WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Sasscer Hill on 5/18 and Carolyn Mulford on 5/25. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Career Risk and Self-Publishing
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.