A lot of authors assume the only way to get their work out into the world is to find an agent who’ll pitch your book to a publisher and you’ll get a lucrative publishing contract. That’s the world where you traditionally publish your book.
I hate to burst your bubble, but that scenario is becoming increasingly rare.
Sure, we all read Stephen King’s book, On Writing. In that book, he shares his experience with Carrie, his first novel, and we recognize that it takes a lot of hard work, but, in the end, a good writer will succeed.
And, it might happen. You might be one of the lucky ones who can sell your book and live the life of a full-time writer.
But, there’s another reality out there. And, the story it tells isn’t pleasant. It’s the story of the writer who signs with a publisher, probably not one of the top publishers, but one of their small publishing imprints. They give you a small advance, maybe $15,000 or so to sign an exclusive contract. The agent takes part of that so you don’t really have enough to quit your day job. The publisher may insist on a 3-book contract and, if you don’t deliver, you’ll have to pay back some or all of the advance.
The publisher changes some things, things you might not be happy about, but hey, you wanna see your book in print, so you go along. Plus, you’ve already spent their money.
Finally, after months, maybe a year or more, your book comes out. The publisher may get you on a small, local talk show and there may be a small launch party. If your book starts flying off the shelves, they order a larger print run and spend more to send you on a book tour. Money begins rolling in as your sales exceed the advance (you likely only get to keep about 10% of the sales since the publisher gets the lion’s share and your agent needs some, too).
The more likely scenario is that, after some initial sales from the publisher’s tiny marketing spend, your book languishes. It’s not a bad book, but there’s just too much competition out there. It needs more marketing, but the publisher isn’t willing to spend more because the book didn’t sell an outrageous number during the first few weeks. And, by the way, he won’t let you spend time and money marketing the book because, well, it’s his book. He doesn’t want you to do anything to mess with it.
So, your dream dies and you settle for being happy with your job and give up writing.
That’s the end of my sad tale and, unfortunately, I’ve heard it too many times.
Small press publishing
With all the shakeup in the publishing industry, the story above happens too often. Some authors have compromised and settle for a small independent publisher rather than traditionally publish their book.
I’ve heard some stories of folks who are happy with this option and find it much better than signing with one of the big publishing houses. In other cases, I hear sad tales of small presses who are, in fact, more a moneymaking operation than a publishing house. They charge huge amounts of money to writers for things like covers and editing, which, almost invariably, are bad. They do little to market your book beyond adding it to their website (which has almost no visitors) and sending it in their newsletter (which goes to only a few subscribers). To say the least, you don’t get much revenue from these publishers.
Now, I’m not condemning all small presses. Some are very good and I’ve heard good things about them. But, the good small presses don’t charge upfront fees for publishing your book. They work more like a traditional publishing option, where they make their money by selling your book.
This might be a good option, but you’re still gonna make very little from each book sold.
Another option, made viable by improved technology, is self-publishing or something we like to call indie publishing. With this option, you do everything (although you can hire contractors to do things like cover design, editing, and formatting). But, you also get most of the money. If you publish through Amazon, for instance, you get to keep 70% of the selling price of your books, which a whole lot more than if you went through with a traditionally publish option.
The downside, of course, is that it costs you time and money to prepare the book for publishing and market it afterward. The cost can be substantial and there’s no guarantee that you’ll recoup your money, let alone make any money.
Another problem is that there’s an entire industry out there trying to make money off your dream. They promise the world and deliver next to nothing for the money you spend with them.
Choosing the right option
Let me preface this by saying that there is no single right option for everyone. You also have to work really hard to hone your craft or none of the options will work, as it’s really hard to sell a poorly written book regardless of your publishing choice.
Some authors make good money through indie publishing. An example is Scott Pratt. He’s published a number of books, as you can see.
And, that seems to be part of the key to making money regardless of your publishing choice–even traditional publishers often want multi-book deals.
Others make good money from traditionally publishing their books.
Still others, like Michael J. Sullivan, do a blended strategy, with some book published traditionally and some indie published. When he started out, Michael was an indie writer. After he’d published several books, he sold the rights to the first 3 to a traditional publisher. So, that’s also a viable strategy. His wife, who offers free book publishing advice through a meetup group in DC, advises this strategy to authors rather than trying to go the traditional route from the start.
So, things are moving at a brisk pace. In addition to attending the Scars of the Past Launch party, we have lots of exciting things going on.
- I’m making good progress on Book 3, Azure’s Revenge. You’ll get to see many of your old friends from Books 1 and 2, and meet some quirky (and sinister) new ones. I’d love to get more Beta readers for this book, which should be ready by the end of October.
- If you’ve already purchased (or received a gifted copy) of Buried Ladies or Scars of the Past, please consider writing an honest review (use the link below). And, if you didn’t like it, please send me specific comments so I can improve the next book. If you don’t have a copy yet, you can buy them here: