Self-Publishing Strategies

Mystery Of The “Hybrid”: Just A Phase For Authors?

1 April 2014

From Thought Catalog:

Everything is changing amazingly fast for writers. Procedure; publishing patterns; “best practices” that won’t be best in 10 more minutes; broken rules; and lady-or-tiger options—say the secret word and you either get kissed by an online promotion or eaten alive by an algorithm.

It’s one of the reasons that authors spend so much time reading each other’s blog posts. They’re searching for answers no one has. Never has so much wisdom been offered to so many by so many others who knew so little more than the first many. (And thank God Churchill didn’t live to read that mess.)

It’s almost preposterous how many writers are writing books about how to write a book—the #bookbooks, I call them. Is it a bit cannibalistic, writing these things to sell to your fellow writers? Yes, it is. We had enough #bookbooks ten years ago. They’re all here, thank you. “Why do all the ladies of my parish bake cupcakes once a month and sell them to each other?” asks Rev. March in John Updike’s The Centaur. Maybe because it’s easier to sell to each other than to strangers. And maybe it’s more comfortable to sell books to other writers than to readers?

. . . .

The idea is that as an author, you are neither all-self-publishing nor all-traditionally publishing. You are both. You’re a “hybrid.” Case-by-case basis. If your agent turns up his nose at your latest masterpiece, you just publish it yourself. So there. But if your agent likes it and can sell it to a publisher, then that’s great: all those “author services” (editing, cover and interior design, formatting, and no marketing) are done for you by the publishing house.

Authors have learned to make sure their traditional contracts allow them to moonlight in this way.

. . . .

The hybrid=good formula has looked so stable that it may come as an unsettling surprise to some that North Carolina cozy queen Elizabeth Spann Craig now is questioning how the hybrid birdbath looks in her own backyard.

In Must a Writer Go Hybrid for a Higher Income?, she writes:

Maybe my main point is that you don’t have to remain a hybrid writer. You could start out as a hybrid author, soak up all the knowledge you can, and then self-publish afterward.

Uh-oh. What new heresy is this? Actually, it’s considerably well thought-out stuff and has drawn some 50 comments to Craig’s blog (“Mystery Writing is Murder”), which is well-read but not always so heavily yakked up.

. . . .

Somewhere in an office in Manhattan, coffee just paused on its way across the desk. An “I Heart Books” mug is being set back down.

I feel that the benefits that I’ve received are winding down.  I’ve gotten a great education from my talented editors.

Craig has written a Dear John letter.

And if anything can make the publishing establishment listen up, it might well be this: a highly successful, dependable, cozy-writing champ near the line between North and South Carolina announcing that she’s had just about all she needs, y’all, from the industry! the industry! 

Dean & DeLuca coffee is cooling fast as Craig goes on:

I’ve received exposure in physical bookstores and libraries and an introduction to a dedicated reader base.  I hate to sound like I just want to take my ball and go home, but that’s likely the ultimate direction I’m heading in.

Coffee now? Ice-cold:

Mainly, now…I feel as if my self-publishing production is slowed down because of traditional publishing.  I wince as I say that, but it’s the truth.

Link to the rest at Thought Catalog and thanks to Randall for the tip.

PG says the article points out an uncomfortable myth Big Publishing has sold itself about hybrid authors. They’ve regarded it as the literary equivalent of an open marriage. Sure, an author will go for a weekend fling with self-publishing, but, after a little playtime with Amazon, will return to the welcoming bosom of tradpub.

PG warns that the tradpub contracts can be more of a problem than the article implies if the author isn’t careful, but Elizabeth Craig is far from the only author coming to this conclusion. People who are selling very nicely for tradpub are coming to the conclusion that there are diminishing returns to staying there.

Reputation built? Check. Faithful readers in place? Check. Library patrons can find some of your books? Check. Nothing new that Big Publishing can offer? Check. Want to permanently trade ebook royalties of less than 15% of selling price for royalties of just under 70% of selling price? Check.

First known pattern of authors exploiting big publishers instead of the other way around? Check.

Somebody will think PG messed up his royalty numbers. After all, it says in all Big Publishing contracts that the author will receive a 25% ebook royalty. Knowing PG quit taking math classes after advanced algebra, a numerical error might not be a bad assumption, but he’s not wrong in this case.

When an indie author deals with Amazon, he/she receives 70% of the ebook selling price (less delivery charges). When a tradpub author deals with a publisher, he/she receives 25% of what the publisher receives from Amazon, not 25% of the ebook selling price.

Here are the numbers, assuming the publisher is selling the ebook for a 70% royalty from Amazon (not always a good assumption):

Selling Price$9.99
Royalty %70%
Amount received by Publisher$6.99
Author’s gross royalty %25%
Gross royalty to Author$1.75
Agent’s %15%
Agent’s share$0.26
Author’s royalty received$1.49
Author’s net royalty %14.88%

PG hasn’t included Amazon’s delivery charges, assuming they’re likely to be pretty much the same for tradpub and selfpub.

Why I Choose to Both Self-Publish and Traditionally Publish

18 March 2014

From CJ Lyons via Jane Friedman’s blog:

Since 2009, after the release of my second novel, I’ve been a so-called hybrid author, working with New York publishers as well as self-publishing. I’m often asked why I chose to combine these two seemingly disparate publishing careers, juggling twice the work.

The answer is simple: It’s not twice the work or two different careers. It’s one career—my career.

But that’s not even the right question to ask. It’s not about me or New York. The right question—in fact, the one I asked myself before embarking on self-publishing—is: What is the best way to get my books in front of my readers?

At the time I had two books in a series published, but the books were being brought out one a year and readers were clamoring for more. My agent and I had many discussions with my editor, including a face-to-face meeting with her and the publisher. We explained the difficulties of building a readership and keeping my name prominent in their minds with such a slow release schedule.

Their answer: that’s the way their production schedule worked.

. . . .

Frustrated at my inability to provide my readers with what they wanted—more stories from me—when e-book self-publishing opportunities arose, I jumped right in. I never considered making money; I only wanted to get more books out to my readers in the hopes that they’d remember my name by the time my next New York–published book eventually hit the shelves.

With that decision, I not only created a massively successful way to grow and serve my readership, I also took control of my career. I finally realized it wasn’t up to New York to decide how many books a year I published or what genre my books were categorized as or even how they were distributed.

. . . .

So I made my choice. To embrace the world of possibilities and form my own Global Publishing Empire. As CEO, I decide whom I want to partner with.

. . . .

Currently, my strategic partnerships also include New York publishers. Why? Because they can still serve my readers via their distribution channels and marketing as well as serving me via their editorial guidance to take my craft to the next level. And traditional publishers are still the best at turning a book into an event.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

CJ was just named to the Executive Council of The Authors Guild

Publishing’s hits and misses

26 February 2014

From FutureBook:

“Self-publishing through Amazon changed my life but the way Macmillan have handled me has made that grow.” And so writes the author Kerry Wilkinson in a blog about his journey from self-published ‘Kindle King’ to Pan Macmillan author.

Kerry’s blog is a necessary corrective to some of the bluster blogged about both publishing and self-publishing recently. It is open, honest and without the rancour that has come to characterise this debate. As Kerry notes, “the issue surely isn’t self-publishing versus traditional publishing, it’s good publishing versus bad.”

Not every author’s experience of publishing, however they do it, will be a positive one. Most recently Mark Edwards wrote on Facebook a response to a news report about his latest Amazon deal. Edwards along with his co-author Louise Voss had been one of the original Kindle sensations, leading to a deal with HarperCollins. But Edwards is now back self-publishing some titles, and has recently done a deal with Amazon’s publishing imprint Thomas & Mercer.

A spokesperson for HC commented: “We were thrilled to acquire Catch Your Death and hoped that Mark and Louise’s legion of word-of-mouth fans would prove to be a loyal readership that would follow them through to physical and to their subsequent titles. Sadly, despite great support from both the supermarkets and the high street, that hasn’t happened. We would like to wish them success with their new venture.” But Mark disagreed, and on Facebook, wrote: “HC [HarperCollins] never spent a penny marketing or promoting us. They expected our ‘legion of fans’ to buy the paperbacks after they had already bought the ebook, without making any attempt to find us new readers. By the time the new titles came out, they had given up on us.”

. . . .

As Kerry blogged, Pan Macmillan concentrated on building his audience, the opposite of what Edwards felt happened with HarperCollins.

Link to the rest at FutureBook

Kobo Teams With Andre On Translations

15 February 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

Author Bella Andre has struck a deal with Kobo that will give the e-bookseller exclusive rights to the French translation of some of her titles for a three month period. The agreement is part of what Andre told PW is part of a new effort to do more translations of her books rather than license rights to overseas publishers.

In the Kobo deal, the company will get a three-month window to titles in Andre’s five volume Four Weddings and a Fiasco series written under her Lucy Kevin pen name. The titles will be published through the Kobo Writing Life self-publishing platform and the first book, The Wedding Gift (Le Cadeau) is now available. Andre said that in teaming with Kobo, the company helped with the French translations. After the three month exclusive period following the release of each title, Andre can then distribute the French language e-books on all retailer sites for all devices, make POD paperbacks of the French translations, and release French audiobooks.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Anthea for the tip.

Passive Guy says this is refreshing change from contracts that last for the life of the copyright.

Is #Indie Publishing Worth It? Would I do it again? A tell-all.

15 February 2014

From author Toby Neal:

[Y]esterday I heard from a talented writer who used to work in my former agent’s office. This person knew my writing from the get-go. She knew how hard the agency worked to sell my book series, and she had to find another job when my agent retired in frustration in 2011. She has continued to write herself, and watch my career as someone who has seen it from that very first version of Blood Orchids, that, while needing a complete rewrite, had enough promise to attract her boss.  Spurred by the Authorearnings disclosure, and “on the fence” herself about which way to go with agent interest in her work, she wrote me a series of questions to help her decide whether to persist with the traditional route or make the leap to “author-publisher.”

The discussion was so good I thought I’d share it with other writers struggling with the same dilemma.

. . . .

Writer-on-the-fence: Would you self-publish again? 

As you know more than anyone, I was devastated when our agent retired in 2011 and I was left without representation. It had taken me two years to get an agent and 179 query letters! Then, we hadn’t sold the series in 9 months (well, we did get an offer, but it was too low and digital rights only.)

. . . .

I felt after that much “lost time” I had to try self-publishing, and our agent’s comments on the market had been very discouraging, so I thought at least it couldn’t hurt  to try. I did, however, go “high end” from the beginning, with a top-tier cover artist (Julie Metz) a publicist, and two rounds of professional structural editing… That first book cost me $12,000 to produce and market its first month. (Now I have my book development expenses whittled down to a mere $4-6,000.) However, Blood Orchids paid for itself within two months after debuting in December 2011, and last year alone I netted close to a hundred thousand in sales.

I think of my books as a start-up business, so I spent at least half of that on new book development and advertising. This has made my take-home income just replacing the middle-class amount I made as a school counselor, a job I was able to leave because my writing income had replaced the need for a 9-to-5. I choose to keep re-investing in new books because, as others have said, every title is a worker bee out there earning for me, and the model that works in indie publishing is capturing your readers and keeping them reading and engaged with a flow of new titles.

My books still cost more than many other indies report, but I won’t stint on the quality and I love the team I’ve built.

. . . .

The publishing side’s a business, and while I’m PASSIONATE about my writing (I even feel I tell stories with deeper messages and meaning, call it hubris if you will) I run it like a business. To make money as an author/publisher you have to be a good businessperson and a fast and prolific writer…or you can be a hobbyist, as many are.

Would I self-publish again? The question is no longer that. It’s now, what deal could a traditional publisher offer me that I would take? And my answer, if I’m honest, is a six-figure, print-only deal (at least for the mysteries.) And I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Link to the rest at Toby Neal

People-Powered Publishing Is Changing All the Rules

10 February 2014

From Mashable:

After a long day at work as a personal assistant, 28-year-old Nikki Kelly was commuting home on the London Underground’s Central Line when she received an eagerly anticipated email. “I’m not going to read it on the train in case it’s a ‘no,’” she thought. She was expecting a rejection.

Kelly got off the train two stops early. On the platform, she looked at her iPad and tentatively read the first couple of lines of the message.

The email was from the editor in chief at a prominent children’s publisher. They liked her manuscript.

“I burst into tears,” she says. “I was literally standing on the platform sobbing and people were looking at me like I was very strange.”

. . . .

Self-publishing used to be synonymous with unprestigious “vanity publishing,” where well-off authors who couldn’t get their books into print by traditional means paid small, independent presses to publish them. But with the advent of e-books, social reading sites and simple digital self-publishing software and platforms, all that has changed. An increasing proportion of authors now actively choose to self-publish their work, giving them better control over their books’ rights, marketing, distribution and pricing.

Other authors, like Kelly, self-publish as a way to bypass the seemingly endless rounds of rejection, particularly when sending books to publishing houses, hoping to get “spotted” once their work rises on the e-book charts.

. . . .

In December 2012, Kelly uploaded Lailah to Wattpad. With 20 million monthly unique visitors and over 29 million stories, Wattpad has become one of the largest communities of writers and readers on the web.

Lailah racked up nearly 2 million reads on the site and saw huge amounts of reader engagement, including thousands of votes and comments.

Because Kelly’s book, a love story about an immortal 17-year-old girl drawn into a battle between vampires and angels, takes place around the month of December, she decided to serialize it, “so the reader would feel like they were in real time with the story.” Kelly uploaded the story in seven sections, plus the epilogue, which takes place on New Year’s Day, at a minute past midnight on Jan. 1, 2013.

Link to the rest at Mashable and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Fast-Paced Best Seller: Author Russell Blake Thrives on Volumes

9 January 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

Yoon Kimn wishes Russell Blake wouldn’t write so much.

Ms. Kimn, a 46-year-old IT consultant who lives in Coram, N.Y., is addicted to Mr. Blake’s fast-paced mysteries and conspiracy thrillers. In the past two years, she has torn through all 25 of his books. But it is hard to keep up. Mr. Blake has been publishing a new novel roughly every five weeks. In December, he released two new books: a hard-boiled noir detective novel starring a struggling Hollywood private investigator, and a thriller about an ex-Mossad agent on the run.

. . . .

Some novelists are obsessed by plot pacing and character development, others by a literary turn of phrase. For Mr. Blake, it is about speed, and volume. Mr. Blake, who self-publishes his books, has released 25 books in the last 30 months.

He wrote one of his best-selling books, the 229-page thriller “JET,” in just 16 days. He churns out 7,000 to 10,000 words a day and often works from eight in the morning until midnight. He spends many of those hours on a treadmill desk, clocking eight to 10 miles.

“Being an author is like being a shark, you have to keep swimming or you die,” he says. “People don’t want to wait a year and a half for the next book in the series, they want instant gratification.”

The hours and miles are paying off. Mr. Blake discovered that one way to sell a lot of books is to write a lot of books. He says he has sold more than 435,000 copies of his books, at around $5 to $6 each, and under Amazon’s self-publishing program, he keeps 70%.

. . . .

Self-publishing has become a booming sector of the book business, thanks in part to prolific authors. Bowker, a publishing research firm, tracked 391,000 self-published titles in 2012, up from 51,237 in 2006. In 2013, self-published books accounted for 32% of the 100 top selling e-books on Amazon each week, on average.

Some self-published authors produce more books a year than many established writers put out in a lifetime. Jon Hargrove, who self-publishes vampire novels and mysteries under the pen name J.R. Rain, released 18 books in 2013, including eight that he co-wrote with other credited authors.

Melissa Foster, a 47-year-old mother of six who lives in Maryland, self-published 11 novels in 2013, mostly romances, and says she has sold more than 400,000 copies.

. . . .

To ward off the sloppiness that inevitably comes with such speed, Mr. Osso pays two editors and a proofreader to comb through his books for errors and typos. His content editor, Dorothy Zemach, a freelance editor who used to work for Cambridge University Press, says it can be taxing to keep up. “There are evenings when my husband says, ‘Don’t check your email, there will be another book from Russell,’ ” she says.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Seeley for the tip.

Genre versus Author Platform? Which Matters More?

18 December 2013

From author C.S. Lakin on The Book Designer:

Is it enough for an author to write a terrific book, then market it wisely, devoting a lot of energy and time to building an author platform? Will that ensure great sales? Most authors have precious little time to spend on building their platforms, yet most experts in publishing will agree that author platform is crucial.

But how crucial? Even if an author spends hours a week trying to get known—via social networking, blogging, listing their books on paid and free promotions, joining in on forums, offering sales—often all that effort shows little return in the way of sales, new readers, and buzz. A million writers are vying for attention, and many are putting out similar effort to build their author platform.

. . . .

Without going into the strategies and methods for either fiction or nonfiction platform-building, I’d like to take a step back and ask this question:

How much does genre [for the novelists] have a bearing on success?

This is a question I did not want to ask myself, but after writing more than a dozen novels in various genres and spending years trying to market them, promote them, grow sales and readers, I kept coming back to this question.

Why? Because although my books were getting terrific reviews and winning awards, they were not strict genre novels—in fact many of my books are a bit experimental and can’t be easily categorized. My books just weren’t selling much.

. . . .

What I did see was that these hugely successful authors were writing to a specific genre, and often a niche genre. What do I mean by that? I mean a subgenre that has a particular readership—one that is very large and one that has few (compared to other main genres) books available for sale. What I was seeing was a manifestation of the old economics “supply and demand” rule.

. . . .

  • I picked the subgenre I was told “sells itself” without any author platform
  • I came up with a pen name so I would be an unknown, unpublished author
  • I chose one novel to deconstruct. [NOTE PLEASE: I did not plagiarize or copy the plot, writing, or tried to mimic this author. I just deconstructedthe structure. If you don’t know what that involves, buy my book when it comes out!]
  • After deconstructing the novel, I plotted and constructed mine
  • I hired the same cover designer to brand my look for my series
  • While writing the novel, I copied and pasted 30 Amazon descriptions of books in this genre in order to create my own in the same style and fashion [NOTE: this was a genre I had never even read, so had no clue how this differed from the genres I already wrote in]
  • I got a couple of well-known author friends and a reviewer for the Examiner to read in advance and write me reviews/endorsements, so I’d have something to put in the book and on the Amazon page
  • I did set up tweets (not as my pen name but via my real Twitter account) to get some exposure
  • I set up a Facebook page for the author, but did nothing to promote it. Even now it has maybe 25 likes. So no big influence there
  • I hired an assistant to find bloggers and reviewers, but only had three people blog about the novel when it was released

. . . .

The novel has only been out a month. Within the first two weeks, the book jumped to paid #247 on Amazon, and hit the top ten genre lists: Historicals, Historical Westerns, Western Romance. My genre is Historical Western Romance (and more specifically sweetWestern—meaning no sex or heat).

In those two weeks, the book sold more than 1,500 copies at full price ($3.99 US), while all the top twenty on the lists were sale priced. I wanted to start out the gate with the novel regularly priced and not discounted, based on Mark Coker’s research (Smashwords) that $3.99 sells better than any other price. I also wanted to imply “quality” because it is a long, rich, quality book.

My novel has been on the genre lists’ top 100 ever since, selling about 30-50 books a day. Way more than I ever made on any of my other dozen novels.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer and thanks to William for the tip.

From Rags to Riches: An Indie Author Success Story

16 December 2013

From Kimberly Kinrade:

 As a woman who went from being a single mother of three living on welfare after leaving an abusive marriage, to a now happily married woman who made a comfortable 6-figure income this year in book royalties alone, I feel pretty darn rich.

When my husband/writing partner (the Karpov to my Kinrade) and I met on Twitter in 2010, I had just barely regained my footing after an abusive marriage that left me financially devastated and physically and emotionally wounded.

Back in the summer of 2008 I had finished my first book and took it, along with all of my hopes and dreams, to the Maui Writers Conference, where I pitched it to a handful of interested agents. But the moment I came home, my life fell apart, as did my dreams.

I lost my house, and ended my abusive marriage, which left me broke with three very young girls to raise while battling health issues.

. . . .

Even at my most desperate, living with my children in a camper trailer in my parent’s backyard, I persevered in my dreams.

. . . .

It was around that time that I met my writing partner who soon became the love of my life and husband. He inspired me to write fiction again, and to never give up on what I loved the most.

That road from there to where we are now wasn’t easy. In just over two years I (and we) published 17 books and several short stories. We learned how to format and design covers and market. We worked multiple jobs and wrote full time while scraping by with almost nothing for a year.

. . . .

Last year our income from writing was part time at best. It helped cover some expenses, but we only got paid quarterly from the small press we’d published our first ten books with and it certainly wasn’t a livable income for five.

When we published the first of The Seduced Saga in late January this year, our income skyrocketed from a few hundred a month to almost $10,000 in February. Since then, we’ve self-published Seduced: Rose’s Story as three books and a trilogy version, as well as two sequels in a new serial of Seduced by Lies. And our income has consistently been anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 a month all year, in large part due to that self-published series.

. . . .

1. It takes a LOT of work to become an ‘overnight success.’ We went from almost nothing to so very much, practically overnight. We lucked upon a series that struck the right niche readership and created something of a cult following of Seduced fans. I don’t know how or why, but I’m very grateful. But I’d written ten other wonderful books before striking gold, and we burned the candle at both ends, never giving up when sales didn’t come and we still had to do other jobs to make ends meet and feed our children. We never rested, worked hard and sacrificed a lot to keep going. We pushed ourselves to study the industry and learn everything we could about not just the craft of writing, but of marketing, design, formatting and publishing.

. . . .

4. We learned that having creative and marketing control of our work made a big difference. Even with a small press, we don’t have the marketing and creative control we need to make those books as successful as Seduced is. Now, part of that could be genre, but a lot of it is the fact that we can take risks, change our plans and try new things with our work. We can’t do that with books we don’t own the rights to. That’s not to say we wouldn’t love to create a mutually beneficial partnership with a bigger publisher, particularly in the print book arena, but we are quite happy with the success our indie books have experienced.

Link to the rest at Karpov Kinrade and thanks to Anne for the tip.

Author Nick Spalding’s top 10 self-publishing tips

15 December 2013

From the BBC:

Nick Spalding is the bestselling self-published author in the UK. He recently signed a six-figure book deal.

His romantic comedies Love… From Both Sides and Love… And Sleepless Nights were the first and third-best selling self-published e-books in 2012.

With Amazon saying 15% of Kindle sales come from authors with no book deal, here are his top 10 tips to succeeding in a crowded field.

1. Don’t give up the day job

I was a media officer for the police. It did help a bit – knowing how to write a press release, but it didn’t help so much with writing the book! I didn’t give up my day job until I’d signed a contract with Hodder & Stoughton.

It is such an up and down industry – you can be flavour of the month one minute and nothing the next, even when you have had a certain level of success. Until you’ve got enough money coming in to be able to justify it to yourself, don’t give up the day job.

Everyone wants to live the dream and write full time, but it is a very difficult industry to get into and a very difficult industry to stay in. Learn to write around your day job in the beginning, that’s what I did. Frankly it’s what almost every successful author in history had to do with only a few exceptions.

. . . .

7. Try every possible avenue

I’ve got a great agent now. He’s got me some great deals and, in that respect, I think an agent is still a good commodity to have. I’ve got a traditional publishing contract now, too, but it doesn’t stop me from self-publishing.

I love that because it’s how I started and it’s not something I’m ashamed of. What the self-publishing thing does is give you another avenue. There is no need to go down one avenue and not the other these days, you can do both.

Every writer wants their book to be read. It doesn’t really matter anymore how you go about achieving that as long as two things happen: You get your book read by as many people as possible and you get paid for writing it. Whatever avenues get you that result should be explored.

Link to the rest at BBC

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