Enough already.

by Michelle Gagnon

I feel like there’s been an increasingly acrimonious discourse lately on traditional vs. self-publishing, and frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m seeing it at conferences, online, and everywhere in between. Both camps are equally guilty here, in terms of snide comments and blatant put-downs. Those who are under contract with traditional publishing houses sniff at the fact that self-published authors skipped over hurdles to publish what they suspect (but rarely say publicly) must be drivel, or what one writer friend of mine referred to as a “tsunami of swill.”

In the other camp, the self-published authors extol the fantastic revenue returns they’re receiving, a far greater percentage than what they would have gotten from a standard publishing contract. They make lots of references to an archaic business model, implying that anyone who still partakes in it is a fool.

Enough already.

I don’t really care how someone is published, or how many books they sell, or how much money they’re making. But the overall nastiness that’s becoming commonplace is off-putting. The prevailing attitude used to be, “we’re all in this together” among writers, whereas now there’s a schism. And that’s a shame, because both models have their merits.

To those (like me) who are still publishing with the major houses: I’ve read wonderful novels in the past few years that failed to find a home. Sometimes the reason for that was clear–the book was aimed at a very niche market, one where publishers couldn’t envision making a profit. Other times, I was at a loss to know why a particular book didn’t sell. One was an amazing YA novel written by a friend of mine, who ended up self-pubbing on Wattpad. After reaching an extraordinary amount of downloads, she moved it to Amazon and started charging for it. And it’s doing well- IMHO, the publishers lost out on this one. 

To self-published authors: The traditional houses aren’t going anywhere. People frequently point to the music industry, which is a fantastic example. What they fail to take into account is that musicians still aren’t, by and large, self-producing music. Eighty-five percent of the music sold worldwide is still produced by the same music companies that were producing it a decade ago. Many of those companies have merged and/or consolidated, sure. But they’re still around, for the same reason that the big 6 will still be around in a decade. Like it or not (and I’m not, personally, a huge fan of this, but so be it), most of the houses are part of much larger conglomerates. And News Corp and CBS aren’t going anywhere; they’re also unlikely to shed an industry that still feeds into their film and TV franchises. So, no, people who still follow the old model aren’t going to be shoved out, by and large. The midlist might diminish further, but books will continue to be released by those companies well into the future.

There are pros and cons to each model. Self-published authors don’t have the benefit and protection of a contract, so if Amazon decides tomorrow to change those royalty rates, they’re well within their rights to do so. It’s also far more difficult to secure foreign and film/tv rights when you self-pub, and that tends to be the bread and butter of traditional authors.

Traditional authors, meanwhile, do lose out on some royalties that they could potentially be getting. They also have to wait months, and occasionally years, for a book to finally appear on shelves. And advances are not what they once were.


But there’s no right way and no wrong way. Write your book. Publish your book, however you prefer. But please, stop with the mud slinging. At the end of the day, we’re all still pursuing the same dream.

0

Celebrating Freedom to Choose

Happy 4th of July! Today we celebrate freedom, and in the U.S. that means the freedom to choose our own religion, career path, locale to live, and much more. Rarely do we stop to appreciate the bounties we have been given. What does this mean to us as writers?

July Fourth
Today we have more freedom to choose where to publish our work. We used to be confined to the mega New York publishing houses. If you weren’t in there, you were out in the territory of the scorned masses, wallowing in the disreputable halls of the self-published or with unknown small presses. A friend of mine published her book in ebook format with Hardshell back in the day. Was it no surprise that this venture got nowhere? Ebooks hadn’t been widely discovered yet, and this publisher was ahead of its time. Today, it’s a different story.

Indie publishing has blossomed along with small presses and digital first imprints. We have so many more choices, almost too many as they can get overwhelming. If we decide not to wait for a publishing house to determine our fate, for example, do we really want to become publishers ourselves? Because that’s what this world is coming to as we authors take the reins.

Here’s what it means to choose the self-publishing path: Besides writing and marketing our own works, we have to outsource to editors, cover designers, and formatters. We have to collect the income from various distributors and formulate our own spreadsheets. And don’t forget buying ISBNs, determining a name for our publishing “company”, and registering for copyright.

With freedom comes greater responsibility, and we’re feeling that as indie authors.

You give up some of those freedoms to go with a publishing house, be it large or small. You also give up a percentage of your income and price control. But then they handle the cover design, editing, and distribution. If it’s a decent house, you get your rights back in five years and then you can put up your edited work on your own. But it could take years just to get your manuscript accepted in the first place and then scheduled…years that your book could already be available to readers had you put it online yourself.

These are tough choices, but at least we have them. It’s more than we could do several years ago. Now there’s always the possibility that our work will make it into the hands of readers one way or another. Isn’t that a reason to celebrate?

0

Quality Checks and Balances

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

As always, the hot button topic of indie/self-publishing versus traditional publishing has generated lots of comments in recent days here at TKZ and one issue that comes up time and time again is the ‘gatekeeper’ concept – basically agents and editors acting as a ‘quality sieve’ for what comes into the publishing pipeline. While I agree this is an imperfect system – there’s no doubt that agents and editors can get it horribly wrong – there does need to be some system of quality control. Doesn’t there?


Nowadays on the indie front,  this typically comes from readers who are just as well-equipped to judge what makes a good book as anyone else. But from the standpoint of a writer who relies on her agent to raise the bar for her work –  I do wonder how these quality checks and balances will get made in the new era of indie publishing. As a reader, I don’t want to troll through a plethora of e-books that were dashed off prematurely in my search for books to read. Though social media and reviews certainly help, the sheer number of releases makes my head spin and  I still fall back on buying e-books from traditional publishers as I know the system of quality control (though imperfect) is at least in place.


As a writer I have a group of beta readers who help me enormously – but though their feedback is invaluable, none of them ever quite bring the perspective my agent does. For all the tough love I get from them, my agent manages to point out ways in which I can improve the manuscript that they never even considered. So my worry is that if I went the indie route the books I put out there would be good but not as good as they could have been….Because my agent’s 25 years of editorial experience in publishing adds a level of input that, quite frankly, none of my other beta readers can match (and they are an amazing group of people whose input I value enormously).


Many members of my writing group have used freelance editors to help polish their manuscripts but with mixed results. Many of these editors aren’t looking to dissuade a writer from publishing a manuscript and so, given that they get paid to edit, aren’t necessarily going to be as upfront about a manuscript’s shortcomings – not if it means putting themselves out of business.  I’m sure they are all professionals and do their best but do they act as an objective assessor of ‘quality’ – I’m not sure they can. 


Now many of you will argue that this assessment is best left to readers (who will vote with their pocket books as well as airing their online opinions) but it exhausts me to think of all the half-baked e-books that might end up out there, just as it worries me that aspiring writers are becoming ever more impatient to release material before it has been crafted into the best possible shape.


So who do you turn to for editorial guidance? Do you rely on freelance editors to give you much needed input? Are you convinced your own circle of reviewers give you the tough love you need? 


Despite being published, I admit I still lack the confidence and experience to know when a manuscript is really, truly, finally ready. Most of my ‘final’ manuscripts end up being revised and reshaped based on input from my agent before they get shown to publishers, and as a result they become significantly better than the ‘best’ I originally could do (okay, so this might say more about my lack of talent…). In a world where we acknowledge the traditional system has many shortcomings, how do we view the concept of ‘quality control’? If that is still even relevant, how do we achieve it?





0

A Checklist for Indie Authors – E-Book Retailers (Post 2)

To get my e-book into the hands of readers, I had decisions to make. Should I upload my book through a Distributor/Aggregator with bundled services for multiple retailers or load them directly onto the sites of individual retailers? If you have a number of titles from your backlist, this could seem daunting, but bear with me. Some retailers are easy to upload into directly, regardless of the number of titles you have, while others restrict authors who don’t have enough offerings to meet their initial minimum requirements.

As I stated in my first post on this series, if you upload to Amazon and B&N, you’ve covered 60-70% of e-books sold today. That’s a good place to start. I could have formatted my own books to save money, but I went through a service provider to do this as I continued writing my contracted books. My formatters created my e-book files for Sex, Death and Moist Towelettes & Dark Kiss through Amazon (Mobi), B&N (ePub), and Smashwords (.doc), plus my e-book and pdf file for my Print-on-Demand (POD) non-fiction book with a cover design for the front, spine, and back of One Author’s Aha Moments.

To optimize an indie author’s outreach and distribution efforts, I’m listing other options beyond Amazon and B&N in this blog series. Stay tuned for more in the weeks to come when I post about Distributors & Library Sales, Retailers with Volume Restrictions, and I draw some conclusions from all this in my final post on the indie author topic. I plan to launch a page on my Fringe Dweller blog where I will list indie resources and maintain them.

Below are the e-book retailers that allow anyone to upload content, no matter how many offerings you have or your publisher status. (Kobo will be mentioned in the next post, but there are many interesting changes happening that will put them on this list soon.) Please be aware that each of these sites operates under different formats and you should get familiar with their guidelines.

Amazon’s Kindle Digital Publishing (KDP)Amazon’s primary e-book format is Mobipocket (Mobi) files, with or without DRM. Amazon currently dominates the market on e-book retail sales. Authors and publishers have access to an effective online retail outlet. Their royalty percentages are split by price point. Currently, that is 70% if your e-book is priced between $2.99 & $9.99, or 35% for all other price points. There is a small delivery charge based on size of file and royalties are paid monthly.

Barnes & Noble – B&N’s upload service is called PubIt!. PubIt! is similar to the Amazon KDP and gives indie authors the ability to upload a higher quality of ePub file that will not be lost through an automated conversion process where standards might be lower. The system also accepts Word, HTML, RTF, and TXT documents, which will be auto-converted to the ePub format.

Apple’s iBookstore – Apple’s iBookstore is open for authors and publishers to upload their own content. You must have a Mac computer to use the iTunes Producer program to upload the files. The signup process may seem intimidating, but an indie author can earn a higher royalty percentage by going direct and not through a distributor/aggregator. If you are unable to use Apple’s system because of limitations, the iBookstore provides a link of Approved Aggregators you can go through.

Google – Google’s e-book store allows readers to purchase PDF and ePub versions of your book, protected by the Adobe DRM. (Digital Rights Management is a term for any security measures designed to inhibit piracy.) The Google e-book store is part of the Google Books Partner Program. HERE  is a link on their system requirements.

LuluLulu uses ePub, PDF, and Microsoft Reader (LIT) formats, with and without DRM. Lulu is well-known for its Print-on-Demand (POD) services and an indie author can sell e-books through them. Lulu takes a cut of sales and there could be an additional fee to use the DRM option. Lulu is an Apple-approved aggregator for the iBookstore.

ebookMall – A $19.95 submission fee is waived until June 30, 2012. ebookMall uses ePub and PDF file types. Lightning Source could be an alternate source into this retailer.

ScribdScribd uses PDF files only and cannot sell other formats.

Smashwords – Smashwords works off a specific Word document style (HERE) that must be in accordance with the Smashwords Style Guide. That Word doc is auto-converted into 9 different formats at the author’s option. In addition to selling books at its own online store with the lowest fee of any retailer listed here (15%), the Smashwords Premium Catalog offers authors and small publishers a way to distribute their titles across a variety of retailers, including Apple’s iBookstore, the Sony eBook Store, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others.

In my next post, I will go into more detail on the various issues with a middleman distributor. Be aware that an indie author can have format issues by going through the conversion process and this can translate into downstream retailers taking issue with e-book quality from that distributor and YOU. Bottom line is, uploading directly to a retailer with relative ease might be your best option. You’ll see why in my next post when we talk about issues beyond formatting, like cumbersome and untimely price changes when going through a third party.

Some of this sounds daunting, but remember, if you’ve got your book onto Amazon and Barnes & Noble, you have your digital baby with the largest e-book retailers. Fine tuning your retailer outreach can be done as you have time. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. Many of these sites will take time away from your writing, so weigh the benefits against the time it takes for you to focus on this, but once you see how things go, you can fine tune where you will focus your retail and promotional efforts.

If you’re an indie author, please share your experiences with the retailers I mentioned and what has worked for you. If you are exploring the idea of self-publishing, do posts like this help you or intimidate you?

0

If You Seriously Want to Make Money Self-Publishing, Attack It

James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell


I have this quaint notion that writers should be able to make money at their trade.
You may have seen the recent report that half of the self-published books that came out in 2011 made under $500. Though this report is not without its critics, it’s pretty clear a majority of self-published writers are not getting the financial returns they’d hoped for.
For some, those hopes are based on unrealistic expectations. Many writers still think of self-publishing as a gold rush. They believe they can come out with one or two books and win the lottery. But 99% of them won’t. Not even if they try to write another Fifty Shades of Grey (please don’t try to write another Fifty Shades of Grey).
If you really want to succeed at self-publishing––and by that I mean make a profit and grow revenue over time––you’re going to need a plan. Like a good golf swing, this plan should be workable, repeatable, simple to understand and have a track record of results.
I have such a plan.
My new book, Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books, is now available on Kindleand Nook.
I’ve spent the last year and a half studying, experimenting, watching, publishing and taking notes on what it takes to make a go of self-publish. My goal was to see what any writer could do, not just one with a massive backlist (where there really isgold). I have not put out my backlist immediately. Rather, I wrote new material––short stories and novellas and non-fiction––and kept track of the results. 
For me, the key data point is how you trend. You want your trend line in sales looks like this:

This is what long term self-publishing success looks like. Steady growth via the introduction of new product.
Just like in traditional publishing. Just like in any business.
With the upside that no one can cancel your contract. You have a lifetime deal––with yourself.
That also means you have a fiduciary duty to do the best you can. You are under an implied warranty of good faith and fair dealing, so you’d better perform or you’ll have to take yourself to court.
The strategies and tactics in Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books have been tested by experience and confirmed by what other successful self-published authors are doing. 
These laws are immutable––that means they will never change. They will stand the test of time and the challenges of an ever evolving marketplace.
As someone who has run successful small businesses, I know how one has to think and plan in order to create the best possible foundation for making a profit. I’d like to see more self-published writers getting it right.
Because I have this quaint notion that writers should be able to make money at their trade.

0

An Indie Author’s Checklist – A Look Behind the Curtain of OZ (Post #1)

This is post #1 in a blog post series that I hope you will find interesting—things that I have learned on my indie author journey. Since I’ve been fortunate enough to be published by HarperCollins and Harlequin Teen, I can see and appreciate the differences in what I will be doing as I self-publish. I’m discovering what my houses do behind the scenes for authors on the e-book front and realize that when I become an indie author, I will have to make choices on how to expand my distribution and retail visibility—ways my traditional publishers did for me without me knowing it.

My first recommendation for any indie author is to do your research on what’s involved. It’s not simply writing a story, editing it well, spending some coin to format and cover it, and uploading it onto Amazon and expect readers to find you. You first have to put out the best book you can, because quality will help you build a readership. Secondly, there is a business side that detracts from your writing time and you must be aware of how time consuming this can be. You won’t be able to load your book up and have readers flock to find you. It takes time to build a virtual shelf of quality work and expand your distribution. That’s why I wanted to share my experiences so you can research what will work for you and not spin your wheels, trying to gain traction.

This series of posts are intended to jumpstart your research, but for the purposes of discussion, I will lay out the decisions I had to make as I began. I’d spent time researching and building service provider contacts. I already had an infrastructure in place where I had an online presence, blogs, twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and many other sites that I have grown my online presence. A new indie author would not start where I did. They’d have to catch up and that takes time and money to set up your promotional foundation. This post is not intended to start from scratch. I’m sharing my experiences, starting from a spot where I already had insights into the industry. I hope what follows will help any author build on their expertise.

For me, the process started with me making decisions on which service to upload my books into after I’d done my initial due diligence into self-publishing. I knew I would upload to Amazon and B&N. They provide comprehensive systems that make the process easy and their reach encompasses most of the e-books being sold today. So realize that if you upload to Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook, you are probably reaching 60-70% of the digital books being sold. In a quickly changing world, however, the shift in technology could change this dynamic, but for now I’m comfortable with my digital offerings being on these two sites. For many established authors, who want to step foot into the indie world, this might be enough. But it’s not enough for an indie author with dreams of finding another way to make a living and who might be starting from scratch.

A traditional publisher uses its name to aggregate digital books to retailers and provides the latest offerings in a bundle. They support and build an infrastructure to get their books into as many viable venues as possible, to get books into the hands of today’s online readers. An indie author is on their own to figure out how to expand their reach and what to promote, but traditional houses have resources en masse with staff to support that effort. For an indie author to learn what works—and to grow what they know— they must navigate uncharted waters of Distributors and Retailers that are willing to allow self-published authors or small houses to have the same access as larger publishing houses.

I thought it would be interesting to break down what I’ve learned into five posts and create a future page of resource links on my FRINGE DWELLER blog for indie authors that I will maintain for myself and to share. My hope is to demystify the process of self-publishing so authors can make informed business decisions on how to get their work in the hands of readers directly. Ultimately, this will become a comprehensive “how to” book on author promotion that will cover various topics from branding and online presence, to press kits and resources, with practical tips on distribution. This indie process has educated me and will continue to do so.

But in doing this, I’m also realizing what my traditional houses have been doing for me and appreciate their efforts. I’m hoping to maintain a balance that works for me where I can still have projects through traditional publishers, but reap the benefits and gain experience with being an indie author for certain projects. Sustaining my online presence and growing my name recognition will hopefully be a benefit and a WIN-WIN for any house I work with as I self-publish. By expanding my reach, I can also give my agent more to represent.

Even authors who have no plans to self-publish can gain an appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes beyond your desk, your publisher, and your friendly retailer—because today’s readers have many ways to discover books outside the brick and mortar stores.

Here are the bullet point topics I will cover in this blog post series:

1.) Introduction (Post #1)

2.) E-Book Retailers – A Checklist Place to Start (Post #2)

3.) Distributors & Library Sales (Post #3)

4.) Retailers with Volume Restrictions or Limited Access (Post #4)

5.) Conclusions & Introduction to My Resource Page (including review sites receptive to indie author books by genre) (Post #5)

Please share your questions and topic suggestions that you hope I will cover so I can target the focus of my series. I’d appreciate your input.

In the mean time, I hope you will indulge me in a little blatant self-promotion for my first ever self-published offerings.

120429 One Authors Aha Moments - Jordan Dane - FinalONE AUTHOR’S AHA MOMENTS (92-page POD, e-book) is geared toward aspiring authors and has an emphasis on the Young Adult genre. These writing tips may also be helpful to experienced authors and those who write other genres. My advice comes from my personal experiences on writing fiction for adult and teen markets and what has worked for me. Topics include: Young Adult fiction themes, voice, and characteristics; how to create characters editors look for & give them a unique voice; plot structure that even a non-plotter can love; how to hook your book; the writer’s life, goal setting, editing, book promotion and more.


My first anthology of short stories—SEX, DEATH & MOIST TOWELETTES (e-book)—is now available. It’s a mix of stories from crime fiction noir to paranormal, with my brand of dark humor. As a teaser for anyone not familiar with my adult paranormal writing, I’m releasing DARK KISS (e-book) as a single short story from the anthology for a discounted price.

0

How to Eat the Publishing Elephant

James Scott Bell
Twitter.com/jamesscottbell

The elephant is our most versatile bestial metaphor. 
We sometimes refer to the big issue everyone knows is there (but no one is talking about) as “the elephant in the room.” Back in November of 2008, in conference rooms at publishing houses throughout New York, the elephant in the room was the Amazon Kindle. Was this device going to change publishing as we know it? Maybe no one wanted to talk about it back then, until the elephant broke out of the room and started stampeding all over midtown Manhattan.
Then there’s the story of the three blind men coming up to an elephant. One touches the tail, another the leg, the other the trunk. Each man assumes the elephant is something other than it is, because he has only one bit of data. This we can liken to those who think they know everything there is about publishing (or anything else, for that matter) when they only have experience with one part of it.
But the metaphor I want to work with today is the question, How do you eat an elephant? The answer, of course, is “one bite at a time.”
This applies to the world of successful self-publishing. Note the key word successful.It’s easy to self-publish (too easy, some would say). But to be successful at it is an entirely different matter.
A lot of people are expecting to eat the whole elephant in one bite. That’s because some of the early adopters did that. Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking, John Locke, Blake Crouch – these are some of the names that jumped in early and did some heavy munching. Barry Eisler famously walked away from a traditional print deal and went E to feast on elephant. Bob Mayer, king of the backlist, consumed several elephants earlier this year when releasing all those titles close to one another. 
But these are the notable exceptions to what is now the undeniable rule: the vast majority of writers will not get anywhere near rapid success. And if they expect to, they will be sorely disappointed and may even chuck the whole publishing thing.
Which is fine. We need less content, not more, because most of the two million self-published offerings out there are, well. . . let’s just say the bulk of it pretty much affirms Sturgeon’s Law.
But if you want to be successful as an indie author, you can be – if you eat the elephant one bite at a time and chew thoroughly.
By “success” I mean making a profit. You can make a profit from your self-publishing if you do certain things and do them right (like knowing how to write. That really helps). How large a profit it is impossible to say up front. It may just be Starbuck’s money. Everyone’s mileage is going to vary. But here’s the rub: If you keep taking more and more bites, and do so carefully and with purpose, you have a chance to make more profit. That’s called “business.” If you want to be a professional writer, you are essentially running a small enterprise. Your job: provide value.
My business includes a traditional arm where I partner with publishers like Kensington and Writer’s Digest Books. It also now includes an indie division. I have taken a few bites at the indie elephant, wanting to learn as I go and see what works. I’ve studied the field, too. And while there are many things one needs to do well, the unalterable foundation is quality + volume. Thus, the elephant wisdom that has become evident over this last crazy year of indie publishing is: if you want to be successful at ityou need to be in it for the long haul, and by that I mean the rest of your life.
Let me repeat: the rest of your life.
If you are truly a writer, that won’t be difficult for you. But if you are just in this to try to make some easy lettuce, it will be. And should be.
A real writer writes, wants to write, would do it even if the prospect of making killer money was nil. Storytellers tell stories, which is why I plan to be found dead at my computer, my stone cold fingers over the keyboard. I only hope I have just typed “The End.” Or better yet, clicked “Upload.”

I will keep on biting the elephant. And when I’m old and toothless, I’ll gum the elephant. Because a real writer never stops.
Happy eating, friends. 
0

Field Report from the E-Book Revolution


As the E-book insurrection continues apace, things change on the landscape (some would call it a “battlefield”) almost weekly. Today your intrepid reporter issues a few notes and predictions which I am typing inside a tent somewhere in the literary DMZ:
– Physical shelf space continues a precipitous decline. Print sales are down 25% this year, so bookstores are folding or increasing their stationery footprint at the expense of physical books. Book buyers increasingly browse and buy online, adding to the woes of brick-and-mortar.
– E-Readers are going to explode this Christmas (again). Last year Kindles and Nooks broke the sack on Santa’s back. This year St. Nick will be lugging Kindle Fires all over the universe.
– E-fiction (what Mike Shatzkin calls “narrative text”) is already 25% of the total market. Look for it to be close to 50% by the end of next year. Shatzkin thinks it’ll be 80% within five years.
– This puts increasing stress on the Traditional Publishing Industry (TPI) because print is what made it and sustains it. TPI is doing what it has to do to survive, which comes down to keeping and making happy their A-list authors, and reducing overhead and advances (which of course means less money to invest in new and midlist authors).
– Agents are feeling the pinch, too, since their bread has been buttered by advances. That’s why many of them are transitioning into e-publishing hubs for their clients. The dollars and sense [sic] of this is still being worked out. An agent might broker a deal with a digital house like Open Road in a somewhat traditional manner. Others might offer actual e-publishing services, which raises conflict-of-interest and competency issues. Literary agent Jason Allen Ashlock argues that, “workflow restraints, small staffs, capital concerns, and the modest revenues generated by most digital properties will prevent most Agent-Publishers from adequately managing and effectively publishing more than a few titles.”
– Authors who are succeeding at being completely independent are those who are able to bring entrepreneurial analytics to the task. If you’re going to publish successfully as an indie, you have to think like a business. You have to think about genres and branding and marketing and design and all the aspects of bringing a book to the world. Authors like Bob Mayer, who are trained in strategic thinking, have an advantage. Business skills can be learned but it takes time. For that reason authors may decide to partner with a digital publishing entity. There are way too many variables to discuss here (percentages, length of time for rights, what marketing advantage is offered, and so on). Suffice to say you’ll need to be just as sharp about the details (where the devil is said to hang out) when signing away any digital rights. 
– New and frustrated authors are attracted by the nice royalties they can earn by going indie, but you still have to move units to make dough. And to do that, you have to get noticed in the ever-increasing content tsunami. The two bottom line requirements are: consistent production of quality books coupled with creative marketing efforts. Those who are able to deliver the goods at a brisk pace, and are savvy about promotion, have the best chance to reap rewards over time.
– The greatest benefit of indie publishing is speed. It’s hard to wait 12 – 18 months for a physical book to appear. Over the course of a year, from March to March, I will have eight new books out. Three of them traditionally published (one of these is non-fiction), five of them indie originals (and I’m not counting the 7 backlist books I have all the rights to and will bring out next year). I love this! Why the heck not? I love to write and my e-book income in the first 6 months surpassed my latest traditional advance. I say it is okay for writers to make money doing what they love. Radical, I know, but there it is.
– I like TPI. I wrote a nice open letter to that effect. But we all know there is a vicious business spiral going on. Imagine you’re the Ty-D-Bol man and a giant has just flushed the toilet. TPI is in that little boat, hanging on for dear life. Conference rooms all over Manhattan must feel like they’re swirling.


– BTW, did you know Robert Ludlum did voiceovers for those Ty-D-Bol commercials?
For writers considering the indie trail, the times are both challenging and refreshing. But you have to be realistic. The metaphor that e-book publishing is a “gold rush” is no longer apt. There were some early strikes for the bold (e.g., Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking) but now things are reaching a market equilibrium. That means: an indie writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to train (learn to write), get plenty of nutrition (critical feedback) and then run a smart race (strategize with business thinking, pick your spots, make your moves).
And while huge success is not guaranteed, the nice thing is the race is now open to anyone who loves to run.
So what is your current thinking on this ever-changing landscape? What do you think the future holds, say, a year from now? 


****
NOTE: I want to amend a response I made earlier this week to Paula Millhouse, who asked about the advisability of putting a book online before getting a deal. I said Nay. David DeLee respectfully dissented. So I asked my agent about this, and he said it was true a couple of years ago, but things have changed. Publishing online will not kill a potential deal if the book performs. No guarantees either, of course, but that’s always been true in the writing game. Thanks to David for the prompt.  

0

E-Pub versus Indie Pub

My last topic here was on The Self-Pub Adventure. Here are my conclusions so far.

For three backlist titles in my futuristic romance Light-Years Trilogy (Circle of Light, Moonlight Rhapsody, Starlight Child), I went with Belgrave House to convert my books into digital formats. For no costs up front on my side, I had them scan the printed book, send me the file for proofreading, got a decent but simple cover, digital conversions, and all the titles uploaded to numerous e-book sites. My titles are priced at $5.00 each and I split the profits 50% with the e-publisher. They only accept works by previously published authors who have reversion of rights.

For my last remaining backlist title, I’d decided to try the indie route. One look at the Smashwords Style Guide, however, and I changed my mind. I would probably screw up my Word program forever if I followed their directions. Better I should hire someone to do the conversions than spend hours figuring this out. But once the file is ready, I’ll still have to upload it, as well as do all the marketing. 

With a cover and a conversion, this is likely to cost me up to $300…unless I stick to paying for the cover alone and uploading my doc file just to Kindle. I’ve hired a cover artist and for $125, she’ll make me a custom cover. I wanted one that’s competitive with the paperbacks out there. 

Let’s say I pay for conversions as well as a cover. If my indie published backlist book does well and I make this money back, it would be worth going the indie route again for original works. But if not, I would rather submit to a legit e-book publisher than go it alone. I’d have to give up a certain percentage of my royalties, but I need the services they’d provide. Indie authors make everything sound easy and profitable. But for how many, or how few, is that true? 

The Wild Rose Press gave me a beautiful cover for Silver Serenade, editorial assistance, digital conversions, and publicity opportunities. I get a 35% royalty for books bought at their site, where my title costs $7.00. On my own, I could be making double that amount on Amazon and control my own sale price. Yet their price point is somewhat understandable considering they have to pay cover artists, editorial, etc. as part of their publishing costs. But they also have no overhead in terms of office space, warehousing, etc. And readers want to pay $5.00 or less for an e-book.

It’s a very tough choice to make, whether to step off the gangplank on our own or swim the calm waters of having a publisher do all the work for us. You have to know what you’re taking on. But my adventure isn’t over yet. Once I get my new cover, I’ll see how it goes with uploading the file for this backlist title myself.

Here’s a great discussion on some of these topics: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/pod/

And if you’re in Florida—or not—you may want to attend this important publishing industry event: http://www.ninc.com/conferences/2011/panels.asp               
0