in your pitch meeting, you can wow ’em with something along the lines of “I polled one hundred teenaged girls in my city and they unanimously voiced my character’s point of view.” You are now the voice of a generation.

  25. Dforceon 10 Mar 2009 at 6:38 pm

    A cartoon, eh? Awesome. I’ve sorta delved into the format myself. Pretty interesting stuff.

    My quesiton is, what kind of help do you want?
    To develop characters and plot?
    To design characters (they way they look)?
    Or how to format a script for TV?

    If the bottom-most one, maybe this will help:

    Just my two cents.

  26. Dforceon 10 Mar 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Be sure to look at the whole section of Formatting 101 . I think that’d be important to know if you’re gonna be dealing directly with scripts.

  27. B. Macon 11 Mar 2009 at 2:43 am

    Dforce, thanks for the link. I found it very helpful, and some of the material is even helpful for would-be comic book writers. Over-directing is a problem that comes up in some comic book situations, as well.

    For example, compare these two descriptions of two panels that show Agent Orange escaping from a few supervillains because they relied on security cameras rather than armed guards. (You can see the full scene here).


    Panel 4. Zoom in on the villain.

    VILLAIN: When we have captured Agent Orange in the past, have security cameras ever actually prevented him from escaping?

    Panel 5. We see a collage of three shots of Agent Orange escaping from supervillain holding cells when he was watched only by security cameras. In one shot, we see him taping a picture to the camera. In the second, we see him tampering with the wiring. In the third, we see him digging out from under his bed as a dummy rests in his place. (From our angle, we can see that the body in the bed is a dummy, but the security camera only sees that there is a body under a blanket).

    ENGINEER, off-panel: Uhh… not that I can recall, sir.


    Panel 4.

    VILLAIN: When we have captured Agent Orange in the past, have security cameras ever actually prevented him from escaping?

    Panel 5. We see of a collage of shots of Agent Orange escaping from supervillain holding cells by outsmarting security cameras. For example, he tapes a picture to the camera, tampers with the wiring, uses a dummy, etc. Since this is a jab at a comic book cliche, it’s ok if these are cliche or stripped from Hollywood. Make this a fun panel.

    ENGINEER, off-panel: Uhh… not that I can recall, sir.

    There are two main differences. First, the bad version explicitly tells us to “zoom in on the villain” in panel 4. That direction is entirely unnecessary.
    –Let’s look at this from the perspective of an editor deciding whether to pick up your script. It wastes his time, because when he runs the scene in his head he’ll probably zoom in on his own even if you don’t tell him. Telling him only kills the rhythm.
    –The detail doesn’t matter. Is there any difference between the shot being zoomed in and the shot being zoomed out? If there’s no difference, don’t waste time explaining your vision for the detail. Also, if the detail won’t affect your plot at all, I’d recommend leaving it to the judgment of your artist.

    The second main difference is how we handle the description of the collage in panel 5. The bad version gets bogged down in details about how the three shots are set up. (“In one shot, we see him taping a picture to the camera. In the second, we see him tampering with the wiring. In the third, we see him digging out from under his bed as a dummy rests in his place. From our angle, we can see that the body in the bed is a dummy, but the security camera only sees that there is a body under a blanket.”) Ick.

    The revised version focuses less on the details and more on the effect we’re trying to achieve. This leaves more to the imagination of the reader and is shorter. “We see of a collage of shots of Agent Orange escaping from supervillain holding cells by outsmarting security cameras. For example, he tapes a picture to the camera, uses a dummy, etc. Since this panel is a jab at a comic book cliche, it’s ok if these are cliche or stripped from Hollywood. Make this a fun panel.”) Notice that we don’t get embroiled in details about how we’re going to show Agent Orange using the dummy.

  28. Ragged Boyon 11 Mar 2009 at 9:33 am

    Oh, I’d love to help with you with your cartoon. When I strip away the crazy clothes I like to think I’m pretty good at character appearances.

    We’ll do whatever we can to help.

  29. Tomon 11 Mar 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Well I have characters created, I have enough episode ideas for several seasons, and I even have the first 3 episodes in script form, right now I’m actually looking for someone to pitch to, I don’t expect any help there (but boy do I need it), what I want is help re-naming some of my characters and improving my scripts and narrative. Should I post the scripts I’ve written?

  30. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 12:44 pm

    B. Mac, you’re welcome, and I hope other comickers take a quick look at it too.

    I sorta try and use that link as a formatting bible (to keep things concise and in-line). And the advice is pretty sound, too, I think.

  31. Tomon 11 Mar 2009 at 1:02 pm

    God, I haven’t used any of those rules in that website. My scripts read kinda like this:

    Generic Superhero Girl punches Doctor Generic Evil Villain. He falls to the ground, writhing in pain.
    Generic Superhero Girl: Take that!
    Generic Superhero Guy picks up the money Doctor Generic Evil Villain was trying to steal.
    Generic Superhero Guy: (laughing) And I thought ‘crime doesn’t pay’ was just an expression!

    Okay, obviously my stuff isn’t that bad, but that’s the format I use. I really need to fix it.

  32. Tomon 11 Mar 2009 at 1:03 pm

    How do I do italics in these comments? I assumed [I]word[/I] would make italics.

  33. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Lol. I think if you want to make things italic on here, you’re gonna have to type
    (word or phrase) (no spaces between the symbols and letters). To look like this, in this site.

    Looks good at a glance, but I think it’d look more professional if you formatted it. Have you looked at the Dark Horse’s script guide? ( ) (Just for another scripting reference, though, it is for comic books instead of TV).

  34. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 1:18 pm

    OK, the italic format is (word) . Don’t know why it didn’t come out earlier, (spaces probably).

  35. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 1:20 pm

    B. Mac… greater and less than symbols won’t show up anymore… ()

  36. Tomon 11 Mar 2009 at 1:36 pm

    (brackets make italics? That can’t be right) .

  37. Holliequon 11 Mar 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Use standard HTML greater than and less than brackets (next to the M key, if your keyboard is like mine) when you post.

  38. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 1:51 pm

    No, not brackets or parenthesis, but the third option. Those carrot-looking things that are on their side… (^), those things, but on their side… the symbol between 2<3. Righ above the comma and period keys on the keyboard, which are typed by pressing and holding shift… Ahh…! I’m exasperated…

  39. Holliequon 11 Mar 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Well, technically they’re called ‘tags’ in HTML . . . not sure why I said brackets. (Although the position of yours are weird, mine ARE the comma and period keys + shift.)

  40. Tomon 11 Mar 2009 at 2:04 pm
  41. Tomon 11 Mar 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Well, I did that, and my post vanished. In case it disappears, I put ‘Let’s try again’ in between those symbols.

  42. Tomon 11 Mar 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I probably sound really noobish. I’m not normally like this, I swear.

  43. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 2:16 pm


    Eh, my keyboard is like yours, I just worded it wrong. When I said above, I meant they are the same keys as period and comma (by above, I meant that they’re draw on the keyboard right above the drawings of the comma and period). Comma + shift, or period + shift will type them in on my keyboard.


    No worries. No noobism noticed. These formatting sets won’t work, or are different in other forums… they’re weird like that… I still can’t make spaces between paragraphs on here (only B. Mac can, when he directly formats the posts), even though I know the HTML for it. It’s somewhat aggravating…


  44. Holliequon 11 Mar 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Look up a basic HTML website on the net and that’ll teach you what to do. It’s not difficult to get the hang of. (I think you can use italics and bold here.)

    That’s much easier than us trying to explain it to you. 😛

  45. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 2:40 pm

    But I wanted to feel useful! Alas, Holliequ, you’ve foiled me this time! lol

  46. B. Macon 11 Mar 2009 at 2:59 pm

    I did this as an image so that the HTML won’t be read.

    Go to Superhero Nation for comic book writing advice and more.

  47. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 11 Mar 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Doing HTML is complicated for me. I’m used to pressing Ctrl+ I and getting italics, but HTML seems like a lot of messing about to get results. I’m going to try it out.


  48. Ragged Boyon 11 Mar 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Wow, we went on a wholetangent on HTML Codes.

    You’re not alone Whovian, I never even used HTML Codes before this site.

  49. Ragged Boyon 11 Mar 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Darnit, I almost had it right.

  50. Ragged Boyon 11 Mar 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Oh, thanks for that link to that site. I, too, found it very helpful.

  51. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 6:46 pm

    The code!

    … is very involved…

  52. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 6:49 pm

    … and you’re welcome. (That is, if I was the one being thanked).

  53. Ragged Boyon 11 Mar 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Yeah, I was thanking you, Dforce.

    I drew some new stuff including an interesting new character. Unfortunately, I can’t scan it to the computer. I would have wanted your opinion.

  54. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Argh! The whim of Scannon hinders the creative juices to dissipate amongst comickers! ‘Tis a greater, villainous ploy by him I say!

    … I am sad your scanner is still inoperative…

    I saw some of your work on DeviantArt and it was good, but I can’t remember your account’s name.

  55. Ragged Boyon 11 Mar 2009 at 7:24 pm

    The stuff on my DeviantArt is a bit old, except some things.

    My name is Puzzeler.

  56. B. Macon 11 Mar 2009 at 9:59 pm

    I wouldn’t worry too much about this tangent. I can move the comments somewhere more appropriate later. For example, we have a few articles on comments and I could do an article on HTML coding.

  57. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 10:13 pm

    On all the HTML coding? (Which would be useful beyond this site).

    Or just the ones used there? Also… I believe I’ve mastered the line-break… Yay me.

  58. B. Macon 11 Mar 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Hmm. I’m not sure if I understand your question clearly, Dforce. If I did an article on HTML coding, I’d probably do one about the HTML tags available to our guests and another about the HTML tags available to our moderators.

    There are other HTML tags, but I don’t think that listing them here would help the typical reader much. For one, I think that our typical reader is far more likely to use HTML as a commenter than as a webmaster. Also, if you understand how to apply the most basic HTML functions like italics and bolds, chances are you can figure out how to apply more advanced functions fairly easily. (It’s just a matter of finding out what the tag is, and there are many sites that list HTML tags).

    I hope that helps.

  59. Dforceon 11 Mar 2009 at 11:52 pm

    I was asking if you’d go in-depth on all HTML, or just what would be typically used by commenters here. You’ve answered my question, so it’s fine, and thank you.

  60. Tomon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:09 am

    So B. Mac, can you set up a review forum for me?

  61. Tomon 14 Mar 2009 at 5:05 am

    lol, I don’t know how that barbed wire got there. That’s funny! Good one!

  62. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 5:15 am

    Haha, thanks. 😀

  63. Tomon 14 Mar 2009 at 5:44 am

    Kind of (okay, very) off topic but do you live in Perth, like your character? I have a friend who lives there.

  64. […] Don’t self-publish, from Superhero […]

  65. bretton 12 Dec 2009 at 9:41 pm

    There’s no way getting an agent is impossible, even for a first-timer. The agent that got James Patterson’s first book published handled ONLY first-time authors. Even then, he got rejected TWENTY EIGHT TIMES before it got published.

    I recommend going to to get more information on what to do.

  66. K Perryon 25 Jun 2011 at 7:08 pm

    If Eragon is so bad than why has it sold so many books and a movie? I’m not a big fan of the books but they aren’t that bad and he did get published after being self published. I also have a friend who self published her book of poetry and has sold enough copies for a small profit. Another friend sells her ebook and has sold several hundred copies. I’m just concerned that because I am a new author and do not have and agent yet that it may be an option.

  67. B. Macon 25 Jun 2011 at 8:29 pm

    “If Eragon is so bad than why has it sold so many books and a movie?” Well, I wouldn’t say it’s one of the five worst books I’ve ever read. It’s frustratingly uncreative. As for its sales success, I would attribute that mainly to three things:
    –It has the novelty factor of being written by a 15 year old, which plays really well among young adult readers.
    –It’s pretty easy to follow the plot. I think that is especially important to the median YA reader.
    –The target readers (young adults) generally haven’t read enough books to know how cliche it is. I’d feel confident that very few readers that had read 50 fantasy novels would place the first Eragon book* among their top 5 (or probably even 10). But if you had read only 5 fantasy novels, it probably wouldn’t be so bad that it’d be the worst of them.

    *I’ve only read the first one, so I have no idea how the later books turned out. It’s possible that the later ones got substantially better as the author practiced more.

    “I also have a friend who self published her book of poetry and has sold enough copies for a small profit.”
    It is extremely hard to get poetry professionally published, so making a small profit by self-publishing poetry is probably not all that bad. That said, I’d guess we’re probably talking about at most 200-300 sales, not enough to pay for rent or excite any editors. If your goal is to get the book professionally republished (a la Eragon), I’d shoot for at least 5000 sales.

    “Another friend sells her ebook and has sold several hundred copies.” Again, that’s not enough to convince any editors that this story has significant sales potential, but it might be a few thousand dollars you didn’t have before. One cautionary note, though: Self-publishing the book will make it harder to get a publisher interested later if you don’t sell thousands of copies. Also, if you have any expenses (such as cover art or anything like that), it is fully possible that you won’t sell enough copies to recoup your expenses.

  68. Bronteson 26 Jun 2011 at 6:47 am

    And what about self-publishing for a comic book?

  69. bretton 26 Jun 2011 at 5:00 pm


    there’s a company called Kickstarter that might be able to help. I think it was formed through a new partnership with Webook. (could be wrong about that part though) It funds a whole bunch of different projects. It’s not exactly the kind of self publishing everybody’s used to but you could start there
    Here’s the link if you’re interested:

  70. B. Macon 26 Jun 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Some thoughts on self-publishing a comic book…

    –Unless you’re doing your own art or have found someone willing to work on spec, I imagine your art costs would be prohibitive. I don’t know what your art costs are like, but they’re around $100 a page for me. I’d have to sell 500+ copies (for each issue) just to cover the costs of artistic labor. Many self-published comics keep their art costs relatively low by going with a very simplified art style.

    –I’d recommend looking into a Xeric Foundation grant to cover some of your expenses.

    –If you were thinking about self-publishing an ebook, I think comic books have some challenges there. Kindles (which make up about 65% of the market for ebooks) don’t have color yet, and both Kindles and Nooks tend to have frightfully small screens. iPads are probably more suitable for comics than the Kindle and Nook are, but they’re not a major part of the market yet.

  71. Bronteson 26 Jun 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Well, I have a friend doing the art for free. Our main idea is to submit to Dark Horse but I’m still looking for other opportunities, but as it is mentioned in the article, the editorial oversight is a must for first time publishin, I think.

  72. B. Macon 26 Jun 2011 at 9:35 pm

    “…as it is mentioned in the article, the editorial oversight is a must for first time publishers, I think.” I think editorial aid/oversight and the practice of going through the publishing process really help. I wouldn’t recommend staking money on any self-published book unless you can cheerfully survive really poor sales, which I think is the typical outcome for self-published authors. If you’re not spending hundreds or thousands of dollars, you can walk away without many hard feelings even if you end up selling 0-100 copies.

    I’d also recommend doing some writing workshops before self-publishing, because that’s probably the closest you’ll get to reliable editorial help. (Actually, I’d recommend doing that before your friend starts on the art–otherwise you might end up locking yourself into scenes that you later decide you want to get rid of or a script that you later decide is not all that good).

  73. Bronteson 26 Jun 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I’ve actually gone to some workshops, and I have been writing the first issue (22 pgs.) for well over a year now. I do believe I can start working on that first one. Also the advice I have received here on my now ancient review forums has helped me a lot. When I begin working full-time on the secon issue I’ll probably ask for another review forum.

  74. Comicbookguy117on 27 Jun 2011 at 7:58 am

    Hey B.Mac, I sent you the document I wanted you you to look ok? I would really like some feedback. But I’d like to apologize if there are any grammatical errors. See sometimes I get a little over zealous and send out things before I spell check them. So sorry. But please take your time, I can wait.

  75. B. Macon 27 Jun 2011 at 9:55 am

    “I’d like to apologize if there are any grammatical errors.” Eh, don’t worry about it. There was only about one typo per page, which is perfectly fine for a relatively casual document. When it comes time to submit a script and proposal to publishers, though, I’d recommend proofreading aggressively (particularly the portions of the script that will actually be printed in the comic book).

  76. Comicbookguy117on 27 Jun 2011 at 10:41 am

    So you did get a chance to read it?

  77. Comicbookguy117on 27 Jun 2011 at 10:59 am

    Please forget the above post.

    I sent you a reply ok B.Mac?

  78. JVKJRon 13 Jun 2013 at 3:43 pm

    1. In regards to Eragon, the first book was cliched, but I’d still say it was enjoyable. I’d rank it four out of five (as a reader). Second book? 2.5. It was still okay, but Eragon’s cousin stole the spotlight- after a while I really didn’t care what Eragon was doing, I just wanted to know what his cousin was doing. Book three: 2. I didn’t even read book four.
    Back to what I meant to ask, what about ebooks?

  79. B. McKenzieon 13 Jun 2013 at 5:18 pm

    If you can get people to BUY ebooks, it’d probably work out well — the marginal cost per sale is almost negligible, so theoretically profits could grow out of control if you had 100,000+ buyers. In actuality, I think convincing people to buy an ebook is quite challenging (even more so than for a printed book). I’ve had maybe something like 900,000 online readers and have managed to convince maybe .1-.2% of them to buy a copy of my movie review anthology/writing guidebook.

    Among other obstacles:

    –I’m guessing less than 25% of my audience has a Kindle, and I’m pretty much dead with the other 75%.

    –Ebooks have virtually zero appeal to prospective customers who don’t have the appropriate e-reader. Most people without the reader (a Kindle in this case) assume they can’t read a Kindle book, even though Amazon actually offers a free download for reading Kindle files on a computer (whether you own a Kindle or not).

    –Ebooks have no resale value and cannot be bought used. It’s generally cheaper to get the paperback.

    –It is exceptionally hard to sell books to readers younger than, say, 18. For one thing, they don’t have credit cards, which is a major (though theoretically surmountable) obstacle to a sale.

    –Get ready for a lot of people to complain about the cost, whatever it is. $10 scares away a lot of readers. In contrast, companies value business writing a **** of a lot more than individual readers value books… E.g. “Fiction Machinery, we have increased your industrial machinery sales by $1 million in the last month by optimizing several key pages. Your return on investment is over 1000% profit. Please see your attached invoice for editorial labor at $200/hour”). (Granted, most of that goes to the agency rather than the writer, but it still tends to works out far better for the writer).

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