Friday, February 18, 2011

Temptation to ePublish

Are you guys thinking about it too?

There's a growing acceptance of self-epublishing. Check out J.A. Konrath, who is a huge proponent of self-pubbing. Many months ago, I left a comment on his blog that self publishing was all well and good for people like him who've been through the process and know what needs to be done, but that a lot of newbies will end up prematurely publishing out of ignorance, and they won't start with a base of readers like he has, so no thanks.

I'm wondering if I misspoke. I'm still not saying it's the way to go- at this point, if an agent called me, this whole idea would probably evaporate. But some self-pubbed authors are doing quite well. (J.A. Konrath has complied a partial list of authors who are self-epublished and are making money. He gives a lot of details, so check out his blog. It's really interesting.)

If anyone else is getting this meme, make sure you know the whole story. Read this blog by Amanda Hocking (self epublished author who just sold some movie rights to her Trylle Trilogy. Very successful, living the dream, etc.) She basically wants to remind her fans that writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. She's written nineteen books and self epublished only 9 of them. The other TEN aren't ready, she says, and some of them never will be. Holy crud! That's a lot of dues. That's a lot of work.

I'm kindof a do-it-yourself-er in many areas. I taught myself to install light fixtures and do wiring (the building codes in rural PA were a bit lax, so I didn't need to be a licensed electrician). When I want tile, I put it in myself. So it's natural for me to think "I could do the whole marketing/cover/hire an editor thing." I probably could. Not saying I'd be as good as the people that have been doing this for 20+ years, but I could do something above the rank amateur level. (For the record, my book trailer WAS rank amateur, and just for fun. I was learning about the process because it interested me.)

In favor of traditional publishing, I want somebody objective on my team (agent). I want a second (editor) and a third opinion (??? publishing committee co-chair???), because as a writer, I'm still a baby. I've always loved to write and made little picture books and stories as presents-all that stuff- when I was younger, but it's only been the last two years that I've been serious about it. That's really not a long time.

I don't think this is about rejection for me (I don't feel beat down or fed-up or ready to throw in the towel) as much as it is about wanting control and that I have concerns about the changing market. I think a lot of the ebooks (big 6, I'm looking at you) are overpriced, and that it's hurting those authors to not be able to compete. I also worry that a lot of authors are going to regret selling their digital rights, that many will not have rights revert to them after a specified period of time, etc. Lots of stuff I don't *entirely* understand since I'm not a lawyer, but I know enough to be concerned.

What do you guys think? Have you ever been tempted to go out on your own? Is it all about wanting to have a hardcopy on your bookshelf? (That is part of it for me, I'll be honest.) What am I missing?


  1. I saw some sales figures for a self-e-pubbed author recently. Over 1500 copies last month, at $2 each, I think. Take out some for Amazon and the other distributors, and it's still pretty good. And that was without much marketing or promotion. Ebooks change everything for self publishing.

    Digital rights are a valid concern for traditionally published authors, too. It's so easy for someone to buy a 1 or 2 dollar book compared to a 10 dollar one.

    Tempting? You bet. But I reeeally want to hold it in my hands. And I'm lousy at networking. I think there's probably still a ceiling for independent books. (The vast majority of sales are still hard copies.) I view it as a last resort. But it's nice to know it's there and getting better.

  2. It's hard to see those kind of numbers and not wonder if it could happen for me. I've handed my book out for comments to about thirty people (maybe 7 beta readers who are serious writers, and the rest just avid readers), and have gotten a terrific response. So I dream.

    Thanks for the comment, Ben. It is great to have options, good options that aren't equal to failure;)

    But...I'm not sure there's a ceiling. There are so many people with ereaders now, and any computer can download Kindle for pc or Nook for PC and act as an ereader- for free! I think we're past that tipping point, no return.

  3. I've had a lot of the thoughts this past week about the concerns of the changing market and control over my book. I've spent so much time learning how to write good fiction (with your help) and spend time researching this market, I'm not sure what to do.

    Amanda Hocking had a good point on her blog regarding e-publishing and traditional publishing: if your e-book does well-like hers has-than you can still get an agent and have a publisher sell your hard copy in the bookstores (which can also sit on your bookshelf).

    A large factor with successful books is how good the story,editing, and price of the book is.

  4. Self-publishing has never been something I've really thought about, and I imagine a lot would have to change for me to ever consider it. To be honest, I think I might need the validation of an agent, an editor, an acquisitions committee telling me my manuscript is good enough and they want to represent/publish it. Plus, I'm not sure I'll willing to front all the money/time self-publishing and e-publishing require...

    Really interesting post, though, Kelly. Good food for thought.

  5. Hi Jen and Krista- thanks for chiming in.
    Jen- it's true that self-pubbing doesn't mean that you'll never have a hard copy for your shelf, but I think that's a pretty rare circumstance.

    And Krista- I wouldn't even consider epubbing without the objective advice of a professional editor. But I wonder if my book is too old for YA and too young for adult. Is it a crossover book or is it unsaleable?

    If I run out of options with traditional publishing, I might- just hypothetically- hire an editor and do it myself. I'm just at the beginning of this process though, and don't really want to go there.

    A lot of the time, if you can't get any body interested in your book, it's because you're not ready, in my opinion.

  6. I'm like Krista- I just don't see myself self-publishing. I honestly don't have the time to build the fan-base i would need to do really well. I mean, I think you'd have to have at least a thousand followers, plus all the marketing of yourself etc. I also would want the validation of an agent telling me I'm really good, instead of me just putting it out there because I *think* I'm good. I'm not saying self published authors aren't good...but I'd be too scared to go it alone. If I never get an agent, and never get a publisher, I think I still wouldn't self publish. If no one wants it, then there must be something wrong, or I'm not ready, like you said.

  7. I don't think you've missed anything, Kelly. Great post. For me personally, I wouldn't self-publish (at least for my first books) because I need the experts to tell me my book is good enough. Maybe that's lame, but for my personality, it's the truth. I am not self-confident enough to go out there and say, "My book is awesome! Spend money on it!" Now if people in the industry tell me they're willing to publish my book, then I'll feel confident selling it. I need that validation.

    Was that long-winded enough for you? :)


  8. Oh, one more thing: I hired an editor with my first ms and she was an incredible help, but she also raved about my book. Honestly, though, that book was not ready (even after I made all the changes she suggested) and it's shelved now. I guess the problem with professional editors is that you're *paying them*, so I'm not sure you can always expect a completely honest opinion. Let me rephrase that: they may be honest about their personal opinion of the novel, but their opinion might not be industry-viable, simply because they'll lean towards positivity to ensure you'll come back and give them more business later. Does that make sense?

    I'm not saying this to be critical of free-lance editors. Mine helped me/ taught me a ton. I would take their advice for improvement, but take their opinion of how saleable your book is with a healthy dose of salt.

    Amy (again)

  9. I want someone (whether it's an agent or an editor) who can help me take my writing to another level. I've experienced that with magazine editors, and it's not something I'm willing to set aside for my novels.

    Along the same lines, I get disappointed when I read self-published books. They usually have potential that isn't realized. Of course, that can be true of traditionally published books as well.

  10. Hey Abby- Thanks for commenting. I don't think that the people who Konrath lists are huge bloggers/start with a huge following. And Amanda Hocking just talked about hanging out in the Kindle forums, etc. She did that over the course of 6+ MONTHS, though. I agree, it's not for the feint hearted. I don't know if I could keep that up, only selling a book or two a day for that long. It's a valid reason to not epublish, I'd say.

    Myrna- I've been disappointed by self-pubbed books too. Things that a decent crit group could help someone get past in ten minutes- info dumps, stale characterization, etc.

    Amy- The objectivity of an editor is hard to guarantee, too. I would def only consider people who have worked in the industry, not someone who has a flair for grammar, etc. Not that I'm considering it right now. Just playing devil's advocate. How come it's the devil's advocate when really it's just having a conversation? ;)

  11. I think I need that validation from someone saying my words are good enough to be in print. Having a publishing company say they want my words means that my words are good enough to be on a shelf in a library. For me that is a personal goal...I think it has something to do with years of teaching and using books in my classroom and wishing that one of those books were mine. :)

  12. Hey Sharon- Thanks for your input. I know what you mean- validation is really important in such a subjective business.