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.