These days everyone’s becoming an author. Heck, you’re all publishing all the time anyway (Facebook, et al), so you might as well write a whole book, right?
Well, it’s not quite that simple. But the publishing industry is heaving huge sighs of change and they’re echoing out to the public ear. Many people are beginning to think that now’s the time to produce and publish that book they’ve always wanted to write and now they’ll actually make money at it!Perhaps.
This blog post is for all those who know something of my editorial background* and have been asking me for advice about writing & publishing.
Joseph** asked me to write it, and practically dictated the contents for me. JHe had this clever list of resources for you, with explanations for who needed what. I sooo wish I had recorded him explaining it to me over lunch! I can’t get him to a keyboard once he’s done with his paid workday, so I’m going to do my best to be as brilliant as he was.
Truly, the publishing business is currently a messy new work in progress, and I’m no expert, but here’s my seasoned advice and opinion, in three parts. Note I said “opinion.” This is my disclaimer. I do not promise you riches or success if you take my advice (or if you don’t). These opinions are based on my experience and observation; yours may differ. So do not bet your publishing life on my words, but take them in, do your research, and make your own choices. Today, Tips 1 through 3.
I am a proud former member. This organization has survived many changes in the industry and keeps its members informed and up-to-date in their editing skills. Their website contains a directory of member-editors, complete with contact information. San Diego
is home to hundreds of authors, maybe thousands! So the collective editorial skills here are top-notch. Matter of fact, it might be the only organization like it in the country. That was true when I was a member, anyway.
And trust me, you DO need an editor, a professional editor, no matter who you are or what you’ve written. SD/PEN’s website explains the different levels of editorial work required throughout the book production cycle, from early “developmental editing,” when you’re just deciding how to put the book into a marketable form, to the final proofreading before it goes off to print or ebook distribution.
And yes, ebooks also need editing and quality design and expert technical conversion. Or you’ll fall into that messy heap of slap-dash, gonna-get-rich efforts to jump on the ebook bandwagon now cluttering the Internet. Ugh. Your book deserves better!
2. Still thinking you might find an agent and then you’ll be picked up by a publisher, who will then edit your work and give you a nice advance and a respectable share of the profits? Sigh. Once upon a time this fairy tale may have been true, but it has not been so for a long number of years.
Okay, I’ll admit at least a part of this tale happened to my sister and one of my clients. But my sister somehow tapped into a mysterious part of the universe that landed her an agent who EDITED for her—who then left the business shortly after this un-agently, unheard-of behavior. And sister and fortunate client, who was granted an astounding advance by similarly mysterious forces in the universe, both ran into trouble with publishers and agents further down the road.
But now, publishers and agents are feeling the collapse of their former palaces of print. Advances are drying up. Profits are plummeting, except in the ebook realm. What agents and publishers will become and what they will do in the future, everyone is trying to figure out and no one knows for sure. Best wishes to you if you go this route! It will be strange and difficult, I’m sure. Please read a lot of publishing news as you embark on this journey, okay?
Here are some good resources, but the Internet is full of blogs and news on the subject:
In fact, if you’re reading this blog, then you’re a person who needs to read these resources regularly, and join LinkedIn and sign up for groups related to publishing. I do hope you’ve already established your Facebook presence?
3. I’ve recently been encouraged by a thread on LinkedIn to define the difference between someone for whom traditional publishing is the right choice, and the determined soul who prefers to self-publish. It all depends on what you want from your publishing experience: Ego strokes? Or money?
If you want the validation of being “chosen” by a publishing house, then go for it. That is a perfectly valid quest. It might be the whole reason you’ve undertaken this project, to boost something about your self-esteem and confidence that cannot be otherwise boosted. No one can fault that objective! We all love that.
For such an author, the traditional publishing house might represent something hallowed, or authoritarian (a teacher? a parent? an important arbiter of taste or status? something unfinished from a past lifetime?), and the quest to gain its approval is vitally important. We all, at some time or another, seek out such things, such proof, such reinforcement.
I do not denigrate anyone who chooses this as their goal; far from it! I just want you to recognize that’s your goal, and learn as much as you can about what you will and will not receive from this experience. Know what you’re going after. Hence, I’ve posted links to resources that will help to educate you about the traditional publishing industry, and the alternatives now available in the 21st century. Plus, some of you may wind up in the hands of a traditional publisher, even if you begin as a do-it-yourselfer. So it’s wise to learn as much as you can about the old ways.
If, however, you want to make some money from your book, and have more control over how that is done and a larger share of your book’s profits, then you’ll probably choose self-publishing. Only a rare few authors are going to earn extraordinary advances from traditional publishers (and there’s always time for that in the future), and it’s even more rare to earn back your advance and begin collecting royalties, after your publisher deducts all “expenses” and other things that only your accountant would understand. And those royalties will be small—from 10 to 12% for paper books.
Some publishers are beginning to offer 25% royalties on electronic books. As a comparison, Amazon currently offers self-publishing authors a 70% royalty option on Kindle editions.
But won’t a publisher provide more marketing, an in-house sales force, book tours, and promotions? you ask.
Ahh, dear friends, that is a dream that has evaporated. Only if your name begins with “Stephen King” or “James Patterson.” You’ll be relying on yourself to do your own marketing and promotions, whether self-published or traditionally published, except you’ll find it a lot easier to do when you have full control over details, such as having books available on the day of your special event. Please, do your research and prove me wrong if you can. Post your experiences in the comments section! Please.
My self-published books (Cosmic Dancer and The Liberator) are currently printed in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia, and soon Brazil, if today’s announcement by my printing partner proves true. They sell online via all Amazon sites, and from other vendors I don’t even recognize, in countries I didn’t know I’d be selling in. They can be acquired via the Espresso Book Machine, and globally in .epub and Kindle formats. Now it’s merely up to me to send people to all these places to buy them, and the Internet makes global marketing possible.
You can do this too.
COMING IN PARTS 2 & 3: Where & How to Self-Publish, Create Ebooks, and Market Your Work
* My credentials: Two published novels, former book editor, and author of a zillion articles for major newspapers & magazines, plus short stories, with two nonfiction books in the pipeline and more fiction on the way. Oh, and co-owner of Cosmic Visionary Music & Books
, powered by my psychic transceiving abilities. Seriously.
** My husband: publishing, transceiving, and dance partner; CFO of CVMB; former book editor; gourmet chef; and occasional co-author.