FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramTumblrGoogleYouTube
 
 
RSS Feed Print
Authors tell me, 'Don't Trust Traditional Publishing'
LisaMarie
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 10:27 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216


Last night at my RWA meeting, we had a guest speaker who talked about the future of traditional publishing, self-publishing, e-books, etc. I noticed several new faces in the audience that I hadn’t seen before – namely, romance writers who severed ties to their agents and publishing houses who self-published their backlists. Many of them are making a lot more money than they did. Some told me that they feel like persona non gratis at the meetings, which is why they don’t attend anymore.  

 

I was advised by a former best-selling romance author: “Do not sign a print contract.” Moreover, “You do not need an agent; you need a business advisor.” We had a long talk after the meeting – I plan on having coffee with her soon to listen to her story so I can learn more from her. I've talked with some of my published author friends; surprisingly, a lot of them are displeased with the agency model and have "dumped" their agents. 

 

Some writers, even those who were previously published, assert that the traditional model is dying and that you’d have more luck winning the lottery than getting an agent, regardless if you’re a quality writer. Well, this is a no-brainer; anyone with two brain cells to rub together can put together the statistics. Others maintain that the only way to get published is through the traditional channels: agent and publishing house, ideally one of the “Big Six.” Eventually, a writer will submit a manuscript that’s spot on, if she just keeps writing. Hmm … well, maybe. That’s all I have to say about that.

 

I’m confused about my direction. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to spin my wheels knocking on a door that’s already closed and locked. At the same time, the thought of self-publishing doesn’t appeal to me for many reasons. I keep waiting for an alternative model to present itself – something that’s not traditional and something that’s not self-pub. Does anyone else feel paralyzed and unable to make a decision?   


MarieDees
Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 8:21 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157


I don't think there's a single publishing model that is going to work for every author. You have to become very savvy about what each publishing model offers. What are the good points and the drawbacks. You have to be good at accurately figuring out where you fit in that model and what will work for you.

Now, I've been in a writing group where an editor who runs a self-publishing service nearly launched himself across a crowded table roaring at me that "PUBLISHING IS DEAD!" (If he doesn't want me to critique his self-published clients, he shouldn't tell them to go to the meetings.) But no. Publishing is not dead. But life with the big houses can be tough. They are businesses with shareholders who look at the bottom line -- profit. Yes, you usually need an experienced agent to help navigate those waters. But you also have to be prepared for the demands that will come your way. These days big publishers often don't give a new writer a lot of time to build an audience so you have to be prepared to hit the ground running with the book comes out.

But self-publishing isn't going to be easier. I know one of the self-published authors who does very well. Frankly, she's doing well because she devotes more time to marketing than she does to writing. And because she's lowered the price of her books to bare minimum. Her work isn't bad, but it isn't tight enough and strong enough to appeal to a traditional publisher without a lot of work on the part of an editor. But self-publishing strikes me as being a lot like being a politician. You have to get out there and shake the hands of practically everyone who will buy the book. More reserved authors don't do as well, even when they have better books. (Published authors re-issuing a backlist already have an established name, which helps.)

But you said you were at an RWA event. There are lots of small press and ebook publishers out there for romance and erotic romance novelists. Now, these won't net you the cozy advance that a big publisher provides. And you'll find you still do a lot of marketing. Oh, and the good ones - the ones where authors make the most money - aren't any less demanding about quality of writing than a big publishing house. (Acceptance rates at good ebook houses run about 2% to 5% of submissions.) But from an author perspective, they give you a chance to grow an audience. They are usually more flexible when it comes to writing schedules. And they handle a lot of the publishing issues that you don't really want to worry about from providing an editor to getting the manuscript formatted and uploaded to a variety of ebook sites to sending it out to review sites. But they aren't the answer for everyone.

The problem is that you can talk to 100 different authors and get 100 different answers. Because they all answer based on their experience and their expectations. Two authors can go the same route and achieve exactly the same results and one will be happy while the other isn't.

LisaMarie
Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 8:39 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216


@Kzinga

Thank you for your response.

There have been a lot of comparisons drawn between the music industry and the publishing industry. I live right in the thick of the former, and I saw how things changed – very dramatically – over the course of about a decade. Managers (read: booking agents), recording studios and producers who used to take a “pick and choose” attitude are now trying to hustle business from musicians. ANY musician. Most former music industry folks have unrelated day jobs and use their former skills to generate side income. Except for a handful of big recording artists, musicians pay to record their albums, much like indie authors. The term “getting signed” is positively anachronistic.

I’m wondering how the publishing industry will ultimately be affected a few years down the line. You know how you look at the Top 50 albums/songs, and they’re all by the same musical artists in heavy rotation? I think that’s how publishing will be in the future, even thought I don’t want this to be true. I don’t want to be the naïve person who keeps holding out for the big contract, when fewer and fewer books will be published and promoted and those that are will have extremely broad mainstream appeal. I don’t see romance as one of the genres that will get a lot of focus.

So … the question remains. What does the writer do? I do want a gatekeeper of sorts. I want an editor and cover designer – like I have now for my online publication jobs -- and I want to work with someone who can guide me when it comes to self-promotion.

I really do not know what to do except pitch the next feature!

MarieDees
Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 8:48 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157


Romance is probably the strongest market of all publishing markets. Harlequin launches more new writers each year than all the other big publishers put together. Romance practically launched the ebook revolution. (Romance has been selling well as ebooks for years. Other markets are still catching up.)

And with romance there plenty of small publishers who will exactly what you want --provide an editor, cover art, review copies and even forums and help with promotion. All at no fee to the author. You pay nothing. (Though all authors do a lot of the actual promo foot work themselves and make take out extra ads for their books. I've doing book giveaways on Coffee Time Romance this month and Romance Reviews next month)
LisaMarie
Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 9:00 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216


@Marie,

I find myself drawn to publishers that focus on releasing e-books with an option to print. Perhaps this is just my GINK inclinations coming out, but I’m sitting here looking at towers of paperbacks that I don’t know what to do with. The only books I keep are first edition hardbacks, preferably literary novels and preferable signed. These are investments.

Honestly? I don’t care about an advance. I’d rather trade that in for professional services that small publishers have to offer, such as editing and design work. As long as I’m getting a fair share of the profit, I’d be a happy little camper.

I really don’t want an agent. I realized during my very short query process that even if an agent did offer representation, I wouldn’t take it. This is strictly a financial decision. I keep looking at that “15 percent” and reviewing standard contracts, and it makes me think, “NO.”

MarieDees
Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 9:07 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157


One of my publisher does issue print copies for my novel length work. Another only does ebooks but offers me the option to use the edited copy and make arrangements with the artist for cover art if I want to do print on my own. I like to have a few print copies for local events, marketing events and such, but I've gotten used to the idea of ebook only publishing. Well, particularly since I've discovered the fun of working with novella length works which aren't long enough for a traditional print book but sell well as ebooks.

But keep in mind -- some folks don't consider the small press publishers and ebook publishers as "traditional publishers." But I know MWA (Mystery Writers of America) just established a process for epublishers to qualify for recognition in the organization. That means their authors will be able to qualify for published memberships so things are changing.
MarieDees
Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2011 8:04 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157


If you check into the Amazon offer, I don't believe the 70% royalty rate is available for the 99 cent books. Right now there's a lot of hype around self-publishing. I don't know where it will turn out. As I said, there's no single right answer for everyone.

Romance authors can do well with small press and self-representing instead of relying on an agent. It's a genre with a lot of room for authors to grow and enough readers for ebooks to be viable.

But publishers vary. I know authors with TOR (SF/F/H) and from what I've heard, though authors can submit directly to TOR without an agent, you'll lose a lot more than the 15% an agent makes if you try to negotiate a contract without an expert in how TOR works.
LisaMarie
Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2011 8:15 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216


@Kzinga,

Ever take calculus for business and economics? There’s a way to figure out how much a unit costs to produce when you plug in all of the associated costs. The biggest cost, of course, is overhead.

The cost of publishing an e-book depends on where the publisher is physically located. The East Coast has enormous overhead, for example. The cost of wages are probably at least 50 percent more than they would be if the same services were performed in Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, etc. All of these services are coming from a region of the country that Brookings rates as one of the dead last in economic health. Just for fun, I priced the cost of e-book bundling. In NYC, it’s $500 for all formats. Here, it’s around $100, and the folks offering the services work out of the Silicon Corridor, so rest assured – they know what they’re doing.

So yes, to make a profit, the Big Six must necessarily price e-books much higher than most people are willing to pay. If they were located elsewhere, this would not be true. States should start courting these folks so that if and when they decide to open e-book divisions and hire employees for this express purpose, they don’t have to overprice. For example, Texas waives state tax for the film and music industry to encourage business. That’s why a lot of movies and albums are made here and promoted in L.A. All the Big Six would need to do is incorporate in another state and establish state ties, and they’d be making a killing selling e-books.

P.S. I think your avatar is fine -- but hey, if you want to upload a picture of yourself, please do.
 

Jump to different Forum...