Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guest Post by Adam Pepper

In July, I self published my dark urban fantasy novel, SYMPHONY OF BLOOD: A Hank Mondale Supernatural Case. The process leading up to this decision caused me to rethink my entire worldview on writing.

I’ve been circling the periphery of the publishing business for over a decade. I’ve had two agents, written five novels, accumulated hundreds of rejections but failed to land a mass market deal. I have had some success in the small press and built a loyal, grassroots following but I’ve always aspired to more. I wanted to be in the bookstore, front and center. I came from the school that always measured success by the size of your publisher. I was taught to start at the top and work your way down, no matter what you were trying to publish. Always aim high. Never settle.

The pecking order was easy to see, especially for genre fiction. New York publishers on top. Then other major publishers. Next, the reputable small presses. Then the niche and micro presses. And way, way, way at the bottom was self publishing. The place for wannabes without the talent to succeed. They were chumps, worse than hacks. At least a hack could write for a check. A self publisher was the bottom feeder.

These beliefs were so deeply ingrained in my thinking they weren’t easy to shed.

I’ve known Joe Konrath since before his first novel was published and I’ve always liked and respected him. I’ve been reading his blog since it began. But when Joe started talking up self publishing, I snickered. Then, my snickers changed to, “well it works for him but it won’t work for me.” What Joe calls Stockholm Syndrome, I know all too well, because I had a nasty case of it! Many of my friends and colleagues still suffer from it. It’s not easy to dismiss an entire mindset. Especially when you’ve built everything around it, your hopes, dreams, career aspirations—your entire identity even. You’ve invested countless man-hours into achieving it. And suddenly, you scratch your forehead and realize, “Wow. Konrath may have a point!”

People tend to focus on the extremes, and they do so at the expense of their own career. We aren’t all going to be Hocking or Locke any more than we’re going to be Patterson or Connolly. Most of us won’t win lotto either.

You don’t plan a career around winning lotto.

Make no mistake about it, playing the slush game, trying to rise above the mountains of manuscripts, getting past the intern, then the junior people, then the senior people, all of whom--no matter how well intentioned--are human beings who are overwhelmed and inundated with submissions, bring their own personal biases and subjective tastes to the table and generally treat slush with equal parts horror, humor and contempt.

It’s lotto, plain and simple.

I’ve seen many friends land deals and I’ve been nothing but happy for their successes, but I won’t concede they were better writers than me. Their work simply resonated with one person in a position of power who was able to make it happen. The question that I asked myself wasn’t how can I be the next Konrath or Locke, but simply what was best for my career? Put the preconceived notions aside and truly be objective. I’ve watched this industry and see what goes on. There’s no vast conspiracy to see Adam Pepper fail; there’s merely apathy. The only person I can truly count on to build my career is me.

I remember reading an interview with literary agent Scott Hoffman where he compared authors who submit to the slush pile to a desperate girl sitting by the phone waiting to be asked to the prom. At the time it infuriated me. He was calling me a loser. What the hell else was I supposed to do? To me it was just another insider who had no clue what it was like to be on the outside breathing steam on the glass trying desperately to get noticed. In fairness to Hoffman, I was in a bitter state of mind and I don’t have the quote in front of me today. But now, that’s sage advice. Why passively sit around praying for a break when you can take it upon yourself? Why play the slush lottery when you can stack your own deck? For the first time since I’ve been in this game, writers truly don’t need an agent or a publisher to succeed. Authors need an audience. And the audience is out there, reachable and eager to be captured.

Getting caught up in rhetoric. Choosing sides. Prognosticating. None of that means a thing to me. Selling books and reaching readers does.

I’ve always had the talent and the drive, now I have the opportunity. Digital books and the internet truly are the great equalizers. Self publishing wasn’t made for Konrath and Eisler, it was made for me. The guy who played by the rules, followed every guideline, submitted to every market, and never got a shot from New York. Now, here’s the chance to drive my own carriage instead of waiting for my editor in shining armor.

It took a long time to realize this. But I’m glad I have. SYMPHONY OF BLOOD has been out just two months. It’s been in and out of the top 100 Dark Fantasy ebooks on Amazon and the reviews have been great. The response from book bloggers has been positive. There’s been a nice presence on GoodReads and Library Thing. So far so good.

I have plans for two more indie books by holiday season. One of them is currently on submission with a big six house. I’m going to pull it and publish it myself. Sound insane? It does to me too. After all, I’ve spent the last decade building relationships with industry people in hopes of launching a career. There aren’t many editors in NY who give me the time of day, but this one does. I’m very grateful for the interest he’s shown in me. But I’ve reassessed everything. What gives me the best chance at success? If the editor was truly interested, he would’ve asked me to the prom by now, and I’m done waiting by the phone. It’s my career. After a decade of chasing a dream that was totally out of my control, I can’t tell you how incredible that feels.

Joe sez: Adam was one of the first horror writers I became chummy with, while doing the convention circuit back in 2003. I dug his first book, Memoria, but Symphony of Blood was terrific. When I read it, years ago, I was sure it would get picked up by a major house. It's a cool horror noir novel with a cool hero and a cool monster, and it has a huge twist in the middle that throws readers for a loop.

(Side note--it's 99 cents on Kindle right now. Buy it.)

But it didn't sell. Adam, like many other authors I know, was screwed by the system. Because the system, as it exists, eventually screws everybody.

The only authors still pursuing legacy deals are:

1. Those who have never had them, so their views are all rosy and idealistic. As Adam said, they're waiting for that phone to ring. In the past, there was no choice. Now, it's rather pathetic.

2. Those who have had legacy deals, and have convinced themselves it's the only way to make a living. As I've said before, this is Stockholm Syndrome. The publishing industry does not care about authors. They also are inept when it comes to making books profitable. Why are you still dancing with an abusive partner? Unless they're paying you HUGE money, I can't think of a single reason.

Yes, this is a lottery. Luck plays a huge part.

But you can get lucky on your own terms, by self-pubbing. Or you can get lucky based on the whims and trends of an industry that treats authors poorly, makes lots of bad decisions, and has a terrible profit track record.

In other words, you can put your fate in the hands of the readers, or a group of dinosaurs who are making themselves extinct.

Side note: I just had a one hour conference call with Amazon yesterday about the November 22 release of STIRRED, and it blows me away how smart these folks are. It was unlike any conversation I've ever had with any Big 6 publisher. Amazon truly understands that an essential part of making money is treating authors fairly. They pay much better than the Big 6, listen to and implement authors' ideas, and understand numbers on a near-savant level.

As a result AMAZON HAS MADE MONEY ON EVERY BOOK THEY'VE PUBLISHED.

Reread that sentence above. Now compare that to a Big 6 publisher, who only makes a profit on 1 out of 5 books they publish.

Now, there is no one-way ticket to success. Any way you go, you'll need luck. But legacy publishing involves a lot more luck and doing it on your own, or signing with Amazon, and legacy publishers can actually worsen your luck.

I just got my royalty statement for AFRAID. It has made $60k since 2009.

The two books Hachette rejected, TRAPPED and ENDURANCE, have made $160k since 2010.

My book TIMECASTER, published by Berkley, has failed miserably, saddled with a high ebook price and a terrible, generic cover. I begged them to sell it for $2.99. I begged them for a different cover. I begged them to put J.A. Konrath on the cover, since I have a huge fanbase. My pleas fell on unsympathetic ears, and the sales suck.

And don't even get me started about how much money I'm losing on my Jack Daniels books--try a few hundred thousand dollars per year.

Figure out what your goals are, and pursue them. But pursue them logically, armed with information, and don't be afraid to change your goals if the information changes.

Being naive, or having Stockholm Syndrome, shouldn't be among your goals.

98 comments:

Sarah Woodbury said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Woodbury said...

"What the hell else was I supposed to do?"

That's totally it. Before, the only other choice rather than waiting by the phone was not to write.

Stacking your own deck, even if we're not entirely sure what game we're all playing, is way better.

LK Watts said...

'The only person I can truly count on to build my career is me.'
In the world of self pubbing this statement is vital. We, the authors, can at last be the ones in control. It is up to us to improve with every book we write and gather that audience we need to survive.

Edward G. Talbot said...

Aside from all the other valid points about self-publishing, there is another reason I don't submit any more. It took altogether to much time. In the amount of time it takes to properly research and prepare submissions to 50-100 different agents with 50-100 different guidelines (1 page synopsis, 2 page synopsis, etc, etc), I could write another book. Easily, with time for editing.

If the odds of success were significantly greater with traditional submissions, it might be worth it. But it's not:

-If my destiny is to only make a thousand dollars a year, self-pubbing is basically the only way I can accomplish it.

-If my destiny is to barely slide into 5 figures but not make enough to live on, my odds are better with self-pubbing

-If I'm destined to be a midlist author trying and often failing to make enough to live on from writing alone, my odds are better with self-pubbing.

-And if my destiny is to make massive sums of money with major bestsellers, even that is more likely with self-publishing.

I don't have a problem with anyone who still wants to go with traditional publishing. That's their choice. And I certainly wouldn't turn down the right deal if it came along. But I no longer want to spend any energy at all on it. It makes more sense to put my energy into writing and promoting my self-published works.

Jeffrey J. Mariotte said...

Adam (and Joe), thanks for putting that down in words. Even authors who have been published by the big 6 are feeling the way you do. I've had 45 novels published, mostly by S&S and Penguin and Hachette and Tor, etc. 2009 was a pretty good year for me, financially.

But in 2010 I was looking out at a long stretch with no book contracts. I pitched a few things that should have sold but didn't. I ended up taking a dreaded day job.

I haven't entirely given up on legacy publishing, but I also put out a few things myself, on e-book--a reissue of my one small press horror novel, The Slab, an original thriller called The Devil's Bait, and a collection of short horror fiction called Nine Frights. Last week I signed a contract for a small press print version of The Devil's Bait.

I still have a good agent, and he's out there pitching a new thriller. I would love to keep a foot in both camps. I am also a bookstore owner--Mysterious Galaxy, stores in San Diego and Redondo Beach--and I have an abiding love of printed books.

But Joe and Barry and J. Carson Black and some other wise folks have shown us that there's an alternative, that there's a way to take hold of a career in a different way. I'm indebted to them, and will keep striving to be the best writer I can be, regardless of which medium is used to tell my stories.

Layton Green said...

Word to the Mutha

Merrill Heath said...

Excellent post. Thanks, Adam!

SBJones said...

I hope it takes off and you see the success you deserve.

Todd Trumpet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darlene Underdahl said...

Got it!

When my husband sees me picking up books at these prices, he just smiles and pays the bill.

Sam said...

"There’s no vast conspiracy to see Adam Pepper fail; there’s merely apathy. The only person I can truly count on to build my career is me."

A terrific post. We each have to find inspiration, do the work, and build our own success. (Though once in a lifetime, you might win the lotto.)

And glad to see Joe's still adding his 2¢ during the hiatus.

Todd Trumpet said...

This idea that "luck" plays such a "huge" role in success is an idea that many people have trouble accepting.

Just yesterday, my sister brought up the success of Stephanie Meyer and the "TWILIGHT" series (books her non-reading teen daughter loved) - attributing it to the author's "brilliance" in pioneering a new genre that really resonated with the public.

Now, regardless of what you think of Ms. Meyer's writing talent (I personally haven't read any of her books, though I've read many snarky comments), most in the writing biz would agree that "paranormal romance" was hardly invented by Ms. Meyers. So why did hers succeed to such a degree when others did not?

Was it "brilliance"?

Or was it "luck"?

Perhaps the brilliance came in capitalizing on the initial luck, i.e., carrying through and optimizing her opportunity.

But that initial opportunity was, IMO, in large part (I know, I know - aggghhhhh!) luck.

I sometimes try to salve any impending despair over this phenomenon by choosing to define luck as "when preparation meets opportunity".

Ms. Meyers was clearly prepared for her opportunity.

Be prepared. And when luck finally gives you a turn...

...smile at your own "brilliance".

Todd
"THE TELLING OF MY MARCHING BAND STORY"
www.ToddTrumpet.com

Claude Nougat said...

Great post Adam, and a great description of the arc you followed to land with self-publishing! Reading you I feel like buying your book (and I shall!)

And congrats Joe, on all your successes and yes, I'm sure Amazon is far better for authors than the Big Six. Amazon is the latest arrival on the scene, and like Avis compared to Hertz, they have to "try harder"!

Hope they stay that way once they've achieved success and we start speaking of the Big Seven!

I'd just like to add that all the angst published authors have to go through before publishing their back list is very, very similar to what newbies have to go through. The difference being that for newbies it can be even scarier: they don't have a fan base to fall back on!

Then of course there's that damn matter of luck! Fortune is a Goddess with a scarf on both her eyes and she can't see a thing!

Mark Tucker said...

Awesome post Adam! I clicked over to Amazon and couldn't pass up Symphony of Blood for 99 cents. Looking forward to reading it.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Marta Szemik said...

I'm not going to wait by the phone either. There are still some outstanding queries I have not heard from, and honestly, with all do respect to all literary agents I wouldn't cry if they all came back rejected. Because we, authors, do have options which do not include sitting and waiting for our date to call.
Well written post. Thanks!

Ruth Harris said...

"Because the system, as it exists, eventually screws everybody."

Including itself. Publishing has actually managed the impossible: it's f*cked itself.

On a side note, luck matters in another way: your horror/thriller/ghost story might land on an editor's desk the same morning someone from the sales dept said "horror/thriller/ghost stories" are hot. A ms that would have been quickly rejected, is suddenly accepted.

It's hard to overemphasize how much just plain luck comes into play.

Adam, your book looks and sounds just great! You made a smart decision & did an excellent job...

Michelle Muto said...

I remember Afraid very well, Joe. It and your post on self-promition is still one of the top hits my blog gets every month and that was from February or March of 2009!

Well put, Adam. We make our own hope. We drive our own future.

Nick said...

Adam, I love this post and your desire to take action instead of waiting for success to find you. I also wanted to say I love your cover - did you take the initiative and create that as well?

Andy Conway said...

Great blog. And I just bought your ebook on amazon.co.uk

You know, when I announced my self-publishing project early this year, I encountered a lot of outright scepticism from writers. The usual zombie memes.

What's interesting is all those writers are now asking me how to self-publish. This week I've talked two writers into self-publishing instead of going through the query go round. And it didn't take much talking.

Oh and while I'm here, I've got to mention how excited I am that my own DIY attempt at a book cover just won at Joel Friedlandeer's e-Book Cover Design Awards for September. Joe, without your encouragement in this blog, I would never have published that story, let alone thought I could tackle the cover for it.

Andy Conway
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.11 : 7 down, 4 to go
Touchstone, a time travel adventure, out now...

Jonas Saul said...

Adam,

Just bought it!

Sounds great and thanks Joe. Looking forward to this read.

Jonas

WDGagliani said...

Excellent! Great to see you, Adam! Missed you in Las Vegas last month.

Going right now to buy your book! Congrats! Thanks for sharing.

Bill

Ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ted said...

The question I keep coming back to in my mind, is how will new authors know they are ready. Joe already had several books published. Adam had been after it for 10 years. But the guy who hasn't got 10 years in, or who hasn't already been published, how does he measure his work and know it’s ready for prime time.

If you put a book out there and it's terrible, readers are going to be leery to try your next one ('fool me once...')

I don't want to play the lotto. I don't want to shoot myself in the foot either. (Ouch, that hurts.)

The old system of agents and editors had its flaws, but it was pretty good at telling writers 'You just aren't ready yet.'

Wayne McDonald said...

Ted, there's some previous blogs on getting constructive criticism on your work so you know if its ready. Including some tucked in the last blog by Rob. You can even hire a freelance editor if you'd like.

In the end though only the readers can judge. Put it up there with a good description and they will read the sample chapters and see. If you get a ton of 1 stars, then its either bad or tagged to the wrong audience (like a crime novel tagged with stuff that YA searches would find).

Your novel also doesn't have to be ready for 'prime time' provided your price low. If it is out there your getting feedback to make the next one better and the reader gets a decent read.

Aric Mitchell said...

I discovered Adam Pepper's "Symphony of Blood" on iBooks a couple of months ago, and as a lover of both pulp and horror, I thought it was something unique and refreshing from page one. Didn't take but a page or two to see I wasn't dealing with a "crappy self pubber." Liked it so much that when I finally got a Nook Color for my bday, I actually re-bought it. Glad to see his post here. Sage advice.

Louise Proctor said...

Great tips for the self-publisher, Adam! Keep up the good work.

Merrill Heath said...

Adam, I really like your cover. Who did it?

Merrill Heath
Novels by Merrill Heath and W.L. Heath

Anonymous said...

@Ted -- if a book isn't "ready for prime time", then it's less likely that a reader will find out about it at all (there's going to be a lot less talking about it, a lot less "readers who liked... also liked..., etc). No one is going to blacklist an author because of a book they don't even know existed.

And those that do stumble across a book that's not ready for prime time -- well, there's a good chance that the blurb and the packaging (cover, etc) aren't brilliant either. Do you remember the author of every book you glanced at and decided not to read?

For a reader to avoid an author's future work, they
1. have to know the previous work existed
2. have found it
3. had it look worthwhile enough that they bothered to buy and read it
4. and THEN have it be not just "forgettable", but so bad they actively remember the author to avoid in the future.

I'm no expert, but I don't think that putting up overly amaturish work too early is likely to make a big difference in the sales of later, better written, better packaged books (especially if the author takes the early work down once they've learned enough to understand what was wrong with it)

Maureen Noel said...

I've been there, for other books. Queries, agents, waiting. Then the turn-down because something wouldn't be "profitable." For my latest book, you know what? I didn't even consider an agent or one of the bigger publishers. I'd let the audience decide if they liked Nightworld. And you know what else? The audience has really good taste! I'm happy. Even at $.99.

Bridget McKenna said...

Fantastic post, Adam.

"One of them is currently on submission with a big six house. I’m going to pull it and publish it myself. Sound insane?"

Sounds like a writer taking control of his career. Success to you.

Adam Pepper said...

Aric, thanks so much for the support!

Nick and Merril, Joie Simmons did my cover and he’s awesome. I highly recommend him. We went through several drafts to bring my vision to life.

Adam Pepper said...

Hey there. First off, I want to thank Joe for this opportunity. It’s great to be able to express these thoughts for a large audience of like-minded people. Thanks to everyone who has commented and offered support, and extra thanks to those who picked up a copy of my book. Enjoy!

Let me say, I realize this piece may sound a bit sour grapy. I understand that for every person reading this cheering me on, there’s another rolling their eyes, although in this forum, they may choose to keep quiet. There’s no sense of entitlement here. Nobody owes me anything. But the way the business operates leaves the writer on their own. The editors and agents you submit to have nothing invested in your personal success. In my experience, even the agents who took me on weren’t all that invested. Instead of looking to land an agent who will facilitate my big break, I’m facilitating my own breaks and then those in the industry will covet me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming perfection. I’ve made every mistake there is along the way, some multiple times and I continue to learn and hopefully grow from each bump in the road. I’m really not some bitter anti-establishment guy. I’m just a guy with a dream working to make it reality and feeling emboldened and empowered by the changes happening in the industry.

Adam Pepper said...

For those curious, I did reach out to the editor. I certainly wanted to touch base with him before this went public. I couldn’t have asked for a cooler response. He wished me well and still plans to read my book. So I don’t consider that bridge burned, but I’m moving forward on my own and plan to release my second indie novel, a brutal crime drama, SKIN GAMES within a month or so.

Aric Mitchell said...

You're welcome, Adam!

And Joie Simmons did my cover, too. I can't begin to tell you how pleased I was. Took about two weeks to queue me up, and from there it was super-quick. I was blown away by the first effort. A little text size adjustment, and we were good to go. Smooth experience and highly affordable.

David Gaughran said...

Hi Adam,

Great post - off to pick up your book now.

Dave

Walter Knight said...

Adam's passion is even better than Joe's. Great article. Sorry Joe.

Legacy publishing will still be persued. I love the financial reward, and have sold 20,000+ books online. However, I still seek the thrill of seeing my books on a bookstore shelf, a goal I am not allowed to reach.

How can I make it happen?

Mike Fook said...

Thanks to your article I'm finally starting to get it, regarding inertia established authors feel toward changing to a new model. Thank god for inertia.

Personally, I want all the great authors using the legacy system - to continue. Keep right on doing what you are doing. You will make it. Just submit more and wait longer. You will get your reward! Those of you with faith smaller than a mustard seed will see great rewards with the legacy system! Don't bother coming into the self-pub ebook space, you're better off where you are now. Just work harder!

Change is bad... so very bad.

Me? I'm enjoying the hell out of all the money I'm making each month, considering I'd make none of it playing the legacy game.

I'm transitioning from a dozen years of search engine optimization, website design, and internet marketing consulting to just one thing - writing.

DanielKoehler said...

When the walls of legacy publishing are razed, what will the gatekeepers do?

Joe Konrath said...

When the walls of legacy publishing are razed, what will the gatekeepers do?

Monster.com

Daeng Bo said...

First of all, I want to say that I enjoy this blog and read every post. Also, I strongly support self-publishing for writers and the analogous people in the movie and music industries.

I'm worried, though. I'm worried that Amazon has become a publisher now, and will promote its own author's books before the self-pubbed ones -- worried that conflict of interest will destroy the largest market for self published authors.

Are you as concerned as I am?

Marilyn Peake said...

Very exciting blog post! I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of too many writers having Stockholm Syndrome. As a writer, I’m thrilled with my experience in self-publishing. I feel no shame in it. I’ve started looking at writers who sound like they have Stockholm Syndrome as possibly not being creative enough to think outside the box, and creativity is a rather important ingredient in writing great books. As a reader, I started noticing a while back that some of the smartest writers were turning to self-publishing and indie-publishing. After receiving a boatload of rejections from literary agents, Paul Harding turned to a small indie press to publish TINKERS, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for that novel! After years spent waiting for a traditional publisher to read her novel, Andrea K. Host finally self-published THE SILENCE OF MEDAIR, and that book went on to become a Finalist in the Aurealis Awards. Both novels are so beautifully written, it would have been a shame for the authors to have never stepped outside the box of traditional publishing.

I’ve also started noticing that some of the most intelligent blog posts are currently appearing on self-publishing blogs. Adam Pepper’s post here today is a great example of that: smart, creative, well-written. On many industry blogs today, the conversation sounds like giddy high schoolers talking about the prom. Instead of "What should I wear?" it’s "What should I write? How should I write it? What’s hot right now? Giggle. Giggle." – as if some magical formula is more important than intelligent writing and creative stories. Many of those conversations are lightweight and vanilla, everyone parroting back the same beliefs, afraid to take risks, afraid to offend anyone. Ironically, great art of any kind, including great books, requires creativity, risk and the willingness to offend when necessary to tell the truth. Of course, many wonderful books are still published by the Big Six, but too many are ignored and too much drivel is published in the traditional arena.

Jude Hardin said...

Make no mistake about it, playing the slush game, trying to rise above the mountains of manuscripts, getting past the intern, then the junior people, then the senior people, all of whom--no matter how well intentioned--are human beings who are overwhelmed and inundated with submissions, bring their own personal biases and subjective tastes to the table and generally treat slush with equal parts horror, humor and contempt.

It’s lotto, plain and simple.


I like your post, Adam, and I wish you much success with your indie ventures, but in my experience the above statements are just flat wrong.

If you have an agent, your work will bypass the slush and be read by a senior editor right away. And it's not the lotto. Books aren't chosen at random to be published. A lot of factors are taken into consideration before a publisher invests the time and money it takes to bring a novel to the shelves.

Jude Hardin said...

AMAZON HAS MADE MONEY ON EVERY BOOK THEY'VE PUBLISHED.

I sincerely love to hear that. Yep. Amazon rocks!

Adam Pepper said...

Ted,

I've been giving a lot of thought to your post. I know many writers submit before their work is ready. I've certainly done it. Self pubbing should not be a short cut, just a different path. You have to pay your dues and work hard. I dont know that I agree about slapping a book up and seeing how the market reacts.

So, I dont have the answer to your direct question: how does a new writer know when they're ready. But I do think you should take your time, work hard, revise your work and get lots of opinions before you consider self publishing it.

Hope this helps. The main thing is to keep at it.

Archangel said...

I just love what you wrote Adam. It's like a Zen-Horror story.

and for decades, it was a 'secret' about who was slapping through the slush piles, especially since most of us thought slush meant like melted snow or something, when in fact it meant mawkish, sentimental, hokey. The uninitiated were so sincere, the 'insiders' cynical...

when after decades of trying, and finally given the provisional, it is always provisiion entre to a big 6, I saw the 'slush piles' with my own eyes...piles and piles of unopened thick brown 8x10 envelopes, sloping piles sloppily stacked on long folding tables in a hallway, with a broken folding chair under the table; and dust. yes.

Then I suddenly realized that all those tries we had all hung so much on, well, that we were already designated as one more 'ugly person' waiting to be invited to the prom by the captain of the football team. Fat chance and all.

This was in the days Adam, when we still typed on old bangers or on ball typewriters and typed and typed over and over fresh copies because IF they were returned to us by what then was not a big six, but about a big 55, we thought the pages were all wrinkled and messed up because someone had read them. It wasnt that likely. More because they were just thrown carelessly in a pile til someday...

The thing I am most happy about for you and most all the others here, is because of your youth, and your insight right now, you will not have to suffer endlessly on the snipe hunt, that no one told us had the odds of a white buffalo

for that reason that no more secrets are kept from the young and up and coming, like you, I am very glad I lived long enough to see this with my own eyes. Albeit, bi-focal eyes. lol

dr.cpe

Adam Pepper said...

Marilyn,

Thank you for your kind words. I do agree that the best fiction takes risks and NY often plays it safe. I always strive to be courageous with my work. Sometimes I hit, sometimes I miss but I'd rather try and write something intense and fail than succeed at writing something generic.

Phil Bryant said...

Thanks for your honesty, Adam. Few have it both ways or choose to go the self published route so your journey has had the best of both worlds.

It is also refreshing to see that there are others like yourself who have chosen to rise and fall by your own making and not watiing for the elusive "one day" moment to be given to you by someone else.

Adam Pepper said...

Jude,

Glad you showed up. Things were getting a little too lovey dovey around here!

If you are fortunate enough to land an agent of the caliber you have, that may be true. But that is a very rare thing. To land an agent is hard enough, and one that can get your work in front of the top editors, and is of a mind to use that influence on your behalf rarer still. You are rather fortunate (dare I say lucky) to have her.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Some of this sounds very familiar to me. I remember getting up some mornings and thinking, "Today, THE phone call is going to come through." As those days became fewer and further between, I underwent the same paradigm shift. And then one day, I didn't care anymore if the phone rang. I had other plans. It's not sour grapes. It's about coming round to a different way of thinking - re-defining your definition of success.

Thanks for sharing your story, Adam. I wish you the best of luck!

Archangel said...

@Jude, you mentioned if one has an agent that the agent will take the ms straight through to sr. editor.

In actuality, most often depends very much on clout of agent and agent's track record in that genre. Some agents who are really well positioned will bypass the sr editor and go straight to the publisher. There's a pecking social order amongst agents just as there is in any other group. So, those are the hot shots.

Other agents, depending, may get a sr editor to look. But most agents, unless they have BIG and public connections will be submitting ms to a sr ed, but it will FIRST be read by an assistant, and not even read, only 'looked at' and the assistant who is often in early 20s with rich loves and education but not vast experience in the world will write a report to not the sr ed, but to sales and mktg dept. They all will confer for a minute perhaps during one of their seeming endless meetings... and if they think might be good idea... the acquiring editor, who may or may not be a sr. editor, will take a look too, and see. There are also psychological reasons editors buy or dont buy mss, just as in all other purchase groups.

Overall, there is no guarantee with an agent. It very much depends on the agent's clout, and only a few have the kind that can call six publishers in one day and have a read and decision within 3 days.

Agenting with the 'big'puvlishers over the many decades I've witnessed it, is relationship more than anything else. The schmoozing does not go on over the phone or in the publishing houses; with big six, it's personal, and there are requisite social roots to much of business.

There's a sometimes hidden reason that some agents dont place very good manuscripts. It's not for lack of trying most of the time: agents work hard. It's an issue often of the agent's clout or lack of it, also the absurdist shifting and firing of editors so agents have no stable contacts for new bosses have varying criteria over newly hired editors... and nowadays it is that marketing and sales have become a more and more invasive force in what used to be a process that once relied on the tastes and loves of the acquiring persons, instead of 'book by committee.' ...which to my mind has sunk many many a fine book. Just my .02, and I know you pub'd an ebook and a print on paper book recently, I belive, Jude. Congratulations.

dr.cpe

Liliana Hart said...

Great post, Adam. When you said you were pulling the book you have out on submission to publish yourself, it made me cheer for you even as I felt my gut clench in automatic fear. That takes balls, my friend. And for those of us who have been in the publishing game for a number of years, we know that fear has been instilled in us since we dipped our big toe into the proverbial writing lake. To self-pub means you've sold out, or so I've been told by colleagues in my writing organizations. It means I'm blowing all my chances at ever having a big 6 deal. And it means some of my trad pubbed author friends, who are happy with their mediocre advances and small print runs, look down their noses at me and shake their heads in pity. The prejudice is still so bad in my local chapter that I haven't even "come out of the closet" as a self-pubbed author to them. I just don't want to deal with the hassle. Because believe me, I've been around the block.

I've had three agents in the last five years. Two of the agents have been with the top 2 agencies in the country. I've won major awards. I've had two different books make it to acquisitions before the publishers changed their minds. In fact, my agent has my urban fantasy out on submission right now. But to be honest, I haven't even thought about it lately. My self-pub career is doing things I never thought possible. I'm making money. Not as much as Konrath or Eisler, but I'm making three times what I did teaching high school. Success by my standards. That's all that matters. Like you said, it's my career.

Joe Konrath said...

If you have an agent, your work will bypass the slush and be read by a senior editor right away.

So what?

My agent couldn't sell The List, Origin, Trapped, and Endurance, even though they went to senior editors. Those books were rejected.

I've made over $400,000 on those four novels.

It's either random luck, or publishers are so damn stupid they missed out on making fat bank on those titles.

Personally, I think it's both. Luck plays a huge part, and the publishing industry couldn't find its ass in a hall of mirrors with a search party.

The point is: you can let your fate be up to morons, or you can try to get lucky on your own.

Suzanne Tyrpak said...

Thanks for the great post, Adam.

I had a similar experience with trad publishing. Blake Crouch convinced me to self-publish about a year ago (practically dragged me), and it's been great.

Best of luck,
Suzanne

Jude Hardin said...

It's either random luck, or publishers are so damn stupid they missed out on making fat bank on those titles.

Personally, I think it's both. Luck plays a huge part, and the publishing industry couldn't find its ass in a hall of mirrors with a search party.


So you're saying that Whiskey Sour sold because some "moron" spun the roulette wheel. I disagree. I think it sold because it was a good story, well-written, and the first in a series with bestseller potential.

But let's face it. The game has changed quite a bit since the sale of WS. Just because certain ebooks are doing well at $2.99 doesn't mean that publishers could have made profits with them as hardcovers back in 2003. The dynamics of publishing are dramatically different than they were eight years ago. Hell, they're dramatically different than they were ONE year ago.

Anonymous said...

@Jude
So you're saying that Whiskey Sour sold because some "moron" spun the roulette wheel. I disagree. I think it sold because it was a good story, well-written, and the first in a series with bestseller potential.

No. Flat-out wrong. Editors will fix a book. Editors answer to the marketing department and the suits who write the checks. They just want to know how to sell the damn thing and could care less about quality. Joe's books are fine, but overall no better or worse than most anything else. Jonathon Franzen can certainly use words, but he makes me want to hang myself because his stories are PURE SHIT.

It's all totally random and totally subjective.

healthsouk said...

I’m a single mom and I have 2 kids who both needed dental braces. I make just enough to not qualify Medicaid

services so I can’t get free dental and medical services for the kids. I had to pay over $4800 so that my child

can have braces and a beautiful smile. . .She was very scared and timid at school. I couldn’t find anyone in

Los Angeles who would do the braces at a normal price so I had to launch find it with free services like
http://www.healthsouk.com (HealthSouk- the dental discount plan or discounted dentistry) and

www.1800dentist.com (800 dentist) The first one was free and the second apparently charges the dentist but not

me.healthsouk
- Jenny Thomas

Adele Cosgrove-Bray said...

Like many others, I too believed the old story about how self-publishing was the last resort for those who couldn't write well enough to bag a 'proper' career. And, also like many others, I've spent way too many days (and postage!) sending out MS set to this or that guideline only to receive a pro forma thanks-but-no-thanks letter months later - and now many agents don’t even bother to reply.

Am I a deluded idiot who can't string a sentence together? No, I'm just another (already traditionally published) writer trying to get more than a toe in the door, who has grown tired of jumping through hoops to no purpose.

By self-publishing, a person gives away their precious First Rights. However, these haven’t done me any good by gathering dust on a shelf. When I first encountered digital self-publishing I was as resistant as a mule going backwards up a glacier because, well, it meant re-thinking beliefs about that ‘proper’ writing career. But then I realised other people were making money while my work was merely feeding dust mites…

With the old model of a writing career it was assumed that having an agent and a big-name publisher demonstrated that an author had official approval. Now all any writer needs is the approval of anyone who has bought their ebook, as a happy reader is likely to buy another book. An audience is all the approval any writer really needs.

Brandon Massey said...

Congrats, Adam, for taking your future into your own hands. As we've seen, once a book is available, the readers will ultimately decide what is "good"--and looks like you're definitely on the right track. Best of luck to you!

Joe Konrath said...

So you're saying that Whiskey Sour sold because some "moron" spun the roulette wheel. I disagree.

Whiskey Sour went out to 20 houses. Only two bid on it, even though it would have fit in very well at the other 18.

It's dumb luck that it sold.

Every single author has been rejected, even major blockbuster bestsellers. That tells me that editors are pretty much clueless when it comes to predicting what will sell.

Anonymous said...

@Ted who asks: "The question I keep coming back to in my mind, is how will new authors know they are ready?"

Malcolm Gladwell in 'Outliers' would say you become proficient at any task with 10,000 hours of practice - and I would add to that about 400 rejections.

Writing, reading, reading about writing, etc. for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 5 years - coupled with 400 submissions/rejections on 5 separate novels, and 2 big time agents who failed to sell my work...landed me a 5 figure monthly paycheck via self-pubbing, within 6 months of uploading my first novel to Amazon.

If you plan to self-pub before going through this meat grinder, you may want to think about using a pen name in case you need to come back a year later with better stuff.

Jude Hardin said...

It's dumb luck that it sold.

Not exactly. If you hadn't had a good agent, it never would have gotten into the hands of the editors who did want it.

If you had sent the ms out unsolicited and the envelope had gotten torn and the kid in the mail room had read the first few pages and had liked it a lot and had sneaked into the VP's office and put it on the top of her TBR pile, that would have been blind luck. That would have been winning the lotto. Does it happen? Probably. But you and I know that having a good agent increases our odds of success exponentially. That's why we pay them 15%. If it's all just dumb luck anyway, there wouldn't be much point in even having an agent. And, of course, like Adam and someone else pointed out, all agents are not created equal.

Adam Pepper said...

Jude,

First off, sorry about taking a shot at you last night. I know you have a thick skin.

As to the luck debate, I'm mainly referring to rising from slush, which has so many variables to it. But even if we take you as an example (okay...I'm about to take another shot!) Jane Dystel is a fine agent. You'll get no argument from me and if she took you on, you must be talented and have something she believes she can sell. However, is Jane Dystel the be all and end all of what is publishable? Has she never missed one? I'm quite sure that she's rejected numerous authors and their books that were marketable and perhaps every bit as strong as yours. Why did she take you on and not those other worthy authors? That is luck. Your work resonated with her, for whatever reason. More power to you.

Phil Bryant said...

Thanks Adam for your honesty on your journey. There is a gatekeeper mentality from both traditionally published authors and the effort they put into becoming so and the sense that the process only rewards the elite. It comes down to marketability and investment choices by the big houses when you dig into the business and realize that for every cash cow they can produce they lose money on a hundred other authors or break even.

I chose to self publish because I wasn't writing for a mass market subject nor with a traditional historical fiction storyline. For those two reasons alone getting a hearing with an agent or a house would have been difficult. But, the market is out there and like a politician building a coalition I now have to build the fan base using the new tools.

Thanks again for reminding me that it can be built.

Ann A said...

I'm with Ted:

"The old system of agents and editors had its flaws, but it was pretty good at telling writers 'You just aren't ready yet."

I read your sample, Adams. It's just not there yet. The opening is very "meh" and your prose doesn't have that shine - yet. I can see why you haven't sold: you just aren't ready yet. But if self-pubbing is working for you I wish you nothing but the best.

Anonymous said...

Just because a publisher doesn't see a market for your book, doesn't mean that niche doesn't exist - and if it may not be tremendously profitable for a $100 million dollar company, it may still be very profitable for an individual writer.

Jude Hardin said...

Why did she take you on and not those other worthy authors? That is luck. Your work resonated with her, for whatever reason. More power to you.

Here’s the story for anyone who's interested.

I cold-queried Jane Dystel six or seven years ago and got a form rejection letter. Was I merely unlucky back then, or was my work not quite good enough yet? I'm pretty sure there was no flipping of a coin, no eenie meenie miney moe. No, I signed with her in 2011 because I'm a better writer than I was six years ago.

And of course a referral never hurts. :)

Tracy Sharp said...

I'm writing a Y.A horror novel which I won't be pitching to an agent or a publisher. This one is going to be self-pubbed, baby.

No matter how it does, it'll be completely under my own control :)

The best part is that I'm not writing anything for follow trends. I'm writing what I want to write, and I'm writing the best story I can.

Adam Pepper said...

Jude, I appreciate your optimism, but you are in the house of cynics. Listen to your own statement. When you cold queried you got nowhere but with a referral you got in. I'm sure your work did improve in the interim but you had a huge leg up on random slush too. I'm not diminishing your accomplishments but I dont share your sense of justice. I'd be willing to bet that in the very slush pile you bypassed there was a marketable manuscript or two, especially if championed by someone with that kind of pull. Jane Dystel passes on good projects every single day, so do her junior agents and so do her interns. She isnt psychic. I'm sure she goes with her gut and with the knowledge of who she's selling to. That's how the business works. It may not be as random as a roulette wheel but it's certainly not as exact as forensic science.

Ann A, thanks for checking out my work. If you find my work "meh" that's cool and I respect that. But when we talk about "not being there yet" and "your work doesnt shine" that's exactly the subjective stuff that agents and editors use and there's never any consistency to it. The "twist" in the middle of my novel was the part that sunk me with one big name agent who loved the book up to that point, another big editor loved that the most and called it the strength of the book. These are two successful professionals in the industry and their opinions were in total contradiction to one another.

David Gaughran said...

My own experiences of cold-querying (i.e. without a referral of some sort) indicate that a lot depends on luck. Obviously, there are variables in your control - the quality of the manuscript, how well you have targeted that agent, whether your query itself is in good shape etc. - but there is so much that isn't.

A big one is who is actually reading the query (and what mood they are in), as it's often not the agent you have so assiduously targeted.

A couple of years ago, I submitted to one NY agent who I was sure would dig my book. An intern (it was signed "intern"!) gave me a standard form rejection. At the end of the summer, I decided to try again. Same pitch, same MS, same sample chapters. This time the agent himself answered, the full was requested, and I ended up getting an offer of represenatation.

Now, it didn't work out, but it was the closest I got. And that was pure luck.

I'm sure every writer has a story or two like that.

The fact is that if you are in the slush pile, you have very little chance. Your query will probably be read by an underpaid, overworked assistant (or an intern), and they probably have to get through hundreds a day.

They are looking for reasons to say no. They have to with that volume. While you don't need to drink a whole bottle of champagne to know that it's flat, and while at least 90% of queries are probably pure garbage, the simple fact of dealing with that huge volume means that great stuff is going to be missed all the time.

Another problem is that most agents don't necessarily have a good sense of what readers like. They might have a good sense of what five or six editors like to see in submissions, but that's quite a few steps removed from what readers actually want to read. While there are a few good agents out there with their fingers on the pulse, my guess is that they are in the minority.

How do I know this? Well, for the last couple of months, around a third of all top-selling e-books on Amazon are from indies. I think it's fair to say that a good portion of those are writers who couldn't crack the system.

That would seem to suggest that there is a serious flaw in the whole agent-editor procurement system, and that rather than it being any kind of exact science, it's more based on dumb luck.

Stephen Knight said...

Bravura post. Love it.

Jude Hardin said...

When you cold queried you got nowhere but with a referral you got in.

Of course referrals help, but getting a referral isn't dumb luck either. You have to ask, and the person you're asking has to be familiar enough with your work and like your work enough to allow his or her name to front the query.

williamdoonan said...

Maybe it's time for all us writers to "come out of the P.O.D." Stop living a lie. Be proud of being published. You wrote the damn story, so now it's time to share it with the world.

William Doonan
www.williamdoonan.com

Selena Kitt said...

Of course referrals help, but getting a referral isn't dumb luck either.

No, it's a good ol' boys club. Mostly connections. Occasionally, they let a few brand-newbies into the fold just because they like their style. But mostly they don't. They rely on referrals and word of mouth.

Funny, for a business based on the written word, how little of it actually depends on what is written. It more often depends on who you know.

That and, as Joe keeps saying: persistence + blind luck. You, too, might win the newbie lotto.

In the meantime, Amazon could be paying your mortgage.

Your choice!

Victoria said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Adam. It's enlightening and encouraging.

Jude Hardin said...

No, it's a good ol' boys club.

The secret handshake theory, which anyone who has been around publishing for, oh, ten minutes or so, knows is hogwash.

Archangel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward M. Grant said...

THEN have it be not just "forgettable", but so bad they actively remember the author to avoid in the future.

I've started many barely readable free self-published ebooks and I can't remember who wrote any of them; I struggled through a few pages and then moved on to something else.

However, there is one author I now actively avoid (not someone who posts here and I'm not going to name them). I've read two of their e-books from cover to cover, paid for both of them, they had good covers, good blurb, great concepts, at least one was previously trade published, the words were put together well, and... the story stank.

Both of those e-books could have been great for their genre, but by the end left me feeling totally let down with characters doing things for no explicable reason or not doing things that seemed obvious, deus-ex-machina endings and other flaws that ruined them for me.

They just felt like a huge missed opportunity, and to me that's much worse than an unreadable book. If I look at their next e-book, it could have a great concept and some great opening chapters but will probably turn to poo three quarters of the way through after I've wasted a few hours of my time.

I'd much rather read a good story with weak grammar and typos than a poor story that's perfectly written. I've been reading a few older novels recently (70s and 80s) and I don't think any of them would have been published today because the writing doesn't 'shine' and violates many of the commandments of modern publishing. Yet they sold by the truckload to my parents' generation, who didn't seem to care about such things.

So personally I'd say that a self-published author is likely to suffer far less from putting up really bad books than by putting up well-written books that suck. And I think plenty of us will read books that 'don't shine' or have a 'meh' opening provided they have a good story.

Archangel said...

@selena, right on. "good ol' boys club" ... only in last 20yrs have women been publishers ... it's young yet. And Jude, truly, I think many author women would concur for certain with Selena, and a few might not depending on their breaks in life. Very few women were allowed into certain genres in the past unless they wrote under pseudonyms. It's a long dirty history. Tillie Olson for one, wrote about it: Silences. There is also the work, Madwomen in the Attic, about just that phenom of being shut out if you happen to be born a split tail duck.

also, @Jude, one doesnt ever or always need to see and like the work of a person to refer them to one's agent. It's based on relationship often, not on seeing the work. One writer's opinion in terms of market means nothing. The agent will decide, and is often glad to look, even briefly, as a courtesy to the author they already represent. Just my .02 experience. I've referred many to my agent w/o reading their mss. I let agent decide from there.
There is no way, as Adam has pointed out to gain consensus... the final nutcutter is still the publisher. And, we havent even touched on some of the editors/ publishers despising some of the agents/ authors, and visa versa. It's a complicated hive.

dr.cpe

Jude Hardin said...

I've referred many to my agent w/o reading their mss.

Then your referrals are meaningless, and your agent probably doesn't pay much attention to them.

I would never waste my agent's time like that. If I send someone her way, it's because I think they rock.

Anonymous said...

I've stopped buying printed books. My big dilemma at the moment is whether or not to make the upcoming Steve Jobs bio my final hardback purchase or go ahead and grab it in digital.

Anonymous said...

@Jude

Dude, there are so many things I want to say, but I no longer have the energy to argue with someone still hoping for a ticket on the Titanic.

Archangel said...

@ Jude. ¡Ay mio Dio, Dio mio, Jude. You said: "Then your referrals are meaningless, and your agent probably doesn't pay much attention to them. I would never waste my agent's time like that..."

My agent is a great man, Jude; I've been with him 21 years; we have a respectful relationship and our leg wrasslings. I respect him greatly for all he has done for all the authors he agents. He is happy to look at work of people I send onward to his door. I feel blessed to help young and not so young authors if I can when they ask...for, I remember so well and have the scars to show for it, how hard it was to be alone on the open road without a map, for so so long. If I can help provision a sister or brother on the lonely way, I will try.

The souls who are my agent's assistants are insightful and kind people; they will give first appraisal, and go on from there.

"Meaningless" is in the eye of the beholder, Jude. Neither my agent nor I think it is, as you say, 'waste of time' to give a look, in order to bring people forward who might be good to go in writing, if not now, then in future.

Though I'd agree with you Jude that it can be tiring to anyone to respond to many who want to hear/ see, know, be nourished, as we see Joe temporarily fatigued but still active, still, for many, it's more than brain choice to give whatever can be given without giving away the magneto; it comes from spirit. And more. Just my .02

dr.cpe

Adam Pepper said...

I want to thank everyone for their comments. I havent been able to address each one but the outpouring of support is truly appreciated. To hear from writers at all levels of the food chain, and see how we all share many of the same experiences, concerns, doubts--it's humbling and inspiring. We get testy and passionate at times but the work is what matters. Telling stories that matter to us, telling them to the best of our abilities and sharing them with as many people as possible, and hopefully making a buck in the process.

Liliana Hart, I did want to get to your comment. Thanks for the sympathy. There is no doubt, that when I wrote the email to tell the editor I was self publishing, I was riddled with doubt. Was this the right move or was it career suicide? Here's the one editor in NY who believes I have talent and I'm risking alienating him. If this is what Joe calls Stockholm Syndrome, my programming runs deep! But I had the courage of my convictions. I believe the book, SKIN GAMES is going to be huge for me. And I believe self publishing it is my best chance at success. So, I sent the email, and to his credit, the editor was supportive and a total gentleman about it. I'm looking forward to getting it published and seeing how it does.

Thanks again!

Jude Hardin said...

I feel blessed to help young and not so young authors if I can when they ask...for, I remember so well and have the scars to show for it, how hard it was to be alone on the open road without a map, for so so long. If I can help provision a sister or brother on the lonely way, I will try.

Then why do you post anonymously? Why don't you reveal your identity and leave some contact info so all your brothers and sisters 'round here can get a referral to your agent?

Archangel said...

@Jude, you wrote: "Then why do you post anonymously? Why don't you reveal your identity and leave some contact info so all your brothers and sisters 'round here can get a referral to your agent?"

I think you follow Joe's blog pretty closely from what I see. On just the status post just before this one here at Joe's blog, at the bottom of the comments, I offered help to one of the 'anonymous' posters here and my email addy.

My name is dr.cpe as you see on all my posts.

I dont think you'd be badgering just because we disagree, and as I said, respectful relationship between people means something. To each their own. Just my .02

dr.cpe

I.J.Parker said...

The luck debate has no clear answer. Yes, I do believe in luck. And no, I don't really have much of it. I got an agent because she liked my books and I won a Shamus award that year for a short story. I got publishers. Two of them were big six publishers, I got great reviews. And I lost the publishers, went to a small publisher, lost it, too, hoped for a deal with T&M, but after initial big interest: a new editor, and sorry, my books don't fit their plans now. So there's luck and bad luck. Ultimately, you turn to self-publishing because there is no other choice.

Billy said...

"There’s no vast conspiracy to see Adam Pepper fail; there’s merely apathy. The only person I can truly count on to build my career is me."

Awesome!

Yuwanda Black said...

"One of them is currently on submission with a big six house. I’m going to pull it and publish it myself. Sound insane?"

Ballsy, INSPIRING move!

Good luck with it.

Stephen Leather said...

"The only authors still pursuing legacy deals are:

1. Those who have never had them, so their views are all rosy and idealistic. As Adam said, they're waiting for that phone to ring. In the past, there was no choice. Now, it's rather pathetic.

2. Those who have had legacy deals, and have convinced themselves it's the only way to make a living."


With the greatest of respect that is, as we English, say, absolute bollocks. I have sold close to 500,000 eBooks in the last 12 months and have just released an eBook The Bestseller which went straight into the UK Kindle Top 10. But I have not turned my back on traditional publishing. I have just signed a five-book traditional publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton for US$750,000.

Earlier this year we had a host of Indie writers crowing about their success in the UK and predicting the death of traditional publishing. Few of those writers if any are still in the Top 100 and most are heading south.... My prediction - within a year most of the Indie writers will have faded away and the eBook bestseller lists will be dominated by writers who have signed with publishers.

Joe Konrath said...

I have just signed a five-book traditional publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton for US$750,000.

That's walk-away money, Stephen. I encourage authors to take deals like that. But very few get offered deals like that.

Maurice Nicholson said...

Great post Adam, you summed up my experience perfectly. To hell with giving anyone the God-like power to decide one's fate. The revolution has well and truly started.

Anonymous said...

My prediction - within a year most of the Indie writers will have faded away and the eBook bestseller lists will be dominated by writers who have signed with publishers.

That's just ego talking, Stephen. You worked hard to get published, and congratulations on that. But so did I, and I made a ton of money, but bookstores are closing and won't come back because people are simply sick of paying $25 (minimum) for a new hardback. Also , the world is becoming increasingly digital and people enjoy not having to maintain a physical collection of items they will typically only use once. It's been a couple of years since I bought my last CD, for example.

Anyway, I'm not arguing, but indie authors are going to flourish as trad publishers begin closing. And trad bestsellers will begin self-pubbing as advances fall exponentially. I'm assuming your $750,000 is before agent commissions, in which case, for 5 books, I'd walk away in a heartbeat. Anything less than a quarter-mill per book, I'm not interested. I'm doing better than that on my own.

Peace

James Quirk said...

Thanks Adam and Joe for the encouragement. I self-pubbed my first novel over two months ago after a horrible experience trying to go the traditional route, but to this point sales are slow. I really needed something to lift my spirits, and this blog post was it.

Ruth said...

Joe thanks for bringing another inspirational guest blog.

Adam, I hope I see you back here boasting big numbers.

I found Joe's blog when I decided to self-publish back in April. I find the advice here thought provoking and often quite helpful.

I'm a romance writer who tried to get my book published with the giants in my genre. Then I tried the smaller houses. Eventually I took the leap to self-pubbing.

My first book is free, Maid for the Billionaire. My second book, For Love or Legacy, has made a little over $20,000 since I put it up at the end of August. (And that is not counting my iTunes sales -- just Amazon)

I credit the pioneers like Joe (and now Adam) for giving me the courage to step away from the traditional path and let the readers decide.

My local romance chapter will not recognize me as published and my daughter asked me if I care. I said, I don't care if they don't as long as the bank does.

And that's the bottom line. I don't really care what people consider my level of publication -- especially when the sales exceed what I would have gotten had I sold to my dream house.

Coral Russell said...

I just found this out yesterday - http://alchemyofscrawl.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/getting-into-amazons-best-sellers-in-kindle-ebooks-free-zone/ - has anyone used this to nudge their books in the direction of the 'free' list on Amazon?

The pricing is math and I'm really horrible at math. But let's say you want to make $1200 a month. At $.99 you would need to sell 3500 books a month, whereas if the price were $2.99 you would only need to sell 600.

BUT, if no one knows who you are, then what does it matter? I loved Doctorow's article - The problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity.

What I'm really curious about is that Joe Konrath has given away a TON of eBooks. I know because that's how I found his books and became a fan. I really liked that idea and did the same thing. After 4 months I have a base sales figure on Amazon per month. I don't go below that number per month and except for the first month have exceeded it.

Have you ever looked at the number you gave away compared to what your base sales are (even though I know they're growing)? I think that might be part of your success. You've beaten the obscurity factor. :) Which would also account for you being able to increase your prices now. Which makes perfect sense.

I'm content with monthly growing a little bit at a time and finding awesome readers/bloggers/authors to connect with.

And Joe's right - a pro book cover and editing is a must. Shoot even I got a pro book cover done. Love the lady if you want to use her. She's very affordable for the quality.

Peter Seaton said...

I read this post, I bought Symphony of Blood, and I liked it... far more than I thought I would. It’s well worth the money.

Red Tash said...

So many names here I know. Hi, everyone.

Thanks for the great blog, Adam. Such insightful comments from "the gang," as well.

I am inching my way up with my first book, one buck at a time. We'll see how it goes.

Happy Friday, all.

Canada said...

Symphony of Blood written by Adam Pepper is a perfect example of a great detective's story with a supernatural twist. Hank Mondale is a down and out Private Detective who is broke and in need of his next case and cold hard cash. With everything falling apart he has no choice but to take a case from a high profile client and his debutante daughter who take Hank on a wild ride in search of a "monster".

I love a good detective story and following in Simon R Green's footsteps Adam Pepper had me hooked from the very first chapter. I loved the almost slap stick feeling the author created with his writing. For every bad decision that Hank made, there is an immediate reaction which does not always bode well for him. Through the first half of the story I was unsure of what exactly classified this book as "Supernatural", but as the story unfolded "It" was revealed. Told from the Hank's POV the story line is fast paced and filled with suspense as the author takes you down a clue filled path with coincidences and events that can only lead to one outcome. Just when I was thinking I had this story line all figured out, the author throws in a brilliant twist, by switching the POV abruptly as the plot is reveled from a perspective that is completely unexpected and unique.