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Old 02-20-2010, 10:40 AM   #16
Kali Yuga
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I wanted to look into a "joint venture" model, where author, editor and graphic artists (if applicable) each make their contributions to a novel in exchange for a percentage of the returns. No one gets any money up front.
That might work, but unless you have a writer with an existing following, you might have a tough time convincing good people to accept the model. E.g. I'm a freelancer (not in publishing) and would never, ever work on spec with terms like that. Perhaps a 25% discount in exchange for a royalty could work, but I think you will find that a 100% discount is too much.


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So, does it make a big difference to go without marketing? Can you get reviews from known authors / in known publications? Can you build an audience on your own?
My feeling is that a self-published author may be able to build a small audience without paying for professional marketing. But I don't think book reviewers will touch a self-published book by an unknown; they're probably inundated with formally published works, let alone self-published titles.
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Old 02-20-2010, 05:10 PM   #17
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Small presses producing author-funded print-runs have been around for a long time. They're hardly anything new in the publishing industry...

While moving to ebooks means the author doesn't have to pay to have the book printed, there are still significant costs with regard to editing, design, typesetting, cover production and especially promotion. The Web is getting increasingly crowded, and promoting your own work involves a lot more than just creating a website (though it would be a good start to make one that actually has some content on it).

Sorry, I don't think vanity presses are the future of books. There's a place for self-publishing and there are a small number of people who have a unique situation that can make it work. But to pretend it's some form of grand solution is just delusional.

There are plenty of authors desperate to be read, but I just don't have enough hours in the day and don't read their stuff even when they give it away for free.
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Old 02-20-2010, 07:39 PM   #18
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Iqy again,

Unfortunately you guys are skirting the core issue in my opinion, and that is that only about 1% of books written are ever published. What can the 99% do? I believe ebook sites like zuluexpress and others provide an opportunity too good to miss.
Yes, books have to be edited, any writer will admit that once they've slaved over a book for a year or so they are numb to its shortfalls, and a fresh eye wil fix it, but after that i'm afraid I can't see the need for the other services provided by publishers.
A cover is easy, ask the kid next door to show you how on photoshop, and typesetting? Ebooks are a digital file thats uses software like Calibre and Sigil to make sure the book fits all readers. Ebooks leave so many old publishing requirements behind, I know its hard to comprehend, but all I can say is that in spite of sending my book Saving Mankind to a dozen publishers, not one of them read one line of it, 6 got back to me with the ' Not publishing your genre a the moment,' message, 6 didn't reply at all, and since I published it on ZE its being read all over the world, with book 2 in the trilogy fast nearing completion.
I rest my case for ebooks and sites like ZE. If you are a writer and like me, (one of the 99%) andyou can't get the attention of a publisher, you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain by going the ebook self pub route.
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Old 02-20-2010, 08:21 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Iqy View Post
Unfortunately you guys are skirting the core issue in my opinion, and that is that only about 1% of books written are ever published. What can the 99% do? I believe ebook sites like zuluexpress and others provide an opportunity too good to miss.
Yes, books have to be edited, any writer will admit that once they've slaved over a book for a year or so they are numb to its shortfalls, and a fresh eye wil fix it, but after that i'm afraid I can't see the need for the other services provided by publishers.
A cover is easy, ask the kid next door to show you how on photoshop, and typesetting? Ebooks are a digital file thats uses software like Calibre and Sigil to make sure the book fits all readers. Ebooks leave so many old publishing requirements behind, I know its hard to comprehend, but all I can say is that in spite of sending my book Saving Mankind to a dozen publishers, not one of them read one line of it, 6 got back to me with the ' Not publishing your genre a the moment,' message, 6 didn't reply at all, and since I published it on ZE its being read all over the world, with book 2 in the trilogy fast nearing completion.
I rest my case for ebooks and sites like ZE. If you are a writer and like me, (one of the 99%) andyou can't get the attention of a publisher, you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain by going the ebook self pub route.
Iqy
I, for one, am NOT a fan of ePub ebooks, but once I get it format-shifted to mobi, I'll read it on my Kindle. However, the 'kid next door' may well create a horrendous blog of cover art more suited to construction-paper flyers for the nearest grunge-goth-punk band's upcoming Xtasy rave than for an eye-appealing cover for an e-book. You often "gets what youse pays for" when going for 'kid next door' photoshop art.

Derek
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Old 02-20-2010, 08:22 PM   #20
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Unfortunately you guys are skirting the core issue in my opinion, and that is that only about 1% of books written are ever published. What can the 99% do? I believe ebook sites like zuluexpress and others provide an opportunity too good to miss.
For the author who can't get published, yes.

For the authors who can't even land an agent -- which is now a de facto requirement, by the way -- yes.

For authors who are OK with a small audience, yes.

For authors who don't mind hiring their own editor or doing a ton of legwork, maybe (although now they have significant costs to recoup).

For readers who would have to sort through a ton of titles, with no guidance, most of which are not edited... not so much.

This, at a minimum, is likely to prevent such sites from completely supplanting the publishers as ondabeach proclaims. Much in the same way that indie bands and small music labels have not completely supplanted the majors.


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A cover is easy, ask the kid next door to show you how on photoshop, and typesetting?
IMO, this is the type of amateur attitude that shows why a publisher is beneficial for writers who want more than a handful of sales.

Really, all that ebooks do is cut the distribution costs. If your goal is to sell books, all the other stuff is just as important. In fact, aspects like marketing may be more important, in order to distinguish your work from the rest.

Not that "amateur" is always a bad thing. But it's like hiring your 16 year old cousin to design your website; the results are immediately noticeable, as you (typically) get what you pay for.
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Old 02-21-2010, 03:44 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Iqy View Post
Unfortunately you guys are skirting the core issue in my opinion, and that is that only about 1% of books written are ever published. What can the 99% do? I believe ebook sites like zuluexpress and others provide an opportunity too good to miss.
Yes, books have to be edited, any writer will admit that once they've slaved over a book for a year or so they are numb to its shortfalls, and a fresh eye wil fix it,
But the point is that these sites which permit "self publishing" do not provide an editing service; a "real" publisher does. How good a deal are such sites for the author once they've paid for the services of the professional editor? I'd suggest to you that the editing costs will, in most cases, be more than the author will receive in revenue from the book, and hence such sites really don't provide that great a deal after all.
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Old 02-21-2010, 03:38 PM   #22
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Sorry to get back here so late. Kali, thanks for the response. Of course the author would have to have some publications - no publisher is going to take a new author without some stories published in journals, etc. (there may be some exceptions).

Let's consider a "parity" situation, an author that could get a book published through a regular publisher. Would an editor be interested in going in on a "book project"?

Based on my friend's experience, he got a small advance, got about 2k for promotional expenses and spent two months traveling and signing books and doing readings around the country, and he still hasn't made back his advance, plus he spent a lot of his own money traveling and paying rent while he wasn't working. There will be a paperback run, but each paperback sold contributes less to the advance. And he got a lot of good press, got a cover blurb from David Brin, a writeup in the NYTimes, and got on Barnes and Nobles top pick for the Christmas season (there are hundreds of books in there, though). Of course, the economy has been a disaster.

I am not saying the publishers are evil, or thieves, or anything like that (his publisher has been very supportive), but they have a lot of overhead to cover, there are a lot of books to flog, and only so much collective attention out there. With the return an author gets on a book, it can be hard writing worth it. The question is, is there a way to keep a larger percentage of less sales, and do better than with a traditional publisher?

One way I thought of would be to offer everyone who contributes (writer, editor, artist) a larger cut for a good book in return for taking on some of the risk as well, but mostly to see what you can do without in the publishing business.
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Old 02-21-2010, 08:54 PM   #23
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Let's consider a "parity" situation, an author that could get a book published through a regular publisher. Would an editor be interested in going in on a "book project"?
From what I understand, the editors are hired on a salary basis by the publisher. The publishers are far more likely to use an editor whose salary they're already paying and who knows all the players at the publishing firm -- and whose primary obligations are to the publisher, rather than the author. (Same for copy editors and so forth.) In some cases this may not be ideal; e.g. the editor may not be the best fit or may not have a lot of experience. However, if the author is in control, it's harder for the editor to say things the author doesn't want to hear (but needs to hear), as the writer can pressure or even fire the editor.

By the way, most professional photographers are pretty fanatical about their rights, and getting paid for their work. The only photographers who would get paid on spec like this are novices and/or desperate. Not sure about illustrators, but I doubt they're much different.

Also, the cost of managing all these royalties will just increase a publisher's overhead and complexity; e.g. instead of one person (the author) expecting and scrutinizing royalties per title, you now have what, 4? 5? Each of which could potentially get difficult or even litigious if they don't get their share.

A lot of authors seem to be pushing for bigger advances; in part to get paid earlier, and in part for bragging rights. I don't know how many authors could afford to pay up front all of the associated costs, especially if they get a smaller advance from the publisher. I.e. even if some authors were interested, they may not have the option to really accept enough of the financial burden to justify a significantly higher percentage of the royalties.

For example, was your friend either willing or able to skip his advance altogether and spend an additional $10,000 or $20,000 to put out his book, even if it meant a higher royalty?


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I am not saying the publishers are evil, or thieves, or anything like that (his publisher has been very supportive), but they have a lot of overhead to cover, there are a lot of books to flog, and only so much collective attention out there. With the return an author gets on a book, it can be hard writing worth it. The question is, is there a way to keep a larger percentage of less sales, and do better than with a traditional publisher?
Although I doubt it's a smooth curve, my expectation is that the only way to increase your share is a) to take on more of the financial risks, and b) to have an agent who can negotiate higher royalties.

However, I also expect that novice writers just don't really know what they need, and don't have the required connections, let alone the baseline prestige to get professional journalists to review the book, for example.

Plus, this is kind of like the author saying "I don't have much faith in my publisher," or the publisher saying "I don't have much faith in the writer." Why would a publisher bust their hump and expend cultural capital for an author where they will get a lower return on their investment?

And, of course, since the only major change ebooks will bring is cutting distribution costs, this type of option really has been available for quite some time. Perhaps some of the bigger names have a deal like this, but just as likely is that they command big advances and big royalties without taking on the extra responsibilities, unless that's their preference (e.g. James Patterson).

So an author who already has a good-sized audience, has the connections, already had the book professional edited, already has cover art and has the experience might do fairly well re-releasing older books in electronic format, say via Amazon DTP. Other writers probably won't benefit quite as much.
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Old 02-22-2010, 05:08 AM   #24
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Thanks, that is an interesting perspective. BTW, my friend is a professional journalist, writes pretty regularly for the NYT and the Boston Globe, and some other magazines, he actually got a lot of his reviews himself. He reviews books himself.

I'm sure I don't disagree with what you are saying, my observation is that spending a lot on graphic design and marketing (I have no idea what they did for marketing, since I am not privy to the way the publisher works, but I imagine they feature the upcoming book in circulars that go out to booksellers, and perhaps solicit reviews in the major newspapers, I am not sure if there was any advertising budget, but it would have to have been something like Google ads online), with the money spent, the sales may not even reach the break-even point. It seems like people selling their own works online in a less "elegant" format are making a better living off writing.

It may also be a genre thing - serial romance, scifi, and mystery books seem to be where the money is.
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