Publishing and the Naked Truth
Linda Houle, Publisher, L&L Dreamspell
Whether you are ready for it or not, the world of publishing is changing. Now. And it’s changing fast. Authors, publishers, agents, bookstores, and readers all need to pay attention. The big chain bookstores are struggling to stay in business, and many Indie bookstores have already vanished. Just a few short years ago, many people didn’t even know what an “ebook” was. Now ebooks are beginning to outsell print books! There are more and more ebook reading devices to choose from, with prices dropping to an affordable level. Now anyone can carry dozens or even hundreds of books with them, wherever they go. Ebooks typically cost half, or less, compared to the print version of the same title. Print books aren’t going away yet, but over the next decade fewer titles will be produced in print. Many titles will be released only as ebooks.
I recently wrote a short handbook, aimed mainly at authors, called “The Naked Truth about Book Publishing.” Why the need for another book about publishing? Many new authors need a quick guide to the current publishing options, so they can make the right choice for their manuscript. Should they go the traditional route and try to find an agent to shop their book around? Or how about submitting their work to a small press (L&L Dreamspell is a traditional, small press). Or, should an author self-publish? And, if the author decides to take the “do it yourself” path, should they pay a subsidy press to do the work—editing, typesetting, cover design, setting up distribution, etc.—or should they be their own “contractor” and hire out various parts of the job. Or, if they have the software and skills, should they do everything themselves?
There are benefits and drawbacks with every route to publishing. The current buzz on blogs says self-publishing has completely lost its stigma, so authors should bypass agents and publishers and do it themselves. And this does work well, for some people. In my handbook I give information and links to help self-publishing authors get started. If you’ve been turned down by agents, and rejected by numerous publishers, then you may have no other choice. Or, maybe you want to do everything yourself right from the start, because you know what’s best for your book.
Wait! Before you set up your title at one of the self-service sites (such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, etc.) be sure your manuscript is ready for readers. Remember that self-publishing “stigma” that is supposedly now gone? Why do you think those books got such a bad reputation? Because of poor writing/editing/production quality. If you’ve been rejected, did you get any feedback from agents/publishers? If you’ve heard time after time that your novel needs improvement, then before you set it free as an ebook PLEASE get some editing help and make sure you are producing a quality product. Don’t ever say “my writing is perfect as-is”—or “those agents/publishers are idiots and don’t know what they’re missing”—don’t say it. That is not professional behavior. And despite vocal opinions of some disgruntled authors, traditional publishers did not go into business to steal authors’ profits. I’m not talking about pay-to-publishing companies. Subsidy and Vanity presses are a whole different category. If you plan to use one, please do your homework so you don’t get taken for an expensive ride! Traditional publishers, both large, small, and University presses, don’t charge authors. They select promising manuscripts, turn them into viable products, then work with the authors so readers can enjoy their books, and everyone can succeed and make money.
A book is a product. And writing is a business. If you want to be successful, no matter how your manuscript makes it into the hands of readers, you need to think like a professional. Act like a professional. And sell a professional product. You can write all you want, as a hobby, but if you want to sell books and make money, there’s a lot of hard work and promotion involved.
If you are published via a large New York press, then they’ll take care of editing, and produce and sell the best version of your book possible. Small presses do the same, but the royalty advances up front are lower. Either way, authors still need to promote their book. Especially if you are published by a big company. You have a short window of opportunity for your book to succeed in stores or it’s gone… Small presses give authors more time to build a fan base, especially if they write sequels. But sales numbers are in the hundreds, rather than the thousands. These smaller companies may produce both paperbacks and ebooks, or just publish ebooks. Books are often sold only on line and never make it into chain bookstores. The money is less than with a large company, but the pressure is less too, and that’s often why authors love to work with small publishers. If you self-publish, allow enough time to plan ahead for distribution and promotion, so people can find and buy your book.
It seems that the recent explosion in do-it-yourself ebook publishing is a panacea for authors. In our “instant” society, it’s the perfect fast-food style solution to publishing. Many blogs share success stories about authors who’ve dumped their (evil, greedy) publishers and are now making sales in the hundreds of thousands—and keeping all the profits for themselves. These stories may be true, for authors like J.A. Konrath and Seth Godin. The same success level is not achievable by 99.9% of self-publishing authors. Did the articles forget to mention that part? Authors who are major names, with huge fan bases, WILL succeed. Your neighbor who wrote their memoir (and didn’t think it needed any editing or proper formatting) may sell a dozen copies, to their family and friends. Friends who won’t tell them the writing is horrible and they never even finished chapter two…because they are friends, and family members. What if that same author also wanted that memoir in print and paid a subsidy company a thousand or more dollars, then bought a pallet full of books, then sold just a dozen copies? For every amazing success story, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of failure stories we never hear…
I think one reason we’re seeing such a new ebook distributor open-door policy to self-published authors is MONEY. Even if each author only sells a dozen or two ebooks, multiply the commission by tens of thousands of books, and the big companies are fattening their wallets. So why not let anyone publishing anything? Now that the floodgates are open, let the reader beware. I’m not disrespecting self-publishing! There are many wonderful self-published ebooks. But there are many more awful self-published ebooks. Also, there are some dangerous self-published ebooks—advocating illegal activities.
Even though I co-own a traditional small press, L&L Dreamspell, and I think small presses are a great option for many authors, I still believe everyone needs to choose the correct path to publishing for their own manuscript. Those who want to grab the brass ring and gain fame and fortune should do all they can to find a literary agent who believes in their work, and will sell their book to a large company. Authors who want to be in control of every detail of their book’s production need to self-publish. And the middle ground is the myriad of small presses, many publishing in specialized niche markets. It’s important to read publishers’ websites, to make sure they work with your genre. And follow their guidelines to ensure they will read and consider your work. Anyone sending a query, to agents or publishers, should be professional—it’s just like a job interview. Sending an email (and openly cc’ing dozens of agents or publishers at the same time) that brags “Hey, want to read my great stuff?” that’s full of typos, with little or no punctuation and capitalization, is just like going to an interview in dirty, smelly clothing. And being demanding in your query “Please send a large advance immediately” will lead to 100% rejection.
Choose your path to publishing wisely—then be professional when promoting your book/ebook. Good luck!
For more information visit: http://www.thenakedtruthaboutbookpublishing.com/ and http://www.lldreamspell.com/
A very big thanks to Linda for her highly informative post! Please leave a comment for Linda. I will draw 3 names at random to win an Immortyl Revolution refrigerator magnet. Drawing ends January 10th at midnight.
For more information about the Immortyl Revolution series go to http://www.deniseverricowriter.webs.com/