Monday, March 1, 2010

Publish Your Passion

Today marks the day of several changes at Wicked Writers. First, we’ve got a kick-butt new contest starting today. This contest is ongoing and will change from week to week, so be sure to stop by and check it out regularly. Second, we’re mixing up our theme and you should see a new look launched on the site soon.  Third, we're changing a blogger. One member of our team, Steve Liskow, dropped out for personal reasons, and we’re sad to see him go. Since his first book is due to be released this spring, I was really looking forward to hearing what he had to say on this week’s topic.

One of the things I love best about this blog is the diversity we have as a group. This week, we’re talking about where we are in the publishing process and I’m excited to hear what everyone has to say. We’ve got an author who has been published in print for almost 30 years as a journalist and who has e-published several fiction titles already. Another journalist, who has worked exclusively in nonfiction plus edited several books professionally, is still navigating the tricky path to fiction publication. And a technical writer who has also been published for more than 20 years, who is attempting to sell her first full-length fiction novel (and who luckily had an agent represent her without having to go through the grueling query process).

Lastly, we have me—the greenest member of the group, one who has decided to start my own publishing house. Why? Traditionally, the belief is self-publishing is career suicide and you would only consider it if you had been rejected so much that you’re frustrated and feel you have no other avenue to try.

Well, what if you had the number one erotica publisher (that sells 60,000 titles per month)tell you to add more sex and they’d buy your manuscript in a heartbeat? Or two e-publishers approach you and say, “Please send us your full MS. If the partial we read on XXX website is an indication of the caliber of your work, we would love to represent it.” What do you do when two small presses want to talk seriously with you about contracting your book but you feel they can’t offer anything you can’t do on your own? How about when the COO of one of those small presses tells you the book is incredibly strong and you shouldn’t settle for anything less than a contract from a New York publishing house?

Sounds great, right? But what do you do? You can’t get the New York houses to look at your work without an agent and so far you can’t get an agent to offer you representation. Now, that’s not to say you won’t get an agent, but how long do you wait? I’ve read that there are instances when self-publishing your own fiction book is a smart thing to do. Namely, when you have a novel that’s geared toward a current event and the timing in getting it to the public is key. You can’t wait for the two-year lag time a large publisher needs to get it on their roster; you need to get it to the readers while the topic is fresh in their minds.

Another instance is when you are writing a niche genre—one that doesn’t have a clear-cut spot for it in the bookstores—or perhaps, one that is currently hot in the existing, but flooded, market. The biggest obstacles my book has faced so far is exactly what has drawn readers to it. Writing a vampire story in a market that loves them right now, in addition to crossing genres to make my story engaging and a page-turner, are both exactly what has confused agents on how to sell it to an editor.

My goal in starting my own publishing company was to cut out the middle and get my book the exposure it needs now. I will probably not make any money on this venture, I’m aware of that. With this first book, it’s not about the money. Don’t get me wrong—I’d be thrilled to have a runaway hit on my hands, but I'm a realist. If I can sell enough copies to attract a New York publisher’s attention, then I will have done it based on taking risks and trying something outside the box—and that will make all the difference to subsequent books in the series.

If you believe in your work and you're serious about your career, don’t leave it in the hands of someone else. No one can sell my book like I can. No one will care if I fail, except me. I have faith in the thousands of readers who have told me they love what they've read of my book. They are the true gauge in whether or not a story is worthy—not an agent or a publisher.

I encourage you all—think outside the box and don’t be afraid. You are the master of your own destiny.

15 comments:

  1. Excellent post, C.J. To the point with the reasons for self-publishing. My friend Starlene Stringer (who guested on here a few weeks ago) self-published and has made her books into bestsellers. Others like Eric Jerome Dickey and the late E. Lynn Harris self-published because the "African-American" book sections at Wal-Mart and Borders did not exist.

    So, now, you control your own destiny. Good luck.

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  2. With a lot of hard work, and a little luck, I aspire to be as successful as Starlene!

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  3. The belief that self publishing is career suicide is based on fear these days. Not everyone can do it or wants to do it because of the amount of work involved. And, you subject yourself to more rejection by self publishing, like a sales person, being told, "no," multiple times daily by the readers instead of just by publishers. Self promotion is where most self published authors fail, like small business owners failing within the first three years of business. But really, you'll also fail if a big publishing house publishes your book and you don't or can't promote yourself.

    The publishing industry is changing, which is why I haven't ruled out self publishing either. I think it's the way of the future. Publishers are doing less and less to promote their authors as a way of cutting costs. Well, you can only cut costs so much before you create an environment for authors that is really no different than self publishing. So why would we authors not move in that direction and cut our own costs, the middle men.

    There is one thing I've been thinking about lately in regards to publishing. Are there publishing co-ops out there? I googled it quickly one afternoon and didn't find much. Again, with the industry changing, publishing through a community of authors seems to make sense.

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  4. What would be the responsibilities of this co-op? I'm not adverse to setting my publishing company up however I see fit. I bought a block of ten ISBN numbers, but you can buy 100 for around $580. - If you had ten writers they could all have their own ten block of ISBN #'s for $58!!

    When approaching a printer you need to A) have an EIN (which I do), B) a bank account for the company, and C) fill out a bunch of forms and sign them. The cost is then $75 to submit your perfect digital print file (and they do charge you to re-submit if you make changes), and $75 to submit your cover art. They list your book in worldwide distribution channels including Books In Print, which is where Amazon (and others) would get your listing from.

    It's done as a print on demand situation where an order comes in from a wholesaler and is shipped in 2 to 3 days time - sometimes even faster with a new technology they offer. If Borders ordered a hundred - whamo! They get it super quick. Same quality as print to publish option (which they also offer)- where you must store several thousand books at once and have a distributor warehouse them for you.

    I imagine it would be really hard for someone without a lot of a business background to get started on it. But I've owned my own company since 2006 and it's still making money (granted, my husband is pulling more in for the business than I have in the past couple of years due to my health concerns, but it didn't start that way and at least I keep it up and running!)

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  5. If anyone can turn the self publishing paradigm on its head, it's you, CJ. Good luck and keep us all posted.

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  6. Harley D. PalmerMarch 1, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    Great post CJ. It is interesting how many are going the route of self publishing these days. In this world of technology so easily in our reach, it's no wonder. It is much easier now to self publish than before.

    I have not chosen to self publish (yet) but then again, I have not even begun to send out queries yet. Personally, I think of it as a "last option" sort of thing. Last time I researched it (about 5 years ago), it would cost about $10,000 dollars all around to self publish (that includes the cost of ISBN, starting the publishing company itself, and printing costs. That doesn't include promotion at all from what I could tell.)

    I would love to be able to self-publish my book when I wanted to intead of waiting the year or two process, but in the end, I really don't want or am able to spend 10 grand! I am sure the cost is much less now a days, but still. That's a lot of cost for me that I just don't have.

    Which is a shame in a way. I actually dreamed as a little girl to run my own publishing company (one that accepts from other writers too, not just myself). I am still young! So maybe it'll happen in the future!!

    Good luck CJ - I can't wait to be in a book store and say "Hey! I know that person!" (sort of! LOL)

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  7. C.J.,
    GREAT POST!! I am almost done with my novel as well and have had this same self publishing argument myself with several published authors. I agree with you 100%. A friend of mine and I are thinking about self publishing but hey, you start a co-op and we are in! And I am not afraid to sell myself, I am a salesman, That's what I do. And NOBODY will be as passionate about my book (Pandora's Fire) as I will. Also with the growth with Ebooks there is a whole other market to reach. Once you get your Publishing brand up and VV sold let me know....I may be submitting PF to you as well!

    When I feel like I am beat I alway remember the Poem "DREAMS" by Langston Hughes ,
    "Hold fast to dreams
    For if dreams die
    Life is a broken-winged bird
    That cannot fly.
    Hold fast to dreams
    For when dreams go
    Life is a barren field
    Frozen with snow. "

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  8. I don't really know anything about publishing co-ops, but wouldn't it be a cool thing if a group of authors could work together to publish and promote each other, a they profit from it. We certainly live at a time it's more than possible, not to mention the general irritation with corporations these days.

    I found a link to this Ning network, but it's getting kinda large. I'm not sure starting a publishing co-op with 70+ members will ever get off the ground. http://bit.ly/bPwtjv. I did join anyways to see what they're up to.

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  9. Harley - no way near 10k these days, trust me! I'd say start to finish, with getting your LLC set up, ISBN numbers and all would be under 1k. So cool you actually dreamed of your own publishing empire as a kid!

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  10. Thanks for the enthusiasm and belief Mark! Let me see how things fly with V V and I may be willing to part with a few of my ISBN numbers for a fellow author ;-)

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  11. Here's some interesting reading I pulled off the co-op Ning network. http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/450144-The_Staggering_Work_of_Publishing_Genius.php

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  12. Great article link Wendy! Thanks. I'll check out that Ning network next.

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  13. Interesting post CJ. I haven't considered self-publishing, but nor do I understand the bias against it. I recall last fall, Eric at Pimp my Novel blogged about self-publishing and his thesis was, don't do it because most self-published books are crap. Well that may be true, but a fair number of traditionally published books are crap too. It's as though the publishing machine is not willing to accept the possibility they'd allow a worthy book to pass them by. And if you're so bold as to make a move on your own, you're shunned for going through improper channels. From what I've read, the biggest drawback to self-publishing is being snubbed by traditional publishing.

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  14. I agree, that does appear to be the biggest snub - and Eric's view does have some basis to go on. I've read some self-published books that were crap.

    Lots of authors think their work is worthy, and can' see the errors. I, on the other hand, KNOW my work is riddled with errors and I handed my book out to my smarter friends who did not major in chemistry and art, like I did. I had great minds working on my stuff and they understood grammar and punctuation way better than I did (do?).

    But, at the same time, there are exceptions to every rule and you should know when to break them. Lots of people have self-published to be picked up by large publishers later. It's not like winning the lottery - it happens more often than that ;-)

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