Sunday, November 21, 2010

Publishing Options? Clear As Mud

Skip this post 'cause it's gonna be about (yawn) publishing, a topic that I tend to avoid.

I'm taking the entire week off, sort of, & managed to squeeze in a couple of hours at a writers group meeting yesterday where the focus was on publishing trends & options. There were 6 panelists, each given about 10 minutes to describe their particular experience / areas of expertise.

Cooperative Publishing - I didn't quite understand the concept of a "co-investment" - the presenter was enthusiastic enough, but it sure sounded like the author would need to part with some big bucks. To be fair, 10 minutes doesn't provide much time for explaining things in detail, but I was surprised that the phrase "breaking even financally" was repeated so often. The website offered no worthwhile info.  

Traditional Publishing (small press) - The speaker regaled us with how he was signed by a small royalty paying traditional publisher .... & then explained that his publisher recently changed direction, to focus on eco-topics for their catalog. So now that (talented) author is out in the cold?

E Publishing - Pubit, Smashwords, Kindle, iBooks. The new next best thing. It can be done for free on B&N's Pubit. Wow! Wonder what kind of "stuff" will show up on e-readers now? Free! Great! Right? ("You can upload everything yourself - but it may lack certain formatting qualities.") Huh?

Print On Demand - The author/speaker used a POD company that I KNOW is outrageously expensive.

Self Publishing by way of setting up an LLC & entering agreements with Ingram & Lightning Source. Okay, but it's either a POD or someone's got a huge garage stocked with books. This author/publisher also works with other authors, a handful of titles per year.

Sidebar - One suggestion was made & repeated - Use scattershot email marketing blitzes to publicize books. Fellas, THAT'S CALLED SPAM! Totally disagreed with that bit of advice. Sorry, had to vent. I don't open email from unknowns. Ever.


Cooperative Method? Well, I broke even within the first 30 days of getting my 1st book on the street, & that was without much promotion. (As usual - I was out of town, Chicago, when BAD LATITUDE came out.) I should point out that I have niche market which helps.

Traditional / Small Press? Assuming the query is great & the work is accepted (big assumptions - but play along here) .... It takes so looooong. You have to sign over rights, have no control over cover art, advances are low, if offered at all. What happens when a small press changes course or closes up shop? And then there's the royalty thing. If the author is doing 80 to 90% of the work, why settle for a 7 or 10% cut? Forget the 'validaton' argument - that's never been in play for me. Is there really a distribution advantage? A marketing budget? Shelf life? Shelf space? I dunno.

E-Pub scares me. Yeah, I know, there are some authors raking in the dough, but is the quality going to suffer so badly as to scare readers off? All I know is, read excerpts before hitting the "buy" button. I have a Kindle & an iPad & only buy 1 e-book for every 10 (maybe 15) excerpts that I read. The big news at the gathering was 'start to finish - you can have your book on Nook within 48 hours'. From a reader's standpoint - is this really a good thing? As a writer, I'm no Steinbeck or Twain, but I TRY to get it right. The 'gatekeeper' debate may have some merit, based on some e-samples that I've gagged over. Currently, Amazon & others offer the 70% "royalty" - will that be the case next year or 5 years from now? Is it going to drop to say, 10% once e-devices are better established? Am I going to put my stuff on e-readers? That's a definitive maybe - Still on that fence.

POD? I like that, as an author, you don't have to buy a bazillion books. The practice of shipping & returning books always seemed stupid to me as a business model so that bit of idiocy is eliminated via the POD method. The downside? The selling price is annoyingly high. Cost is based on page count. If, like me, you have retailers selling your books, the product has to be heavily discounted (from the author's share of course) since you're adding a 4th "profit margin" (following POD company, printer, & author - hey, have I missed anyone?). Creative control, & retaining all rights - huge plus. Now there are several POD companies out there & the range in prices & services offered is mind boggling. Generally speaking, I'd stay away from the ones with tiered packages & upcharges. Most use the same printer/distributor anyway.  

Self Publishing - as a company?  I can't even imagine the time investment required - not with my life. Branching out to handle other authors? No way. Might work if the day job thing wasn't a factor.   

So what did I take away from all of this? Well, the bulk of the work, regardless of publishing method, still falls on the author. Five examples offered on "the way to do it" &, in all cases, it's still the author's responsibility (beyond just the writing) to create an online presence, market the books, attend conferences & workshops, network like crazy, (oh yeah, & hire an independent editor in most of these scenarios).

Clear as mud, but at least there are options. Guess that's a good thing. RECKLESS ENDEAVOR is being polished up & soon I'm gonna hafta decide which direction to take.




Carol J. Garvin said...

I'm not sure that your panelists really did you any favours in their attempts to clarify the different publishing methods -- I'm not even sure that some of their information about POD and self publishing is entirely accurate.

There's definitely a lot to consider these days... lots of options. Self-publishing or POD with a reputable company isn't a bad option for someone that has a good editing/proofreading person on board. Personally, I would be eliminating anything over which I as a complete publishing novice have total control. I'm a writer, not a publisher. If I'm putting months of writing energy into producing the best story I can, I want to make darned sure someone with publishing expertise is guiding that part and getting it out in a quality format.

eBooks are big and getting bigger but if I have a choice I'd rather see my books established in the marketplace before having them converted for Kindle or similar online distribution.

So that's my reaction, for what it's worth. Doesn't help you one bit, of course, especially since I don't have any experience on which to base my opinions. I'd certainly get on the forums and get some feedback from people who do, especially if it comes down to the reliability and ethics of a specific agency or company.

Joylene Butler said...

You already know I self-published my first book thru Lulu, then quickly signed on with a Canadian book printer in Winnipeg, and also signed with a highly respected distributor here in BC. You'd think I'd understand the business? Nope. And to clarify, it's totally different here in Canada. All the stuff available in the States isn't open to us. At least it wasn't when I published.

I wouldn't be any clearer on the choices if I'd attended that seminar either. Ten minutes is a tease. I think the best source of research is at your fingertips: The Wide World Web. Plus people like Carol, who don't speak unless they know what they speak of.

I think going with a small house is where I will stay. For now. I already know how much work I need to do, but the glorious thing is I don't have to fork over megabucks. Love that!

Now I just need someone to impersonate me and go to all those dreaded book signings for me.