“How to Become a Published Author”: Every authors reference to publication

how to become a published author

How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication by Mark Shaw is filled with information useful to authors in all stages of the publishing process. Although it’s aimed at aspiring authors trying to break into publishing, as a published author with an M.F.A., it gave me ideas and techniques to consider, as well. Shaw deals with the publication of fiction and poetry, as well as nonfiction. He touches on self-publishing as well as getting a foot in the door with traditional publishers, and offers a wealth of good reference materials.

Mark Shaw is a best selling nonfiction author, yet unschooled in the craft. He made his way into the traditional publishing world through the oldest method known to authors: good writing. And he practices what he preaches. Every book I’ve ever read by Mark Shaw has been well written, drawing readers in as his stories unravel in masterfully crafted ways which keep readers entranced to the end and make them think long after putting the book down. How to Become a Published Author is no exception, with the valuable information contained within presented in a clear and concise format that is easy to reference.

In this book Shaw walks us through the process for getting your books published, step-by-step. Sharing from his own experiences in traversing the pathways to publishing, using his own books and books of others as examples to illustrate his message, providing useful reference materials and links. This book covers practicle steps to becoming published from outlining in the pre-writing stage, all the way through to query letters and book proposals for those who aspire to be traditionally published. It offers marketing tips and advice useful to all authors, since promotion is a role which now falls on the shoulders of authors in many cases of both traditionally and independently published authors.

Much of Shaw’s advise could have come straight out of my M.F.A. in Creative Writing program, but he also offered suggestions for nonfiction publishing that wasn’t emphasized, or wasn’t offered through my program. It was helpful in getting me focused as I prepare to write memoir.

In How to Become a Published Author, Mark Shaw speaks from experience, delivering well founded advice on how to get your book published for authors in every stage of their writing careers. I give it five quills.

five-quills3

 

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


A Discussion on Publishing Platforms

Ask the Authors (Round 2)

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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?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I am an indie with one small press title under my name and several under ghostwritten names.
RA Winter
RA Winter I’m published by a large publisher but it’s for my genealogy books under my married name.  For my fiction works I’ve chosen independent.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1) Traditionally as always.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture By small and large press, plus now mostly self-published.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Combination. All of my titles are independently published except one with HarperCollinsUK.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I’m currently focusing on indie publishing.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I’m independently published; however, I do work with an independent publishing company for some anthology stories.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I’m published by four small presses – Curiosity Quills, CHBB, Clean Reads, and Ellysian.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Independently


What factors influenced your decision to publish via the route you chose?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak I got jealous of a writer I knew who was going indie, honestly. I felt like I was spinning my wheels with traditional publishing. I had just gotten a letter back from a publisher going, “Great book, but we need you to completely rewrite it and change the focus from one character to this other guy.” I couldn’t do it.  I had researched the market for this book and written something that I wouldn’t have otherwise written to see if I could get a foot in the door. (I know now that that’s a bad idea; you can get stuck writing books you hate that way.) And then, after I had jumped through those hoops, they wanted something else, but they weren’t going to pay me for it until after I’d already written it, and even then who knew if they would buy the thing. I just couldn’t force myself to jump through that hoop again. So I let it go, started writing what I wanted to write, and went indie.
I’m not saying that it’s the best thing ever or that I would never change my mind. It’s just that I had to go with the choices that let me stay in love with writing.
RA Winter
RA Winter When I signed to a publisher I didn’t read the small print. Ok, I didn’t see the decimal. I get a very small pittance for each book I sell and the amount hasn’t gone up in about twelve years even though my non-fiction books sell for ten dollars more than when they were first published.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1) Same publisher as The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, Post Hill Press with distribution by Simon&Schuster.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture 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.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne 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.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy 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.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman 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.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan 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.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I felt it gave me more control.


What do you see as the pros and cons of independent/traditional publishing?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak
Indie Publishing:
  • You get to decide all the things.
  • You have to decide all the things.
  • You’re less likely to get into bookstores and libraries.
Traditional Big Publishing:
  • 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.
I think small press publishing needs its own category:
  • 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!

RA Winter

RA Winter  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.

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) Traditional much better with promotion and distribution depending on publisher. Traditional self-publishing can make sense tougher way to go.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture 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.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy

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.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman 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.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil 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?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I’m in ebook and print. I’m going to test out an audio version next year (goals!). I have .epub, .mobi/Kindle, and PDF files for my ebooks.
RA Winter

RA Winter So for I use Kindle and print. I’ll be going wide soon.

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) New book Denial of Justice, hardcover, ebook, audiobook, large print.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Most of my books are both in print and eBooks.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Print, ebook and audio. I prepare both epub and mobi versions of my books to file electronically across several platforms.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy 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.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman 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.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan All of my books, save one, are available in print and ebook. The other is only available in ebook as of right now.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Ebooks and print.


Which publishing platforms have you used? (i.e. Amazon, Book Baby, Smashwords, Lulu, D2D, etc…)
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Let’s see…
Ebook
  • 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.
I have a few titles in KDP Select to see how they’ll sell. I have one that’s doing really well, so I’ll probably leave that one alone.
Print
  • 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.

RA Winter

RA Winter Smashwords and Amazon.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Amazon and Lulu.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Amazon, D2D and ACX. I have used Ingram for a few titles but found their website too frustrating to navigate.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Amazon; Smashwords; BarnesandNoble.com

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman 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.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan  The majority of my works are on Amazon. I also have paperbacks on Barnes and Noble.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Mainly Amazon. I did try B&N, Kobo and iTunes for a while and it was a waste of time.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart 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?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak Amazon is the eight-hundred-pound gorilla; you have to deal with them one way or another, I think. But other than that, I was very fond of Kobo when they first started up, but am less so now–they seem like they’ve lost a lot of what made them extra friendly to authors. I’m really liking D2D right now. You can tell they’re playing with new ideas to benefit their authors, and they will handle a lot of persnickety formatting things for you, if you like.
RA Winter
RA Winter I like KDP. I think it is a great avenue for an unknown author, but it can be limiting. I would have gone wide earlier, but where do you market for wide?  Marketing for just Amazon is time-consuming.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Kindle is the easiest format to use. I find print editions difficult to work, no matter which company you go with.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy 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.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman 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.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil  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.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart 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.

Do you use paid advertising or just what you can do for free?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak I’m using Amazon Advertising (paid), Book Gorilla (paid), and a paid newsletter subscription service. I plan to add a few more things. I also do a ton of free stuff, mostly on social media and my website.
RA Winter
RA Winter  You really need a series to advertise and the more books the better. I have used paid ads, but with a small catalog, it just isn’t worth it. Plus, my books are priced low for everyone. For Twisted, I only charge .99cents. I get .35 cents for each book sold, that doesn’t leave any money for ads.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1) Publisher promotion.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture 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.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne 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.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I paid for a few ads, tours, promos, etc. but it really didn’t do much for sales or exposure.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman 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.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan 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.


Which platforms have you found to be most beneficial?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak It’s not so much a platform as an attitude: don’t let the water fall out of the bucket. Your efforts should coordinate with each other. The most important thing you can do is have good work published, with good covers, and good book descriptions. Second most important is a good website! You’re putting in all this effort into networking and promoting, but if your book sucks, it doesn’t matter how many people buy it–you’re going to have to start all over again with every book. If you have good books, then with every sale you make, you’re far more likely to acquire a fan.
Don’t promote your books. Earn your fans, and don’t lose them by doing something completely brainless. I have done many brainless things…like putting the wrong link to my newsletter in the back of about a dozen ebooks. I could go on.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture 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.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne 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.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman 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.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan 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.)


The rise of digital publishing opened the door for a slew of small independent presses to emerge. But not all small presses are equal, and you have to beware of publishers who won’t give authors a fair shake or worse yet, don’t deliver at all. As with editors, we want to find one that is a good fit for both the author and their works.
What should an author look for when seeking out a publisher for their book?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Check to see what other authors think about that press. Look on the Preditors and Editors website, at a minimum. Then look at the covers. If a small press had crappy covers, they will suck all across the board. And when you’re thinking about signing a contract, go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Small press contracts can be bonkers, and often all you have to do to make sure they don’t take movie rights (!) is say, “Remove the line about the movie rights.”
RA Winter
RA Winter Look at the other authors’ ranks, that will tell you how much they market for you which is what most authors are looking for in a publisher.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture 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.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy 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.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman 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.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan 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.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil A good marketing and promotional team.


Any publishing advice for new authors?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Before you sign any contract, do some freaking research on what should and should not be in them! Read the Copyright Handbook, published by Nolo Press. Learn about the business side. Those three things apply for both indie and traditionally published authors. And I always tell people to assume that your wonderful publisher/editor/agent is going to die of a heart attack soon and that your contract will be taken over by a scumbag lawyer for an heir. Assume you’re going to get screwed. But also assume that your book will turn into a million-dollar bestseller, too, and make sure you’re not groveling for peanuts. When it comes to business, get some professional advice before you sign anything. And don’t rip off your freaking cover artists!!!
RA Winter
RA Winter Publish then publish some more. Series make more money or at least have all of your books branded in the same genre. A larger portfolio is easier to market and creates loyal fans. Edit, hire someone even though it is expensive and do crit swaps of your work. Join groups before your work is out to see how other authors are making it then formulate your marketing plan. Also, I read once that most writers don’t make money until their eighth book is out, so write some more.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture 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.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Grow thick skin. You’ll need it. 😊

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy 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.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman 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.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan 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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Ask the Authors: Publishing

publishing-changes

We’ve already taken a look at the different publishing arenas in my series Pros and Cons of Traditional vs Independent vs Self-Publishing, so this installment will be a brief discussion on the topic that may repeat some of that information. Some of our panelists here also participated in that series, so if you’d like to take a more in depth look you can visit my interview with Tim Baker, or see what Art Rosch has to say, or discover Jordan Elizabeth‘s take on it, or check it out from the beginning and move on from there.

Regarding the whole publishing thing, DeAnna Knippling: I can’t answer the questions directly (nnnnnn), but if you want, here’s a blanket statement to cover the week’s stuff:

Okay, I’m deadly bored of these kinds of questions.  I know you need to ask them, but I’ve answered them so often that I really don’t have much to say other than, “Do what you want!  Mix it up!  Stir the pot!  Try something new!  Don’t try something new!”  I feel like authors get so wrapped up in “what is the secret trick to making a bajillion dollars?!?” that they stop moving forward on their journeys as writers.  The second you stop learning and growing, you’re dead.  Some of your growth comes in the publishing and marketing areas, that’s true, but writers get obsessed with success over quality, and they burn out or become repetitive cheesemongers.  And then they push forward without learning about copyright and contracts and rights and get screwed over by the people who are supposed to be “helping” them.  It’s nuts.  Read The Copyright Handbook, stop whining about having to write synopses and bios and blurbs, spend some time studying, and read the fine @#$%^&* print.

Some, like DeAnna Knippling, feel this topic is one of many which has been done to death. Of course, it has, because the rise of digital pubishing changed the game for authors and would be authors, restructuring the playing field, so today’s struggling authors may not even be sure of the rules. In today’s publishing world, this is a delimma every author has to face and we’re all looking for answers. Upcoming authors are trying to figure out this whole thing and decide which publishing route is best for them. Published authors whose books aren’t selling as well as they had hoped wonder if they made the right choice and entertain thoughts of going ‘the other way’ next time. Let’s start out this discussion by seeing what kind of mix we have on our panel.

Are you a traditionally published, small press published or self-published author?  

Jordan Elizabeth: I have books out with three small presses: Curiosity Quills, Clean Reads, and CHBB.

Cynthia Vespia: I’m what’s called a hybrid. I’ve been both small press published and now I’m mostly self-published. But the holy grail is always to land a contract with one of the big names in publishing.

Carol Riggs: All three. I have two traditionally published book with Entangled Teen, which is a smaller publisher but a notch above “small press” in my opinion. For example, they distribute with Macmillan, and my debut novel, THE BODY INSTITUTE, was featured in Barnes & Noble stores. THE LYING PLANET is also published by Entangled, while BOTTLED is published via a small press, Clean Reads. Then I’ve self-published two of my five-book series of JUNCTION 2020. I hope to release the third in the series this summer.

Chris Barili: Yes. I am a true hybrid author, with a traditional book sale (small publisher, but traditional) and a self-published series.

Janet Garber: Self Published via Lulu.

Follow-up: Would you talk a little bit about Lulu. How do they measure up as a publishing platform? What services do they offer their authors?

Janet Garber: Researching the different options was confusing. I probably decided on Lulu because I liked the salesman and also I did not find many complaints online at the time. I would not say that my approach was very scientific, but the results were more than satisfactory. I do think there are probably much cheaper options particularly if one is tech-savvy and confident about a DIY approach. I purchased additional service of press release — they basically just took what I wrote. They were supposed to send it out to appropriate outlets, but I was not at all satisfied with the outlets they approached. This was a waste of about $400!  Buyer beware!

They also offer proofreading and editing – I did not feel I needed either but I did invest in a private developmental editor and that was money well spent. As part of the LULU package, they distribute your book. So my novel is available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Ingram in paperback and ebook.
Margareth Stewart: This sounds quite intriguing for me as I have been published in many forms. I was traditionally published by Chiado Press – with my first book I have divorced, so now what? (Portuguese Edition). I self-published twice as it was taking too long to receive a positive answer from English Publishers. When I had my first novel ready, I did not want to self-publish – I wanted the experience of having someone from an out source to read Open and say: “Ok, let´s publish it” – Open/Pierre´s journey after war by Margareth Stewart was published by Web-e-books at the end of 2017. So from the experience above, nowadays I would say we all want recognition in a certain form. This may come through publishers, agents, readers, amazon – it does not matter – as long as it comes. Writing is an art waiting to being read.
The publishing journey is different for every author. We’ve all heard the sucess stories of a book that got miraculously got picked up by one of the big five and turned into a movie in a whirlwind of activity, and all the author had to do was type out the words. But for most of us, it isn’t that easy. We struggle and climb up from the bottom of the literary barrel, vying for the attention of either publishers or readers, trying to get our books onto the best seller lists, or at least sell well enough to be profitable.
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Many of you may already be familiar with my story. I sold a poem in 1996, when we still submitted via snail mail, but decided it wasn’t profitable for me until the rise of the computer age and digital publishing. I knew I wanted to write, so I landed gigs where ever I could, including the content factories, such as Demand Studios and Examiner.com. I founded an online writng group, I started this blog, Writing to be Read, and I went back to school and got my M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I self-published Last Call as an experiment. After getting several short stories and poems published, last April I found a small press publisher for Delilah, Dusty Saddle Publishing. Since then, I have become a college level English lecturer, and I’m working on increasing my marketing and promotion knowledge in order to promote the sales of my books, because with a small press, that’s pretty much up to the author. We all had to start somewhere. Let’s ask our panel members about their rise to get where they are now.

Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?  

Jordan Elizabeth: I feel as if I have written forever.  It wasn’t until college that I started taking my writing more seriously.  I queried agents until I finally found a home at the Belcastro Agency.  It was a short while after that my friend and fellow author Eliza Tilton introduced me to Curiosity Quills Press.  Another friend and fellow author, Cathrina Constantine, introduced me to CHBB.

Cynthia Vespia: When I was a senior in high school I picked up a copy of Dean Koontz’ Intensity from the library and I was immediately hooked. When I finished reading it, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to pull emotions from people the way Dean Koontz had done for me. (I’ll jump ahead here so I don’t drag on) Flash forward to the completion of my first novel The Crescent. I sent it around to different agencies, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s old agent wound up reading it, but nothing panned out. I remember coming very close to a deal with a local publishing house early on in my career but they opted to go another way. But I had a finished book, and I wanted to see what it would look like in print, so I self-published when self-publishing wasn’t cool yet. But that little book has gone on to create some great attention and is in the middle of pre-production for a movie.

My small press experience hasn’t been ideal which is why I’ve gone back to self-publishing. The one thing I will say about my small press journey is it got my series Demon Hunter in front of a lot of people and I wound up being nominated in 2009 for a Best Series award.
Carol Riggs: It took me 11 years, more than 350 rejection letters, and twelve previously written novels until my debut novel was taken on by an agent and sold to Entangled Teen. During those 11 years, I had tons of writing, rewriting, frustration, and refusing to quit going on. The road was rocky even after my debut, THE BODY INSTITUTE, got sold to Strange Chemistry, an imprint of the UK publisher, Angry Robot. Five months before my book was to come out, they closed down Strange Chemistry, and my agent and I had to scurry around and start the whole submission process over again. Pretty tooth-gnashing!

Chris Barili: My first fiction sale was a western short story called “Yellow” that I wrote for my first summer semester of my MFA studies. That story sold to The Western Online that fall, and I only mention it because 13 short story sales later, it remains the starting point for me selling fiction. My novel Smothered (as B.T. Clearwater) was originally my MFA thesis. It was a standalone romance, and I had no plans for it until Winlock Press (part of Permuted Press) held a contest to find books to premier their supernatural romance lineup. I entered and won, so not only did the book go on sale for e-books, but through Permuted’s deal with Simon and Shuster, a limited print run took place, as well, meaning–book signings at Barnes and Noble!

My Hell’s Butcher series of novellas is self-published, and I did that for the simple reason that there just aren’t markets for novellas out there in the traditional world. And since I wanted to try my hand at self-publishing, I decided the series would be my foray into that battle.

Janet Garber:  I researched the different companies online, called a few, and went with Lulu.  I was under a deadline because I wanted to sell my book at a professional conference and Lulu came through, publishing my book in a short five weeks. I was actively involved in proofing very very carefully and am happy to say end result was a fine looking book with a wonderful cover.

Margareth Stewart: I come from Academics which is a hard field to be published and to write something original. Scientific papers are  full of rules. To write a 15-page-article, it is necessary to read around 15,000 words or more, and to process it all with a very unique view. It is a though and painful process. So, when I got into the fiction world – Oh, I thought: “Heaven, I’m in heaven, And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak…”. Difficulties are part of the process. Keep writing and keep reading.

In today’s publishing world, the question of whether to go the traditional route, search out a small press with interest in your book, or to go ahead and self-publish and get your work out there is something every author has pondered at one time or another. Chances are a publisher, either taditional or small press, is not going to come knocking down your door to publish your book. Although there are authors who have had a previously self-published picked up by a publisher, it is not the norm, and although not like it once was, self-published authors may still carry a bit of stigma with publishing houses. Let’s take a look at how our panel members tackled the delimma.

What made you decide to go with traditional/small press/self-publishing?  

Jordan Elizabeth: I was hoping for a traditional publisher, but I’m thankful to my friends who have found me homes with small presses.  It seems to be true what they say about small presses being more family-oriented and helpful.

Cynthia Vespia: I went back to self-publishing because #1 the small press companies I was working with all closed their doors, and #2 because I had a very specific vision in mind for what I wanted to do with Demon Hunter when I got my rights back. But I have a few new ideas in the works that could be very successful mainstream properties, so I’m looking to go back to the traditional publishing route and finally capture that holy grail.

Carol Riggs: I think the traditional publishing makes me feel more accomplished, like my books are of better quality. I know that’s not necessarily the case, but to have professionals rooting for your writing is really reassuring and gratifying to me. For my self-published books, I’m using my JUNCTION 2020 series to grow my newsletter subscription by giving away book 1 as a freebie incentive. Find it on my website at carolriggs.com!

Janet Garber:  I was very impatient to see my book in print and hold it in my hands. So much work had gone into it, years and years of procrastination too, and I wasn’t getting any younger. For these reasons I did not even consider traditional publishers. I still hesitate on going that route because I do not want to wait 2-3 years to see my Paris novel in print, the time to secure an agent and then a publisher.  My first (nonfiction) book was traditionally published by Silver Lining Press, a branch of Barnes & Noble, and that book was brought out very quickly; I did not need an agent since they approached me with the offer to do a book, etc.

In the self-publishing arena, which platforms have you found good to work with? How do you deal with KDP’s exclusivity clause, which states that your work may not appear on any other platform?

Art Rosch: The KDP Select option IS exclusive but operates for 90 days.  There’s an auto-renew function, and if you don’t want to be enslaved by it, make sure that it is not checked.  I tried it for a few cycles.  I had to remove my book from Smashwords and go into the Dashboard to Channel Manager and remove distribution channels like Apple, Barnes and Noble, etc.  In any case, my books didn’t  sell.

I like Smashwords approach and the universality of their formats.  But no one competes with Amazon.  I haven’t published any physical books yet, but I have a bit of change on hand and I think I”ll give it a go.  Everyone has their favorite provider of such services, so there’s plenty of choice.  Publish-on-demand.  I have no demand.  I have a more serious issue, it’s a literary one, a revision of Chapter One of my autobiographical novel.  I don’t care for it at the moment.  A book begun in 1976 and I’m still revising it.  Heh!

 Cynthia Vespia: I use Amazon for ebook and print. I also have my work on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and I’ve used LuLu for some hardcover print because Amazon didn’t have that option at the time. I’ve heard that Draft 2 Digital is the place to have your ebooks as well, but I haven’t looked at it yet.

For the KDP clause what I have been doing is using it for a new release and then not renewing the enrollment. I’d rather have my work in as many spots as possible.

Although you are self-published, do you still long for the esteem of a traditional publisher? Why or why not?

Janet Garber: Since I have published widely in multiple genres and have one book traditionally published, I’m not craving validation from a traditional publisher. The appeal is mainly the feeling that a traditional publisher would sell more of my books and be better equipped to setting up opportunities for promotion (book tours, speaking engagements, etc.) Let’s not forget hybrid publishers – not sure where they fit in.

What are your thoughts on small presses? What are the pros and cons? Do you curse them or sing their praises?

Cynthia Vespia: I’ve worked with a few small presses and TBH it wasn’t ever anything that wowed me in terms of packaging. As a graphic designer I can do my own covers, and there are more than a few freelance editors whom I can hire to polish the manuscript. I never saw being under the label of a small press to be more beneficial to going indie. They just did not have the means to promote my work in a manner any better than I could do myself. Actually, it really tied my hands sometimes because if I wanted to do a sale or bring some physical copies to an event I had to go through the small press as wait. In the indie publishing world you are in charge of it all. I like that freedom of movement. I will say the one good thing about a small press would be if they have the means to get you into a bookstore or a library because most of those retailers frown upon the POD style of print that most indie authors use.

Traditional publishing has always been a tough road, and with the rise of independent publishing, I think it has gotten even tougher. Although the ‘big five’ are still out there, many traditional publishing houses and small presses are finding it hard to stay in the game with the rise of the ebook and digital publishing. Independent bookstores, as well as some of the larger chains of brick and mortar stores have folded in recent years.

According to Author Earnings’ Print vs. Digital Report, independent authors walk away with a bigger piece of the pie, overall, than traditionally published authors. Pair that with the continuous upward struggle to get noticed by traditional publishers, it is no wonder so many authors are publishing independently, even though by doing so they are taking on multiple roles that traditional publishers would cover, such as covers, marketing and promotion, etc… Let’s see if our panel members agree.

What do you see as the pros and cons of independent/traditional publishing? 

(First from those in favor of the traditional route): 

Jordan Elizabeth: The best pro I can see for traditional publishing is that you get help with marketing.  They might not hold your hand, but they will give you guidance.  A con is that you don’t make as much off ads as you would if you self-publish.

Carol Riggs: Obviously, an author has more control over writing content and cover art with indie publishing. We can make more money per book, although often a traditional publisher can help market an author, so sometimes more books are sold overall; maybe that evens out, I’m not sure. I do know authors who have done awesomely with both indie and traditional publishing. Which path you take depends on what your needs and goals are. But a definite downside to indie is you do ALL the marketing yourself, and you’d better have or hire a good editor, or quality will suffer and your book’s reception likewise. Authors being in a rush to get their books out before they’re ready gives indie publishing a bad name. Editing and polishing are essential.

(Now let’s here from the independent publishing fans):

Cynthia Vespia: There’s a lot of pros to indie publishing. As I said, you have complete control over your own work. It allows books that might never see the light of day get out to readers who enjoy the story. On the other hand, that’s the same con. There are so many people out there writing books now, and they aren’t taking the time to polish them before they get published so you get a lot of, dare I say “garage sale junk” out there. Writing is a business like anything else. You have to take the time to learn everything about it from the craft of writing, to presentation, to marketing. And that isn’t strictly for indie authors either. If you get traditional or small press published you still need to be your biggest fan to get your work out there. In a sea of books yours needs to stand out.

(And from those who have dipped into both publishing arenas):

Chris Barili: Indy publishing is great if you want control, want higher royalty cuts, and don’t like the “gatekeeper” system, but it is a LOT of work. And money. I spend between $500 and $600 publishing each Hell’s Butcher novella. That’s money I’ll never get back, as they are very  unlikely to round up a big enough audience on their own. And as an Indy author, all that marketing, publicity, and so forth — that’s on you. And I suck at it.

The traditional route costs you little or nothing out of pocket, but you give up some control, and of course it takes a MUCH longer time. I was fortunate with Winlock , as they got my e-books out in 3 months. Paperbacks a year later. A traditional publisher would take 18 – 24 months. Self-publishing about a month, probably.

Janet Garber: Pros: [With the traditional route] many people are involved in evaluating your book, making developmental suggestions and edits; these people are very savvy about the publishing world and what appeals to readers; the publishers hopefully undertake some degree of marketing for you or at least guide you to getting best bang for your book in terms of marketing dollars spent.

Cons: effort required to send queries to agents and wait-wait-wait for a positive response; possibility that agent or publisher could change their minds about publishing your book after you’ve invested a lot of time on pleasing them; need to do multiple rewrites and revisions that may alter what you wanted to say and how you wanted to say it.

It seems each publishing avenue has its advantages and disadvantages. Traditionl publishing is a tough road to travel, but it carries the advantages of having available editors, cover artists and media coverage, as well as possible prestige in some areas. While it may be at least a little bit easier to get noticed by a small independent press, the advantages are neglible, depending on the press. While some provide editing and cover artists, others don’t even do that. Most will provide some marketing and promotion, but even that isn’t guarunteed, and you may have to give up control over your work. In self publishing, you maintain control of your work, but you also have to hire out for editing and cover artists, and take on the role of marketer or pay to have it done, as well.

Whether you choose to seek out and strive for a traditional publisher, aim your efforts toward small presses, or do it all yourself to get your work out there and maintain control over it, we all have to find ways to make our writing stand out amongst a diluge of other writers and authors. Most of that must come from craft, but choosing the right cover image and giving your book a killer title help, too. But no one will ever pick up yoru book and read it unless they know it’s there, so marketing and promotion are a bigger here. We have a segment coming in about three weeks on that topic, but for now be sure and drop by next Monday, when we’ll be talking about the differences in genres.

If you have a question you’ve always wanted answered, but it’s not covered in the post on that topic, or if our panel’s answers have stirred new questions within you, pose your query in the comments. Make note if it is directed toward a specific author. Questions will be directed to the general panel unless otherwise specified. Then, in the final post for the series, I will present your questions and the responses I recieved from panel members.

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Interview with author DeAnna Knippling

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This week, I’m interviewing Colorado freelance writer, editor, author and book designer, DeAnna Knippling. I first met DeAnna through the Pike’s Peak Writers when I was still serving as the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner. What struck me about her was her enthusiasm and willingness to help where ever she can. She treats her writing as a business and goes at it with a high degree of professionalism, yet she is personable and willing to share what she’s learned from her own writing experiences.

DeAnna Knippling writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, and mystery for adults under her own name; adventurous and weird fiction for middle-grade (8-12 year old) kids under the pseudonym De Kenyon; and various thriller and suspense fiction for her ghostwriting clients under various and non-disclosable names. Her latest book, Alice’s Adventures in Underland:  The Queen of Stilled Hearts, combines two of her favorite topics–zombies and Lewis Carroll.  It’s the story of a tame zombie who told a little girl named Alice a story that got them both in more trouble than they could handle. Her short fiction has appeared in Black Static, Penumbra, Crossed Genres, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and more.

Kaye: You created Wonderland Press to get your books out there. What all is involved in creating a press for your work and what are the advantages of doing so? I mean, why would an author do this rather than just throwing their book out on Amazon or Smashwords?

DeAnna: This isn’t one of the fun answers.  It’s stupid easy to make a “press.”  It involves no special equipment.  You look online, make sure nobody else has one of that name in your state, register a business name with your state or county (look up, “How to register a business name in [name of state]”), and Bob’s your uncle.  You might want to get more complex with an LLC or something–but I recommend leaving that for later, unless you already have experience doing that.  I am, of course not a lawyer and can’t give legal advice.  When you want to start looking at an LLC or corporation, I believe, is when you start having to worry about taxes and tax brackets.

I set up my press, “Wonderland Press,” because some publishing sites back in the day didn’t want you to publish books under multiple pen names under the same account without having a publisher name.  Then I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with multiple blogs for my pen names, and moved the names to the same website (for now).  However, things are changing, and I may need to move back to multiple websites, mailing lists, etc.  The thing about business is that everything changes based on the scale of what you’re doing and how much time has passed since you set things up.  It seems like it’s more important to stick to a couple of core principles (bring customers back to a location you can control rather than social media–that kind of thing) and stay flexible in the details than it is to get wrapped up in questions like, “Should I set up a small press?”
Kaye: A lot of your books don’t fit neatly into a genre category or subcategory. How do you describe your books?
DeAnna: I’ve struggled with genre categories since I started publishing.  Part of the reason for that is that my subconscious loves to smash incongruous things together.  For example, I love puns and double entendres–two ways of seeing meaning at the same time–and I love stories that are really two things that don’t really go together being put together (like cowboys in space–Firefly).  The kinds of stories that I tend to write are kind of the opposite of sitting firmly within a genre and therefore being easy to describe.
I’m both looking into ways to get around this (by sneaking more solidly into genres) and finding out what parts of my genres I’m missing out on.  I recently finished up what I call “my cheesy ’80s genre novel.”  When I did the research to try to find out where to put it, I found that…it actually fits pretty solidly into the current Occult subgenre of Horror.  I keep trying to tell myself there’s nothing wrong with writing what feels cheesy (I certainly read it), but sometimes it takes a while for me to learn the obvious.
To actually answer your question?  Since I can’t copy my competitors, I describe my books by putting on the silliest movie announcer voice I can come up with and reading the blurbs out loud.  The more mock-serious the better.  Somehow it works.
Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or a story? What’s the least fun part?
DeAnna: Most fun:  The fun parts. Least fun:  The parts that stick the fun parts together.
I get really bored at the least fun parts.  I think that’s where the books I write start getting weird.  If I plan a book, then I plan something at least a little bit more genre-specific than what actually comes out.  But then I get bored and jump the tracks.  I feel like writing a book is a process of going “Ooooh, shiny” over and over until I step into the circle of rope hidden under the leaves in the jungle, and the ending jerks me upside down into the air.
I wish it were that quick to write the end–it’s the slowest part of the book for me as I wrap up all the shinies that I’ve picked up throughout the plot–but that’s what it feels like.
Kaye: If your writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?
DeAnna: More of the same.  My major goal in life is to allow my wonderful spouse to become a pool boy at our eccentric castle in the mountains.  Travel more.  At least, I say those things.  Probably I’d still just begrudge the time I wasn’t reading or writing.  I’d go to exotic locations and just read a book.
Kaye: Why do you think some writers sell well, and others don’t?
DeAnna: Probably that stuff I mentioned about genre.  A lot of writers will look at a successful writer’s book and go, “What a terrible writer!  Why do they sell?!?”
But here’s my experience (based on ghostwriting so much):
The stuff that I’m forced to write to genre by my clients sells a lot better than the stuff I write for myself.
Granted, you still need to know what you’re doing.  But writing a book isn’t just about pretty sentences–it’s about making the constant readers happy, feeding their addictions.  The answer to why some books are massive successes when others aren’t is often, “Because they can see the forest for the trees–and you can’t.”  Cold but true.
Kaye: Any advice for upcoming authors who are trying to get a foot in the door?

DeAnna: Just keep working.  Everybody’s in a hurry to succeed.  Success!  Millions!  Riches!  Fame! But, in the end, it comes back to the basics.  Did you read?  Did you write?  Did you learn something?  Did you talk to other people in the writing community?

“A foot in the door” is just the feeling that the universe owes you something, or that you can sneak something past somebody.  “How do I cut in line past the people who have been working their asses off for years?” And the only answers are:  Write a good story, network, value your readers, don’t be stupid about genre, work your ass off, don’t fail on purpose.  That last one is pretty significant.  I’ve seen a lot of people give up or just put things off until they’re “ready.”  The hell with waiting for “ready.”  If you’re going to do that, you’ve already failed, because this is a bootstrap industry–nobody gets the magic green light.  Even people who are going traditional start out by hustling for publishers and agents.  Make someone else tell you no.  Make them tell you no a lot.
I want to thank DeAnna for joining us here on Writing to be Read, and for sharing her knowledge with us. If you’d like to learn more about Deanna or her books, her website and blog are at www.WonderlandPress.com.  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs.Self-Publishing (Part 10): Conclusions

Red Quill

This series on publishing has been a lot of fun to create, and I hope maybe there are some of you who have read all of parts 1-9. I started it because I found that while those in my academic career seemed to be in favor of traditional publishing, with many instructors providing information about self-publishing as an option only reluctantly, while authors all around me were getting their work out there by self-publishing their books.

As I looked into the topic more, I found that some folks used the terms independently published and self-published as if they were interchangeable, while independent publishers are really smaller independent publishing houses that are not among the “big five” traditional publishers. As stated in Part 2, for the purposes of this series that is how I will refer to and view independent publishers.

One of the reasons I enjoyed writing this publishing series was that I am fortunate to know many authors, from all three publishing models, and I was able to gather many different viewpoints, examining it from all sides. Overall, I was able to obtain a pretty healthy balance between the three models. I interviewed self-published authors Jeff Bowles, Tim Baker and Arthur Rosch. In the traditional publishing arena, I talked with children’s author, Stacia Deutsch and historical and biographical author, Mark Shaw. I was only able to interview one independently published author, YA author Jordan Elizabeth, but to even it out, I also interviewed two independent publishers, Curiosity Quills Press and Caleb Seeling, owner of Conundrum Press. And for a nice rounded point of view, I spoke with my friend and children’s author, Nancy Oswald, who has published under all three models.

Now is the time to look at the series as a whole and see what conclusions can be drawn. While I think all authors secretly long for a traditional publishing deal, because being picked up by a major publishing house is ingrained in us as a symbol of success, I see independent publishing houses as a feasible alternative to holding out for the big boys, which can take a long time and for some of us, may never pay off. In some instances, debut authors have a better chance of being picked up by a smaller independent press. With both these options identifying markets which would be a good fit for your work, preparing submissions, writing cover letters and queries, synopsis and outlines will take up a lot of time which might be better spent on writing stories. Once accepted by either a major or a smaller publishing house, the author may be expected to do a good portion of the marketing and promotion, as well, although services such as editing  and illustration may be provided.

The upside to signing with a traditional publisher is that the major publishing houses pay out an advance on projected royalties, so major money can be seen in your near future. Independent houses may also pay out advances, but they won’t be nearly as big, and some do pay out a higher percentage of royalties. Of course, as Tim Baker pointed out in Part 2, the flip side to collecting a sizeable royalty is if your book flops. It would be a drag to have to pay it all back. Independent houses may also pay out advances, but they won’t be nearly as big, and some do pay out a higher percentage of royalties.

For self-published authors, there are no advances, but they keep a higher portion of their royalties than with traditional or independent publishing houses. Still, there is no big money now, and no guarantee that there ever will be. Authors may be waiting a long time for their writing to pay off.

As Stacia Deutsch mentioned in Part 4 of the series, traditional publishers provide professional editing and illustrators, to be sure your final product is of good quality. I believe this is true of independent publishing houses, as well, but you won’t find it available through the self-publishing process; one reason self-publishing carries with it such stigma. Gatekeepers insure the book you put out will be the absolute best it can be.

Despite the stigma surrounding self-published authors, due in part to a few self-publishers who like to take short cuts in lieu of putting out a quality product, there are some very good self-published authors out there.  As Jordan Elizabeth pointed out in Part 6, self-publishing has a lot to offer. Self-published authors have a lot more control over their work than traditionally published authors, who do not chose their own cover art, and may not even get to keep their own title.

As Jeff Bowles pointed out in Part 1, another possible advantage to self-publishing is the ease and relative inexpense for today’s authors. You can publish a book with Amazon almost for free, and collect either 35% or 70% of your royalties, depending on the price you place on your book. I can attest to this as it is what I did with my short story, Last Call, and it didn’t cost me one cent. At least that way, if my story doesn’t rise to the top of the best sellers lists, (which it hasn’t), I really haven’t lost anything. The important thing to remember when self-publishing is that you need to put out a quality product. It is worth it to find a good editor, and for all of us starving writers out there, an editor can be employed for a minimal expense. I also suggest utilizing a good critique partner when funds are low, but be sure to have some type of editing done, by someone other than yourself, before publishing your book.

Although Amazon has made publishing extremely easy and inexpensive for authors, they have also monopolized the industry and are making it more difficult for independent publishers, as Caleb Seeling explained in Part 8. Learn more about the negative effects Amazon has had on the publishing industry in the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s report, which emphasizes, from a consumer standpoint, the need to buy local and battle monopolization. If readers heed this warning and buy their books from local independent, or chain, bookstores right down the block, the publishing industry may change yet again.

Amazon’s monopolization affects authors and reviewers as well, as is discussed in What Amazon’s New Review Policies Mean for “Writing to be Read”. As much as Amazon’s review policies effect the reviewer, they also effect the authors who are depending on those reviews to get their books sold.

Author Mark Shaw gave us a heads up about vanity, or subsidy publishers, charging unsuspecting authors exorbitant fees to publish their work as Mark Shaw warns in Part 5. They prey on authors who desire to get their work published so bad that they are willing to empty their coffers to do so. These publishers can get outrageously expensive for authors, so don’t be drawn in. The kicker is that even if you publish on Amazon or Create Space in order to fit your budget, you still may need to spend quite a bit of time and/or money on marketing as Art Rosch tells us in Part 3.

Independent publishing houses, also referred to as small or medium-sized presses, work along the same lines as traditional publishers, but they don’t publish as many books each year as the big five do. In addition, they tend to be more specific in what they are looking for, with most having very specialized niches that your book must fit into to be published. Although all independent publishers may not follow this practice, publisher Caleb Seeling says he actually seeks out authors whose work fits into his niche. In any case, authors should be familiar with submission guidelines of the publishing house they are submitting to, whether large or small. In her article, How to Smartly Evaluate a Small Publisher, Jane Friedman, of The Hot Sheet, (the publishing industry’s news letter for authors), offers some great tips on what to look for.

In Part 7, Nancy Oswald points out one of the big advantages to publishing with a small press is the more personal relationship between author and publisher. Whereas a traditional publishing house may not be able to put a name with a face, independent publishers work closely with their authors because they only have a few at any one time. Independent publishers may also have a shorter wait time for publication than traditional houses, which can be quite lengthy.

And then there are the new kids on the block, like Curiosity Quills Press, which are hybrid publishers, offering various combinations of traditional percs with self-publishing author responsibilities. These small independent presses may charge authors for some services, like subsidy publishing, but they also provide a certain amount of author copies at no cost, provide author support, and the services they do charge for are optional. You can find out more about this new model of publishing in my post, Hybrid Publishers: What are they all about?

After hearing from the experts, it seems no matter which model you choose to publish under, there is still a lot of non-writing activities required of authors, including marketing and promotion, resulting in the need for Today’s Authors to Wear Many Different Hats. Of course, you can also do as author Jeff Lyons suggests in his interview with Arwen Chandler, and hire a third party to handle such tasks, so we, as authors can get down to the business of writing. The only problem I see with this is that you must make money before you can spend money, paying someone else to do the tasks that don’t come as naturally as writing does.

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Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 7): Interview with Children’s Author, Nancy Oswald

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In this series, we’ve taken a look at the publishing industry, which today, isn’t played by the same rules as it was 30 years ago, when traditional or independent publishing houses were about the only options an aspiring writer had. The rise in digital and self-publishing has opened up new options for aspiring authors and changed some of the rules by which the game is now played. We’ve heard from self-published authors, Jeff Bowles, Tim Baker and Arthur Rosch, and traditionally published authors, Stacia Deutsch and Mark Shaw, as well as independently published author, Jordan Elizabeth.

In this week’s interview, we’ll hear from an author who has published work via all three publishing models, award winning children’s author, Nancy Oswald. She’s published traditionally with Holt, a big New York publisher, and a small independent publisher, Filter Press, LLC. In addition, her first book was published by Scholastic Canada, but she later rewrote it and self-published a Create Space version in 2013. Nancy’s Ruby and Maude Adventure series includes Rescue in Poverty Gulch, Trouble on the Tracks and her latest book, to be released this month, Trouble Returns. (Be sure and catch my review of Trouble Returns this Friday on Writing to be Read.) Her other publishing credits include Hard Face Moon, Edward Wynkoop: Soldier and Indian Agent, Nothing Here But Stones, and Insects in the Infield. And she has a very unusual story about how she broke into the publishing industry.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?  

Nancy: In my early teens, I thought writing children’s books would be really cool and I enjoyed writing—some poetry—but most of it school related.  I didn’t get serious about publication until I was in my late twenties. 

Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us? 

Nancy: I wrote several books that I call my “cardboard cover” books for my stepson who was five when I married my husband.  They were hand written and crudely illustrated and as you’ve probably guessed, had cardboard covers that were put together with rings that clipped through the pages and the cardboard and held the whole thing together.  I did a couple of cardboard cover books for friends, too.  But my stepson outgrew his “picture” books, so I started in on a chapter book.  We lived in British Columbia at that time, so I mailed him the first chapter for Christmas and sent one chapter a month to him, finishing the book the next Christmas.  This book was typed, yes on a typewriter, but still was a FAT cardboard cover book.  After many many rewrites, this book became my first published novel for young readers.  It had 35 rejections and was finally picked up by Scholastic Canada and five years later was reprinted by them.  To this day, thanks to Scholastic’s book club program, it has outsold any of my other books. 

Kaye: What do you see as pros and cons of self-publishing?   

Nancy: In 2013, I self-published the above mentioned book.  I’ve had the rights back since about 1996, so I rewrote the book, adding about 10,000 words and it ended up as a winner in the CIPA Evvy award competition.   My likes:  I really enjoyed having full control.  I used Create Space and used their interior design service, but did the other parts myself. The Create Space team was accessible and helpful, and I had a really positive experience from beginning to end.  A word of caution:  you really need to have a clear idea of the design, font size, layout ahead of time.  You have to be clear in communicating what you want. Negatives:  Reviews were hard to get, ALL of the marketing is up to you, and if you don’t have a well-edited, professional looking copy, it will sink you

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?  
Nancy: I’m not sure about this term.  I’ve heard self-publishing referred to as Independent publishing.  My current publisher refers to herself as a small (traditional) publisher, although I’ve also heard small publishers referred to as Independent Publishers.  As for the pros of working with a small publisher, I love it.  One real perk with my publisher, at least, is my books will not ever go out of print as long as this publisher is in business.  I have a very personal (face to face) relationship with my publisher and have lots of input on design, covers, and other aspects of publication.  Also, the time from acceptance to publication is shorter. Cons:  No advance, lower sales, lower visibility.
Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing? 
Nancy: I was fortunate to have my first historical fiction book for young readers published by Henry Holt which clearly is a traditional publisher.  Pros:  Nice advance, publicity in major library catalogs, great editing (multiple editors with eyes on the book—particularly for the final reads). 
Cons:  Long wait before publication,  (like being on the tarmac at an airport, you’re given your place in line and inch forward with all the other waiting planes before take-off)  My book went into a “temporarily our of stock” status after about 4 years.
Kaye: How much does the non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), that you must do yourself vary between the different models? 
Nancy: For my self-published book, I might have done a little more particularly researching and soliciting reviews.  But otherwise, I’d say it’s a wash.  I do about the same amount for every book and have had to advocate for each and every one of them.  With Holt, and their catalog, there was some inherent publicity with the catalog and the visibility of Holt, but other than that, I have been in the trenches with everyone else.  I’ve tried a laundry list of things and am still trying.  There is no magic bullet.
Kaye: Which publishing model would you recommend to aspiring authors, and why? 
Nancy: My answer here is, it depends.  I think you have to take a good look at your goals as a writer and your reasons for writing your book.  If, for instance, you have a non-fiction book with information people are drooling over, then self-publish and get yourself out there to groups to speak about your topic.  This is a great way to sell books.  If you want a book for family and friends, and don’t care about sales, this is also best.  And if you have lots of energy for marketing and love interacting with people and don’t mind selling, then, go for it!  Self-publishing does not have the stigma it used to, but first and foremost create a good product, so your book doesn’t fall into the negative paradigm some people still hold about self-publishing.  Other than that, research publishers and find the one you feel is the best match for your book.  If your heart is set on being published with a New York publisher, keep at it—go to conferences, get an agent, and start in.  People have done this successfully, but I believe you have to be more patient and persistent and also very savvy about book publication in 2016.  Otherwise, just start in by researching small publishers and see which ones fit your project.  You’ll know it’s the right one because they will like your work and you will like their mission and goals. 
I want to thank Nancy for joining us and sharing her thoughts and her unique publishing story here on Writing to be Read. You can learn more about Nancy and her books on her website. Be sure and join us the next two Mondays for Part 8 and Part 9, when we will hear from two independent publishing houses, Curiosity Quills Press and Conundrum Press. It promises to be interesting, so don’t miss it.
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Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 5): Interview with Traditionally Published Author, Mark Shaw

 

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Those who remember traditional publishing prior to the digital age, recall an industry which was not easy to break into, but with persistence, it could pay off with large advances, and a contract from one of the “Big Five” publishing houses. Your publisher took care of the rest: editing and proofreading, cover and/or illustrations, publicity and marketing. In many ways, it is the same today, but one thing self-publishing and independent publishing have changed, is that they showed traditional publishers that authors were capable of doing their own promotion and marketing. Today’s authors, it seems, are now expected to carry the weight for these tasks no matter which model is chosen.

The rise of digital and self-publishing also brought about a rise in publishing scams, designed to take advantage of aspiring authors and empty their pocketbooks. In the 1990s, when I began writing, they called them vanity presses.An author would send in their work and receive a very favorable response, praising their work and offering to publish it for a fee. As the author moves through the publishing process, the fees keep adding up. Today they are called subsidy publishers. As with traditional publishers, subsidy publishers hold the rights to the book, although the author is paying them to publish it.

So far in the series we’ve heard from self-published authors, Jeff Bowles, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, and we’ve heard from traditionally published author Stacia Deutsch. Join me today to get more of the traditionally published POV in my interview with author Mark Shaw. Among his 25 published works are books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing as The Southern Colorado Literature Examiner: The Mask of Holiness, a biography of Thomas Merton, and Stations Along the Way, a biography of former Hitler youth leader, Ursela Martens. In addition  to being a traditionally published author, Mark is a literary consultant and entertainment attorney, so he knows of what he speaks.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Mark: I’m a former criminal defense lawyer and I never considered being an author until I covered the Mike Tyson rape trial for CNN, ESPN, and USA Today. I believed Tyson was denied justice and so I wrote my first book, Down For the Count.

Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?

Mark: I was able to find a literary agent to represent the Tyson book and he found a traditional publisher. I had enjoyed the writing process and the book sold well so I looked for new subjects to write about and within a few years I had published several traditionally published books. Looking for a theme to weave through new books, I landed on “justice denied” and the last four or five I have written including my latest “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen,” are symbolic of the type of books I write. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this book will be my 25th since I never had any formal training as a writer but I’m blessed that people have enjoyed the “stop and think” aspect of the books and continue to praise my body of work.

Kaye: What do you see as pros and cons of self-publishing?

Mark: As noted in my book about the publishing process, “How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication,” as long as it’s what we call “traditional self-publishing (no subsidy publisher) then okay, but the career of any writer who uses a subsidy publisher where they pay to have the book published (Dorrance, iUniverse, Trafford, AuthorHouse, XLibris, etc.) is doomed with many who have come to me for consulting telling horror stories of losing their life savings, their homes, etc. Subsidy Publishing is the absolute kiss of death and so many writers fall prey to subsidy publishers that promise the moon and end up with boxes of books in the basement they can never sell since libraries and most bookstores won’t touch them. This is unfortunate since aspiring authors can use a combination of Create Space and Ingram Spark to publish a book with very minimal cost and this traditional self-publishing method is a badge of honor and libraries and bookstores will be interested in purchasing and stocking the book.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?

Mark: There seems to be confusion as to what this term means but as long as it doesn’t include subsidy publishing, I’m all for it.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing?

Mark: I encourage writers to try the traditional publishing route by using query letters and book proposals and a good strategy for landing a literary agent or publisher and if that doesn’t work, then use traditional self-publishing. The advantages of traditional publishing include the publisher paying for all aspects of the publishing process, editing, layout, cover, etc. without the writer putting up a cent but most importantly traditional publishing includes distribution (my new book has Simon&Schuster distribution) which traditional self-publishing lacks since the author must do the distribution. One disadvantage these days for a first time author is that unlike ten years ago, many traditional publishers will not do much toward promotion and thus the author is expected to do the major part of the work.

Kaye: How much does the non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), that you must do yourself vary between the different models?

Mark: You are talking about completely different subjects here. With marketing and promotion, regardless of the method of publishing, an author has to understand that he or she must be the guiding force behind book publicity. With illustrations and book covers, etc. traditional publishers will handle this task while the author of any traditional self-published book is responsible for handling these matters and there are several outstanding consultants who can help with this tasks. Again, writers should stay away from subsidy publishers many of whom produce inferior books that cause problems right away with the authors’ reputation.

Kaye: Do you recommend traditional publishing for today’s aspiring authors, and why or why not?

Mark: Absolutely but writers must proceed with a well-developed strategy such as the “10-Step Method” outlined in “How to Become a Published Author.” There are no shortcuts possible here and most writers don’t want to put in the hard work necessary to secure a literary agent so their chances of securing a publisher are optimized.

 

I want to thank Mark for sharing his thoughts with us.  Also, I’m excited to be reviewing his latest book. Be sure and catch my review of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much on November 25, right here on Writing to be Read. To learn more about Mark Shaw or his books visit his website.

Don’t miss next Monday’s post and my interview with independently published YA author, Jordan Elizabeth, and get her thoughts on today’s publishing industry on Writing to be Read.

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