This last week in self-publishing has left me overwhelmed, but hopeful. After reading a whole bunch of blog posts on the matter, I felt like I needed to layout the pertinent info. It’s helped, and maybe it’ll be useful to someone else!
(why I should self-publish)
From Joe Konrath’s interview with creator of Smashwords, Mark Coker says,
I decided Big Publishing was broken. Big Publishing is in the business of publishing what it thinks it can sell, not what is good. Big Publishers operate in the rear view mirror. They try to acquire books similar to what was selling yesterday, and then they release the book in 12-18 months.
“Commercial potential” is a myopic, misguided and ultimately destructive prism through which to measure a book’s value. Never mind that publishers, despite their best effort, can’t accurately predict which books will become hits. Readers decide that.
Big Publishing is unable to take a risk on every author, and as a result they say no to books readers would want to buy.
I decided the world needed a new approach to publishing, one that was faster, cheaper and more democratized. I realized there was an opportunity to solve this problem with technology. (read the full article here)
Of course publishers want to publish what they think they can sell. Duh, that’s a no brainer. But in my case, that isn’t a very good thing. Unfortunately for me the vampire romance bus has already passed, and that’s what I write. Of course I could try and chase the next big trend, but that goes against the number one writing rule — write what you love. So what are my choices? Two years ago, even a year ago, I would have been stumped. Now I say, why not let readers decide if they like my book or not. They certainly liked Amanda Hocking’s book, didn’t they?
If I don’t consider this option, I’m left playing catch up in the traditional publishing game. Agents and publishers are flooded with vampire stories. I’d be just another fangy story in the slush pile. The following isn’t too promising either,
My agent, Rachelle Gardner, shared some statistics last week. This was one of them: “Queries received in 2010: around 10,000. New clients taken on from query (no referral): 0.”
When I read that statistic, I was shocked. If you read Rachelle’s blog, did the statistic surprise you too?
Think about it. Those 10,000 queries represent approximately 10,000 writers who have dreams of seeing their book in print, who’ve likely spent months on a manuscript, who are desperately seeking a chance at traditional publication.
Out of 10,000 ideas, surely there had to have been a handful–even just a couple–that showed some promise. But Rachelle didn’t take on any new clients from those queries. Of course she took on new clients through other methods (referrals, conferences, blogging, etc.). But NONE through cold querying.(read the full article here)
God, rejection hurts already — and I’m not even at the querying part of my writing journey. I have to admit, self-publishing appeals to that weak, pansy ass, little girl inside of me. The one that is afraid to put herself out there and be told no. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not. On one hand, by going through the rigors of traditional publishing there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that you deserve to be where you are. Or is there? Mark Coker seems to think traditional publishing is a broken and flawed business. So, what if the tide is turning, and readers no longer believe in the stamp of approval on the spine of your book? Will the time it took to get published be worth it?
EDIT: Since I posted this article, I keep finding more support for the self-publishing revolution. But this addition to the compendium is a big one. General numbers from a traditionally published author/agent, Mandy Hubbard,
So here’s the deal: Chances are, you won’t get rich. Chances are, you won’t even quit your day job.
If you write MG or YA, and you sell to a smaller, independent press–but one who still distributes nationally and has most books stocked in B&N and Borders– your advance will probably be in the $2,000-$5,000 range.
if you sell a book to one of the big six publishers, and its a single book deal, and it’s something deemed more quiet or literary, you may see $7,500-$10,000. if it has a bigger commercial hook, but still seems a little risky, you may get $15,000.
These are all very round, very raw numbers, and in no way does that mean that if you have a quiet book and random house offers you’re oging to see $7,500-10K. You could see more, you could see less. We’re just playing with some numbers here of some pretty customary, run of the mill deals.
Now, here’s the thing– advances of these size will generally mean your book will have little to no publicity budget. If you get a $10K advance and its from a big six, it’s likely that your book will be sent to the usual reviewers and put in the catalog, and they may have ARCs on display at the trade fairs or events, but they aren’t going to throw money into a PR campaign. Your book will quietly float or sink on its own merit and your ability to publicize it yourself.
Mandy continues on with numbers for six figure deals (that aren’t six-figures by the time you get to the bank, by the way) and major book deals. It’s really underwhelming, actually. And again, it makes me question, why do I want to do that? There’s more to Mandy’s article, so please visit her blog to read the rest!
Further to what Mark said on Joe Konrath’s blog, in his smashwords blog he’s outright daring the Big 6 to do something about the uprising he says is coming. Mark says what big publishers did for authors 10 years ago, authors can do for themselves today. And therein lies the success to self-publishing, I think. With twitter, facebook, blogging, and some hard work you can effectively launch a self-promotion campaign with little to no money. It’s a self-serve world out there.
The biggest draw to self-publishing? FOR-EVER royalties! Let’s say your first book didn’t do so well, or even your first three — nobody is saying no to you. No publisher is saying, you tanked, we’re not offering you another contract. So you learn, you evolve, you write another book. This one is the one. Not only does this magical book start selling, but so do the others. Huzzah. Doesn’t this sound familiar? It’s every published author’s story to publication. Without the royalties on the “failures”. Barry Eisler gives us a rundown of the math he did to help him make his decision, over at The Beast. I believe if the math was applied to other authors, many would find more success in self-publishing. If you’re leaning to the side of optimism and you can successfully market your book, self-publishing is the answer that pays more.
So what’s a girl to do? Self-publish of course! Right? Right…?
(damn grain of salt)
Amanda Hocking. Need I say more? If you’re an unpublished author you’re probably wondering why she’s in the bad section. Well she’s not bad. Her story is great. The kind of story that gives hope to us poor unpublished types. But if you’ve read her story, or seen some of the posts on her blog, you know she’s urging writers to approach the idea of self-publishing with a grain of salt. In a post called Author, Sell Thyself, Laura Miller quotes Hocking,
Hocking, on the other hand, is ready to say goodbye to all that entails. In a series of impressively sensible blog posts, she explained to aspiring authors all het up about the riches awaiting them that they shouldn’t think it was easy. “This is literally years of work you’re seeing,” she advised. “And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me.” To the New York Times, she said, “I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation.” (read the full article here)
What’s interesting about how Hocking spent her hours is that for most successful authors that pretty much sums up their non-writing time. Being a published author is a lot more than writing. Sure you’re not looking for cover artists and editors, but you are spending plenty of time replying to emails, hosting contests to create buzz about your book, blogging, etc. Amanda Hocking may have scored a sweet deal and will be taken under St. Martin’s Press’ wing, but not all authors will be treated equally. So if her biggest warning is that you have a lot of work to do, I’ll take my chances. I’ll just use my $2M in royalties to hire a really good assistant.
Which brings me to my next point that Eisler summarizes nicely, “I’ve always believed the writer has to be an entrepreneur and CEO,” he told Pinter, “with all that entails.” If you’re not prepared to run the business of being an author, then publishing isn’t for you, no matter if you’re traditionally published by or not.
(Heel, inner pessimist. Heel!)
So many debut authors fail. I’m talking about the traditionally published ones. And many times the publisher isn’t doing all that it can do to promote that debut novel. The promotion and buzz is up to the author. In many cases authors don’t realize in time. Their numbers come in and the publisher doesn’t offer a contract for more books. And your career is over before it’s really begun. With self-publishing the onus is all on you. You know where you stand in terms of marketing. You simply have to get it done. Easier said than done. Self-promotion scares me. I’m not naturally super-confident and/or eager to toot my own horn. I haven’t quite figured out what the magic is for the people who have successfully marketed themselves, but I figure confidence and the ability to communicate is essential. Heh.
To top off all the drama in self-publishing, we also got to witness the complete crash & burn of an Indie author’s career. I won’t link you to the train wreck, you can find that on your own. If I had to tweet what happened, here it is: “Jacqueline Howett had a complete meltdown. On the INTER-NET! Total murder suicide.” I bring this up not to rag on Ms. Howett (good lord knows how many people jumped on that gang-pile). But to ask, where were her friends when she was destroying her career? This was a multi-day affair. Did none of her writer pals think to intervene? At any point? Or maybe they did and instead of blowing up the reviewer’s house she went for verbal abuse on a public forum instead. We’ll never know. But it makes me question the difference in camaraderie and community between published authors and self-published authors. Seems like self-published authors are the proverbial black sheep in this industry. How much that matters is personal, I suppose. Did I mention that The Replacements is one of my favorite Keanu movie?
More revolution talk (scroll to the bottom for the links section) Jeez, I feel like Sarah Connor.
No matter which form of publishing you choose, seems like neither choice is the be all end all of anyone’s writing career. The Hocking/Eisler switcharoo is proof of that. Many of the steps to publication are similar in both forms of publishing: finish book, rewrite book, test book, promote book/self. I’m willing to do all those things and then let the chips fall where they may.
So what’s your story? Will you self-publish? Have you had experience with either? Predictions for the future of publishing? I wanna hear from you! And if you found this post useful, please share!
Edit: The Money
It seems like just after I posted this, everywhere I look, someone is saying,”Self-publish, now! Hurry!” or “I’m self-publishing. I’m awesome. Join me and be awesome, too.” Despite all this hoopla for self-pubbing, what are the numbers really like? I came across a few, real/average/normal author numbers and wanted to share.
In this BlogTalk radio show, the ladies from the Indie Book Collective gab about their author promos — Bestseller For A Day and Blog Tour De Force. What you want to stick around for (or skip to, it’s closer to the second half of the program) is Rachel’s sales/marketing numbers. She spends a lot on ads but makes that back and more. They elude to the fact that there was a formula to those ads and that some were successful others weren’t. Thankfully these ladies are quite friendly and offer monthly workshops for authors so I’m sure you can learn some of their secrets.
My average author, and I mean this in the nicest way because Lindsay is awesome, has also posted her sales number. I think for most of us who are too uncomfortable, inexperienced or lazy to market and pimp like the IBC ladies, you’ll find this post by Lindsay aka @GoblinWriter very informative. I think I’m more like Lindsay than the IBC ladies and therefore would probably market myself similarly. If I could make $700/month off my writing I would be a very happy woman.