A new form of publishing: Hobby Publishing

Elvis Elvis

Hobby publishing is a perfectly valid option for the indie. It’s important at this stage that you take a very honest inventory of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Especially if you’re writing fiction. Although much of this site can be equally applied to nonfiction, I focus mainly on fiction because it’s what I write primarily. And also because even most self publishing advocates don’t advocate it.

They say, “Oh, you can’t sucessfully self publish a novel.” Which makes me wonder, what exactly is magic about a novel that you can market nonfiction, but you can’t possibly learn to market fiction? I know of only a few indies who are doing well who do advocate self publishing your own novel. Connie Shelton, being one of them.

Though, when it comes to self publishing, a lot of what is being produced are novels. So maybe now is a good time to figure out why you’re doing this and what you want.

Ask yourself very honestly: Do you want to live and breathe the business aspects of writing? Do you want to constantly be marketing and selling your work? Maybe you do. A large portion of this site assumes that you do.

Do you really want a “writing career?” Be it through self publishing, or finding an agent? If you have a writing career that you’re running under your own imprint, you’re going to be in charge of making sure every aspect of your book gets taken care of. You’ll have to worry about writing, editing, design, interior layout, printing (even if you use POD, that’s still printing), distribution, sales, and marketing. Everything. Whether you hire work out or do it all “in house,” you’re still in charge.

That’s a big job, and not everybody wants it. If you don’t want it, it’s perfectly valid not to get on this treadmill.

The other option for a writing career would be to get an agent, and then a publisher. This is a long and daunting process (the other is long and daunting too.) Once you do get a contract, if you want to have a writing career, you will still be expected to so dales and marketing. In fact, unless you’re a famous person with a built-in platform, you will be expected to do most of your own marketing. You will also be expected to, in most cases for fiction, to write at least a book a year.

A new form of publishing: Hobby Publishing

Most writers have full-time jobs in addition to their writing activities. So if you aren’t deeply invested in being a professional writer, then just don’t be. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer.

Another alternative: Hobby publishing

Have you ever gone bowling? Figure skating? Played softball or the piano? Took up gardening or scrapbooking? When you engaged in those activities did you feel compelled to become a professional at it? Don’t you enjoy bowling as a hobby without needing to be a member of a championship bowling league? You had fun the last time you figure skated, even if you weren’t in the Olympics didn’t you? You get the idea.

So why is writing so tied up in professional publication, and a “career?” To use a similar example, I know people who have bands that perform locally and they do it for fun. They aren’t looking for a recording contract. I know people who do community theatre. They have no desire to go to NY with it, or Hollywood. I know painters who don’t feel compelled to “go pro.”

So what makes writing so different? Writing is an art, like most, that is not complete until it is shared with others.

For a very long time, the only way this could happen, was if that work was deciminated to many people, and the only way that could happen, was through publication. Which was a messy and expensive process.

But the world is different now

Now we have the internet and a massive explosion of technology. If you don’t want to sell your work and build a career, it doesn’t make your writing any less valid to the people who read it. And you can find a small audience without massive headaches or marketing, or having to run a business. You can build a website and put your writing there.

You can write fanfiction and submit your work to one of the many fanfiction boards, where you’ll often times get over a thousand readers for any given story.

You can build a blog and post pieces of your work there.

You can make an ebook as a simple PDF file downloadable from your site. Or if that’s more complexity than you want to deal with, you can upload your words to Smashwords.

You can also podcast, yes, as a hobby. Podcasts are generally free anyway to the listener. So you’ll be among a group of people who are hobby podcasters. Writers often use free podcasts as a marketing tool to help sell their work, but there is nothing to say you can’t just give your work out via podcast for the sake of it.

If you want your book in a print format, it’s a little more complex, but some very inexpensive POD options are Lulu.com or CreateSpace or CafePress. Note, that I do not recommend these options if you are wanting to sell your work to a larger audience as a business model. But if you just want a few copies for family and friends, or you want to make it available “in case” someone who reads it elsewhere wants it, then these are affordable ways to do it. Just don’t buy all the extra “author services” that lulu offers. Because that’s not your goal if you’re hobby publishing.

Although …

Some people spend a lot of money on their hobbies. So if that floats your boat, go for it. Just don’t expect to make money. If you want to see this as a business and do this as a business, okay, but be honest about it up front so you can plan accordingly. If you’re not sure what you want to do yet, then hobby publishing can be a way to get your feet wet so you can figure out if you want to go deeper.

You may have no intention of turning it into a business but find enough encouraging support for your work, that you become interested in making some money. Either way, just don’t assume that you “have” to have a publishing career and make money writing, or you aren’t a real writer. Because being a “real” writer and being a “professional” writer, are two separate animals. And it’s not necessary to turn every single thing you like to do into a profession.