Friday, September 26, 2014

Musings - On Self-Publishing (Indie) vs. Traditional Publishing

Do something until you can do something else. What I mean by that is write as a hobby (this is how you build a backlist and improve writing) until you can write for a living. If you really love it that much you will find a way to make it happen. It might be through the traditional route (including digital first) the lucky few take or the self publishing route.


Beverley Kendall has a survey that about self-publishing that is awesome. She says, "The more books you have and the more professional your book is–amongst various other things–the better your chance at for finding success self-publishing." Also self publishing is a decision that is personal like any other big decision, you have to take into account your own talents and situation.


My ultimate goal has always been to find an agent who will find me a publisher. Or find a publisher that accepts unsolicited manuscripts. However as I query I am beginning to look at the other option: indie (small press) or self-publishing. In making this decision, I have to feel that I have tried my best for the first route. But then again do I even want the first route now?


My goal is now to get my book out there and make money and fans. Ideally I'd like to be a hybrid author - I want to self-publish and traditionally publish. Either way, I refuse to not try my best at this goal so I will strive to look professional if I do self-publish.


I have broken down the pros and cons of both. It's a lot to think about and I'm sure my list will grow with time.

PROS on SELF-PUBLISHING & INDIE
1. Have full or more creative control/freedom.
2. Smaller budget. Little to none usually in self publishing.
3. No advance money to "sell/work" off, the money you make is just that.
4. Royalties are higher in every format.
5. RETAIN YOUR RIGHTS!!! Make sure you publish under your own ISBNs don't let the others buy/provide you with one because then you don't own full rights. With indie publishing you will not retain rights.                                                                                                                                            6.  Instant publishing capabilities for self-publishing. Small wait time for indie nowhere near the up to 2-year wait for traditional publishing.
7. You can print on demand which saves money or print small runs and sell on your website or at author signings. (Small investments at a time.)

CONS on SELF PUBLISHING & INDIE
1. Have to do all work yourself or hire others to do it. (cover, editing)
2. Little to no budget. 'Cus let's face it most of us are starving artists.
3. No advances so you can't quit your job just yet.
4. Royalties are higher depending on who you publish through. On average about 10-80% on print books and 50-90%  of the net on eBooks. The numbers definitely vary so it is important to research the company royalties and fine print.
5. "Being in the top percent of self-published authors takes time." per Courtney Milan, this is oh-so-true, the reason why self-published books make little to no money is because people don't have the marketing strategy behind it or the will to promote themselves/books.
6. Have to establish a web presence. (website, blog, twitter, facebook, instagram, pinterest, tumbler, Google plus and whatever other companies are popular). In this day and age, you have to do this regardless.
7. Bare the upfront costs of everything*.
8. Will take time to make money back or make money just as it takes time and money to publish.
9. Some "indie/self-publishers" still ask for non-exclusive worldwide license to print, publish, distribute and sell your work which means you are transferring your rights when you agree to publish with them, read the fine print.
10. Watch for "vanity" publishing or fully assisted packages from companies like iuniverse, outskirtspress, authorhouse - you often pay high prices for their help and give up your copyrights.

PROS on TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING
1. You have a professional and experienced team working with/for you, which means you don't have to do everything.
2. Level of credibility when publishing with the BIG 5.
3. Bigger overall budget.
4.  Broader distribution, especially in brick and mortars like Barnes & Noble & Books Inc.
5. Advances, maybe?
6. Have the marketing breadth to reach a bestseller list quicker and at all.
7. Have a better chance of the rights being sold to foreign countries, film & TV studios and audio.
8. Have an agent that is going to look out for your best interests when signing a contract.

CONS on TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING         
1. Less creative control: the team working for you has most of the say-so in all things* relating to your book.
2. Usually you're given a reasonable budget that will produce a professional and marketable book.
3.Advances are against future earnings.
4. Significantly less royalties (about 7% on print books and 25% of the net on eBooks).
5. Still have to establish a web presence.
6. You have imposed deadlines to make. You work for them.
7. You have signed a contract and must produce. You work for them.
8. You are 1 author out of hundreds they work with. You are at the bottom of the long list that includes bestsellers and books that have longevity.
*Everything/things: Cover, print run, digital first decision, marketing, cost of book=formatting, printing, etc.


Self Publishing Tips 
Ultimate Tip: Look professional!
1. Create a great book as part of a series by working on it until it is great (bet-selling books are usually part of a series).
2. Create a website and blog. (Especially if you have won/placed in any contests)
3. Create a professional cover.
4. Professional Editing - At least 2 editors, 2-3 rounds each. Do developmental/content editing as well as line and copy and proofreading. Get more editors if you can afford it. The more professional eyes the better.
5. Marketing - Create Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts, etc. and gain followers.
6. Promo - If you can afford it - participate in blog tours, giveaways, online promos and create a book trailer- all of this can be low cost all can be done for under $500 depending who you go through.
7. Make first series book free or 99 cents. The goal is to get people to read the first book and possibly the series because of no cost/low initial cost. However I know some will shudder at this idea, "Give my work away for free? I work too hard." But how do you gain a fan/customer who might be pulled in many different ways for reading. they already have favorite authors and the big companies and best seller lists are at the forefront, they have the most advertising space. How else can you compete? We can't all be Amanda Hocking and upload books with insta-success with no marketing plan, track record or fan base.
8. Network with other authors and bloggers.
9. Get Reviewed by reputable companies (publisher's weekly, kirkus). This does cost money but it can help promote your novel, assuming you receive good reviews. Some reviewers like the Indie Book Reviewer's List focus on Indie authors. Reviewers have so many requests that the chances of being reviewed are slim. You must also send a request 3-6 months ahead of release date.
10. Price books to maximize profit. At first start low 99 cents, $1.99, $2.99, then make prize commensurable with sales, $2.99-7.99 seems reasonable.


I conclude by saying you can make a living off of self-publishing if you work hard at it. For further information, the author Beverly Kendall also did an intensive survey on self-publishing that gives you more about earning factors of the self-publishing road. Also the Key Publishing Paths from Jane Friedman also breaks down more paths people can take.



Self Publishing Resources:
https://www.createspace.com/


http://www.amazon.com/gp/seller-account/mm-summary-page.html?topic=200260520


https://www.smashwords.com/


http://connect.lulu.com/t5/Creator-Revenues/Calculate-Creator-Revenue-amp-Lulu-Commission/ta-p/33139


https://www.millcitypress.net/book-publishing-royalties-compared

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why YA?

Unequivocally My Favorite Genre                                                                                                         YA is my favorite genre and sometimes when I tell people, I get: "You don't like adult books?" or "Isn't that for teens?" or "You aren't a 'serious' reader". To those people I say, I have always liked this genre and just because I grew up doesn't mean that I'm to old to read young adult or ANYTHING I want for that matter. I enjoy Children's, Middle Grade and Adult categorized books as well but YA is my absolute favorite. Of course I am an adult and not by far the same person I was when I was a teen reader but that doesn't mean that my tastes have to change or reflect my intelligence or growth. I grew up but I still like chocolate chips cookies, The Little Mermaid (I know all the words to Part of Your World), night lights and red vines - do I have to give up these things too because I'm grown? I love YA and I'm not ashamed to admit it.


A book's genre classification shouldn't mean that it is "less than" other books in the market or strictly for a certain kind of person or a specific demographic. Remember that YA is written by mostly adults Three of the younger authors writing YA were 21-23 years old when they first got published, Stephanie Diaz's Extraction, Veronica Roth's Divergent and a new author, Lindsay Cummings who is bursting on the scene with several debuts (The Murder Complex & Balance Keepers). Therefore knocking a genre that is written by adults in which 28% of all YA sales are from adults between the ages of 30 - 44 is plain ignorant. It's not like YA is child porn or adults reading YA negatively impacts the world - it is a personal preference that does not constitute a reader's level of intelligence - to each its own. To those who ask and write articles debating this issue where they practically shake their fingers at adult YA readers, I ask, why do you care what I read?   


My Background on Genre
I fell in love with Young Adult literature while reading the Sweet Valley High series and then later the Harry Potter series (I know it’s part MG & part YA and that’s debatable) and never turned back. I always felt that there was a lack of color in YA that did not reflect the colorful world we live in and that made me want to write stories that reflected the world. From this standpoint I evolved into wanting to give teen’s material they could relate to as well. I enjoy the components of YA books the most because they have pure rawness. The love story (usually a first love), self-discovery, the newness of first time experiences, rapidly growing memorable characters & the innocence of youth. It’s a phenomenal phase in life that I love to capture with my mix of science fiction and fantasy plots and characters.


YA Endings & Trilogies
What's this about the endings of YA books? Do adult books always have ambiguous endings--really----always? Come on, I don't think this is true for the range of adult books out there. The Giver, a book that has been out for a long time and had a movie adapted in 2014 had the most ambiguous ending. And the Divergent series and Hunger Games series don't totally wrap those dystopian worlds up in a neat bow.


One trend I am SUPER SUPER tired of is trilogies-especially when the second books (in most cases) have become fillers. It's like you meet the characters in book one and get attached (maybe) and then the author thinks it's ok to write a book where we sit and watch them do nothing and bam book 3 wraps it all up. Next time you find a mediocre trilogy skip book two, you'll save yourself hours of reading and you won't miss a thing.


The YA Wave
I think there are several adult authors riding the wave and cash train of the genre like James Patterson who truly don't understand the category although they are masters of their previous categories. I think those that write the genre should only write a YA story if they can truly write from the perspective of a teen in a way that is not condescending, preachy, cookie cutter-ish or cliché. There are also many young adult authors who don't get this write (yes I meant to spell it this way). Writing for young adults is about tone and style, the ability to place yourself in the mind of someone who is learning and establishing who they are in the world. This has to been done through believable/relatable characters, dialogue and choices. Whether it's done in a contemporary setting, made up world involving teens that shouldn't be a reflection on the seriousness or quality of the writing.


References:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2014/07/03/the-rise-of-young-adult-authors-on-the-celebrity-100-list/


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronica_Roth




http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/06/against_ya_adults_should_be_embarrassed_to_read_children_s_books.html


http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-ya-switch-20140618-story.html



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What's Your Magic Number?

Everyone has a magic number because everyone gets rejected. This magic number equates to the number of times an author was rejected before they got someone who believed in them enough to give them a chance.


J.K. Rowling's magic number was 12 for Harry Potter.

Alex Haley's magic number was 200 for Roots.

Madeleine L'Engle's magic number was 26 for A Wrinkle in Time.

Kathryn Stockett's magic number was 61 for The Help.

Stephanie Myers magic number was 14 for Twilight.

Nicholas Sparks's magic number was 24 for The Notebook.

Margaret Mitchell's magic number was 38 for Gone with the Wind.

Jack Canfield's magic number was 140 for Chicken Soup for the Soul.


In addition the Da Vinci Code, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Princess Diaries and The Diary of Anne Frank authors all suffered through years of rejection.


Each author on this list of bestsellers has sold millions of books. Think if any of these authors had allowed rejections and negativity to roll them back down the hill, admitting defeat, we wouldn't have these stories which in some cases are American classics.


Every writer knows the road to publishing is an uphill battle filled with rejection. But I am here to tell you (even without a contract yet) that the hill gets less steep and even flattens out in some spots if you keep on trekking up. Sometimes you see a home on the side of the hill, sometimes you make a home on the side of the hill, sometimes the hill plateaus and you have to figure out another way to get up it. Eventually if you keep trying you will make it to the top.


In 2013, I queried a book that got about 50 form rejections. I knew something was wrong with the way the story was unfolding on the pages because I received the same sort of feedback from beta readers and contests judges. This is where my novel plateaued. However after hiring a new editor, I got my work critiqued and went back to the drawing board with the book improving my writing through constant practice and reading. After a huge rewrite, this book is now being re-edited. I think my biggest mistake was querying when neither the book nor I was ready.


Since April 2014, I have been querying a YA dystopian series told from a male perspective called Golden Dreg Boy. I took time to edit the book myself, revise and work with a freelance editor in order to polish my work. It is not perfect, but I think it's good enough to garner a deal. What has reaffirmed my belief in my book/writing are my beta readers, contest feedback and the more personal lines in the rejection letters I have gotten. This is where I have seen a few homes on the side of the hill but none has been right for me. A couple positive lines I received rom agents for Golden Dreg Boy pretty much said my story was interesting but not for them: "I think you have an interesting story here, I didn't quite fall in love with it in the way that I need to in order to take it on." AND "While I think that your idea is very interesting, unfortunately I could not connect with the material in the way that I need to in order to take it on." This is about as positive as querying responses get unless you are asked to submit a partial, full or a revise. Therefore I'm still going to trek up that hill until I find a home for my book. Update: It is now on swoonreads.com, a MacMillan crowdsourcing publishing platform so I am crossing my fingers on this new endeavor.

In 2015, I am also close to querying three more novels vastly different from Golden Dreg Boy, one is going to be revised and resubmitted to an agent per request in about 6 months. Another I had edited and am now revising again. And the last I am being coached on (hands on editing) and will be done revising in a few months. So you see after my first book failed to impress I went back to the drawing board and continued to work that book and write other books. It is a fact that is not always your first book that sells.


Final Thoughts  to Remember When Querying:
1. When making changes to your novel to ready it for querying, don't listen to everything, listen to your gut and what you think will make the story better. Some suggestions may be contradictory so decide what works for you. This is a frustrating and looming process so do it until you can't do it anymore and are happy enough with what you have.


2. Obtaining an agent is very subjective, process. What one agent likes (just like readers) another agent will hate/dislike. I think 99% of obtaining an agent is about finding the right fit. It takes three factors for an agent to give you a chance:


♥ They like your story enough to represent you.
♥ It's a good fit and doesn't conflict with their existing project list.
♥ They see potential in the project and author. Some agents will ask for heavy revisions in rare cases where they really connect with the story.


3. All you need is 1 yes! Forget all the naysayers...let the rejection letters pile up, print them out (since it's mostly emailed rejections now), put them in a bag and place the bag in your closet or under your bed like Meg Cabot (author of Princess Diaries series who received 3 years of rejection letters) until it becomes so heavy you're unable to lift it. Recycle it, or keep it when you find the right fit. If that's not motivation...I don't know what is.


4. The alternative to finding an agent is self-publishing or small press publishing which is becoming more commonmany have championed this road too.


Keep your eyes on the prize and remember if you are an author and want to be published, there is a magic number for everyone. Don't give up!

References: http://www.literaryrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/