Browsing the archives for the tradpub tag.
Subscribe via RSS or e-mail      


My Never-Ending Project Is Now Finished

Luc's writing projects

Talk the Talk 2006

My First Published Book–and Publisher Problems
My first published book was Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures, a dictionary of and guide to subculture slang in the U.S., appearing in bookstores in 2006. I received a small advance and an education in traditional publishing. My publisher’s royalty statements tended to be late when they came at all, and they didn’t appear to be very consistent or accurate. Eventually the publisher put out an entire separate printing, a hardcover version, that they neglected to mention to me–or pay me for. I didn’t know about it until I walked into my local bookstore and saw a bunch of copies of my own book. “Hardcover?” I said. “This was never released in hardcover!” Of course, it had been.

I did eventually get paid some of those royalties, but as the book came to the end of its life cycle and it started appearing on bargain tables, I turned my thoughts to rights reversion. Reversion is when a publisher assigns all of the rights for future editions of the book back to the writer, whether due to a prior arrangement, out of the goodness of their hearts, or perhaps as a peace offering to a writer whose book they have published in a separate hardcover edition without his knowledge or permission. Whatever the reason, Kindle books were starting to make a splash, and I wanted to make a proper Kindle edition of Talk the Talk.

The publisher did, kindly enough, agree to revert the rights for the book to me, and I started on an updated edition that I could release in paperback and for Kindle, figuring that I could probably have it out in a month or two.

Out with the old
Two and a half years later, I’m finally finished with that new edition: after a long time spent editing, updating, programming, formatting, checking, and tweaking, and with a cover based on a design very kindly donated by my talented artist cousin Nicholas, I’ve approved the proof, and the book is available for order.

The new edition is Talk the Talk in as ideal a form as I can imagine. The original edition was beautifully designed, with a sort of Soviet Rodeo aesthetic throughout and I thought it was very snazzy, but unfortunately it was also difficult to read and wasteful of space. Because of that design, I had to cut out a lot of material out from the original edition. I was also concerned that it wasn’t too comfortable to read in large sections (for people who wanted to do that), however pretty the design was.

interior of the original 2006 edition

interior of the original 2006 edition

In the new edition, I’ve dispensed with the Soviet Rodeo design (which I probably wouldn’t have had the rights to use anyway) and made the book much clearer and more comfortable to read. I restored a bunch of material that I’d had to cut out of the original, and removed a section the editor had really wanted that I didn’t feel belonged in the book because it was more popular culture than subculture (I’ve made the original version of that section, on hip hop slang, available for free on the book’s Web site at www.subculturetalk.com). I added some new sections on subcultures like geocachers and scrapbookers and painstakingly sourced and included well over a hundred photographs illustrating people, concepts, and items from the many subcultures in the book.

Talk the Talk 2nd editionThe old edition is 5″ x 7″ and 422 pages. The new edition, which I really like, is 5.25″ x 8″ and 620 pages. The ebook is much less expensive than the original, and the paperback costs a little more than the original did.

Shouldn’t I Feel Triumphant Now?
Completing the book doesn’t feel real to me yet. It’s true, I didn’t work consistently the whole two and a half years just on editing, expanding, illustrating, and formatting this book–but I did spend many months at all of that work. Everything took much longer than expected. Once the Kindle eBook was finally ready in January, I figured it would be a walk in the park to use the database system I had created for the book (which automatically managed cross-references, synonyms, indexing, and alphabetization) to output a paperback version. Many, many working hours later, I realized it wasn’t so simple: I needed to spend a lot of time defining and perfecting formatting for all of the different kinds of information in the book, including “see also” terms, synonyms, warning symbols, terms, definitions, examples, photographs, subculture introductions, table of contents, index entries, photo credits, and a lot more. Also, I was very, very picky: I tried to do everything in the best way I could devise.

There had briefly been a Kindle edition of the first edition put out by my original publisher: someone there had apparently forgotten to tell someone else that the rights had reverted to me, and they had just dumped their original layout into a file that made a terrible eBook. I contacted the proper authorities when that appeared and had it taken down, partly because they no longer had a right to publish the book and partly because I thought their electronic version was a mess.

Thew edition, however, has been available for Kindle since January, and the paperback went up for sale today; it will start appearing on Amazon next week.

It’s Hard to Stick With Hard Work
I tried starting several new projects while working on this book, but after a short time on each I always forced myself to stop and go back to finishing Talk the Talk. After all, the book was already “finished,” money lying on the table ready for me to scoop it up–at least, that was the idea. In any case, if I’m going to commit to a project, it doesn’t make sense for me start conflicting projects, no matter how appealing they may be, and no matter how much drudgery needs to go into the current project. Trying to do two such projects at once would only delay both of them. Still, from all of my other writing during this period I now have two mostly-completed non-fiction books in progress, a novel I started and set aside, and many completed short projects (flash fiction, short stories, and plays), some of which were published or produced in this period. I also published a collection of science fiction and fantasy short-short stories called Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories and a previously completed novel set in my native Vermont, Family Skulls.

Was This a Good Choice?
I’m proud I stuck with Talk the Talk, but it may have been stupid to do so. After all, the amount of work I had to put into the new edition was hugely more than I expected. I’ll have to sell at least a thousand copies to be adequately compensated for all the time I put into just this edition, and that’s getting nothing yet for the value of the book as it existed in the first edition.

When I started, I can’t imagine how I could have known how much labor was going to have to go into releasing this second edition. Given what I didn’t know, the choice to go ahead was obvious. If I had known the amount of work involved, I’m not sure I would have proceeded. Fortunately, I can enjoy having the book out in this form now regardless of how much time and effort it took.

Will I Be Able to Sell It On My Own?
I do have a promotion plan, one that’s quite different from what I’ve done with other books to which I own all rights, but it’s kind of hit-or-miss: it might bring many, many new readers or fail utterly. After all, I don’t have the ins that my previous publisher has. If you have any recommendations for reviewers, magazines, Web sites, or radio shows that might enjoy the book, please comment or contact me through the contact form. If the book gets extra exposure because of you, I’ll send you a free, signed copy.

interior spread from a digital proof of the 2nd edition

interior spread from a digital proof of the 2nd edition – click to enlarge

To my great frustration, the original publisher never sent the book to any reviewers or promoted it as anything other than a writer’s reference. It is a useful reference for writers, but I’d argue that it has even greater value as a surprise-packed thing to browse through for fun; Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing.net agreed, calling it “The kind of quirky thing that is endlessly fascinating and full of odd insights into worlds you never suspected existed.” Still, they did get it into bookstores and offer it through their book club, and by my best guess (recall that the royalty statements had some problems, so I will never know for sure) they probably sold about 10,000 copies–no amazing feat, but the book earned a good deal more than its advance, even though by my reckoning they never paid me some of the money I was due.

What have I gained?
I think there’s some real benefit in having seen the project through to the end, even if the payoffs turn out to be greatly diminished (they might) and although the work was many times longer and harder than I had planned or expected (which it certainly was). What I’ve learned through years of studying motivation and productivity has paid off well in helping me finish this project, and now I can reap whatever rewards may come: I know that I’ve persevered and conquered a difficult task. I know that this strange and arguably fascinating little book won’t vanish, out of print and inaccessible. I can even hope that the book finds a real audience–whether of original readers who want the updated and improved edition, new folks who never saw the original, or both–and that it will actually start helping support my family, as the small advance I received from the original publisher did in 2005 and 2006.

Most amazingly to me, I can now move ahead to my next book project with a clear conscience. Ironically, it’s very likely that finishing these next two nonfiction books, which are each probably somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 complete, will take less time for both together than Talk the Talk: The Slang of 67 American Subcultures, 2nd edition did for the one book. Heck, I probably could have completed a couple of novels in the time it took to revise and put out this book, especially since I could only work in certain situations due to the need to use the database I’d set up. The idea of just writing in a Word Processor is intoxicating–although both of the non-fiction books, as with most of my large non-fiction projects, are in Scrivener, which is not quite as accessible as, say, Google Docs.

It’s strange that completing a major project should feel more like something I need to recover from than something to celebrate. Still, maybe I’ll start connecting with some new readers, in which case there may be a celebration after all, a little further down the line.

No Comments

Three Pillars of Writing Success for Any Publishing Environment

eBooks and Publishing

This piece originally appeared in April 2011 as part of my Futurismic column “Brain Hacks for Writers”

Lately I’ve been looking, for the sake of my sanity, for some principles of writerly success that I can really depend on. These are a tad elusive when the publishing world is being shaken up by the complete redefinition of self-publishing and the whole eBook thing. I don’t know about you, but I look at all this and say “Hey, how am I going to make a living as a writer in this mess–or even just find a readership–when we don’t even know what the publishing world will consist of in five years?”

Uncertainty is a terrible motivator.

Comfortingly, I think we can distill a few principles that apply to virtually anyone who wants to write and be read, whether on paper or screen, selfpub or tradpub. They are

  1. Be passionate about what you write
  2. Focus your efforts
  3. Grow your long-term readership

Why do these matter? Because as long as you’re doing these three things, your writing career is going in the right direction, and as soon as you stop doing them, your writing career is in danger.

Be passionate about what you write

We already know that to be successful in writing, you have to write a lot. To take it a step further, I suggest that we need to write a lot and love the work we’ve chosen.

There are two ways to do this, and most of us need both: First, there’s being captured by the project, getting excited about starting it. Second, there’s taking a project you’re already working on and finding things in it that make you eager to keep diving into it.

The initial lure of the project is something I know all too well: I love to start things. The opportunity, the promise, the creativity, the fact that I haven’t screwed anything up yet–it’s easy to get excited about something I’m not working on. But it’s also important, because if you can’t get excited about your own work, how likely is it that your readers will? I imagine you’ve heard that nugget of wisdom before from more authoritative sources, but it’s a good nugget.

Re-infusing excitement is essential for most of us too, because virtually every long-term project seems to have its ups and downs. Maybe you’ve gotten to a point where your story has gone off track, or you’ve begun to question whether your whole idea wasn’t stupid in the first place, or you’ve just lost enthusiasm for rewriting the damn thing a third time.

This column isn’t about the specific ways to renew that passion (though there are a lot of specific tools for that in my eBook The Writing Engine: A Practical Guide to Writing Motivation). This is just a reminder that not having that passion makes it very difficult to keep coming back and cranking out the words, and without passion it can feel pointless even when you do crank out the words. Passion isn’t everything, but it makes a hell of a difference.

Focus your efforts

The topic of focus brings us back to my “oh, I thought of a great new project!” problem. Running off after every charming new story idea, or writing a book but not cleaning it up to submit, or not sending stories back out after they’ve been rejected, or spending all your time writing for your blog and none on your books–all of these are symptoms of unfocused effort. Focused effort means knowing what your most important writing goals are and sticking with them until you’ve seen them through. This is essential whether you need to crank out words, submit query letters, promote selfpubbed eBooks, or anything else. If you’re just writing to write, that’s great as long as you don’t care about getting anything published or read, but if you want readers and completed projects, don’t let your head get turned by other projects–and don’t let your concern that something might be rejected prevent you from sending it out there over and over until it finds a home or until you’ve proven conclusively that it doesn’t have one.

I will be sure to come back and harp on this point some more once I’ve mastered it myself.

Grow your long-term readership

This item is the one that has the most to do with your career as distinct from your writing, whether you’re just looking to get an occasional story published, are trying to go (or stay) full-time, or are shooting to break the bestseller lists. If the things you are doing outside writing itself pay off well in terms of connecting you with more people who will want to read your work for a long time, then they are good as long as they don’t hog too much of your writing time. Any writing-related activities that don’t serve that purpose need to be considered for possible elimination.

So working really hard on rewriting that dragon porn novel that you intend to publish under a one-time pseudonym is a fail on this front: even if it becomes very popular, unless you intend to cultivate that pseudonym and write more dragon porn, it’s a career fail. So is spending an hour a day on Twitter if your followers are interested in you because you are dutifully retweeting news items instead of in ways that would get them interested in your writing. Publicity is useless if it doesn’t build up a sustained following of people who are interested in you and what you write. This is one reason begging for retweets and commenting across the Internet with pleas to buy your new book is as unhelpful as it is degrading.

But selling a book to a traditional publisher, or self-pubbing a book that you are really excited to continuously get word out about, or maintaining a snarky blog about fashion when you write snarky chicklit, or pushing to get foreign rights to your latest novel sold–these are all getting your name out to people who are interested in you because of what you write and who you are, people whose reading needs you can help satisfy and who can support your career. Successful promotion, like successful livestock breeding, pays off for everyone involved.

photo courtesy of Ann Arbor District Library

1 Comment

Finding Your Place in Tradpub versus Selfpub

eBooks and Publishing

Writing for publication has always been tricky–not to mention challenging, exhausting, unpredictable, and demoralizing. Still, for many years at least the path was clear:

  1. You write a book.
  2. You submit the book to publishers and/or agents.
  3. Agents and/or publishers either do or (much more often) do not express interest.
  4. If there’s interest and you’re lucky, you cut a nice deal with someone.
  5. Your book gets released, and it sells badly, decently, well, or ridiculously well.
  6. Depending on your sales, you’re then either able to sell additional books more easily or else you have to go back to the drawing board, possibly with a pseudonym so that bookstores won’t be prejudiced against stocking your titles given your underwhelming performance under your own name.

It was never half as thrilling as the daydreams we have of writing a bestseller that the critics praise to the skies (though even that can backfire: see my comments on Harper Lee in “The Courage to Suck” ).

You could say that none of the above has changed–after all, there are still agents and publishers, and the steps are still about the same with them as they have been for a number of decades. At the same time, there’s this new thing, the eBook self-publishing approach.

Self-publishing used to be easy for me to understand: I’d decided it was mainly for people who couldn’t make it in traditional publishing or didn’t want to put up with rejection after rejection, who wanted the quick and easy path to becoming “a published author” even if it meant shelling out cash instead of getting paid for writing and not having a real readership. It was also for the niche writer who had an audience too small to interest big publishing houses but whose topic and readers were clearly-defined enough that the book could be sold directly.

For someone who has always aspired to writing for large audiences, to me the upshot was that [self-publishing==failure]. It was utterly to be avoided.

The game changes
But then came Print On Demand and Lulu and CreateSpace, and after that came the Kindle. Suddenly the possibility opened up that writers could publish their work to a potentially wide audience with very little trouble or cost. For instance, let’s say I had a modestly successful novel that went out of print a few years ago but that still had loyal fans. If the rights had reverted to me, either through a request to the publisher or though an automatic operation based on how my contract was set up, there was no real barrier to republishing it for the Kindle, and some people out there–an increasing number of whom would have Kindles–might be looking for it and end up buying it. One of my friends has done just this, parlaying a series whose traditional publisher had utterly failed to market properly into ongoing Kindle and POD sales that are providing him a full-time income. The books are making a good deal more selfpubbed than they ever did on bookstore shelves.

Or you might be one of those authors with an established following who decides to publish directly for readers who already know your work, like J.A. Konrath; or even an unpublished writer whose Kindle books catch on with readers to become Kindle bestsellers, like Amanda Hocking.

(Of course there are other places–BN.com, Google Books, Smashwords, and so one–where you can publish your eBook, and you can publish through Print on Demand technology in addition to or instead of eBooks, but Kindle sales are driving this revolution, so I’m focusing on those.)

Two roads diverged in the Interwebs
The point is, there’s now an almost completely new, second career path option available to writers. What are we supposed to make of this? J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking are making boatloads of money on their eBooks, but the vast majority of people who have self-published eBooks are selling very few or no copies*. Most of the time, ePublishing your book gets it to about as many people as would read it if it were only available in the form of photocopied manuscripts hidden under an old rug in your basement.

This makes self-ePublishing–I’ll call this “selfpubbing” for short, even though selfpubbing can include Print on Demand books too–both an incredible source of motivation and an incredible source of disappointment. You can selfpub your just-finished or multiply-rejected novel, novella, novelette, short story, collection, or poetry book for free in just a few hours, if you can put together a cover and follow the formatting requirements. Within a day or so, searching for your name on Amazon will bring up an actual (e)book that people can actually buy! Books that have merit but are difficult to categorize, books that were too long or too short or too much like a book that just came out or not enough like a book that just came out can be published and have their chance to find a readership.

Of course, if you just publish the eBook and wait for the cash to pour in with no promotion, as I suspect most selfpubbers do (and I’m not counting repeated pleas on Facebook and Twitter for friends to buy the thing as promotion), you’re likely to be disappointed. If, however, you get reviews and get people to blog about your book, give interviews, find newsworthy angles and pitch them to news outlets, get mentions from people much more famous than yourself, and so on, then at least your book has a chance of reaching someone, and ideally it will reach a lot of someones, and those someones will love it and refer it to a lot of other someones. Unless you’re famous through some other means, you can’t launch a book to success all by yourself, but you can if more famous people or more far-reaching media take up your cause, or if you get readers excited and they start spreading the word.

Wait–why am I still in Kansas?
It’s always possible, of course, that you’ll exhaust yourself in promotional efforts and get nowhere–a few people will buy your book, hardly anyone will review it, and the moment you start to rest all interest and sales will vanish. Does this mean that you’re an awful writer? Or that you’re not cut out for selfpubbing and should stick to the tradpub approach? Or that you just need more promotion? Or different promotion? Or that you should be writing different books? How do you know when to put time into writing and when to put time into social media or contacting bloggers or buying Google AdWords?

There’s no way to tell for certain. If your books don’t sell, your writing may indeed be nowhere near good enough (yet) for people to want to read it. Or it could be spectacular, but you may be no good at promotion. Or maybe the writing and the promotion are great, but your book isn’t packaged properly: the title and/or cover and/or price and/or supporting information are wrong.

A selfpub experiment
Let me give you an example: about six months before this writing, I selfpubbed a collection of 172 flash fiction pieces called Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories , which like most collections, sold very lightly. A few months later I got around to putting out a 99 cent sampler that included stories from Bam! plus one new story as a bonus: this I called 17 Stories About the End of the World. A while back, as an experiment, I dropped the price of Bam! to 99 cents, so that the sampler and the full book cost the same despite one having ten times as much content as the other.

The result was downright weird: the sampler has been outselling the full collection by a margin of five to one. At the same price. Through the same venues. That’s the shorter book selling better, now.

To me, this is a clear demonstration of the importance packaging and presentation: clearly people are much more interested in “here are some stories about the world ending! (by some guy you’ve probably never heard of)” than they are in “here are some stories that are awfully short (by some guy you’ve probably never heard of)”. Or they might prefer the sampler’s cover (which I started but which was greatly improved by my friend Elise Catherine Tobler).

So what am I doing? A new experiment: I’ve broken out the book into nine separate samplers like My Friend in Hell and Other Very Short Stories and 19 Very Short Stories of Talking Animals with Serious Issues, which I’ve just released as of this writing. I’ve upped the price of the collection to $2.99, in part to help people who buy the samplers feel like they’re not overpaying by comparison. At the very least, this should tell me whether my End of the World book is a fluke or not, and provide me with some fascinating (to me, anyway) sales information. What kinds of stories will turn out to interest readers the most? [Later update: none of the other samplers did nearly as well as the End of the World one, and I eventually removed them. I suspect the continued relative success of 17 Stories About the End of the World is due partly to the topic and partly to the cover. I’ve tried to coax Amazon to make the sampler free, but they are not biting so far.]

Selfpub isn’t working! What now?
But enough of my example. If you’ve tried selfpub and you’ve tried self-promotion and you haven’t made significant sales, you have three choices.

  1. Choice number one is to relax and keep doing what you’re doing. Statistically, it’s likely that things will stay the same as they are and you’ll never see significant sales, although things could begin to pick up over time, especially if you’re doing some kind of promotion. If you’re writing for the love of writing alone and don’t much care about income or audience, this approach may be for you.
  2. Choice number two is to become a combination economic researcher and marketing maven. Try different covers. Try different pricing, different promotional methods–even different kinds of books.
  3. Choice number three is to say “screw this” and go back to tradpub, which may not welcome you back with open arms, but which probably wasn’t throwing itself at you before, so you probably haven’t lost any ground.

They’re all legitimate choices. My suggestion in choosing among them is finding the method that gets you fired up. If you thrill to an “almost, but not quite” rejection letter (they’re a lot better than a form rejection!) or start feeling queasy when you think of having to dive into Twitter every morning, maybe your path is to be published traditionally. That’s also probably the way to go if you’re not sure of the quality of your own work. It’s all too easy to selfpub something just because it’s finished without really knowing whether it’s any good or not (see “Your Opinion and Twenty-Five Cents: Judging Your Own Writing“).

If on the other hand, you want to embrace social media but can do so without frittering away all of your writing time on Facebook, and if you’ve gotten enough clear feedback from people who aren’t your mother to know that your writing works for people sometimes, then maybe selfpub is worth a whirl.

Or you could go both ways
Or you may be like me, pushing projects on both tracks at the same time while simultaneously sending out short stories for good measure. I don’t especially recommend this approach because it dilutes my efforts, slowing me down in every direction because I’m constantly exerting effort on several things at once. But then, this approach excites me, and I have a hell of a lot of energy. Ultimately I’m probably slowing down my overall progress, but at least I’m having fun doing it, and I’m moving forward.

I’d suggest that it’s much less a business decision than a decision of the heart. We’re lucky enough, at this point in history, to have at least two viable ways to make a living writing narrative fiction. Choosing the one that makes you excited to write will not only get you writing more, but will get you working more toward finding your audience–and I’ve yet to find a writer who complains about being too industrious at either.

If you’re interested in seeing what I have on offer for the Kindle, here are the titles I currently have available:

[ *My estimates of typical Kindle sales are based on comparing Amazon sales rankings for the total range of Kindle offerings to the rankings of eBooks for which I know specific sales figures through discussions with the authors and experience regarding my own books. ]

This article is reposted from my Futurismic column “Brain Hacks for Writers.”

Photo by Fabio Said

1 Comment

An Introduction to eBook Publishing

eBooks and Publishing

A friend recently e-mailed me and asked me for some general background on eBook publishing. My answer went on for quite some time (maybe too long), but it covered a lot of basics. If you’re interested in learning about what possibilities eBooks offer to writers, you can read the cleaned-up version of that answer below.

Selfpub vs. tradpub
First, there’s the question of traditional publishing versus self-publishing, what I’ve been calling tradpub vs. selfpub, which is a very different comparison than it was even a few years ago: there are now authors (many of them already published through a traditional publisher, but others only self-published) who are getting substantial readership for their books through selfpubbing eBooks, sometimes along with a paper version (often through CreateSpace), but often not. eBook readership has grown so much and people who own eReaders are so hungry for content these days that it’s entirely possible to build a substantial career without even dealing with paper books any more.

However, the surest path to substantial eBook sales seems to be having already become popular (or at least modestly successful) through a traditional publisher.

In evaluating which route to go, you might be interested in reading “Two Roads Diverged in the Interwebs: Finding Your Place in Tradpub versus Selfpub” and/or “Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing (‘Indie Publishing’) Breakdown.”

eBook stores and venues
Amazon.com leads the way with eBooks, and in virtually all cases authors I know are selling far more books through Amazon than through Barnes and Noble or Smashwords, the other two most substantial options. Many publish on Amazon for the Kindle only. Of those I know who have published for other formats, only a very few seem to be getting compensated enough for it to be worth the trouble. However, it’s hard to predict whether or not these other formats will begin to grow a lot in the foreseeable future. My general perception is that Amazon is making all the right moves and other companies are struggling without much success to catch up.

Amazon and other ePublishers generally pay the author a much higher royalty than traditional publishers. If a traditional publisher is publishing your eBook, you’ll probably get something on the order of a 25% royalty, while Amazon offers 70% for books in the $2.99 to $9.99 price range. However, traditional publishers can get reviews of your book in venues that don’t review self-published books and have other promotional advantages, so it’s certainly possible to earn more through having an eBook tradpubbed, though in other cases the higher selfpub royalty makes that the more profitable choice.

Tradpub limitations
Tradpubbed eBooks tend to be more expensive than selfpubbed ones, $9.99 vs. $.99 to $4.99 being fairly typical prices, though there is a lot of variation.

Some traditional publishers are being very greedy and/or underhanded in attempting to grab electronic rights, so it’s important to be cautious with publishing contracts these days. Even some agents are attempting similar shenanigans. With that said, of course there are a number of good and ethical people in publishing, too.

Formatting eBooks
When formatting an eBook for publication, the process is not especially difficult, but there are a few hoops to get through. While other possibilities are available, the best way to deliver your book to Amazon or another eBook selling venue is often either HTML (with certain limitations) or EPUB (the most popular standardized eBook format, which Kindles don’t read but which Amazon does allow you to use for your upload). There are a variety of tools out there that can help in this process, for instance Atlantis (a word processing program with special import and export capabilities), Sigil (a WYSIWYG eBook editor), and Calibre (an eBook reader, library manager, and converter), all free programs. Alternatively, you can pay someone to prepare your book for you. Traditional publishers, of course, do this part for you.

Smashwords has its own, very specific format for uploading books, which is somewhat burdensome, but which allows them to publish in a wide array of formats and to offer books for the Sony eReader, Apple iPhone/iPad, and other players in the eBook world whom you won’t reach through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Some eBook formats have DRM (digital rights management); for example, Amazon offers this as an option for all eBooks they publish. If you opt to have DRM, then readers may have trouble reading your book or transferring it legitimately under certain circumstances. If you opt not to have DRM, then it’s all easy as pie, but it also means that any computer literate reader can copy your book and do anything they like with it.

Cover design
Another important concern if you’re selfpubbing is the cover, which while it may not be very important on the eReader itself is a key part of the marketing of the book. The quality or lack of quality in the cover design may make a big difference with potential readers and purchasers in terms of judging how well the book is likely to be written, how interesting it might be, etc. There can be a lot to consider in creating covers, but if this gets overwhelming and/or if you have zero graphic design skills, this too can be hired out.

Promotion
The last essential thing to take into account in selfpubbing an eBook is promotion. If you simply post the book, few people will know of it or hear about it unless you’re already famous. Traditional advertising methods (like taking out display ads, for instance) don’t seem to work well for most books; the more successful approaches tend to involve things like getting people to review the book, talking the book up in visible places on the Web, participating in social media, giveaways, etc. In the best cases, word of mouth takes off and readers begin encouraging other readers to get it, in time.

The great majority of people who selfpub eBooks sell virtually no copies. Some of us sell regularly but not in great quantity. A small but not impossibly small number make a substantial income from them. For an extreme example, see “Some Reasons for Amanda Hocking’s Success.”

Photo by ntr23

No Comments

The Ideal Publisher

eBooks and Publishing

As accounts grow of publishers both attempting to grab rights from authors without appropriate compensation and misreporting sales (for instance, see Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s series The Business Rusch, though I will say that I’ve had personal experience with both of these issues), I have to say I’m nervous about the possibility of working with a traditional publisher again. At the same time, while selfpubbing is certainly making a splash and is working very well for some authors and some projects, in other cases it doesn’t yet seem to me an adequate replacement for tradpub.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a daydream with you, a daydream of a kind of large-sacle publisher that could and should exist and thrive in the brave new world of publishing. My thinking is that such a publisher will have a different emphasis and approach than traditional publishers and will develop value and market share through 1) cultivating unusually good relationships with authors and 2) an unusually sophisticated understanding of new technologies for delivering and communicating about books.

I would love to see one or more of the current major publishing companies turn into what I describe here, or one or more small publishers grow big in this way– but so far, I’m not optimistic.

Here are the five things we’d need to see in an ideal post-eBoom publisher, other than (of course) excellent choices in what to publish (good filtering and quality control is always valuable). Some publishers are doing some of these things already: certainly there are good companies out there who are acting with integrity toward both authors and readers. As far as I know, though, no big publisher is ringing all these bells yet.

1. Doesn’t hog rights
It seems perfectly reasonable for publishers to buy specific electronic rights from authors for specific compensation. However, trying to get electronic rights thrown in with print rights for nothing, underpaying for electronic rights, trying to seize all electronic rights that may ever exist, trying to seize any rights in perpetuity, trying to seize any rights without compensation to the author, or sitting on rights like sequels and foreign sales without exercising them in a way that the author gets properly paid–all of these approaches strike me as reprehensible.

As an aside, I’ll say that I think any similar practices on the part of agents, as well as the practice of some agents (a minority, I hope and believe) trying to secure payment for the author’s future work or projects in which the agent has made no contribution, are also reprehensible. In fact, I’ll go further than that and predict that agents and publishers that persist in perpetrating these predatory practices (apparently the letter of the day is “P”) will fail and be crushed by the juggernaut of change in the publishing world. Sure, there will always be a greasy black residue of predatory agencies and publishing houses, just as there always has been, but it will not be a substantial or wealthy residue, and all it will get from most authors, readers, and honest industry professionals will be scorn.

2. Deals fairly and honestly with authors
This seems like it should be self-evident, but based on what has been going on in publishing lately (and to some extent, for a long time), clearly it needs to be spelled out. The ideal publisher will report sales accurately, transparently, and often; will promptly revert rights it is no longer using; will communicate well with authors; and won’t lie or withhold meaningful information in communications.

The reporting question deserves a side comment: currently the big publishers generally speaking report on sales a couple of times a year in a confusing, printed report that is often incorrect or misleading. There is no reason–and I say this as someone with two decades of professional experience in database development and computerized reporting–why the industry can’t over time move to a more Amazon-like model of live sales reporting, with reasonable allowance for returns and related qualifications. My impression is that the current, inadequate reporting system is kept not only to save the cost of converting to something more informative but because publishers often gain financial advantage by holding back and keeping control of data.

3. Provides both print and electronic editions
Nothing too surprising here: just publish in appropriate media. I don’t see anything wrong with publishing print-only and letting authors selfpub their own eBooks either, but I suspect that large companies that continue to do that will soon go out of business, as so much more income is available in the eBook world.

4. Improves the quality of the book
The ideal publisher will have an editorial hand in a book’s content, at the very least having a competent advocate in the company who really understands the work and its audience. At the other end of the spectrum, the company might do old-school editing of the book to help the writer improve it, but I don’t see this as essential in all cases. If more of the burden of ensuring our writing is good falls to us writers, that doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

The book will also be well-designed, both in print and electronic versions. This includes designing for the right audience: for instance, a writer friend’s historical adventure series was packaged and sold with a young adult cover featuring a hunky model type, giving it a YA historical romance feel. This was a disservice to everyone involved and (I believe) seriously limited sales of the book to its natural readership, which would seem to be primarily adults and teen boys.

The electronic editions will be developed by people who know what they’re doing, and they’ll be carefully proofed before they’re uploaded. Some publishing houses’ idea of an eBook seems to be an automated file conversion that loses important characters and formatting and doesn’t take into account the difference between book and screen. Preparing eBooks for publication isn’t that hard; publishers should take the time to get it right.

5. Puts the majority of their efforts into helping the book find its natural audience
Why, in this day and age, would an author even need a publisher? After all, self-produced eBooks and print on demand editions can work as well for the reader as publishing houses’ offerings if done well.

I think there can be three answers to that question: preparation, design, and reaching readers. Of the those three, skilled professionals (editors, proofreaders, cover artists, book designers, and eBook formatters) can be hired to do the first two; only reaching readers is specialized to the strengths of a publishing house.

Publishing houses already have a leg up in reaching readers, especially insofar as booksellers and review venues will consider a book worth at least a little attention if it’s simply published by a big house. There’s an implication of quality control and investment in the book that makes it automatically non-trivial. But the ideal publishing house will need to go further: it will need to become a company whose primary concern, after acquiring quality writing, is to be masters of promotion and publicity for the purpose of reaching the exact right readers for a particular book. This doesn’t mean large-scale advertising and spamming the world; it means working with the author to create or enhance Internet presence, creating strategically impactful events for the author to participate in, being assiduous in getting books to appropriate review venues, and being masters of every important form of media, from magazine ads to store displays, Twitter to YouTube trailers, author Web sites to signing tours.

When I say that publishing houses need to be exceptional at this task, I don’t mean that they owe every author a huge promotional effort: I only mean that publishing houses should consider it their mission to help make the step from author to readers who want that author’s work, with as little wasted effort and mismatching as possible. That job is tremendously difficult, as complex and variable in its way as writing a good book (and as solidly based on certain key principles). It makes sense that someone should need to specialize in that work and earn a living doing so in a way that will benefit readers, writers, and publishers alike–while potentially keeping good literary agents in business and supplying Hollywood with a steady stream of new material into the bargain.

Will publishers go extinct?
Alternatively, it could be that authors or people they hire will take care of preparation, design and reaching readers. I’m sure there are marketing firms and individual professionals who have the mastery to properly market books without publishers being involved, though I think because publishers invest in a book rather than simply getting paid for promoting it, they’re better-positioned and more credible advocates.

Yet marketers will do in a pinch, which means the ideal publisher isn’t necessary for the ideal publishing experience. It would be more of a pain in the neck for authors to have to coordinate and pay proofreaders, cover artists, book designers, technical personal, marketers, and so on than it would to simply sell the book to a publisher, but DIY for writers can be a financially viable approach. If the ideal publisher doesn’t emerge, publishers as a whole may eventually dwindle to insignificance.

For all I know, the ideal major publishing house exists now–but I haven’t talked with any author who’s seen it, and I talk with a lot of authors. Maybe that’s because some of my suppositions here are wrong–though if so, I don’t see how, and would need you to point it out. You’ll also need to point out anything I missed: as far as I can tell, a large-scale publisher that offers quality books and does the five things above would be an unqualified win. Or maybe I’m right on target, and before long we’ll be entering into a brave new world of ideal publishers–or else no publishers at all.

4 Comments

The Strongbow Publishing Saga: Part II

eBooks and Publishing

Judson Roberts is a former organized crime prosecutor and current full-time writer living in Texas. His series of historical novels set among the Vikings, The Strongbow Saga, was originally published by HarperCollins and is now finding even greater success published through Roberts’ own Northman Books. This Codex Blog Tour interview follows up on an earlier interview about the writing of the books, following the Saga‘s sometimes difficult path through the publishing world and out the other side to readers. It was preceded by part I.

Has it been a great advantage to have an existing readership or fan base for the series? Are there other advantages you felt you had, coming into the self-publishing arena? Any special disadvantages?

This sudden upward jump
When we’re talking about the first two books of the series that were taken out of print by HarperCollins, whose rights reverted back to me, and that I republished myself, I’m not sure to what degree, if any,  having an existing readership or fan base was a measurable advantage. Existing fans of the series who had already read books 1 and 2 aren’t likely to be the purchasers of the new editions of those same volumes. But since they were republished in December, sales of those two books, in their new Kindle editions, have taken off to a really surprising degree─and sales of the Kindle edition of book 3, which HarperCollins still owns the rights to, have increased along with them. So the real question is when I did republish books 1 and 2, self-publishing them myself through Amazon, what has caused this sudden upward jump in sales, after some years of very low figures while the same books were under HarperCollins’ care?

And to be perfectly honest, the answer is that I don’t know. Over the years, the books─and especially Viking Warrior,  book 1 of the series─have accumulated a significant number of 5 star reader reviews on Amazon. I have to think that that strong base of positive reader reviews helps sell the books to new readers. But that doesn’t explain how or why so many potential new readers are now going to the books’ pages on Amazon, where they may be influenced by the reviews there.

“Low e-book prices boost sales”
There are several reader reviews of Viking Warrior that specifically recommend the series to readers who enjoy Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden, two very widely read authors of historical fiction. In recent months Amazon has apparently linked the Strongbow Saga in their search engines and customer recommendations to those authors, plus some other popular historical fiction writers, so I suspect that kind of product recommendation is sending many prospective new readers to the series. And finally, there is the issue of pricing. Like most traditional publishers currently are doing, when HarperCollins owned them they priced the e-book versions of all three books close to the cost of print versions (and the e-book edition of book 3 is still priced that way). Publishers do this because they fear that if they price e-books too low, e-book sales may “cannibalize” sales of print editions, on which the publishers make a majority of their profit. But the conventional wisdom espoused by authors who have considerable experience self-publishing through Amazon and other e-book venues is that lower priced e-books sell much better, and the higher sales volumes generated by low pricing more than compensates for the price differential, particularly when Amazon’s 70% royalty rate to authors is factored in. In accordance with that theory, I priced my new e-book editions low, and the greatly increased sales volume they are experiencing would certainly seem to support the argument that low e-book prices boost sales.

But to reiterate, I really don’t know exactly what factors have raised a series that was given its last rites and declared dead by its original publisher not only back to life but to a new level of popularity that it had never achieved before. Maybe it’s just fate─that would certainly be fitting for a series about the Vikings.

 

In that case, what will be your strategy going forward? Are you just concentrating on the short term for now, or are there things you’re doing for the long-term success of your career, too?

“Long-time fans have been kept waiting too long”
I guess I’d answer that by saying I’m focusing on the short term─meaning by that what I hope to achieve over the course of the next two to three years─but my short term plan should have long term effects. My most immediate goal is to write book 4 of the Strongbow Saga, and publish it myself in e-book and print format. Long-time fans of the series have been kept waiting for the next installment of the story too long, and now that Amazon has made self-publishing such a viable and potentially profitable option for authors, there is no reason to delay further.

“A specialized agent is still needed”
Another short term career goal is to try and get HarperCollins to release the rights to book 3 back to me, so that I will own the entire series. Considering how badly they mismanaged the books, it’s galling that they still control one book in the series. Once I achieve that, I plan to look for an agent who specializes in foreign and subsidiary rights. Although I can now handle getting the series out in English language print and e-book formats─and through Amazon, can sell the English language e-books internationally, reaching markets they’ve previously not been able to touch─I’d still like to make the books available overseas in translated versions, so readers in Europe and other areas can read them in their native languages. I’d like to make audio book editions available, too, and of course would love to see the story on film, if possible. All of those things are the kind of subsidiary rights a specialized agent is still needed for.

Once I finish writing and publishing book 4 of the series, I intend to return to The Beast of Dublin, the stand-alone historical thriller that’s set in Ireland about five years before the Strongbow Saga begins. It sets up a new character who will play a major role in the fifth and final book of the Strongbow Saga, so it needs to be completed, too. At this point in time, I’m leaning toward self-publishing it, too, but so far am willing to keep my options open.

My last career goal, for the short term, is writing book 5, which will wrap up the Strongbow Saga. After that, who knows?

No Comments

The Strongbow Publishing Saga: Part I

eBooks and Publishing

Judson Roberts is a former organized crime prosecutor and current full-time writer living in Texas. His series of historical novels set among the Vikings, The Strongbow Saga, was originally published by HarperCollins and is now finding even greater success published through Roberts’ own Northman Books. This Codex Blog Tour interview follows up on an earlier interview about the writing of the books, following the Saga‘s sometimes difficult path through the publishing world and out the other side to readers. It will be followed by part II this weekend.

I gather there were some publishing problems with the original editions of your Strongbow Saga books, including things like the publisher not sending out any review copies (a major concern!), the covers seeming to suggest a romance rather than a historical adventure, the publisher not picking up the fourth and fifth books, and other issues. Despite these kinds of problems, though, for a long time traditional publishers have been pretty much the only game in town. So what made you feel it was worth putting your full efforts into republishing the books yourself?

Unfortunately your relatively simple question does not have a correspondingly short and simple answer. Let me explain.

The original Viking Warrior cover

“A stealth event”
Initially it was not so much a case of me rejecting traditional publishing as it was traditional publishing rejecting me. As you have very succinctly summarized, I had many problems with HarperCollins, the original publisher of the Strongbow Saga. The way they handled the series—decisions they made, things they did and things they didn’t do—had the practical effect of making the first three books’ publication a stealth event. It’s hard for bookstores, librarians, etc. to become enthused about books and encourage readers to try them if the booksellers and librarians have themselves not heard of them. Since the publication in 2006 of book 1 of the series, Viking Warrior, the series has slowly—very slowly─but steadily developed a devoted fan base, but slow and steady is not a model that traditional publishers consider successful any more. Even before the publisher released book 3, they had pretty obviously decided to abandon the series. But in the original contract I’d signed with the publisher, they purchased not only the right to publish the first three books of the series, but also the right to buy the rest of the series. Book 3, The Road to Vengeance, was published in 2008, but for two years after that the publisher refused to buy the rest of the series, but also refused to release their option on those books.

Sometimes I tend to be stubborn”
Both my primary editor at HarperCollins (who has since jumped ship and moved to another publisher) and my agent─now my former agent─said essentially that they were dumbfounded by the series’ failure to catch on, but that, unfortunately, “these things occasionally happen,” and I should just move on. My agent even told me that given the series’ relative lack of success with HarperCollins, one of the largest publishers, there was virtually no chance that any other publisher would be interested in picking the rest of the series up. Sometimes I tend to be stubborn, though. I was unwilling to give up on a story and characters I’d invested so much of myself in, and had come to care so much about. Plus, by this time I was getting emails every week from readers who had stumbled upon the series, fallen in love with it, and were anxious to find out what was going to happen next to Halfdan. I felt like readers were seeing something in the books that the publisher had missed, and that I owed it to them, and to myself, not to give up.

“A long-term, patient plan”
So I came up with a plan─a long-term, patient plan─to resurrect the Strongbow Saga series. And that original plan was still based on the traditional publishing model. I decided to set as my goal writing a stand-alone thriller, in a historical setting, that would hopefully attract a big publisher, become a best seller (or at least close to it), and develop a large audience of new readers who would be hungry to read more books by me. I would set the thriller in the period and world of the Strongbow Saga, and many of its characters would be from that series, so it would naturally tend to send readers to the series. And that, I hoped, would be enough to interest some traditional publisher in finishing the remaining books of the Strongbow Saga.

My plan became the book-in-progress now titled The Beast of Dublin. It’s set in Ireland around 840 A.D.─five years before the Strongbow Saga begins, and the year when Viking invaders established the armed encampment that eventually grew into the city of Dublin. It’s a complex story that weaves together multiple story lines involving various Viking and Irish characters, and because it sets up part of the eventual final novel of the Strongbow Saga series, in some ways it’s a prelude to the series. The thriller element involves a reworking of the Beowulf legend, with a twist─9th century Vikings would have been very familiar with that story, so when a mysterious creature begins raiding their camp at Dublin and slaughtering their people seemingly at will, they come to fear that a Grendel, similar to the beast that Beowulf fought, is attacking them.

The Beast of Dublin has proved to be a difficult book to write, and two years into it I still have a long way to go before it’s finished. The historical research has been very challenging─available original Irish sources give a confusing, muddled picture of what was happening in Ireland during this period─and trying to coherently tell so many different characters’ stories, from their varied viewpoints, has also been a major learning curve for me. In the meantime, lots of change was occurring in the world of publishing, and with the Strongbow Saga.

“A victim of this shedding process”
The recession hit the publishing industry very hard. As traditional publishers found themselves losing money, they began shedding most of their so-called mid-list authors─ones whose books never reach best seller status, but who have a devoted fan base and sell steady but modest numbers of books─and putting more and more of their efforts into seeking out and investing in books they hoped would be best sellers, which tend to produce rapid pay-offs and profits for publishers. The Strongbow Saga was a victim of this shedding process: during 2009 and 2010, the first two books of the series were taken out of print by the publisher, and a formal decision to drop the series─thereby releasing the option clause on it─was finally made.

“Over seven million new Kindles”
Meanwhile, Amazon, with great prescience, was aggressively moving into the publishing marketplace by carving out for themselves a huge market-share advantage in the, at that time, nascent e-book market. The various ploys and tactics Amazon put into play are too numerous to detail here, but their strategy was, in my opinion, brilliant. Because Amazon’s e-book market share dominance is predicated in part on offering e-books at a substantially lower cost than print versions─something traditional publishers have fought tooth and nail against─it also instituted a policy of trying to persuade authors to bypass publishers altogether and publish their works directly through Amazon, by offering them an incredible 70% royalty rate on e-book sales for books that authors self-published and priced between $2.99 and $9.99 (by contrast, most traditional publishers pay authors royalty rates between 10-15%, sometimes lower, on print editions, and even on e-books, at most 25%). Then, in the fall of 2010, Amazon cut the price of its Kindle e-book reader to $139. During 2010, mostly during the months of October, November, and December, Amazon sold over seven million new Kindles.

For the first half of 2010, e-books were still a pretty insignificant segment of the overall publishing market. Even so, I began to hear stories of authors who were making significant income self-publishing their books─whether previously published books that had reverted back to them, or new books that had never been published─as e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store. At a Novelists Inc. conference in the fall of 2010, I heard one of these authors, J.A. Konrath, talk about his own experiences with Amazon self-publishing, and at the same conference a number of industry executives, including from some of the big, traditional publishers, all agreed that the e-book market was suddenly, rapidly expanding much faster than anyone  in the industry (with the exception of Amazon, of course) had expected. All of the speakers expected a huge surge of e-book sales beginning in January 2011 when the millions of new Kindles being given as Christmas gifts came online.

“As easy as pulling teeth”
After several months of struggling with HarperCollins—the process was about as easy as pulling teeth from someone with tightly clenched jaws─I managed to get the rights to books 1 and 2 of the series, the volumes that had already been taken out of print, reverted back to me. The obvious next step for me to pursue at that point, given what was happening in the publishing world, seemed to be republishing them myself through Amazon as Kindle e-books.

The Saga of The Strongbow Saga continues with the next post, to come.

Photo by kodomut

No Comments

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing (“Indie Publishing”) Breakdown

eBooks and Publishing

I’ve been discussing the relative merits of traditional publishing compared to self-publishing with writer friends for some time now. Self-publishing would not have been something I gave any real thought to a couple of years ago, but the game has clearly changed now that eBooks have kicked into high gear. While eBook quantities sold are still a fraction of physical book quantities, they represent such a different approach to publishing and so much more profit per volume–even when sold at lower prices–that they have become rule-changers both in terms of the economics of publishing and in terms of writing itself. eBooks can easily accommodate varied forms, lengths, and sub-genres; slow sales; and small niche audiences in a way that physical books generally are not able to do to.

But there are many advantages to traditional publishing as well, by which I mean the process of writing a book that can be marketed in bookstores, getting an agent (usually), and selling the book to a publisher, who then produces the book and gets it out to distributors, who in turn get them to bookstores.

“Tradpub” and “Selfpub”
We haven’t needed a special term in the past for traditional publishing, but since the need to distinguish has arisen, I’ve found “traditional publishing” the most comfortable and easiest to communicate. An alternative I like for its brevity is “tradpub.”

A writer friend pointed out that apparently, PublishAmerica has used the term “traditional publishing” in a pejorative way and suggested that “commercial publishing” might be a better term. However, PublishAmerica has some serious credibility issues, and using the term “commercial publishing” for large publishing houses kind of implies that selfpubbing isn’t a business, which in many cases it very much is. Perhaps this argues further for the relatively baggage-less “selfpub” and “tradpub.”

“Self-publishing” is a term that has a bad taste for many professional and aspiring writers, as self-publishing in the past has been a refuge for many, many books that were simply not good enough for traditional publishing, along with a small minority of good books, often ones written for small, niche markets. Again there’s a short version I like, in part because it doesn’t carry all of the baggage of the longer term: “selfpub.” Some people use the term “indie publishing,” and while I find this perfectly acceptable, I don’t often use it myself because it feels like a euphemism, in part because “indie” movies and music tend to involve a group of people, whereas “indie publishing” is generally just a single person publishing his or her own work. As much as I like the idea of an indie author being like an indie filmmaker, I don’t think the comparison is quite apt.

Choosing tradpub or selfpub
These days, the difference between tradpub and selfpub could easily be mistaken for the difference between physical books and eBooks, but thinking this way is misleading, since of course many traditional publishers are beginning to embrace eBook editions (or at least to permit them), while selfpubbers have access to POD (print on demand) services that make their books competitive with other physical books.

Here are some of the advantages of each approach to publication, all from the writer’s point of view. Note that the tradpub section refers to large publishing houses; small press publishers are a bit different.

TRADPUB

  1. Often some promotion is provided by the publisher, including access to review venues, bestseller lists, awards, etc. that won’t include selfpubbed books
  2. Professional design services at publisher’s expense
  3. Sales and fulfillment done by publisher
  4. Book is more reputable with review venues, booksellers, the small percentage of readers who care, etc.
  5. Better pricing and availability of physical books
  6. Sometimes, editing at publisher’s expense
  7. Gatekeeping–the traditional publishing process at its best can prevent books of yours that aren’t ready from being published prematurely, while validating books that are ready.
  8. Sometimes, other rights sell (foreign, film, etc.)
  9. Assured of making a minimum amount of money
  10. Library distribution
  11. Sense of accomplishment and validation
  12. Externally-imposed deadlines helpful to productivity for some writers

SELFPUB

  1. Much quicker time to market
  2. No long period of waiting to see whether or not the book will sell
  3. No agency 15% taken off writer’s income
  4. Much higher royalty rate paid to writer
  5. Accommodates unusual and niche books well
  6. No need to connect with some specific agent’s and editor’s tastes (as well as the marketing department, management, etc.)
  7. Control over process: no covers you hate, no misreporting or non-reporting of royalties from publisher, no unnecessary publisher delays, etc.
  8. Stay in print longer
  9. Rights not tied up or snatched by publisher, as can sometimes happen in non-writer-friendly publishing contracts
  10. Ability to update book after release
  11. Much quicker payment and possibility of steady, comparably reliable income
  12. Much better reporting on sales and money earned
  13. Books can be commercially viable with a significantly smaller readership and/or much slower sales
  14. Satisfaction and confidence arising from self-reliance
  15. No risk of series being canceled before they’re completed
  16. Don’t have to sell the idea of the work; can focus on selling the actual work
  17. Selfpub (especially self-ePublishing) seems to be on the rise, whereas tradpub’s future is uncertain and not rosy: in theory, some publishers might even go out of business between the time they buy your book and the time they intended to publish it
  18. No danger of agent having rights to something they didn’t sell (as happens with certain kinds of unfavorable-to-author agency contracts)
  19. Not constrained or rushed by publisher timelines

I’d offer the caution that the fact that there are more items in the selfpub list doesn’t necessarily mean that selfpub is better; I believe strongly that this depends on the individual writer’s circumstances.

Another caution I’d offer, one that will bear repeating, is that simply because a book is ePublished doesn’t mean anyone will buy it. Based on numerical analysis writers I know have been doing on Amazon, for instance, the great majority of ePublished books are selling very few to no copies. There appear to be a huge number that have never sold at all. In this arena, the confidence of a publisher and the strength of the traditional marketing route offers almost a guarantee of at least a small audience, while selfpub offers nothing at all like a guarantee.

4 Comments


%d bloggers like this: