Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Post by Geraldine Evans

Joe sez: If you've missed the previous guest blogs, they've been fascinating and informative.

You can read Joe Flynn talking about his publishing history here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-joe-flynn.html

You can read Richard Stooker talking about bestsellers here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-richard-stooker.html

You can read Nikki M. Pill talking about fear here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-nikki-pill.html

You can read Billie Hinton and Dawn Deanna Wilson talking about categorizing your book here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-billie-hinton-and-dawn.html

You can read Helen Smith talking about her publishing journey here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-helen-smith.html

You can read Jeff Carlson talking about his publishing journey here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-jeff-carlson.html

You can read Zander Marks talking abut new genres here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-zander-marks.html

Now here's Geraldine Evans...

Such a thrill to write a guest post for Joe Konrath. I’ve admired him from afar since before I decided to turn indie myself — a decision I doubt I’d have had the courage to make if not for Joe. So thank you, Joe, for your generosity in sharing so much with the rest of the writing community and for opening our eyes to the possibilities created by Amazon and the internet. You’ve raised the lid on so much to do with the publishing world: not least author earnings, which most of us have probably been secretive about (though more from mortification that our earnings were so small than from any James Bondian reason!). A lot of us are now earning a living from our writing and finding those readers that were so elusive during our traditional publishing days.

I’ve been writing for nearly half my life, but, like most writers, I took a while to get my act together and actually finish a novel. It took hitting one of those age milestones for me to stop prevaricating and actually type those blissful words: ‘The End’.

But, as we all know, and as Winston Churchill famously said in relation to World War Two, we weren’t at the beginning of the end. But we might be at the end of the beginning.

So, beginning made, we advanced proudly on to the next stage. You’ll be familiar with this one. It’s the standard rejection letter stage. This goes on for quite a while. From there we move on, if we’re lucky, to the more personal rejection letter, maybe even with a few encouraging words scribbled at the end by the editor. But it’s still a rejection and doesn’t necessarily smell any sweeter with the addition of a few barely decipherable words.

Six years and six books later in my case, I received my first letter from a publisher saying they wanted to publish my book. I’d been writing romantic novels in the hope of getting signed up by Mills & Boon (Harlequin). I never managed to get taken on by them — although I did get to the ‘few words’ stage, that advised me my books had too much plot and not enough romance… So, I decided to try Robert Hale, who also published romance in a smaller way. They accepted my novel, Land of Dreams (set in the Canadian Arctic in an attempt to be ‘the same, but different’!) out of print in any format), for the fabulous sum of — wait for it — £100, which is roughly $150. Still, it was a start. And, of course, I’d go on to greater things…

Alas, the greater things never happened and I languished on the midlist through God knows how many years and eighteen novels, never advancing much, although my advances did at least gather a nought on the end.

But this was only after the next rejection for my follow-up romantic novel and a switch in genre. This latest rejection had made me good and mad. I felt like murdering someone. So I did. I turned to crime (which is what that quiet little voice inside had been telling me to do for some time). I found a niche almost immediately with Macmillan who sold that first crime novel, Dead Before Morning, the first in my now 15-strong Rafferty & Llewellyn procedural series to St Martin’s Press and Worldwide. The latest in the series, Kith and Kill, is one of my self-published works.

My Rafferty & Llewellyn series novels are more cozy procedurals, with my London-born and Essex-based DI Joseph Aloysius Rafferty hailing from a working-class Irish Catholic family who — with their little more than passing acquaintance with the letter of the law — are the bane of his life. Being a policeman in the Rafferty family is not a happy experience. And while they might give me as the author and, hopefully, the readers, a lot of fun, they cause Rafferty plenty of angst, angst compounded by me partnering him with DS Dayd Llewellyn, a more moral than the Pope intellectual Welshman.

So, alongside the murder investigations, I’ve generally got family-caused mayhem going on in the sub-plot, which gives Rafferty plenty of ‘How the hell do I get out of this?’, moments.

I still wasn’t earning much. I was still stranded on the midlist. With nowhere to go, but down and out. And out I went after the first four books in the Rafferty series when Macmillan was taken over by a firm of German publishers and they dropped about a third of their list, including yours truly.

It was another six years before I managed to get published again. But after another ten crime novels, I was still marooned on the midlist, with no marketing budget, no publisher-paid-for book tours, no nothing. It really was a dead-end job with no hopes of promotion. Worse, it was a very poorly-paid dead end job which had to be fitted in around my real dead-end job.

Is this it? I thought. Is this what all my aspirations and hard work had been about? By this stage, I was pretty disheartened and beginning to lose my love of words and the joy I’d previously found in putting them together. I was still working full-time at the day job and fitting in my writing during evenings, weekends and holidays. It wasn’t much fun for me or my long-suffering husband.

I’d always tried to educate myself about the publishing world, the same as I’d tried to educate myself after I left school at sixteen. It was this desire to learn that brought me to Joe’s blog and, hardly able to believe my eyes, I read what he had to say about going it alone in a self-publishing world. Could there really be a way to escape the publishing treadmill, rekindle (!) my previous delight in the written world and make a proper living, too? It seemed too good to be true. There’s got to be a catch, I thought. But I continued to read Joe’s blog and from his posts I discovered other authors who’d taken the step into this Brave New publishing World before me. I started to think, ‘Mmm. Maybe it is possible.

Joe was and is such a great enthusiast, such an inspiration, and writes the things about publishers that most of us only think, that 2010 was like a succession of those ‘Ping!’, light bulb moments.

Although I still hardly dared to believe I could succeed on my own, after a few months’ I became brave enough to turn down my publishers’ latest contract — not a difficult decision in the event — especially as signing it would mean I agreed to give them the ebook rights to my entire backlist, the potential value of which they were starting to grasp.

Hey, I might be ill-educated, but I’m not stupid; certainly not after receiving a publishing education at the hands of the Master! No way was I doing that. So I said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’, and cut myself adrift to sink or swim on my own.

But I wasn’t alone. I had Joe always there with so much advice. And I had all the other intrepid authors who, like me, the publishing world assured us, would come to regret our foolhardy decision to leave their ‘nurturing’ nest.

Well, I’m happy to tell you we weren’t so foolhardy after all. I now earn more in a month than I used to earn in an entire year publishing the traditional route. I was able to give up the hated day job, I managed to get the rights back to nearly all my books and I’m now the proud indie author of sixteen books: twelve novels from my backlist, two new novels (Kith and Kill #15 Rafferty and The Egg Factory, a standalone medical suspense), one collection of short-short stories  (A Mix of Six) and one short non-fiction guide to kindle formatting (How to eFormat Your Novel For Amazon's Kindle: A Short But Comprehensive A-Z Guide

I’ve just finished preparing the last but one of my backlist for digital publication (A Thrust to the Vitals, with Death Dues to follow shortly (Rafferty #s 10 and 11.). I’ve also got half a dozen or more typescripts (not quite sure of the numbers as they were shoved wherever in our little house that they’d fit), that I think are good enough to be given another look at. They’re going to have to wait a while though, as I really must get on with my so-called work in progress (Asking For It #16 Rafferty series).

But I have a new lease of life, new readers and a new, much improved, source of income: all things the nay-sayers claimed I’ve never get. And it’s great! And, Joe — so are you! J xxxx

Joe sez: I remember thinking that it was my fault my books never made the bestseller lists. Even though my publishers made so many mistakes it was a comedy of errors. Even though I'd done more than any author, before or since, to self-promote. I felt the responsibility for being midlist.

Self-publishing for me was emancipation. With it came the realization that I'd done many things right, and that it was the archaic, greedy, dysfunctional, evil industry that had screwed up, not me.

But I won't place all the blame on NY publishing. Because fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for eight legacy published books, I became a willing participant in my own victimization.

Granted, it was the only game in town. To a starving man, a crust of bread is a banquet. 

But I'll never forget the feelings of failure, many of which stemmed from my own modest expectations. 

I can imagine what young sports stars feel like, working their asses off in college sports, hoping to go pro. I can also imagine how they feel when they get a shot at going pro, and it doesn't work out. The whole "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" sounds like it was written by someone trying to soothe himself after a horrible experience.

Honestly, I don't know what hurts more. Spending years trying to break into legacy publishing but never getting a deal, or getting a deal and being treated like crap.

I still see authors going after legacy deals and I honestly can't understand what the allure is. Aren't there enough confessional stories of woe on the internet that show how legacy publishers treat authors? Aren't there more and more indie authors speaking about their successes?

I'd like someone to explain to me why, if they read my blog, they'd still pursue a legacy deal. The hope of a NYT bestseller? It can happen self-publishing. A movie deal? It can happen self-publishing. Someone to guide them through the publishing process? That DOESN'T happen in legacy publishing. Publishers don't take care of you. They exploit you. 

I'm not the only one crowing about this. I'm seeing the same stories, over and over. I'm seeing publishers make the same mistakes. I'm seeing the old system fail, bit by bit. All the information is out there, easily accessible.

And yet there are still authors who want a book deal. The Big 5 and Harlequin are still seducing authors into taking unconscionable deals.

Why?

161 comments:

A.R. Wise said...

So many of us grew up wanting to be writers, and we idolized those names printed on spines at the bookstore. Every time I sat down to write in my younger years, my aspiration was to see my name in print on a shelf somewhere. I think that anyone older than 25 or 30 probably suffers under the delusion that success as a writer must include the ability to walk into a bookstore (those rare, El Dorado-ish institutions where consumers once purchased books) and see your title on the shelf.

I'm an example of the SP author that didn't dwell on a need for a name in print at the bookstore, and I dove right into the SP world with little interest in going the traditional route. I've enjoyed great success. I try to convince others my age to do the same, but many of them still cling to the ridiculous notion that you're not a REAL author unless you have an agent and a deal with a publisher. It's frustrating to see that so many people still think this way, but I'm fine with it. I'm fine with not being a REAL author after I was able to close down my 'Regular Job' business and start writing full time. I've been at it for a year now, and I'm making more than I did in the years leading up to the switch.

As time moves on, the next generation won't be stymied by an archaic definition of what it means to be a REAL author. Selling a physical book versus a digital copy will have all the weight of selling a CD versus an MP3. In fact, I think we're already at that point.

Geraldine Evans said...

Joe, You're a star! Thanks for opening up your blog to the wider writing community. I enjoyed writing this post: felt good to get it all off my chest!

AR, yes, I, too, try to convince my writing friends that SP is the way to go. But they won't be persuaded. I feel for them when I think of the contracts they've likely signed and the valuable ebook rights they're giving away. I feel very fortunate, firstly in finding Joe's blog and secondly, in following his advice.

Jude Hardin said...

Is it nice to see your book in a bookstore?

Yes.

Is it nice to know that your book has been bought by hundreds of libraries?

Yes.

Is it nice to be reviewed by the trades and major newspapers?

Yes.

Are all those things nice enough to warrant giving up nearly all the profits your book makes?

Fuck no.

The exhilaration you get from being a real author is fleeting; the sting of knowing what you gave up lasts forever.

Like Joe says, don't sign unless it's for walking away money. Period.

Thanks for the great post, Geraldine. Happy to hear you're on the right track now.

Geraldine Evans said...

Hi Jude, Yep, it feels GOOOOD!

Anonymous said...

I just never thought about self publishing as being "really" published, and I had a lot of insecurity about my own writing and whether it was any good or not.

I've written more words in my lifetime than I care to count up; I do have experience. And I do have stories that people sometimes like to read. But it was a block for a long time.

Fortunately, I worked with a small press that helped me gain confidence, and I found your blog, and now I'm branching out.

I had a romance turned down by my small publisher. They liked one of mine and published it, so I thought this one probably really wasn't any good. But I eventually edited it further and put it on Kindle. And it's earned me more in this month (like 60 dollars) than the other story had EVER earned me.

My next romance is going to be on the Kindle, and soon. I think I can get somewhere with this. It's not the hundreds of dollars the some people here make per book per month, but WOW, it is nice.

I am posting anonymously for some reason. :)

ANYA said...

I read your blog and I am still pursuing a legacy deal. I think it has to do with wanting to feel validated. In some ways going the SP'ing route is terrifying because what if I only sell 100 ebooks? With getting a legacy deal, the pressure is off me in some ways.

I grew up going to bookstores and dreaming off seeing my name on a book on a shelf, and I guess until I have exhausted all possible avenues for that to happen, I won't be ready to give up on that dream.

Also, SP seems very overwhelming. The idea of putting my destiny in my hands alone scares the crap out of me.

In a lot of ways maybe I am just a scardey-cat seeking to legitimize myself, and that is possibly a very dumb motivator.

Anonymous said...

The ultimate and true test of considering oneself a "real" author or being "published": Write a book that sells well. Write a good book that people want to buy and read.

Authors who need the validation of being courted, liked and given "permission" by various gatekeepers, agents and publishers need to really get over it and grow the F*** up.

ANYA said...

Eeek anon!
I guess I was just trying to be honest.

Perhaps I do still need to grow the F*** up. But also, my motivation for writing is just as valid as anyone else's. What I want out of the experience is what matters. Why can't I want something different from the experience than you? Isn't that the whole point of all these avenues to publication?

Also, we all have different time and money constraints. Our personal obligations dictate how much we are able to devote to different sorts of publishing routes. SP seems overwhelming bc I have read numerous blogs saying you have to market as much as you write. That isn't something all writers are able to do. Or even want to do. No reason to hate on people wanting something different than you.

A.R. Wise said...

Anya, I appreciate your post. I talk to a lot of people who feel the same way, and each of us are going to have to trudge down our own paths to whatever end we reach. That being said, more and more voices are rising up to bring some much needed reality to the situation. Anyone who thinks they're going to sign with a publisher and then never have to worry about marketing or promoting their own brand is living a fairy tale. Increasingly, more books are sold as ebooks than physical, and that's especially true for new authors and anyone who doesn't have their books in bib box stores like Walmart.

Furthermore, it used to be (falsely) said that going SP would kill your chances of getting a traditional publishing contract. That's no longer (and never really was) true. Just take a look at how Penguin is now desperately trying to get in on the SP game by imitating Smashwords. The seachange has already occurred, and it's time to stop dreaming of diving in the deep end with the sharks. At the very least, write a short story and SP that. My first SP outing was a meager 15,000 words, and it launched me into my current career. It's worth a shot.

Hairhead said...

Being an author is a job. It's a job essentially like any other. One uses one's skills to make something or to do a service, then offers that good or service to someone else FOR MONEY. That someone else PAYS MONEY for that thing you made.

And voila!

You are a "real" writer, athlete, accountant, cook, dishwasher, executive, repairman, renovator, driver, deliveryperson, mechanic, road-paver, pilot, babysitter, manager, administrator, actor, director, musician, producer, farmer, butcher, baker, candlestick-maker . . .

I've been trad-published, for a 5% royalty, no more than that, and no more, ever!

I've now got a large project I hope to have up in the next two months, using all of the wonderful advice and guidance I have read here from Joe and all his friends and contributors. I was a "real" writer before and I'll be a "real" writer in the -- albeit better-paid.

A.R. Wise said...

Anya, I meant to mention this in my last post, but then started ranting... nothing new there.

The reason I appreciated your original post was because it gives voice to an opinion shared by a large group of hopeful authors, and that voice isn't often shared on Joe's blog. Not because it isn't wanted, but because this is a haven for the SP crowd. Your dream of being a trad-published author was, at one time, shared by pretty much every author that posts here.

I'm not advocating for you to change your dreams or goals. My best advice would simply be to give the SP route a shot, just to see what happens. Write up a short story, put it out there, and see how you like it. If it's not for you, then no big deal. If it is, and you find that you're good at it, then you could literally change the entire course of your writing career. There's no risk involved, and a huge possible bonus from giving it a shot. Those aren't the type of odds you usually find out there for anything!

Jeff Ezell said...

Geraldine, thanks for sharing your travails on the troubled travel down the road to (almost) nowhere with traditional publishing. You completed the obstacle course of agents, editors, etc. receiving a pittance, promises and loss of control of your products like so many before you. Result: more frustration than frosting.

Other writers even tried the Vanity Press, pay cash up-front-route to get their name on books on shelves. Once again publishers win, authors lose.

One day the heavens opened up and delivered technology and Brother Joe Konrath, the SP disciple, to lead believers up the best path to success, Indie Pub. (I wonder if he’s referred to as Judas by the Big-5.)

Why do some writers still pursue the Big-5 dream? How much of it could be FEAR-OF-FAILURE? If you get a book deal with them and don’t do well, it becomes their fault (and probably is) but the writer succeeded in becoming an author, by golly. Publishers failed, not the writer. But author actually fails at the bank. Can you trade books with your name on the spline at the grocery or local pub? Reality sets in.

When you Indie Pub, you do it all. There’s only one person to blame. But Joe, your advice on professional covers, design, editing, and marketing is priceless. Your encouragement to try this and tweak that offers us all more hope to forge on. The money will follow.

Joe, thanks for shouting out the Indie Pub gospel. I’m a true believer. My first novel will be an Indie Pub, thanks to your guidance. The flock is growing, singing the praises. Testimonials continue. Lead on!

Anonymous said...

Time and time again it has been shown that the so-called literary "experts" - agents, publishers, critics, etc., cannot identify beforehand with any certainty what is a "good" book that people will like and buy a lot of (well, maybe only about 1% of the time).

I'm always amazed at the badly written books that become bestsellers. For example, I find the popularity of The Bridges of Madison County and The Alchemist absolutely inexplicable.


McVickers said...

I think a lot of the fear of self-publishing is just that -- fear. Fear of the selling, the doing it all yourself, the "how the hell do I sell an ebook online?" It's pretty terrifying. Until you read Joe's blog, read a dozen other books on the subject, and just generally emmerse yourself in the world. Then you realize it's pretty easy. For anyone who is still terrified of self-publishing, I recommend you read more about the topic. Honestly, it's really not that scary. (Of course, this is coming from a guy who makes his living online, so I might be talking out of my butt.)

Shoshanna Evers said...

Great post, Geraldine! And I love your new covers from SelfPubBookCovers.com! I'm thrilled you're self-publishing your backlist.

Joe asked why/how an author could read his blog and still take a Big 5 deal. Well, that's me... a hybrid author.

I love self-publishing. I continue to selfpub. But I also took a 6 book deal with S&S. Why? For one, I'd never done it before (my first 8 books were with smaller presses like Ellora's Cave). And I love having an advance upfront, because it gives me money I can count on. That's important when you write full time and have a small child to raise.

I just made sure my contract wouldn't keep me from self-publishing books whenever I want to. So I've got my toes in all waters right now, and I'm enjoying the diversification. :)

Jude Hardin said...

I think it has to do with wanting to feel validated.

That's legit. Expensive for most authors, but still legit.

So land an agent and a traditional deal and then another agent and an Amazon imprint deal...

And then self-publish five books later.

Like I did. :)

Alexandra Lynwood said...

As a member of a large writing community, I've been shocked at just how anti self-publishing a large number of them are.

Reasons seem to range from:

- You're not a real writer,
- The idea of doing it for myself scares me,
- I can't be bothered to do all that work after I'm done with the 'real' work.

By far and aware the loudest crowd take great pleasure in stating that you cannot be a real writer if you self publish.

Imagine if any other career group was this destructive about their own opportunities. I can just see it.

"Oh it's a Kom-pew-tar, eh? Don't think that will catch on, oh my no."

Surely the idea is to uplift one another not berate, harass, and sneer?

A.R. Wise said...

I've been assaulted with accusations that I'm not a REAL writer in the past. And I just smile and nod, and watch the accuser go off to their work-a-day world where they hate their jobs and dream of weekends - all while I live comfortably writing full time with no stress, no boss, no schedule, and a big f#cking smile on my face.

Anonymous said...

Why do people court the Big 5 in spite of plentiful indie success stories?

It depends on your worldview/politics. We all know that the Big 5 management is made up of what, 95%, liberal democrats. We can estimate that 80% of wanna be writers share the same viewpoints. BUT, what if 80% of successful indies count themselves as libertarians (like Joe)? Or conservatives (like me)?

Isn't that significant? The liberal viewpoint is 'you didn't build that, someone else helped you succeed' - coincidentally the prototypical 'selling point' made by the Big 5 establishment types.

By definition, indies are small businessmen and women, entrepreneurs, those willing to take 99% of the credit/blame for success/failure. They don't feel like all successful people simply got lucky - they believe that hard work, perseverance, and risk-taking are prerequisites for success.

I have merely anecdotal evidence to back this up, and a very small sample size, but what do others here think? Am I way off base? Don't get defensive, just state an opposing view...if you have one.

L. J. Breedlove said...

I teach journalism -- talk about a field where you write lots of words for low pay, and a field with a rocky future for the big guys. I tell my students that the first time they see their names in print, or get paid for their words, they've become a professional reporter. Doesn't matter how small the paper, or how little the pay. So when I epublished my first book last January, I sat myself down and told myself the same thing. My work was published, and someone bought it. Therefore I was a published writer, a "real" writer. I've had to give myself the same lecture a few more times since then, but I now have three books epublished. So I understand about the need for validation, but in the end, validation comes from within.

A.R. Wise said...

Anon 3:34, you can count me as an opposition in your small sample of anecdotal evidence. I'm a bleeding heart liberal, who works hard and doesn't believe anyone owes me anything. I understand that you don't want your offensive take on the liberal mindset to be taken as offensive... but that's pretty hard to swallow. Of course, this is (from what I've seen) a blog meant to encourage talk of writing and publishing, and not a place to launch a political debate. So, just add me to your informal poll as a consenting voice, and we'll leave it at that.

Geraldine Evans said...

Anon, Ultimately, it is the readers who validate authors, whether they be traditionally published or SP. So we all face the same 'trial by reader'. But it's a trial I welcome. Readers only care whether or not you can tell a good tale and don't bring all the other equations into the pot; all those things, like the rule of the accountants, whether or not you might be 'marketable', ie young and gorgeous and so on.

Although I started off as a traditionally published author, I never felt validated. What I felt was a failure. My ambition was to have a full-time career as a writer and I failed in that ambition for years.

But, as a SP author, I feel both validated and successful. Not successful in the way Joe is successful, admittedly, but far more so than I ever felt before I took control of my own career and destiny. A failure no longer. :-)

Geraldine Evans said...

Jeff, Exactly! I truly appreciate having control over the things that matter. It's not something I fear. I regard it as a challenge and I was always a girl up for a challenge!

Geraldine Evans said...

Thanks, Shoshanna, Yes, I'm pleased with my new covers. Although they're not custom-made, but pre-made, I can select pictures with colours that bring a series together as well as decide on the style, colour and size of text. And all at a cost that, at this stage of my indie career, I can afford.

Geraldine Evans said...

AR, Yes, that used to be me, trudging off to the hated day job and then working most of the evenings and weekends at my writing. And that was AFTER I was validated by traditional publishers (quite a few of them!).

Now, I love my life. I love writing. I love knowing I had the courage of my convictions. I also love being able to afford to pay my bills (something even more essential since I lost George, my darling husband, last year). As a widow, I truly have to help myself and be self-sufficient and self-reliant. If I'm not: God help me! Yes, it's hard being on my own after years of having a partner and helpmeet, but how much harder it would be if I placed my reliance for my financial security on the publishing industry.

M.F. Soriano said...

This blog sees plenty of comments from people who say they're making good money with self-publishing. However, there are also plenty of readers who self-publish and have yet to see any significant money from it. I'm amongst this latter camp--I've self-pubbed six titles on Kindle, the first one in March 2011, and I've earned less than $400 since then. I'm often tempted to feel like a failure when I come across these self-pubbed success stories, but I still don't regret forgoing the traditional publishing route.

Yesterday I heard the following stats:

median sales for a self-pubbed book: 75
median sales for a traditionally published book: 300

In either case, for the majority of books, not that many copies get sold. At least self-publishing saves you the extra time and effort and money of going the traditional route (chasing after agents, struggling to sell stories to magazines to build a name, submitting to publishers, dealing with contrary/controlling editors). And since you can keep 70% of the sales price with self pubbed books, you probably end up earning about the same in the end, anyway. Plus you keep the rights, and you give your book a longer chance at success (brick and mortar bookstores are so short on space that you're lucky to have your book there when it's brand-new, and if it doesn't sell a ton of copies in the first few months, you've lost your chance).

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Brainwashing.

Most of us have been conditioned to believe that you have only succeeded if you get a traditional publishing deal.

In fact, some have even preached that it has to be a Big 5/6 deal before you've "arrived."

Even though many of our greatest writers have self-published, there has long been a stink associated with it that is still in the air—despite the dramatic changes in the business.

I think traditional publishers exploit that stink in order to lure in new writers. And because those new writers have been conditioned just like the rest of us, seduction is basically easy.

Besides, nobody wants to believe that that beautiful woman who is coming on to us in the grocery line is really a vampire waiting to suck our blood.

David L. Shutter said...

"The exhilaration you get from being a real author is fleeting; the sting of knowing what you gave up lasts forever."

That's a rather nice quote. Sums up a couple hundred Bigpub horror stories in once sentence. Should be a tagline on someone's blog.

Anonymous said...

@A.R. Wise-

OK, you're one. More to follow I am sure. Congrats on your success, yet your defensive-ness is quite predictable.

Again: it's no secret the majority of small businesses in America are begun by non-liberals. Not all mind you, just the majority.

It is also no secret that the literary community, especially the suits of the Big 5 are overwhelmingly liberal. A fact, not my opinion.

Being an indie author/publisher is akin to running a small business, it's not for everyone - and a certain persuasion looks down their collective noses at the concept.

Just trying to add another dimension to the 'why people seek out (crappy) Big 5 representation'; not trying to indict 52% of the US citizenry.

But I feel I must post anonymously because it is becoming the trend to villainize the successful, whether you like it or not.

My particular marketing plans involve connecting to my readers on a personal level, being viewed as 'one of them'. Not sure making $27k a month would be looked kindly upon by a segment of my readership who are hooked on $0.99-$3.99 ebooks.

Joshua James said...

"Again: it's no secret the majority of small businesses in America are begun by non-liberals. Not all mind you, just the majority. "


that is not factual... it's part of the myth of american conservatism, but it's just that, a myth...

Joshua James said...

"Not sure making $27k a month would be looked kindly upon by a segment of my readership who are hooked on $0.99-$3.99 ebooks. "

also, I'd note, that Joe's been pretty open that he makes much more than that and his readers seem to love him... it's just my opinion, but I think readers just love great stories...

A.R. Wise said...

I'm reminded of the story about the village with the troll bridge beside it. Every morning the children would go to the bridge and laugh as the old troll continued to toss his bait up onto the bridge, trying to lure the children in. All the while, the old troll didn't know there was a sign that said, "Beware of Troll" posted in front of the bridge. What a silly old troll he was.

A.R. Wise said...

Soriano, have you ever tried putting one of your books up for free? Despite the advice I've seen on some SP sites, I've found that offering a book for free is far and away the best way to gain a new audience. Invest a little money in some free-book announcement sites like Bookbub and then give one of your babies away for free for a week. If people enjoy the book, there's a good chance they'll buy something else you've written. In my experience, there's no single magic bullet that can lead to sudden success for most SP authors, but rather a slow build up of audience. Use the proceeds from your books to buy ads, and keep doing that until you're earning enough to start banking some. Just a suggestion, and best of luck - you've got great covers to your books!!!

Jarrell W said...

Agreed, even though self publishing is of greater difficulty market wise, it is definitely the way to go in the long run - There's less contracts and you save more money. Long story short, the good greatly outweighs the bad.

Jarrell W said...

True, but in the end if you're really worried about marketing, you can always offer the free promotion or just hire some. I'm not the Anon guy/girl btw, just voicing my opinion.

M.F. Soriano said...

A.R. Wise said: "Soriano, have you ever tried putting one of your books up for free?"

I have. I've given away at least a thousand free ebook copies, mostly of my novelette THE ELECTROLIVE MURDERS. Seemed to make more of a difference a year ago (more people would download, and a few people might even leave reviews), but it never seemed to generate any sales.

Thanks for the compliment on the covers, though, and the well wishes. And congrats on your success!

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Another liberal Democrat here, self-published entrepreneurial indie and proud of it. Sure, I built it, I wrote it, I formatted it, I uploaded it... but I couldn't do it without Amazon and a hundred other bits being in place (like the Internet, which as we all know, was invented by Al Gore). And we couldn't do it without folks like Joe speaking up and helping fellow wannabe authors... pretty socialist of him, doncha think?

I don't know anyone who thinks that successful people simply got lucky -- that's nonsense. I worked hard to get through college and law school and then become a writer... but I was lucky to born in a time and place when women could go to school and my parents could help me with tuition and I didn't die of malnutrition, etc. Much of the world isn't that "lucky." Did the very destitute do something to deserve their poor luck? Maybe their parents did, but not the children.

So I disagree with your anecdotal evidence.

Having said that... great post, Geraldine! Thanks to you for sharing your story and thanks to Joe for hosting these guest posts.

Jarrell W said...

I know this I probably not the time, but I just wanted to say, I am about a quarter of the way through your book "314" and it is good and I looked forward to reading some of your other ones. So, long story short, in my opinion you're a REAL author, because its usually hard for and "published" book to grab my attention the way you did. Well, have a nice day.

Jarrell W said...

Did you try using the free promotion option on kindle? They automatically promote your book to people for you since it's free, that will atleast get you a higher rank on amazon and kindle.

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Dave. I would be flattered if someone quoted me for a tagline.

Anonymous said...

"And yet there are still authors who want a book deal. The Big 5 and Harlequin are still seducing authors into taking unconscionable deals.

Why?"

I write for Harlequin (their series lines, that is, category romance). I have reasons for signing contracts with them.
1. I don't have the money to pay an editor to edit my books. (http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/05/the-real-costs-of-self-publishing-book) Harlequin's editors help me improve my books. They content, line and copy edit. (although the copy editing leaves much to be desired)
2. Harlequin helps select titles, writes back cover copy, and their art department makes great cover art. (Mostly.)
3. Their subscription service means my book is put into the hands of 5,000+ readers every time.
4. I don't have time to promote my books in the manner I understand self-published authors need to. My writing time is devoted to writing. And reading this blog.
5. As a no-name author at the beginning of her career, I don't know how to attract attention to my work and differentiate my romance novels from the millions of other out there. If I can get a dozen books traditionally published and in the hands of readers and into libraries, when I make a change and self-publish, hopefully readers will follow me.

Shoshanna Evers said...

Yay! :) thanks!

Mean Teacher said...

@Soriano - Maybe reconsider some of the little things. For instance, the use of the word "novelette" is a subliminal turn-off to me for inexplicable reasons, and I wouldn't buy something with that on the cover. Also, a genre bending subtitle like "hardboiled sci-fi novelette" is confusing and unattractive to a wide audience. Many people who read hardboiled stuff are not into sci-fi and vice versa. The Blood Brothers cover is good, but I couldn't tell whether it was horror or fantasy at first glance. Put yourselves in our shoes for a minute. Try looking at your covers from an outside perspective if possible. Some tweaks could make a big difference. Just my $0.02.

A.R. Wise said...

@Jarrell W, Thank you so much for the kind words. I'm happy to hear that you're enjoying the book!

McVickers said...

Sounds like the same reasons keep coming up for why people still give up 80% of their earnings to a publisher:

1) Fear of the unknown, fear of selling, fear of marketing. This leads to the "I just want to write" excuse, which is just really, really silly. It doesn't take THAT much to market an ebook.

2) They're young, just starting out, and right now, money isn't a big issue, so they aren't looking at their bottom line yet. I've noticed that a lot of self-publishers like Joe, Eisler, etc are older writers who have been through the grind.

But I think a lot of it comes down to fear. I don't blame them, it's scary taking everything on yourself. And, I suspect, extremely rewarding in the end when it works out.

Richard Stooker said...

M.F. Soriano said...

Hang on to your positive attitude.

When I started writing, I spent well over $400 on paper, boxes, envelopes, rubber stamps, typewriter ribbons, and (especially) postage.

And in those days, $400 was a lot of money :)

In return, I got only a few short story sales.

And very little feedback. Mostly form rejection letters.

Some editors took over a year to reject my story or novel.

You're going through the self-published equivalent. It's still no fun, but it's cheaper, and at least you made the $400.

Now you can upload your latest and, potentially anyway, earn money in less time than it took me to take a manuscript to the Post Office.

Joe Konrath said...

I write for Harlequin (their series lines, that is, category romance). I have reasons for signing contracts with them.

Harlequin is truly, deeply evil. They are the worst exploiter of authors in the history of publishing. Search this blog for the word "Harlequin" for many examples.

1. I don't have the money to pay an editor to edit my books. (http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/05/the-real-costs-of-self-publishing-book) Harlequin's editors help me improve my books. They content, line and copy edit. (although the copy editing leaves much to be desired)

First of all, you don't have any money because Harlequin takes it all and leaves you scraps.

Second of all, if you read this blog you'd know the cost of publishing ebooks is minimal.

You can get good cover art from $30 to $350.

Formatting is free--Kindle can convert doc files nicely. If you need help, ask questions at Kindleboards.com.

If you join a writing group, or trade manuscripts with peers, editing is free. They'll also help you proof read.

2. Harlequin helps select titles, writes back cover copy, and their art department makes great cover art. (Mostly.)

You are a writer. You can come up with your own titles and back cover copy.

3. Their subscription service means my book is put into the hands of 5,000+ readers every time.

And you get paid how much for this?

HQ can get your books to a million readers, but that doesn't matter if your income is still poverty-level.

4. I don't have time to promote my books in the manner I understand self-published authors need to. My writing time is devoted to writing. And reading this blog.

Do more research. I do very little self promotion. So do many other authors.

You are giving up 70% royalties for 2% in some HQ cases. That's insane.

5. As a no-name author at the beginning of her career, I don't know how to attract attention to my work and differentiate my romance novels from the millions of other out there. If I can get a dozen books traditionally published and in the hands of readers and into libraries, when I make a change and self-publish, hopefully readers will follow me.

Search for "Ann Voss Peterson" on this blog and see how she responds to that. Better yet, email her so she can set you strait.

You are being terribly exploited, and are in deep denial.

Nancy Beck said...

Anya,

If you're still reading the comments here, if you insist on going the trad route, would you please do me a favor and skip going the agent route? Please get yourself an IP attorney (Laura Resnick vets them on one of her sites; Google her name.) The reason I say this is because writing contracts right now are so bad for the writer - publishers have resorted to an out-and-out rights grab, among other heinous things - that only IP attorneys can figure out all that legal gobbledy-gook. (And a lot of agents have no legal backgrounds whatsoever.)

If you don't believe me, go to Kristine Kathryn Rusch's site. She's written more than once about the horrible contracts some writers have signed - where they can't write anything else in their own universe unless their publisher says it's okay.

Please, please, save yourself some major headaches, angst, and anger and do these things, especially about getting an IP lawyer.

Good luck to you!

Joe Konrath said...

I read your blog and I am still pursuing a legacy deal. I think it has to do with wanting to feel validated.

I respect your decision, Anya, and it takes guts to have a dissenting opinion on this blog.

There's nothing wrong with wanting validation. I wanted it for over a decade. One of my dreams was to see my book in the library card catalog (how's that for old school?)

Just realize that for the thrill of seeing your book on a bookshelf you're giving up control and most of the profit, and you'll still have to work just as hard and spend as much money and time on promotion as you would if you self-pubbed.

Also realize that your rights will belong to a publisher--probably forever--and if they don't do a good job with the book, which is likely, you'll spend a lot of long, unhappy days regretting your decision.

Most new authors pursue legacy deals because they dream of the ideal--big money, great distribution, lots of publicity. The truth is, this rarely happens in legacy publishing. The reality is that most books flop, the publisher screws up in countless ways, and the author gets victimized.

You have no idea what it took for me to get my rights back. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. So instead, I advise them to not get into the situation in the first place.

Merrill Heath said...

Jo said: "Most new authors pursue legacy deals because they dream of the ideal--big money, great distribution, lots of publicity. The truth is, this rarely happens in legacy publishing. The reality is that most books flop, the publisher screws up in countless ways, and the author gets victimized."

There's more to it than that. Only a very, very small percentage of writers who submit their manuscripts to agenst and/or publishers ever get published.

I don't know how many times I've heard someone say: "I just finished my (first) novel and I'm not sure if I want to publish traditionally or self-publish." Well, the harsh reality is: traditionally publishing probably won't be an option.

If you want to invest the time and money to send out query letters to agents, send unsolicited manuscripts to publishers, and so on, go for it. Chances are, a year from now you'll still be sending out query letters (and waiting to hear from some of the agents you sent letters to).

And if you get an agent, the chances of the agent selling your novel is very low.

Here's another point that Joe harps on that a lot of people don't seem to get. Publishers sell books to bookstores and big box retailers (and they wind up taking a boat load of those books back). So your market is limited from the start. And bookstores are closing and big box retailers are buying books by established authors. If you're "unknown" your book won't wind up in many bookstores or in Costo or Walmart even if you're traditionally published. The same for libraries.

On the other hand, when you self-publish your market is readers - and there are millions of them. And more and more are born every day.

When you self-publish you have control over what you write, how you write it, what the title is, what the cover art looks like, what the description says, what the pric is, and how long the book is for sale or in print. When you are traditionally published you lose control of most of those things. And you cut your royalties from 70% to 15%.

Someone stated that most self-published books only sell on average 75 copies. But the vast majority of manuscripts that are submitted to traditional publishers (either unsolicited or through an agent) are never published.

I prefer to have control over my books and offer them directly to the reader rather than try to sell them to a middle man who will take a large chunk of the revenues for doing things I can do on my own or contract (editing, cover art, formatting).

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

I never got to the big 6, and I'm so happy now that I didn't. Honestly. After reading Joe's blog, my eyes are open. They started opening after my experiences the two smaller presses I've been with.

So much so that I declined to be taken on my a third publisher which was taking over my second publisher.

I think I was the only author that declined. I wanted to go it alone. I'd had more than enough by then.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Geraldine, I'm so sorry for your loss. You're a brave lady, indeed.

Kevin Riley said...

The Big 5 and Harlequin are still seducing authors into taking unconscionable deals. Why?

For me, I still think about pursuing a trad publishing deal because I want to consider all options when it comes to my career. My first book has been out for a few months and I've received about $11 from it. The six awesome reviews it's received are nice but I want to make more money from my writing. I know in the long run it wouldn't be in my best interest but if a trad publisher offered me a four figure deal today, I would be inclined to at least consider it. After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Stephanie Rabig said...

I went to a local book signing a while back and once I started talking about Kindle and CreateSpace, one of the other writers there made it a point to roll her eyes and talk about how her book had been actually published. Frustrating, but far from the first time I'd heard something like that.

I remember when self-publishing solely meant vanity publishing and even though it's so different and so much better now, there's still an attitude among some writers that self-publishing is lesser-- at which point I try to send them straight here. And I agree with A.R. Wise's comment: the younger writers I point here seem to take to it a lot faster than the ones more in my age group. I admit that sometimes I still have to fight off thoughts that I'm "cheating" somehow.

But however much I dreamed of it when I was just starting out, I don't think I'd take a legacy deal today. I love being solely responsible for my own output.

Corduroy King said...

Another great blog. My answer to the Why question is what happens when you're so broke you can't afford artwork. I have an excellent artist Jim Webb, who has worked for Dc and Marvel Comics. I have a picture book, Suburban Monsters, I am raising funds for via kickstarter, but the goal of $1,500 doesn't look like it's going to be met. So I have have some finished work that I can pitch to publishers but w/o the budget goal reached I'm sunk.

A.R. Wise said...

Corduroy, the most I've ever paid for a book cover is $35. Personally, I like to search through Deviant Art and find something I like, and then contact the artist to get permission to use the photo. Rarely have I been told no, and usually the artist is excited to see their work as a book cover. Deviant Art is also filled with people who enjoy photoshopping and designing covers, so you can take the photo you like to them and they'll do whatever you want to it. Like I said, it ends up costing next to nothing. You can check out my book covers on Amazon to see how you think they compare. I've always been happy with them, and for $35 (actually I only ever paid for a cover once, and that was for 314 Book 2) it's not a bad deal.

A.R. Wise said...

Corduroy, I also see that you're talking about a picture book and not just a cover. Might be a totally different world than what I was talking about.

Geraldine Evans said...

Tracey, Thank you! You're a sweetheart. :-)

Jude Hardin said...

I know in the long run it wouldn't be in my best interest but if a trad publisher offered me a four figure deal today, I would be inclined to at least consider it.

I can relate, because that's exactly what I did three years ago. Do I regret it? Well...

I try to live my life with no regrets, but I sure do wish I could get my rights back.

Anyway, I think you just need to keep writing and get some more books out there. And maybe hire an editor or get some feedback from peers. For example, I would recommend starting THE DARK GENESIS with:

He knew instantly they were demons.

The turned toward him as he sat unmoving on the edge of his bed...


Start with the action and then fill in the back story as you go. Just my opinion.

Your cover's not bad, but there's plenty of room at the bottom to make your name MUCH bigger. And you don't need the By:

Best of luck!

John Erwin said...

I've been an on-again/off-again short story writer for decades and have a reasonably thick stack of rejection letters to show for it. I finally got serious about finishing my first novel a few months ago and did not even bother trying to find a traditional publisher. I guess I'm too old to worry about "validation" any more. So, I self-pubbed on Kindle and Createspace. Sales have been little more than a trickle, but my few readers (some not even close friends or family!)have uniformly praised my work. Maybe the money will trickle in faster as I publish more titles, or maybe it won't. At least the internet makes the possibility of succeeding as a writer within reach for those of us who never could get the attention of anybody in the traditional publishing world.

Jeff Ezell said...

Corduroy King:

Determine with your artist what his costs would be (if you had the money)to deliver cover, inside design, etc.

If $1500, then contract with artist to pay him $3000 (or?) out of the first revenues from sales of that book. You could set up a bonus plan to pay even more if it occurs within a month or?

Without the artwork you have no product to sell. The artist would be motivated to help your sales.

You have an unfinished product, negotiate to complete it and increase the value.

Others may have ideas. Good luck...

Kevin Riley said...

@Jude - Thanks for the great feedback. It's people like you that help Joe's blog continue to be a great place for authors.

Hairhead said...

To all: Here's how the Big 5/6 continue to screw authors (copy-paste from BoingBoing.net)

There's something going on at Penguin (interesting to see if it changes now that it's Penguin Random House, though all signs point no) that's so stupid and old school and against all authors that I thought I'd share.

In every contract in publishing, there's language (as you know) that gives an author a certain number of copies of the book, on publication. When ebooks came to play, agents began trying to negotiate for an electronic version of the book too, oftentimes successful. What they /can't/ get from Penguin (and a few other publishers, though notably Penguin) is a final PDF or even a final word doc of the book. Agents are told that Penguin puts work into the layout, edit and design and so agents can't just give that work away to foreign countries for them to use in their editions. That work must be paid for. I semi-buy that argument, though it makes me think two things: 1) Shame on them for getting in the way (as they do sometimes) of a foreign deal and 2) Penguin is contractually obligated to create the book anyway, with all of those pieces.

To deal with this, Penguin (and a few other places), have set it up that you can buy a PDF file for $250-300 to send the book to foreign publishers. That cost is often borne by the author or the agency. Ridiculous. To get around it, agents have tried to approach at negotiation. But, when making a deal in the six figure mark, even at auction, agents still can't get that one little guarantee. We're talking BIG books and BIG agencies, but nope. Won't go into contracts (even though I'm sure there are exceptions, the point stands). What's more, Penguin will laugh off the idea of getting around it by making an author's advance, say, $20,300. Or $250,300.

Yup, they're still jerks!

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Anonymous--

Joe did a great job of answering your points, so I'll only add a few specific things.

"3. Their subscription service means my book is put into the hands of 5,000+ readers every time."

The direct-to-reader sales you're referring to pay a little over 2% royalty. So 5k sold of a $4.99 book would pay you less than $600. The numbers are also dropping fast. My first book sold 120k direct. My 25th, part of a continuity series in 2011, sold 20,463 direct.

To a great extent, ebooks have replaced mail order book clubs. Harlequin has yet to prove to me that they can do a good job of selling ebooks (based on royalty statements for my 25 Harlequins).

In addition to that, it seems print sales are falling overall. This is based on 13 years of my royalty statements and sharing numbers with friends.

The demise of Borders was a huge blow. The problems of B&N is concerning. Supermarkets aren't carrying Harlequin lines like they used to. Target only carries a few lines now. Indie booksellers rarely carry Harlequin. Current print distribution largely depends on WalMart.

"4. I don't have time to promote my books in the manner I understand self-published authors need to. My writing time is devoted to writing. And reading this blog."

I don't do any more promotion for my self-published books than I did for my Harlequin titles. And the best promotion for both is writing more books.

"5. As a no-name author at the beginning of her career, I don't know how to attract attention to my work and differentiate my romance novels from the millions of other out there. If I can get a dozen books traditionally published and in the hands of readers and into libraries, when I make a change and self-publish, hopefully readers will follow me."

It would be nice if it worked that way. When I wrote 25 books for Harlequin, I believed the same thing; that I was building something. A career. A fan base.

In retrospect, the short time the books are on store shelves (2 to 4 weeks) and Harlequin's lack of marketing for ebooks have limited growth. If people have trouble finding the books, you're not building much.

On the other hand, giving away 170,000 free copies of Pushed Too Far via Kindle Select has led to earnings of over $50,000 in slightly over a year (more than 2.5x my bestselling Harlequin Intrigue). In addition, I've reached more readers with PTF than with my bestselling Harlequin title. And when I publish the follow up books, PTF will still be available, will still be marketed, and will still be finding new readers. :)

To be fair, I did learn a lot from Harlequin, and some of it was positive. But much was a cautionary tale.

People like to say that you should know what is in the contracts you're signing (I did know what could be known at the time). But more helpful is being able to see how those terms work out over time in the real world. I hope I've given you and others some insight here and in my previous guest posts on Joe's blog.

You also might want to keep your eye on this: http://www.harlequinlawsuit.com/

Chuckles Austen said...

Thank you, Geraldine for an interesting and informative piece. I imagine it's hard to write about your difficulties, but they're incredibly valuable to those of us still struggling, and I certainly appreciate your words.

And thank you, Joe, for being a lot more than just a comforting voice in the wilderness.

This writing and publishing thing is very much like wandering into the woods in search of a pot of gold—or at least something very shiny—that you overheard somebody tell someone else about, but you began your search remembering only the vaguest of directions. (It's somewhere 'over there'). Of course, you immediately get lost, and loster, and even more loster, until you're anxious, depressed, and seriously consider sitting down to have a good cry.

Then this blog appears like a light that is warm, and comforting, just when you'd become most afraid that you'd never find your way. You hear voices chatting in an obvious direction and approach to find others just like you—some liberals—some conservative—all happily gathered in the murky darkness around a campfire sharing stories—exactly the kinds of stories you most wanted to hear. The group sees you and kindly invites you in with considerate offers of hot chocolate, s'mores, beer and chips. You don’t even have to join the conversation. Just pull up a canvas chair and lurk.

The s’mores are good. But not as good as the stories.

Why, Joe? Why are people still taking those unconscionable offers?

Because the fire of traditional publishing is bigger, it’s been burning longer, and everyone knows the directions to their camp.

I’ve never been traditionally published (other than by Marvel and DC on properties they owned). When I sent out my first novel, I didn’t even get rejections. I got pre-printed post cards that said they were too busy to reject me—wouldn’t even read my work no matter how sexy I dressed.

So I wandered back into the woods and found your fire.

Keep it burning, Joe. People will eventually see that what traditional publishers are using to keep those other, bigger fires lit is the flammable blood of their writers.

Geraldine Evans said...

Chuckles, thank you. Glad you found what I had to say useful.

I loved your obsrvations about Joe's blog. Spot on! I've had far more nurturing from JK than I ever received from legacy.

Keep that warm fire, burning, Joe! Apart from the good you're doing down here, just think of all those brownie points you're storing up in heaven. :-)

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Geraldine said: "But I have a new lease of life, new readers and a new, much improved, source of income: all things the nay-sayers claimed I’d never get."

I think the naysayers didn't know what they were talking about. :)

McVickers said...

I hate to pile on the authors defending trad pub but man, whenever I hear them listing their reasons why they're still going this route, all I can think is, "Lambs to the slaughter". Maybe it's just me...

Anonymous said...

Better to be a lamb in the slaughter with your own rights, then a lamb in the slaughter without them, because no matter what publishing route you chose to take there's still an equal chance you'll fail. But atleast with self-publishing, you'll fail with money in your pocket. Point is, all any author can do is put their work out their and hope to build a good readership.

Jay said...

Joe, I’ve read you entire blog. Every post and nearly every comment. I have listened to every episode of the Self Publishing Podcast. I have read most of Gaungrahn (however the hell you spell his name), and Dean Wesley Smith. I’ve absorbed every article or blog out there about the woes of Traditionally publishing and why people should go Indie. And I love indies, don’t get me wrong.

But I’m still going to pursue a traditional deal. Why?

Because it is a risk worth taking. Sure, some authors get screwed. It’s the nature of things and it sucks. But many don’t. Publishers are responsible for so many careers and fans finding books today.

Will I lose money by going traditional? Depends on my deal and how well I can build once I get published.

But the big question, and the most important one is, will my books be better than if I self publish, if they go through the process of editing and crafting with my agent and editors? I believe so. Proof of this is all the books that are better that come from Publishing Houses.

Could Infinite Jest be as good as it is if Wallace would have self published? Would The Name of the Wind? The Corrections? The Fault in our Stars?

Honestly, I don’t believe so. Or more importantly, I do not believe those authors could produce such work if they would have hired freelancers…(Besides, some authors can’t afford to hire editors. One pass is easily $2000. I have a family with one income. It’s cheaper to sell rights knowing I will lose money in the long run, most likely).

Joe, can you really say publishers don’t produce at a higher quality than even the best indies? (A subjective argument here would be fine, but I want your honest opinion).

Money is nice, but I want to leave behind a great book/books more.

Brian Drake said...

I'd like to mention something about the costs of producing a book for those who have a concern about that and think a Big 5 deal is the answer.

Financially, "The Rogue Gentleman" cost me $800 in editing and cover art fees (I bought a pre-paid cover from Carl Graves for $200, the rest was spread out to my editor and copy editor). I budget $1000 and got the money by working extra hours.

For my next book, using the terrific designer at GoOnWrite.Com, I've cut my cover costs to $35. Editing and copy editing will remain the same, so I expect the next book in the Rogue series will cost under $500.

How much is your time worth? I get paid $20 an hour at my job, so if we go by that amount, times however many hours it took to write the book (I didn't keep track) you're talking about a much higher investment. In other words, if you can't afford the extras to put the book together, you can't afford to write, period. You're losing money while you type.

Where can you cut in your budget to put money toward investing in your novel?

What can you beg, borrow, or trade with other writers to get the feedback and editing you need?

John Ritter, before he passed, used to sell a learning tool called "Where There's A Will, There's an A" and the same thing applies to us.

Where there's a will, there's a self-published book.

I have three books available. By experimenting with free giveaways this month, readers not only downloaded the freebies but the books got enough of a boost where some genuine purchases were made once the promotion ended, and I priced my short story collection, "Reaper's Dozen: 12 Tales of Crime & Suspense", at .99 to see if that boost will continue. At last check, more purchases of "Reaper's" have indeed happened.

So, this month, I've earned enough to get a bottle of Jack Daniels.

I love the taste of success.

Merrill Heath said...

Jay said: "But the big question, and the most important one is, will my books be better than if I self publish, if they go through the process of editing and crafting with my agent and editors? I believe so. Proof of this is all the books that are better that come from Publishing Houses."

Better than what? Better than self-published books? Or better than these books were before the editors and agents got their hands on them? If the latter is your supposition, then how do you know without seeing the original manuscript from the author?

I can say from seeing firsthand the changes the editors wanted in my Dad's books, they were not better. They totally missed the point in a couple of his novels. The plot twists were silly and unrealistic and took the characters "out of character."

To assume that an editor knows what's right or makes suggestions that improves the quality of a book just because they work for a major publisher and therefore must know what they're doing is wrong. They don't.

To assume that a novel is improved because it went through the process of being edited and published by a major publishing house is wrong. It may be true in some cases. But it isn't true in many cases. I'm of the belief that in many cases it is not improved. In fact, it's often changed or watered-down or the plot tricked up to make it like whatever is the current hot commodity.

Hairhead said...

Drake Sez: But I’m still going to pursue a traditional deal. Why?

HH: At least you're going to answer the question, and thank you for that.

Drake: Because it is a risk worth taking. Sure, some authors get screwed.

HH: More authors get screwed in trad-pub than in e-self pub. If you've read all the blogs, you've read A LOT of horror stories.

Drake: It’s the nature of things and it sucks.

HH: I HATE this learned-helplessness crap. It doesn't HAVE to be the nature of things. You (and I and others) can change the nature of things by taking action.

Drake: But many don’t. Publishers are responsible for so many careers and fans finding books today.

HH: And publishers are responsible for MISSING or DESTROYING many potential careers, and many, many people are finding books, not through publishers and their pulped-up and unavailable backlists, but through Google and Amazon and independent bookstores and bookfinders.

Drake: Will I lose money by going traditional? Depends on my deal and how well I can build once I get published.

HH: By now you should realize that you will lose A LOT of money going traditional, particularly if they keep your foreign rights, movie rights, other-media rights, branding rights (characters and scenarios), and . . . jeez, I could go on, but that's A LOT of money there you're giving up.

Drake: But the big question, and the most important one is, will my books be better than if I self publish, if they go through the process of editing and crafting with my agent and editors? I believe so.

HH: Okay, you've stated your case, now make it.

Drake: Proof of this is all the books that are better that come from Publishing Houses.

HH: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA(gasp)HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Honestly. How many books have you read and sampled? Do you appreciate how MUCH crap trad publishing puts out in their quest for the guaranteed dollar>

Drake: Could Infinite Jest be as good as it is if Wallace would have self published? Would The Name of the Wind? The Corrections? The Fault in our Stars?

HH: We'll never know, unless we have access to the first ms's of the writers, will we?

Drake: Honestly, I don’t believe so. Or more importantly, I do not believe those authors could produce such work

HH: Okay, first you insult writers. Check one.

Drake: . . . if they would have hired freelancers…

HH: Aaand now you insult freelancers. You do realize, don't you, that MANY of the freelancers working were previously employed by the Big 6, and that, despite having been let go so that the managers can keep their corner offices, that their skills don't magically disappear. And that those freelancers who weren't Big 6 affiliated are pretty good, because in the freelance world, unlike the office world, if you're not any good, word spreads, and it's "Would you like fries with that?"

Drake:(Besides, some authors can’t afford to hire editors. One pass is easily $2000. I have a family with one income. It’s cheaper to sell rights knowing I will lose money in the long run, most likely).

HH: Mmm. Look at some of the suggestions above. Sacrifice. Be creative. Just . . . I'm beginning to be at a loss for words here . . . but I'll keep trying . . .

Drake: Joe, can you really say publishers don’t produce at a higher quality than even the best indies? (A subjective argument here would be fine, but I want your honest opinion).

HH: I can't answer for Joe, though I know what his answer will be. Just, please, LOOK at some of the crap put out by trad publishers. You, Drake, seem to have a strange fetish for people in suits and office towers, that they are naturally and inevitable better than . . . other people. That's just not consistent with reality, and it's prejudiced, besides.

Drake: Money is nice, but I want to leave behind a great book/books more.

HH: If you don't have a great book in you, a Big 6 editor, art dept, and publicist are NOT going to make a great book. I'm done.

Joe Konrath said...

I am not Hairhead.

But, damn, did that sound like me...

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, I’ve read you entire blog. Every post and nearly every comment.

Read it all again. Sometimes lessons need to sink in.

Jay said...

The argument seems to be for the golden age of publishing for authors that got screwed going the traditional route…and that is great for you guys, but not for everybody.

It is as much of a crap shoot to hit it big and write a great book going indie as it is going traditional. However, the benefits of hitting it big as a traditional author outweigh what they would be going indie FOR ME.

Joe wanted a reason why authors still choose to go the traditional route….For me, it is because I want to be in paper. I want the chance to go through the process that so many of my favorite authors have gone through and still talk about today. I want to do huge (and small) book signings. I want to work side by side with professionals that I am not exposed to where I live.

When I asked if those great authors could have produced a work like Infinite Jest, the Fault in our Stars, or The Name of the Wind, I was being rhetorical. Those authors have said very clearly that they would have been worse without the process put on authors by their publishers.

After I read a blog here, I go directly to authors I admire, agents, and editors and ask them what they think about certain issues. Know what I get? Honest, kind answers that don’t hide from facts. Many of these people love what indie has done for the industry…

However, Big 5 publishing is still the big league. When most people are self publishing, what is the best way to differentiate yourself? Get published by a traditional publisher. There is a reason they still dominate the charts.

Too many authors on this blog offer anecdotal evidence to PROVE why indie is better. Truth is, no way is better objectively. Publishing is not all about money or rights…it’s about putting out the best book you can.

If you failed with your publisher, there might be a reason. Not all books are made the same and deserve the same treatment. Not all authors either. No one owes you money and no one owes you respect. Just because you did not get either doesn’t demonize the whole industry.

Indie does not equate success no more than getting published (it just means different). Though, some people here seem to think so.

Jude Hardin said...

Publishing is not all about money or rights…it’s about putting out the best book you can.

It's about all of the above.

Who's publishing the first book in your "soon to be released sci-fi thriller series"? Just curious. Traditional publishers usually won't touch a 35K word novella.

Anyway, best of luck. If that's your dream, you should go for it. Just be sure to know exactly what you're getting into.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"Too many authors on this blog offer anecdotal evidence to PROVE why indie is better. Truth is, no way is better objectively. Publishing is not all about money or rights…it’s about putting out the best book you can."

It's ALL anecdotal evidence. Each author's path is going to be different whether they choose to publish traditionally or to self publish.

"I do not believe those authors could produce such work if they would have hired freelancers…"

What I don't understand is that you equate traditional publishing with superior editing. Did you know the publishing industry uses freelance editors, too? Some of the very same people that indie authors can hire.

I realize an indie author can put up anything, not written well, not edited, but that doesn't mean ALL indie authors publish just anything. That's silly.

I think the points you're making here are outdated. The publishing world has changed. Editors don't have time to help an author develop his/her novel. Work is outsourced to cut costs. The fact is, you're on your own when it comes to learning to write, learning to tell a story, pushing yourself to get better. The quality of the book is up to you, whether you submit to publishers or publish yourself.

And I know money can be tight. All businesses need start-up cash, and although self-publishing is cheaper than virtually any other business, it requires investment. But I can tell you it's cheaper to hire editors than to sign a deal with a traditional publisher.

I think it comes down to your goals. If the dream of being an author is the most important thing to you, then I can see where you'd want to take a shot at traditional publishing. But for me, publishing is not just a dream. It's a business. I want to make a living doing what I love. I didn't fail. I walked away.

Hairhead said...

Jay, good to meet you. You bring up good points, and I appreciate the chance to exercise my brain by answering them.

Jay Sez: The argument seems to be for the golden age of publishing for authors that got screwed going the traditional route…and that is great for you guys, but not for everybody.

HH: No, it's not for everybody; but Joe and contributors here feel that the non-trad-route needs champions and explainers, which is what we do. We haven't any power to impose any course of action on anyone.

Jay: It is as much of a crap shoot to hit it big and write a great book going indie as it is going traditional.

HH: There really isn't enough evidence to say that. We don't have the numbers of submissions to the Big 6 vs. the numbers of SP on Amazon and other venues. I'd really, really like to have the numbers, because that would be very useful information. But truly, other than, "it's a crap shoot", you have opinion, not evidence.

Jay: However, the benefits of hitting it big as a traditional author outweigh what they would be going indie FOR ME.

HH: Good. You've made your statement of claim, qualified by your personal perspective.

Jay: Joe wanted a reason why authors still choose to go the traditional route….

HH: Actually, Joe (and others here) would like several reasons.


Jay: For me, it is because I want to be in paper.

HH: I understand the nostalgic impulse, but a book is no longer limited to something printed on cellulose. My cell phone does exactly what my old rotary-dial phone did, and does it better and quicker. FOR ME, you'd need a better reason to "go trad".

Jay: I want the chance to go through the process that so many of my favorite authors have gone through and still talk about today.

HH: From this blog and others, you MUST have noted that "the process that so many of my favorite authors have gone through and still talk about today" has been the process of being screwed big-time and small-time in many different ways. That you choose to listen only the good stories indicates some confirmation bias. If you are going to base your belief upon what authors say, you will have to include the negative and well as the positive stories.

Jay: I want to do huge (and small) book signings.

HH: Jay, have you heard that Borders closed? That thousands of independent bookstores are closing? That B&N is teetering on the verge of closing? That Wal-Mart and Costco don't host signings? The world is turning, and those opportunities are VANISHING. You are anticipating opportunities that won't be there.

Jay: I want to work side by side with professionals that I am not exposed to where I live.

HH: Once again with shitting on the freelancers, not to mention forgetting the Internet. How do you think Joe and others get their editing, proofing, artwork, and marketing done? By getting in the car and going to the nearest Kinko's? No. They use the internet and the phone. I have recorded DOZENS of highly-qualified, professional publishing services noted on this blog and others. I'll get plenty of help outside of people I already know.

End of Part One

Hairhead said...

Part Two

Jay: When I asked if those great authors could have produced a work like Infinite Jest, the Fault in our Stars, or The Name of the Wind, I was being rhetorical. Those authors have said very clearly that they would have been worse without the process put on authors by their publishers.

HH: Again, that may be true. I would love to find these statements, and I will look for them. But again -- those are only a few positive statements. There are many, many eloquent, detailed, and credible rants by good, admired authors out there arguing the reverse. When you make a decision, you have to look at ALL the information, not just the information you already agree with.

Jay: After I read a blog here, I go directly to authors I admire, agents, and editors and ask them what they think about certain issues. Know what I get? Honest, kind answers that don’t hide from facts. Many of these people love what indie has done for the industry…

HH: There's an implication here that this blog and others don't give you "honest, kind answers that don't hide from the facts." Why is there that implication? Because editors, agents, and established authors (viz. Scott Turow) give answers from their already-successful perspective within the industry. As I write this, it becomes more and more clear that your mind has been made up and no argument will change it, or make any impression on it. Confirmation bias, selective choice of evidence, a subtext of disrespect, it's all coming clear to me.

Jay: However, Big 5 publishing is still the big league.

HH: Okay, here it is. Argument from authority. Automatic defence of the status quo. Look, Joe is making over a million dollars from SP. Other posters here have claimed 50 - 200 grand a year. THAT'S not "big league"? Look at ALL the facts, dammit!

Jay: When most people are self publishing, what is the best way to differentiate yourself?

HH: Hmmm. By writing really good books that hundreds of thousands of people want to buy and read? By writing a book that gets picked up for a million dollars by a movie production company? By achieving such success that a trad publishers comes to you, hat in hand, says pretty please, and takes out all of the "screw yous" in their traditional contract?

Jay: Get published by a traditional publisher.

HH: Hahahahahahaha (gasp) Hahahahahaha!

Jay: There is a reason they still dominate the charts.

HH: And buggy whips continued to be sold into the 1930's.

Hairhead said...

Part Three

Jay: Too many authors on this blog offer anecdotal evidence to PROVE why indie is better.

HH: Enough anecdotes, in the absence of better information, add up to data. There have been A LOT of anecdotes posted here and in other fora and media.

Jay: Truth is, no way is better objectively.

HH: THAT is untrue. The onerous, obscene, money-grubbing, scabrous, unfair, bad-faith legal theft in MOST trad-publishing contracts is black-and-white proof of a number of advantages in SP.

Jay: Publishing is not all about money or rights…

HH: Hahahahahahaha(gasp)Hahahahahahaha! Oh my goodness, it's called the publishing BUSINESS because it IS all about money and rights. If it were strictly about "great books" we wouldn't be ripping down our forests to publish the tsunami of crap (see Sturgeon's Law) that is modern publishing. At the digital scrap pile doesn't use up pulp-and-paper!


Jay: it’s about putting out the best book you can.

HH: We can agree on that. But you are wedded to a dying and route, technology, industry, and mindset.

Your argument is unpersuasive, but I wish you the best of luck, and keep us here on the blog informed, will you?

If you failed with your publisher, there might be a reason. Not all books are made the same and deserve the same treatment. Not all authors either. No one owes you money and no one owes you respect. Just because you did not get either doesn’t demonize the whole industry.

Indie does not equate success no more than getting published (it just means different). Though, some people here seem to think so.

p.s - Thanks for the compliment, Joe.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Hairhead is cracking me up today. *grin*

Jay said...

A couple things:

My mind isn’t made up, HH. I’m offering my thoughts because I think it’s constructive for other, less vocal people, to read. This blog can sound like an echo chamber at times. I think we all know that. Variety is good.

Also, I really don’t see what is better for me or other authors. When I hear so much certainty from people, my BS meter tingles. I’m not a victim of confirmation bias. Up until last week, I had every intention of going indie and did (I have taken my books I published 9 months ago down because they honestly weren’t good enough and I can admit to that).

I’m arguing here because there is no better place to debate well educated people on the subject. If I wanted confirmation bias for the trad. Route, I would be talking to Turrow (who is an idiot by the way).

You make valid points, and I accept most of them still. I’m not going against indies, I’m saying the trad. Route isn’t always bad and can work for people it is designed for. Some people don’t want/can’t run a business. I know it is cheaper to publish indie with a small investment vs selling rights away (forever), but I can’t make that investment. I bet many other authors can’t either.

Is that wrong? No. It’s just what is and we play accordingly.

Also, I retract my claim about freelancers. I have no real proof for my claims…Although, from authors in the business, they seem to still claim over and over their books are that good because of the traditional process. I doubt they are lying. Why would they? My question is then, why do so many authors say the exact opposite of you guys, especially the less popular authors? There has to be something there. My guess, it’s the exposure and process. Why do you think? Claiming it’s Stockholm seems a bit drastic.

Also, the claims that the industry as it existed is dying, I think, are a bit dramatic. It feels good to claim these things. People like drama, especially when signs of change are there…But I think it’s misguided. The industry is big. It changes slower. Many publishers are now caught up to the new world and are going strong. Chuck Wendig is proof of this where he makes the claim over and over why authors should still trad. publish on his blog. Those publishers that don’t change will die. That doesn’t mean the weight and strength publishers carry and have will too.

(And Jude, that book page is proof my mind isn’t made up. I was planning on releasing it as a perma-free novella until recently.)

Chuckles Austen said...

Jay: Joe wanted a reason why authors still choose to go the traditional route….

HH: Actually, Joe (and others here) would like several reasons.


Maybe I misread it, but I thought Joe's 'question' was ironic/rhetorical.

Personal experience shows me that this route is better. I couldn't even get READ as an untested author, either by agents or publishers.

Now I make 500 a month.

Not Stephen King money, but I own all the rights, control everything, and I sell more every month. If I had ten books up for sale as everyone here keeps saying I should, I would--without question, because I now have a fan base--be making a lot more money.

on average I'd say the odds are clearly better going indie.

Simple math:

Trad: unread for five years.

Indie: profit in three years.

Which breaks down to the formula:

M = RxLxWtpfm

Where:

M = money
R = Read
L = Liked
Wtpfm = Willing to pay for more

Jude Hardin said...

...they seem to still claim over and over their books are that good because of the traditional process.

You have to jump through a lot of hoops to get a foot in the door of traditional publishing. Most aspiring authors never get past the query stage. The ones who do make it wear their painstaking efforts as a badge of honor sometimes, I think, and it's hard for them to admit that they could have done as well or better on their own.

And some of them think that authors (and subsequently readers) benefit from that trial by fire, that authors need to walk through those beds of coals to ultimately become publishable, and there's some truth to that.

But there are less painful, less expensive ways to hone your craft. Right now, and in the foreseeable future, giving up most of your income and most of your rights for anything less than walking away money is insane. Yet there are still writers lining up at the slaughterhouse doors to do just that. Joe's question was why, and I still haven't heard a satisfying answer.

Why indeed.

Merrill Heath said...

Hey, Jay, thanks for your comments. You made some interesting points and it's always good to hear differing opinions.

I'll respond to a few of your comments so you'll see where I'm coming from.

Jay: It is as much of a crap shoot to hit it big and write a great book going indie as it is going traditional.

MH: Very true. However only a very small percentage of writers hit it big with either option.

Jay: Joe wanted a reason why authors still choose to go the traditional route….For me, it is because I want to be in paper.

MH: I'd love to get a big fat offer to publish one of my novels. But I would only take a print only offer. I want to keep ebook rights because I can produce ebooks for little or no out of pocket costs and receive 70% royalties. I see no reason (for me) to share those royalties. And I can always publish through CreateSpace if I don't get one of those great print only offers from the Big 5.

Jay: I want the chance to go through the process that so many of my favorite authors have gone through and still talk about today.

MH: Not me. From what I've seen that process is a painful, time-consuming, frustrating process that is no longer necessary. At one time it was the only route, but not today.

Jay: I want to do huge (and small) book signings. I want to work side by side with professionals that I am not exposed to where I live.

MH: Again, not me. I don't want to do book signings. I don't want to work side by side with "professionals" in the industry. I want to write books and hopefully make enough to live comfortably as a full-time writer. I don't need to hit it big (although that would be nice). I just need to make enough to live comfortably.

I can contract for cover art and editing and formatting and get the same quality as I would through a Big 5 publisher. I'm not sure what you mean by "side-by-side" unless that means to sit down with them, face-to-face, and work everything out. No thanks. I'd prefer to do that via email and the Internet while at my lake house.

Jay: However, Big 5 publishing is still the big league. When most people are self publishing, what is the best way to differentiate yourself? Get published by a traditional publisher. There is a reason they still dominate the charts.

MH: Agreed, Big 5 publishing is stil the big league - but only for a very select few. For the guys at the top it's wonderful. But for midlist writers it's worse than playing double-A ball for the Durham Bulls and never making it to the show.

What's the best way to differentiate yourself? Write a good book that a lot of people find entertaining and are willing to pay a reasonable price for. Then do it again...and again...and again. Maybe you'll get a great offer from a Big 5 publisher. Maybe you'll get a movie option. But you differentiate yourself from all the other writers as an indie author the same as you do as a traditionally published author - by producing a quality product that has value.

The reason the traditional publishers dominate the charts are because the big names of today are mostly published by the Big 5. That was the only option when most of them were starting out. That will change as many of the new, up-and-coming writers go the indie route. Furthermore, a lot of trad published authors are starting to self-publish as well. If you look at the Amazon top sellers you'll see a number of self-published novels on the list.

Merrill Heath said...

Cont...

Times are changing. Not too long ago the only viable option for "making it" as a writer was to go the trad route. That's no longer the case. And I still maintain that (most) readers don't give a hoot who the publisher is. Most readers can't even name the Big 5, much less tell you who published the last book they loved by their favorite author.

For me the indie route is very appealing. I have complete control over what I write. I have complete control over how many books I write a year. I have complete control over the cover art, description, and price. And I get 70% of the revenues rather than 15% (or less).

That doesn't mean that I'm right and you're wrong. It just means that we want different things. Good luck. I hope you make it.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

" Some people don’t want/can’t run a business."

The only way an author isn't in business is if s/he doesn't publish at all. All published authors have to run a small business. The traditional publishing model is a little less complicated. That is all.

"Although, from authors in the business, they seem to still claim over and over their books are that good because of the traditional process."

I don't think this is totally wrong, but I think the cause isn't the traditional publishing machinery as much as the time and work one has to put in to learning craft before landing an agent or a pub deal. Some self published authors publish the first draft of the first novel they write. Usually (not always) authors must write more books than that for their craft to reach a publishable level. But that work is done before an author gets a traditional deal. It's the author doing that work on his/her own or with the help of peers.

Like I said before, the quality is up to the author. If the book isn't good enough, the traditional author gets rejected (for other reasons, too, lots of them). If a self-pubbed book isn't good enough, people won't buy it. Good enough = readers deem it's worth money, and that goes for both models (which are in the business of selling books to readers). In both models, success is difficult to attain.

"Also, the claims that the industry as it existed is dying, I think, are a bit dramatic."

I didn't say it was dying. I said it has changed. That change has much to do with the way corporations overall have changed focus in recent years to that of chasing short term profit instead of long term gain. Expenses are externalized (using freelance copy, line, and sometimes content editors), authors who don't show immediate profit are dropped, editor positions are slashed and those who remain have far too much work to handle well. It's been happening for years. The rise of ebooks and self-publishing as a changing force is a pretty recent twist.

When I got into this business, the process was clear cut. Now authors have many choices, and one of the downsides of that is that it can be hard to decide what to do. But asking questions and collecting information the way you are is a good start and something you should keep doing throughout your writing journey.

Mean Teacher said...

I can relate on some level to Jay's ambivalence about drinking the Kool-aid on this blog. There is a lot of parroting of Joe's ideas here...there's almost a Fight Club level of cult-like devotion to the prevailing rhetoric (with Joe as Tyler Durden).

Having said that, I can also relate to the appeal of these ideas. Joe is incredibly convincing with his arguments as well as his numbers, and the fact that bigshot NYT bestsellers like Tess Gerritsen and Barry Eisler back it up with their own words and actions is very persuasive indeed.

For the short-term, I predict the following:
1.) The "tsunami of crap" bubble that Joe says will not be an issue actually WILL hurt sales for most people. The big winners in this self-pub game will continue to make lots of money, the vast majority of people will not.
2.)Promotions that involve free book giveaways will essentially cease to work at all. Maybe cyclically, maybe permanently. Time will tell.
3.)The Big 5 will continue to hemmhorage jobs and opportunities. Advances will probably continue to diminish. Many prospective authors will continue submitting to the slushpiles, while agents will look more and more at the Amazon best-sellers lists.
4.)Amazon will slash their KDP royalties to less than 70% within a few years. This will cause lots of pain in the self-pubbing world.

In a decade or so, publishing will resemble the current state of the music industry: a Road Warrior wasteland where it's every man for himself, fighting over scarce resources.

For the moment, it seems like a no-brainer to try the Kindle route and make whatever money there is to be made. We need to remain realistic - few writers have EVER been able to live exclusively off their work. I think James Lee Burke wrote novels and taught for 20 years before being able to write full time. A lot of others have undoubtedly been lucky enough to be on a spouse's insurance plan. I have the same hopes and dreams as many others on here, but I am also self-consciously remaining grounded in reality. I'm not bothering submitting to any agents.

Jude Hardin said...

If a self-pubbed book isn't good enough, people won't buy it.

I recently read a romantic suspense novel that was just awful. I assumed it was self-published, but I checked just now on Amazon and...WHOOPS. Big 5. And the author is a NYT bestseller.

The book has quite a few five-star customer reviews, but from everything I know about writing a novel it flat-out sucked.

My point? The publisher of a book is no indicator of quality, and neither are sales.

So I have to disagree with you a bit, Ann. People do sometimes buy books that aren't good enough, whether they're self-published or traditionally-published.

And apparently they're buying them in droves.

And before someone says quality is subjective (which I agree with, btw), let me just say that this book didn't meet any sort of minimum standards. It was simply terrible.

Rebekah H. said...

I don't need validation. What I need is to see more successful self-published authors coming out of nowhere (like I would be) instead of from trad pub, bringing their backlist and established (albeit modest) readership with them.

I don't have those things to bring to the table, so I have no confidence that I would be anything but another self-pub casualty washing up on Amazon's crowded shores.

Jude Hardin said...

What I need is to see more successful self-published authors coming out of nowhere (like I would be) instead of from trad pub, bringing their backlist and established (albeit modest) readership with them.

Hang out on KBoards (Writer's Cafe) for a while. You'll see lots of them.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"So I have to disagree with you a bit, Ann. People do sometimes buy books that aren't good enough, whether they're self-published or traditionally-published."

Jude, publishing is a business. What is good enough to make money is successful in business. Does that mean *I* think every successful book has the quality I prefer? Of course not. But business is about the bottom line. Period.

Harsh, and we might not like it, but it's the way business works.

Joe Konrath said...

For me, it is because I want to be in paper. I want the chance to go through the process that so many of my favorite authors have gone through and still talk about today. I want to do huge (and small) book signings. I want to work side by side with professionals that I am not exposed to where I live.

Those are all valid reasons. But as a guy who has seen thousands of his paper books on shelves and done thousands of book signings, your reasons seem short-sighted to me.

It's like saying you want to join the Navy to see the Pacific ocean.

My self-pubbed books are in print, and sold in some bookstores. I can still do booksignings if I desire. And the professionals I worked with did more harm than good, and caused more stress than happiness.



Actually, they don't dominate the charts. And the self-pubbed authors who land legacy deals are newbies. I have yet to see a case where an old salt like me returns to legacy publishing after getting a taste of self-publishing.

Think about that for a moment. The authors who had what you seek never go back to it. If that's not a cautionary tale, I dunno what is.

If you failed with your publisher, there might be a reason.

The reason is the publisher.

You read this blog. When I got my rights back, I made more in four months on my own than I did in 8 years with big publishers. They were the problem, not my books.

Indie does not equate success no more than getting published (it just means different).

I agree. But with indie, you own the rights. With legacy, you'll never own your book again.

Joe Konrath said...

I’m offering my thoughts because I think it’s constructive for other, less vocal people, to read. This blog can sound like an echo chamber at times. I think we all know that. Variety is good.

Absolutely. And I truly thank you for posting your thoughts.

Intelligent, civil discourse and debate is why I continue to blog, and it's nice to see other viewpoints. Don't let dissenting opinions (mine included) scare you off.

I’m saying the trad. Route isn’t always bad and can work for people it is designed for.

My buddy Barry has an answer for this, which comes up often.

You can put a single bullet in a .38 Colt Detective Special, spin the six shot cylinder, and hold the gun to your head and pull the trigger. Let's say if you live, you get $50,000. It's a 1 in 6 chance, so the odds are with you. And 5 out of 6 people will make $50k.

That doesn't mean it's a wise way to make money.

In the case of legacy publishing, you are playing Russian Roulette where 999 people out of 1000 wind up regretting the decision.

Sure, 1 out of 1000 will have a great experience and get all that legacy publishing has to offer. But the other 999 will eat a bullet.

That just isn't a wise decision. You shouldn't be focusing on the positive things that might happen. You should focus on the negative things that likely will happen.

Joe Konrath said...

1.) The "tsunami of crap" bubble that Joe says will not be an issue actually WILL hurt sales for most people. The big winners in this self-pub game will continue to make lots of money, the vast majority of people will not.

It's not a bubble. And it won't be any more of an issue than it was when there were no ebooks and publishers were putting out 200,000 titles per year.

Readers have always had to search for what they liked. But it's easier on Amazon than it is in a bookstore.

2.)Promotions that involve free book giveaways will essentially cease to work at all. Maybe cyclically, maybe permanently. Time will tell.

I just made three Jack Daniels books free for a few days. The three that were still for sale shot from #2000 rank to #300 rank.

3.)The Big 5 will continue to hemmhorage jobs and opportunities. Advances will probably continue to diminish. Many prospective authors will continue submitting to the slushpiles, while agents will look more and more at the Amazon best-sellers lists.

Agree.

4.)Amazon will slash their KDP royalties to less than 70% within a few years. This will cause lots of pain in the self-pubbing world.

Dunno. They could. But that will allow competition to creep up and take a lot of their authors away.

Amazon won't be the big dog forever. But if you have control over your rights, you can easily move when the new big dog comes around.

Jude Hardin said...

Jude, publishing is a business. What is good enough to make money is successful in business.

Yeah. It just amazes me the absolute crap people will shell out money for sometimes. Any recommendations for some good romantic suspense authors, btw? I was thinking about trying my hand at one, and I would like to read a few good ones first. I didn't have much luck picking one on my own.


Joe Konrath said...

Besides Ann, you can read Heather Graham, Lisa Jackson, and Kay Hooper for RS.

Jude Hardin said...

I'll check them out, Joe. Thanks.

Jay said...

Man, a lot of good comments. I wouldn’t expect anything less from this blog.

I especially enjoy the gun analogy. It’s a great way to put the choice an author has these days. However, I do have a small counter point to it…The analogy sets up the traditional route to be a potentially dangerous way to publish, more so than self publishing. But what about the dangers of self publishing? I can ruin my name if I publish garbage (not knowing it is garbage, of course). Does that not weigh in too?

People say there is no danger in self publishing, but if I publish bad books, or they simply do not catch on, this hurts my later chances if I wanted to flip and go traditional (Or am I reading that wrong?).

At least if I, or another author goes traditional, there is a far better likelihood that the material is already publishing quality and wont cheat readers. I don’t have a lot of friends or beta readers to work with, and an even smaller amount of people who CARE to help. It’s hard to tell if something is good enough and know that in such an environment, and the help of industry pros seems very enticing. Does that make sense? Besides, I could always self publish after. Not sure if that works the other way around…

I’m definitely new and a budding author still honing his craft, but I do my research. I sit at a desk all day. I have the time to really think and read the information available. I’ve tried to find people to read my work (and I theirs), and it usually ends in frustration (hence my woes about paying for editing. FINDING and having quality beta readers isn’t as easy as people say all the time).

It’s like I’m in a bubble. The traditional route seems like a way into a world that can free me from that bubble of wannabes and half-assers…I think other newer authors think this too, in a way. At least , the ones who have a passion for it like me.

Are we wrong? Is there no value in getting into the industry the traditional way anymore? Honestly, is there?

saintignifer said...

The big reason I want to go trad. pub. first, despite reading everything Joe has to say, loving it and dreaming one day of living it, is validation.

That got mentioned up above in the comments, then largely got drowned out by the tsunami of people saying 'publishing is a business'. Maybe that was Anne Voss.

Sure it is a business. I can't argue that anyone who views it as a business would be better off going trad. pub. Why would they? Absolutely. If it's a solely a business decision, go indie.

But I think for most people it's not, at least not primarily, a business decision. I think, in some respect, everyone who goes for trad. pub. wants the validation first and foremost.

Because trad. pub. is vindication and validation. We all know that. Joe even said he sought it-

"There's nothing wrong with wanting validation. I wanted it for over a decade. One of my dreams was to see my book in the library card catalog (how's that for old school?)" -Joe (comments above)

And Joe got it. So he doesn't need to seek it anymore. Other people have grown out of it-

"I guess I'm too old to worry about "validation" any more." - John Erwin (comments above)

But I think there are lots of people, like me and ANYA-

"In a lot of ways maybe I am just a scardey-cat seeking to legitimize myself, and that is possibly a very dumb motivator." - ANYA (comments above)

- who want the legitimacy of being trad. pubbed. Perhaps everybody knows this already, though some people belittle it as a motivator-

"Authors who need the validation of being courted, liked and given "permission" by various gatekeepers, agents and publishers need to really get over it and grow the F*** up." - Anonymous (comments above)

It's a strange viewpoint. People by default, I believe, thrive on praise. They want to be liked, and to have their work liked. When we're kids, we long to please our parents, because their opinion matters. In school, it may be teachers. At work, it may be our bosses. Later on we may want to please/impress our spouses, our kids, our friends.

And for writers, we want to impress the gatekeepers of trad pub. They are the ones with the power. They have the brand recognition. If I get their approval, I can then go to all the significant people in my life, and when I tell them I have been published, they will 'get' it. The trad pub brand has value in that way. It just does, and signifies success, every bit the same way having a BMW parked in your driveway does. And at that stage, it's not about money at all. It's pride, ability, praise for the sake of good work done.

saintignifer said...

VALIDATION pt 2-

Yet if I self-pub, nobody will understand the brand value of that. Some people may give encouragement for being a self-starter. I expect most people will just shrug it off. 'You're not really published,' they'll think, even if they don't say it. And in a way, it'll be true. I passed no barriers, no gatekeepers.

Even if I sell a few thousand copies, that is unlikely to impress anyone. They'll consider it a fluke. I know that, becuase concerning me, that's how I would feel. 'A few thousand people on the internet don't know what is good or not. It's a fluke.'

I don't think it's a silly or childish thing to think at all. It think it's pretty natural, and probably most authors have it.

Now, if I could get trad pubbed even once, I'd have enough validation. Then I'd surely go indie. I may go indie anyway, just when the desire to at least have my work available to readers over-rides the need for validation.

So that's my point. Publication as a business, yup, self-pub wins. But short of very high sales, which we all agree are a 'lottery' and not very likely for the majority, it doesn't give validation. And that's probably the reason most people still go to trad pub.

LJ Breedlove in the comments said-

"So I understand about the need for validation, but in the end, validation comes from within"

Maybe, yeah, but not really. I could run really fast, perhaps fast enough to win the Olympics (!!), but if I don't go to the Olympics I'll never know if I'm really good or not. Maybe simply running fast is enough for me, but without some external benchmark, my happiness and validation is kind of floating in a void, only real for me. That could certainly be enough. But I'm pretty sure validation from without is more of a real, connected thing.

Rebekah H (in the comments) said-

"I don't need validation. What I need is to see more successful self-published authors coming out of nowhere (like I would be) instead of from trad pub, bringing their backlist and established (albeit modest) readership with them."

It sounds like she's saying she does want validation, but she wants it from self. pub., by having the already-validated folks come down to play in her paddling pool, improving the quality and perception of self-pub in the process. Isn't that it?

So, validation. Yeah.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

saintignifer--

I think you have good points here, and I applaud the way you came out and stated them. I agree that if you want validation, try the traditional route. I've already gotten the validation, and I chose to give certain things up in trade for making a decent living. So I am in a very different position from you and can't truly speak to what you're going through. For me, the validation was nice, but too expensive.

I think the bottom line is knowing your goal and being realistic in going after it. Kudos to you. I hope you are successful.

saintignifer said...

Thanks Ann, that's really nice of you to say. I think if I was in your or Joe's position, I would definitely go indie too. It just makes complete sense from a business point of view.

I hope you continue with your mad success too ;)

Joe Konrath said...

I think the bottom line is knowing your goal and being realistic in going after it

Agreed 100%.

Every writer has their own goals, their own journey. Figure out how to reach that goal, and act accordingly.

But remember that the more you learn, the more your goals should be adjusted to accommodate reality. Denying real life to seek out a fantasy isn't striving to reach your goals. It's embracing false hope.

J. Fields Jr. said...

I loved the comment from Brian Drake about finding money to self-pub.

My first book went up unedited and I got the reviews to prove it.

I pay child support and have my little boy three days a week, so I only write four days. His mom is struggling, so I have to make sure I can help financially.

I did a budget and factored in editing like it was food. I had to cover it. I researched budgeting and cutting expenses online.

I also added in housecleaning. I researched more and found a local company with good rates. Why? I only write four days a week, so every second counts.

After the budget was done, I had my rent limit.

So I moved.

Found a small place I could afford and pay expenses. Killed cable. Traded in my broken down car and got a better one that didn't kill me in sudden repair coats (you can space out car loan payments, but not repair and maintenance fees.)

I wrote three books this year, got them all edited, and will finish a fourth.

Did I get my editing investment back? Hell no. I haven't yet. But I will.

I have my realistic, measurable goal. Time to write. And a budget.

The rest is only hindered by my own ability to get better and not give up.



Chuckles Austen said...

You go J. Fields!

Hang in there, man!

J. Fields Jr. said...

Thank you, Chuckles!

Reading this blog earlier and seeing your comics background and your avatar, I tried to find your book.

Your weblink doesn't work, and for some reason a search of your name on Amazon brings up biker erotica.

Not that there's anything wrong with Bums of Anarchy, but I'm a comic geek and artist (saves me bucks on covers thank god) and was looking for your book.

Btw...no one look up Bums of Anarchy. I made that up. But seriously, Chuckles brings biker porn.

Kelly Faunce said...

Bums of Anarchy sounds like it really should be a title.

Chuckles Austen said...

Wow. I wish I had written Bums of Anarchy.

LOL! Yeah, I'm the worst at maintaining my blogs and doing all other things that might give me a boost promotionally.

If it can help my career, you can count on the fact that I'm avoiding it!

You might be the one guy on here who would be interested in what I do/(did).

Charles Olen Austen or Chuck Austen

Like Warm Sun on Nekkdid Bottoms, Pride and Nakedness, and Something Old, Something New are my novels. Search on the Kindle Store. It actually did get mislabeled as porn at Amazon and can't be found unless you make an effort. It's not porn. But I guess the word penis gets mentioned a lot. I am nothing if not immature.

I already returned the favor and bought your books because they look right up my alley.

My comics were mostly for Marvel, although I did a lot of work for DC and some for Image.

3 years of X-Men beginning with HOPE, and a year of Action comics, JLA, US War Machine, and too many others to list.

Download them as torrents. I get no money from them. LOL! Work for Hire!

J. Fields Jr. said...

That was probably my million dollar idea and I just blew it.

I could have uploaded it into the obscure sub-genre of:

Self-Help > sexuality > group dynamics > ass

Oh well.

M.F. Soriano said...

Regarding what saintignifer said about validation: Most of my "traditional" publishing was literary short stories and poems in small University journals, and for a while seeing my work appear in print did give me a great feeling. But it's not like getting your work "traditionally published" gives you access to a tangible new community--you don't get a club card or anything. The people I actually met in person during release events and readings set up by those journals didn't develop into friends or long-standing connections with any greater frequency than anyone else. What's been more validating for me, personally, is hearing from readers who like my work, and I've heard from more readers for my self-published work than for any of the stuff in those literary journals.

M.F. Soriano said...

I'll also admit that I've struggled with the same "self-published isn't really published" idea that saintignifer mentioned, but almost exclusively relating to my own self-criticizing. Almost all of the people I've met since I started self-publishing have offered positive affirmation ("You wrote a book? Cool!"), and none of them have asked who the publisher was. Oftentimes, self-hater that I am, I'll try to diffuse their praise by pointing out that the book is self-published, but rarely does that impress them in any negative (or positive) way. They seem indifferent.

Which makes me wonder who it actually is that's concerned with the self-published versus traditionally published status distinction. I get the feeling that the people who care about it most are the people who have succeeded there (which seems to be a smaller pool than the people who have succeeded with self-publishing) and the people who feel desperate for validation (which makes them vulnerable, in my opinion, to being exploited). The majority of the people who love to read probably don't really care, if I had to guess.

Chuckles Austen said...

To M. F.

("You wrote a book? Cool!")

I agree with this completely.

Most people I know are just impressed that I wrote something longer than an e-mail.

Everyone wants to do it and knows how hard it is to actually accomplish. The getting published is entirely secondary.

J. Fields Jr. said...

Chuck...you're right. I found em (bought two...the description of Like Warm Sun cracked me up.)

And thanks for grabbing my book...I have 2 free up now so run, finger outstretched, and clicketh.

You have two different author names, weirdo. Your books aren't all linked to your author page.

But, the fact that Amazon gives a drop-down suggestion search for your name as:

Chuck Austen X-Men

Is so cool, nothing else really matters.

Look at it again:

Chuck Austen X-Men

(snikt)

J. Fields Jr. said...

M.F.

First, thank you for posting your honest comment regarding your sales struggle (and others who do) it seriously made me feel that I wasn't alone.

I love this blog and Joe's advice, but sometimes all the "and what do ya know, the next week my book hit the top ten list" makes me feel like the kid in the corner eating glue while the class races to finish their college entry essays.

In my experience, the self-pub stigma comes from authors, avid reviewers, and Amazon forum posters. Toss in some Goodreads peeps, too. Not all of them by any stretch, but that's the invisible thread. People who frequent the publishing community forums.

The rest of the readers don't care. If a book stinks they get their money back.

I have never had a person ask me anything about the book besides where they can buy it.

And when I was a non-pubbed reader on the very first Kindle, I didn't care either. I just went nuts looking for books.

Keep the faith, bro.

*virtual fist bump*

saintignifer said...

Interesting points MF- I'm not sure though that characterizing people who value the validation of gatekeepers as 'desperate' is really all that fair.

I'm not desperate. I simply want it. I may self-publish without it, perhaps in line with what Joe had to say - "goals should be adjusted to accommodate reality". Yup. If I can't get the validation from gatekeepers, I'll put my stuff out in the world on my own.

What you say about publishing short stories I can kind of sympathize with. I've published a few stories in pro magazines. That was not something I could really tell anyone about, because nobody I know reads those magazines (except one friend, who was impressed). It didn't lead to membership or anything, but I'm not expecting that. What it did do was make me feel like a member. My name, to some extent, was up in lights. It was on the cover of a magazine, that was on bookshelves, that people could see.

Yeah, it's Joe wanting his name in library card indexes.

But it's also this other thing- just wanting to know if a book is good, when I'm not sure myself anymore. I know other people feel this way (saw the doc movie Indie game, where they're totally unsure if their game is good or not). After spending years working on the book, I just can't judge it. I want someone outside to tell me, whose opinion carries weight- because they're willing to back it with cash and effort. With that, I could confidently pitch it too. Without that, I'll worry I'm peddling something no-one wants, whcih I don't want to do.

One more thing- what you say about most people not caring, yeah maybe you're right. Probably most people would think it's cool if I self-publish. The only dicks would be dicks even if I was trad pubbed:

"Have I ever seen your book?"

"Uh, do you like sf or fantasy?"

"I know Game of Thrones. That's it."

"Then, no, you've probably never heard of my book."

(Telling silence)

So, yeah. Validation. If the work is good, it could come from gatekeepers or readers, either, I suppose. This is stuff for me to think about.

Chuckles Austen said...

Thanks, Geraldine, for writing this blog post, and thank you, Joe, for having a website so that J. Fields and I could chat.

Self-Help > sexuality > group dynamics > ass

LOL. As I said... immature.

I already bought 'em all, Pokemon. Up. My. Alley.

You have two different author names, weirdo. Your books aren't all linked to your author page.

At which point did I claim to be professional?

And yes. Snikt is cool. Especially to my 9 year old son. Didn't know I was a pull-down menu guy. Wow.

I'll fix that link to my website and we can continue (not in front of the others).

We now return you to your regular blog.

Go indie! Screw Legacy! Buy more books!

J. Fields Jr. said...

Saintignifer,

Refreshing honesty. I like you.

I used to be desperate for trad publication. I mean, man, I would dream that shit. Vivid, detailed, blanket-twisting dreams.

I never got that validation and gave up until KDP came along. By then I was so beaten I figured another few kicks couldn't hurt, so I self-pubbed.

And my inner writer freaking busted loose and went crazy!

Do what you need to do...walk your path.

I'm rooting for ya.

J. Fields Jr. said...

Chuck,

We're the two people talking on the couch when the party is over and Joe is hovering by the door while his wife gives him dirty looks as she hides on the stairs in her nightie.

Thanks Joe! Great party!

I'll go now.

(Chuck, later.)

Walter Knight said...

I want to see my books on a bookshelf, but have settled for just making money online.

Kevin Riley said...

Saintignifer - "But I think for most people it's not, at least not primarily, a business decision. I think, in some respect, everyone who goes for trad. pub. wants the validation first and foremost"

I wanted validation too, then I self pubd and got several amazing reviews from people I don't know. Now I just want to make money (though a few more great reviews would be nice too).

Geraldine Evans said...

Wow! Joe, I sure started something here!

Perhaps it's true that most people can only learn the hard way, through their own experiences. That's valid. It's how most of us learn: we screw up. We learn some more. We screw up again. Again we learn.

But publishing has become such a different ball-game. When even the Big Five join up with an outfit like Author Solutions to entice authors in, there's got to be something wrong.

Just be wary, all you trad fans. If you decide to go the traditional route, read that contact, get it thoroughly checked by a lawyer knowledgeable in this business and listen when s/he points out the damaging areas of the contract. Realise fully what you're signing and what you're potentially giving away. Know what signing it means for you now and what it will mean ten years' from now. Insist that the lawyer spell it all out for you in black and white and non-lawyer-speak.

I was lucky to get back the rights to most of my books; I would be reluctant to ever let go of them again. Joe and Amazon have both made us realise that our backlists have value - more and more publishers, too, are getting that gleam in their eye when they think of the backlists.

I recall (vividly) when my ex-publisher tried to persuade me to sign the contract that would mean the loss of all my rights. He made me feel I was being thoroughly unreasonable when I questioned the terms (note, too, that it was ME who questioned the terms, not my agent at the time). He used the time-worn phrase, 'Well, everyone else on our list has signed.'

Maybe they did. But to me such words have the ring of the petulant teenager who claims that everyone else's mother lets them go to all-night parties / take drugs / get drunk / have under-age sex, etc. I don't have teenagers, but I recognise a sweeping statement when I see/hear it.

Perhaps my experiences have just made me a wise old owl. But I'm grateful that I can now go 'Twit-twoo' on my own account. :-)

Just take care.

D. C. Chester said...

I have to add my own two cents on validation.

Author name on the spine of a paperback on a bookstore shelf for three weeks vs $100,000 monthly income from writing.

I'd say Joe has got some pretty sweet validation.

Dan

Joe Konrath said...

Author name on the spine of a paperback on a bookstore shelf for three weeks vs $100,000 monthly income from writing.

True. But most indie authors don't make $100k monthly. That's an unrealistic goal.

But here's a more realistic scenario:

Author name on the spine of a paperback on a bookstore shelf and not making any money off that book or ever getting the rights to it back vs getting paid monthly and having control over your IP.

I can't overemphasize how poor a job publishers do selling books. They pay very little, their contracts are unconscionable, and their validation is akin to trying to earn respect from a bully who beats you up for your lunch money.

The money I make self-publishing is wonderful, but having control over my rights, my career, my future, is priceless. My publishers caused me a lot of grief, and cost me a lot of money. It's an awful feeling to see your books fail when it isn't your fault.


Jude Hardin said...

For those concerned about the upfront costs involved with self-publishing, check out the $125 cover I just bought for my retitled horror novella GHOST

You have to look around, but you can find some great covers at great prices.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Adoring, 5-star reviews from strangers.

6,000 copies sold over 4 months for one self-pubbed ebook of only 8,500 words.

$2,000 profit from that short.

That's validation enough for me.

Oh, and friends who hear I self-publish think that's very cool. It's not only "real," it's the more impressive way to go, for them.

If you think self-publishing is somehow lesser, you are waiting for someone else to tell you that you are good enough. Find me on my blog, send me 50% of your profits, and I'll be happy to tell you that you are good enough.

Or you could simply put your writing out there and let the readers tell you. Nothing lost!



Nancy Beck said...

Jude,

Cool cover; creepy.

Who did you use? Go On Write?

Jason said...

I do like that cover Jude. Do you plan on putting any "previously published as..." notices on the cover or sales page? You don't want to piss off any fans who already read it. Also, I see that previous reviews did not get ported to the new page. Is that by design?


Even if I sell a few thousand copies, that is unlikely to impress anyone. They'll consider it a fluke. I know that, becuase concerning me, that's how I would feel. 'A few thousand people on the internet don't know what is good or not. It's a fluke.'

Wow...I couldn't disagree more. I think that is VERY likely to impress everyone you tell. I can't think of a single person in my life that would not be truly impressed if I told them I sold a few thousand copies of a single ebook.

Anonymous said...

why does the allure of a trad deal persist?

because for most indies the experience is crap. it’s totally humiliating. right now you even have to PAY for ads promoting the fact that you’re giving your work away for free, and even then it generates few sales (Joe/Ann: look on Kindleboards for discussions of this; you are outliers here... free just doesn’t work anymore as a general rule).

trad might suck, but those arguing for gong indie are basing their arguments on their own (much deserved) success. if you took all the writers who have tried indie publishing over the last few years, following good advice (like that which you can get here), how many, as a %, are doing well?

so, even if you filtered out all those indies whose work sucks, there’s a huge number of failures. the %? no one knows. we just don’t know.

but what we do know is that things are getting worse. few bloggers consider indie books any more, and those who do are usually overwhelmed with requests; ad don’t work (see KBoards for endless stats on the very relative success of ads generally); the scene, in fact, is the very opposite of what Joe is describing for his situation, which is kind of ironic :)

we do know the % of success with trad. if things deteriorate the way they have been, how long before the odds are actually longer with indie than with trad?

Jude Hardin said...

Cool cover; creepy.

Thanks!

Who did you use?

I bought it from the Books of the Dead Press website. They have some horror covers for sale, created by cover artist Keri Knutson.

http://www.booksofthedeadpress.com/

Jude Hardin said...

Do you plan on putting any "previously published as..." notices on the cover or sales page?

Yes, the previous title is noted in the product description.

Also, I see that previous reviews did not get ported to the new page. Is that by design?

Yeah, I just wanted to start over with this one. There were 23 reviews, and most were positive.

Jude Hardin said...

the %? no one knows

Let's just say the ebook success/failure rate between indie/trad is about the same.

Everything else being equal:

70% vs 17.5% (or lower)

Keeping all your rights vs signing most of them away

From a business perspective, it's a no brainer.

Especially considering the vast majority of writers who WANT a traditional deal will never get past the gatekeepers.

ANYA said...

I am so glad I came back to read comments. After I originally posted I became all bent out of shape and bit my nails and basically googled like a lunatic.

This is stressful stuff people!

I think for me, what I want, is to at least ATTEMPT for a big fancy legacy deal. It's like, unless I try I'll always have the 'what-if's'. I don't want any what if's dragging behind me. God knows I've already got enough regret in my life.

I am going to start sending out queries in the next few weeks for the first book of my completed trilogy. Then, if no one is interested (as they weren't with my other 2 novels), I will start SP'ing them. I would have 5 novels to put up, that have been beta read, edited by CP's, and stories I am really proud of.

Regarding validation: I think it is really easy to put down this motivator. But it is a cheap shot. I am a stay at home mom with 6 kids. I have no employable college degree and I couldn't get a 'real job' to save my life.
When people ask what I 'do' I am so quickly dismissed as a mom. And I love being a mom (obviously, I have a tribe), don't get me wrong. But guess what? There is this whole other completely unseen part of me. The part of me that wakes up two hours before the kids do to type the story of my heart, the part that views nap time as sacred so I can meet my writing goals, the part that sneaks away to my writing group every week— the part I would like some real world validation in.

saintignifer wrote: I don't think it's a silly or childish thing to think at all. It think it's pretty natural, and probably most authors have it.

Most authors, but also most people. Maybe a lot of SP'ed writers get their validation through $$, but for me at this point, it isn't the end-all, be-all. I am terrified to SP and only sell 50 copies to my family. But not because I won't make any money, I want more people to read my stories.

xo.

Anonymous said...

No one's really mentioned it yet, but it seems that you as an author can make as much money selling a 2.99 ebook on Amazon as you can selling a 25 dollar hardcover at Barnes and Noble (or at Amazon). And I as a reader am going to buy far more books at 2.99 (give or take) than I would at 25 bucks. I'm far more likely to take a chance on your indie book than I am to take a chance on you as a new author, Publishers Weekly review or not, at a HC price of 25 bucks, or a trade paperback price of 15 or whatever. And then I go post about it on a blog or on FB or whatever...

Anonymous said...

"Jude Hardin said...
the %? no one knows

Let's just say the ebook success/failure rate between indie/trad is about the same."

Alas, Jude, this isn't the case.

Trads choose very selectively because they know that 80% of their books will be flops.

That means you have a fighting chance of success (even if it's not a huge, best-selling kind of success).

The % of flops for indies is FAR higher. Anyone can see that now.

If you have better stats, please share them.


Jude Hardin said...

The % of flops for indies is FAR higher. Anyone can see that now.

I can't. How do you know?

Since a book's "success" is subjective, let's define it as making a profit the first year of publication. I would guess that, compared to the Big 5, more indie titles come out in the black, because the overhead is much lower.

So you're right. The success/failure rate between indie/trad is nowhere near the same. Self-published books have a much better chance at becoming successful. :)

Colin M said...

I've got a question regarding covers.

In the comments above, prices for pre-made covers range from free to $200.00. Do you insist on exclusivity on the use. I've found different ebooks with the same cover art before. Jude, I love the new cover but I notice that on the website you quoted, the same cover is still for sale. I would assume that the website hasn't been updated and that for that price you have the rights to be the sole user. (or based on the cover - soul user).

I would be hesitant to go for a cheap cover if it wasn't exclusive. How does it typically work?

Rebekah H. said...

I (Rebekah) said:
"I don't need validation. What I need is to see more successful self-published authors coming out of nowhere (like I would be) instead of from trad pub, bringing their backlist and established (albeit modest) readership with them."

Saintignifer said:
"It sounds like [Rebekah is] saying she does want validation, but she wants it from self. pub., by having the already-validated folks come down to play in her paddling pool, improving the quality and perception of self-pub in the process. Isn't that it?"

Answer: No, that's not it. I understand and respect the need for validation, but that is not my motivation for pursuing traditional publication.

I don't need someone to tell me I'm good enough. I want to be READ. And I want to be read by more than a handful of family and friends who I know would feel the social obligation to support me if I self-published.

The fact remains that the only people I hear saying "Self pub is awesome! My books are doing SO GREAT! To hell with the publishers!" are those who came into self-publishing only after achieving some moderate success in traditional publishing.

Joe, respectfully, when you came into self-pub you were not another faceless would-be in an ocean of hopefuls--nor was Ms Evans or Ms Voss. You all had the advantage of an existing readership and some experience with the industry.

I have neither. What I do have is a lot of faith in my novel. It's a good story, and I believe I've executed it well. I just need someone to READ the damn thing--and I don't have a great deal of confidence that self-publication is the best route to realizing that goal.

Lque said...

Colin, most premade book covers are created using royalty-free stock images, which are themselves non-exclusive. Most designers source from the same pool of stock photography and illustration.

The designers then create a cover, sometimes combining two or more images. These cover designs are typically offered on an exclusive basis, and you should require that of any designer you work with.

However, while the final cover design might be exclusive, the original image almost certainly will not be--which is why you sometimes see several books with very similar covers. This is more likely to happen if your cover designer makes only minor alterations to the image before using it in a cover design.

If you want something TRULY unique, you're going to have to pay much, much more. The possibility of having a less than unique cover is the price you pay for a $50 cover, as opposed to a $1500 cover.

For most authors just getting into self-pub, this is considered an acceptable tradeoff. If the book takes off and is wildly successful, it's always possible to pay for a shiny new custom cover, and re-release.

For those looking for premades, I recommend:

http://www.vividcovers.com

John Erwin said...

Rebekah H said "What I do have is a lot of faith in my novel. It's a good story, and I believe I've executed it well. I just need someone to READ the damn thing."

I share these sentiments, but I have no expectation that I could sell my not-pigeonhole-able novel to a traditional publisher. It is a historical novel set in the American west, but it does not follow the traditional formula of a "Western." You can click on my name for a sample to see what I mean.

So, I am going strictly SP with it, with very slow results. I spent a week setting up paid and free promotions in advance of a 5-day Kindle freebie period and got all of 300 downloads, far short of the thousands I hoped for and figure I needed to get any traction.

As an unknown writer with a very small following and an email list of . . . 5 people, I'm not sure where to go from here, other than to put marketing on the back burner and finish novel number 2. My goal for tomorrow is 400 words.

Jude Hardin said...

@Colin: What Lque said.

I've seen duplicate images used on traditionally-published books as well, so that particular problem isn't unique to self-publishing.

But yes, the sites I buy from promise to sell each cover only once. I'm sure the one I bought will be taken off the site in a day or two.

Colin M said...

Lque and Jude,

Thanks for the great answers.

Joe Konrath said...

because for most indies the experience is crap.

You polled tens thousands of indies to get to that conclusion? Or are you speaking for tens of thousands?

it’s totally humiliating. right now you even have to PAY for ads promoting the fact that you’re giving your work away for free, and even then it generates few sales

Heh heh. Humiliating is sitting alone at a table stacked with your books at a signing for two hours and not selling one. An unsuccessful freebie promotion is cake compared to that.

(Joe/Ann: look on Kindleboards for discussions of this; you are outliers here... free just doesn’t work anymore as a general rule).

Not all indie authors are on Kindleboards. I think KB is helpful, but it doesn't represent everyone.

trad might suck, but those arguing for gong indie are basing their arguments on their own (much deserved) success. if you took all the writers who have tried indie publishing over the last few years, following good advice (like that which you can get here), how many, as a %, are doing well?

Compared to how many never could get a legacy deal?

so, even if you filtered out all those indies whose work sucks, there’s a huge number of failures. the %? no one knows. we just don’t know.

What you're saying applies to legacy pubbed authors as well.

How many midlist authors pubbed by the Big 5 are doing well on Kindle? I see new indie authors on the bestseller lists all the time, along with NYT bestsellers. But no midlist books.

but what we do know is that things are getting worse.

How do we know that? You're making assumptions, and I don't even know where you're getting your data from. A few writers moaning on Kindleboards? That represents hundreds of thousands of other indie authors?

we do know the % of success with trad. if things deteriorate the way they have been, how long before the odds are actually longer with indie than with trad?

I wasn't successful when I was legacy pubbed. Neither were a few dozen of my peers I could name. Then we self-pubbed and are now doing much better.

No one said going indie was a guarantee of success, or that luck wasn't needed. It's important to temper expectations. When I first started self-pubbing I had no illusions I would become successful. My intent was to use cheap ebooks as a gateway to my legacy pubbed books.

But I was surprised at how well I sold, and continue to sell. And I continue to be surprised looking at the bestseller lists and seeing how many newbies are on it.

This is a marathon, and requires a lot of hard work and effort, as well as luck. No one deserves success. But with indie, the chances of success are much higher. How many legacy authors turn to self-pubbing then go back to legacy? If you really want to know which is better, shouldn't you talk to those who have done both?

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, respectfully, when you came into self-pub you were not another faceless would-be in an ocean of hopefuls--nor was Ms Evans or Ms Voss. You all had the advantage of an existing readership

That's an old meme I debunked many, many times.

I've sold 45,000 copies of my first Jack Daniels novel, Whiskey Sour, since getting my rights back in February. They weren't bought by my existing readership. My existing readership bought it when it was first published in 2004.

I've sold over a million ebooks. When I was with legacy publishers, I'd only sold a few hundred thousand paper books. Blake Crouch is closing in on a million sold, and his print sales were 1/10 of mine.

It's not old fans buying us. It's people who have never heard of us.

Anonymous said...

“If you really want to know which is better, shouldn't you talk to those who have done both?”

I’ve done both, Joe.

My point was that whereas going indie used to be potentially a great opportunity, it is now settling down into something very much like trad (a few do great; most don’t).

On free runs, just do the math: these days even books reaching #1 or #2 free spots often never make it very high on the sold list afterward. There is lots of self-reported data on this at Kboards, but I have my own as well; plus I’ve tracked a good number of free books after they hit top spot, and they often sink quick. Also, just think how many books go free each day and NEVER rise high in the free list...

Both trad and indie suck most of the time. Nobody wants to admit it, especially those who have jumped into the indie thing with both feet, because they want to follow your advice and sell a million books. Just like some people still want to sign with Big 5 and sell a million books...

Frank Sergeant said...

J Fields Jr,

I am a big fan of your Antonio Cruz series.

I also read Respect the Dojo but thought it was poorly written compared to your Antonio Cruz series. I think you should rewrite it (I think it has the potential to be good).

Also, I noted with interest that you credit an editor at the end of at least some of your books (and that ties in with your earlier comments here). What kind of editing did you get? Just content editing? Do you pay for proofreading? If I were your editor, I would ask you to remove my credit, because of the typos remaining in the books.

With affection for you and your books,

Frank

J. Fields Jr. said...

Hey Frank, thanks for the kind words!

(To Do List: Get a fan. Check.)

He just proofreads, though my editor is particular about Antonio's speech pattern and word choice.

I'm moving away from his credit since I'm streamling format, and one is taking out the silly author notes in back.

I appreciated your honest review, and sent the book back for a recheck. I'm grateful for the buy, the read, the review, and the praise.

I'm deep into the next book in the series coming out in a month or so, and plotting next two. I want two up this year and the clock is ticking.

I won't be rewriting Dojo, but thanks for the feedback and advice. It's a 200 page running gag meant to make you laugh and entertain, it's aspirations are low haha.

Thanks again, my friend. Awesome to meet you!

Nancy Beck said...

For those of you who insist on going the trad route, would you at least read Kris Rusch's post today? (The first part of it especially.)

http://kriswrites.com/2013/07/31/the-business-rusch-dreams-and-bestsellers/comment-page-1/#comment-86151

She talks about the horrible contracts she's seen recently. She obviously doesn't give legal advice, but she gives her opinion as to whether the person should seek legal help.

Do yourself a favor and read it, and at least give it some thought.

Nancy Beck said...

@Anya,

You said, "The fact remains that the only people I hear saying "Self pub is awesome! My books are doing SO GREAT! To hell with the publishers!" are those who came into self-publishing only after achieving some moderate success in traditional publishing."

I never had a trad pub deal. I'm not doing that great, selling wise. Yet I still advocate and prefer the indie route.

Why?

One word: Control.

I am a personal control freak. Always have been. I practically pulled out my hair over a query letter for days, weeks, months - and never sent it out. Because of the stories I'd heard about agents getting back to you in 2 months. Or 6 months. Or never.

I couldn't handle that. All that rejection, yet I knew it was something I would eventually have to handle if I wanted to be published.

Then the e-revolution happened.

Now I could control all the things I wanted. Story, cover, the whole shebang. Am I doing great? As I said above, no, I'm making a little money here and there. But I don't have a lot out yet. I've got 3 short novels and a mini-short story collection out. I'm doing the formatting for the first in another series.

But what I'm getting at is this. I have no college degree (whatever that has to do with anything), but I am working a temp job that pays okay. I went thru bankruptcy last year, and have had ongoing personal crap that would put hair on your teeth. I would still rather put out my stuff this way, under my control, rather than have to hurry up and wait on some damned agent and then lose my copyrights and who knows what else to the trad publishers.

May I suggest something? Read Dean Wesley Smith's blog. He has 2 excellent series, about the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing and Think Like a Publisher.

If you won't learn how to do it all yourself or can't (6 kids, yeow!), then go to a place like Lucky Bat Books that has a menu where you can pick and choose what you need done.

I think the majority of people in these comments are truly concerned that you'll get ripped off big time by the trad publishers out there, and they don't want to see you ripped off. I'm in that boat. I can't stand when people get jerked around, because that could easily be me.

And one last thing, Anya. Do you really want to wait and wait and wait on the agent-go-round? Six months to a year to hear back from them isn't unheard of, and there are a lot who never get back to you.

Good luck to you whatever you decide.

ANYA said...

Nancy Beck, to clarify, I never said this: "The fact remains that the only people I hear saying "Self pub is awesome! My books are doing SO GREAT! To hell with the publishers!" are those who came into self-publishing only after achieving some moderate success in traditional publishing." Rebekah H did.

But I do want to thank you for pointing me to Dean Wesley Smiths blog. And I agree, I think the authors here truly have the best intentions. That's why I stick around and keep reading this blog, and continue to learn about this business. It would be foolish to think there is an agenda in these comments besides wanting the best success for other authors out there, and formerly trad pub authors bringing their (basically terrible) experience to the table is invaluable.

Joe, you said you didn't bring your million readers with you when you switched from Trad to SP. But perhaps it isn't about the readers that really matters. It is the trial and error. It is the experience that has taught you to make smarter choices.

David L. Shutter said...

"For those of you who insist on going the trad route, would you at least read Kris Rusch's post today? (The first part of it especially.)"

I give that a strong second. Her current post is more about her NYT list dreams and why they're no longer valid but I would recommend digging through her previous posts on the current state of BigPub contracts. You don't even need to read her blog from back to front because she's been saying a lot of the same thing in this regard for about two years now.

If you think Joe/Ann/Barry's standing isn't applicable to you or the success stories of Howey/Andre/Walker are just lottery wins (equally non-applicable to you) then fine. Please do go read some Ms. Rusch as she has decades of legacy experience. See what she has to say about the current state of contracts, publishing, editorial departments and marketing (cough-laugh-cough)and the overall climate that most pub writers are living under now.

And please keep in mind while reading every wretched story of how experienced and established veteran authors have been treated that you are a newb, completely unknown with no established market value and you have zero clout.

While you're perusing blogs go find Bob Mayer. He's another salty vet from years in the print trenches and an amazing writer. See what he has to say.

Random thoughts:

Some people raise not having the necessary investment capitol to "properly" self-publish as an issue.

Q: How do you intend to pay for the IP attorney badly needed for the thirty page, legal length bible-print contract you hope to someday get? I honestly think a pro cover and editor would be cheaper but that's just me.

Speaking of money, BigPub is notorious for improperly managing, shortchanging or flatout failing to pay royalties even though it's required only twice a year.

Q: How on earth does anyone get a "warm fuzzy" from receiving 25% of NET? A number their accountants determine!

No one said it outright here but "quality control" is another big reason some say they refuse to self-pub. They need the professional team to make their work the best it can possibly be.

A) Professional Packaging. Here's some of those results:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/19-book-cover-cliches

Standard issue stock+manip&font. I see the same (or better) kind of pre-mades advertised weekly from online freelancers and would never need to pay more than 150$ for any one of them.

B) Passing the "Quality Test"? You heard about Rowling's little pen-name fiasco, right? Sorry, but too many of those QC pros are asleep at the wheel.

Finally, some people have expressed a strong sentiment for being on a bookshelf. I feel the same way. It would be cool. That is, if I could find a bookshelf anywhere near me to admire it on.

Because in most areas the bookshelves are going away. They're evaporating much, much faster than some predicted when e-books boomed and the decline isn't slowing. And until you read a WSJ article that Such-and-Such Inc. is pouring billions into revitalizing brick and mortar, the shelves that have gone are not coming back.

Best wishes. Everyone fair well on their journey.

Chuckles Austen said...


One of the Anonymous’s said:

My point was that whereas going indie used to be potentially a great opportunity, it is now settling down into something very much like trad (a few do great; most don’t).

On free runs, just do the math: these days even books reaching #1 or #2 free spots often never make it very high on the sold list afterward.


I'd like to dive in here as someone who's never been trad pubbed.

I mentioned my 500 dollars a month in sales because Joe mentions his millions a second in sales. It helps to clarify a point with actual numbers.

When I first self pubbed on Kindle I made about a dollar the first year, maybe two (I'm too lazy to go back and check, but I may be guessing high). I was one of those "Oh, woe is me, I'll never make it. I guess I missed the wave" people.

Then I started making a little money. And a little more. When sales dipped a bit I thought my market had been saturated and I should write a thriller/horror/gun-for-hire novel, or six. But then things turned more upward again.

I slowly kept making more. Now I pay for my car and insurance with my writing. And every month the trend continues slightly upward.

My sales after a phenomenal free giveaway on one of my books settled back down to nearly the same level as before. BUT over time, people keep coming to the Amazon blog and other places they can find me—if they can find me (wink wink, J. Fields)—to say "I finally read the freebie, couldn’t put it down and where's the next one?"

So even if I only gained those few people, it was worth it.

Joe keeps arguing it's a marathon, and you keep responding with sprint numbers. The marathon I've been running bears out everything Joe and the others say here.

Write more books. Write good books people want to read. Write good 'jacket' copy. Have good covers. The more I follow that advice, the better I do.

I've been at this since 2008 and I'm now paying for my car. More importantly, my books are still available and continue to sell. If I had gotten ‘lucky’ and landed a trad deal, a couple years of low sales would likely have gotten me pulled from stores, and my rights would be gone! Those books might never bee seen again!

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART!

I still own my rights. I can keep these books up at Amazon or anywhere else forever—or I can remove them and put them elsewhere. The choice is mine. The everything is mine!

I had a successful number one show on television. It was taken from me before the first episode aired, ruined, and died a horrible flaming death, and the rights are now owned by a Canadian company that sits on them. I wasn’t able to do anything about that, and over time I’ve made more money off my novels than I did off that ‘hit’ television series, and still control everything about my books.

If all you’re thinking about is potential money and fans, you’re missing the crucial points in all this:

If your books aren’t SEEN, you have NO chance at success. If you aren’t a success with trad, your books might NEVER be seen. At least with independent your books remain available. That fact alone makes your odds better with indie.

Joe Konrath said...

My point was that whereas going indie used to be potentially a great opportunity, it is now settling down into something very much like trad (a few do great; most don’t).

It's always been tough to make money in this biz, not matter which route you take. Indie is easier, because everyone has a chance. No gatekeepers to impress.

On free runs, just do the math: these days even books reaching #1 or #2 free spots often never make it very high on the sold list afterward.

Do you remember when Amazon didn't allow free ebooks? People still made money. I had many, many conversations with Amazon when it was still DTP, asking for them to allow freebies. And for the first year, there was a bounce. Now there isn't. Who cares? Two years ago there were no freebies at all.

Do a 99 cent Bookbub. Those still work. And bounceback isn't the only reason to have a free promotion. I just did three free books and it really boosted my backlist sales.

especially those who have jumped into the indie thing with both feet, because they want to follow your advice and sell a million books.

I began posting numbers to show what is possible, not what is likely. Many have gone indie because they had that info available, and then outsold me. But I've been preaching for a decade that luck is a huge factor, and I've never said that self-pubbing is the ticket to success.

It is, however, a way to make more money in the long run. Even if your book isn't selling well, if you sign with Random Penguins for a $5000 advance you'll likely never earn it out. In ten years they'll still have your book. In ten years on your own, you only need to earn $1.37 a day to make the same $5000.

Jude Hardin said...

...if you sign with Random Penguins for a $5000 advance you'll likely never earn it out.

COLT, my first self-published novel (and my only one to date) netted me more than half that just for the month of July. No promo.

Feel free to slap me around if I ever even mention taking a crappy traditional deal like that again, Joe.

Frank Sergeant said...

Hi J,

> He just proofreads, though my editor is particular about Antonio's speech pattern and word choice.

Oh, I meant to add that there were also some Kindle formatting problems, such as curly quotes facing the wrong direction, so maybe he should look for that also.

In general, I recommend that even if someone else proofreads, the author himself should do a careful, final proofread. I know it's hard to do when you are sick of reading your book, and it's hard to read the *book* rather than the picture of the book in your *mind*, but it's your reputation that suffers if you don't. (I will often proofread directly on the Kindle.)

> I'm deep into the next book in the series coming out in a month or so, and plotting next two. I want two up this year and the clock is ticking.

Best of luck with them. I'll be looking forward to them.

> I won't be rewriting Dojo, but thanks for the feedback and advice. It's a 200 page running gag meant to make you laugh and entertain, it's aspirations are low haha.

Congratulations, you achieved its aspirations. ;) My concern is that someone might read it first and not then try out the Antonio Cruz series. Of course, others might simply love it, so I don't expect you to change your plans because of my opinion.

> Thanks again, my friend. Awesome to meet you!

Ditto!

Frank

Frank Sergeant said...


Chuckles,

I've got to ask. You said

> I had a successful number one show on television. It was taken from me before the first episode aired, ruined, and died a horrible flaming death, and the rights are now owned by a Canadian company that sits on them.

How can you call it a "successful" show or a "number one" show or "on television" if it never aired? I must be missing something. Inquiring minds ...


Frank

Chuckles Austen said...

Hi Frank,

Sorry to be confusing. I blame J. He was distracting me on the sofa and Joe's wife really did want us to leave.

It did air. It was called Tripping The Rift and it ran on SyFy. I'm just loathe to mention it because it was such a godawful painful experience and I hate to be associated with what it turned into--although lots of people liked it.

I call it 'successful' (and I prefer that in quotes) because it premiered at number one in it's time-slot, continued to have strong ratings throughout its run and SyFy wanted to continue it.

When I said "it was taken from me before it aired..." I meant I lost control of creating on it, which isn't actually true. I walked. The studio refused to pay me for my work--but expected me to continue writing and creating concepts for free ("you have a prime-time TV show! Suck it up!" I was told--by me agent!)--and I wasn't happy with the direction the show was being pushed. So... see ya.

But I owned no rights and had no legal or physical control, so I often say 'taken from me.'

As Kris Rusch said in the blog Dave Shutter and Nancy Beck have recommended about the NY Times, ratings are a relative game of which network, what time-slot, and compared to whatever show. SyFy wanted to keep the series running because for them it was a hit, but the studio that bought the rights became... too independent. Again, long story.

So the Canadian studio withdrew the show, and SyFy went their merry way although they still lamented losing it.

My first novel was originally a pitch for a series to companion with Tripping, and when all hell broke lose I stopped submitting it, and sat on it until a friend recommended I turn it into a novel. Since self-pubbing I've made more than I made off all the years and relative success of Tripping. And I still own the rights, the characters and the world, and continue to write stories without fear of losing it or having it turned into something ugly that I don't even like to talk about.

If anyone here can learn one thing from me, it's this: Rights matter. Signing them away was always stupid, but was once a sometimes necessary evil to find fame and success.

It no longer is. Don't give up your rights. Legacy, and Marvel and DC, and production companies and studios are wrong to steal them away, and they do it for their ease and profit and because they hate dealing with 'difficult creators' and for no other reason. It makes their jobs and accounting easier if they never have to ask your permission--to rewrite, to re-publish, to hand off your baby to an inferior creator. If they want to sell a movie deal, they don't need your okay, and don't care if you hate the director. And they want the rights forever and ever on everything because it has been proven time-and-time again that someone who loved an idea no one else saw merit in turned it into a gold mine (Star Wars, Men in Black, and on and on).

Learn from my experience, and the experience of so many others.

Keep your damn rights.

Kyra Halland said...

Just my little 2 cents, thrown in here, after all this great discussion.

1. On the idea that self-publishing is too hard: It isn't that hard. I'm doing it. How hard can it be?

2. On validation: "Dear Kyra, I loved your book. Is there going to be a sequel, and when's your next book coming out? Love, A Reader"
Validation, indeed :D

3. Right now, I'm earning pizza money. (Yay, pizza! But actually it's all going into the cover art fund right now.) But I've only been at this since February and only have three titles out so far, with 8 more titles in the pipeline for the next 1 1/2-2 years. (maybe 9 or 10, depending on what I end up doing with some short stories). And I get to write what I want, when I want, the way I want, and put it out there for readers to find without having to wait around for permission from someone else. What's not to love?

Frank Sergeant said...

Hi Chuckles,

> Sorry to be confusing. I blame J. He was distracting me ...

Well, yeah, I think we can all agree it was J's fault.

Thanks for relating your Tripping The Rift experiences. I figured it was something. I'm really glad I asked because the story was so interesting. A cautionary tale we all should heed.

I appreciate Joe providing a place where I can have conversations with celebrities such as you and J.

> Learn from my experience, and the experience of so many others.

> Keep your damn rights.

You would have convinced me, except I was already convinced. ;)


Frank

Chuckles Austen said...

Ha! Thanks, Frank. I don't think of myself as a celebrity, but I suppose in some respects...

Well. People know who I am, I guess. At least in comics and animation. Not the kind of celebrity I'd wish on anyone else, though.

The most interesting thing for me about talking to people at this site is how it applies to all the creative areas I work in, and how much we can all learn from each other.

Comics and television are going through a lot of the same hiccups and falls that are happening in publishing. Youtube, and Netflix have changed the model for how people watch TV, and networks are dying. Comics are on their last legs much the same way Legacy publishers are (and perhaps print and magazines, though I know nothing about that biz).

A friend of mine who works high up at ABC told me that--historically--people gravitate to the media where writers have the most freedom, and are doing the most experimental, personal and interesting things, and that the collapse of traditional everything is the result of always trying to hit a broad market, a specific genre, or 'high concept', and never about what really drives a creator, personally.

It made me think of the Kindle, the variety to be found there, and the freedom of writers just writing what they love.

So as someone who knows how to help creators make things available on those devices, you're likely to become the bigger celebrity over time.

We can all learn from each other. Which is really cool.