Friday, June 1, 2012


This is part one and I'll be running part two on Monday, June 4th.

A 'Round the cup discussion. 

Most writers, who want to be published, are reaching for traditional publication. That's their goal. These authors have worked long and hard to be traditionally published. Now, we have traditionally published authors who are self-publishing many books in addition to their traditionally published work. Why?

I asked a friend, Judi Fennell, to give me her thoughts on why she chose to also self-publish a series of books. What's the appeal? How hard is it? Now that she has books in both markets, I was curious about what conclusions she drawn. So she shared her thoughts on why she chose to dip into the self-publishing market. One thing stands out in these articlesthese authors (I know many) have a different mindset when it comes to the business of writing. They have to be to make it a success.

Those of you who have seen my Tritone Trilogy (Mermen off the coast of the Jersey Shore), may recognize the “dive into the romance!” tagline. It was funny, punny, and tied the series with the romance, but now I’m using it to talk about the fact that I’ve dipped my toes into the self-publishing pond with Beauty and The Best. 

Why, you ask?  I mean, I’ve worked so hard to be traditionally published (5 books, #6, Magic Gone Wild, comes out August 1 and is available for pre-order I'll have a sneak peek of this one on Monday!), why go the self-pub route? 

I’m like a lot of other traditionally published writers, and those who haven’t yet been traditionally published (henceforth TP): we have books that NY just doesn’t know what to do with. Self-publishing gives us the opportunity to share our books with readers.

NY has big rents. They have overhead. They have salaries. They used to have marketing budgets and editors who could grow an author.

Not anymore.

Nowadays, it’s all about the bottom line, especially with the new kids on the block: Amazon. To achieve those bottom lines, NY needs to make sure they’re going to make money on a book. It’s not always advisable, then, for them to take a chance on a new author, or a new subgenre, or a storyline they haven’t seen before, or finish out a lackluster series. Tried-and-true is pretty much the way they hang.

But publishing is changing. Reading is changing. And the reading public is changing with them. E-Readers are now on our phones. Kindles, Nooks, iPads are all over the place. I was one of those who thought I’d never give up on paperback books, but I have to say, that One-Click buy button makes everything sooooooo easy. Especially if I finish a really good book at 11 pm and just have to find out what happens in Book #2. I can get it instantly.

We were on vacation two years ago and on the plane, Kid and I were talking about a book I recommended. We opened up the eReader and downloaded that book before the “Turn off your electronic devices” call sounded. Kid was entertained the entire plane ride (which meant Mom got to enjoy her book…)

You can read more HERE
But back to the reason I self-published. My first book (and yes, there will be more) was my American Title III finalist, Beauty and The Best. This book had come this close to being picked up by TP, but two editors left the day I’d submitted revisions to them. Yeah, two at different houses at different times. I’d gotten that far and then nothing. My current editor has seen it twice, but she didn’t “know how to market guardian angels.”

Um, okay. I will.

Readers have seen this story for years. It was in the American Title contest. It was in the & Schuster First Chapters Contest (the only Romance to make the Top 20 finalists out of over 2,600 manuscripts). Its won contests. The opening line is a keeper:

There’s a naked man in my kitchen.

Now, finally, I have the ability to bring it to my readers.

I’m on a lot of self-pub and indie loops and I see the same thing with other writers. Their editors didn’t know what to do with this new subgenre they’re writing. The editors didn’t want to change what was working. So the authors have put these stories up themselves and, finally, they’re able to make a living at being a writer. I say finally because a midlist TP author really can’t, not with one or two books out a year and a 6% royalty rate.

Plus, authors can now bring out more books a year, at a lower price, which is not only to their benefit, but also their readers’. Compare my TP book prices of $5.38, to the $2.99 I can offer Beauty and The Best at. Self-pub authors see sales figures HOURLY rather than twice a year.

What’s the appeal of self-publishing?

  1. The ability to actually make a living as a writer
  2. The ability to put out more books a year.
  3. Self publish backlist rights to books the author has written 
  4. Ultimate control over our story from editorial to the cover (something most TP authors have ZERO say in. 
  5. See monthly income rather than twice a year—as TP contracts pay 
  6. Self-published authors are paid 70% of the cover price (compared to 6% TP) 
  7. Write the stories we've always wanted to write but no one “knew what to do with.”

Of course, self-publishing isn’t all wine and roses. Self-published authors now take on the role of publisher as well as author. That means no advances and all the up-front costs: Editing (story, copy, line…), a cover, formatting, ISBN, copyright, marketing. You have to be your own editor, art department, publicist, and marketer in addition to being a writer and businessperson.

Sure, there are stories of people putting a story up and doing nothing else and the book takes off, but that isn’t the norm. You have to get the word out. You have to have a good, professional product. Your story could be great, but if you don’t have a clue about spelling or grammar or leave plot holes wide-open, readers will call you on it.

Covers are arguably the best marketing tool you have after word-of-mouth. I’ll talk about that more on Monday with part two. How to choose the right cover, editing, and how to actually self publish a book.

  • Writers, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on publishing—whether you've gone both ways or by passed traditional publishing altogether. What are you seeing?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia and Judi .. I agree with your thoughts in the post - the self-publishing route just seems to open so many more doors - and we can start local and small .. and we're not sitting around waiting - but getting on with publishing .. and writing some more etc ..

Cheers Hilary

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I am a self publisher and believe me though rewarding it is a hard slog.


Anne Gallagher said...

I spent two years in the querying throng, agents and publishers said my writing was strong but they couldn't sell my books. I said to myself, "Do I want to keep trying for this, or do I want to get my books read?" Which is why I self-published.

It was hard, but I did it. And I can honestly say, it's been the most rewarding experience.

Anne Gallagher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo said...

Bearing in mind the difficulties some published authors are having in selling their books, I would say self publishing is the way to go. One problem is to ensure that the books are properly proof read. I find, in particular, that many ebooks are very badly typed which does interfere with the reading enjoyment. I would love to be able to edit such mistakes, but one is not allowed to do so, sadly.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know several traditionally published authors who have also self-published books and done very well. Many of my blogging buddies have enjoyed self-publishing success as well. So many opportunities now.

Anonymous said...

There are many appeals, not the least being FAR closer to our readers. Never before have authors had the capability to interface with their readers as now. Kindle book publishing is for me a dream come true.

Robert Walker

Dana Fredsti said...

Excellent article, Judi, and I look forward to Part II. I also really would like to dip my toes into the self-publishing pool down the road because I think there's huge value for traditionally published authors to do both... Best advice you gave for the new authors is definitely make sure the book is ready for publication before putting it up for sale.!

Vivian A said...

I like self-pub books. Yes, they're for the most part less "professional" and put together, but I find that what the reader gives up there they make up in new--story lines, characters, etc.

I depend on blurbs for a style check, you know...compatibility with me. Ebooks have changed my consumption of books in general. I still go to the library or sales, but the average store is losing my custom because I don't want to buy more bookshelves for my house.

Thanks, Judi and Sia. Can't wait for Part Two.

Johanna Garth said...

So interesting. I think the choice between self-publishing and TP is a false dichotomy. There's so much room now to do both, use one as a stepping stone to the other and then step back down again.

L.G.Smith said...

I have to say my attitude about self-publishing has done a 180 degree turn in the year and a half I've been blogging. I started out wanting only to be traditionally published, but as my vision for my novels kept growing, I decided I'd rather keep control over them, and so will probably end up self-publishing. It seems the perfect vehicle for a control freak like me. :P

Olivia Cunning said...

I'm glad I was published traditionally before dipping my toes into the self-published pond. I learned so much from traditional publication that I would not have figured out otherwise. But I'm also glad that self-publishing is an option because I have more freedom. And control.

Judi Fennell said...

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by and chiming in. I'm at a reader event this weekend with an 8-hr drive each way, so I'll be checking in sporadically.

Yes, attitude toward self pubbing has done a 180. And that's a good thing.

Kat Sheridan said...

You know, as a never-published writer, there's still that longing to go into a bookstore and see your stuff on the shelf, but the time for being able to do that is passing quickly. If I'm ever pubbed, I suspect it will only be self-pubbed. It's sort of sad, but at the same time, why exchange a 6% royalty for just being able to see it on a shelf?

Candilynn Fite said...

I for one, would love to publish traditional, but the odds seem stacked against me. It's exhausting. However, I want it more than anything, so be it. My family keeps telling me, I'm in charge of what happens in my life. They're right. I either want it bad enough or not.

So when the manuscript is ready, really ready, I'll take any route possible. Life is too short to wait around forever.

Look forward to your next post. :)

Glynis said...

I recently self published and have no regrets. I tried the traditional route, got a few interested folk, but they wanted changes. The changes would have made me lose two essential characters, and that to me was ... weird.

I shall continue down the path of SP, I do not want to wait years for one book to be out there. Life's too short.