Publishing Online

by L. Lee Lowe
(Koenigswinter, Germany)

Mortal Ghost

Mortal Ghost

L. Lee Lowe self publishes by online serialisation, followed by PDF file, and podcasts.

She is the author of the YA fantasy novel Mortal Ghost, short stories, and the forthcoming YA SF/F novel Corvus.

She blogs as well.

When I first began serialising Mortal Ghost, I was fresh from a bitter experience with my former agent, most of which had to do with my own naiveté and misconceptions about publishing.

Like many - or perhaps almost all - online writers, I hoped that the internet would open a portal to instant recognition and, preferably, a book contract. Within a short time it became obvious that I would do better with a lottery ticket, but odd as it may seem, this very realisation furnished me with the courage to continue.

I began to grasp that publishing, particularly corporate publishing, isn't the magic bullet it appears to the Great Unpublished.

The appeal of writing and publishing online

Go into any bookshop and survey the thousands and thousands of volumes on the shelves. It's a depressing experience, for most of the books will disappear within months - largely unread - despite the fact that each book represents at least a year, and in many cases years, of a writer's life.

Validation can take many forms, and though I enjoy praise as much as the next person - and certainly wouldn't disdain a bit of extra cash - it's the struggle with defiant, obstreperous, dangerous, wonderful words which keeps me going.

I write slowly and painfully, dragging each sentence into the light of day, then weighing and revising and mostly swearing as I try to get it right. I suppose that at heart I'm a failed poet - failed because I lack the essential poetic sensibility.

So has publishing online been worth it? Not if you're looking for money. Not if you're looking for literary renown or prizes. Not if you're looking to be asked to contribute reviews to The Guardian or The New York Times. Not if you're looking towards Hollywood. Not if you're looking to speak at literary festivals and conventions.

But I happen to be one those odd people who value their independence. There is a great freedom in publishing online - most of all, the freedom to fail.

And I've been quite shocked to discover that there have been more than 10,000 podcast downloads to date, and anywhere between 50 and 100 PDF downloads of Mortal Ghost per day, in addition to those who read online. Naturally, not every download represents a reader, but I think this is a good start for a writer.

I have no regrets at all, particularly because I'm very aware of the flaws of this, my first novel. Also, because I take great pleasure in seeing that many of my readers live in parts of the world where a printed book, whether conventionally published or self-published, wouldn't - or couldn't - reach.

Many people claim they prefer the print artifact to the electronic edition of a book, but I have no doubt that in time both forms will co-exist. There will always be those who prefer to curl up in bed or soak in the bath with a paperback, but the convenience of e-books, once a cheap and efficient e-reader becomes available, will also find its proponents.

A search function alone, particularly for nonfiction, will win over skeptics.

And you'd be surprised how many people tell me they like sneaking a look at Mortal Ghost while at work, where an open paperback might be rather too obvious!

Read what Lee has published online.

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Jan 16, 2008
Online Publishing: Gimme those readers!
by: Steve B.

Lee, your priorities shine through! The purest writers want eyeballs (or even Deutschmarks), over $.

Your numbers are impressive. (Why do you assume not all downloads are readers? Why wouldn't every downloader at least be giving the book a try?) They're also a reminder that a substantial online presence is key to online viewership. Tiny sites, tiny audiences!

Thanks so much for letting everybody know there are other ways to go about this.

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