When I first started writing in 2005, I know it seems hard to believe, but email and digital books were just beginning to take off. It was customary for an author to format their Word document in Courier New font, double-spaced. This format most emulated a typewriter and averaged 250 words per page. When printed, the number of pages in the manuscript gave the publisher an idea of the number of pages in the finished print book. We tabbed our paragraphs and underlined anything that was going to be italicized so it was easily recognizable by the formatter. Manuscripts were printed and sent by snail mail to the publisher who hand edited them with a red pencil. (I mention this, because there may be some of you looking to re-release previously published books in this format and your manuscript would need to be stripped of all that formatting before your novel can be published digitally.)
There are days when I feel I never get away from the Internet to get other stuff done. Between Twitter and Facebook and blogs I visit, I roam the virtual cybersphere and yet … I seem to miss all the
fun controversy. I guess last week people were all up in arms about self-publising and Amazon’s moves to slowly take over the book selling market.
I don’t know about that. I do know they’ve made it easy for a person to self-publish print books. And they’ve made it even easier for authors to publish digitally. Really, there is no super-sekret formula … just upload a manuscript and a cover and voila! within 24 hours your book will be for sale! Yes, you can do this through other venues, but I have to say, I really like Amazon’s ranking system. There’s no greater satisfaction than seeing your book climb the ranks. Now they’re trying a new program, Prime Membership for readers and on the author side it’s called Kindle Select. Readers and authors are tentative about this program. Some are loving it and others … not so much.
But Amazon is trying. They are seeing the face of publication changing and they’re trying to be on the cutting edge of that change. Good for them. They’re not stupid. With big name authors like Joe Konrath supporting their efforts, it seems to me they’re going to be the front runners when everyone else is floundering. Does this make them bad or greedy? I don’t think so. It makes them smart. As in Apple smart. Always leading the pack, not the one running and out-of-breath trying to catch up.
And though I like what Amazon is doing for readers and authors alike, I just want to say, it ain’t all roses and royalty checks for everyone.
There are many authors making LOTS of money (as in quitting their day jobs and writing fulltime) going the self-pubbed route through Amazon. But there are a whole heck of a lot more of us taking our monthly royalty check from Amazon and buying a cute necklace from Kohl’s that just went on sale … on the clearance rack. So you get the picture. Now, please don’t hear this as complaining. It’s not … well, not totally. Wait, no really, I’m not complaining. I just want people to understand that it is possible their book(s) will take off, but it’s just as likely it won’t. Even if you do the same marketing strategies successful writers do. *shrug* It’s just how it is.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me give you some sales figures for the last three months for all three of my books (released 4/11, 6/11 and 11/11). (And this is just for Amazon, because it’s not worth my time to share with you my sales from B&N, Smashwords and ARe)
December: 136 books = $142.80
January: 74 books = $84.22
February (to date): 4695 free books (YAY!) 20 books = $40.00 (approx.)
Why am I sharing this sales information with you? I think authors play it too close to the vest. When authors are looking to make an informed decision it means … they need the information. I think it’s easy to find GREAT sales information. You know, those authors that sell 136 of each of their books every day. It makes many authors who are sitting there with 4 books sold in a month–because that’s the typical sales on Amazon–feel inadequate. Like “what am I doing wrong?” The answer is probably nothing. Even the big 6 publishers can’t tell you why one of their books is doing better than another. Now we’re the publisher … we just have to do the best we can.
I do like Amazon. I like that they have world-wide distribution. I wish I could boast sales on the other venues that were as good as my Amazon sales. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, even when I try to market my books at those venues.
Is Amazon going to take over all publication and distribution of books in the near future? No, it’s not going to happen. But other publishers and booksellers will need to stop doing things the way they’ve always done them and think ahead or they’re never going to catch up.
What do you think as a reader/writer? Does it make you a little noodgie the way things are going with Amazon? Are you worried about what is happening? Because you know me, I’m curious about that kind of stuff.
There are so many choices for new authors who want to see their book in the hands of a smiling reader. The road to publication no longer follows a straight path to NY. It is often a twisting maze of luck and perseverence.
With new publishing houses popping up every day and other publishers imploding, leaving authors begging for the manuscripts back, it can be a mine field wading through facts and rumors. Add to that the loud voices of those that are finding gold in the hills of self-publishing and you have a plethora of confusion on what is best for your manuscript.
So where do you start?
First, decide what it is you want from your writing. The satisfaction of seeing your words in print? A little extra income? A living wage and writing full time? What is your ultimate goal? It will certainly give you direction. For me, quite honestly, it was the income. As so many of you know I had to give up teaching due to medical reasons. And though it wasn’t much in the grand scheme of things, my salary did contribute to the family budget. I want to have that again. And I will.
With that in mind I wrote my first book and began sending it out while working on my second book. Rejections piled up and still I wrote and sent out queries on my second book. More rejections followed. I finally stepped back and reassessed, looked at the market (because I wanted income) and wrote a book I thought would fit the erotic romance market which was growing exponentially at the time. I also realized my only avenue wasn’t print, but digital publishers. I queried several new up-and-coming publishers and three well established houses. I got four offers, an offer of re-write and a rejection. One publisher called me directly. Boy, was I thrilled. But I didn’t jump on it. Why? Because it was a publishing house that had been around only a year.
Here’s the thing I did next and I think more authors should take time to do. I emailed random authors on the publisher’s author list. Why? Because they’re in there and know better than anyone how the publisher works. The good, bad and downright ugly. I asked specific questions about editing staff and techniques. About sales and royalty payments. How long from contract to publication. I even asked about percentage of books going to print. Authors are wonderful people and most will be honest … brutally honest, which is what I wanted. Granted, there were some who did not respond to my emails, but that gave me information also.
From these emails I accepted a contract with Liquid Silver Books. And though I no longer have books there, I will be forever grateful to them for giving me such a wonderful start to my writing career. I HIGHLY recommend them and would tell that to anyone who asks. And let me just tell you, two of the four who offered contracts and whose authors never responded to me have recently gone under. Seriously, a little research goes a long way.
And what of self-publication? Another avenue to explore and consider. It’s not as difficult for someone like me who publishes digitally anyway. There are no huge formatting issues for upload so don’t let that slow you down. Nor does the marketing and promotion change. Because if you’re with an e-publisher already, you know the importance of getting out there and marketing your book. So what is there to consider? Editing and cover design, both of which can be a considerable outlay of money. Whether you have the readers who are auto-buys for your books or your looking to begin a readership. All are important things to weigh when you’re thinking of going this route.
There is money out there for sure, but don’t go into self-publication with stars in your eyes. The reality is many people aren’t selling. Many aren’t making money. *slowly raises hand* Sales get sales. If a book doesn’t have sales, it isn’t going to show up on the lists. If it doesn’t show up on lists, it’s not going to get the attention of new readers. And all the great reviews and marketing aren’t going to get your book in front of the general Amazon surfer, which is your ultimate goal. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t go that route. I’m simply saying, like all parts of the publishing world, go into it well informed.
My goal for 2012 is to have my toes dipping in all of the markets, mass market print, digital and self-pubbing. There is no one way that is correct. In this day and age, an author needs to weigh their options and make decisions that fit them best.