If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our March author interviews: Karen Pullen (3/1), Lowcountry Crime authors: Tina Whittle, Polly Iyer, Jonathan M. Bryant, and James M. Jackson (3/8), Annette Dashofy (3/15), Edith Maxwell (3/22) and Barb Ross (3/29).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in March: Maris Soule (3/4), and Virginia Mackey (3/11). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 3/18--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 3/25--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for pre-order.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Career Risk and Self-Publishing

Recently I’ve become aware of more and more authors self-publishing a portion of their oeuvre. Before I comment on this trend and then duck, I need to define self-publishing. For the purposes of this discussion I mean any work where the author maintains most or all of the financial risk. If the author has to pay for post-acceptance editing, the layout, publication costs, cover art, etc. and a contractual advance does not cover those costs, then from my perspective the work is self-published.

The clearest examples are at the ends of the spectrum. If the author has a traditional contract with a large publishing house, is paid an advance and additional royalties after the advance has paid out, this is not self-publishing. The publishing company is investing a bunch of money in the project and once the author turns in an acceptable manuscript, the author is not required to pay for anything further.

Similarly, if the author pays for all the publication costs and receives all of the revenue from the sales, this is clearly self-publishing.

A contract with an independent publisher who does not pay an advance, but charges nothing for taking the book from manuscript to publication and who pays royalties on sold copies, is not self-publishing because again the author is not financially on the hook. Conversely, I would generally consider as self-published the scheme I recently read about in which the author has to buy upfront a certain number of books (like 100) in order for the publisher to provide “free” services. The publisher is making sufficient profit on the 100 books to cover their costs.

With e-publishing, the total costs of production are smaller than hard-copy publishing because there are no physical publication costs. Regardless, my criteria remain the same: who is on the hook for the costs of converting the manuscript into appropriate electronic formats? Who pays for the cover art? If the answers to these are the publisher, then it’s not self-published; if the author has an open checkbook: self-published.

In today’s market, authors will often be responsible for some marketing costs (bookmarks, business cards, etc.). No matter. If the publisher is laying out a bunch of money before getting any back, they are taking risk and for today’s discussion it is not self-publishing.

Okay, with that definition in mind, what are the risks to self-publication?

Financial risk: The more up-front cost the author pays, the more the publication needs to sell to break even, so self-publishing ups the ante. Of course, the flip side is that if people can’t buy your work, you don’t get paid anything for your time and effort in writing it.

Career risk: This is the two-edged sword. We need to split how we consider the issue into two groups: those with traditional publication histories and those without.

With a traditional publication history: often self-publication is the only way to keep abandoned titles available and many authors have found this an excellent source of revenue. Some (think Joe Konrath as a positive example) have also self-published past novels that did not sell to publishers, old stories and whatever else they think fans might be interested in.

Without a publication history: The proponents of self-publishing maintain that getting your work out in front of the public and building an audience is a good thing. Even better, once people start buying your stuff, you’ll have an enhanced chance of getting an agent and/or traditional publishing contract for your next work.

There are examples of people who self-published something no agent would touch, it turned into a viral success and New York bought the rights for beaucoup bucks...and then there is everyone else.

Skeptics ask, “What happens if despite your best marketing efforts you don’t get much of a sale? Does that make it less likely an agent or traditional publisher will be interested in you?” I’m not an agent, so I don’t really know.

I do know how I choose books to read, however. With an established author (the Joe Konrath approach), if I like their current stuff, read something from the backlist and don’t like it, it’s not a problem: I won’t buy the old stuff, but will still get the new. If I’ve really liked an author, they get one free less-than-stellar work before I give them up.

A new-to-me author has only one chance to impress me. Fail on the first book I read and I’ll never read the second or third. If a self-published author gains my attention and I read their book, they are taking their one chance with me. If it’s only okay, they’ll never get me to read the next novel, which may be great. I know it’s unfair, but my reading life is too short for second chances. I suspect I’m not alone with this triage method of what to read next.

My writing is still improving (and my fiction has not yet found a home with a traditional publisher), so unless I think something from the past represents me well, I’m hesitant to reincarnate it by self-publishing or even putting it on my website.

That said, in a couple of weeks as part of Writers Who Kills holiday story giveaway that started yesterday with the first part of EB’s story, I do plan to share one of my stories that was published in an anthology several years ago. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. I have my fingers crossed on this one.

~ Jim

4 comments:

Ellis Vidler said...

Having done both--my first novel was with a traditional publisher and I published the second--I can tell you a traditional publisher was much better. But there are many reasons for going the independent route. If your book is well edited (my main complaint about independents is the lack of editing) and you know what you're getting into, I have no problems with doing it yourself. I just wish you luck. We are not all Joe Konraths, and selling is hard work.

Warren Bull said...

Joe Konrath also chooses to self publish his new material with a great deal of success. He could choose to use a traditional publisher.

I agree with Ellis that poor editing is a major issue with many independent books. Of course, I've read traditionally published books with so many errors that they were actually hard to read.

Pauline Alldred said...

It used to be difficult to find self-published books because book stores would say, "Oh, that's print on demand," or something similar. And "you can order it if you want,' implying only an idiot would order it. Now with e-publishing, I should be able to find self-published books.
Is it harder to create a fan base with self as opposed to traditional publishing? I probably won't read the second book traditionally published by a new author if I didn't like the first.
A story on a blog is more like a small sample. I have heard of writers publishing whole novels to an anonymous internet.

E. B. Davis said...

I too agree with Ellis. When I recently read a self-published book, I found an inappropriate tense change on the first page. It was hard to keep reading, knowing that the rest of the book hadn't been properly edited.

My take on self-publishing is that it is the route of last resort, at least for those who previously haven't been published in the traditional way. My opinion will not be well recieved.

Self-publishing used to be considered "vanity" publishing. With the advent of epublishing, everyone seems to think this is somehow different.

The old publishing game is hard to break into, but doing so is such an accomplishment that I have to "go for it." I'm not ready to compromise. And it is a compromise, whether or not writers recognize it as such.

I'm prepared to accept the fact that I may never have a novel published. Yea, I'm hard, but then it applies to myself as well.