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Old 11-29-2008, 08:42 PM   #1
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What's a new writer to do?

Let's say I've written what I think is a pretty "sellable" book. Its fiction, geared towards the supernatural genre.

Now let's say I want to get the book out there to as many people as possible (to make money, of course).

Should I continue to support the paper industry or should I try to go electronic exclusively? Is there a middle of the road approach? Are there publishers with fair terms who will market both ebook and pbook formats?

Or should I just go it myself and self-publish. Thoughts?
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Old 11-29-2008, 09:55 PM   #2
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Hi jplumey,

I have been self publishing my writing for years (4 novels and 1 nonfiction and counting), I'll let you know some of what I have learned.

Like any writer, I spent some time seeking a publisher. This was a few years ago when ebooks were just emerging. I researched everything I could find about getting published and wrote query letters to agents and publishers. No one was interested. Now understand that no one was looking at my manuscripts. I was being rejected based on query letters. Why? Well, I was unknown unpublished author, i.e. Nobody. Agents and publishers are looking for Somebody, not Nobody. Although rejection sucks, I can honestly understand because every agent or publisher who looked at a query letter from me was thinking "How can I make money off this person?" And because I was Nobody, the answer is "I don't know" which equals rejection.

I've heard and read in several places that getting published comes down to simply getting a lucky break or knowing someone in the publishing industry.

Moving on...I chose self publishing for two reasons:

1. I really wanted to reach an audience with my writing and worked hard to make my writing worthy of an audience.
2. I am interested in business, which means I like promoting myself and trying to sell my work for money.

To answer your questions, I'd say you should look for a publisher who produces both print and ebooks. I see no reason to pursue exclusively one over the other. Both are viable products with markets. Getting into e-publishing might be easier, but does not mean you can't also find a way to be available in print.

I suggest beginning your endeavor by querying agents and publishers. You can research this online, read Writers' Market, and Writers' Digest magazine. You might get lucky and get a deal. You don't know if you don't try. As for getting fair terms, I have no idea about that. I have read that most publishers (print or e) do almost nothing to actually promote your book. Marketing is a cross for authors to bear. This is what being published and self published have in common. Either way you are marketing your work.

If trying to find a publisher goes no where for you, there are many self publishing methods. Many services like Lulu.com let you do both print and ebooks. There are countless print-on-demand services. You could set up with one of those (I think Booksurge ties in directly with Amazon) and you could make the ebooks yourself. (Or pay someone a few hundred dollars to typeset everything and get it into a few popular formats.) With your own ebooks you could set up a website and sell them. Using PayPal for online payments works great and PayLoadz for instant downloads works great too. There are alternative companies that do the sames things too. PayLoadz integrates with several payment processors. Also, I think anybody can publish his or her book for Kindle, so that's a big step toward at least being accessible to a large number of readers.

Personally, I enjoy publishing myself. I don't make a lot of money, but I do consistently get paying readers, and I get compliments from some readers, which shows me at least that I am capable of writing commercial-quality fiction (whatever that is). Maybe some day I'll make more money. I hope so. And if I sell enough, I might actually become Somebody and be able to get the attention of a big publishing company.

Essentially, I think you should find some affordable ways to self publish, at least a little bit, to get your work out there and if you don't like that, keep looking for a publisher. Self publishing does not preclude looking for a publisher.
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Old 11-29-2008, 09:57 PM   #3
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jplumey,

Here's my two cents: You should self publish both in multi-format DRM-free ebook format, and also via one of the POD publishers such as Wordclay or Lulu or CreateSpace. It's important to provide your book in both e- and p- formats because different readers want different formats, or some readers will want to own the book in both e- and p-.

Next, if the book truly is sellable, you might want to get an agent and give them a chance to sell your book for a big advance (most authors probably only get a $5-$10k advance, though that's more than the average self-published author makes. There are exceptions). If you do sell to a traditional publisher, make sure the rights to the book revert back to you if the publisher lets it go out of print. Also, you might want to negotiate retaining the e-rights to the book, though most publishers probably won't want to do that.

Today, I think most authors aspire to be traditionally published. Not to far in the future, I think this will flip around and more authors will begin aspiring to self-publish. More authors will realize that the bloom of the published rose soon fades once they learn how poorly most books, especially debut books, are handled by the publishers. I see a hint of that in your question, so kudos to you for your foresight.

Good luck.

Mark
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Old 11-29-2008, 11:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jplumey View Post
Let's say I've written what I think is a pretty "sellable" book. Its fiction, geared towards the supernatural genre.

Now let's say I want to get the book out there to as many people as possible (to make money, of course).

Should I continue to support the paper industry or should I try to go electronic exclusively? Is there a middle of the road approach? Are there publishers with fair terms who will market both ebook and pbook formats?

Or should I just go it myself and self-publish. Thoughts?
Baen looks to be a good option. They are a major publisher and one of the best in the ebook realm right now. They only publish fantasy and science fiction, but supernatural fiction might be acceptible to them.

I am not a publisher or a published author, but I've looked around a fair amount on these topics and from what I've seen it *looks* like self-publishing is less likely to allow you to "hit a home run" than traditional publishing. If your goal is to become a household name, traditional publishing is for you. Of course you'll have to be both very talented and very lucky as well.

Traditional publishing is also probably a better option if you plan to (or rationally evaluate yourself as likely to) write only one or two books. Self publishing works better for those people who can build up an audience and a reputation over time and multiple works. You'd be relying more on word of mouth for readers, after all, rather than a professional marketing apparatus.

This certainly isn't meant to bash self publishing. I think the future is likely to be closer to self publishing than traditional publishing, and there definitely are people already around who are finding both money and satisfaction there.
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Old 11-30-2008, 05:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smashwords View Post
jplumey,

Here's my two cents: You should self publish both in multi-format DRM-free ebook format, and also via one of the POD publishers such as Wordclay or Lulu or CreateSpace. It's important to provide your book in both e- and p- formats because different readers want different formats, or some readers will want to own the book in both e- and p-.

Next, if the book truly is sellable, you might want to get an agent
My 2c is that you should not even think about self-publishing unless and until you have exhausted all of the traditional avenues. What follows, worked for me and just seems like common sense:

1) Write and rewrite your book again and again until it is as good as you can possibly make it.
2) Give it to test-readers who are not afraid to be honest with you -- i.e. join an online writers' group such as www.critters.org where none of the members are related to you
3) If many of your test readers find big problems with your work, fix them. The manuscript needs to be as perfect as you can make it. There's a LOT of competition out there. Be patient.
4) Buy a book about writing query letters. Your query letter needs to be perfect, or nobody will read your manuscript. A book that worked for me was The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit by Elizabeth Lyon.
5) Research literary agents. There are many scam artists out there -- writers are very needy. We're dying for somebody, anybody to read our work and this makes for a target-rich environment for conmen. However, you'll find only legitimate agents here.
6) Submit your manuscript to the agents most likely to find the right market for it.
7) Don't give up until you have exhausted EVERY agent.
8) Don't give up after that either. Try submitting directly to those publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts.
9) By the time you have exhausted all of these possibilities, you will have another book ready to go out.
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Old 11-30-2008, 05:49 AM   #6
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If you self-publish, you won't get the distribution and publicity that comes with being represented by a reputable publisher. Even if your book is available on the web, you have to let people know about it. It needs to be in catalogs in bookstores. It needs to be sent to reviewers. You have to build a buzz. And the inexperienced author cannot do that for himself.

Trust me, you can't do what they will do for you, especially if you have a day job. They have contacts. My publisher's wonderful, wonderful marketing rep got me on the radio, got me interviewed by the New York Times and Salon.com, got it reviewed in national trade publications, got me amazing opportunities I could never have gotten on my own--and I had a platform and was writing about a very hot topic at the time the book came out.

If your book is good enough, you'll get an agent and it will sell. It will.

I can see the paradigm changing in the future with ebooks, and in many ways I hope it does, but right now that's the way it is. Brutal truth.

I would recommend reading up at Absolute Write and Writers Beware's Blog--they will steer you in the right direction. There are some scammers out there waiting to take advantage of you, so be careful, and best of luck with your book.
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Old 11-30-2008, 04:39 PM   #7
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Wow, amazing comments! Thanks to all of you who responded so quickly.

I'm still in the process of reviewing and revising my first draft, so there's still lots of time. I've floated excerpts of the book, along with a description of the story to samples of my primary demographic and it looks promising.

I'll be checking the great resources you've all provided. I really don't mind selling myself. As an IT consultant of 11 years I have some experience in that field, but I know that this would be quite different in that I'll be marketing a product much more than I would be marketing myself.

Again, thanks for the wonderful advice you've all provided. I'll post back with updates.
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Old 12-01-2008, 01:24 PM   #8
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You might also consider hanging out at Baen's Bar, particularly in the so-called "Slush-pile" forum. That forum IS NOT the official slush pile for submission to Baen. Rather, it is a forum in which interested fans (and some published authors) will critique your baby within an inch of its life. Many budding authors have found that forum quite useful for tuning up their manuscripts before submission. Read the FAQs before posting, and don't take the comments personally.

You should also be aware that the submission process is extremely slow. Those few publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts are likely to take several years to produce a response -- and that's fast as the industry goes! Plan on writing your second (or even second and third) novel while submitting the first.

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Old 12-01-2008, 01:36 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Xenophon View Post
You should also be aware that the submission process is extremely slow. Those few publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts are likely to take several years to produce a response -- and that's fast as the industry goes! Plan on writing your second (or even second and third) novel while submitting the first.
Xenophon
Thanks for the tip. In fact, I've already started the next one.

As for the Baen forum, I am a little hesitant to putting out a manuscript I intend to publish. I don't mind getting critique, but I'd rather do it in a more controlled environment like a writer's group or something local. I don't want an un-edited version of a manuscript floating out on the internet.
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Old 12-01-2008, 01:41 PM   #10
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As Xenophon suggested, submit one and write others. In most cases one's first novel isn't quite good enough to be published. Among other things they look for a 'breakout' novel first and so a novel that might be good enough for an established author may not quite reach the bar for a first novel. It's actually more likely that your first novel written will be your second or third published than your first published. (Needless to say this places a premium on writing MORE novels).

I've both managed a bookstore and worked for a publishing service (not a publisher, more like Lulu with hand-holding). If you self-publish you will only get into a small fraction of bookstores, (a subset of those you can physically visit) and almost all sales will come from someone who has heard of YOU before they became aware of your book. With a commercial publisher, most sales will come from people who discover the book before discovering you.

There's another catch to self-publishing: you have to work so hard to sell the books that you don't have time to write more, and that's where the focus of your writing career needs to be.

The only time self-publishing really makes sense is when you have an extremely specialized or geographically limited audience. It's great for local history books, and books on dealing with something that only affects a small segment of society.
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Old 12-01-2008, 03:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jplumey View Post
Thanks for the tip. In fact, I've already started the next one.

As for the Baen forum, I am a little hesitant to putting out a manuscript I intend to publish. I don't mind getting critique, but I'd rather do it in a more controlled environment like a writer's group or something local. I don't want an un-edited version of a manuscript floating out on the internet.
That particular forum is not a "floating out on the internet" kind of place. (I think. Ask at the bar before believing that I'm correct.) Most importantly, it certainly avoids being "prior publication."

If I correctly recall the FAQs for that forum, they encourage posting in chunks anyway, so you can always stop before you get to the end. Or take other steps...

Xenophon

P.S. I suggest a brief google search on "Baen's Bar Slush Pile" for lots more context on the idea.
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Old 12-01-2008, 04:25 PM   #12
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As Xenophon suggested, submit one and write others. In most cases one's first novel isn't quite good enough to be published. Among other things they look for a 'breakout' novel first and so a novel that might be good enough for an established author may not quite reach the bar for a first novel. It's actually more likely that your first novel written will be your second or third published than your first published. (Needless to say this places a premium on writing MORE novels).

I've both managed a bookstore and worked for a publishing service (not a publisher, more like Lulu with hand-holding). If you self-publish you will only get into a small fraction of bookstores, (a subset of those you can physically visit) and almost all sales will come from someone who has heard of YOU before they became aware of your book. With a commercial publisher, most sales will come from people who discover the book before discovering you.

There's another catch to self-publishing: you have to work so hard to sell the books that you don't have time to write more, and that's where the focus of your writing career needs to be.

The only time self-publishing really makes sense is when you have an extremely specialized or geographically limited audience. It's great for local history books, and books on dealing with something that only affects a small segment of society.
This has really helped me to figure out what I want to do. I think for my first "publishable" novel (I've written others), I will try and go the traditional route. My first one is sort of teetering in between a large target audience and a more tightly focused one. With a few tweaks I think I can make it so that it's a little more niche and thus more likely to be picked up by a publisher in my niche field.

Thanks for all your help!
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