The Benefits of Small Press Publishing

Weighing in on Alternative Publishing Options

Guest post by David J. Kirk

publishing options for fight for your write

Stuart Miles for freedigitalphotos.net

I would like to thank Jen and Melissa for allowing me to guest post on this great new site.  Being a small press author, I am here today to talk about the benefits of publishing in this venue.

I have to begin by admitting that, yes, I have submitted to the big six (or five, or however many there are now).  I also received five or six very nice rejection notices, mostly on postcards so my mailman could read them.  Like many of us who have been submitting for years, my first goal was to get published, and how wasn’t a major concern.  However, I started to look into independent publishers as I became more realistic.

University and small presses have had their famous authors and best sellers.  The Dummies and Chicken Soup books started out this way.  Plus, the independents may also be willing to take a chance on an offbeat story or an unknown author.  I hear they give smaller advances, if at all, although I don’t know this from experience.  However, keep in mind that advances are not bonuses; they are just what the word implies, advances on royalties.  If you receive a generous advance, and your book starts out slow, it may be quite a while before you receive a royalty check.

Generalities aside, I can only speak of my experience with my publisher.  I signed with Martin Sisters Publishing and my experience couldn’t have been any better.  I entered into an agreement with them on April 1st and my book was released August 11th of the same year.  My first expense was the purchase of my marketing copies.  Editing, proof reading, cover design, and formatting were all completed by the publisher.  I was highly involved in the editing process of the entire book via email.  My book is now available in almost every online selling point imaginable in this and several other countries.  I have also placed it in several retail outlets through buyback agreements.

While my publisher did not take out full-page ads in the New York Times, they did keep me involved in the development of my release press kit.  I was allowed input in personalizing press releases to the targeted markets.  I am also free to purchase copies at the wholesale price and sell them as I see fit at signings and other events.

My overall favorite aspect of small press publishing, however, is the almost family atmosphere of the whole organization.  I’m never more than an email away with any question I have for my publisher.  There is just no substitute for the personal attention I receive.  I also have access to a group of accomplished fellow authors, my host Jen Barry being one, who have literally taught me this business.  Many of us MSP authors stay in touch and help each other out with promotion.

I just can’t say enough good things about this publishing venue.  I hope you give it a try.  I also hope that you keep reading this blog as I’m sure Melissa and Jen have many more great things to come.

David is the author of Particular Stones by Martin Sisters Publishing which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other online outlets.  His author page and blog appear at djkirk.net and please follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.  Watch for his new book Cornerstones.

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J to tha M: Buying a Spot on Bestseller Lists

Happy Birthday to M! Here’s Your Bestselling Book.

buying your way to the bestseller list for Fight for Your WriteJ: So, I figured out what I’m going to get you for your birthday today

M: Yay!

J: I’m going to buy you a spot on the bestseller list. That’s a pretty cool gift, right?

ps, my birthday is in September, in case you want to plan ahead

M: uh

J: not awesome?

M: Awesome if you have that kind of money laying around and that you think of me, but…

J: it’s apparently a thing

like, it can happen

I was floored

where was that article…

jasmine referenced it in her blog for us

Melissa: I read about it on my TWRP chat list. One of the authors gave a link

of course, my email crashed this past week, so it may never be found again

J: oh, I found it

http://www.leapfrogging.com/2013/02/18/debunking-the-bestseller-book-sales-spike/

that was a guy who did it

after he read this: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323864304578316143623600544.html

M: Yay, you! My email makes me want to cry still. I’ll get over it in a few days. Anyway…

Yeah. It made me shake my head. Surprised…hmm, not so much, but still.

J: I can’t imagine buying my own way there

but it’s different if you do it for a friend, right?

I don’t know how that would work…

I mean, I consider it like Lance Armstrong or Milli Vanilli

it’s not real

but when someone does it for you… what then?

I can’t imagine a better present than making you a bestseller, but is it real then?

M: I think most people never imagine that kind of stuff happens behind the scenes, so to speak. It’s almost misrepresentation. When you see “bestseller,” you think it’s because individual people are buying the book. Actual readers. Not publishers, companies, affiliates, or a friend who have money burning a hole in their pocket.

J: (I like to look for ways around my conscience, as you can see)

M: I mean, if you have enough money to buy three to five thousand copies of my book, maybe we should use it to rent some tropical seaside cottage with cute cabana boys and try actually writing a bestseller. That sounds like more fun.

or hire a marketing expert to market the book to readers

or just hire those cabana boys. I live by the water. Not exactly tropical, but close enough.

J: i’m coming over

But I totally agree with you. Why not put your resources into doing it right?

is it easy to be proud of a bestseller when you’re the one who bought all the copies?

maybe it is for some. I don’t know. I’m kind of confused by all of it, to be honest

M: But what if it launches a book that deserves to be there into the public eye? What if you use it as simply another line item in your marketing budget?

It’s obviously a very effective way to get your name out there.

bring attention to your book

J: *sigh*

I understand bringing attention to it

but still. it’s false

it’s false inflation

It’s a fake identity

it’s a book photoshopped into the hands of a super-celebrity

maybe it deserves the accolades, but when it doesn’t reach those accolades fairly, what then?

M: I can see the marketing argument. I can the reasoning behind bringing a book to the attention of readers that they will probably like anyway, to distinguish it from all the millions of others. But.

But.

Most readers don’t see the best-seller list as a marketing tool, so to speak.

They think it’s an actual representation of what is being purchased by people like themselves, and liked, and recommended, and then bought by more readers.

J: there are thousands of other writers out there who may have an EVEN BETTER book, but not the means to buy their way onto the list

how is that fair?

I mean, none of it’s fair, and we’d be here all day if we stomped our feet and yelled about what’s fair

but still

M: I guess, like most things, it’s all in how you see things, what conforms to your ethics, and what allows you to sleep at night.

Can’t deny it’s a good marketing tool.

Also can’t deny it happens all the time.

But, being perfectly honest, you also can’t deny it just leaves a bad taste

J: well, if readers all knew, then it would be fair

if they knew people bought good reviews for their books and had basements full of their own copies just to get that spot on the list, that might be fair

and knowing which authors bought that spot and which fucking EARNED it…well, it’s just not that easy

M: Right. If we didn’t think it’s exactly fair, think of the authors who didn’t utilize that neat little trick and earned their way by actually selling copies to readers.

but then, that begs the question, did any of them actually do that?

And to me, that’s where the real damage lies. You start doubting the validity of everything the bestseller list represents

J: also an excellent point. Are these big six books so popular because the publisher can afford to get those books on there?

M: and is it okay because readers ended up really liking the book and bought a million more copies, and that ends up being an honest representation on the list?

J: i just don’t know. I think I’d be upset if I read a book that didn’t deserve to be there and found out later the spot was purchased

I’d feel super cheated

M: I think most readers and authors would

I also think others wouldn’t care.

And still others think it’s a great idea

J: it’s those who think it’s a good idea that govern the rest of the world, too

well, and those who don’t even know it’s going on

M: No matter what you’re involved in, people do crazy things

J: siiiiigh

so no bestseller list for your bday?

appletini instead? I can go either way

M: Let me go find those cabana boys to serve us drinks all day while we write fabulous bestsellers.

brb

buying your way to the bestseller list for Fight for Your Write

freedigitalphotos.net/markuso

Have something to add? Go right ahead! Nothing new to say? Just tell M happy birthday, then! We love hearing from you.

So, You Want to Publish (God Help You)

Various Publishing Methods and Why They’re All SO HARD

Guest Post by Lissa Bryan

Various publishing methods for Fight for Your Write“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ― Dorothy Parker

You’ve done it. You’ve completed your magnum opus and are now ready to share it with the world, but now you’re faced with the monumental choice of what to do with the damn thing. Writers have a greater range of choices in this regard than ever before, and really, the decision comes down to which method of publishing best suits your goals and the amount of effort you’re willing to personally invest. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Traditional “Big Six” Publishing

This is the typical writer’s dream  when it comes to publishing, but it’s also the most difficult to achieve. Only about one or two percent of manuscripts will be accepted by a Big Six publisher, hereafter referred to as “Bix,” because I’m a lazy typist. (Soon, it will be “Bive” after the merger of Penguin and Random House. I’m really hoping they change their name to “Random Penguin,” but I digress.)

Most Bix companies and their subsidiaries will not accept directly submitted manuscripts. To go this route, you must have an agent, who will shop your manuscript around and attempt to get you the best possible deal if a publisher is interested.  Acquiring an agent is a difficult process in of itself, fraught with many pitfalls for the unwary and eager. The agent will also absorb a cut of your earnings, and most new authors don’t make much.

Going with a Bix company means you will get highly professional editing teams and graphic artists who will design the cover. However, you will sign over most of your creative control. You may be required to make changes to the storyline or re-write portions of the book to make it more marketable. Bestselling author J.R. Ward was recently forced to change an m/m romance storyline in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series to include a female character. You also may have no input whatsoever on what ends up on the cover. Even the highly successful Stephenie Meyer has said she had no control over the cover art for her first three novels.

Then, you wait. It can be up to two years before the book is actually published and on the shelves.

But, hey, you get an advance, right? That helps keep you going in the meantime and to soothe your wounded ego over the changes you had to make. However, the advance an author receives is essentially a loan against future sales. If the book fails to make back the amount of the advance, an author can be sued by the company to return it. And dozens have been.

Still, it will all be worth it to see your book in stores, right? Bix companies have the distribution channels no other form of publishing can match. However, a book’s time on the shelf may be brief, unless it’s a success. Bookstores typically stock a title for a certain number of months, and then return the unsold books to the publisher, so they can use that precious shelf space for another novel. Remember, too, that the big bookstore chains that comprise the majority of Bix publisher’s sales are quietly dying. Borders is gone and Barnes & Noble is teetering on the edge.

The amount of promotion a book is given by the publisher depends on whether a book is “front list” if it’s expected to be a hit, or “mid list” meaning, it might sell moderately well. There’s an old writer’s comic which shows an author and a publisher’s agent in contract negotiations: “We’d like to take your book, change everything about it, put it on the shelves for a few months and do absolutely nothing to promote it.” The days of the promotional book tour are almost over, and more and more, authors are expected to take on promotional duties themselves. The “mid list,” the books on which the publisher takes more of a risk, is shrinking, meaning fewer new authors are given a chance.

In the end, there’s a reason why some mainstream authors are ditching the Bixes and publishing themselves.

“Indie” Publishing

Small, independent publishers are booming, spurred by the ebook revolution and print-on-demand technology.  Look around a bit and check out the quality of the books they publish before you decide whether they’d be a good fit for your book.

Most independent publishers can be approached directly, without an agent, and most have their submission guidelines on their websites. The benefits include more creative control over your work and cover art, and having a professional editing and graphic arts staff to prepare your book for publication. Another benefit is a much quicker publication time, but that means a lot of work in a short period, so be prepared for it.

A book published by an indie likely won’t be found in a chain bookstore. However, your book will be available through online retailers, such as Amazon, and the chain bookstores’ websites may carry your ebook version.

An indie publisher may have a marketing team, but you’ll need to put in effort to help promote the book by getting reviews, guest spots on book websites, etc. It’s a lot of work, building a base of readers.

You’ll also have the added burden of a stigma. There are some who insist that the Bix publishers are the only “real” publishers, even as indie and self-publishing eat up more of their market share every day as the Bixers contract and merge. Your book needs to be squeaky clean when it comes to editing, because reviewers point out any errors they find in indie/self-published books.

That brings us to…

Self-Publishing

This is the do-all-the-work-yourself option. It’s going to require a significant investment both in time and money.  Research carefully the services you use for formatting and publishing your book. They vary widely in price and, apparently, in ethics.

The most important thing you need to remember is, You cannot edit your own manuscript. Nor can your mom, or your friend, unless either of those happen to be a professional editor. You’re going to have to pay for a professional, and a good editor doesn’t come cheap. Your manuscript has to be as clean as a saint’s soul or many people will reject it automatically, even if it has a great story.

This is only copy editing. You also need substantive editing. That means, you need strangers who aren’t worried about hurting your feelings to read the book and tell you the parts that don’t work. Every book has them, but the author usually can’t see them. You don’t want to learn about them from reviewers after the book is published.

And you’re going to face an even greater stigma than those with indie publishers. Despite the ebook revolution, and the incredible success of some authors, there are those who disdain self-publishing. When I was at the Texas Book Fair with my publisher last October, a woman entered our tent and scowled at the booth of my publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop. Her husband headed in our direction and she grabbed his arm. “That’s self-publishing,” she said, in the same tone she would use to warn him away from entering an infectious plague ward. I stepped forward and corrected her, telling her we were a small, independent publisher. Her expression changed from scorn to interest, and she came right into our booth, where she bought several books. Good stories, all, which she never would have read if she thought they had been self-published.

That’s why your book has to be well-packaged if you want to be a success as a self-published author. You have to pay for professional editing and a good graphic artist to make an eye-catching cover. People do judge a book by its cover, unfortunately, and will scroll right past a book that has cheesy or clumsily executed cover art.

So, there you have it, in one overly-long article. Hopefully, I’ve given you at least a general impression of the pros and cons of each method of publishing. Success is possible with each of them, but no matter which method you choose, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication.

It’s not a profession for the faint of heart. It’s a Sisyphean task, and sometimes discouraging… but ultimately, very rewarding.

Good luck, and may God have mercy on your soul.

***

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot … though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

Find Lissa on her blog, her Facebook pageGoodreads profile, and follow her on Twitter. To buy the books, check Amazon.

How I Became an Indie by Accident

Guest Post from Martha Bourke: The Tale of the Accidental Indie Author

Publishing Trends

For those who are open-minded about publishing possibilities, there are a lot of decisions to make when you write a book. Nowadays, there are three routes that can be taken: traditional, indie, and a hybrid of the two. The decision can be tough for a lot of authors. Some writers start down the traditional road and find it suits them nicely. Others try it only to find that it’s not for them and go the Indie route. Still many seem to know from the beginning that they want to publish on their own. Some authors choose to do both. It’s really up to the individual author.

That is, except in my case.

You see, I became an accidental indie author. Jaguar Sun made the decision for me because the end of the Mayan calendar in December 2012 is part of the plot. It typically takes one to two years for a traditional publisher to release a book. I finished writing the first draft in April 2011. I realized there wouldn’t be enough time for a publishing house to get Jaguar Sun on the market even if it were to be accepted. So, I found the door to the traditional route closed to me before I even started. Decision made.

Indie publishing can certainly be done quickly, but it still has to be done well. I also still had deadlines. I figured I would need to get Jaguar Sun on the market at the very beginning of 2012, as it needed time to find its audience. As I researched the indie process, I decided that I wanted to contract out for several services because I didn’t have time to learn it all myself. That meant I would need an editor, a proofreader, a formatter, and a cover artist. There are a lot of indie authors who choose to do these things for themselves. If you’re truly talented at any of the four, it can save you some or even a lot of money. Unfortunately, I don’t fall into that category.

A decent editor runs an indie author anywhere from $200-1500 or more. I know that’s a big price tag. I went for middle of the way, simply because I was lucky enough to find an editor that was good and could do the work quickly enough. Back then, I was too unfamiliar with the process to know I could have had it done just as well for less money. If you really look, you can find a good editor that will work with you on all aspects of a manuscript for $200-400. I also had to pay my proofreader. Again, I overpaid. I should have been able to find a great proofreader for $100, but I paid twice that amount. My cover artist is excellent and charges about $150-250, depending on how long it takes and how much work goes into it. The money that I spend for my formatter is about that much as well. I am now able to put out a book for about $700, while doing only the writing and then the work with my editor. Someone else handles everything else, although I have final say on all aspects of my books.

Since publishing the first book in the Jaguar Sun series, I have published the second book, Jaguar Moon, a prequel novella, and I’ve started an adult spin-off of the series called the New Breed Novels. So, the question is, will I stay indie? For me, the answer is yes. Everything I have learned has come from the indie community. They found me, taught me everything I know, and now I pass that on to other indie authors. It’s been a very powerful experience. I also get to publish my books my way, on my own time table, and choose my pricing, sales outlets, etc. That works well for me.

Does that mean I would never sign on that dotted line? Never say never, but for now, I’m happy where I am. The indie community feels like home.

Martha and her husband of fourteen years have carved out their own little piece of Vermont in the Massachusetts countryside. When not writing, Martha loves spending time with her animals, good music, thrifting, and adding to her Converse collection.

Martha has been very special to J since they first “met” on Twitter. J was hiding in her closet during a tornado warning, and Martha stayed with her until the storm was over. That care and concern for a virtual stranger has endeared Martha to J (and M by extension) forever. Visit Martha on her Goodreads page, her blog, and her website. You can also follow her on Twitter. You can also buy her books at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Feel free to share your own stories about indie publishing. Are you considering going it alone for your first book? Are you disillusioned with the traditional route? Have you done it? Would you do it again?

Quit Baaa-ing and Read a Real Book

Guest Post: Tiffany Nichols Weighs in on Publishing Trends

Publishing trends

© Tjommy | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

It has come to my attention that a certain author (who shall remain nameless) of derivative fiction was recently spotlighted on Perez Hilton.

This makes my blood boil.

First of all: Really? People let Perez Hilton influence their reading choices?

I digress. Let’s get to what really makes me want to kick people in the kneecaps: the way people are raving about yet another fan fiction-turned-bestseller.

On its surface, this doesn’t sound like such a horrible thing. I won’t go the route others go and complain that publishing what was once derivative fiction is plagiarism, because in most cases, it’s not. Let’s take, oh, say, Twilight for example.

Duh.

The “pulled-to-publish” pieces of…fic…that have recently been published fall under fair use because they don’t actually have very much to do with Twilight. There isn’t a vampire or a werewolf in sight. Their settings are in “alternate universes,” and their characters are all human. Many people fail to see how a story like that can even be labeled as derivative, but basing a story on someone else’s characters alone is, in fact, fan fiction. In the cases of many of these “pulled-to-publish” novels, authors pull the story from fan fiction websites and do a “find and replace” to change the names of recognizable characters who weren’t theirs in the first place. Maybe they change a distinct physical feature here or there. Maybe they delete or revise a specific quote or trademark saying (ex: changing “Holy crow!” to “Holy cow!”). Normally, little else is done to change the story.

In a way, I can understand the desire to capitalize.  If these stories receive tens of thousands of reviews on the Internet, who’s to say they wouldn’t sell tens of thousands of copies in stores? I get it. I do. Money and fame and all that.

But the fact of the matter is that these stories were written with specific characters in mind. Changing their names doesn’t do much.

One of the hardest things about writing is creating memorable, relatable characters.  People who read fan fiction understand that they’re reading about established characters. They know these characters. They understand that Edward Cullen, for example, is sort of dominating, manipulative, and gorgeous, and that Bella Swan is klutzy, intuitive, and likes to read. This makes it easy for them to relate to the story, which the author’s job somewhat easier. He or she doesn’t have to dream up a new character from scratch. They don’t need to do the framework, because it’s already provided for them. Edward’s habit of running his hand through his messy hair is built in. Bella’s tendency to bite her lip has been established. So guess what? These “new, reworked” characters have the same habits.

The danger of using someone else’s characters and simply changing the names is that they end up being one-dimensional. A character needs to grow and develop in some way. Some readers might not care about that. Some people live for lots of witty, snarky dialogue. Others want erotic scenes that would make even Jenna Jameson blush. This is all well and good, but for me (and many, many others), flat characters kill a book. All the witty dialogue and hot lovin’ in the world can’t keep my attention if I can’t relate to the characters.

So my beef isn’t with the fact that people are pulling their fan fiction down from the Internet to rework and publish them. The issue is that these authors aren’t putting their time in. They’re relying on the fact that they have an established base of suckers—er, followers—within whatever fandom they write for. That’s built-in marketing right there, folks. Word of mouth is still #1. They’re counting on those fans to buy their book(s) and pass the word on to other sheeple—I mean readers. Then they sell eleventy billion books.

And they end up on Perez Hilton. For fark’s sake. I still can’t believe people take reading advice from that blog. Again, I digress.

I have to wonder whether these authors are actually able to craft memorable characters on their own. A review of one such fic-turned-novel on Amazon includes this tidbit:  “I also had a hard time connecting with the characters and overall the story was very one-dimensional.”

See?!

Now. All of this is not to say that there are not some truly talented writers of derivative fiction out there. In fact, there are quite a few writers whom I wish had published their stories as original fiction instead of posting them as derivative works. There are also authors who have taken a general idea from their fan fiction and spun it into an entirely different story with completely new, well-developed characters. This is a totally different side of the coin. I have complete respect for these writers.

Recently published authors of this fanfic-turned-erotic-novel phenomenon are not included in that list.

I leave you with this. I recently saw a cartoon posted on a friend’s Facebook wall. It said something about loving Edward Cullen as a girl and loving Christian Grey as a woman. Same character. Different genre. Wildly different rating. Yet this person—who, incidentally, had no idea fan fiction even exists—made that connection. I rest my case.

Tiffany is a freelance editor and writer in Charleston, South Carolina. Her vices include coffee, wine, Turner Classic Movies, and being lazy. Sometimes she brings home stray dogs. Her husband humors her whims, bless his soul. Check out her website, Write Edit Repeat, for information on her editing and writing services.

This is a guest post. The opinions of J to tha M do not necessarily reflect those shared in this contribution. If you would like to share your opinion, please comment or send us a request for your own guest post.