Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Choices in Publishing

"The future ain't what it used to be."  ~Yogi Berra
If only a peek into a crystal ball could tell us which road to take. 

A group of children's writers had some interesting discussions via email about traditional publishing vs. nontraditional. We decided to blog about our choices and link the posts together. The links for the others who are participating are at the end of this post. I hope you'll visit their sites, too.

We're witnessing mind-boggling, historical changes in publishing. I have mixed feelings.

Sometimes it drives me crazy.

And it's kinda scary, in a way.

When I hear about writers being conned or taken advantage of, it makes me monster mad.


Over the past two years, I've given a lot of thought as to which direction to go with my writing, and I've decided self-publishing is for me. For now. 

Would you turn down a half a million dollars to self-publish?
Best selling authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath discuss this very question in an interview. Eisler explains why he turned down a half-million advance in favor of self-publishing. It makes sense to meWarning – contains some colorful language:  Here's a link that weighed heavily in my decision.

These are some reasons I'm foregoing the traditional route, at least until the industry becomes more stable:
  • It's as hard to get an agent as it is to get a publisher. 
  • If I do get an agent, there's no guarantee the agent can sell the manuscript since publishers are acquiring fewer and fewer titles.
  • Some agents are publishing their clients' works, which some people consider a conflict of interest. It's stirring up quite a controversy. There are a lot of other strange things happening where authors are being slighted by publishers, agents, and others, so I just don't know who to trust! 
  • I've known several authors whose book deals fell through. Talk about disappointment.
  • Bookstores are carrying less books in lieu of promoting toys and specialty items.
  • Publishers expect authors to promote themselves. Debut authors aren't sent on book tours or given much help with marketing, plus most publishers expect writers to have a good following and a strong social media platform before even considering taking us on.
  • Once published, our books are given a three- to four-month window to do well. After that, they're pulled from the shelves, if they even get a coveted spot on a shelf in the first place. They could end up in a bin at a dollar store! Yikes! After all that hard work. 
  • Publishers are still charging high rates for eBooks. With little overhead, they pocket most of the profit, while the author gets 25% royalties or less. 
Here are some reasons I'm choosing to self-publish:
  • I can control the price of my books and offer them at an affordable rate in this sluggish economy.
  • My books won't go out of print. Ever.
  • I've already tested the waters with an eBook of three short stories, "Trio of Haunting Tales," so I know what I'm in for. Formatting for the Kindle was a nightmare. Since then, I found a formatter whose prices are affordable and she does a professional job. She formatted the first two books in the Monster Moon series (see below).
  • I know better than to expect instant results, realizing it will likely take years of hard work before bringing in a decent income. I'm in it for the long haul. (Thanks to Bob Mayer's blog posts for making me aware of this common sense strategy. See his links below.)
  • With each new title I publish, the odds in my favor will increase (realizing the books I publish must be well written and professional). Right now, there are more Monster Moon books in the works, and I plan to publish a chapter book (ages 7 to 10) in 2012. I'm excited to have more titles to share with kids when I do author visits.
  • Publishers are having a hard time collecting from some of the major wholesalers, which is one reason we're not publishing future Monster Moon books through Stargazer Publishing. If the publisher doesn't get paid, then the authors don't get paid. 
I'm off to a good start with a picture book and two middle grade novels (ages 8 - 12) under my belt, plus the short eBook mentioned above:
  • MERRY AS A CRICKET, 2002, a picture book by WhipperSnapper Books, a small press. They were wonderful to work with. They did all the marketing and supported me in any promoting I did on my own. Unfortunately, a second title I wrote on assignment with author Janet Reyes never came to fruition because they closed their doors. Again, problems with collections contributed to their closing down.
  • Two books in the Monster Moon series for ages 8 to 12, by Stargazer Publishing: CURSE AT ZALA MANOR and SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG, co-authored by Kathryn Sant, Maria Toth, and myself under the pseudonym BBH McChiller. (Links are in the sidebar.) Stargazer is a small, independent press that sells to schools and libraries.   
One of my friends, Stephanie Jefferson, is self-publishing her debut novel in February. It's about a warrior princess in the ancient kingdom of Nubia. She wrote a blog post about her decision HERE.
Awesome cover, Stephanie!
Stephanie has a wild card in her favor - a raving review by Publishers Weekly when her young adult novel qualified as a semi-finalist in Amazon's contest. She didn't win, but that review is like gold. If Stephanie wasn't recovering from a serious illness, she would be participating in this blogfest. 
Here are a few comments explaining why she's choosing to self-publish: 
"My thinking is, with the economy in a serious decline and bookstores closing, the publishers are taking less and less, they are accepting even fewer debut works. Add to that the reality that the royalties are getting less, the support for marketing is nearly nonexistent, and writers have little to no input in covers and illustrations (even when it changes the direction of the story). Do I want a contract? If I can develop a product that is of equal/or better quality, what do I need them for?

"The likelihood of earning out my advance within their prescribed limit is pretty low, which is a mark against me. Instead of being an unknown and high-risk investment as a debut author, I would be labeled a money-losing author."


Another writer friend, Susan Kaye Quinn, wrote an insightful post on 10/5/11, Investing in Your Writing Career, or Why I Decided to Self-Publish Open Minds (click here). She draws an analogy how publishing with a large publisher is like investing in high-flying individual stocks: 


"This is no shock to anyone who has examined the odds of making it through the big pub gauntlet, which is really an all-or-nothing deal: either you win the lotto or you trunk your novel. The return is potentially large (or not - most traditionally pubbed authors don't outsell their advances), but there is a risk of losing years of time waiting to win (at least in writing you only lose your time, not your money).


"My writing investment portfolio has a novel and an anthology with a small pub company, paying small monthly dividends (like bonds). I also have several unpublished novels in various states of 'completeness,' including a middle grade SF, middle grade fantasy, Open Minds (young adult paranormal/SF), and another project not listed on my WiP page (that will be going through the big pub route)."
OPEN MINDS will be launched November 1st.

I love this cover!

Laura Pauling's blog, Exercising the Right to Ramble, has some interesting posts that leave us with a lot to ponder:      


Here are some helpful posts from best-selling author Bob Mayer's blog, Write It Forward:
The Perfect Storm is Looming in Publishing - 9/27/11
The myth of backlist and a dramatic change in publishing - 8/13/11
The real gatekeepers in publishing now? Authors - 9/14/11, "99.5% of indie/self-published authors will be gone in two years.  Other will take their place.  And be gone in two years." 
"Should your agent self-publish you? Can your agent self-publish you? 7/26/11
eBooks as the new mass market paperback and don’t be Buridan’s Ass - 7/19/11
Publish your book or play the lottery? 6/6/11
There is Gold in self-publishing - 6/2/11, "Is there gold for the unpublished author who self-publishes?  Yes.  But the odds are roughly the same as getting an agent, who can sell to an editor, who gets the publisher to put the book out, and readers find the book, and read it, and recommend it, etc. etc."

From Agent Kristin Nelson’s blog, Pub Rants, her post dated 5/18/11 – 21st Century Evolution Of Agent’s Role

It's been a long, wonderful journey this past decade. My writer friends and I have attended many writing conferences and workshops, studied the craft of writing, and learned from each other. Many exciting things are taking place among us: Some are self-publishing, some are choosing a small press, and some are sticking with the traditional route. A few are branching out and choosing more than one way to publish. We'll support each other and new writer friends we meet along the way as we pour our hearts into our writing and work hard to make our dreams come true. 

"The magic is inside you. There ain't no crystal ball." ~ Dolly Parton 
Have you been keeping up with all the changes in publishing? What do you think about it? Please share your feelings and opinions.  

Here are the links for the other writers in this blog ring. I hope you'll check out their posts to read about their choices in publishing:





















45 comments:

Simon Haynes said...

I've been blogging about my decision to self-pub after 6 years on the other side of the fence.

There are plenty of useful tips for those just setting out on their self-pub journey. Just follow my name to my blogger profile & blog.

I really do believe it's a viable alternative now. The difference is that you have to lower expectations. You start slow and build your fans & sales, rather than going all out for the initial sell-in and watching your book wither and die in the shops.

Old Kitty said...

Good luck and all the best with whatever publishing route you take! I think you do yourself a great favour by all these indepth research into self publishing - so yay for you!!!

Take care
x

Laura Pauling said...

What a wonderful post, covering so many aspects. Thanks for linking to my posts! :)

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Not only do you do yourself a favor, but all of us. Thanks so much for your great lists of links! I will definitely come back here to check them all out. Also your photos are fabulous!

Mike Kalmbach said...

This matches a lot of the reasons I chose to self-publish. The Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath article came shortly after I made that decision, but it did help solidify my decision.

I also didn't realize that you co-wrote Secret of Haunted Bog. It's been on my to-read list for a bit, and just moved up in priority. Too cool!

Thanks for sharing!

Liz Fichera said...

You've obviously researched all of your options so you are already ahead of the game. Good luck to you!!

J.L. Campbell said...

Lynn, awesome post. Gonna tweet.

From being traditionally published, I have moved toward self-publishing for some of the reasons you've listed in your post. I'm familiar with some of the names listed above and will check out Jeffries. Warrior Princiss + Nubia = intriguing. Thanks for the links!

L.G.Smith said...

I do think self-publishing is making more sense for a lot of people.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Great post! (And thank you for the links and cover love! :))

You've done a fantastic job of pulling together a lot of the threads that are floating out there about this "movement." I was just telling my husband last night that self-pub is moving into a new phase. It's like the early adopters have been doing this for a while, but now it's going mainstream. The people who are considering (or leaping into) self-pub aren't the same people that did it a year ago. And that's going to continue to shake up the industry.

Great, timely, discussion! I'm hopping over to visit the other blogs...

Heather Kelly said...

Lynn--This is chock full of information! I'm bookmarking it for sure. Awesome post. :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

p.s. I agree with Simon's thoughts about re-tooling your expectations. Self-pub is a lot like starting from the ground up with a new business - no one expects you to be a blockbuster out of the gates. It takes time and elbow grease to build an audience and a portfolio of works. There's room for this in self-pub, which is one of the cool things about it.

Kristine Asselin said...

Awesome post, Lynn--so awesome, I've got to drop back later to read it in more detail and follow your links!

E.R. King said...

Your pics always add so much pizzazz to your post! I hope whatever journey you choose for your publishing route that it goes well. Self-pub is getting bigger everyday!

Anita said...

This post is a must-see for anyone considering whether to go epubbing or traditional. Yay, you!

LynNerd said...

Simon - Thanks for your input. I'll definitely check out your site.

Old Kitty - Thank you. Yes, thoroughly researching our options is so important.

Laura - Thanks! Your posts are so awesome and were very helpful to me, so I had to include your links!

Tina - Thank you. I'm so glad I was included in this blog ring.

LynNerd said...

Mike - I admire the way you've tackled self-publishing and the way you're marketing and promoting. But most importantly, your book, The Calderian Conflict, is well written and entertaining, and I wish you the best of luck with it. And how cool that you have Secret of Haunted Bog on your to-read list and didn't know I was a co-author!

Liz - Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

JL - I've been following your journey and I think you're awesome. Best of luck with the self-pubbing. We know it's hard work, but it takes a lot of time and dedication no mater which route we take.

LG - Thanks for weighing in.

Susan - Your post is one of the best ones I've read about self-publishing, plus your analogy and how your broke each component down. It's obvious that you know exactly what you're doing and I have no doubt that success is in your future. Don't need a crystal ball to see that!

And I agree that Simon's points are right on target.

Heather - Thanks! Cool that you're going to bookmark my post!

LynNerd said...

Kristine - Thank you. I'm so honored to be a part of this blog ring with you and Heather and the other awesome children's writers taking part.

E.R. - Thank you! Glad you like the pics!

Anita - Thank you. It's great to be taking part in this whole discussion with you and the others. Your post is quite insightful, and your MG book, A Scary Good Book rocks!

catherinemjohnson.wordpress.com said...

Well I don't know yet which avenue to take, but I know for sure I'd love to read your Secret of Haunted Bog book :)

Munir said...

Dolly Patron is right. The problem is that we rarely look inside ourselves. If we do and start to write something, we tend to do good until something of the real world gets in our way.
Self Publishing is good, except thar it is hard to let people know about a book you write. If you have enough of people connection then that is great. Good Luck! Kids do need more to read:)

Sarah Pearson said...

To me, the main thing is that a writer does extensive research then follows the option that is right for them, regardless of what anyone else is doing. Seems to me, that's what you're doing :-)

Stephanie D said...

This is great information! Thank you for sharing.

Ansha Kotyk said...

I LOVE your photos! You did a great job with referencing the links that helped you make your decision. And yes, it's all about making our dreams come true! :)

Kelly Polark said...

Thanks for your very thorough take on all of this. And I LOVE the photos!

LynNerd said...

Catherine - I hope the links I've included help you in deciding what to do. That's really cool that you're interested in reading Haunted Bog!

Munir - Thanks for sharing your insight. I completely agree on all your points.

Sarah - I agree that what's right for one writer might not be right for others, so each needs to research and figure out which path or paths to take. Thank you!

Stephanie - Thank you! You're welcome.

Ansha - Thank you! Glad you like the photos. Your post is great and very helpful to anyone who's researching and trying to decide.

Kelly - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. So glad you got a kick out of the pics!

Draven Ames said...

Thanks for putting all this together in one spot. It gives me a lot to think about.

~Draven

LynNerd said...

Draven - Thanks for stopping by and checking out my post. You're welcome. I hope it helps.

cleemckenzie said...

There are a lot of reasons to take the self-publishing route and you've nailed them. Good luck and be sure to let us put the word out when you pop that puppy onto Amazon or wherever!

Lynda R Young said...

wow, you've put together a comprehensive list. Self-publishing is becoming more and more attractive.

Carol Kilgore said...

I have a previous novel manuscript that I'm pretty sure I'm going to self-publish in the spring. Everything feels right to do it. I think probably even more changes are coming, but I can't imagine what they are at the moment.

LynNerd said...

Lee - Thanks so much! I'm excited to get my puppy on Amazon!

Lynda - Yes, self-pubbing really is more and more appealing. I'm so glad I'm a writer at this historical time of changes!

Carol - Yay for you self-pubbing your novel in the spring! Woo hoo! I know, we just can't foresee the many changes that are still heading our way. I hope they're all good changes!

janellemadigan.com said...

Sounds like you've put a lot of thought into it. The publishing industry is definitely changing, and no one can really predict quite where it's heading. Your decision sounds like a good one.

A year ago, I was planning to look for an agent and then aim for a Big Six publisher, but now I'm hoping to find a small e-pub that I enjoy working with. That's not to say that my plans won't change, but I think that path will work best for me. Good Luck!

Danette said...

Hi Lyn: I agree one hundred percent that you have to be realistic about your expectations- no matter which route you choose. If you go traditional publishing even best selling authors complain about how much self-promotion they have to do and how little help they get from their publishers. Best-selling author Sam Harris wrote a post (which I plan to blog about soon) talking about the benefits of his blog and twitter for him. Stephen King has talked about how much money he has lost with his traditional publisher. Perhaps he has negotiated a new deal but he was ready to self-pub at one point.

LynNerd said...

Janelle- Thanks for commenting. Isn't it amazing how fast the changes are happening. Best of luck to you with the e-pubbing. And you're right, you can always try a different direction when it feels like the right way to go. I feel the same way.

Danette - Thanks for stopping by. I'll look for your post on Sam Harris. It sounds good. I hadn't heard that about Stephen King. Wow. That's really interesting.

C D Meetens said...

I think self-publishing makes a lot of sense these days, and your arguments weigh heavily in its favour too.

Melissa Marsh said...

Publishing is just crazy nowadays. I do freelance work for a major self-publisher and I have seen it change, too. I'm still hanging on to my dream of being traditionally published, but that may change.

Good for you for taking this step, and best wishes!

Tony Storm said...

im pretty sure it'll workout if you put enough into it

Draven Ames said...

Oh, it certainly helps. I have been mulling over my choices for a long while. So much tells me to self-publish, but I want to hold off badly. Even so, a lot of legacy writers have been going the ebook route lately.

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I still have a lot of writing/revising to do before I get to the publishing part. It's hard not to keep an eye on the debate while unpublished. It's interesting how things have changed so quickly in the debate.

Robyn Campbell said...

Egad! You are a lady made entirely of awesome. Ya know that???

Boy. I have to admit, I have thought about it, but I really wanna be traditionally pubbed, right now anyway. I am going to visit these links, because you said to. And I always do what you tell me to do. *wink*

But I might change my mind. The economy is making it so hard on new writers to get a foothold. Yanno?

Have a happy weekend. I will. Hubby bought that horse I have had my eye on. Yep. He did good. :-)

Misha said...

I always thought that I'd go the traditional route, but recently I've been wondering if that's the way to go.

I'm still undecided, but luckily I know that my WiP needs a lot of time and work. :-)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Interesting post. It seems more and more people are going the self published route.

Peggy Eddleman said...

This is a great post! I think that it's important each person figures out what is best for them. This is a fabulous post for anyone thinking of self-pubbing!

And the pictures were BEYOND AWESOME.

tiffanyawhite said...

GREAT post, Lynn. I just signed up for a Self-Publishing 6 week class taught by Bob Mayer and Jen Talty that starts November 1st. When I started writing, I automatically thought that I'd go the traditional route, but now I'm second guessing myself. Why not have all the knowledge to choose at my fingertips? That's my goal now....learn, learn, learn.

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Halloween Hop

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Tamara Narayan said...

This really opened my eyes and gave me a lot to think about. I would love to spend the bulk of my time writing.