The attic I was not starving in (photo from Ben Husmann, Chicago)
I wrote three novels in my spare time while trapped in hotel rooms and airports on business in several points east of nowhere. It seemed a lot less trouble to self-publish rather than navigate the labyrinth of agents, ten thousand query letters and a 98% rejection rate. I published Wizard and Spy: The Ex-Apprentices and it required very little effort. A few people bought it and they said nice things. Some went so far as to write me suggestions on what the characters should do in the next book. I learned a lot from self-publishing and it was fun and easy to do.
Here is the problem and why I am now working with a commercial publisher - I am the worst marketer in the history of marketers. I write software and provide technical consulting. I update my blog weekly, am on twitter a few times a week. Because I have a day job that I like and pays me, I have no real incentive to do marketing stuff I don't like so I can make money on my book.
In case you are wondering (otherwise, why would you be reading this blog), here are some differences between self-publishing and commercial publishers, in no particular order:
- Do-it-all versus help. In self-publishing, I paid an editor, did all the formatting myself and I paid the graphic designer who did the cover. With my new contract, the publisher has an editor, who so far is a gem, and a staff who will handle the layout and cover. My new book requires photos which are being handled by the publisher in everything from scheduling the photo shoot to paying the photographer to model releases.
- Deadline! As a self-publisher, I could do my book around other things in my life. This is no doubt why Volume 2: of the Wizard and Spy series has been 90% done for months. Life intrudes. With my new book, I signed a contract to have it done by mid-July.
- Editing with a commercial eye. I had a great editor for my first book, but her main task was making sure the book read well and no typos slipped through. My current editor is focused on what will sell in the market. This is exactly why some people hate commercial publishers, but I am actually very interested in my editor's ideas. The publisher has a vested interest in seeing my book be a commercial success so they are perhaps more brutally honest than someone who is being paid by me as an editor, but that's okay, I appreciate it.
- The marketing will be done by someone else with more money. They have a catalog that will include my book, sales staff that work with bookstores and a marketing budget for ads. I don't have any of that.
Yes, instead of getting 80% (or whatever, I don't even know) of sales on Amazon and Smashwords, I'll get 10% . That is only a good deal if I can sell eight times as many books as I can on my own. I think I will. Only time will tell.
I'll let you know how it turns out this fall. In the meantime, I have a deadline to meet so I have to run.