Publishing Blocks

There’s been so much talk in the news these days regarding Dorchester going epub and Amazon upping their payouts to self-pubbed authors who publish their books in Kindle.  In the last few days alone, I must have visited a dozen websites with everyone spouting pieces of advice and their predictions for the future.

The only thing I’m certain of is all eyes are on Dorchester right now to see if they’ll sink or swim.  From what I understand, they’ve been sinking for a while anyway.  Many think this new model of theirs won’t matter.  But I see it like a new pair of shoes.  You need some time to break them in, but eventually you’ll decide whether they’re worth the pain of squashed tootsies or not.  If you loves those shoes enough, you’ll stick with them.  Otherwise, they go.  If Dorchester cares enough to ride out the blisters and whelps they’ve accrued, they might actually succeed.  Only time will tell.  And just as a side note, I have no problem with Dorchester or their new model.  It’s been working well with places like Samhain and Elloras Cave for a while now.  The only difference is Samhain–I don’t write for Elloras Cave, so I don’t know–will actually keep their people abreast of their business affairs.  Dorchester might want to make note of that, assuming they have any authors left.  Bridges have been burned so bad, that the fires are eating up the hillside.

Publishing has been wavering for a while now.  Ever since the economy bellied up, everyone has been hurting.  Advances are getting smaller and it’s harder to sell to New York.  My friend Edie Ramer shared an article about Steve Coker, the founder of Smashwords that has had me thinking about my own writing career and what I want to do with it.  Reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog hasn’t helped either.  I can’t help but wonder about the place I’m at in my career right now and what it means with regards to the future of publishing. 

Let me be blunt.  I’ve been seriously rethinking my NY goal long before the Dorchester upheaval.  I’m talking since the beginning of the year while I was on maternity leave.  While it’s great to be with the publishing giants, will they be there when I arrive?  I bet that has crossed the mines of anyone who just recently received a Dorchester contract in the past month.  Don’t get me wrong.  I want NY.  That’s where the money is and that’s where I’ll be in a better place to live out my dreams of writing full-time.  But I’m worried if that dream will come to a horrible end at some point because NY will either be too late to adapt or won’t adapt at all to the ever-changing market. 

Now let me be blunt about something else.  I like being with my small publishers, too.  Not because I’m making millions of dollars or anything.  😆  Yeah.  Right.  But at least I know what to expect from them.  There isn’t the pressure to make NYT or USA Today’s bestseller lists out of fear that my midlist-self will die a horrible career death.  I’m not saying it’s impossible to make those lists.  I’m just being realistic. 

If Dorchester succeeds, you’ll see more ebooks and POD trade paperbacks by more NY pubs in the coming years.  Indie publishing will continue to grow, too.  Advances will probably go down while royalties go up.  As for agents, I have to wonder if their jobs will become obsolete.  After all, you don’t need an agent to submit to an epub, which are on the brink of becoming a major force in their own right.  Small presses who have nothing to lose, might win because many of them have been embracing more ebooks, having small print runs that do less damage to their bottom line, and POD for when that print run runs out.

Oh, and as a side note, I wouldn’t mind indie-publishing a book or two, but I my hangup is I don’t want to go at it alone.  I’d prefer to do it with a group of authors forming our own publishing “group” where we critique each other’s manuscripts before agreeing to publish them.  Also, we agree to put up a certain amount of our own “starter” cash toward promotional expenses for said company until we can afford to peel some money from a reserve.  I’m talking ad space in popular places, along with hiring an artist to do all of our book covers and ad designs.  We’d have to make sure everyone is getting properly paid for their book(s), but I don’t mind pocketing $7.50 from each of my $10 books while $2.50 goes back to our company.  

Okay, so as you can see, I’ve thought about indie-publishing a lot.  😆  But look at the bright side.  We get the editing our books need, we hire a good cover artist to handle all of the artwork for less of the upfront fees that usually kills us all anyway, and we might be able to hire a promo company to handle a chunk of the word-of-mouth.  🙂

My last thought: all writer’s should know something about the business side of publishing.  You’ll need it now more than ever whether you have an agent or not.  The face of publishing is changing and you can either ride the wave or it’ll plant your face in the sand.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.  Care to share yours?

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14 thoughts on “Publishing Blocks

  1. I’d prefer to do it with a group of authors forming our own publishing “group” where we critique each other’s manuscripts before agreeing to publish them.

    Interesting ideas! I’m sending some people to your blog. I’m not sure if I want to pay for ads. I’ve been thinking of Google and Facebook ads for Cattitude, but only after I’ve made some money.

    • I thought about Google and Facebook ads, but then I remembered how much I rarely pay them any attention. I’m more likely to click on an ad if it’s on a popular site like Smart Bitches or PNR. There was a website where I had gotten ad space for something cheap like $5. The only thing is I can’t recall where it was. Anyway, I think ads probably work better than anything else I’ve done when it comes to promotions. At least I know people are curious about my book to actually click on the link.

      Of course, having friends that will promote your book on their blogs help, too. 😉

  2. True, writers who hope to one day publish need to stay informed. That said, writers need to investigate ALL sides of the spectrum – critically think it through – before deciding which path is best for their career. So far certain bloggers who have done the indie thing find a way to put down traditional publishing (both print and epub).

    Traditional publishers have had to compete with digital the same as journalism has. But the question that begs asking is the reason book sales have slipped. I haven’t kept an eye on the market, but am guessing that one reason people aren’t buying books is because people aren’t READING books. I recall a couple of years ago I passed by the local public library and the parking spots around it were all full. I thought “WOW! People are actually in there taking out books.” WRONG. People were in there using the computers. One of the librarians told me that at times there’s a waiting list for computer use. Sadly I watched patrons at the check-out desk with more DVD’s in hand than books.

    Just saying that publishers as well as print news media have had to compete with electronic everything. People are relying on blogs for news (unreliable sources in most occasions), as well as spending their idle hours in front of the computer and television. My fear is that ultimately the changes we see today with electronic media for entertainment as well as news, will affect literacy.

    I haven’t a problem with the newest epubbing/indie trend, but I will dearly miss the feel of a really well written book while I fear the societal change resultant of the drop in literacy. 😦

    • I read an interesting article today that pinpointed what you said, Kath. People just aren’t into books like they used to be when they have things like Wii and internet surfing to preoccupy their minds. Those who are actually reading are like me. They’re watching their wallets, which means no hardback books. They’re resorting to cheaper ways to get their fix, including the library.

      Also, I agree about traditional publishing trying to compete the way journalism has. Look what happened to those big-time newspapers, too. The same will eventually happen to the big pubs if they don’t change the way they look at this industry. They have to adapt or it’ll be the death of them. Ebooks might mean that they lose money, but isn’t that better than losing your entire business? That’s probably what Dorchester was thinking when they decided to go epub.

      But rest assured. You’re not the only one who likes the feel of a book in their hand. I like the feel, too. Many of us do. That’s why I don’t think print will entirely go away. I believe it’ll shrink, but not become obsolete. There was still some slow adaptors out there, like me who haven’t embraced things like the iPhone or a dedicated ereader yet. We’re waiting for the prices to go down. 🙂 So in the mean time, we continue to buy print books and use our antiquated cell phones.

      Okay, so like I have a slider, but it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles like an iPhone. 😆

  3. “Publishing has been wavering for a while now. Ever since the economy bellied up, everyone has been hurting. Advances are getting smaller and it’s harder to sell to New York.”

    As a reader, I’m more selective. Books I might have brought back when the economy was doing well, I don’t anymore. I totally understand why publishers are selective when it comes to giving new authors a chance now because I don’t give as many new authors a chance simply because I can’t afford too any more. Last year I started reading exactly two new authors. Usually I read three or four. I don’t usually buy hardcovers. That privlege is for my favorite author.

    As far a e-pub, I think the market is on the verge of a major shift right now. I try to read and keep up with the business of publishing trends. (Especially trying to break into publishing.)

    Readers/customers want more bang for the buck. Publishers might want to think about offering something different. If you pay $26-30 for a hardcover, why not throw in an audio version as well. You really shouldn’t have to pay for the same words twice. Just a thought.

    Marcia, I like your idea of getting together with other authors and doing it yourself. In today’s economy you have to think outside the box.

    • Melissa, hon, I’ve debated for a few weeks of whether to put this post up. I don’t want to scare any new authors or those trying to break into the NY business. Heck, I’m still trying to break into NY just like you. But when the Dorchester news broke, I knew I had to say something because their reorg, -structure, or what you want to call it, is a huge game changer in the face of publishing. What happens when other NY pubs follow down that same path where returns, large advances, and an unpredictable economy hit them just as hard? That’s why I say all eyes are on Dorchester right now to see if they can make it work.

      Like you, I’m very selective about the books I buy now because I can’t afford not to be. The last hardcover book I bought was for $4.99 on the bargain pile at Barnes and Noble. That’s cheaper than a paperback and easy to justify. I’m with you about giving the buyer an incentive to buy the hardcover at full price. Readers just aren’t parting with their money as easily anymore. There’s no reason for them to stop reading if they can find their fix cheaper elsewhere and that’s where ebooks come in.

      Marcia, I like your idea of getting together with other authors and doing it yourself. In today’s economy you have to think outside the box.

      This is why I encourage authors to start studying the business side of writing. It’s imparative for them to know what their options are in the face of uncertainty. Just because publishing is in a jam doesn’t mean writers are out of options. We just need to make sure we’ve explored all of them, if we hope to keep our writing alive.

  4. No worries. As you like to say, knowledge is power. I’m as new as they come with this writing publishing thing and I appreciate anytime a trusted friend drops some knowledge my way. I’ll be keeping my eye on what happens to Dorchester also.

  5. I’m as new as they come with this writing publishing thing and I appreciate anytime a trusted friend drops some knowledge my way.

    As they say, knowledge is power. That’s true for wherever you are in your career. And as always, if there’s anything I can do to get you one step closer to NY, you know I’m there for ya. 😉

  6. Very well said and thought out Marcia. Planning and strategy is what is needed in building a career. Knowledge is power. And power comes from finding all avenues to gain that knowledge. Before I make any decisions regarding my writing career I carefully weigh the pros and cons. Then go in with a clear head and my mind wide open. You have too or you’ll be sorely disappointed.

    No matter what path chosen – traditional print pubs, indie, eBook or even avenues not developed yet – you must go in with reasonable expectations. It is like anything you do. Base it in reality and then brace for that reality to be different than you expect. Then go with what you get and make it so it suits your needs and of course be prepared to do the work needed to get where you need to be.

    Publishing is ever evolving and always changing and we as writers must grow with it.

    • You bring up another interesting point that I failed to mention in this blog. Expectations. Many authors jump into this business with some sort of expectations and they end up disappointing themselves. Or worse, they turn into the divas we’ve all come to know and detest. Once a writer chooses their medium (print, epub, or self-pub, etc.) they need to know the reality of those situations. There are even print authors whose series tank and epub authors who break out. The same is true of self-pubs. In the end, it all goes back to being “prepared to do the work needed to get where you need to be.” I can’t stress that enough, Taige. 🙂

  7. Great article Marcia! Articles like this one are the reason why I follow your blog religiously; even when I don’t leave a comment because I’m reading from my super-tiny phone screen.

    I entered a contest a few weeks ago, and I won! That makes me really happy. I worked on that story for a long, long time and was criticized by a few writing friends. They said that I need to stop wasting my time with the little things and go for the book. Well, about that… the contest was for a bit of money and the huge chance to take an intro to publishing class with a seasoned New York publisher. I’m so glad I won because now, starting next month, I’ll hear good (or useless, who knows) information from the horse’s mouth.

    Anyhoo, I’ll email you later to give you the details. I also want to hear more about that great campus.

    For now, when you have time, stop by Pagan Culture. I’ve nominated you for an award because your blog, my dear love, has substance!
    http://pagan-culture.blogspot.com/2010/08/pagan-cultures-substance.html

    • You are too sweet, hon. 😀

      You know, I had read your post about the writing contest and for the life of me I can’t recall if I had congratulated you or not. CONGRATS, in case I haven’t. *shying back into the corner*

      Yoy won a contest that will put you in a good place with regards to the publishing world. Those of us who have books out there can’t say that. Not to mention, contests aren’t a bad thing to have on your writing resume. It’s another acknowledgement that you’ve got the goods. Oh, and can we mention American Title contest? Amazon’s Breakout contest? People have gotten published because they’ve entered contests and it doesn’t matter if they’re lon stories or short. It’s another way to break into the biz and there’s not wrong with that. I say write-on, sista. Because you never know when one of those short stories will lead to something bigger and better. Those who criticize are probably the ones that don’t know about this business. Take no advice from them, hon.

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