Dizzy in Today’s Publishing World

So, I just came back from the Desert Dreams conference, which was a wonderful experience (thanks to the Desert Rose chapter of RWA for a FABULOUS time!). I really want a partner in this writing endeavor, so I was focused on meeting with agents and hoping to stir some interest in my work – which I did, so yay me. (Now I’m behind. Again. So it goes!)

I also got to speak very informally with one of my editor-crushes, Brenda Chin (she’s just fantastic, and I’d go kayaking with her any time).  A big step for me – a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have known what to say or how to act. Anyway…

A good conference. No, a GREAT conference. Lots of goodness – lots of hugging old friends, meeting and cheering on new friends, and I’ve even been asked by a couple local RWA chapters to speak at their monthly meetings, so that was a kick. (I must get back to those ladies…)

And then, I opened my email today and saw this post from Kristen Lamb who I absolutely adore. It’s titled BIG SIX PUBLISHING IS DEAD – WELCOME THE MASSIVE THREE . Go ahead and click on that and read the article – I’ll wait.

Back already? So, basically, she says (and it’s really hard to disagree with her logic) that Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft/B&N are the new beasts on the publishing playground, and they will devour traditional publishing the way Apple first devoured music stores, and then devoured Kodak and their traditional film cameras (does anyone carry a camera any more?).  This is also much in alignment with what I heard from Bob Mayer this past weekend.

After the weekend I just had, this news (which isn’t really news) makes me dizzy. I am still firmly of the opinion that I don’t want to be my own publisher – I don’t want to work that hard. Writing the book is hard enough, thank you very much. However – I feel very much whipped around, like I’m on the edge of the tornado that is publishing now.

a photo of a tornado

Maybe I’ll “grow up” and get over it, and pub my own stuff. Maybe not. It’s still a discoverability issue – even if you get 70% of royalties on stuff you pub, if no one can find it and if no one buys it, that’s zero dollars. Actually, negative dollars since you’ve paid for the cover/editing/etc. If you make your work free, whoopee – that’s still no cash in your pocket, and no guarantee that anyone will go on to purchase from you. And no matter how much I love writing, am I willing to put book after book out there with no return? To be honest, I really don’t know. But it’s hard to put food on the table with a negative income, even when doing something I love.

So, still conflicted. Here’s a soothing photo of people kayaking. (Brenda, take note – if/when we work together, I’d LOVE to kayak with you!)

What about you? Are you thinking about taking the plunge? Have you already taken it? Are you resisting it with every fiber of your being, and now feel like a little dinosaur about to be eaten by the big T-Rex?

I love your opinions – lay them on me! Am I still firmly an ostrich, dancing, and is there anything wrong with that?

~ Until next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

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41 Responses to Dizzy in Today’s Publishing World

  1. Emma says:

    I self-published some short stories last year but that’s as far as I’ve taken it. I was too scared at the time to take the plunge with a novel. I’m still querying literary agents and publishers at the moment, but think I will go ahead with self-publishing my novels later on this year if the traditional route isn’t happening.

  2. Oh, man, this is a hard one. I have a publisher, Musa Publishing, who put out my book in January in e-book form only. I’m doing a TON of promotion but it is such a slow, slow process that’s it’s glacial. But, I was told this is how it would be and I can’t imagine having to do all the blog tours and promo I’m doing now AND have to do all the things Musa is doing for my promo as well! AACK! That’s scary. But, hey, I’m still looking for an agent to represent me. It’s so different when you’re doing it without the traditional backing of a print publisher with more bucks than I have to put into the promotion.
    Patti

  3. Christine;

    I’ve self-published both of my books and I couldn’t be happier. However, with that said, I don’t think my experience is the norm. My first book became a bestseller on both Amazon and BN.

    I just released my second book and it’s a bestseller on BN, but Amazon sales haven’t kept pace. I haven’t been able to do as much promo this time around as I did with the first book, but I’m hoping to be able to start more promo this week. I’ve been very blessed and very lucky. I’m not sure how or why my books took off like they did.

    I would never tell anyone self-publishing is the only way to go. But I wouldn’t tell them that traditional publishing is the best way to go either. It’s a personal choice and I think authors have to choose which way (or combo) works for them. For me, it was all about having control of my work, my covers, how much I charge and how much I make, and my career. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing. And…

    No, there is nothing wrong with ostrich dancing.

  4. Roz Lee says:

    With 5 books and a novella out with an established eBook publisher, I went out on my own with my latest. It was a leap of faith, but since I was footing the bill and doing all the publicity work anyway, what was a few more dollars invested in cover art an editing? I’m happy with my choice. I recouped the production expenses in the first few weeks, and in a few months time, income now exceeds all expenditures, including on-going promotion and advertising. This book is firmly in the black, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Several others are in the works now, so I’ve got to wrap this up and get back to writing!

    I understand everyone has to choose what’s right for them. I chose one way, then found another path that fits me better at this point in my career. I wish you all the luck making the difficult choices ahead.

    • See Roz, I think I might end up doing that – get a bunch of novels out with my current publisher (fingers crossed) and then move out on my own. I’m thrilled to hear about the success you’ve been having – good for you! Plan on getting grilled during RWA this summer, lol!

  5. Dayle says:

    I’m self-pubbing and delighted by the results. I’m not against trad publishing by any stretch, but it has to come down to what they can actually do for me, and will they negotiate on their contracts?

    As for discoverability, we’ll continue to find books the way we always have – through word of mouth (the #1 way people choose books, after “already like the author”).

    I recently put up a semi-secret book. It’s under a pen name I’ve never used before, and likely won’t use again. It’s different from anything else I’ve written, so I didn’t want to attach it to any of my current names. I have not promoted it at all. I haven’t added it to my publishing website. (Astute people who care can figure out what it is, and if anyone really wants to take the time to do that, that makes me happy that they care enough! ;-D )

    The book is selling. Not a lot, granted, and I don’t expect it to, because it’s the only book out there by that pen name, so there’s no cross-interest. (The way you make money self-pubbing is to have enough material out there, and put the first chapter of one book as a bonus at the end of another one, etc. If someone like something you’ve written, they’ll do what they’ve always done: seek out everything else you’ve written. And with self-pubbing, you’re not constrained by some publisher’s idea of how frequently your books should come out.)

    My point, though, is that with no marketing, no known name, no nuthin’, I’m making a few bucks on that semi-secret book. (I know someone who did the same, and it’s his best-selling book, because of the genre and because he’s a kick-ass amazing writer. Still, though – the only book under that name, and no marketing.)

    Write the best books you can, and readers will find them! This new world of publishing makes me giddy with freedom and opportunity.

    • You have always gone your own way, Dayle – long before the publishing world exploded. I really admire your outlook on the whole thing, but I just can’t get there yet myself.

      Congrats on all your success!

  6. Catie Rhodes says:

    We’ve discussed this privately. I feel the same way you do. I see the wind swirling around, and I am not sure if should run into the bathroom to hide or put my hands on my hips and say, “bring it.”

    I have looked at self-publishing. From what I can tell, putting out a professional product can run into some serious $$$. Now, that is not to say that NOBODY is putting out a professional, quality product for little/no money. I am sure some people are. And more power to them.

    For most of us, however, we’d feel the need to hire out the editing, cover art, and only Yoda knows what else. In doing this, we run into the issue that right now anybody can call themselves and editor and charge for their services. Ditto on cover artists and ebook formatters. Finding a reputable service provider would take some elbow grease all by itself.

    Then, after you’re good and tired from all that, you have marketing. Now, I am one of those who suspects that few–maybe even no–publishers (traditional, small press, or otherwise) have marketing $$$ to pump into a new, unproven author. I sincerely think you’re own your own with the marketing.

    Make me dizzy just typing it all out.

    The bottom line is that I am not willing to write for free. I am speaking of the model you mentioned above in which the author writes book after book but gives them away for free.

    However, I will follow that by saying I do think it takes both time and a backlist to better your chances at making money in this business. And until you’ve put in the time to develop a backlist and build a following, you’re probably not going to get rich.

    People keep telling me the writing business is a marathon and not a sprint. I am starting to think they are right. 😀

  7. Hey Christine,

    I’m still too new to say anything left or right, but just wanted you to know that I was here, read your post, got some good info and laughed a lot (“Go ahead and click on that and read the article – I’ll wait.”) teehee.

  8. Great post. I think we all have our comfort level and feel for when it is best to try new technologies. None is right or wrong. As one with a bit of a small press backlist, self pub is looking better and better.

    • I hear you, Christine L. When I have more of a presence, maybe I’ll feel better going it alone. Now? Not so much. Cheers!

    • You know, I just had a thought – we three Christines should have our own small publishing company, pubbing only ourselves! What a hoot THAT would be!

      Okay – back to your regularly scheduled comments…

      • Love it. What could we call it?? The Three Christines—Christine In Progress—Christine’s Corner—Curiously Christine

        Come on …work with us here.

  9. Kristen Lamb says:

    I hate to say this, but I think you stand a chance of making a better and bigger income without the Big Six. Writers had a staggering failure rate and NY didn’t do anything. At one time, they couldn’t do anything, but then the Digital Age opened up all kinds of opportunities for them to make the future for writers–ALL WRITERS–better. What did they do? Nothing. They propped up an old, dying system that offered writers a 93% failure rate. I feel that new publishers will step in and fill the void. Cool Gus Publishing is already doing that for writers with backlist. Other publishers will do that for the newbies.

    There are ways to solve the discoverability issue, but that cannot be tackled until we stop trying to revive a corpse. I have tried time and time again to get NY to listen, but frankly you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You stick with the WANAs and keep writing. This is no journey for the wimpy and you have gusto, so don;t you worry at all. The future is very uncertain, but you know what? This is the time that legends are made. You just keep doing what you are doing.

  10. Kristen Lamb says:

    Oh and thanks for the shout-out. No wonder you are one of my favorite people *hugs*.

  11. Charlene says:

    Christine – so happy to hear you loved the conference. It’s one I have always wanted to attend! I go back and forth about being traditionally published and for me, the best thing about being your own publisher, is content. I can write something I want to write, something I’m passionate about, without too many guidelines, except to make the book strong and the story compelling. But it’s nice to have an editor who has your back, as mine does, and professionals who have been in the business a long time. I like that authors have many more options. But at the same time, it’s also sad to see the market diluted with so many books available, that quite possibly not too many authors will see really great sales (other than big names and a few others) It IS dizzying. Keep the faith!

    • Charlene – I’ve been around for so long (11 years) that for my game plan to be so upended is bewildering, even after the last year or so. I think I’ll straddle both – eventually – such as, I’m planning on targeting Harlequin Blaze, so I’ll do that AND I’ll do my indie stuff.

      You know. When I get my act together and get that second possible Blaze manuscript written…

      hugs dear!

  12. Maria Powers says:

    I do not agree that the big six are dead. They may be seriously wounded, but dead? I don’t agree. I think you have to look at the place that people come from who say this. If they are self publishing and creating their own publishing houses, then it fits within their world view and bolsters their decisions to believe that publishing is dead.

    I have not decided how I will be moving forward. I do know that I don’t have enough written to self publish yet. I think that at a minimum I’d want 6 books ready and working on the next one(s). I am not there yet.

    I am still looking at “traditional” publishing. I do think it is amusing that all of these “self-publishing” success stories: Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, and a few personal friends, have now turned to publishing. J.A. is being published by Amazon’s publishing branch which a friend decided to leave self-publishing for to and signed away her rights in perpetuity. I wonder if J.A. made the same deal? Amanda went with a big 6.

    I think what is good about right now is the choices for writers. I also agree with Dayle on contracts needing to be negotiable, but I believe that across the board and I wouldn’t sign a contract that limits me to just Amazon either.

    • I really don’t want the big six to be dead, I really don’t. But I held out hope for Tower Records until they closed their last store. I don’t want to be behind the curve on this, but neither do I want to be in the forefront (because, you know, that ship has sailed!).

      I understand what you’re saying, Maria. And I’m standing right beside you. Conflicted still, but beside you! Hugs!

  13. It is very hard to make a decision about this. I’ve researched everything for a year or a little more, going back and forth. I finally decided I would try the self-publishing route. I think (like Catie said) that very few, if any publishers, will be paying out money for promotion on a first time author. So if I have to do all or even most of the promoting myself, I might as well spend a little more time and effort to do the rest. All in all, my book(s) will be out there much faster than if I went traditional.

    It may work. It may not. And I may decide to go another route later. I’m leaving myself open to change as I go along. I know this approach isn’t right for everyone and I would never judge anyone for whichever path they take. Everyone has to do what’s right for him or herself. It’s a confusing time in publishing and giving and getting support from each other is crucial. Learning what works and what doesn’t from each other will only help for the future.

    Congrats on getting interest in your work at the conference, Christine. I wish you the very best!

    • Love the way my MyWANA peeps are coming through! Rhonda, you know I wish you all the best. Let me know how I can help promo you. And just think – you’re building experience that you can then give workshops on!

      Thanks for the congrats, too. It’s been an amazing week so far!

  14. Stacy Green says:

    Hi, Christine. I’m sure Catie’s told you she and I have also discussed this to death. There is a huge lure to self-publishing to me: the control, the quicker pub dates, and the money. BUT … like Catie, I’d want to put a fair amount into editing and cover art. I can’t see how I could publish the way I’d want for less than 1500, because good editing is expensive. That’s why I chose to go with a small press. MuseItUp is gaining a fast reputation in the industry, they’ve got good editing and covers, and they have a great author network that works hard to promote each other. I don’t think you’re going to get much more help from ANYONE than that. No small press has the money to put into marketing, and the Big 6 simply aren’t going to invest in a newbie anymore than they absolutely have to. Either way you go, you’re going to be doing the bulk of your promoting yourself. For me, the issue was investment up front and the learning curve. I really need to be involved in the publishing world before I go the self-publishing route, but I do hope to get there by the time my series is ready to go.

    I think the bottom line is that we’ve got to accept the majority of the marketing duties no matter the path we choose. Writers are now a brand and a business. It’s overwhelming at times, but it’s also great to have so much control in our own hands.

    Good luck to you, and I have to say, I truly think Kristen’s spot on about the Big 6. She’s been following the whole thing very closely, and she’s usually right.

    • LOL Stacy – I know, that’s why we love Kristen – because she’s usually right. Plus she has an in to Bob Mayer’s brain, and he’s usually right.

      I’m with Crescent Moon Press, and they have a wonderful authors loop that is very supportive – I’m happy there for my paranormal stuff. It’s the other stuff I don’t know what to do with – plus I do want to experiment and play with other genres (like I have been for the past ten plus years, lol). So I think you’re spot on – going with a boutique press is the way to go for a lot of us at this point who don’t want to “do it all”.

      Once I actually have a backlist, I will see. But that’ll be years down the line! So…I guess we’ll see!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Stacy Green says:

        You’re welcome. I’ll stop by more often, lol. I do think the backlist is very key with self publishing, and I’m glad you’ve got a supportive author loop with Crescent. Hopefully you can find a home for your other genres as well!

  15. I’ve been dithering back and forth on this topic. With me there is also the added barrier of living outside the US. What I do like about self-publishing is that there are more options. That’s good for everyone.

    • Christine says:

      True, lots more options with self-publishing. I hate that there’s that barrier for you – totally not fair.

  16. Ericka Scott says:

    I’m with you Christine….I guess I’m doing what I’ve always done, not put all my eggs in one basket. I’m still writing and pursuing getting published with HQN. I’ve got some stuff with small e-pubs but am trying to get into a more successful market with my novellas. I also regained rights to my backlist titles that had expired and where the books had dismal sales. I gave them another read through, updated the technology in a couple of them, put new covers on them — in other words, I’m trying to breath new life into them through self-publishing. So far, the sales haven’t been astounding, but they are better than they were.

    Still, I have often said that if I were a dinosaur, I’d be extinct, because “I no likey change” to quote one of my sons ….

    • Christine says:

      I’m not a big fan of change, either, Ericka. I guess we’ll both just have to suck it up, right? lol…

  17. I have to agree with you. Every time I think *maybe I’ll try self publishing*, I think of all the work formatting, finding the right editor, finding the right cover artists, etc. That and the fact that I am so thrilled with the publishing house I’m working with (Lyrical Press). Sure there’s a lot of promotion I have to do on my own, but they do a lot as well. And they’re always willing to help if I have a question or a problem.

    I think it’s a personal choice. There are people who self-publish and swear it’s the right choice. Same thing with people who work with publishers. But what I think they really mean is that it was the right choice *for them* and could be for others. The great thing now is that there are options, and both are valid and both work for certain people. It’s just a matter of preference, in my opinion.

    • Christine says:

      Sondrae, I’ve heard good things about Lyrical Press. I think I’ll eventually be one of those people with a foot in both camps. I’m just not quite ready to take the step yet!

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  18. Berinn Rae says:

    Really great, insightful post, Christine. The same thoughts have been swirling in my head lately. I have two books with a small digital-first house (where I met the fabulous Christine!), just signed with another small house, and am dipping my toe in the self-publishing waters this summer with an e-novella.
    Without a doubt, there’s extra work and cost on the self-publishing side to get the book ready for market. Marketing and promotion all falls on the authors anymore, unless you’re one of the lucky few, so that is the same for both routes. Ask me in 6 months, and I’ll let you know my experiences with my two digital-first publishers vs. self-publishing.

    • Christine says:

      Berinn, you know I will ask! And if you want to do a blog post on it here, you are more than welcome.

      Cheers!

  19. Debra Kristi says:

    Really interesting to read everyone’s take on this topic. You know I’m standing undecided on this topic. I’d like to go traditional because I don’t have the backlist built up at this point and I want someone professional to agree my work is worth publishing. But it’s not my opinion you seek since I’m so green. 😀 I just wanted you to know I was here.

  20. Chiming in late here. I still haven’t taken the plunge into self-publishing, though I have a tremendous backlist of short fiction, because I have neither the time to learn to do it all myself nor the money to pay someone upfront for formatting and covers. I’ve been print published, epublished and probably will be self-published before too long, if only on joint projects with Dayle because she’s awesome and has figured out a lot of the technical stuff already. I admit that part of the issue for me, in addition to time and learning new skills, is that despite quite a few pubs under my belt, I still seem to need the validation of having an outside party tell me I’m good enough. I don’t want to be one of those people who self-publishes something that had no business being shared with the public!

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