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More Authors Turning to Self-Publishing

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by swenk, Jan 28, 2009.

  1. swenk

    swenk Member

    I can think of a hundred reasons to not self-publish, but this NY Times story offers a few reasons to consider it:


    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/books/28selfpub.html?_r=1&ref=business

     
  2. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    Vanity books -- the BLOGS of the book publishing industry.
     
  3. There are a few success stories, but for the most part, I would strongly, strongly urge aspiring authors to stay the hell away from this route. You'll never get distribution. You'll never get reviewed. And you'll be stigmatized if you try to break into legit publishing later on.
     
  4. Pendleton

    Pendleton Member

    Disagree with the stigma part. Publishers aren't going to turn down excellent material just because you self-published a couple books.
     
  5. goalmouth

    goalmouth Active Member

    Good writers aren't stigmatized by blogging or writign
    You mean the way web-only and blogging has stigmatized good print writers?

    Didn't think so.
     
  6. exmediahack

    exmediahack Well-Known Member

    Yeah, it may be vanity books on my end. First novel was nationally published but I couldn't find any takers for the next book.

    So I self-published, made it look top-rate (professional cover, etc.) and had it professionally edited. Sold out my first run, with a handful of copies still in my garage. Most of my sales were actually to libraries in my little corner of the country -- because NO ONE targets teenage boys with sports fiction. My second novel picked up strong reviews from some of the regional reviewing sites (no, not Kirkus or Booklist or the other big ones but these places are fairly well read and respected).

    The economics actually made self-publishing fairly low risk for me. The printer was 8 blocks from my house. $4.50 each to print (380 pages), sell for between $13 (library rate) and $14.95 (cover price). Broke even after seven weeks. Granted, I emailed thousands of libraries and called hundreds. But I played off the strengths -- i only called libraries in the state the book was set and many were open to the concept. In fact, it's in 45% of that state's 400+ public libraries.

    Third one comes out in two months. Only need to sell 33% of the first run to break even.

    It's a hobby job that I take very seriously, when I'm writing/editing. Besides, the traditional publishing business is hurting right now. It's like music -- if you're not one of the top 100 acts out there, over any genre, you're playing The Wig Wam Tavern in Bowling Green, Kentucky on Tuesday night.

    I'm happy to be a grinder in this.
     
  7. micke77

    micke77 Member

    i've written one book and i went the self-publishing route. did all of the promoting, the hyping, etc., and actually had some good luck with it. it requires perseverance, dedication and a willingness to keep plugging away, but it can be done. i was fortunate in one respect in that a lot of my writer friends would actually "plug" the book in their "dts and dashes" type of columns or do a short book review. it was amazing how such pub helped spread the word. while it was basically a regionally-oriented book, i got a lot of feedback and orders from coast-to-coast.
    but yes, it's a tough route to go, but i made it through and would consider doing it again.
     
  8. Clerk Typist

    Clerk Typist Guest

    Well done, ex. Did you design the book as well or let the printer handle that? And is Amazon an option for you?
     
  9. 1) What exactly is the stigma? Like, the equivalent of a replacement player eventually joining the MLB?

    2) I don't know that it's sound advice to suggest people should restrain themselves to comply with a business model that may be extinct by the time they can get in position to go the traditional route.
     
  10. clutchcargo

    clutchcargo Active Member

    A few thoughts after reading the NYT piece and the posts here I"ve seen so far, from someone who has authored several books via traditional publishing, worked for several traditional publishers and helped about 10-12 self-publishing authors get started:

    1. Just so you know when you hear these words, vanity publishing and self-publishing are NOT the same thing. Vanity publishing you pay a rip-off company thousands of dollars and they keep about 50% of all sales. Self-publishing---you foot all the bills, you do whatever marketing you can and you keep all the net revenues.

    2. It's an outdated thing to say self-publishing is not a good thing and you should always publish via traditional means. Say that to the 8 of every 10 credible authors who write a good book and can't get 1. an agent to rep them (getting an agent to rep you is as difficult as it was just 12-15 years ago to get a book sold to a publisher on your own), or 2. a publisher to take them on. Read that NYT article again---traditional publishers are going bankrupt, laying off piles of staff, trimming their title acquisitions, etc., etc. This trend predated the current recession by about 2-3 years, only now it is accelerating.

    3. If you are "fortunate" enough to get a traditional publisher to take you on, be prepared to do so WITHOUT an advance---they will pay for the printing and most of the marketing, etc., but the days of even a 15K advance are pretty much over for 90% of us.

    Three of my books have NET sold over 10,000 copies each and have gotten a lot of national publicity, which just 3-5 years ago would have put me on tap for 25-40K advance on my next book, and I now have a proposal out for a very timely book. My agent won't even shop it until I have a sample chapter that would require me to go out on a road trip at my own expense for about three-four days. The kicker: I just might do it, even taking the time off from my regular job.

    I'm thinking very seriously of self-publishing. I know exactly what is involved, I know how to do some basic marketing for this particular book, and I have enough money saved up to pay iUniverse or whomever $500 to get this thing out the gate. I believe I can sell 2,500-3,000 in a few months' time and net in the neighborhood of $25,000. I just haven't made the leap yet.

    Sorry for being so long-winded. I just want to help in some small way.
     
  11. exmediahack

    exmediahack Well-Known Member

    Nicely done, Clutch Cargo, both on your book and your thoughts. Those numbers blow mine away.

    For me, writing is in my blood, even though I'm a bloody TV news guy and have been for many years. I just take advantage of whatever opportunities I have around me with self-publishing. My dad is 68 but is a full-time Internet graphic designer so I pretty much just hand off a concept to him, with some photos, and he turns that into an InDesign project that we FTP to the printer.

    Also, I just happened to have a fabulous printer on my way to work (at least in my old city -- we moved about a year ago). Paper is inexpensive in that state so they cut me a great deal ($4.50 a book for 380 pages -- same rate for the next novel).

    As much as I "hate" sales, I actually enjoyed the process and the risk of writing a check for thousands of dollars, only to recoup it in about seven weeks. When you have a product (a book) you really believe in -- especially with some good reviews from respected reviewers -- the calls aren't that hard to make.

    Hundreds of cold calls to libraries later, thousands of e-mails later, we were able to break even and force enough of a profit where most of the next novel is "paid for with house money". In fact, after establishing my publishing business, the tax breaks made it even easier. You're able to write off home office space, editing expenses, Internet expenses (research), computer depreciation, phone expenses (cold calls).

    My marketing was fairly simple with it. Sell as many as I could myself and keep all of the profit. I unloaded copies at all of the bookstores in the city I lived in and sold all of those as well. Even though it was not 'traditionally' published, the local Borders carried (and sold) dozens of them. Sold 50 in a two-hour signing at one. Of course, signings can be very humbling as well. Had one in Minneapolis five years ago for my nationally-published novel. Sold one -- and that was to a college friend!

    Had plenty of newspaper pieces on it, which lead directly to traffic on my website and high-profit sales there through my shopping cart and link to PayPal.

    Amazon will have to be a possibility fairly soon, I think. My dad keeps planting the Kindle bit in my head and saying I HAVE to get on board with it. "I know, Dad," I keep replying, like a know-it-all 14-year-old. He's right, though. That is a segment that can't be ignored. Yet what also can't be ignored is the 55% commission Amazon takes. From a bottom-line perspective, if I have a $15 book that costs $6 to produce (shipping included -- pay for that as well), if I give back 55% ($8), then I'm left with $1 for each sale. That would be about a 6.5% royalty. Right now, with my small print run, that's just not worth my time and, especially, my effort. I'd much rather sell a book to a faceless library for $13 and get to keep $8.50 on each sale.

    Look, I felt my last novel was a great one and the reviewers who gave it a spin at least gave it really good marks. No literary agents would touch it. None of the 15 houses I sent sample chapters to would touch it. And that was fine. By this one, I knew my market (really, only about three states where the book was set and where I had some 'visibility' through my job) and targeted it. I sure don't do this for the money but I do it to prove to myself that I can. When I'm 70 -- four decades from now -- I'd like to be able to look back and be proud of the novels I did put out there, even if they were not on any best-seller list.

    This process also gives me a gigantic amount of respect for who I consider the 'real' book writers of our generation in sports, especially guys like Jeff Pearlman. They write the kind of books that I wish I could. I'd love to think I have their talent but I sure cannot say I have their drive, research capabilities or, yes, their writing skill. They do it the right way and are an inspiration to me. I'm a TV guy, that's what I've been paid well to do, so I'll keep doing. But my passion really is writing sports novels, so I'll keep doing that as well. I'll just have to do it 'my way'. :)
     
  12. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    <i>"The point may soon come when there are more people who want to write books than there are people who want to read them."</i>


    I think that point actually came a while ago.
     
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