Tag Archives: self-publishing

To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish, That is the Question.

It’s a brave new world out there in publishing and one of the hottest questions going around is whether writers should skip the traditional channels and self-publish and the question is not just limited to writers who have not been published before. Many traditionally published authors are taking advantage of new technologies in order to either release previously unpublished works or some of their back list titles.

The levels of success run the gamut, from some authors who are selling in the thousands to others who have had mixed results.

As a published author with some back list titles whose rights should revert shortly as well with some new materials I want to explore, there are a variety of options in order to self-publish. I can hire an editor and cover artist and upload the work myself. Or I can choose to pay a flat rate to someone to do that or there are even some agents who are getting into the gig and offering those services for a percentage of sales.

My initial response to the various ways: Maximize the income that’s to come to you by eliminating the middle man. It may be a hit up front for you to pay for editing and/or cover design, but why have someone get a cut of your pie if it’s not absolutely essential?

What if you haven’t been published before? Why would you want to self-publish rather than trying to sell via traditional means?

Today I have with me Dianne Venetta who I had the pleasure to meet as a result of the wonderful Brenda Novak Auction. I’ve asked Dianne here today to discuss her choice to self-publish and I’d love to hear from all of you as to what you think about this brave new world in publishing.

Hi Caridad and thanks for having me as your guest today, discussing the topic of self-publishing! As you and I discussed, this May I decided to brave this wonderful new world of digital books and launched my debut novel, Jennifer’s Garden. It’s a story about a female cardiologist and her quest for the perfect husband (does such a creature exist?) and the lessons she learned along the way to finding him. Easy as the breeze when there’s a sexy man involved, right?

But with no experience, no established audience, no Twitter friends or Facebook fans, one might ask why would I do such a thing?

For the simple reason that I could. Granted this doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does represent the single largest truth regarding self-publishing: without the introduction and subsequent explosion of e-readers, authors like me would never be able to self-publish. Sure I could have hired a company to format, design and print my books, but for a “nobody” like me that would have proved cost prohibitive. Besides, it’s never a good idea to spend boatloads of money without some idea where your customers will come from!

So I did it myself. (I am a do-it-yourselfer type!) I took advantage of the information available on the World Wide Web and went to work deciphering how to format my book correctly, what specs my cover needed to meet not to mention a host of other details. Next I had to expand my network of social contacts and begin the task of marketing and promotion, all while trying to actually sell the book, prepare the release of my second novel and organize my outline for writing the third in this series.

Whew! Anyone else tired? It’s a lot of work sliding down the front side of the learning curve. The good news? At least this bump on my back side is free. Imagine if I had to pay someone? I’d be broke and bruised!

But I’m not. Instead, I’m an indie author who is both willful and hopeful. Now mind you I would never have tried self-publishing if I hadn’t been told I had talent—and by people other than my mother. Editors from large traditionally run houses said my writing was good, I had a great voice, nice story—they just weren’t buying.

And why weren’t they buying? Obviously there were many reasons—not wowed, wooed or moved enough I imagine, but perhaps there was something more. Something I didn’t realize until I attended a workshop a while back. It seems for the last ten years I was trying to sell women’s fiction to romance publishers. Huh? My stories were romantic, they had HEA…who knew there were nuances between genres? Call me a slow learner, but rejection letters don’t come with a set of instructions! They simply state “no thank you” in the politest of terms.

Which is understandable. Agents and editors don’t have a lot of time but I do—gobs of it! And I have energy and drive to boot, two things I’m going to need in excess on this journey because whether you’re self-pubbed or not, a good chunk of the promotional work must come from the author.

Really? You mean I don’t just sign on the dotted line and stroll to the top of the New York Time’s Bestsellers List? Hmph. So much for my overnight smashing success story. But so be it I thought, and slipped on my positive attitude cap and went to work.

“Hello peeps! Calling all FB fans—I want YOU.” (Okay, I need you.) “Care to be a Bloomin’ Warrior? Prefer to be called a Bloomin’ Beauty instead? Great. Have I got the T-shirt for you and all you have to do is spread the word about my books!”

See. Now how difficult was that? 🙂

Tons actually, but that’s the reality behind self-publishing. From social networking to marketing and promotion, book signing and selling hard copies, the job of building an audience rests with you; you and your readers. Then, provided you’re a success and everything is working according to plan, you still have to write that next book! Readers have voracious appetites you know, especially romance readers and they’ll expect your next novel, tout de suite.

Ah…our load is heavy but our hearts are light. Exhausted, but light and bright as we shout, “Hold on, it’s coming, it’s coming!”

You see, as an indie author I need my readers more than ever because without them, I do not exist. My books are not sitting on the book shelves of the local bookstore calling out to passersby, “Pick me! Pick me!” They’re not stored away in some online bookstore, pining for that click of a mouse… And they never see the inside of a library (unless carried in by a loyal fan). In truth, without readers my books simply become non-existent. Irrelevant, if you will.

So snap to it and help me get this dream off the ground! Because in the end, after the last page is written, the cover painstakingly chosen and the formatting perfected, this is my most important reason for beginning a career as a self-published author. I’m following a dream, pursuing my passion. If no one else reads my books other than my daughter, I’ll be satisfied. Okay, that’s a lie. I’ll still write them, but I’d rather share them with everyone!

Also, don’t forget the DISCOVER THE LOST release party and contest is still going strong. Leave a comment on this or any of the blogs on my blog tour for a chance to win the grand prize and check out the contest page for additional opportunities to win!

Finally, don’t forget that on August 11 at 9 pm I will be hosting a live video event with Rachel Kramer Bussel. Drop by to discuss OBSESSED, Rachel’s latest erotic romance release and for a chance to win some goodies. We’ll be live and chatting, but also answering any and all questions you may have!

How I Sold 100000 E-books In 60 Days by Vincent Zandri & a Contest

With all the discussion about self-publishing books and how published authors can reap their backlists in order to sell more books, I thought it appropriate to bring in someone who has become a bestselling author using today’s technologies. So without further ado, here is Vincent Zandri.

How I sold 100,000 E-Books in 60 Days: A Letter to my Mom
By Vincent Zandri

Dear Mom,

For the one-thousandth time, NO, I’M NOT GOING TO GET A ‘REAL JOB!’ I don’t need to. I just sold over 100,000 E-Books in 60 days. Yah, that’s right mom. That’s not a typo. No I’m not drunk again, and no I’m not smoking crack or puffing on whacky weed. I don’t do drugs.

But I sold 100,000 books and I did it with the help of my new publisher StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink. Ok, I know, I’ve had publishers before. Big publishers who gave me a quarter-million bucks in advance for a couple of books that barely made it off the runway before crashing and burning. I know the embarrassment it caused you at the beauty parlor while all those chatty women kept asking you, “Whatever happened to your son? Does he still write?” Well, now you can tell them I hit the 100,000 book club, and when they look at you with disbelieving eyes from under the bulbous transparent hair-dryers and ask you how on earth I did it, you can tell them this:

1. I’m obsessed with my numbers. Kindle numbers. So what’s the first thing I do in the morning even before getting out of bed, I check my numbers via my Blackberry. The information grounds me and gives me a sense of which book or books I might want push that day.

2. Then, after making the coffee and washing up, I hit the Facebook. While in the old days I might have posted something stupid like, “Buy my new book THE INNOCENT!” I rarely go for that direct marketing approach anymore. Better to take the indirect approach. My FB friends get kind of sick of me asking them to always buy, buy, buy. Better to simply post your thoughts and feelings for that moment in time. Even if they’re just silly. People can relate to “I could go for a beer right now!” better than they do, “Buy This Book!” It’s the difference between becoming a real person someone likes and enjoys as a friend, as opposed to a used car salesman whom they most definitely do not. And if people like and appreciate you for who you are, they will probably give your books a try. I.E. Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer didn’t survive as bestsellers on talent alone: they spent a great deal of time building their cult of personality.

3. While still on Facebook, I might check out some of the pages I belong to like Amazon Kindle and NOOK. While once a week, I’m allowed to push one of my books like THE REMAINS or GODCHILD directly on the pages, I use these forums more to contribute to whatever conversation is at present going on. Or if there isn’t a particular thread being explored, I might start one, such as “Are Mommy Bloggers More Powerful than the New York Times Review of Books?” E-Book readers are a chatty bunch and they don’t consider their electronic reading devices simply a means for reading the latest and greatest. That e-reader gripped in their hands means they belong to an exclusive club. That club allows its many voices to be heard on the FB pages. It’s fun for readers and fans to hear from the authors they are reading now and again.

4. Same goes for KindleBoards. After hitting up the FB pages, I might log onto that site and either contribute to an ongoing topic at the Writer’s Cafe, or post my own topic. Being on KindleBoards lets other authors like myself know that I care enough about their triumphs and pitfalls to comment on them. We offer encouragement when things are bad, and kudos when things are going well. It’s sort of like a student union for writers.

5. From there I navigate my way to my other online communities…My Twitter, my Edgy Christian Fiction, my Goodreads, my Crimespace, my LinkedIn, and more. if I don’t have something to post there in their respective blog sections, I’ll maybe provide a real-time status update, such as, ‘I’ll be appearing on Suspense Magazine’s Blog Talk Radio…’ I’ll offer up a link to the program along with the time and date of my scheduled appearance.

6. Once all that’s done, I might take an hour to write a new blog for The Vincent Zandri Vox. The blog topic will usually be one that has to do with writing or publishing. On occasion, I’ll write about my experiences in marketing my work. Other writers, especially newbies are starving for information and stories from those who have been there before them. Especially from authors who have been published by both the Big 6 and the Indies like myself. They like to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be more or less screwed over by a company like Random House only to emerge from the dark wilderness and into the welcome arms of a family run publisher like StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink. Many of these new authors are also interested in the self-publishing process. But that’s more for a very popular blog like JAKonrath’s, “A Newbies Guide to Publishing” blog. I highly recommend it for the DIY author.

7. When the blog is completed, it’s time to make it viral (no mom, I’m not trying to make people sick!). That means I’ll post it to all the social networks like FB, Twitter, Delicious, Google Buzz, Myspace, Digg,… you name it. If the blog is discussion worthy, I’ll re-post it to KindleBoards and a few other discussion-related groups and forums I belong to on FB, Yahoo, Crimespace, and even Goodreads. Lastly, I’ll post the new blog on my fan page and my FB page for The Vincent Zandri Vox.

8. If I have a virtual tour going on, such as the one I will have going for GODCHILD in May, I’ll want to check in on the tour-stop of the day, which can be a review, a guest blog post, an interview, or even a live chat which usually will happen in the evening after dinner. On occasion I might have a blog talk radio scheduled for that day, which can run about an hour.

9. At some point in the day, I’ll want to email some fellow authors and ask them for guest posts for the Vincent Zandri Vox, because your author blog shouldn’t be narrow or static. It shouldn’t be all about you! It should be a communal place where not only my books and opinions are discussed, but a whole range of books and topics.

10. At some point in the day, I’ll check in with my publisher. We’ll strategize and make plans over which books we have coming out when, such as the new special edition combo I have going with the great noir legend, Dave Zeltserman (Dying Memories/Godchild) and my brand new forthcoming novel, Concrete Pearl. Or we’ll talk pricing. The great thing about being with an indie publisher is that they have a lot of freedom to experiment with pricing. My publisher Aaron Patterson is also a bestselling novelist himself (Sweet Dreams, Ariel, …) and he understands the importance of offering up a great book for the lowest price possible. Wow, what concept, huh mom? Our pricing strategy for now is based on the concept of the “rotation.” An author should always have one or two books available at $.99 and maybe another couple at $2.99, perhaps one at $4.99 and, as is the case with my catalog, even one at $8.95. Having some books on sale ensures that your audience is always expanding and even though you might invite a bad review or two by underpricing your books temporarily, the benefits inherent with creating new fans far outweigh the negatives. In any case, all this pricing stuff is a work in progress.

11. Ok, so when all that’s done, it’s time to think about the real thing behind the success. The writing. What’s the most surefire way to sell 100,000 e-books in 60 days? Good, if not great writing. And great writing takes time. It can’t be rushed, even if this is the new era of authors meeting the challenge of publishing two, three, and in some cases, four books per year–a feat unheard of back when I was publishing with the biggies. E-books are forever, and never will they go out of print. So, for as long as a book still resides in your gray matter and not on the printed cyber-page (and yes, mom, trade paperback!), it’s not earning money. However, putting lots of books out for public consumption doesn’t mean skimping on quality. What’s the fastest way to guarantee never to sell 100,000 e-books in 60 days again? Bad writing.

Well, I hope this gives you some idea of what it takes to sell all those books, mom. And I guess you can see now how impossible it would be for me to have a real job. I work seven days a week right now as it is. Talk about a time consuming career. Don’t believe me? Just ask your two ex-daughter in-laws. I’m sure they’d both have something to say on the topic.

But let me ask you something else, mom.

What real job out there would pay me close to $20,000 in a single month to do something I absolutely love? Would I get 20 Gs per month project managing construction projects? Would I get 20Gs per month if I were an accountant? Would I get 20 G’s per moth if I were teaching high school? If I were writing public relations and advertising copy?

Probably not, which is why I choose to be a full-time writer in this, the new golden age of publishing.

I have to go now, mom. Lots of work to do. Tell dad, I said hi! And I hope you guys can come and visit me in Italy soon. Oh, yeah, did I forget to tell you that I can write and conduct my writing business from anywhere in the world???? Now try and do that with a real job and two weeks vacation per year!

All my love,
Vince

Vincent Zandri is an essayist and freelance photojournalist, and the author of the recent bestsellers, The Remains, Moonlight Falls and The Innocent . His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT).

He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.

You can visit his website at www.vincentzandri.com or his blog at www.vincentzandri.blogspot.com. Connect with Vincent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VincentZandri, on Facebook at www.facebooks.com/vincent.zandri and Myspace at www.myspace.com/vincentzandri.

Thank you so much for sharing all that very useful information, Vincent. It truly is a full time job to do all that you do.

And now for something completely different!

I am participating in a Splash Into Summer Blog Hop. Just leave a comment saying “I want to splash into summer with a book by (insert the name of the author)” on any blog post between today, May 25 and midnight EST on May 31 for a chance to win a $1o gift card, autographed copies of both SINS OF THE FLESH and STRONGER THAN SIN, plus a T-shirt for THE LOST and some other goodies.

Also check out all the other blogs participating for a chance to win other cool giveaways.

Publishing Definitions

There has been a lot discussion during the last week about the new Harlequin Horizons venture. For more on this venture and the response to it, you can click below on these links for comments:

In many of the above discussions, there has oftentimes been a use of the terms e-publishing, self-publishing and vanity/subsidy publishing interchangeably, but there are vast differences between those three types of publishing. In light of this, it seems as good a time as any on this Tuesday Tip blog to distinguish between e-publishing, self-publishing and vanity/subsidy publishing.

E-publishing

    With e-publishing there is no monetary outlay of funds by the author. The e-publisher will do editing, create the cover and arrange for distribution of the book through their various channels. The author does not typically get an advance as is done with traditional print publishing, but will receive a royalty based on sales, usually in the neighborhood 25%-35% of either the cover or net price. The e-publishing model shares the reward between the author and the publisher, but the risk is borne by the publisher.

    Oftentimes e-publishing will allow for books that don’t fit a niche to find a home and it has proved financially sound and rewarding for some publishers and houses.

Self-publishing

    With self-publishing, the author will pay for the printing of the book and any related design services (such as the artwork on the cover). The author will own the ISBN, copyright and be responsible for marketing, distribution and sales. The author usually keeps 100% of the sales made, so all risk and reward is with the author. Self-publishing is a riskier move. Many bookstores will not stock self-published books. While there have been some success stories (such as The Shack and The Celestine Prophecy), for every one of those success stories, I suspect there are thousands of tales about books sitting in garages or the trunks of cars. According Bowker, although more ISBNS were handed out for self-published books than for traditionally published books in 2008, the average self-published book sells less than 100 copies.

Vanity/Subsidy Publishing

    With vanity/subsidy, the author pays for “publication” of the book as contrasted to the printing and design of the book. For the fee, the vanity/subsidy publisher will provide X number of copies of the book as well as suggest marketing, editing and other services in order to achieve “publication” and make sales. In addition, the publisher may also retain a portion of the sales for offering the book through their distribution channels. For example, you may pay $600 for the basic vanity publishing package, but you may also need to pony up 50% of the either the cover or net price of each sale to the publisher. Therefore, you will only receive 50% of the cover/net price as a royalty. Please remember that the net price could be substantially less than the cover price, drastically reducing your “royalty.” For example, Amazon takes approximately 35% of the cover price as its share for listing the book, so as an author, you would only receive 50% of the 65% left from the cover price. In the vanity/subsidy publishing model, 100% of the risk is borne by the author but not 100% of the reward.

So what is an aspiring author to do? There is a difference between being published and being in print that is being blurred by today’s print on demand technology and the advent of the Internet. For starters, remember the first rule: Money should flow from the publisher to the author. Then, remember the second rule: If anyone asks you to outlay money to publish your book, seriously reconsider that “publication.” There is a reason why AAR and other organizations have a code of ethics that prohibits literary agencies from charging fees to aspiring writers. As a writer, you should consider applying that rule to any publishers that you are about to consider.