August 18, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day Three — Which Road to Publication?

The road to publication has splintered into many twisty paths. Options have never been greater for aspiring authors, but navigating the choices has never been murkier. Where do you start? Indie, traditional publishers or small presses? What about Amazon and Kindle Unlimited? A panel of authors from indie to Big Five publishers—and everything in between—maps the routes and outlines the pros and cons of each path in the brave new world of publishing.

Panel: Jennifer L. Carson, J.L. Doty, Tod McCoy, Jonathan Brazee, Jack Skillingstead

  • Issues an author should consider
    • have a goal
      • sell books
      • win awards
      • make a living
    • to sell  100 or 200 or 1000 copies of a book is a lot of work (indie publishing)
    • how much do you want to put into the non-writing work?
      • sometimes you have to pay for the expertise
    • be aware of external factors that can influence sales and/or promotion
    • You can tell how large a publisher is by how long it takes them to get a book out
    • Yes, people really do judge a book by it’s cover
  • How much control? How much effort?
    • particularly for traditional publishing, there is an established methodology
    • it’s hard to sell 100 … 200 … 1000 copies
    • it’s easy to sell 10,000 … 20,000 copies, once the momentum or demand has built
    • How do you do the latter? No idea. Not even the “Five 5” know for sure.
    • traditional publishing and self-publishing aren’t that different in that regard
    • be the best writer you can; find your own voice
    • work hard on writing more books; focus on production
  • Self-publishing
    • review the fiction
    • look for a cover
    • editing
    • formatting
    • cover design
    • copy editing
    • know the difference between the different types of editors
    • consider hiring a designer
    • the hard part is everything after those
    • marketing
  • Money
    • average royalty from a traditional publisher for a paperback book is 50-75¢
    • ebook royalties might go as high as 70%
    • How? No one knows for sure. (See the recurring theme here?)
    • A lot of independent authors go with KDP Select to maximize their revenue, but this puts them exclusive to Amazon
      • Amazon is still trying to stop the scammers who manipulate the page-read system to earn money
    • most self-publishers go print-on-demand (POD) for printed editions, otherwise they have to store and ship the books — more time taken away from writing-related tasks
    • shipping costs eat into your profits
    • most booksellers wanted guaranteed return rights if the books don’t sell; this can kill the independent author as they end up paying for shipping both ways
    • you can expect to pay
      • content/developmental edit: $2,000 – $3,000
      • proofreader: $300 – $500
      • cover design: $200 – $6000
  • Essentials skills (even if you have to hire out for them)
    • copy editing
    • cover design
    • in general, a copy editor should be able to turn your average-length book around in about 2 weeks
  • recommended self-editing process
    • write
    • wait 2 years
    • edit
    • repeat for 25 years
  • the odds of your first novel earning out? Not likely.
  • books that do take off tend of have a “halo effect” on an author’s other works — so make sure you have some to benefit from this
  • “When someone tells you how to sell books, that’s how they did it.”
  • Not every thing that works for someone else might — probably — won’t work for you
  • the fundamental difference from the item above is: You didn’t write that book
  • “Success can’t be predicted from working your ass off.”
  • When you self-edit (or have a bad editor), “You are who you came in as”
  • People want to re-hire editors who made them better
  • getting published with a mainstream publisher has a cachet associated with it, but there is often little other advantage for a new or niche author

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