The journey from Self-Published to Traditionally Published author

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

I often get asked why I decided to self-publish my books. It all started in the summer of 2019 when I attended the Winchester Writers’ Festival, submitting the first three chapters and a synopsis of my debut novel Leave Well Alone to four literary agents beforehand.

It was a busy weekend, listening to guest speakers, participating in workshops, meeting other authors and joining writing seminars. In addition, during the festival, I attended one-to-one sessions with each of the agents I had submitted my work to. These sessions were how I imagined speed dating to be, but for writers to find an agent rather than a lover.

There were about thirty agents in a hall and as many authors. A bell would ring, indicating the start and finish of each session, when the authors would stand up and leave their current perspective before moving on to the next agent. The stakes were high for us authors, each session intense as we hoped to find an agent.

The highlight of the weekend came when I sat down opposite the third agent (from a very reputable agency), and she said, ‘I love it. Everything about it. Your story idea, your writing, your characters, everything!’ We spent the ten-minute slot chatting about the publication process and the author name I should use. It was a surreal moment, and I was beyond excited! While raising my three sons, one of whom has severe disabilities, I’d been writing Leave Well Alone on and off for seven years. I envisaged signing copies of my labour of love in bookstores. I fantasised about seeing it at the airport.

But life doesn’t always take the path we hope for.

Things didn’t work out with that agent (long story), and to say I was bitterly disappointed is an understatement.

But, in hindsight, it was the best thing to happen to me. And if I ever met that agent again, I would wholeheartedly thank her for not taking me on.

I threw my manuscript into the Cloud in disdain and began plotting my second book, Don’t Come Looking. By the end of the year, I had completed a very rough draft.

Discouraged by the agenting process, I began researching self-publishing and what it would entail to get my book into the hands of readers. I found an editor (who went on to edit all my six self-published books) and worked with her to make Leave Well Alone the best it could possibly be. I spent hours learning the beginning of the publishing world and constructing a marketing plan, and at the end of 2019, I decided 2020 would be the year I would see my debut in print.

I found a cover designer, devised a detailed publishing schedule, and taught myself how to run Amazon and Facebook ads. Then, on August 1st, 2020, I self-published my debut. By Christmas, it had earned Amazon’s bestseller tag, topping the charts in both the UK and the USA. Little did I know I would go on to self-publish another five books.

In May 2023, I was approached by Bookouture, a division of Hachette UK, to work with them. Two months later, I signed a two-book deal with them. I was thrilled they signed me on two books I hadn’t even written. I spent the rest of 2023 writing How Can I Trust You? and Did I Kill My Husband? to be published on April 8th and May 29th respectively. I also wrote a short story, Sweet Revenge, to introduce new readers to my work. You can pick up a copy from the following link:

I’m currently writing books nine and ten, which I can’t wait to tell my readers more about.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

The sad realities of publishing a book: money!

From Crazy Classic Rock:

In this blog post, we’re going to talk about money and the business side of things. Money is a topic that makes me anxious and it’s not the most fun one to think about, but until we have fully automated luxury gay space communism it’s necessary in order to live. I want to be as open and honest about all the sides of self-publishing so you can make the most informed decision you can as an author. There are many great things like having a lot of creative freedom and getting to call the shots, however that freedom comes with a tradeoff, you have to pony up a lot of money and your hope is to at least break even, or if you’re lucky you might make a profit! Whereas with a traditional publisher, you don’t have to pay anything up front, but they get a lot more control – they may pick a book cover design you don’t like or ask you to omit an entire chapter. Regardless, you’ve poured your heart and soul into this book and you hope that it’s something that will sell and not fade away into oblivion. You don’t want to feel like that person who bakes a cake for a party and then no one eats it.

. . . .

The books are being shipped from my home in England. The book itself costs £13.99. I calculated shipping costs on the Royal Mail website and using my website statistics did estimates for the countries where I have the most readers and followers, so the Anglosphere and Europe, mainly. If you live elsewhere and you want to buy the book through me, contact me and I’ll get you a shipping quote. I want to make sure that anyone who wants my book can get an autographed copy, which you can only get if you buy directly through me. If you order from another website, I cannot sign your book, unless we happen to bump into each other and you happen to have your copy of Crime of the Century with you – in that case I’d be very happy to sign it and take a selfie with you!

  • If you live in the UK, shipping is just £3.50, for a total cost of £17.49.
  • If you live in Europe (not just the European Union, but also other countries in Europe), the shipping is £11, for a total cost of £24.99, which would be about €29.
  • If you live in North America (Canada, USA, and Mexico), the shipping is £16, for a total cost of £29.99, which would be about $52 Canadian, $38 US, or about 645 pesos.
  • If you live in Australia or New Zealand, the shipping is £18.65, for a total cost of £32.64, which would be about $63 Australian or about $68 New Zealand.

. . . .

I wish I could lower the shipping costs, especially for my overseas fans but unfortunately I’m just a writer in a humble abode and I don’t have the economies of scale of a giant corporation. I know it’s the most frustrating thing when shipping costs more than the item itself. If I ate the shipping costs, I would make next to nothing. I love writing, but I need to keep the lights on.

Link to the rest at Crazy Classic Rock

Yes, PG agrees that the author of the OP doesn’t seem to understand how KDP actually works.

Traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. Which should you choose?

From Nathan Bransford:

Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of agents and publishers or to take arms against a sea of books on Amazon, and by being among them, rise above? To die, to sleep (oh wait you won’t), to sleep perchance to dream of fame and riches… aye there’s the rub.

Ahem. Sorry.

So. You have yourself a book. Should you just go ahead and self-publish and see how it does? Should you try your luck with agents and publishers? Should you try agents and publishers first and then self-publish if that doesn’t work?

. . . .

But once you have a general sense of the differences between traditional and self-publishing, you’ll have decisions to make. Having traditionally published my Jacob Wonderbar series and self-published How to Write a Novel and How to Publish a Book, I’ve seen both sides.

. . . .

Dispelling myths

Before we get to some of the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing, I feel the need to dispel some myths.

For some reason, rival camps of traditional and self-publishing devotees continuously spring up online and besmirch the other side, even as the number of authors who have dabbled in both traditional publishing and self-publishing (like me) continues to rise.

Some self-publishers (often adopting the “indie” moniker) profess that traditional publishing is the stuff of retrograde dinosaurs and haughty agents looking only for authors who aren’t like them and that no one should even waste their time sending out queries.

Some traditional publishing types paint self-publishing with a broad brush as little more than vanity publishing for books that weren’t good enough to make it through the traditional publishing process.

These caricatures don’t have any truth to them. Both self-publishing and traditional publishing are viable paths.

Traditional publishing has its merits. Self-publishing has its merits. Traditional books can catch on. Self-publishing books can catch on.

What’s important is that you choose the process that’s right for your project based on what’s important to you and what your strengths are.

Get in tune with your goals

So before you go down this path, get in tune with your goals.

I’ll get to more detailed questions later in this post to help you weigh that right approach for your project, but really sit with your thoughts for a bit and gauge the elements of writing and publishing that are most important to you.

Why did you write the book? How important is it to you to make it revenue positive? Do you want it out there in a big way or are you content just having copies you can give to friends and family?

Starting this process with some self-reflection and getting in tune with your writing goals will prime you to make the best decision.

7 questions to ask yourself

Okay. You’re now open-minded about choosing the path that’s right for you and you’ve gotten in tune with your goals.

Here are questions to ask yourself to help narrow down which path you should choose. And if you’d like to talk it through with me, feel free to book a consultation.

Is your book a niche/passion project or does it have broad, national appeal?

In order to attract a traditional publisher, especially one of the major ones, you’re going to need to have a book that fits into an established genre, is of appropriate length, and has mass commercial appeal. As in, it’s something for a broad audience, not a narrow niche. And if you’re writing prescriptive nonfiction, you need to be one of the top people in the entire world to write that book if you want to pursue traditional publishing.

Nearly everyone who has ever written a book views it as a potential mega-bestseller, but this really requires some honest self-assessment.

Does your book have broad, national appeal or is it niche? Is it a potential bestseller or something you just wrote to, say, have your family history recorded for posterity or to get a bee out of your bonnet?

I like to use the airport bookstore test here. Is your book something you could potentially see on sale in an airport bookstore?

The major publishers (and the literary agents who work with them) are going for broad, mainstream audiences. If your potential readership is more narrow, you might want to go directly to a small press or self-publish. If you are writing nonfiction and lack a significant platform, you may want to just go ahead and self-publish.

But if you can genuinely see it reaching a wide audience, you can give traditional publishing a shot.

How much control do you want over the publishing process?

One of the things I like most about the traditional publishing process is its collaborative nature. You’re working with experienced professionals who bring a wealth of expertise to bear at every stage of the process.

But this does mean giving up some control. Your agent may want you to revise your work before they send it to publishers. You will almost assuredly be edited by an editor at a publishing house. You won’t have approval over your book’s cover and you’ll probably only have mutual consent on your book title. You’ll have limited control over how and where your book is marketed and things like discounts and promotions.

This all requires a collaborative mindset and ceding some of the decision-making. Your publisher may well make some decisions you don’t agree with, and some that might even drive you a bit insane.

Meanwhile, with self-publishing, everything is up to you. The edits, cover, title, fonts, marketing, price points… it’s all your choice.

So if you have an extremely precise vision of what you want your cover to look like or are dead-set on including your own illustrations, self-publishing may be the way to go. If you’re willing to be flexible, traditional publishing is an option.

How much does the validation of traditional publishing matter to you?

There’s still something gratifying about making it all the way through the traditional publishing process, having your work validated by professionals, and getting paid for your efforts.

The names Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster… they still matter to people.

But maybe you don’t care one whit about the name of the publisher on the spine of your book. And that’s fine too!

Gut check how much a publisher’s validation matters to you or whether you’re fine going straight to readers.

How important is it for your book to be in bookstores and libraries?

Traditional publishers still have a significant competitive edge in the print era because of their distribution and sales infrastructure. If you want your book widely available in bookstores and libraries, you are going to need a traditional publisher.

Sure, you might be able to strike up some individual relationships with local bookstores, but traditional publishing is the surest path to having your book widely available in stores and libraries across the country.

Now, in a world where close to the majority of books are purchased online, maybe this no longer matters to you. If you self-publish, you can have your book available on Amazon alongside all the other big names.

But if you care about being in bookstores, traditional publishing may be worth a shot.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

PG stifled himself (a rare occurrence). Feel free to comment.

The Publishing Ecosystem in the Digital Era

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

IN 1995, I WENT to work as a writer and editor for Book World, the then-standalone book-review section of The Washington Post. I left a decade later, two years before Amazon released the Kindle ebook reader. By then, mainstream news outlets like the Post were on the ropes, battered by what sociologist John B. Thompson, in Book Wars, calls “the digital revolution” and its erosion of print subscriptions and advertising revenue. The idea that a serious newspaper had to have a separate book-review section seems quaint now. Aside from The New York Times Book Review, most of Book World’s competitors have faded into legend, like the elves departing from Middle-earth at the end of The Lord of the Rings. Their age has ended, though the age of the book has not.

Nobody arrives better equipped than Thompson to map how the publishing ecosystem has persisted and morphed in the digital environment. An emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Cambridge and emeritus fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, Thompson conducts his latest field survey of publishing through a rigorous combination of data analysis and in-depth interviews. Book Wars comes stuffed with graphs and tables as well as detailed anecdotes. The data component can get wearisome for a reader not hip-deep in the business, but it’s invaluable to have such thorough documentation of the digital publishing multiverse.

. . . .

One big question animates Thompson’s investigation: “So what happens when the oldest of our media industries collides with the great technological revolution of our time?” That sounds like hyperbole — book publishing hasn’t exactly stood still since Gutenberg. A lot happens in 500 years, even without computers. But for an industry built on the time-tested format of print books, the internet understandably looked and felt like an existential threat as well as an opportunity.

Early on in his study, Thompson neatly evokes the fear that accompanied the advent of ebooks. The shift to digital formats had already eviscerated the music industry; no wonder publishers felt queasy. As Thompson writes, “Were books heading in the same direction as CDs and vinyl LPs — on a precipitous downward slope and likely to be eclipsed by digital downloads? Was this the beginning of the end of the physical book?” That question has been asked over and over again for decades now, and the answer remains an emphatic No. (Note to pundits: Please resist the urge to write more “Print isn’t dead!” hot takes.) But publishers didn’t know that in the early digital days.

The words “revolution” and “disruption” get thrown around so often that they’ve lost their punch, but Thompson justifies his use of them here. He recalls the “dizzying growth” of digital books beginning in 2008, “the first full year of the Kindle.” That year alone, ebook sales for US trade titles added up to $69 million; by 2012, they had ballooned to $1.5 billion, “a 22-fold increase in just four years.”

Print, as usual, refused to be superseded. Despite their early boom, ebooks didn’t cannibalize the print market. Thompson uses data from the Association of American Publishers to show that ebooks plateaued at 23 to 24 percent of total book sales in the 2012–’14 period, then slipped to about 15 percent in 2017–’18. Print books, on the other hand, continue to account for the lion’s share of sales, with a low point of about 75 percent in 2012–’14, bouncing back to 80­ to 85 percent of total sales in 2015–’16. (Thompson’s study stops before the 2020–’21 pandemic, but print sales have for the most part been strong in the COVID-19 era.)

For some high-consumption genres, like romance, the ebook format turned out to be a match made in heaven; Thompson notes that romance “outperforms every other category by a significant margin.” But readers in most genres have grown used to choosing among formats, and traditional publishers have for the most part proved able and willing to incorporate those formats into their catalogs. That’s a net gain both for consumer choice and for broader access to books.

. . . .

Thompson quotes an anonymous trade-publishing CEO: “The power of Amazon is the single biggest issue in publishing.”

It’s easy to see why. With its vast market reach and unprecedented access to customer data, Amazon has made itself indispensable to publishers, who rely on it both to drive sales (often at painfully deep discounts) and to connect with readers. For many of us, if a book’s not available on Amazon, it might as well not exist. “Given Amazon’s dominant position as a retailer of both print and ebooks and its large stock of information capital, publishers increasingly find themselves locked in a Faustian pact with their largest customer,” Thompson writes.

That pact has proven hard to break. “Today, Amazon accounts for around 45 percent of all print book sales in the US and more than 75 percent of all ebook unit sales, and for many publishers, around half — in some cases, more — of their sales are accounted for by a single customer, Amazon,” Thompson points out. That’s staggering.

Does Amazon care about books? Not in the way that publishers, authors, and readers do, but that doesn’t change the power dynamic. Amazon derives its power from market share, yes, but also from what Thompson calls “information capital” — namely the data it collects about its customers. That gives it an enormous advantage over publishers, whose traditional business approach prioritizes creative content and relationships with authors and booksellers.

Workarounds to Amazon exist, though not yet at scale. Just as authors have learned to connect with readers via email newsletters and social media, so have publishers been experimenting with direct outreach via digital channels. Email feels almost quaint, but done well it remains a simple and effective way to reach a target audience. Selling directly to readers means publishers can avoid the discounts and terms imposed on them by Amazon and other distributors.

. . . .

Authors can now sidestep literary gatekeepers, such as agents and acquiring editors, and build successful careers with the help of self-publishing platforms and outlets that didn’t exist 20 or even 10 years ago. Self-publishing has become respectable; we’ve traveled a long way from the days when book review editors wrote off self-published books as vanity press projects. Newspaper book sections have mostly vanished, but book commentary pops up all over the internet, in serious review outlets like this one and in the feeds of Instagram and TikTok influencers. It’s a #bookstagram as well as an NYTBR world now. To me, that feels like a win for books, authors, and readers.

. . . .

Some authors hit the big time in terms of sales and readers without relying on a traditional publisher. Thompson returns several times to the example of the software engineer-turned-writer Andy Weir, whose hit book The Martian (2011) got its start as serialized chapters published on his blog and delivered to readers via newsletter. (Newsletters represent another digital-publishing trend unlikely to disappear anytime soon.) “The astonishing success of The Martian — from blog to bestseller — epitomizes the paradox of the digital revolution in publishing: unprecedented new opportunities are opened up, both for individuals and for organizations, while beneath the surface the tectonic plates of the industry are shifting,” Thompson writes.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books