Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Print Pub vs. E Pub vs. DIY (Indie) Publishing

This handout is from a talk I gave to the Northern AZ Romance Writers in Prescott last month. It's an update of my "Print vs. epub" talk, with added information about the new self-pub options available to writers.

My take is that each form of publishing has its trade-offs--and that you need to understand what you get and what you give up.

The Current Face of Publishing
Print Publishers, E-publishers, DIY E-publishing

Your Publishing Path = Your goals (achievement, financial) + understanding the trade-offs involved in each type of publishing

Your path is your path, no matter which one others perceive
as more "prestigious" or financially sound.

Print "New York" (Traditional) Publishers

Predominantly New York-based large corporate publishers (Random House, St. Martin's, Penguin [Berkley, NAL, Signet], Kensington, Harlequin, Grand Central [Hatchett])

Distribution to major chain bookstores and big box stores
(Walmart, Target)
Aggressive marketing to booksellers who in turn market your book
International distribution
Potential of high advances (six figures and up)
Increased possibility for making national best-seller lists
Some large publishers now offering ebook first lines

Only top-tier authors and authors whom editors wish to build get large advances and aggressive marketing to booksellers

A system that can quickly kill careers of mid-list authors (diminishing print runs, no support w/ booksellers)

Advances, even large ones, dribbled out over several years

No author control over covers, book price, distribution, print runs, publishing schedule

Royalty payments twice a year, only if book has earned out its advance

Authors must market to readers (via social networks, booksignings, conventions, promotion materials) and foot the costs

Comparatively low ebook royalties (25% of net proceeds is common; can be as low as 6% of cover price)

Authors can feel lost or neglected in huge corporations

Publishers tend to focus on narrow band of "what sells"

Small (Print) Press

Independent presses, some with only two or three employees; specialized presses (one genre only, or distribution to one channel, e.g., libraries). Examples: Avalon, Poisoned Pen, Walker Books, ImaJinn

Smaller, family-like atmosphere
Small presses can be prestigious and produce award-winning authors
Good distribution within specialization
Good sales and/ or awards at small press can lead to contracts at larger presses.
Some small presses can sell mass market rights to get you wider distribution.

Very small advances ($500-$1000) and small chance of earn-out
Limited distribution
Small print runs
Little or no author control over price, print run, distribution, publication schedule (though more author input is possible)

Ebook Publishers ("Ebook First" Pubs)

Small to medium-sized publishers, sometimes specializing in one or two genres (e.g., romance; erotic romance), publishes ebooks first, then might publish a small run of print books or POD books. Examples: Samhain, Ellora's Cave, LooseID

Well-established publishers have loyal readerships
Distribution to predominant ebook vendors (Amazon, B&N, Sony)
Higher ebook royalty rates than print houses (30-40% of cover price is common)
Quarterly to monthly royalty payments
Some epubs now placing authors on New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists

No advances
Little to no author control over covers (though more flexibility in this area)
No author control over price, publication schedule, print publications
Print publication of the ebook follows slowly, sometimes not at all
Saturation of ebook market means fewer sales per author

Do-It-Yourself Ebook Publishing (Indie Publishing)

Authors use services such as Kindle Direct Publishing; PubIt (Barnes & Noble), and Smashwords to package and distribute ebooks

Distribution to all major e-vendors (Amazon, B&N, Sony, Kobo, and others)
Higher royalty rates (35-70% of cover price)
Monthly or quarterly royalty payments
Complete author control over covers, pricing, distribution, publication schedule, marketing, and story
Books can earn into the hundreds of thousands of dollars
Cover and formatting costs can be minimal ($100-$300 per book)
Instant access to sales numbers

No advances
Author assumes all cost and responsibility for editing / proofreading ms
Author assumes all costs for packaging and marketing the book: Cover design, formatting, marketing materials, advertising
Non-writing aspects (marketing, ms. formatting, etc) can be time and labor intensive
Print distribution minimal
Not all books earn high $ amounts

Conclusion: Carefully consider your options before taking the plunge in any direction, and understand the pitfalls you may encounter. Realize that no publishing career will be without ups and downs, mistakes, and setbacks. Understand what each publishing model can do for you, and what it can't, and plan accordingly.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Workshop from Tucson Book Fest: Book is Written, Now What?

I'm reproducing my handout from my talk in Tucson: The Book is Written, Now What? Enjoy!

Organization and Career Focus

What kinds of books do you see yourself writing day in, day out? How many books
a year can you write? (be realistic!)

What kind of publisher do you want
to target? (large press, small press, e-pub)

Market Research

Who are the editors and agents buying/selling what you write?

Writer’s Market (updated annualy)

Conference websites (editor’s bios--shows what editors are looking for)

Agents’ blogs

Check a publisher’s distribution and reputation, not just how much $$ you can get up front. Distribution can be more important than money (keeps you published)

Go to stores (Walmart, Target, grocery chains, bookstores) and see what publishers are on the shelves who publish what you are writing or close to what you are writing.

How to Get your Ms. Read

• Contests

Target wisely (publisher-sponsored; your genre; editors/agent judges)

• Conferences

Hone your pitch to the agent or editor to one-two sentences. Give them room to ask you questions. Ask them questions--what are they looking for? What was the last thing they bought that got them really excited? What is the most recent (new author) book they've sold to a publisher?

• Query Letters

What is a query letter? A one-page letter that contains information about your book plus your pitch:

Paragraph one: Tell the agent why you've written him: I'm looking for
representation for my mystery series set in the outback of Australia in the
1940s. The first book is 80,000 words and is finished.

Paragraph two-three: Blurb of your book. Very short setup of main
character, main problem, villain, what makes the book unique. (or in romance,
hero and heroine, main problem, etc.)

Paragraph four: Offer to send a partial or full manuscript at the agent's
request. Thank her for her time, and sign.

That's it!!!

Send out up to 10 query letters at a time. When one comes back, pop another in the mail.

• Submit constantly.

Agents: Why do I need one?

• Agents can be your number one biggest asset.

Agent does much more than get you sold (you can get yourself sold).

Shop for agents wisely. Ask questions, read their blog, research them.

Do not use agents who charge up-front fees.

For Inspiration

The amount of dedication you give to your writing career is what it will give back to you.

Don’t settle. Believe that you can attain the highest levels! What you shoot for, you will get, or get very close to.

When you make writing your job, it becomes your job (with pay!)

For Education

Lawrence Block, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit (Insightful articles on writing, discipline, technique, marketing).

Steven King, On Writing. Part 1 is an autobiography; part 2 offers gloves-off advice for starting and sticking to writing, the basics of good writing, how to finish the book and what to do with it.

Donald Maass, The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success. What everything means, and how to survive it.

Jeff Hermann, Jeff Herman’s Writer’s Guide to Editors, Publishers, and Agents (updated annually)

SWFA’s Predators and Editors website (lists agent addresses and websites, $=an agent with a track record of sales):

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Online Workshop--Agents: Do You Need One/How Do I Get One?

I will be teaching an online workshop from Feb 1 to Feb 7 through my RWA chapter at /. My workshop:

Jennifer Ashley--Agents: Do You Need One, and How Do You Get One if You Do?

From 2/1/2011 to 2/7/2011

Questions many authors face at the beginning of their careers are: Do I need an agent? What for? How do I find one? Will an agent represent an unknown, unpublished author? What about if I'm category published or e-press published? The answer to all these questions is: "It depends"--on many factors. Agents are not golden tickets to success; on the other hand, navigating the waters of big-house publishing without them can be tricky and sometimes impossible. This workshop will address what an agent's job is, what you should expect from them (and what you should not expect), when and why you should go it alone, how to find an agent to represent you, and how to work well with your agent once you're signed with her.

Cost: $15 for Desert Rose RWA members; $20 for non-members

Sign up at:

Please feel free to forward!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Denise Agnew's best books on writing

Denise Agnew has a terrific New Year's post on her top ten books on writing. These are more inspirational than the nuts and bolts of craft, and well worth reading. Pop over and have a look.