Monday, January 16, 2012

More Adventures in Publishing Land

If you read much on self-publishing, you can be forgiven for coming away with the belief that all publishers are evil, money-grubbing anachronisms. I might have felt a bit of that myself at one time, though tempered by the fact that I was neither starving in an attic nor writing the great American novel.
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Self-publishing vs commercial publishing

In one of the craziest most random events of life, I ended up with a commercial publisher for my next book. No, it is not the second volume in the Wizard and Spy series, which is truly sad because that book is 90% or so done.

Quite the opposite, the contract is for a non-fiction book. It happened like this:

A friend of mine just had his fourth book come out and was having lunch with the publisher. He happened to mention that he had a friend who was writing a book, and might they be interested in talking with her. Mr. Publisher said they might and sent me an email to the same effect. I wrote back, told him briefly what the book was about and Ms. Book Editor sends me a mountain of stuff to fill out.

Paperwork - creative commons license
I think I'm pretty well-educated.  I have college degrees - multiple. I've already self-published one book on on Amazon and Smashwords and in print on CreateSpace . I am not, however, an English major. (I don't know if that would have helped.) I didn't even know what some of this stuff was they were asking for - a book synopsis, book proposal, book description and table of contents - which are four different things.  Then there is an author biography and the first three chapters.

A stack of papers  - well, actually pdf files - goes off to Ms. B.E. and a few days later I get an email saying how they just think I'm cuter than a bug's ear, would love to work with me and would I consider changing A, B and C in my book.

If you self-publish, of course, no one tells you that. All of my friends told me, 
"It's your book! Stand your ground!"

All of my friends had no idea what they were talking about. Ms. B. Editor had great ideas and I made the changes right away. So, now I have an actual contract and a deadline to have the book done - something else you don't have when you self-publish.

I KNOW this is not how publishing works in real-life. You don't email the first company that comes to mind and they email you right back and say,
"Damn straight we'd like to publish your book. Thank you for thinking of us."

I'll write more about the process as I go along, but right now I have to go because I have a deadline. How crazy is that?