What’s this? A Guest Post on someone else’s blog?
So head on over and find out Why I (and every other Indie Writer) Rocks.
What’s this? A Guest Post on someone else’s blog?
So head on over and find out Why I (and every other Indie Writer) Rocks.
I grew up on books, my youth spent quite literally in my bedroom reading or wandering for countless hours in the teeny tiny library tucked in the middle of my teeny tiny town. In fact, even today, decades later, I could sit down, put pen to paper, and draw a fairly accurate map of the space, down to where my favorite books were often found.
With the rapid rise of ebooks, though, there’s a whole generation somewhat unaware of the feel of the page. Perhaps even unfamiliar with the clean, somewhat inky smell that greets you when you open a new book and see Chapter One, the pale paper still somewhat stiff and crisp as you turn the page.
In a land of digital and laptops, iPhones and blogs, ebooks and Word DOCS, how often do we really take a book off the shelf, crack it open, and dive in? Speaking from personal experience, and with a hint of embarrassment, I can say not often.
So, I’m biting the proverbial bullet and formatting my ebook version of Martuk … The Holy — and the incomparable A.M. Schultz is generously reworking the cover — for a print version via CreateSpace.
Although I was and am very eager to embrace the changes sweeping the Publishing Industry, the child in me who fed his budding imagination and stumbling creativity with dog-eared paperbacks and hefty hardcovers still yearns to hold Martuk in my hands and, yes, turn the pages. And I think, somewhat optimistically, how nice it might be for some kid tucked away in his or her bedroom on the outskirts of his or her own teeny tiny town to hold this book of ancient magic and immortality and wanderings through the rainy streets of modern Paris in their hands and lose themselves, as I often did, for hours.
I am beyond excited about this new development.
Expect an announcement on when it’ll be available within a month or two.
*happy dance* (^~^)
A friend of mine, seeing how “easy” it was for me to publish a few books, has decided that THEY now want to jump in the game and, I don’t know, write something. (their words, not mine)
Now, I’m a supportive, encouraging friend even if I’m not at all confident this will actually happen. And I’d love to be something of a guide to this person. Steer them away from the mistakes I made and maybe make the transition from fantasy to reality a little easier. Perhaps prepare them in some way for what waits after they click Publish and their baby goes Live.
But they are SO not open to hearing any of that. They’re convinced they’re unleashing the next 50 Shades of Grey and will most definitely get 10,000 sales a day and soon be supping with Spielberg, so …
I’ll just go ahead and tell YOU.
As a self-published Author without a strong platform (read: blog that’s a few years old and has massive traffic i.e., a built-in fan base), your first month will probably be your best.
That’s when friends and family and friends of friends and friends of family and coworkers and friends of coworkers and so on and so forth and whatnot will buy your book.
And that’s it.
You see, the second month, when everyone you know already has you locked and loaded on their Kindle (which they may or may not read), that’s when the reality of what you face hits you. And unless you’ve already laid the groundwork via your blog (see above) or other blogs (a process that, if done with sincerity, can take many months), no one will know you exist. And if you don’t exist, how do you sell books?
Reviews from your built-in fans (family and friends) come almost right away. They rave, they weep, they insist this is the best thing since sliced bread and you HAVE to buy it. And savvy ebook buyers tend to discount them just as quickly. The reviews that matter are from well-known reviewers on well-known blogs who, like it or not, are going to be honest. If your book sucks, you’ll hear about it and it can hurt not only your bottom line, but your career as well. If they love it, you’ll see sales pick up.
Now, to get those reviews.
It can take months. Even upwards of a year. Or more.
Bitter pill to swallow? Yep. But don’t you think knowing stuff like this would be helpful if you’re just starting out? That the minimal sales you see as a new author are the same for practically every other new author? And that most books don’t find their rhythm or readership for at least the first six months? And that’s if it’s strong work that’s smartly promoted?
Don’t you believe it SHOULD be common knowledge that the work in getting your book noticed is an ongoing, laborious, lengthy process holding no guarantee of success? And, let’s face it, it’d be a HUGE help knowing that the interest of those closest to you peaks in the beginning and then, after that, becomes polite support. That’s a good thing to understand, don’t you think?
Of course. Or at least I think it would. And I haven’t even touched on promotion via excerpts and guest blogging and Twitter and Facebook and blah blah blah blah blah.
So, for you writers out there gearing up to begin your self-publishing journey, I hope you find the above useful.
It’s not offered to prick your balloons or throw cold water on your dreams or suffocate your prancing, dancing unicorns of hope. It’s simply out there so can be prepared and understand what’s happening instead of believing it’s because you suck and your book sucks and no one cares.
It’s a business, this publishing thing, and the more you know going in, the better off you’ll be.
So consider this your friendly reality check.
An Open Letter to the NY Times:
In a recent article — The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy by David Streitfeld –, you insinuate quite strongly that the 4- and 5-star reviews one finds for self-published authors on sites like Amazon cannot be trusted to accurately represent the work or the writer’s talent because there are companies out there that sell favorable reviews and, due to the possibility of a potential relationship between the Reviewer and the “Reviewee”, these reviews should be ignored or mistrusted.
Are there writers, like John Locke, who admit to purchasing reviews? Yes.
Do they perhaps help lift sales? Some would say yeah, they could.
Is this a well-known aspect of Marketing 101 that those at the Times are well aware of? Of course.
Does the fact that a company like this could exist and do business negate every single review a self-published author has ever gotten? It damn well shouldn’t.
Let me ask you this, NY Times:
How many times have your Reviewers had lunch with someone from a Big 6 Publisher right before receiving the free review copy of Star Author’s next book? Or even after a favorable review ran? How many times have your Reviewers received Thank You notes from Legacy Publishers for good reviews? Or birthday cards? Holiday cards? Phone calls? Gift baskets stuffed with expensive trinkets as a gesture of their appreciation?
How many times have those at the NY Times found themselves mingling at parties with those from Traditional Publishing? And how many NY Times Reviewers found their reviews edited by Higher Ups in order to cast a kinder, more ecstatic light on Star Author’s new opus?
More importantly, how many self-published books has the NY Times officially reviewed?
If none, why not?
If you’re going to write an article all but suggesting the reviews a self-published book receives should be discounted because of the potential for some kind of nefarious collusion between the Reviewer and the Reviewed, please be aware this may — and should — bring into question the veracity of your own Reviewers and the often cozy relationship you hold and have held for years with those obviously feeling most threatened by self-published authors: the Big 6.
So remember that the next time Mr. Publisher gulps down the last of his chardonnay, whips out his Black Amex, smiles, and says “Lunch is on me”.
Self-published authors are making gains. Ebooks are now a solid 20% of book sales on Amazon. Money is being made hand over fist and, let’s face it, it’s no longer flying by default into the pockets of Legacy Publishing.
And the Big 6 are now officially running scared.
How do I know?
Check out this article in today’s NY Times.
It’s about a company, now defunct, that sold glowing reviews to self-published authors including John Locke. And about how these glowing reviews drove sales even though the reviews were bought and paid for and written by people who admitted to having never read the book. And it’s sorta about how this is a common practice with self-published authors.
But it’s actually more than that. A lot more.
It’s really about the veracity of online reviews in general. And, more specifically, online reviews for self-published books.
So, that 5-star review your new release just got? The one from someone you don’t know and have never heard of? The one that, like, totally, completely made your week and lifted you out of your funk and drove you to write five more chapters for your next book?
The NY Times — which refuses to review self-published work, by the way — claims it was bought and paid for and not to be trusted. And so now potential readers will doubt it. And they should (says the Times).
How devastating could this be for self-pubbed authors like me? For people who DON’T use services like that — ’cause they do exist — because, frankly, self-pubbed authors like me don’t sell enough books to afford it?
It could be cataclysmic.
Needless to say there was no mention of the cozy relationship between Big Publishing and the NY Times. No doubting the veracity of the Times reviews for Big Name Author’s latest work. No questioning at all the quiet need for a publication like the Times to kneecap self-publishing by throwing doubt over one of the industry’s — not just self-publishing, but the INDUSTRY’S — most powerful marketing tools.
Nope, we self-pubbers evidently can’t get an honest review. They need to be purchased with cold, hard cash.
Well, fuck ’em.
My Martuk has 14 reviews on Amazon, many of them 5-stars, that I treasure. A couple are from friends, a couple more are from beta readers, and a few more are from fellow authors. The rest are strangers. And ALL of them have read the book. If it’s someone I know, I refuse to let them offer anything unless they’ve read it cover-to-virtual-cover. Why? Because it’s a damn good book. I’m confident about that.
Wounded King has three reviews. One fellow author, one beta reader, one reviewer I don’t know. All read the book.
The Elder. No reviews. Not yet. It’s new.
That the NY Times now wants potential readers to look at that feedback and those thoughts with suspicion just sickens and infuriates me.
But it also tells me the Big 6 are scared. Really scared. And if all they’ve got are cheap tactics like this, they should be.
Now I’m off to work on the sequel to Martuk. Seems like the best way to piss ’em off is to keep writing and self-publishing.
And to keep getting honest reviews from grateful Readers who will never be bought and paid for.
Okay, I love La Twitter. Love it. Love joking around, reaching out, saying Hi, sending support and congrats and whatnot. Love that I’ve made some solid business connections and a few fairly good friends. Love that those I Follow are directors and producers and actors and dancers and writers and teachers and painters and sculptors and ordinary Joes and Jills who have a rollicking sense of humor. And I love that Twitter has the potential to be a very powerful marketing tool.
Do I Tweet excerpts to this blog? My new book? Interviews I give? Yes, yep, and hell yeah. Are they on constant rotation? God no. Do I actually get on and talk with people? OF COURSE! And that’s why Twitter has been such a success for me.
If you take a moment to dig beyond the black pixels on white and dive into the heart of what it COULD be, Twitter has a lot to offer IF it’s used smartly.
Give me a sec while I pull on my Bitchy Britches …
What I hate — HATE — is having my TimeLine filled with Authors spamming me links to their books. “Riveting read”? I could care less. “Better than Clive Cussler”? Good for you. “Best book I’ve EVER read!”? Somehow I just don’t believe your Aunt Sally. “The next Stephen King”? Probably not.
Listen, I understand the desire to market. In the self-pubbing world, it’s an absolute necessity. How else will we find our audiences? But how effective will you be if your marketing degenerates into thoughtless bullshit that annoys your Followers and alienates potential Readers? Link after link after link quickly becomes a predictable, repetitive white noise and soon we find ourselves just … not … caring … anymore.
Okay, we got it. You wrote a book. Good for you! Congrats and good job! No, seriously. It ain’t easy, that’s for damn sure. Sacrifices were made, blood might have been spilled, tears certainly were shed. I have a book, too. A few, in fact, with more on the way. Books are not easy things to do.
Now, show me who you are! Why should I click your many links? Why should I buy your book? And why should I commit the time necessary to walk with you through your pages if I have no idea who you are and you evidently have NO interest in knowing who I am?
So listen up, Author:
Want to sell me a copy of your riveting read? Talk to me. Be a real person. Engage me when I Tweet you a congrats.
And DO NOT auto-DM me a “Thank You for Following” with a link to your opus and FB page when I decide to Follow Back. That’s a bit like staring at the ceiling before patting me on the back and then sticking your hand out for your $20.
Now, not all links are worthless trash. I discover A LOT of great articles and interviews via Twitter. That’s all well and good. I expect that kind of content from those particular Tweeps. These are people I’ve dealt with and enjoy. And of course people have schedules and can’t be on Twitter all day, so pre-scheduling Tweets is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
But what are you Tweeting?
I’m writing two books, one screenplay, and two plays. And that’s not counting the other three books I’m chapter mapping, the play I’m doing rewrites on, and the other screenplay I’m scene mapping. Oh, and the life I’m living. You know, dogs to play with, an Other Half to placate, family to love and/or argue with.
Twitter, for me, is like a mini-break. I get on, set the clock, give myself 15 minutes or so to absolutely annoy the shit outta people, and then, once that time is up, sign off with a “Gotta get to work on my WIP, Tweeps” and that’s it. Personal and to the point and I love it.
Maybe I’m a naive fool — definitely a strong possibility, kids –, but I kind of think of Twitter, sometimes, as a big book signing, minus the books to sign, of course. People approach me, like the link IN MY PROFILE (thank you), chat me up, we laugh, I answer their writing questions, we laugh some more, and, lo and behold, I find myself with a sale. Is that the goal? No, of course not. Buying my book never comes up nor should it. That’s not why I’m there. The goal is to make a connection and inject some enjoyment into my day. The sale is just a nice surprise and always gets a happy dance. Still.
And it didn’t come about because of a link in a Tweet or a snippet of a gushing review. It happened because, perhaps for only a brief time, I became a real person to them. I was no longer a name on a cover, but instead someone who took an interest in their writing, their career, their questions and confusion and doubts. Their successes, both big and small. It happened because I sincerely appreciated them taking a chance and reaching out to say “hey, I loved that excerpt on your blog. I’m a writer, too. Any thoughts?”
Oh yes. I have thoughts.
The best way to fuck up Twitter — or at least MY version of Twitter — is by hiding who you truly are behind a dizzying array of auto-Tweets. Choosing the easy path of pre-set automated links and gushing snippets and ALL CAPS urging me to BUY. Not caring enough about your potential readers to actually, you know, give a few minutes every now and then to put fingers to keyboard and say “Hey, what’s up?” and then actually reply to those who respond. Nothing turns off a reader more than Tweeting back a quick “Nothing much, Awesome Author with a Great Book. What are you up to?” and receiving nothing in return. I mean, really? How long does it take to type “Argh, working my butt off here!” or “LOL” or something?
Even three small letters is a hell of a lot better than condescending silence.
So, dazzle me not with empty Tweets riddled with hyperlinked blue. Dazzle me with who you are because that’s the person I’m going to find in your book, isn’t it? IF I buy it, that is.
And that, dear Writer, is up to you.
This fascinating article by Carl Purdon is worth a read. The Crib Notes version is his assertion that, although the market is awash in a sea of poorly written books by well-intentioned, ambitious self-pubbed authors (he used different words, but that’s the gist), the cream will rise to the top.
But is that true?
I’m not sure.
I think it could be, perhaps. Carl has several links to truly outstanding books that are fantastic reads and absolutely worthy of their success and subsequently high Amazon rankings. But there are other authors with equal success and equally high rankings that, in my opinion, aren’t very good.
In fact, in some cases, they’re embarrassingly bad.
So was their success because of their talent for writing? Were these books the cream that rose? Or was it more a matter of marketing prowess and the proclivity of people to follow the herd and buy what their friends are buying.
Well, in a world of Present Tense, dialogue tags, and one-dimensional characters, I’d say yeah, I think so.
If that is the case, where does that leave those with very, very good books, but little to no publicity, the absence of a platform, and very little blog support?
Dog paddling in a sea of drivel, I suppose.
But Carl makes another point in this article which I think could be the Unknown Author’s Saving Grace.
You see, the Big 6 are driven by marketing data. They know what’s selling, they track what’s selling, they’re obsessed with what’s selling and, being all about the Bottom Line, they focus exclusively on that. So, if you’re a huge fan of paranormal romance novels where a teenage girl is probably caught in some sort of love triangle with, I don’t know, a hottie Vampire and maybe a hunky Werewolf or something, well, you’ll find mountains of joy waiting for you at the New Release shelf in your local brick-and-mortar.
Or, as I call it, the Land of Interchangeable Voices Retelling Familiar Tales Already Told.
If you’re searching for writing with a strong unique voice and, oh, let’s say a story centered around a tortured Immortal seeking redemption and release, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Maybe here? (forgive the plug, but it is my blog)
In any case, it’s a good point to make. Self-pubbed authors — and I can only speak for myself, really — don’t follow the Flavor of the Month because oftentimes we’re so busy writing we don’t have time to track what the Flavor of the Month IS. We just write. We tell our stories, we create our worlds, and we put it out there trusting someone will share our passion and hear our voice.
And our voices ARE unique. They’re not tamed by marketing concerns, reined in by Projected Sales Goals, or shaped by Editors insisting we follow Rules. Our voices aren’t afraid of offending or gun-shy at the prospect of disappointing sales and a lifetime spent bundled in the bargain bin or paranoid by the loss of readers.
More often than not, there aren’t any readers to lose!
So we just write what drives us, allowing the characters to speak and live and stumble and sometimes die. We edit it, we shape it, we polish and package and format it. And then we publish it.
Circling back to the beginning, does the cream rise to the top? If you’re farmland milk fresh out of an udder, yeah. Given time.
If you’re a great story well told, I’m gonna roll the dice and say yes, too.
If you’re familiar with this blog, you already know my thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.
If you’re not, it’s boils down to my suspicion that for most writers walking the self-pub route hooking up with a traditional publisher doesn’t really make sense.
But what if I’m wrong?
I’m gonna do the Devil’s Advocate thing here and try to figure out why oh why I, a writer who still does a happy dance when he sells a book, would want to cuddle up NOW on that Publishing love seat with a Major. By the way, notice the singular “a” and the lack of an “s” on “book”? Yeah, Majors are knocking down my door, I tell ya.
Any-hoo, there are several reasons to consider a Major, some of which I might cover in future Posts.
The selling of film rights is my focus today.
I’m a screenwriter. I’m also lucky enough to have longtime friends who are neck deep in that world, be they actors, producers, directors, etc. I know the desperation Hollywood has for new source material and the lengths they’ll go to find it. And I also know what it’s like for writers who find their books being optioned into films.
In most cases, it really sucks.
Yeah. It sucks.
Once you’re past the initial excitement of a movie producer actually LOVING your work and being wined and dined by Big Names in LA and then signing a contract (!!!!!!!!) with Celebrity Superstars (OMG!) being bandied about as possible Leads and, of course, having to seriously consider those Oscar nods coming everyone’s way (deep breath), the process kinda goes downhill.
Yep. Immediate hard left into Suckyville, population You.
Because the reality is it takes a … long … time … to … get … anything … done … in … Holly … wood.
Anne Rice’s book “Interview with a Vampire” was optioned by Paramount before it was published in 1976. They sat on it for ten years and did absolutely nothing. For ten years. Once the option expired, the Rights reverted back to her — smart move, Rice’s Attorney — and she took it to Lorimar Productions/Warner Bros. who scooped them up before flipping them to David Geffen a couple years later. Co-writing the script with the uncredited assistance of Neil Jordan, Rice finally got her film made in 1993/1994.
And it only took eighteen years. From the first selling of the Rights to Red Carpet Premiere, eighteen years.
You see? Forever.
But she’s a big fish. And, remember, she infamously had NO say on casting even if she is Anne f’ing Rice.
So, what’s it like for us?
Let me put it this way: make sure your contract gives you tickets to the Film Premiere.
Truth of the matter is, once you sign away the Rights, whoever’s brought in to adapt your work into a screenplay has license to change whatever they like at the Studio or Production Company’s behest. No longer OWNING the story or the characters as it pertains to the Film, all you, the Author, can do is sit back and watch. That’s if you’re lucky enough to be kept in the loop.
And it can get worse from there. I could write a thousand or more words about how Hollywood conveniently forgets you exist once you sign away your Rights with an excited flourish. Months and months going by without a word from anyone about anything as your new BFFs suddenly go all MIA.
Which brings me back to why oh why would we sign with a Major.
Their Legal Department could — COULD — walk you through this. Their lawyers might — MIGHT — have a good relationship with Studio A and perhaps you won’t get screwed too badly. And the Major has stood in this room a million times before (perhaps) whereas you, Newbie Author #54, are stuck doing the I-can’t-see-a-fucking-thing tango with a chair while searching for the light switch.
And let’s not forget the Major knows EVERYONE in Hollywood. You know where Julia Roberts lives, if this Map of Celebrity Homes is correct. (it’s not)
In other words, it’s still up to you to know what you can and can’t get and what you can and can’t ask for.
Reversion of Rights? Sole Separated Rights? Derivative Works and Passive Payments? How about Freezing your Reserve Rights? What Credit are you getting? Is there a Production Bonus? What’s the formula for Residuals? Will there be Box-Office Bonuses? Will you be attending screenings, festivals, premieres?
Granted, the above questions might be more from a screenwriter perspective. But that’s another question that should be on your mind: what access will you have to the screenwriting process? Will they even consider letting you anywhere near the script AT ALL to offer notes or thoughts or WTFs or you-gotta-be-kiddings?
You know, if you’re a screenwriter as well, try and negotiate the writing of a First Draft with two or three rewrites. I mean, hell, you’ll be one of many, many, many writers brought onboard to make this “perfect”, so you might as well stamp your stank on that puppy and hopefully line yourself up for a Written By credit.
Why the hell not?
What I’m trying to say is one of the pluses of signing with a Major is the hand-holding you might get should Hollywood come a’callin’.
But first you gotta write a book — preferably a series — Hollywood will want to buy and build a readership the Studios know without a doubt will put their butts in the seats in a movie theater.
And that’s a whole different kettle of fish.
I’ve gotten some private flak for my recent post on Sue Grafton and the interview she gave.
You know, the one where she called those who self-publish too lazy to do the hard work?
Yeah, that one.
But, listen, this isn’t about Sue. I have no doubt those who know her and love her and read her find her to be simply lovely. And, frankly, anyone who can write a series with titles based on the letters of the alphabet (I’m assuming G is for Gimmick?) knows her way around a keyboard … and the alphabet.
In fact, this isn’t even about the dismissive, condescending tone she used to describe, well, me … and 99.9% of the self-pubbed authors out there.
In all honesty, this is about the death of traditional publishing.
Okay, maybe death is too strong a word. Let’s go with extreme reluctance to grab the lifesaver we self-pubbed authors are throwing them. But even that gives us too much credit.
How about we just say We’re showing Them that We can do what We do without Them.
And that terrifies Them. (thus ends my brief foray into capitalized pronouns)
A cursory wander ’round Google will bring up all kinds of hits from well-established blogs and writers who’ve discussed this issue at length. So, if this intrigues you — and, if you’re a writer, it damn well should –, there’s a lot out there to read.
I’ve decided to take this bull by the horns in a more personal way.
One person who wrote me about the earlier post said that if I were offered a contract from a traditional publisher, I’d take it!
But, hand to God, I don’t know if that’s true.
You see, as a newbie writer, a contract with a Publisher would basically put me where I already am. I’d still have a book to write, still have a book to market, still have a book to sell, still have other books to write. The only differences would be A) I’d be under contract and more than likely have to alter what I write — bye bye, awesome freedom –, and B) I would not be getting the sweet royalties I get now.
Oh, and there’s a C) in there, too: I’d be not-so-gently penalized (Hello, Bargain Bin) for sales that underperform expectations.
When publishers make budget cuts — and, believe me, the floors are awash in red over there these days — the first things to go are Executive Pay and Star Author Perks.
Marketing and Editing hit the chopping block first.
So, as a new writer, you’ll get a line edit looking for typos and grammatical errors, but you’re not getting any structural edits. Gone are the days when a pair of Wise, Experienced Eyes would look over your opus, highball in one hand, cigarette in the other, and say in a sonorous voice, “Listen, kid, trim here, give me more of Character A, pep up Character D, ditch Character B ’cause he’s a boring asshole, and lose that bit with the blue hat ’cause it doesn’t make sense”.
Nope. Typos and misplaced commas. That’s what you get as far as Edits go.
And marketing? You’re on your own there, too.
Sure, they may throw a tiny bit of cash your way in the very beginning. But, and this is the kicker, if your book doesn’t show strong numbers right away based on the small ad they ran in some obscure publishing magazine, guess who gets bundled with two other low performers and tossed deep into the shadows of the $1 bin.
Nothing you can do about it.
Shoppers will continue to find themselves face-to-face with Bestselling Author A’s Big Tower’o’Books the minute they escape the revolving doors while you languish deep in a box in a warehouse or far, far, far in the back of a shelf no one can reach.
You signed the dotted line, you agreed to it, you are contractually trapped.
And you no longer call the shots.
Oh, did I mention the royalty payments? If you’re lucky enough to sell a physical book, you’ll see perhaps 12% of that. Or 15%. Or 20% tops. If you’re lucky.
Payments are sent quarterly. Maybe. There are all kinds of accounting gimmicks they pull out of their hats to buff up their bottom line and sap the happy from your checks.
And ebooks? You’re looking at maybe getting 20% to 30% of that. Maybe not. Accounting gimmicks apply as does the quarterly schedule.
So, in the face of all this ridiculousness the Author has no control over, why would I or anyone else who self-pubs go with a Major?
Well, if you’re as unknown as I am right now, you wouldn’t. If you’re Amanda Hocking or that 50 Shades of Grey chick, money. Up front. A lot of it. You sign away the rights, agree to a new series or something, shock your bank account with more numbers than its ever seen, and, finally, take a deep breath and relax.
And then it begins.
Your books no longer priced at .99 or $1.99 or $2.99, you lose a chunk of your audience. The marketing angle the Major decides on is fairly Old School and completely misses the mark ’cause they have no idea who your readers are. You do, but they won’t listen to you because, well, you know, you’re just the Author. Oh, and the new covers kinda suck.
But it’s out of your hands.
So is the fact that your books are no longer selling at the numbers they had been when they were self-pubbed, usually because your readers balk at the new price point and it feels like the work is no longer speaking to them. Because it isn’t.
The marketing budget for you is reigned in a bit. Your new agent assures you everything’s okay when you know it’s somehow not. You’re lost in the dark wondering when the next interview or book signing or whatever will be. And no one is returning your calls.
Surprise! You’re expendable.
Because the unspoken deal behind the smiles and three-martini lunches at restaurants with table cloths and violins (no, scratch the violins … too distracting) the Major will shower you with is that the numbers you have as an incredibly successful self-pub are the numbers you have to bring as a non-self-pub … and then some. If even a small percentage of your readers leave — which inevitably happens when a series ends or they outgrow the genre and move on to other things or the phenom hits its peak and then ebbs or, although your readers love you, they don’t love you enough to splash out $9.99 for something they used to buy for $2.99 or .99 — your numbers suffer.
And where will the smiles and tablecloths and violins (changed my mind, they’re back in) be then?
But there is a way around this.
A very successful self-pub whose name escapes me (apologies) just signed with a Major. For physical books. Only. He keeps the ebook rights and profits, they work the physical book angle and he gets the standard 15 – 20% or whatever.
So, if a Major were to ever wine and dine me — and, let’s face it, the chances of my getting a gilded invitation to sup at Fancy Pants Restaurant are pretty darn slim — , that’s the kind of deal I’d make. And if they balked and hemmed and hawed, I’d walk away. A bad deal will never magically become a good deal. Best not to agree to it and then fan the flames by legalizing it with my Jonathan Winn.
I’d just go back to doing what I was doing well in the first place.
Because, at the end of the day, it’s pretty damn awesome being self-pubbed.
It’s about time the Majors realized that.
… or so says Author (notice the capital A?) Sue Grafton.
In a recent interview this is what Miss Grafton had to say about those who decide to self-publish:
Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.
When just barely pressed, Miss Grafton continued her thoughts on the efforts of these unwashed masses not good enough for Big, Fat Publishing Contracts (or, as she calls them, “wannabe”s):
Obviously, I’m not talking about the rare few writers who manage to break out. The indie success stories aren’t the rule. They’re the exception. The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish. I’ve got one sitting on my desk right now and I’ve received hundreds of them over the years. Sorry about that, but it’s the truth. The hard work is taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time. I see way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to. To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not an quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.
In some ways she has a point. Not all self-pubbed work is good. But not all traditionally published work is good either. Apples and oranges, you know.
Her comments still hock me off.
Now, if you’re already aware of the firestorm of indignation rolling through the indie and self-pubbing world regarding Traditional Publishing’s latest Foot in Mouth when it comes to us self-pubbers, what I’m about to say will seem familiar at best and redundant at worst.
Regardless, I’m saying it anyway.
How dare she. Seriously. How. Dare. She.
You know, I just published my third book today. Yeah, BFD, right? Well, to me it is. Maybe not to Queen Sue, but to me it is. And it should be.
I worked my ass off. I wrote all day and then late into the night. I even wrote as the sun came up knowing full well that another full day of writing lay ahead. I edited, I shaped, I cut and rewrote. I trimmed and hemmed and polished that baby ’till she f’ing shined. And I did this knowing that not one single person would probably buy this book the first week. Or the second week. Or ever.
But I did it anyway because I love it and I had a great story to tell.
And listen, Sue, I’ve done the research on ancient Uruk. I can tell you — as best one can based on what little has been discovered of their civilization — what money they used, what writing they had, how their houses were constructed, how twisted their religious beliefs were, and how their days were structured. I could even draw you a fucking map of the city, so don’t you dare tell me I don’t do my research. Is any of this info in my books? No, not really. Is it important I know it?
But you know what, Miss Grafton? I do all of this without complaint and without prompting. Without an Editor looking over my shoulder or a Publishing House guiding me with a schedule. I do all of this — and still plan to, by the way — without a big advance propping up my bank account and a legion of fans ready to snap up whatever drivel and tripe I sling on the shelf.
And you can’t say that, now, can you, Sue.
At the end of the day, though, I, a simple wannabe who doesn’t work hard and can’t take rejection, have something you’ll never have:
I can publish any fucking thing I want.
I can be brave and creative, ballsy and controversial, amazing and incredible and unforgettable and breathtaking in ways your Publisher will never allow you to be. I can kill Judas with a kiss and walk with a Jesus modern-day Christians wouldn’t recognize. I can drive my narrative forward with a gruesome sacrifice of a child or an anonymous soldier, an ancient Elder or a deliciously evil Old Crone. I can create Seers and Magis, Spirits and Immortals in ways your focus grouped bestsellers simply can’t.
Unlike you, I’m not driven by fear.
I’m driven by freedom.
And that, Miss Grafton, is why this talentless hack who doesn’t work hard self-publishes.
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