Monday, August 15, 2011

Back on the Blog Chain: The New Publishing World

Welcome back to the blog chain! During our break, we've added several new members; please welcome Amparo, Tere, PK, Matt, Katrina, and Jon to our group.

I have the privilege of starting the chain this round, so I'm going to ask a very important question:

Have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your writing plans/career? If so, how?

There have been so many changes in the publishing world this year that it's hard to keep track of everything. Borders has gone bankrupt, taking valuable shelf space with it; e-book sales continue to rise; authors go from self-publishing to traditional publishing (and vice versa); publishers try to claim as many rights as possible; and agents are offering publishing services. How does an author keep track of what's going on, and how do you decide to do what's best for your writing career when people offer obviously biased and conflicting advice?

I'm going to offer some advice before I disclose my answer. The first thing to remember is to think for the long-term. The prevailing wisdom (in other words, the impression I have from reading numerous blog posts I can't link back to because I've forgotten where I read them) is that the publishing industry will be volatile for the next several years, but it will eventually settle down. People will still read paper books, and publishers and agents will find some way to transition to a new paradigm. But contracts can tie your work up for years, and terms that look fair or good today may not seem that way in the future. So think about what you want out of your writing career. Do you want to win awards and be a leading author in your genre? Do you dream of the best-seller list? Do you simply want people to read and enjoy your stories? Remember, no matter what you decide, you're the one who's ultimately in charge of your writing career. Even if you have an agent, you still need to understand what's in your contract. I recommend following Writer Beware and The Business Rusch for advice on the business side of writing.

I've been thinking about what I want to do for several months. Although I was originally planning to pursue traditional publishing for my novel Twinned Universes, the prequel is a novella, which isn't the easiest length to sell. If I want to present the overall story the way I feel it should be told, with the stories being easily accessible instead of being published in different places, it seems that the best way to do that is publish it myself. While part of me still wants the status that goes with being a traditionally published author, changes in my personal life have made me value the freedom and personal control that indie publishing offers. So, that's what I've decided to do.

I plan to self-publish Lyon's Legacy, the first book in The Catalyst Chronicles, later this year. The exact date will depend on how long editing and cover art take. I have a cover artist in mind, but I'm still trying to decide which editors to approach for what level of editing. Once Lyon's Legacy is available, then I'll start revising and editing Twinned Universes. They'll both be e-books at first, but I plan to prepare an omnibus paper edition for next WisCon. I also have a couple of shorter works I'd like to put up so I have a backlist, plus I'd like to revisit some of my earlier fantasy novels. Those works need much more rewriting before they're ready, though.

This doesn't mean that I'll reject traditional publishing completely. I may try querying other short stories or projects to traditional publishers as a way of finding new readers. But for now, this feels like a good path for me to try. I find this song inspiring:



Matt will be following me on this chain, so please visit his blog tomorrow to see what he'll say.

20 comments:

Anna Banks said...

Why not publish Twinned Universe traditionally, and a few months after its release, offer the prequel as a self-published ebook on your author website? That will keep the momentum going, and give your readers something to gnaw until your next masterpiece releases...

Sarah McCabe said...

The best and most reasonable advice I've seen so far is to hold off on Traditional publishing for the next few years. Because, yes, it will still be around after all the upheaval settles down, but we don't (nobody does) know what it will look like then. It's very likely that some publishing companies will fail and go under while other survive and no one knows which ones will fail and which survive. You don't want to be caught in the middle of a publisher going bankrupt.

So the advice is to self publish for a few years until everything in publishing settle to a new norm and then take it from there. Most likely the best way to be an author in the future will be to traditionally publish some books and self publish others.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Thanks for the idea, Anna, but then I'd run into the same problem I'm trying to avoid--two parts of the series available in different places. Also, a publisher might give me a contract that would prohibit me from doing such a thing. Check out this link: http://kriswrites.com/2011/08/03/the-business-rusch-deal-breakers-continued/

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Exactly, Sarah.

Briane P said...

Interesting -- I look forward, first, to hearing when you publish and I'll be among the first to buy your book.

People planning on being an author should keep in mind that (like many creative fields) it's hard to be self-sustaining, income-wise. One of the editors at Cracked.com broke down his $30,000 (I think) advance for a book, and decided it was about $7 an hour for the work he'd put in. An article I read said the average author earns $27,000 a year -- but I think that's pulled way up by the J.K. Rowlings' of the world.

So if the allure of a big publisher is making big bucks, more power to you, but even with the help of Big Pub, you may still need the day job, and that's where I opted (like you, Sandra) for indie publishing -- because I get complete control over it, trading off a big name for doing what I like.

As for having the book available in more than one format, my wife is a voracious reader, and she reads mostly on her Kindle, but she's had me print up PDF copies of books that are available only that way, and she'll buy hard copies; she chases down the authors she likes. Corey Doctorow also makes his books available in a variety of formats, which helped me discover him. That's something to think about, too.

Michael Offutt said...

I can't wait to read your book and as soon as you have some promo stuff on your website I would be happy to add it to my sidebar on my blog to help you get the word out :)

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Thanks, Briane and Michael!

Tere Kirkland said...

Sounds like you're making the right decision for you. I understand the lure of self-publishing, the desire to see your words in print, but I have enough trouble finding time to write. If I had to be my own publicity department, too, I probably wouldn't be selling (or writing) very many books.

Good luck with whatever you choose!

Matthew MacNish said...

I finally got my post up, even though I screwed the whole thing up. Oh well.

I think you make several good points, Sandra. It's hard to know where things will end up after publishing settles down, but I think in the long run more control going to the author, and a better share of the profits is a good thing. We'll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Great topic! I'm seeing it pop up all over WriteOnCon the last few days, too. It's nice to see other writers embracing self-publishing and kind of paving the way. It won't be an easy decision for me if I do choose to go this route because I'm like Tere as far as marketing myself goes.

I want to be a "kept" writer and let my future agent and editors take care of me. :) But on the other hand, I definitely see the appeal of self publishing, especially for seasoned authors like you who know what they're doing. The fact that you're approaching editors to polish your work makes me very excited to read your stories because I know they won't be like 95% of the stuff on amazon kindle that's just thrown up there like al dente pasta against the wall.

Off to read Matt's post!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Tere, as a working mother, I find it hard to find writing time too. I write on my lunch break and after my son goes to bed; sometimes my husband wrangles our son for a while so I can get in extra writing time. Somehow I make it work, but it takes a lot of discipline. But from what I'm seeing, even if you're traditionally published, you're still expected to help with marketing. Luckily blogging helps with that.

Jonathon Arntson said...

Thanks for the welcome! I look forward to posting my thoughts on the topic and expanding on points you and the other chainers have made.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Matt--yes, I agree that in the long run, giving more control to the author should be a good thing.

Katrina--I didn't sign up for WriteOnCon this year (I decided that my stories aren't YA), so it's interesting to hear that self-publishing is being discussed there too.

I can see the appeal of letting editors and agents handle the business arrangements, but ultimately you're the one who has to make sure there are no nasty clauses in any contracts you sign.

I sent a sample chapter to an editor last night, so I'm excited/anxious to see her comments.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Welcome to the chain, Jonathon! I look forward to reading your post.

Amparo Ortiz said...

Hi, Sandra! Sorry I'm a bit late to your post! My brain is a bit dead from starting grad school classes *facepalm*

Anyway, your post sheds light on things I've been thinking a lot about. I know a few self-pubbed authors, and their dedication to their craft is just as fierce as writers going through the traditional publishing route. To me, it all comes down to personal taste. Not everyone wants to have a traditional publisher, and not everyone wants to self publish. And that's okay.

It is pretty scary to think ahead right now, but I do have faith that publishers will get a grip on themselves, as well as embrace self-pubbed authors a lot more.

Great post, and I can't wait to buy yours books! :)

Michelle McLean said...

You're right about traditional authors being expected to market their books. The days when the publishers did it all for you are long gone.

This is a great topic, esp as I am both traditionally and self published :D

Abby Annis said...

Great topic this round. It's been interesting to see everyone's take on it. Good luck to you! :)

Christine Fonseca said...

Love your thought out topic and your response! It is really an exciting time, I think.

Eric said...

I'm very late responding, but this is a great topic. I also look forward to your self-published book. Thus far I've been fairly impressed by the books I've read that were published by the authors themselves, and I have no doubts yours will be likewise impressive. Good luck with getting it out to us and let us know so we can pick up a copy :)

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Your advice about thinking long term is spot on. I think a lot of authors are going to be looking at things like e-rights as separate from their printed books. Publishers are resistant (as in refusing to give up e-rights) to this idea, but since e-books never go out of print, the paltry royalties they tie authors into are essentially forever. Print books go out of print and the rights eventually revert back to the author, but not so with e-books.

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