From the HSW President:
Traditional Publishing Versus Self-Publishing
Since I’ve done both, Donna suggested I talk about the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. A lot depends on your resources, both physical and financial, your stamina, and why you want to get published in the first place.
Traditional starts with an agent…
Traditional publishing requires that you first get an agent. Small publishers don’t require agents, but they don’t pay much of an advance, if any. From my own experience, I’ll cut through a lot of discussion and say that you should be prepared to spend a year finding a good agent. You should be prepared to send out at least 100 queries. You need to screen agent directories and lists to weed out those who would not be interested in your work. For instance, don’t send an adult mystery query to an agent who is looking for young adult urban fantasy.
You also don’t want to send out all your queries at once. Send out maybe ten over a week or two and give a little time for responses. You might get a personalized comment that alerts you to something you should change in your query letter, your blurb, or the book itself.
Even if you sign with an agent, it’s no guarantee the agent can sell your work. I had a manuscript that a topnotch agent “loved.” After 18 months of her beating up over 36 editors, she couldn’t sell it.
Plan B… self-publishing
You spent a year looking for an agent (and you spent that year polishing your manuscript, maybe getting professional editing) and you just can’t go on. You’re not going to live forever, so you decide to self-publish.
I describe traditional publishing as pushing one very big boulder up a mountain. Once you get there, you get an advance, your book will get exposure and support, and it will appear in bookstores nationwide. I describe self-publishing as herding cats up that same mountain. One big effort vs. a jillion smaller efforts.
In self-publishing you have to do everything a publisher does.
You write the book, design the layout and the typeface, design and produce cover art, put it on Amazon, then mount a sales campaign that includes social media, blogging, guerrilla marketing; you name it. Anything that costs money comes out of your pocket, not the Big-Daddy publishing house. You can pay people to do all of the above, but prepare to spend thousands or tens of thousands.
Is your book an eBook only or do you want to launch a paperback?
You can save money by setting up print-on-demand instead of buying boxes of books from a printer and having that money tied up in your garage. Also, if you find typos or decide to make minor changes to the book that’s posted on Amazon, you can go back into the cover and text and make the changes and re-upload the book.
If you hire a printer to produce hard copies, you’ll have to live with those mistakes until your next printing. Then you’ll also have new set-up fees because the book has changed. Also, expect to print a minimum of 500 books or it’s not worth it. So, until they’re gone, your typos live on.
The benefit of self-publishing…
…particularly with Amazon, is they give you many tools to prepare your book. They have excellent cover design software which works unless you want something complex or exotic. For a super-customized cover, you’ll need to hire a graphics designer; prepare to pay anywhere from $200 on up. You can proofread every page of the formatted book online to check for spacing errors, blank pages, etc. Plus, you can get a 70% royalty on Amazon vs. a traditional publisher’s royalty of maybe 15%.
Marketing via both has common points
The big issue becomes how many books can you sell? If a traditional publisher gives you a $50,000 advance, it doesn’t matter if you only sell 5 books. The money’s in your pocket (though good luck trying to get them to publish a second book). However, publishers today expect their authors to market themselves, to show an effort to make a book successful.
If you self-publish, yes, you can get 70% royalty, but 70% of zero is zero. You have to work for every sale and success won’t be overnight. If you actually want to make money on a book, you have no choice: you must attack as many marketing venues as you can handle. That means a killer web site, Facebook, Twitter, and others, plus getting the word out to alumni organizations, clubs, or other professional groups. It means blogging and guesting on blogs. It means Google ads. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you will have to spend a lot of time. Are you up for it?
Referring above to what I said about traditional publishers, they expect you to do all the same: blogging, Facebook, website, Twitter, etc.
One strategy you might employ is to set a timeframe within which you’ll bust ass sending queries to agents. At the end of that period, if you don’t sign with an agent, you self-publish.
A lot of would-be authors have dreams of quitting their day jobs and writing in their PJs until noon. Unless you become a mega-hit, it just ain’t so, whether you go traditional or self-publish.
Bottom line: Whether you intend to publish traditionally or self-publish, you’ll have to do the same amount of work. In the former, you swing for the fence, spend a lot of time biting your nails, and pray you get the big break. In reality, the odds against it are about 50,000 to 1.
In self-publishing, you get the instant gratification of having your book “out there” much sooner.
What are your goals?
Are you writing a book just to be able to tell family and friends you did it or do you want a serious writing career? Are you looking for big bucks? Is this a hobby or what you want to do to make a living? How much time do you have? How can you squeeze writing into your daily life and, more importantly, how will you squeeze at least as much time for marketing as for writing?
Only you know what you want and what you can handle. If the distance between the two is large, prepare for pain. I measure pain as the difference between what we want and what we have. Accomplishing anything in life is measured by how much pain we’re willing to endure to achieve it.
At our last meeting, I asked how many of you used a pre-set playlist for writing; I can’t tell you how shocked I was when only one person raised their hand.
Allow me to introduce the writer’s playlist concept to all of you-
A playlist is a grouping of songs you’ve handpicked and stored on a phone, iPod, Pandora, etc. These songs mentally set the mood for the book you’re writing.
Writers don’t sit down and type out 80,000 words in one sitting, we have a life to live at the same time, ripping us from our mental zone each and every time. But listening to our playlist can dump us right back into a scene after the dinner dishes are washed.
Music evokes emotion- joy, excitement, sadness, triumph, love, regret… And emotion drives dialogue. A song can represent a portrait of a character or give you a mental image of a setting in your book instantly. Some big authors say they’re able to avoid most writer’s block, keep motivated, and jump back on scene with the help of a carefully planned out playlist playing softly (or not so softly) in the background of their writing space.
Think how dull a movie would be without a soundtrack, now imagine your story is a movie, what would the soundtrack be for each scene? Find songs that speak to you and tap into the emotions that song conjures up for you. It may take a while to produce a good working playlist of 10-20 songs, so start a small list on a piece of paper. Once you prime the pump with 3 or 4 songs that speak to you, the rest will come.
Try it, you’ll thank me for it.
September 9 HSW Meeting Program
Building Your Characters from the Ground Up
Join Harlequin authors, Anna J. Steward and Melinda Curtis, on September 9th for an all-day workshop which will help you to flesh out fresh, dynamic, and realistic characters. Doors open at 10 a.m. and Anna will take the morning session for an archaeological dig into discovering what your character wants and why. As always, the morning meeting is free and open to the public. After lunch, at 1:30 p.m., Melinda will delve deeper into your character’s flaws and wounds.
This afternoon session will cost $10 for HSW members and $15 for non-members.
USA Today and Amazon Bestselling Author, Melinda Curtis is the award-winning author of contemporary romance that spans the sexy scale – from sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming to sweet romantic comedy. To date, she’s published more than 30 novels and novellas, stories that NY Times bestselling author Jayne Anne Krentz calls “wonderfully entertaining.” Visit her online at www.melindacurtis.net
Since selling her first novella, A Christmas Wish, to Harlequin Heartwarming in 2014, former Golden Heart finalist and USA Today bestselling author Anna J Stewart has published more than a dozen contemporary romance novels and novellas ranging from sweet to spicy. RT Book reviews says Anna’s romances are “refreshingly unique, quietly humorous, and profoundly moving.” You can find her online at www.authorannastewart.com.
NEXT HSW MEETING IS A POTLUCK!
Bring your dish to share. We will split into groups and play “Literary PIctionary”. The meeting is Saturday, July 8 at the South Valleys Library on Wedge Parkway from 10 a.m. to noon. See you there!
Have you plotted your short story yet?
A reminder that you now have 5 months and 10 days to November 11th and the deadline to enter the HSW Short Story Writing Contest. Don’t remember the details? Didn’t get a handout at the last meeting? All the information is in the June HSW newsletter or you can scope it out on the High Sierra Writers blog. http://highsierrawriters.org/blog/
If you’re like me, you might have three possible ideas and no plot outlined yet. It may be only 3000 to 4000 words, but they have to be good, meet the criteria set for the story, and be completely original. Those words don’t write themselves, so get to work. And use your critique groups to help you with this.
Here’s a little tip from me: Create a cover for your story that helps you visualize your theme and characters. I do it for my novels and I look at it every time I start to write. I usually move it into my screen background so it’s there when I turn my computer on. The folks at NaNoWriMo say that authors who have created a cover for their books and short stories are more likely to finish them.
Coincidentally, Camp NaNoWriMo starts July 1st and it’s not too late to sign up for it if you’d like to set your short story project for July. Check it out at http://campnanowrimo.org/
Congratulations to these High Sierra Writers who recently published books:
From your Treasurer, aka “Off Shore”.
Please remember we take cash…
I mean, please send in your 2017 dues.
Note: Now that we have reached the middle of the year, HSW dues for the balance of the year are reduced to $12.50.
Critique Group Happenings
Are you in need of a group of fellow writers who are willing to read and critique your writing? Are you willing to do the same for them? Then you need to be in a critique group! Contact Nicole for more information on how to connect with one. email@example.com