Ask the Authors (Round 2)
The internet changed the ways in which we communicate with one another and opened up many avenues to publishing for unknown authors with rapid speed. And the publishing industry is continuing to transform on a daily basis, with many publishing platforms offering more and more publishing options for authors. But how do we keep up with this rapidly changing industry? How do we know which publishing platforms are right for us? And which route is the best one for individual authors?
Today on Ask the Authors, our author panel is discussing publishing options and the various publishing platforms available. Our panel members this week include DeAnna Knippling, RA Winter, Mark Shaw, Tom Johnson, Ashley Fontainne, Cynthia Vespia, Lilly Rayman, Jordan Elizabeth, Amy Cecil, and Margareth Stewart. Let’s thank them for their willingness to share and see what we can learn from their experiences.
Are you published independently, traditionally, by small press or some combination?
By small and large press, plus now mostly self-published.
Combination. All of my titles are independently published except one with HarperCollinsUK.
I’m currently focusing on indie publishing.
I’m independently published; however, I do work with an independent publishing company for some anthology stories.
I’m published by four small presses – Curiosity Quills, CHBB, Clean Reads, and Ellysian.
I’ve only remained with one publisher through the years, all the rest of my books are being self-published. Personally, I am not a conformist. I go my own way, and write what I want, not what publishers want me to write, and that’s the main reason I self publish today. The publisher I have kept allows me to write what I want, and royalties are good. They have my print editions while I have the rights to my eBook editions.
It was quite an honor to have a novel picked up by such a prestigious publishing house and something I will never forget. However, I do enjoy the independent route since it allows me more creative freedom and control. I love the entire artistic process from crafting the story to designing the cover and preparing the interior files.
I was previously published by small press houses and I found they didn’t do much more for me than I could do for myself. I may revisit traditional publishing in the future.
Impatience, lol. I wanted to share my first novel, and I didn’t want to wait for finding a traditional publisher. I like the control I have over my own work, and the flexibility I have to meet my own deadlines and move them as I need to by publishing for myself.
I don’t want to knock self-publishing, and in many ways I envy self-published authors for the freedom they have, but my dream was always to be published by a publisher. Self-publishing just doesn’t feel right to me, but I know it works for many people.
I felt it gave me more control.
- You get to decide all the things.
- You have to decide all the things.
- You’re less likely to get into bookstores and libraries.
- Sanity checks.
- Questionable people performing your sanity checks.
- If you’re not already a bestseller, they aren’t going to do a lot for promoting your book, as far as I can tell. They open a lot of doors, but they aren’t going to escort you through them.
- DO YOUR RESEARCH.
- The worst horror stories I hear are actually from the small press category.
- Some will do you better than a big, traditional publisher; some will run off with your money and your rights!
Traditional publishers take a large bite out of your profits. On the plus side, if you sign with a big house, they do the marketing for you and can get your books into stores easily.
Traditional much better with promotion and distribution depending on publisher. Traditional self-publishing can make sense tougher way to go.
Naturally, you have more control over your material with independent publishers because you can fight for your control. Traditional publishers will take the control away from you. Many of my friends have gone the independent route, while some keep both.
Pros of indie: Freedom/Total Control
Cons of indie: You basically have to be marketing 24/7
Pros of traditional: A fraction of the load is taken off of your shoulders
Cons of traditional: It’s very hard to get past the gatekeepers and alot of them aren’t willing to take a risk on a new voice.
I guess I’ve already answered the main pro of being an independently published author, I can set my own deadlines and I have full control over my own works and can make my own choices.
I think a traditional publisher most likely offers authors the benefit of their experience and can help a new author to navigate the ins and outs of publishing.
The independent community, however, is a fantastic place, and if you get involved in writer groups, and interact with other authors, they can all help you and provide you with advice. I have a great network of other independent authors, editors and publishers around me, and they all help me when I need advice.
Well, definitely as an independent I can publish what I want when I want. No deadlines except those I set for myself. I think the only downfall to that is marketing and promotion. A traditional publisher would have the resources available to offer a good marketing program
I’ve been a reader all of my life. I used to read by flashlight with my covers over my head on school nights, so my mom wouldn’t know I was up past my bedtime. Those were the days when a book was a book with a front and back cover and actual pages in between.
Today, there are many forms of reading. Although I still love the feel of a print book in my hands, I must admit that my Kindle Fire has made digital books convenient, and I now read books more in digital format than I ever did in print. Now days you can even read a digital book on your phone, I think. Also, the audio book is fast becoming popular, which I can see the advantages of because I have a long commute which takes up valuable time which could be spent in what I consider to be more productive endeavors. For me, audio books might be a valuable multi-tasking device.
As an author, it only makes sense to publish my work in as many different formats as I can manage, because different readers have different reading method preferences. I was thankful that my publisher put out Delilah in both digital and print formats, and they were looking at audio, but had trouble finding the right narrator. If I had published independently, I think I would consider doing my own narration. I recently had some experience in making audio readings that turned out quite well, but it isn’t my decision, since I agreed in my contract to leave those things in the publisher’s hands.
Those are my thoughts on the matter, but let’s see what our panel members have to say.
Which formats are your books available in? (i.e. ebook/print/audio) Which file formats for eBooks do you provide?
So for I use Kindle and print. I’ll be going wide soon.
New book Denial of Justice, hardcover, ebook, audiobook, large print.
Most of my books are both in print and eBooks.
Print, ebook and audio. I prepare both epub and mobi versions of my books to file electronically across several platforms.
I currently have both print and ebooks available with eyes on doing audio in the near future. It’s always best to have all your bases covered.
My books are all available in eBook, and my larger works, are also available in print. I use Instafreebie to help distribute outside of sales platforms for the purposes of giveaways or ARCs.
All of my books, save one, are available in print and ebook. The other is only available in ebook as of right now.
Ebooks and print.
- Amazon/Kindle Direct Publishing (initially).
- Smashwords (initially).
- Nook Press (initially). This turned into B&N Press.
- Kobo (added after the first three).
- Draft2Digital (added after Kobo). I initially added this only so I could get into iBooks, because I don’t have an Apple computer for direct uploads.
- Stopped using B&N Press due to site issues (they were down and they were always slow), moved B&N access to D2D for convenience.
- Moved all Smashwords channels available on D2D to D2D, because Smashwords payments are slower and I like the D2D interface better.
- In process of moving titles from direct Kobo access to D2D, because I’m not making as many Kobo sales and it’s One More Thing that I don’t want to deal with for release prep.
- Initially used Lulu for print.
- Moved to CreateSpace for better sales.
- Now CreateSpace has folded into Kindle Direct Publishing.
- I want to add IngramSpark soon, so I can get better distribution. I can’t blame bookstores at all for not wanting to order from CreateSpace. CS doesn’t take returns, and even if they did, Amazon has been hell on bookstores for a variety of reasons.
Smashwords and Amazon.
Amazon and Lulu.
Amazon, D2D and ACX. I have used Ingram for a few titles but found their website too frustrating to navigate.
Amazon; Smashwords; BarnesandNoble.com
I have used Amazon for my eBook distributions, and for my print books, I use Ingram Spark. I also use Smashwords for wide eBook distribution of my permafree – Smashwords makes it easy to set books available for free.
The majority of my works are on Amazon. I also have paperbacks on Barnes and Noble.
Mainly Amazon. I did try B&N, Kobo and iTunes for a while and it was a waste of time.
I have used Lulu and Smashwords and they work perfect for me. I have had a wonderful experience with Lulu.com. This is the fourth time I am publishing an Anthology with them and both the Ebook and printed versions have great quality. The platform is easy to navigate and they offer free download template for book editing. Besides, they ship worldwide and we can choose from different mailing options. On top of all that, I can share the Ebook version for free and that has been just what I needed for the Anthologies. As they are collaborative editions, they are free for download and only the paper version is paid for. If you wish to take a look at the anthologies, they gather contributions from over forty international authors; some of them also bring photos and art, and they go yearly now. The titles are: Whitmanthology, Womenthology, The Pain that Unites us all, and The Brave and the Afraid. I am taking the lead with this project which started back in 2015 during a MOOC Writing Course from Iowa University, and more than glad with Lulu.com for making it happen at no cost.
Amazon is everywhere these days and many authors publish through them exclusively, like Amy Cecil. In fact, if you sign up for KDP Select, you agree not to use any other outlets for your book. Although this does give you access to Kindle Unlimited, where you get paid each time someone flips through your book, and makes you eligible for free and discounted promotions, it makes more sense to me to publish widely across as many platforms as possible. So, let’s see how our author panel members view the different platforms.
What are the pros and cons that you see for each platform you have used?
Kindle is the easiest format to use. I find print editions difficult to work, no matter which company you go with.
One major con I’m running into is that they don’t support each other’s formatting. So if you’re trying to upload to different sources you have to reformat your manuscript to publish which takes up alot of time.
I like Smashwords ability to run sales whenever I want to.
Amazon is obviously the publishing giant so you gain the most exposure there.
Because Barnes and Noble is one of the last book stores standing I really like having my work featured there.
Amazon is the largest available platform, but they also are a tricky platform to navigate when their algorithms change on a regular basis.
Ingram Spark is fantastic for getting the widest possible reach for paperbacks and ebooks, their only downfall is the need to purchase your own ISBN numbers. They do have a set up fee, but they often have a free set-up code, and if you ask around in writer groups, someone often has a code that’s valid for a year.
I really wasn’t with the others long enough to form an opinion on this. My books sell on Amazon, they didn’t on the other platforms.
I chose not to publish at Amazon, and I am comfortable in going absolutely against the tide. I wanted to have a high quality book, and I wanted it to go under the whole process of being accepted by a publisher—even if it is a small independent publisher, it had to undergo submission process, be edited and accepted by a publisher. Contrary to what most writers may think, I thought it was superb for my personal growth as a writer. For being away from Amazon, most readers and even writers who are readers are not willing to adventure themselves into an outside publisher, fill in a new payment file and have their Ebooks uploaded. “Oh, it is not in Amazon! Sorry, but I am not reading it, why don´t you upload it yourself?”, “Because I have signed a contract, and I am happy about it”.
Amazon is by far the easiest path to being published, and the most polluted as well – if I may say so. There is too much of everything in there! Basically, I am so much grateful to all my readers because they were really looking forward to reading my novel, and too all the efforts towards it. I may change my mind in the future, but I am quite sure the next two novels will go with publishers somehow. In the vast and competitive universe of getting published, do as you will; but quoting Marshall McLuhan: do not forget that “the media is the message”.
Even with traditional publishing, these days the tasks of marketing and promotion fall mostly on the author, and if you publish independently, it all falls on you. Advertising can get expensive, but inexpensive or even free advertising is out there if you look. Let’s ask our panel members how they handle these tasks and find out what has been effective for them.
All free areas. I’m suspicious of most of the outfits offering advertising services. I had a friend use one service that cost her a thousand dollars, and she basically got nothing for her money. And I’m the one who directed her to the service.
I have used BookBub and a few other paid sites before and they do generate amazing results. Unfortunately, the costs to advertise with the major marketing sites are outrageous so I try to only submit a title once per year.
I paid for a few ads, tours, promos, etc. but it really didn’t do much for sales or exposure.
I run off the smell of an oily grease rag when it comes to a budget, so, that means I advertise with free wherever I can. Occasionally I spot an offer for a more affordable paid advertising, but in all honesty I haven’t seen much benefit at this stage to any advertising – so maybe I need to review what I do, and review how I should advertise.
I do a mixture of both. I’m trying to not use money from my day job anymore (which isn’t working well) and just use royalties to fund ads.
My Kindle books have always made good sales, much better than my hardbacks and paperbacks, so I doubt very seriously that I will ever go back to print, except for small runs for book signings.
BookBub, hands down. If you want to reach a large group of readers in your specific genre, BookBub is the best tool. Readers sign up for daily emails for discounted books in genres they enjoy reading, so when you run a campaign with them, your target audience receives an email about your book with purchase links.
The Kindle Book Review seems to be a popular site, and I have just invested in a paid spot on their website for December, so, I’ll be watching to see what happens to my sales in December.
Facebook ads have been a dud so far. Robin Reads has been the most profitable. (I could include a list, by my computer crashed and I lost the spreadsheet with my list of ad sites! Argh.)
If you’re looking for a publisher, read the contract and make sure it fits your plans. If you’re looking for a printing service, check pricing from a variety of presses. And check them out.
If they ask you for money up front…RUN AWAY! You should never have to pay for publishing services out of pocket. Other than that look at their current client list and do a search online before signing anything. Absolute Write forums have alot of info on small presses.
How much money are they asking for and can they detail how they will be spending your money if you pay them to publish your work. You really should only be paying for editing, cover art and possibly some marketing.
Do they ask for you to submit your work or a sample of your work before they publish you? I have seen some new authors wanting to publish, but they need a little advice on how they can improve their craft, so they can publish a better story than what they originally have. I think a small independent press should be wanting to help develop an author that approaches them. Make their work stronger and shine like a bright star in a universe filled with stars.
See if you feel a connection. Talk to other authors in a safe, candid way. Read reviews online. Sure, some people want to watch the world burn, but if the majority of authors warn you to stay away, take heed. There might be some credence there.
A good marketing and promotional team.
For first time authors, I would highly suggest you go with a small press publisher to get your feet wet. But make sure they are publishing in your genre. I’ve been bitten at least three times by publishers interested in my manuscripts. They wanted SF and I obliged, only to see them all decide (after they had my contract) that they wanted to go erotica for the money. They had my books for three years and would not let them go; yet all they advertised was the erotica, so my books didn’t sell well. Traditional publishers may require an agent, or may hold your manuscript over a year before responding, and then you may be rejected. Get your book published so you won’t mind the long wait next time if you decide to go traditional. Agents are hard to get. Let’s face it they want the next Tom Clancy or Steven King. They’re not looking for untried writers. I’ve used two agents during my writing career, and neither did anything for me. You might find a good one, but the chances are slim. Good luck whatever you do.
Grow thick skin. You’ll need it. 😊
If you’re going traditional, do your research on agents and publishing houses. Find out what they represent, write a killer pitch, and stay consistent. Don’t give up after a few rejections. Traditional publishing takes time.
If you’re going independent, treat it as a business. Hire a cover designer, an editor, and set up a website and social media channels where you can connect with readers.
Ask for the feedback of someone already in the industry. See what they have to say about the strength of your story, your craft. Be open to the feedback and listen to the constructive information you are given. Use an editor, a proof reader. Get the most professional looking cover you can for your budget. Get your head around keywords, and blurb writing. Set up a newsletter, social media pages and have a presence online. Interact with your potential new readers, be seen – after all you want to be found.
Please don’t give up. Rejection letters can cut deep. The authors who keep trying are the ones who succeed. Also, if you are going to self-publish, make sure to hire an editor! A family member might be able to notice typos, but an editor for your genre will be able to help you shape characters, setting, and plot.
While traditional publishers may help authors out with things like editing, book covers, and marketing and promotion, they also take a bigger piece of the pie for their efforts. Also, it seems to me that the rise in independent publishing has shown them that authors are capable of advertising their books effectively, so they are offering less help on promotional fronts than in days past, and traditionally published and small press authors are expected to do more of this today. Small presses may offer a bigger share of royalties, but it varies greatly as to how much publishing support each one offers. While independent authors taking control of their own publishing processes, they also must take responsibility for turning out a quality book from start to finish by either hiring work out or juggling all the author hats required themselves.
I think many authors are scrambling to keep up with advances in digital media which enable us to bring our writing to more and bigger audiences through the different formats. While it makes sense to offer our work in as many formats as possible, many of us are still in the learning curve as far as how to go about it. Audio books are becoming increasingly popular, but this is still relatively new territory for many. The good news is there are also increasingly more publishing platforms available to help us explore our options, if we choose to publish independently.
That wraps up our discussion on publishing platforms and as always, I want to thank our author panel for their willingness to share. Be such a catch next Monday’s segment, when our panel will be discussing author platforms: what they are, why we need them and how to build them. See you then!
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I finished the final draft of Delilah last month. Normally, in anticipation of its completion, I would scour my Writer’s Market in search of publishers and/or agents that might be in the market for a western novel with a tough, spunky female protagonist and make a list of places to send it out to. But, I pitched Delilah to a publisher I felt would be a perfect fit for this manuscript last summer at the Write the Rockies Conference in Gunnison, and got an invitation to send the manuscript when it was completed. That in itself was amazing, because you usually don’t pitch a manuscript that isn’t complete, but I was doing the pitch for practice, and I actually felt like I’d bungled it pretty badly. My perception of my performance must have been wrong, because the invitation to query was forthcoming.
At any rate, I didn’t make the usual list of submissions for Delilah, because I knew where she was going, and I just knew this publisher was going to make an offer. Instead, I spent my time preparing for submission. I wrote a synopsis and query letter, and prepared a brief excerpt to include. So, as soon as the final revisions were completed, I sent off my query.
I also sent a query to an agent I thought might be good to represent me, using Delilah to entice them. I sent it off on April 21, and on April 29 I received the rejection. Man that was fast. I found it disheartening. I know I have to expect rejections, probably a lot of them, and I’ve had many on other works which I’ve been shopping. In my graduate classes at Western State, they warned us to expect them, and taught us to use them as motivation to get it back out to the next perspective publisher or agent. And, you know, that’s exactly what I’ve done regarding all the other works I’ve sent out. So, why is this rejection any different?
I think it was the speed with which I received this rejection, barely a week, which took me aback. You wait for responses from publishers and agents for weeks, sometimes even months. That’s why you send out simultaneous submissions whenever possible. Get your work read by as many possible avenues of publication as possible. It’s common practice, although some calls for submissions specify that they do not accept simultaneous submissions. (If you think about it, it’s pretty selfish of a publisher to do this, expecting to allow them to consider your work exclusively, when it takes so long for them to respond.) This rejection came from an agent, not a publisher, but I wasn’t expecting a reply so quickly. I didn’t feel like they’d even had time to read what I’d submitted.
I’ve worked on Delilah on and off for four years. I could have finished her sooner, but with school and my freelancing, and holding down a full time job, I wasn’t able to work on her, like I did on my thesis, which I wrote in full within six months, (but that’s another story, for another day). Actually, I had a completed draft of Delilah in that amount of time, but the revisions turned it into a whole other story. It’s true. The final manuscript of Delilah tells a different story than the one I set out to tell originally. I have enough cut scenes from the first draft to almost make up another whole book, which I might do, if Delilah finds a home and does well.
So the question remains, why have I not sent Delilah out to more than one publisher? Why do I have this certainty within me that she will find a home with this one publishing house that I submitted to first? I know this isn’t a realistic expectation and I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment. I do. So, why don’t I treat this novel like my other works? And why did the first rejection from an agent hit me so hard? Maybe because I have put so much of my heart into Delilah, but I think you have to put your heart into any work of creativity in order for it to be truly good. I don’t know what’s so special about this novel, but I know Delilah is special. I feel it. If I find a publisher for her, you can read it and then, you’ll know it, too.