Targeting genre

Joe’s Post #158

cs lakinToday, I want to repost an article by one of our followers. C.S. Lakin.

Actually, I could probably repost about 10 of hers as she is one hell of a blogger. No. Seriously. She rocks.

Now, this is a bit ahead of where we 5/5/5 are at currently, but I love reading about what to do when we reach the publishing stage. It’s like chocolate for the soul. Keeps me thinking about the future and not the past.

If you want, please check out her other articles here on Linkedin. Or here on facebook.

cs lakin bookOr, check out her website. It’s amazingly well done. I am super envious of her abilities. She won the 2015 award for being one of the top 10 blogs for writers, and one look at her site or her posts and you’ll see why. She’s good. Very, very good.

She also has a newsletter that’s worth signing up for and a few pretty cool books, even, dare I say it, quite a few novels.

Anyway, here is the article.

Targeting Genre Using the KDSPY Chrome Tool

I always wondered just how much genre had to do with a novel’s success, and when I did my “experiment” a couple of years ago by writing in a genre that purportedly “sold itself,” I proved to myself (and perhaps to many others) that genre really matters. (If you didn’t read my blog post on The Book Designer that went viral in the writing world, take a look at it here. )

My aim was to write a novel that carefully fit a big-selling genre and see if it would sell with little effort on my part. I used a pen name, and although I did a little bit of marketing—similar to what a new author would do—I was astounded by the sales I saw. Way more than all the sales I got from my other half dozen self-published novels.

Whether You’re in It for the Money or Not

You might not care about making money off your books. But some of us have families to support and bills to pay. I felt guilty for years writing novel after novel that didn’t sell, “wasting precious time” (my assessment) when I could have been working at Wal-Mart for minimum wage and at least bringing some money in.

Before throwing in the towel and giving up what I loved most—writing novels—I decided to give this writing life one last-ditch desperate effort. I promised myself that if this new book I planned to write did not make me any money, I would never write another novel again (believe me, this wasn’t the first time I vowed this, but I really meant it this time!).

You may be in a situation to write whatever you want, regardless of market potential. You may not need the money. You may, like me, love experimenting and mixing genres and fleshing out those crazy ideas and structures you know probably won’t turn into best sellers.

For you, maybe it’s not about the money. Maybe you want the recognition. You want lots of super fans and for your peers to acknowledge what a great writer you are. Most of us want this, regardless of profession. We want to be recognized for our talents and abilities. We want to feel successful, that all our hard work shows. I don’t believe there is anything at all wrong with this. We need validation and to be encouraged by results. We don’t want to feel like failures.

So regardless of the reason, you might want to achieve some success with your book sales. And targeting genre is a great way to do it.

The Difficulty in Researching Hot Genres

In the aftermath of my viral post on targeting genre, a lot of writers contacted me and asked me how they could figure out which subgenres sold the best. I knew basically that some general genres sold well on Kindle: romance, mysteries, suspense, fantasy. But those are very general categories, and the niche I targeted was a very specific subgenre.

I asked experts in marketing what their thoughts were on this, and basically, after all my research, I came up with a blank. The bottom line is it would take a lot of participating in K-Boards and Goodreads discussions to find the threads that showed readers decrying a lack of novels in their subgenre.

This implies greater demand than supply. Which is a factor in big sales, to me. If there are a gazillion readers clamoring for books in a certain subgenre, and there aren’t all that many books being released, those few authors are cashing in. This is what I see in the sweet Western Historical Romance subgenre (although now the competition is growing—probably the result of my blog post!).

The Best Tool I’ve Seen for Authors

So imagine the thrill I felt when I learned about KDSPY. It was exactly the app I needed to uncover all the info—accurate data, not guesses—on which subgenres sold well and why.

Called “The Ultimate Kindle Spy Tool,” KDSPY is probably one of the most valuable tools an indie author can utilize. This unique software application essentially reverse engineers the Kindle marketplace and shows you which niches sell well, which have much or little competition, and how much revenue the top-selling books in that niche have made in the last thirty days.

There are so many features that I love with this app:

  • It’s easy (and inexpensive!) to load and use, and integrates into your browser for easy access.
  • It gives you gobs of pertinent info that will help you determine what niches are selling.
  • It allows you to look at any author’s page and see her actual book sales and rankings for every book she has on Kindle for the last thirty days.
  • It shows you the main keywords used by the author for a particular book (which is also broken down by use in title and in description).
  • In seconds, sometimes with just one click, you can see a wide landscape regarding genre and revenue, helping you make marketing decisions for your book. Or helping you decide what your next book will be.

And, once you’ve gathered data for the category you’re interested in, you can click on the keyword button that will give you a word cloud that shows all the words that the best-selling books use in their titles and descriptions.

Why is this great? Because this data can help you tailor what you write, or market what you’ve already written, by giving you proof (not claims) of what’s already working for other Kindle publishers. KDSPY shows you the best-selling niches to go after, and even shows you the words to use in your book titles.

One Way This App Helped Me

Here’s just one example of how this tool helped me make a decision. I write historical Western romances. I spent time researching using KDSPY checking the best-selling titles and their keywords, wondering just which keywords and categories would be best for my books.

Since my books could go in the inspirational romance category (because my characters do express their faith, attend church, and pray), I wondered if I should choose that as one of my two categories on Kindle. When I peeked at the best-selling titles and authors in my subgenre and compared the general market sales and competition to the inspirational market sales and competition, there was a huge difference. Overall, the inspirational market monthly sales revenue for a best-selling book was about one-tenth of the general market. I decided not to use that category, since it was clear the market I’d be targeting was smaller and afforded less opportunity for big sales.

Other Perks

Another thing I found very helpful with KDSPY were the short video tutorials on the site that showed me exactly how I could effectively use this tool. There are so many other ways you can benefit. For example, you can use the book-tracking feature to tag certain books and track their sales via a daily sales rank and revenue chart.

You can imagine how useful this is when looking at your competition. You can track your own books as well to examine the results of your marketing efforts, or to see if your sales go up and down when you change your keywords.

I am continually shocked to see how few sales many best-selling authors are currently experiencing, or how only one book in their arsenal is making a killing, whereas their other book sales are flat. In contrast, some first-time authors are making big five-figure sales per month per book. I wanted to know why and how. This app gives me insights into their success.

Of course this is only showing you Kindle sales and not print sales, or sales from any other online venues. But Kindle accounts for most authors’ sales these days, and for me, this is the data I need, that will most help me in my book sales.

KDSPY is a Chrome browser extension that is compatible with PC and Macs. Firefox supports this app as well, but at this time, these are the only two browsers you can use. All the data is exportable so you can put the results in a folder to refer to.

This app is great for both fiction and nonfiction books, and while it’s not useable in every country, KDSPY has now been opened up to allow results to be pulled from the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. The customer support is excellent, which means a lot to me.

The cost at the time of this post for this app is only $47 US. I feel it’s one of the best investments for authors, worth way more than this. I’ve never promoted a product on my website, so that should tell you something about how valuable I think this tool is. GET YOURS HERE! and start benefitting from this amazing tool. And I’d love to hear how it’s helping you sell more books!

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Pretty cool stuff, right?

Here’s a quick bio for her.

About

Me and Coaltrane

I’m a novelist, a copyeditor, a writing coach, a mom, a backpacker, and a whole bunch of other things.

I write novels in various genres and help writers at my blog www.livewritethrive.com

I teach workshops on the writing craft at writers’ conferences and retreats. If your writers’ group would like to have me teach,drop me a line. I live in California, near San Francisco, just so you know how far away I am from you and your writer friends. I also enjoy guest blogging, so contact me if you’d like me to write a post on writing, editing, or Labrador retrievers (just threw that in there; I’m not an expert but I love them). I am, however, quite the expert on pygmy goats. I ran a commercial pygmy goat farm for ten years and delivered a lot of kids! So, if you need some goat advice, I’m your gal.

*****

Is trying to get published a time waster?

Helga’s Post #101:  What do writers spend most of their time on? Writing?

You may be surprised at the answer. Marketing supposedly takes more time than the actual writing. At least this is what some studies on writers’ behavior suggest. I find that a startling statistic and I am not sure of its validity. What about writers like Ernest Hemingway? Did he spend as much time peddling his manuscripts as writing them? I doubt it. Or take Agatha Christie, the most published novelist in history. She wrote 69 novels and 19 plays and is estimated to have sold 4 billion books. If she had spent more time on marketing than writing, she would have lived to at least double her 85 years.

Nonetheless, we know that writers do spend a fair chunk of time on getting their work out into the world and trying to make money from it. More time than most of us can imagine. Take the example of Amanda Hocking, an American writer of paranormal romance young-adult fiction. (You can read about her on Paula’s blog post of Dec. 18, 2014, ‘Top 10 Gifts for Writers’). Hocking has sold over a million copies of her nine books and earned two million dollars from sales, previously unheard of for self-published authors. In early 2011, Hocking averaged 9,000 book sales each day. Has it been easy?

“The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me.”

While most of us won’t need to be quite as involved as Amanda, it begs the question: What is the most efficient way to market one’s writing? Much has been said and written on the topic. Some excellent advice, as well as a lot of rubbish that only befuddles our poor writers’ brain.

Perhaps an even more fundamental question than ‘what is the most efficient way for marketing’ is this: How does a writer decide whether his or her work is marketable in the first place? Don’t you wish someone could tell you if you’re wasting your time trying to be a writer? Or if you’re at all close to getting traditionally published—assuming that’s your goal?

That question showed up in a Writer’s Digest article of a few years ago. While traditional publishing may have become a lesser goal for many of us, the question about wasting time trying to be a writer is still valid. At the risk of stating the obvious, it might be useful to quote WD’s 5 time wasters that writers should avoid:

  1. Submitting manuscripts that aren’t your best work.
  2. Self-publishing when no one is listening.
  3. Distributing your work digitally when your audience wants print—or vice versa.
  4. Seeking New York commercial publishing deals for regional or niche work.
  5. Focusing on publishing when you should be writing.

The article goes on to ask two questions most relevant to the publication path:

  1. How much time did you put into writing? Have you put in enough time to get good at it?
  2. How much time did you spend reading quality, published work? This helps you learn how to write better AND understand where you might be on the spectrum of quality.

When is it time to change course?

  1. Honestly assess whether your work is commercially viable. Not all work is.
  2. Are you getting bitter? If you find yourself demonizing people in the publishing industry, taking rejections very personally, feeling as if you’re owed something, and/or complaining whenever you get together with other writers, it’s time to find the refresh button.

But there is hope, compliments of Jane Friedman, the WD article’s author (I prefer to call it a reality check): “If your immediate thought upon reading this blog post headline was something like: I couldn’t stop trying even if someone told me to give up, then you’re much closer to publication than someone who is easily discouraged. The battle is far more psychological than you might think.”

I am convinced most of us fall into that category. We love what we do and nobody and nothing can deter us. We know the rules of good storytelling. We know when too many rules get in the way of good writing. And we can laugh at ourselves when our stories get silly. Or when we really, really screw up. Like this:

Credit: Tom Gould

Credit: Tom Gauld

You are a writer. So be an author!

Helga’s Post #93: These words of encouragement appeared in an article titled ‘Don’t be afraid of Indie Publishing’ by Writer’s Digest online editor Brian Klems. Posted a year ago it’s a must read for writers of all genres. It’s informative and helps ease the decision all of us who have written a complete manuscript have to face: Go the traditional publishing route or go on your own.

As you can glean from the last few posts of our blog, the topic of indie publishing and self-publishing has been utmost in the 5 writers discussions. Admittedly, we are still in the writing phase, some of us at the start of our new novel, and nowhere near ready to face the publishing challenge. But we have pretty well decided to give self-publishing a try.

I admit, I have been a skeptic of indie and self-publishing until recently, and there are some issues that keep me from being a dyed-in-the-wool fan just yet. But the more I research the topic the closer I am drawn to the conclusion that this is the brave new world for writers. And it’s here to stay.

The benefits for writers seem obvious. Here is how the ‘Don’t be afraid’ article puts it:

More and more authors are finding the courage to self-publish or sign contracts with small presses dedicated to building niche markets. They’re proud of their work, and they’re making serious money selling it to readers around the world.

Speaking of money, how can we not get excited that we don’t have to give 80% to publishers? We get to keep the money our stories earn. And we keep control of our work. How cool is that?

On the surface, it sounds fantastic. But how many indie authors are really making serious money? As you can guess, the picture is rather murky. Stating the obvious, some authors, whether self-published and/or traditionally published, are making $15,000 a month and more, and some are making $200. And some have yet to make any money at all. Not every self-published author will collect.

But not all of us are writing to make money, American author Hugh C. Howey reminds us. Some writers will do it if it costs them money. Among the self-published are those who published a memoir to share with a few family members. Or a young student who participated in a youth NaNoWriMo program and just wanted to see their work for sale on Amazon. These are valid reasons to publish. We can’t lump everyone together in the “wanna be rich and famous” category.

So where’s the rub?

Self-publishing is big business, but there’s more to putting out a book than just printing it. When you’re working alone, without a literary agent or traditional publisher, you must be vigilant about scams. Just google ‘self-publishing scams’ and you will find 742,000 results. Horror stories abound. Writers paying 10K to get their manuscript ‘published’ without a single copy sold. Like in any other business, it’s ‘buyer beware’. Writers who are in a hurry to get their book published seem to be the most vulnerable, willing to pay top dollars for inadequate services. They may get lured by unscrupulous publishers with promises of grandeur, only to find out they were paying for ineffective marketing or excessive fees for an ISBN.

But once you take the time to dig deeper, the picture actually gets brighter. My research revealed countless success stories where writers did very well and made money without paying to get their book out. There is absolutely no need to front any costs if you are willing to spend time to educate yourself. You can format your book and you can even market it yourself. There are many resources available on how to do it.

You just have to look.

For me personally, the two most important issues are this: First, writers should get paid for their stories, rather than paying for them (therefore: no vanity presses, no ‘pay to publish’). Secondly, writers should keep control of their work in their own hands.

On balance, even with pitfalls (which we can avoid if we are vigilant), the benefits lead to the self-publishing camp. That’s the route I am willing to take together with my 5 writers group. It doesn’t mean we’ll shut the door forever on traditional publishing. According to a recent survey, about 10% of self-published authors transitioned from indie publishing into traditional publishing. Conversely, among writers who traditionally published their first book, more than a third (36%) have now also self-published.

The bottom line? The decision is entirely up to each and every writer. You want to be an author? Now you can.Publish-259x300

Déja vu all over again

fresh-perspective

Silk’s Post #103 — I love new beginnings. For some people, the year begins on January 1. Others are in tune with Spring as a time of rebirth. I was a Halloween baby, so for me the year has always started with autumn. It’s a new cycle and we’re on the start line once again.

Our 5Writers mini-retreat in Vancouver last week was a perfectly timed re-start for me. If you’ve ever belonged to a writers group – or any kind of small-scale, informal professional circle – you’ll know how this kind of support and encouragement kindles new enthusiasm for your work and kicks your energy up a notch.

And there’s nothing like a new challenge to wake up the competitive spirit. As a group, we have just embraced an ambitious common goal to write and self-publish five new books. If “competitive” seems like an inapt word to describe our cooperative efforts, it’s used deliberately. As unpublished authors, we’re a bit like a team that’s training together. We egg each other on. Put any five people on the same track – whether they’re running or writing – and the natural competitive human spirit turns it into a race. At the same time, we have an unwritten rule, born of our mutual respect and loyalty: Leave No Writer Behind. So it’s a genteel “race” of 5 cooperative competitors designed to produce 5 winners.

Over the next months, this blog will be sharing our brave new journey. It’s less brash than our original 5Writers challenge to write 5 novels in 5 months two years ago. In 2012 we set out at a furious gallop, hell bent for leather. Yee-haw! It was a terrific exercise and we learned a lot from it – about writing, and about ourselves.

I’m one of the two who didn’t finish the novel I started for that challenge. I may finish it one day because I love the characters and I think it has potential, but it’s a book that was conceived to fit that 5Writers challenge. It’s not the book I absolutely must write – at least not right now.

This new challenge is different. I like to think we’ve matured together as writers. Life has thrown us all many changes over the past couple of years. Our nice comfy schedule of meeting once a month or so for critiques is out the window, with two of the five now spending winters in the desert, three going through house moves in the last year, and one taking up Dad duties with his wonderful new family.

We’re all very aware of life’s ticking clock. It’s time to get more serious about writing – and publishing. Even if that means doing it for ourselves. No Cinderella stories have been forthcoming – what a surprise! So we’re not waiting for someone to knock on the door with a glass slipper in hand. But I think we’ve become realists about what we can accomplish as indie writers, and how much work and time we will need to (and are able to) put into it.

Here’s the box score from our lively review last Friday of our 5 book concepts:

  • 5Writers who had completed a full synopsis for review: 1
  • 5Writers who completely switched what book they’re planning to write after review: 2
  • 5Writers who are contemplating major changes to characters after review: 1
  • 5Writers who are now at work on new synopses: 4
  • Fabulous Thai dinners consumed during retreat: 1
  • Fabulous fellow bloggers who joined us for said dinner: 2 (Alison and Don of Adventures in Wonderland, the first time most of us had met these superstars in person!)

Onward!

Helga and super supportive husband Emil

Helga and husband Emil

Don and Joe

Don and Joe

Paula and Silk

Paula and Silk

Karalee and Alison

Karalee and Alison

Alison and Don

Alison and Don

 

The ever changing publishing world: Kindle Unlimited is another addition

Karalee’s Post #89

Now who would have thought that books could be bought on a monthly subscription? Unlimited eBooks for $9.99/month? eBooks on Kindle have gone the way of Netflix!

Amazon recently released Kindle Unlimited for $9.99 per month.

Now my first thoughts were gloomy. How can authors possibly make a living?

Then they switched to picturing Joe stuffing a whole apple in his mouth like he wondered about in one of his last posts on self-publishing. (Who knows why but this is how my mind works sometimes.) I’ve been chuckling over this image for the last couple of weeks because in my early days of dating my husband we counted how many grapes he could put in his mouth at once. Joe’s apple is a happy trigger. (Note to writers that this is a good trick to use.)

And it’s those memorable things that stick. Like certain scenes in books we’ve read, particular characters, or places that authors have taken us to vicariously. Or a new way of becoming published and read as authors.

 

quote winston churchill

 

Then I came back to reality.

CHANGE IS HAPPENING.

Period.

And it isn’t subtle.

 

Sometimes I feel like this quote by Churchill, that me as a writer am at the end of the pile driver with no choice but to embrace these changes. But then it depends on how you look at the pile driver (or Joe’s mouth full of apple.)

If you want to read a great post on Kindle’s eBook subscription have a look at what David Gaughran wrote regarding Kindle Unlimited. Below I’ve quoted a couple of his paragraphs from his post that I find particularly interesting:

Kindle Unlimited:

The main stumbling block for self-publishers is that participation in Kindle Unlimited is restricted to titles enrolled in KDP Select – Amazon’s program which offers various additional marketing tools in exchange for exclusivity. Author compensation will be similar to borrows under the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – a percentage of money from a fixed pool. The only real twist is that payment will be triggered when 10% of downloaded books have been read.’

 

How popular will Kindle Unlimited be?

Oyster and Scribd have a headstart, but Amazon has proven it can eat up that ground in no time. While the competition has more big books from big names, thanks to its deals with major publishers, Amazon has two key advantages (aside from the obvious). To my knowledge, Kindle Unlimited is the only subscription service that will work on the tens of millions of e-ink Kindles that are in circulation – the others are app based. And it’s also the only major subscription service combining e-books and audiobooks. The audio market is growing faster than the e-book market at the moment, and Amazon clearly feels that it’s only getting started. It is pushing the audiobook angle in all the marketing and PR, so it views that as a big selling point to readers.

Not long ago I used to think that eBooks would never take off. Now I believe they are here to stay and for many good reasons:

  1. Many “old” people like my parent’s generation are taking to the electronic readers because they can increase the font size
  2. Airlines putting a weight restriction on luggage means that downloading books are a great option
  3. If you run out of books on holiday or anytime, it is very easy to download ebooks 24/7
  4. I realized that when my husband and I started downloading books we wouldn’t share our iPads to read each other’s books we recommended, so we downloaded the same book on our own iPad. Bonus to authors!
  5. So maybe this subscription method of unlimited downloads per month will also open an avenue for readers to try new authors. The main problem I foresee is the time limit to read lots of books every month. (Netflix and family time do come into the equation too!)

eBooks are a reality. They are here to stay and truth be told, I hear mostly positive feedback from reader friends on how easy it is to access books they want. (Now finding new authors is another issue I won’t tackle at this time.) So, I’m taking these changes as the way the world is and embracing them and accepting that change is happening not only quickly, but it will be to the benefit of authors with good stories to tell.

roads to follow

 

We all have our own road to follow, but I’m getting the feeling that the pile driver that Churchill refers to above is actually building the foundation for the new way of doing business as authors.

What path are you going to follow?

Happy writing!

Self-publishing – a contrarian view

lemonade

Silk’s Post #101 — In his last post, 5writer Joe shared some valuable advice from experts in self-publishing, compiled by Betty Kelly Sargent, founder of BookWorks, in a Publishers Weekly article. It all sounds eminently sensible and business like. Calm. Reasoned. Soothing, almost.

Oh, except for the number bomb dropped into the introduction, which activated my morbid fascination with “arithmetic for writers”. Sargent did some Googling, and found 54,400,000 results when she searched “self-publishing an e-book”. Although I’m grateful to her for reducing this Niagara Falls of advice to a mini-fount of wisdom, there’s nothing calming about the depth and breadth of self-publishing chatter out there. It’s terrifying.

If you immerse yourself in this conversation, it’s easy to see exclamation points (my favourite abandoned punctuation mark!) where none need exist: You must know this! You better not do that! Hurry up! Slow down! Self-publishing is a dead end! Self-publishing is the future! Don’t even think about self-publishing without reading (listening to, attending, buying) this important book (article, conference, workshop, guide)! Sargent opens her Publishers Weekly piece on this cautionary note: “It can be a jungle out there for self-publishers.”

No kidding.

The only possible responses are: a) to face one’s fears and put it into perspective, or b) to curl up in a ball and whimper like a baby. So let’s break it down.

First: How did this daunting body of knowledge and advice about self-publishing and e-books get so big, so fast?

My theory: this is a whole new business model for a centuries-old industry. A revolution. And in a revolution, chaos tends to reign. Lots of people are running around the public square and up blind alleys, trying to figure out where to go, what to do, who all the other people are, and whether one should follow them or run away from them. Everything is, to at least some degree, experimental. Everyone is coming up with their own thoughts and theories and recipes for success, from authors who want to be published, to publishing industry folks who want to keep (or get) a paying gig in this brave new world. Everyone’s trying to read the bones and get a lock on the future, but it’s a complex and fluid situation. There’s a lot of re-invention going on here, a lot of pathfinding.

And since we’re all writers, we are, of course, writing about it. Endlessly.

Not only that, but – as you no doubt have noticed – the Internet is a gigantic echo chamber. Of those 54,400,000 hits on the “self-publishing an e-book” search, what percentage of them are truly original and substantive? How much of all this verbiage is derivative, recycled or simply repeated in an endless game of “telephone”?

Okay, whew. That cuts it down to size neatly. I feel better already.

Second: How – and when – does a potential indie author need to learn about self-publishing to be successful?

Writing a novel and publishing a novel are two completely different enterprises (whether as an e-book, or in print, with or without a traditional publisher). That may seem self-evident, but it’s worth thinking about the implications at a personal level.

These two processes do not use the same brain cells, or at least they don’t use them in the same way. They’re entirely separate challenges, and require different skill sets, knowledge, methodologies and mindsets. For me, and probably for many novelists, the writing part is what I love and the business side is something of a necessary evil.

I’ve been here before in another life.

When I started my graphic design business many years ago as a freelancer working from a tiny home office, it was my love of design and copywriting that drove me to take the plunge. I had just lost my job as a designer in a small studio, which was the psychological equivalent of about 100 rejection letters. Yeah, okay, I was fired. For being too “headstrong”. I had no formal training and little experience and – like an unpublished novelist who believes in her own talent even when no one else is willing to take a chance on her – I knew if I wanted to get into the field, I was going to have to create the opportunity myself.

Not only was I a novice designer, I knew virtually nothing about running a business. I just jumped in with both feet, blissfully ignorant but confident that I’d figure it out.

Fortunately, I did.

Every day I learned what I needed to know. It was pure, hands-on, real-world, just-in-time training, and a ridiculous amount of hard work. My modus operandi was to make it up as I went along. That meant being constantly on the alert for opportunities and pitfalls, and learning from my mistakes (of omission as well as commission). Since I wasn’t part of the “establishment” I had to be inventive – and build a great team of collaborators – to survive.

The good news was that we not only survived, we thrived. The venture turned into a 35-year career, a sometimes crazy roller-coaster ride, and a successful, award-winning agency in an industry not known for longevity. Still, I always viewed the business side of it as the price I had to pay to get the chance to do the creative work.

(Eventually, I became the “establishment”, which, ironically perhaps, took a lot of the fun out of it for me.)

This experience taught me that you don’t need to know everything at the beginning of a venture that you’ll eventually have to know in order to make it successful. In fact, I believe that you can only learn things when you’re ready for them. And what makes you “ready” is usually the necessity to act – the point in your journey when you simply have to move forward or fall back.

It also taught me that when you do get to that tipping point, you need to get out of your comfort zone, do your homework, figure out a plan (even if you change it later), rev yourself up for hard work and commitment, and forge ahead without fear. Mindset is everything. Even if you fail to reach the goal you hoped for, you won’t fail to learn – and that new expertise will propel you to a new goal.

This is the nature of risk-taking, and business is all about risk. For that matter, so is writing. Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith.

Third: Who do you listen to when you need to figure out how to navigate the swirling waters of this emerging self-publishing industry?

Clearly, there is no shortage of advice. While some of it may be conflicting, and trends and opportunities are continually shifting, it just can’t be that hard to find some models of success to emulate. Find them, study them, then tune them to fit your own circumstances.

Because the short answer to this question is that, in the end, you have to listen to yourself.

Yes, you. The novice. The “non-establishment” (and likely unpublished) writer. Because you’re the person who’s going to have to do all the work, make and learn from your mistakes, and think on your feet.

The advice Sargent curated in her Publishers Weekly article – based on industry experts’ “single, most important piece of advice” to aspiring authors – focused on the themes of “knowing what your want” and “being patient”. We’re told to:

  • Take enough time to produce a product that’s worth our readers’ time and money.
  • Know our goals and be absolutely clear about what they are and how we plan to achieve them.
  • Be patient and not worry about how the work sells out of the gate.
  • Make our books as widely available as possible in the networked world.
  • Avoid premature distribution by starting small, publishing beta versions and growing our “author platform”.
  • Write every day and hire an editor.
  • Treat self-publishing as a business, including doing competitive research and having a business plan and marketing plan in place.

All good advice. But it doesn’t really get us there, does it?

And that’s the problem with everything I’ve read to date on self-publishing. It tends to be either at the level of platitudes, or at the level of step-by-step prescriptions. Yes, I think it’s critical to take all this on board, but knowing stuff isn’t the same as doing stuff.

If Sargent had asked me her question – “If you could give someone starting out in self-publishing only one piece of advice, what would it be?” (and there’s no reason anyone would really want to ask me, a total novice, so consider the source) – I would have had a contrarian answer:

Before you consider self-publishing, look into your own heart and ask yourself whether you’re willing to do what’s necessary to take on a completely new business enterprise without knowing everything you need to know at the outset, or being guaranteed of a formula for success. Whatever other advice you follow, it won’t magically get you there.

Only you can get yourself there, under your own power.

You are a writer. You know how to research. You plan your books (maybe by outlining or maybe organically). You invent stories. You innovate. You improvise. Are you prepared to embark on the journey of adapting these skills to a business venture – as opposed to an artistic one?

I do believe self-publishing is a do-it-yourself extension to the modern writer’s journey. But make no mistake, it requires one to become an entrepreneur – with all the challenges (and rewards) that entails. In many ways, self-publishing should be treated as a kind of small business start-up. I believe that it’s impossible for those who’ve never been down this road before to know whether they’ll really take to it – or not – until they try it.

But look at it this way: you have nothing to lose but your literary anonymity!

 

Members of the Clan

stanley-park

Vancouver’s Stanley Park

Helga’s Post # 89:  We Vancouverites complain a lot about the weather, mostly to people who don’t live here. The truth is, we want to keep it a secret that Vancouver has some of the most awesome summers anywhere. Let me count the ways:

Two or three months of almost uninterrupted blue skies, balmy temperature hovering around 25C, (77F for non-metric readers), no humidity, no mosquitoes, tons of swimming beaches, perfect sailing waters, barbecues by the ocean, and so much, much more. There is nothing better than biking or walking the scenic Seawall or hiking the 27km of forest trails at Stanley Park ringed by the Pacific Ocean.

In other words, when the sun shines on Vancouver, there are few prettier places on earth. (I should add a qualifier: two of the 5 writers live elsewhere; my comments do extend to Salt Spring Island and the Sunshine Coast, both accessible via a scenic ferry ride from Vancouver). To make the most of it, Vancouverites organize festivals, parties and outdoor adventures throughout the season. They are mostly free and sure to delight, no matter what your hobbies and interests are. You are a music or performing arts lover? Head out to the Vancouver Folk Festival, or the International Jazz Festival. If Shakespeare is your thing, catch ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at ‘Bard on the Beach’ (this one isn’t free).

If there is one event that defines summer in Vancouver, it’s the international Celebration of Lights fireworks competition: three nights of the best fireworks displays you’ve ever seen. Lighting up the sky over English Bay in incredible colour compositions, the annual event has become one of the most prestigious fireworks competitions in the world. Afterwards, head to one of the summer night markets, immensely popular with Vancouver’s legions of foodies and visitors alike.

What has this got to do with writing? In case you are wondering: I have not changed my genre to travel writing or joined Tourism British Columbia. It’s just that I do love my adopted city, having emigrated from land-locked Austria to this west coast jewel many years ago. I still recall my first summer here. I almost instantly turned into a ‘beach bum’, spending time every day of the week at Second Beach, making friends and playing volleyball all summer long.

But there is a link to writing too. One of the events I wrote about in my last blog post is the Harmony Arts Festival at the Millennium Park right at the ocean in West Vancouver. Now in its 24th year, the event is a must visit for artists and art lovers of all stripes and types.

13-DWV-Harmony-SJP_0133-e1400799786443-1024x360Including writers.

After a quick browse through the dozens of stalls offering paintings and innovative handmade jewelry, I made a beeline to the large open-air tent announcing the site of the North Shore Writers Association. About fifty or more people were seated inside, listening intently to authors and workshop leaders. Here, finally, I was face to face with so many other writers in my community as well as local authors.

A special moment.

I did not sit down, as all chairs were taken, but more so because I wanted the chance to talk to the dozen or more authors seated at tables on the periphery, promoting and selling their books. They were eager to talk to me in hushed tones, so as not to disrupt the speakers. This was a golden opportunity to learn about their different publishing experiences.

As you may guess, most were self-published. I had heard only one or two names before, let alone seen title pages of their books. But they had their books out on the table, neatly stacked, displaying decent, attractive covers. They handed out the usual trinkets; bookmarks mostly, and occasionally pretty fridge magnets once they sensed your interest in their books. I chatted at length with most of them. A sociable bunch, eager to tell me about their writing career, their success, and yes, frustrations. As I made my rounds, I picked up some common themes:

Uphill battle (their words), little or no money made yet (and even having spent some of their own to get ‘published’). But all seemed optimistic that their breakthrough would come sooner or later. Their love for the craft came through loud and clear. Would they give up writing even in the face of no financial (or negative) rewards? Of course not! The idea seemed preposterous. I went on to the next issue important to me: What was their support system?

Drum roll…

Most of them belong to a writers’ group! That’s what keeps them going when things get a little tough; when motivation is on the wane; when friends ask them how their ‘hobby’ is going, and perhaps it’s time for a change; when they may not be as fit as some of their friends who go to the gym every day.

It defines them as writers. As members of a clan.

Screenshot2014-03-21at95613AMThere was one traditionally published author present, Cea Sunrise Person, whose bestselling memoir, North of Normal, was released three months ago by HarperCollins – a huge success. Her hardcover book shows her as a child, growing up in the north of British Columbia. Daughter of an unwed 16-year old hippie mom, this is a heart-wrenching story of the eccentric free-spirited life of the sixties and how she survived it. I interviewed her about her efforts of getting published. It took her several years from when she first submitted her manuscript until she found an agent. This agent, based in New York, did nothing much to sell her book, so after a considerable time (I forgot how long, it may have been years), she switched to another, also New York based agent. This one managed to sell her book to HarperCollins in no time at all. At this point she has about 5,000 hardcover copies in print, as well paperback and a Kindle edition. Judging from reviews, she will have many more sold in no time. CPT119184961_high

So, yes, she said, it seemed to take forever to get published. After the first agent, she doubted herself, almost giving up. As it turned out, the book was simply too good.

I love a writer’s success story, even if it takes time to get there. And talking to Cea and the other authors, I felt a true kinship. I was proud to be part of the clan. And happy to have my writers’ group.

Conundrum: more than a wine – just ask a writer

fork-in-the-road

Helga’s Post # 87: What’s a poor writer to do with a completed manuscript of a beautifully told story, edited and polished to perfection?

Not as simple as it used to be not so long ago: draft a query letter to an agent who might fit the bill, print the first three chapters and a synopsis, and mail it all off in an 8.5×11 envelope with a self-addressed stamped (all-important) return envelope.

And wait and hope for a positive reply. And wait some more. Sometimes three months, maybe six. Maybe the reply never comes. And to get more discouraged with each rejection letter that arrives one after another with cruel regularity.

But there’s a new wind blowing. Not so new to some savvy writers who take the business side of writing as seriously as the trade itself. It’s a brave new world for writers, as we have known for some time. The recent blog posts from 5writers Silk and Joe have tried to do justice to this complex topic by raising some fundamental issues and shining the headlights on what we writers all need to come to grips with and understand. From comments we received, not surprisingly, there is frustration and rejection of what appears to rapidly become the new business model.

So which fork in the road should a writer take? Indie, self-publishing, Amazon, New York literary powerhouses for traditional publishers? What road will lead to our stories being read by most readers – or not at all? That may well be the conundrum of brave new world writers in times to come.

After all the dust has settled on the current debate, it may well turn out that the cards are dealt slightly, or perhaps a lot more than that (time will be the judge), in favor of writers, at least on the surface. An entirely new world is opening up to writers who, for the first time ever, get a chance to have their stories read, stories that traditional publishers deemed not to have been worthy of sharing with the rest of the world. Sort of brings to mind some historical milestones in Czarist Russia and pre-revolution France that didn’t end too well for the establishments in power.

Remember when you drove to Blockbusters or some other video-rental store to pick up a movie or two for Saturday night? Not so long ago in years, but an eternity in terms of technological advances. The big question of the time was Beta or VHS. Those shops are gone, relegated to the dustbin of so many other industries now redundant. Is there a parallel with publishing? How an industry could go into oblivion because they failed to reinvent themselves, or simply could not keep pace with innovation?

But let’s not fool ourselves. The traditional publishing industry is not going to roll over and play dead. They surely have some powerful ammunition in their arsenal. Such as client lists that boast the crème de la crème of authors whose books we all have come to love, the books that became successful movies, books we will always willing to pay full price for. Books that we may not be able to borrow from our local library, because the publisher doesn’t have to make it available.

So, if you are one of those writers mentioned above who has worked hard and sacrificed much to produce one or more marketable manuscripts (meaning final drafts, edited and checked for every possible error, even the most minor), you’ve likely done the research. Which fork in the road to take? Like to see your book prominently displayed on Barnes & Noble or Chapters shelves? How far will you go and how long will you wait until that happens?

You likely know the pros of self-publishing (courtesy of Author One Stop):

  1. You make more money per book every time you sell one.
  2. You can get your book printed and have it ready to sell very quickly.
  3. You have total control over your cover design and title.
  4. No one can tell you to edit anything out.
  5. You own all the rights, except for the ISBN.
  6. If you already have an audience for your talks or seminars, you can use the book for immediate back of the room sales.
  7. You can print in small quantities.
  8. You can sell your book on Amazon (the firm Author One Stop will put this in place for you and you will receive a 20% royalty). – My note: What? Shouldn’t this go into the ‘cons’ section; 20%??

But there are of course cons of self-publishing. Consider some of these, not all-conclusive:

  1. Distribution is limited as chains, for the most part, do not accept self-published books.
  2. Marketing and promotion is your responsibility (similar to traditional publishing).
  3. You’ve got to do everything yourself or nothing is going to happen.
  4. If you aren’t already out speaking or giving seminars, or in the public eye where people will have exposure to you, sales can be quite challenging.
  5. You’ve got to put out the money for printing.
  6. Most reviewers won’t review books that are self-published.

We can expect that this passionate and probably brutal debate will rage on for some time to come. It will be fascinating to watch this huge turf war unfold. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy our trade and apply our craft. What greater achievement than creating stories that people will remember and talk about months and years after they finished reading? Nothing succeeds like success. It starts and ends with one thing: Having a novel that pulls readers in. Telling a story that people are willing to fork over 99 cents or $19.95. Making sure your story premise is big enough, deep enough, with enough conflict to turn pages no matter what the time of day or night. With enough of our own heart in it, with story events that are monumental, be that external, emotional or best of all, both.

But that’s not the end. It’s only part of it. Because now we have to decide how to get those stories into our readers’ heads. Full-service publisher? Indie? Doing it all ourselves?

Here is how some authors see it:

“Anyone who says it’s easy to self-publish a book is either lying or doing a shitty job.” – – Nan McCarthy

“The good news about self-publishing is you get to do everything yourself. The bad news about self publishing is you get to do everything yourself.”

– Lori Leski

One of the more poignant quotes I found that sums it up nicely for the self-publishing camp comes from Rayne Hall, author of forty books in different genres and under different pen names, published by twelve publishers in six countries, translated into several languages:

“Authors today need a publisher as much as they need a tapeworm in their guts.”

Surely the discussion over the different options for publishing will continue. Surely also the confusion will deepen for a while until the crystal ball turns less cloudy. Personally, I welcome the opportunities of writers having more viable options. However, it also raises the question of pay-off: how much energy from our creative process are we writers robbed of, how much time and working in uncharted territory are we willing to serve the goal highest on the agenda of many, if not most writers, namely getting published?

Which brings us back to the question that this blog wrote about a few posts back, ‘Why do writers write?’ Just like a good story, this question is taking on the shape of an incomplete circle that will ultimately close. Until then, I will just carry on with what I love most: create and write stories. I will worry about publishing when I am done. Maybe I have a one-track mind, but I can’t – or am unwilling to – do both at the same time.

Self-publishing – 5 questions to start

Joe’s Post #104 – So, as Silk posted, there is more than one way to skin that ‘get-published’ cat. Things that used to be true, hey, just aren’t anymore.

Being me, I wanted to talk to an expert. I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve gone the traditional publishing route – Write, get agent, get published.

Now, it’s time to see what’s possible in this new fangled world of ours.

Here is what Karen Abrahamson had to say. A self-published author and a great writer.Afterburn Cover 6x9 cover  for interior

Joe – What brought you to non-traditional publishing?

I climbed on board this horse fairly close to the start. I was at an Oregon Coast Writer’s workshop and the instructors got talking about it as an option for publishing stories/novels that had either sold previously, or for novels/stories that have never sold.

At the time I was in one of those horrible places in my writing career. I felt stuck and knowing that an editor was going to look at one of my novel manuscripts just about had me immobilized in terms of writing. At the time I knew I was in trouble because my production had decreased from four novels a year to about one and I wasn’t feeling particularly good about those single novels.

Learning that there was an alternative to New York editors and agents, or a place to go if the New York thing wasn’t working was like a lifeline.

So I grabbed it.

I started with Smashwords and Amazon and a single story and started to see sales. From there I put my backlist of short stories up and then novels. It hasn’t been particularly lucrative–I haven’t made my first million yet, but every month sales trickle in and that’s more than those stories would have gotten sitting in my drawer.

It has also been wonderful to actually have readers around the world and to occasionally get fan mail!

What advice would you give to someone looking into it?

krisdeanI would say first of all go check out some of the good blogs on indie publishing, such as Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s, Dean Wesley Smiths, John Scalzi and so on.

Hugh Howey is another one. Some are people with longevity in the publishing world, while others are newcomers with recent success.

I would also be really realistic with my expectations. The indie world still has great opportunities, but it isn’t the gold rush it was a few years ago. Still, new writers are selling all the time.

I would also caution against getting caught in the ninety nine cent ghetto. When indie publishing was young you could give a story away or sell it for ninety nine cents as a loss leader to get known and to get people to read your books.

Nowadays it doesn’t work the same, so you need to be prepared to continually upgrade your knowledge either through following the blogs or workshops or listserves.

Hand in hand with not going to the ninety-nine cent ghetto, is knowing how to price your work appropriately. It’s easy to undervalue yourself, so look around for guidance on this and watch what other are doing, but don’t give your work away.

(Joe note: Ok, seriously, you have to look at everyone she mentioned. They’re amazing!)

What pitfalls are there?

Well, there is the WORK.

First there is the website – as an Author you should have one, but this is even more important when going indie. So you need to get one established and populated and then keep it updated.

Then you should also establish a publisher – yes, you become a publishing house so that your books come out under a publisher’s name. And of course  publisher needs its own website, too.

A bigger time sink is the publishing itself, there are a couple of ways you can go about Indie Publishing.

One way is to write the book and send it to someone who can prepare it for publishing for you. Reputable companies like Lucky Bat Books will do this without the writer having to sign over any royalties like you would with an agent or traditional publishing house.

I also urge caution about just sending it to a friend who says they know how to format. A friend of mine paid another friend to format their electronic files and they formatted incorrectly resulting in numerous problems trying to upload the novels to Amazon, Smashwords etc. But a reputable company will hire an editor, a copyeditor, a book designer, a cover artist etc. to get your book publication-ready or you can pick and choose what you services you want to purchase. But it costs.

The alternative is to do the work yourself which has the other problem– it takes time and work to learn the programs. For example, to get manuscripts ready for electronic publication, you can generally do it in Word. There are a variety of formatting niceties that need to be adhered to, but they aren’t insurmountable and there are lots of helpful sources of information on line.

But to go into print, I’ve had to learn InDesign, a publishing software that took a lot more time. I also do my own covers, and that took more time and Photoshop which I, thankfully, knew due to my interest in photography. But it takes a fairly substantial amount of time and it helps to have friends also going the same route who you can call for help. There are good courses to learn these skills and I would highly recommend Lynda.com as a place to learn the various software programs.

And of course software changes. I’ve recently started using Jutoh and it is a wonderful program to create Mobi files (for Amazon) and e-pubs (for everything else). So you have a choice here: a money sink or a time sink. And don’t even get me started on the sinkhole of time spent on social media. Unless you are a person who loves the stuff, don’t go there.

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you started?

I’m not really sure here.

Perhaps how to design a better cover? Some of my early ones were pretty poor, but I’m not too displeased now. The trouble is that cover styles change so that you have to keep upgrading.

Oh, and how to write decent cover copy.

karenIt really is being able to change hats from writer, to marketer, to editor, to publisher. It takes a lot of time (at the start, less so as you get experience) and you need to decide where to spend limited time, but the publishing should never take over your writing time. Writing must be number one. As a result I’ve had to keep rebalancing my focus from creation to publication. I also think it would have helped me if right from the start I’d started to think in terms of creating a publishing schedule to help me hold myself accountable.

What’s the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles an hour. Of course if you want the air speed for an African Sparrow I’ll have to do the calculations again….God bless Monty Python.  

Karen’s Website is www.karenlabrahamson.com

Thanks for sharing!

Next week, more info from people who’ve been there and done that.

The age of the hybrid

hybrid

Silk’s Post #91 — Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “hybrid”?

Cars that run on gas and electric power? You’re probably ecologically-minded.

More productive strains of corn and tomatoes? You’re probably a farmer or a gardener.

Alien lifeforms arising from cosmic cross-breeding? You’re probably a sci-fi fan.

Your next book? Wait a minute. What do hybrids have to do with books and authors?

Possibly everything.

As part of my preparation for our next crazy 5writers challenge (launching September 5, 2014 … watch for it!), I’ve been doing yet more research on the publishing industry. This may seem redundant, since the five of us – as wannabe-published authors – have tried to  proactively inform ourselves about what it takes to get in print. Many books, many articles, many blogs, many discussions with published authors, many scans of online writers’ groups, many workshops, and many writers’ conferences later, we thought we were on top of it.

Think again.

What my latest web scan revealed is that publishing opportunities yesterday are already very different from publishing opportunities today, and I mean that literally, not figuratively. Whatever received wisdom you believed about publishing, say, six months ago, it’s probably wrong now.

Because we’ve now entered a new age: the age of the hybrid author.

Here’s how Chuck Wendig, in his February 2014 Writer’s Digest Magazine article “Case Study: Becoming a Hybrid Author”, describes this new creature we are all probably going to morph into:

“A hybrid author is one who refuses to accept that there exists One True Way up the Publishing Mountain and who embraces all the methods available. The hybrid author prefers a diverse approach to getting her work out there, which means utilizing both the traditional system of publishing and also acting as an author-publisher in order to retain control and self-publish her own work.”

This may not sound new to you. Self-publishing has been going on forever. But here’s what’s different in the new hybrid world:

#1 – There ain’t no taint to self-publishing

The headwinds buffeting the traditional book publishing industry are blowing away some old musty ideas. Historically, self-published authors who resorted to “vanity presses” to see their own words in print were presumed to be – forgive the expression – permanent rejects. Tainted. Writers whose work was never going to be good enough to get out of the slush pile. Budding authors were warned that self-publishing was the kiss of death with agents and “real” publishers.

Now, let’s be realistic. Is there some real sh*t out there among self-published works? Yep. Lots of it. (Of course, it’s self-evident to the discerning reader that traditional publishing is not exactly sh*t free, either). But self-publishing a book is no longer considered a literary felony, sentencing the author to automatic disqualification from working within the traditional publishing system on other projects.

Writers who evolve to this new hybrid author state may be the survivors in this new publishing environment.

#2 – In today’s marketplace, all writers need to be entrepreneurial

I don’t think I’ll stir up a lot of disagreement when I suggest that the publishing industry is undergoing massive change. I’m no economist, but it’s easy to see industry after industry becoming revolutionized in our newly networked, globalized world.

These factors have accelerated the free-market cycle, where businesses spring up, compete and grow in the lush times, then consolidate when things get leaner and meaner. The strong swallow the weak, gaining control of the marketplace (for instance, only a handful of publishing empires now control most imprints you’ve ever heard of). Ouch. There are so many reasons to worry about powerful monopolies that are bottom-line by nature, serving shareholders first, customers second, and suppliers/producers (often) last. This is especially sensitive in industries that sell creative products.

Monopolies that calcify can become vulnerable – more fragile than they seem. Enter the independent challengers: the Amazons and Apples of the world who move fast, break the rules, and build new business models (and monopolies of their own) on a large scale. But this upheaval also leaves space for many new players: the smaller-scale indies. They’re like economic phytoplankton, the profusion of life at the bottom of the food chain that keeps the whole ecosystem alive.

This pattern is already well underway in the music industry, in the movie industry, in magazines and newspapers, in radio and television. Virtually everything that has to do with news and entertainment is in flux.

The book industry is following suit. Where once there were clear rules, standards and pathways to success, now virtually anything goes. Anything that works. There will, of course, be winners and losers (and I truly mourn the decline of the comforting, beautiful, traditional bookstore). There will be good and bad outcomes. The deserving will not always be rewarded. And the roadmaps that will help authors find their way to the goal of publication and success are still being drawn.

Hybrid authors will need to become creative opportunists.

#3 – There are more reasons to self-publish than rejection

Increasingly, writers with their ears to the ground will hear strange tales of bestselling authors choosing to self-publish a project. Of new authors turning down traditional publishing contracts in favour of going the indie route. Of agents working with hybrid authors in new ways, and seeking new talent among the latest crop of successful self-published writers.

Heresy!

Where will you find these weird anomalies in the books of advice for writers on your groaning bookshelf? You probably won’t, unless the book was published very recently. You may begin to hear hints and rumours at a writers’ conference workshop. But if you look in the right places online – where trends now show up first – you’ll discover that the hybrid author is already alive and well. And comes in every shape and size.

So why would any author actually choose self-publication over the traditional route – except rejection? Isn’t traditional publishing the holy grail we’re all seeking? Here are just a few possible reasons:

Creative freedom — An established writer may want to do a project her traditional publisher is not interested in. Maybe it’s outside the writer’s usual genre, or it’s experimental, or for some other reason the publisher doesn’t think it will fit their list or profit expectations. What choice does the writer have but to follow the creative dictates of her publisher? Yep. Become her own publisher.

Money — A writer, whether previously published or not, may put on his business hat and take a close look at the numbers. Shockingly, he discovers that he can make more money – sometimes a lot more – if he self-publishes than if he signs a contract with a traditional publisher, based on realistic estimates of sales and author revenue likely to be generated by the two different routes. Careful, though. Risk-reward ratio is not an easy calculation to do, even for the experienced. Better rattle some chicken bones and throw in some eye of newt for good luck. Welcome to entrepreneurship.

Choice and control — A writer may want to keep certain publishing rights – such as e-book rights – and sell other rights to a traditional publisher. The author may have already self-published electronically, but now has an opportunity to take her book to market with an interested publisher. Or she may have been traditionally published and now wants more control of a new project and an opportunity to share more of the profits. This is where the new hybrid agent and the new hybrid author may need to have a meeting of the minds. Tricky new territory, but early pioneers could be creating the pathways and precedents for many hybrid authors to follow.

Career direction — A published mid-list writer may be dropped by his traditional publishing house, and now must either self-publish, or find another publisher (and not many traditional publishers are dying to sign up lots of new mid-list authors who have been dropped elsewhere). Of course, she could always take up another career such as brain surgery, which might be less daunting. Getting back on the horse may require becoming a hybrid author.

So that’s what I’ve learned from my research to date. I know just enough to know that I need to learn a lot more about hybrid authorship. It’s a brave new world out there.

What do you think about it? Was any of this news to you?

Does it fill you with excitement and hope … or does it seem fearfully overwhelming?

We’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

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