Tag Archives: publishing

#amwriting: publishing overview, Indie vs. Traditional

Who are youThe publishing industry is in a state of growth. According to the annual report of the Association of American Publishers, published July 11, 2016, the  U.S. publishing industry’s annual survey revealed earnings of nearly $28 billion in 2015. The market showed an increased return to print purchases, and a significant growth in audiobook sales while the growth of eBooks sales lagged compared to previous years.

“The area of largest growth for the trade category was Adult Books, which grew by 6.0% from $9.87 billion in 2014 to $10.47 billion in revenue in 2015. For the second consecutive year, Adult non-fiction books, which includes adult coloring books, was the category that sold the most units and provided the most revenue in the trade category. Within the Adult Books category, the fastest growing formats in terms of units sold were downloaded audio (up 45.9%), hardback (up 15.1%) and paperback (up 9.1%).” Ebooks still comprised 17.3% of the market.

In this publishing world, what share of the market is claimed by Indie book sales? In October 2016 Author Earnings reported that overall, Indie sales were down. In my view, this is to be expected, because eBook sales were down, and most Indie sales are in eBook format. It is the availability factor—Indies have trouble getting their work into places like Walmart and Target, which are the big booksellers in America, right behind Amazon.

Author Earnings reported:

Amazon’s 2016 online print book sales are nearly 18% higher than they were in 2015.

When we integrate the area under the two curves, we find that:

Amazon sold over 255 million print books in the US in 2015.

Amazon is on track to sell well over 300 million print books in the US in 2016.

The above totals include at least 13 million annual print sales of non-expanded-distribution CreateSpace POD books by self-published authors, which Amazon does not include in the numbers they report to Nielsen Bookscan.

The implications are numerous:

In 2015, more than 40% of Nielsen Bookscan’s 652 million total reported annual US print sales–and the majority of Nielsen’s Retail & Club sector–were online print sales from Amazon.com, rather than brick-and-mortar bookstore sales.

The fact that Nielsen Bookscan reports only 5% growth in the “Retail & Club” sector, when Amazon’s half of those “Retail & Club” numbers is up 18%, can only mean one thing:

The other half of the Bookscan Retail & Club sector, US physical bookstore sales, must be down by at least 8%.

What do these numbers mean when you are trying to decide whether to self-publish or attempt to go the traditional route? In my opinion, they really mean nothing. Authors, either Indie or traditionally published, rarely earn enough in royalties to support their families. Publishers, large and small, don’t waste budgets promoting work by unknown authors the way they do the few who have risen to the ranks of their guaranteed bestseller lists.

This means you will be doing the work of getting your name out there regardless of whether you choose the traditional route or not. What are the perks of going traditional if you’re an unknown? Why go to the trouble of wooing an agent and trying to court a publisher?

  • The traditional publishing industry offers many valid perks to those who get their foot in the door.
  • Once you are in their flock, you have an editor who works with you personally. Most of the time you can forge a good working relationship with this editor. If you go Indie, you must hire a copy editor, which is not cheap. (And should not be.)
  • While they may not treat a new author the way they do Stephen King, traditional publishers will dedicate a small budget to marketing your work for its launch, and it will be more money than you might be able to pony up as an Indie.
  • Traditional publishers can get your work into markets like Target, Walmart, Costco, airports, and grocery stores. That is a huge thing, assuming your publisher considers your work worthy of such a commitment on their part. Their confidence will have to be earned. You must expect to find your work on the slow track for a while as the publisher tests the water and sees how well your work is received at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
  • Once you are an established author, you will have a wider distribution, make far more sales. With those sales, your work will meet the criteria to be considered for industry honors and awards, which will help sell your books.
  • There is an air of ‘respectability’ that still clings to being able to claim you’re traditionally published.

These are all extremely valid reasons for attempting to go the traditional route.

However, there are equally valid reasons for going Indie:

  1. Your book will be published. If you seek a legacy book contract, you must pass a gauntlet of gatekeepers: literary agents, acquisition editors, editorial committees, and publishing-house CEOs. These people must answer to the international conglomerates that actually own the majority of American publishing companies. This is why you are most likely to be stopped by a rejection letter. It’s not the quality of your work, it’s their perception of what the reading market will purchase and what it means to the accountants, who in turn must answer to their share-holders.
  2. You may not become a bestseller, but you’ll make more money on what you do sell. In most standard book contracts, royalty terms for authors are terrible, and this is especially true for eBook sales. Most eBooks are sold through online retailers like Amazon. If you’re a traditionally published author, and your publisher priced your eBook at $9.99, this is how the Amazon numbers break out (and remember, Amazon is still the Big Fish in the Publishing and Bookselling Pond):
  • Amazon takes 30% of the list price, leaving about $7.00 for the publisher, agent, and you to split.
  • The publisher will keep 75% of that $7.00, or $5.25.
  • The publisher will pay you 25% of that $7.00—just $1.75.
  • You then must pay your agent his 15% commission—or 26 cents.
  • You net just $1.49 on each $9.99 eBook sale. This is assuming your publisher honestly reports your sales and royalties and in my personal experience, some do not.

If you self-publish your eBook at that same price, for each sale of your $9.99 eBook, Amazon takes its 30%, leaving you $7.00. I don’t recommend such a high eBook price, but at  $4.99 or even $2.99, you stand to sell books and make a decent profit.

  1. You’ll get paid quickly. When a publisher accepts your book, he offers you an advance against sales. These are often paid in installments stretched out over long periods and are tied directly to how well or how poorly your book is doing in real market time. Publishers report sales and pay royalties slowly, as royalty statements are usually issued semiannually. Your royalty checks arrive later, so you can’t rely on this income until you have become an established author in their world.

Conversely, most eBook distributors like Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes and Noble’s Pubit, and print-on-demand services such as Amazon’s CreateSpace, report your sales virtually in real time. Best of all, they pay your royalties monthly, with just a sixty-day lag from the time sales began.

Finally, and from my point of view, most importantly:

  1. Quill_pen smallYou retain all rights to your work. Legacy book contracts are a terrible danger zone for the author. The sheer complexity of negotiating a contract can be confusing and intimidating. You must hire a lawyer specializing in literary contracts, or risk unwittingly signing away secondary and subsidiary rights to your own work forever.

Quote from the Authors Guild post of July 28, 2015

Diamonds may be forever, but book contracts should not be. There’s no good reason why a book should be held hostage by a publisher for the lifetime of the copyright, the life of the author plus seventy years—essentially forever. Yet that’s precisely what happens today. A publisher may go bankrupt or be bought by a conglomerate, the editors who championed the author may go on to other companies, the sales force may fail to establish the title in the marketplace and ignore it thereafter, but no matter how badly the publisher mishandles the book, the author’s agreement with the original publisher is likely to remain in effect for many decades.

As I said before, you must do the work of getting your name out there regardless of whether you choose the traditional route or not. You must still work your day job to feed your family either way. Both paths are valid, and both have positive reasons for choosing that direction, as well as negatives. This is a critical choice for an author to make and is one that deserves deep consideration of all the many pros and cons.


CREDITS & ATTRIBUTIONS:

Annual Report, Marissa Bluestone © Copyright 2016, The Association of American Publishers http://newsroom.publishers.org/us-publishing-industrys-annual-survey-reveals-nearly-28-billion-in-revenue-in-2015, accessed March 5, 2017

A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever, The Authors Guild, © 2015 https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/a-publishing-contract-should-not-be-forever/, accessed March 5, 2017

Do I Really Need A Literary Attorney, Arielle Ford, © 2011 Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arielle-ford/do-i-really-need-a-litera_b_927120.html

Image: Quill Pen, PD|by author, BWCNY at English Wikipedia.

Image: Who Are You © Connie J. Jasperson 2011-2017 Life in the Realm of Fantasy

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What does “Submission-Ready” mean?

Gamalost-NorwegianOldCheeseI’m not talking bondage here, friends, so get your mind out of the erotica.

I’m talking about a manuscript with the potential to be made into something publishable.

I see a lot of manuscripts. Some are quite promising, some not so much. Literally anyone can write and publish a book nowadays, but not everyone can write a book others will want to read–THAT is a craft, and there are many who don’t feel the need to learn it before they submit their work to an editor or a publisher.  The quality of their work stinks like gamalost cheese, but they have the gall to wonder why the Big 6 haven’t snapped it up.

gibberish-american businesses onlineIt is important to learn the craft of writing, if you want readers to enjoy your work. Spend the time to learn the mechanics of the language you are writing in. However, if you are simply writing a pretentious pseudo-literary art piece, fine–go on and have at it–no one will ever read it, and you can feel superior for having written it. If you dare to compare yourself to James Joyce I will run you out of the writing group quicker than you can say Ulysses.

Before you submit your manuscript, take the time to make it submission-ready:

1. Properly format it: Set the indents, use a serif font of .11 or .12, double-space it with no extra space between the paragraphs, and do not justify it.

2. Hire an editor to help you straighten out the flaws YOU can’t see.

3. Go to the publisher’s website and find out what their submission guidelines are and FOLLOW THEM. (Yes, they apply to EVERYONE, no matter how famous, even  you.) If you skip this step, you will wait a year to hear that your ms has been rejected, and they won’t tell you why.  It’s not worth their time to teach you how to be a writer–you have to learn that on your own.

For a more in-depth description of this whole process, see my series “WORD-A Shifty Beast.”

learn something newTry to learn something new every day in your writing life, and with each success you have, try to keep some humility.  You will grow as an author, your work will remain fresh, and I will continue to beg to read it.

If you read the kind of work you want to write, you will gain inspiration from the masters in your genre. When I am not writing or editing, I am reading. And when I have the chance to read for pleasure, I read epic fantasy, paranormal fantasy and science fiction. When I find a book that rings my bells, I talk about it, and blog about it. Conversely, if I hated it, I never mention it again.

Yep–I’m that kind of a reader.

 

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The Bitter Pill

Advanced Notice from Amazon re Merceds Lackey's new bookOne of the most confusing things about being an indie author is pricing your book. Quite honestly, if you price it too high–I probably won’t buy it unless you are my dear friend (don’t worry Tad Williams, I will sell my car to get your next book.)

For me, anything over $4.99 is too high, and $2.99 is the perfect spot. I love those $0.99 books too!

I am sorry, Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory–your publisher has priced you out of the ballpark for me–I read four to six books each week and will not be able to pre-order The House of Four Winds for my Kindle. In fact, at that price, I will have to wait until the paperback turns up at my local second-hand book store.

Don ValienteIn a recent post discussing Hugh Howey‘s report, Author Earnings: the Report, on her excellent blog, The Militant Writer, Mary Walters  boiled it down to manageable chunks and made a great many good points. One in particular is of great interest to those of us trying to choose a publishing path, and who may be wavering between going indie, or remaining on a traditional path. She writes:

  • Readers are not buying traditionally published e-books as frequently as they are indie published e-books, because indie-published books cost less. Therefore, traditionally published authors are getting read less often, and are making less money per book sold than indie authors are.

This is important news for traditionally published authors.

It is also important news for major publishers, who are going to lose their authors if they don’t smarten up.

We won’t go into the impact all this is having on good literature, but Howey believes that the data suggests that “even stellar manuscripts are better off self-published.”

Speaking as an author this is sad, because I am like everyone who writes a book, secretly hoping to get picked up by a big publisher. On so many levels that would be a great honor, to have my work recognized by an industry I have always respected. But when I look at this conundrum as a reasonable human being, no one wants to be tied the wheel and sold into eternal serfdom for the rest of their writing career. No one wants to be forced to write stale sequel after sequel, just because the first book rocked and now the series brand is a guaranteed sale for the publisher. Where is the joy of creativity in that?

wool by hugh howeyThis is where each author must make a key decision regarding what we will commit our energy to: Will we court the favor of an industry that has much to offer us, but expects to be paid in more than their pound of flesh? Or will we soldier on, trying to find that sweet-spot that Hugh Howey has found, and perhaps hit the big time through our own efforts?

I choose to follow in Mr. Howey’s footsteps. I haven’t been that successful yet, but what I earn is mine. I am the captain of my ship, and if I fail to navigate the shark-infested waters of publishing, at least I have given it my best effort. I will continue to price my books as reasonably as I can, and hope that with persistent efforts on my part, their sales will gain ground.

The harsh truth is that the big publishers are rushing to publish manuscripts by big name authors that are just as poorly edited and just as abysmally plotted as those in the $0.99 bin at Amazon.com. How many paperbacks have you bought, gotten halfway through them, and said, “This is s**t!”… ?

I would rather pay less than $12.99 for that privilege, thank you.

George R.R.Martin formatting issue 3 via book blog page views, margaret ebyI find that traditionally published books are fraught with problems just as frequently as not, and it pisses me off, because the big publishers LOUDLY proclaim their quality is superior, when time has proven it is not necessarily so. This is why I go to the secondhand bookstore for the traditionally published books, and haunt the Kindle store, looking  for the indies.

There is gold out there in those inexpensive Kindle books, and I am vindicated every time I read a true gem.  This is why I blog about the books I love on my Best in Fantasy blog–an attempt to bring attention to the many amazing books that entertain me.

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It’s smart and clickable!

MH900314342As you know I have been working on the nuts-and-bolts end of the indie publishing business for a while now, but not really long in terms of my career. I only dove into this in 2011, and in the last two years of sometimes floundering I’ve picked up a few useful tricks.  One of the most useful in terms of a finished manuscript is how to create a table of contents for your eBook that is “clickable”, a Smart TOC.

When I read an e-book I really like it when I can easily navigate within the ms by using the hyperlinks embedded in the table of contents. This is a “Smart TOC” and is very easy to create when you are formatting your ms for publication.

First make your table of contents. The one I am using for this is an old file for the original version of Billy’s Revenge, so ignore the page numbers. I didn’t know that page numbers are like prisoners—they just weigh you down! 

Your print manuscript will most likely not have a TOC as most novels don’t waste precious pages on such things. Technical manuals and textbooks must include a TOC, but every page you can do without when publishing your novel in paper form will keep the final cost down and make your paperback more affordable for your prospective reader. Very few people will pay $18.99 for a book by an unknown author.

prnt scrn SMART TOC 1

The first thing you want to do is create a bookmark.  First highlight the words  “Table of Contents” and then go to your ‘Insert’ tab.  Click on ‘Bookmark’ in that ribbon. Type in the words ref_TOC

Then click “Add”.  In every ms it is important to name the Table of Contents bookmark exactly that, including the underscore, because that’s what Smashwords looks for and it is simply a good practice to have a uniform system for naming files.  See the next picture for how it will look and ignore the page numbers:

prnt scrn SMART TOC 2

Now it’s time to bookmark  the prologue. Scroll down to your prologue and do it exactly the same way as you bookmarked the TOC, but for this ms let’s name it BR_prologue. You will name yours with your ms initials and the word prologue. If you have no prologue, skip this step.  See the picture below:

prnt scrn SMART TOC 3

As long as you are there, with the chapter title highlighted, click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. On the left, you want to ‘Link to:’  “Place in this Document”.  That will bring up your bookmarks. Select ‘ref_TOC’  and click OK.  This will turn your heading blue, which is called a ‘hyperlinky’. Press control and click on the link. it will take you back to the table of contents. Once you have used the hyperlinky it will turn purple. How cool is that! This is how that screen looks:

prnt scrn SMART TOC 4

Now that you are back at the Table of Contents, highlight “Prologue and click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. On the left, you want to ‘Link to:’  “Place in this Document”. That will bring up your bookmarks. Select ‘BR_prologue’  and click OK.  That will turn it blue. Press control and click on the link. it will take you back to the heading of your prologue.

Do this for the entire table of contents, always remembering to link your chapter heading back to “ref_TOC”, and test each link as you go.  Four more pictures just to help you remember:

prnt scrn SMART TOC 5

prnt scrn SMART TOC 6

prnt scrn SMART TOC 7

prnt scrn SMART TOC 8

I hope this helps you in formatting your eBook manuscript. I just redid all my books so that they have Smart TOCs and will be building the TOC into my future manuscripts as I go.  This is an incredibly useful too to help you navigate within any long manuscript, and although I had used book marks before in the course of my work, I didn’t realize that the fancy TOCs I admired so in other people’s e-books was such a simple thing.

But that’s the way it always goes–things that seem like they should be hard are often the most simple, while something that should be easy turns into a drama of epic proportions.

Here’s to less drama and more simplicity! Learning how to format an e-book isn’t really that hard, and the wonderful people at both Smashwords and at Amazon have a lot of information freely available to you. Remember, as an indie, you are your own publisher, and what you put out there has to be the best you can make it.

Making use of the free information that is out there on the internet can only help you in this regard!

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