CAVEAT EMPTOR: DON’T BECOME A VICTIM TO PREDATORS


Novice authors are often desperate to sell their books. Desperation leads to mistakes.

Assessing your talent as an author before you have been published is a very subjective experience. Inexperienced authors tend to believe that the quality of their writing is far better than it actually is. When an alleged agent or publisher tells us that our book is wonderful and that it deserves to be published, our unbounded joy may easily obscure our need for clear logic. We become our own worst enemy.

There may be more predators lurking in the dark corners of the writing and publishing world than there are in any other industry. No required education or certification process separates outstanding professional editors, agents and publishers from villains. Either you find the villain before you sign a contract, or they make easy money from you in return for… nothing.

Here’s the bottom line. Do not take compliments too highly from someone calling themselves a successful agent. The predators’ sugary sweetness is designed to convince you to play by their rules because they “will make you a famous, wealthy author.” Alleged agents may tell you who to pay to have your book properly edited. They will convince you that they will sell your book to the very best publishing houses – as they do with many new authors. They may even ask you to pay them for some kind of service before you have a publishing contract. A few hours of sincere research will uncover all types of fraudulent agents and scam agencies.

Editors are paid by you after you vet them, hire them and you are satisfied with their work. Publishers and literary agents will charge you NOTHING – EVER. The publisher will take a share from the book’s sales and pay you a royalty. Thus the motivation to sell is highest with the publisher, as sold books constitute their only opportunity to earn back your advance and gain a profit.

Agents earn money after you have signed the publishing contract by taking a share of your advance or royalty payments. If an agent asks you for money up-front, the little hairs on the back of your neck should stick up. Stay in control. Don’t be fooled by false promises or misled by agents who shower you with false glory – “if you will only pay my standard pre-publication fee.” They will mislead you by saying that they need a little money up front to conduct research, to pay for editing, or to pay a “reading fee” to a publisher’s acquisition editor. None of this is true.

YOU are responsible for fact-checking every alleged editor, agent and publisher. Never discuss an agency contract until after you have completed and evaluated a long and thorough investigation. The same process applies to researching editors. How can a novice author conduct such an investigation? Read on.

The two iconic resources for all things related to professional services in editing, agency representation and publishing are: WRITER BEWARE (http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/) and PREDATORS & EDITORS (http://pred-ed.com/). Bookmark the URLs. Use them regularly. You’ll be amazed with the volume and quality of their information, especially if you are a new author. If an editor, agent or publisher is on a “bad” list with either of those sites – BEWARE; approach with sincere caution.

You might or might not be the next Stephen King. But you can make sure that you’re not the next victim of predators masquerading as editors, agents or publishers.

Platform Means Everything to a Novice Author


There may one day be a time when paper books are iconic remnants of a tree-cutting past. But that time is still far away. Trade publishers will use their professional editors to make your book better. They will hire graphic designers to make your book more attractive and appealing. And they will handle e-book sales as well. So, why would you not want to share the profits with a publisher? Read on…

Traditional publishers will make sure that your print books are sold (and are returnable) by bookstores, where more than half of all books are still sold – and where SP books rarely exist. This constitutes a huge and very valuable market for any author.

Being trade-published is not a decision. It is the result of talent, of books that appeal to large segments of the reading public, a compelling author platform and often a plucky and well-connected literary agent. An author with the determination to contact hundreds of small and medium-sized publishers is also a critical part of the equation. Your platform will sell your talent. And your talent will enhance your platform. All of this takes time and effort. In today’s culture of instant gratification, the process of gradually building a solid author platform seems archaic. Nevertheless, it is a road that we all must travel.

Like a job seeker uses a resume to obtain an employer interview, novice authors use their platform to gain a trade publisher. Major publishing houses are not interested in SP books, unless they come from a famous author or a celebrity. But if a trade publisher decides to publish your book, you are in like Flint. That’s right. Once you have a major publisher working to sell your book, you can use the added free time to write more books and become even more attractive to publishers or to promote your book much farther and deeper than you had imagined possible..

Google your name. If many pages (not items, but pages of items) appear with positive references about your talent as an author, then you have a solid author platform. But if only a few items appear, you’ll need to enhance your platform before you can entice a major publisher or a well-connected literary agent.

How do you enhance your platform? Keep writing. Read voraciously. Read the very best authors. The more books that you read from the greatest literary authors, the more you’ll begin to borrow their best techniques. Simultaneously, do everything possible to sell your books, to obtain positive reviews from the most credible sources and to get interviewed by the best Internet, blog, radio and TV personalities. Seek appearances as a guest on a major blog. Request interviews from the most famous Internet personalities. Appear on a radio or a regional TV program. Do some public speaking about your book. Consider book tours and signings. All of this will enhance your author platform. After considerable effort, something vastly different will appear when you Google your name. You will have become a popular author.

While SP authors spend most of their time on marketing, promotion, sales and stocking, the TP author spends much of that time writing their next books. It’s true that all authors must market. But the TP author has a professional team marketing for them, giving them more time for writing instead of promotion. But the SP author must devote virtually all free time to new marketing efforts, reducing the time and resources available for writing new books.

This process can take years, although it’s easier if you have a well-connected literary agent. But… it is possible. This is the game. Learn to play by the rules.

If you decide to SP an e-book, take a long look at Smashwords. They are a distributor and a sales platform. They sell on their own web site, but their real power lies in vast distribution networks. When you use Smashwords (which is FREE), they will distribute your book to every major retailer, including Apple (iTunes), Amazon, Baker & Taylor, B&N, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and Scrollmotion. This constitutes the bulk of the world’s e-book retailers. And if you join Smashwords with a premium membership, they will format all of your books for every type of e-reader, tablet, smart phone and computer.

My experience teaches me that building a considerable author platform will, over time, lead to interest from agents and publishers. And while it may seem easy and attractive to SP, there are compelling reasons to TP. Keep in mind that we live in a time where only a few terrific SP books exist, surrounded by a massive widespread morass of SP crap. You can elevate yourself above the crap by creating a viable and powerful author platform. Should you take the time and effort to accomplish this, the literary work will become yours.

You can continue to SP and spend all of your time working on marketing and promotion. Or you can fabricate a compelling author platform, attract literary agents and become a famous TP author. Instead of using your time to promote and market, you may then use the extra time to write new books and further enhance your platform. After several successful books, you will no longer need to play the author game. You will have won.

Interview with Author Nancy Christie


Nancy Christie is the author of the fiction collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, and two short story e-books, Annabelle and Alice in Wonderland (all published by Pixel Hall Press). Her short stories can also be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and others. The founder of “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day, Christie is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers. Charles Weinblatt interviews for Author Publishing and Book Marketing:

CW: Tell us about yourself. NC: I wish I had an unusual childhood or had spent my adult years in some exotic locale but the fact is I am living in the same area where I was born, have lived in the same house for about 35 years now and although I have a passport, I have only pulled it out for domestic travel. I am a writer—plain and simple. I’ve been writing for 50 years now—that’s because I started in second grade!—and can’t imagine not writing. I’m a professional writer by trade (marketing and corporate work primarily with some magazine articles thrown in) and a fiction writer by preference, which means that there isn’t a snippet of conversation overheard or a physical contact witnessed that doesn’t get stuck somewhere in my fiction writer’s brain to be pulled out and used in one way or another.  

CW: Give us an overview of your writing/books. NC: My first book, The Gifts of Change, is an inspirational book about making the most of the changes that come into your life—even if you didn’t want them. That book was inspired by my mother’s cancer diagnosis and a number of other changes and challenges that came into my life—some desired, others, not so much. My second and current book, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, is a short fiction collection about characters who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results. So, in a way, both books deal with change—just from different perspectives.

CW: Who/what was your biggest inspiration? NC: I don’t know that I could point to any one person or event. I was always a bit of a loner and loved to read, and fortunately my parents indulged me in that. I had wonderful teachers who emphasized writing skills—spelling, grammar, and punctuation—as well as content. And then there are authors whose work is so compelling and creative that I can’t help wanting to write as well as they do, and give to others what they have given to me: journeys to places—some real, some imagined—full of fascinating characters.

CW: What has been your greatest challenge? NC: Time, for one thing. In addition to my professional work, I am caregiving for my father, and that takes up a fair bit of time, although I am glad to be able to do it and even happier that, at 92, he is still so vibrant and in good spirits. And of course, the self-doubt, the inevitable comparisons with other writers, the fear that I won’t be able to live up to the good reviews with my next project—or worse, that the good reviews I have already received are all the good reviews that I am going to get!

CW: What do you most want readers to take from your book(s)? NC: A sense of sympathy and understanding for those who are struggling through life.  It’s so easy to sit in judgment or say that we would never make the choices that others have made that led them down that path of destruction but we don’t really know that for certain, do we?So rather than be afflicted with that most dangerous of all viruses—superiority—we should instead be compassionate. It’s that whole “there but for the grace of God” thing…

CW: Are you actively trying to have your books made into a play or a movie? NC: That is my plan for 2015. I have heard about certain actors who are buying movie rights to books and so intend to pursue that possibility.

CW: What’s next for you as an author? NC: I’m working on a second collection as well as a novel that I want to pitch. But my first goal is to find an agent. (Don’t all writers say that?) My first two books were un-agented, but I think it’s time to get an expert on board and take over that part of my career.

CW: How did you pick a publisher or decide to self-publish? Do you have an agent? NC: I didn’t want to self-publish—I have neither the time nor funds to purse that path and know full well that there is more to self-publishing than just getting the book printed. For my first book, I was encouraged by the comments I received from agents—they loved the book but since I was an unknown, passed on representing me—so I researched publishers who handled first-time un-agented authors, and found my publisher relatively quickly. With Traveling Left of Center, I had already connected with Pixel Hall Press who published two of the short stories in e-book format, and so it was a natural step to work with them to publish the entire collection.

CW: Do you have suggestions to other writers about the writing process and publishing? NC: It’s a business. Treat it like one. Yes, you need to be a good writer but if you plan on being published, you also have to be a good business owner. Your book is your product. Know how to market it. Do your advance work. Expect to spend time and money doing what you need to do to get it out there. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

CW: How do you market yourself and your books? NC: I have done some in-person events—not as many as with my first book simply because I can’t travel as much with my other obligations. I blog, I do the whole social media thing, did some virtual tours and plan to do more, participate in interviews, request reviews and then, when I get them, make sure I get the word out. I send out press releases, update my book’s web page every time there is something interesting to share—basically, I do everything I can think of, and then read articles and blog posts to find even more suggestions that I need to incorporate in my marketing.

CW: Where can someone buy your books? NC: Everywhere and anywhere—from bricks-and-mortar stores like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Powell’s and other indie booksellers to online retailers like Amazon.

CW: What would you like your Writer’s Epitaph to say? NC: Fiction writer.

CW: I’m pretty sure that’s already been accomplished exceedingly well.

You can read my reviews of Nancy Christie books at The New York Journal of Books, here:

Author Platform: Reaching Readers and Gaining a Competitive Advantage


“Author Platform”: If you’re an author, your platform is your ability to reach readers. Authors who can build, maintain and leverage their platforms will have a significant competitive advantage over those who cannot. Think of author platform as a multi-layered infrastructure that allows you to reach both new and existing fans. Elements of this infrastructure include your social media followers on Twitter, Facebook and the RSS feed of their blog (social media tool). It also includes subscribers to your private mailing list. It includes your celebrity, and your ability to leverage social media or traditional media or the love of your fans to get your message out. There are two primary factors that drive sales of any product or brand. The first is awareness. If the consumer is not aware of your product or brand, then they cannot purchase it. Authors must place their product in front of a consumer and gain their attention before the consumer can consider purchasing it. The second is desire. Once a consumer is aware of your product or brand, they must desire it. The author is the brand. Your job as the author is to build awareness of your brand, and to build, earn and deserve positive desire for your brand. Awareness plus desire create demand for your product. This is why platform will become more important than ever in 2014. Your platform helps you get the message out to existing fans, those who already know and desire your brand; and, equally if not more important—your platform helps you reach new fans. The larger your platform, the more it will grow incrementally because a well-maintained platform grows organically.

——– By Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. Reprinted with permission from the AAA Books Unlimited Literary Agency October 2014 Newsletter.

25 Tips on How to Impress a Book Publisher by Cheryl Tardif


1. Understand that publishers are very busy people. We are juggling multiple authors and manuscripts, as well as promotions, events, and marketing. We have little time to spare, especially when swamped with hundreds of manuscripts, many of them sent when a publisher is closed for submissions. Showing a publisher that you understand they are busy and submitting during their open submissions time shows you respect their time.

2.Learn everything you can about the publishing company. Learn about the publisher, their authors, and the works they’ve published to ensure that you’d be a good fit. Connect with them on social networks. Share their posts and tweets. Buy some of their titles, especially in the genre in which you write.

3.Read and follow their submission guidelines. Most publishers post their guidelines on their websites. Read them carefully, and pay special attention to whether or not they have a specific time frame for submissions. Follow their guidelines! Give them exactly what they want. Be prepared to answer questions, especially regarding past sales.

4.Hook the publisher in the first sentence of your query. Just like a well-written book, your query should hook them in the first sentence. Read your first sentence, and ask yourself: “Would this make me want to know more if I were a publisher?” Ensure that you follow the Four Firsts for your manuscript.Don’t know what I’m talking about? Learn about the Four Firsts here.

5.Let your personality shine as a positive person. Don’t be afraid to show publishers who you are. Just be sure it’s someone publishers will like. Be humble, appreciative, and a team player. Don’t act like you know it all. You don’t.

6.Be open to learning. With the ever-changing landscape of publishing, successful authors must always be open to change—and to experimenting when new things come along. Show a willingness to learn and to evolve with the industry.

7.Be everywhere online! Recognize the importance of a website, blog, and social networks, and use them frequently. Even if you’re not yet published, you should have a website, a blog, and Facebook and Twitter pages dedicated to your writing. Publishers will look for these.

8.Have an impressive platform in the SAME genre as the one you’re pitching. If you’ve been writing nonfiction and have a huge following there but are pitching a work of fiction, understand that the audience isn’t the same—unless there is a common theme. Example: Nonfiction books on dealing with autistic children have a specific audience of people looking for help with dealing with autistic children. A novel featuring an autistic child as the main character would then appeal to this audience.

9.Don’t rave about how awesome your book is and how it’s going to sell thousands of copies in the first week. Be humble and stick to the facts.

10.Show you understand your audience and that you know who your target audience is. Don’t pitch a book with a ten-year-old main character as a novel for adults. And don’t pitch an unpublished book as “for anyone, any age.” There are few titles that fit that description, but this is established by sales and time.

11.Don’t send the book until the publisher asks for it. Unless the publisher’s guidelines tell you to send it with the query, wait for them to ask for it.

12.Ensure your book is as error free as possible. Run a spell-check and grammar-check before sending it. And have at least one other person edit the entire work, preferably someone with actual editing skills who understands CMOS rules.

13.Know what CMOS is and understand the rules. Have a hard-cover edition on hand or sign up for the online edition. Show your knowledge of CMOS style rules in your manuscript. CMOS is the writer’s Bible.

14.Do not e-mail the publisher to ask if he/she has read your book yet. If the guidelines do not stress a time limit, ask for one when the publisher requests your manuscript.

15.Impress them with your publishing credits. If you have published other works in the same genre or type (fiction or nonfiction) as the book you want to submit, let the publisher know, and point them to your Amazon profile page.

16.Make sure you have an Amazon profile page if you have published works available on Amazon. If you have no profile page, you’ll look like someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

17.If you have won a prestigious award, mention it briefly. Ensure you know the difference between a “prestigious” award and one that means very little.

18.If you have published other works in the same genre, briefly summarize what you have done to promote them. Impress publishers with your marketing abilities and creativity.

19.Reviews are vital! Make sure you have a substantial amount of reviews on your published works, especially those in the same genre as the book your are hoping to submit. Don’t query a publisher or agent until you have 10+ reviews on the majority of your works, and an average rating of 3.5 or above stars.

20.Don’t pitch a publisher your manuscript while also pitching your services as a book cover designer, editor, marketing coach, formatter, etc. Query separately. Be professional.

21.Be editable. Your book isn’t perfect. Even if you’ve had it edited by someone else, the publisher will need to know that you’re open to being edited.

22.Don’t ask if you can supply the cover, cover description, or images for the cover. Publishers have their own creative designers.

23.Understand you have competition. Know who your competitors are and who has written works comparable to yours. Watch how they promote their works on social networks. Learn from those who are selling.

24.Make the publisher curious enough to want to ask you questions. Don’t tell them everything in your first e-mail.What you want is for the publisher to engage in conversation with you. You want to give them everything they ask for and hint at anything outside of that. For example, if a publisher doesn’t ask for sales data in their guidelines, you could mention you made a best-sellers list for two weeks in a row. Let them ask for more information. When they do, give them everything you can, including where the best-sellers list was published, what ranking you got, and total sales to date for that title.

25.Express gratitude. Be thankful for the publisher’s time and for any feedback or advice they give you. They don’t have to give you any feedback­—or their time.

Cheryl Tardif is the publisher at Imajin Books, a hybrid publishing company based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is also known as Cheryl Kaye Tardif, an award-winning, international bestselling author represented by Trident Media Group in New York. She is best known for Children of the Fog, Submerged, and Whale Song. Booklist raves: “Tardif, already a big hit in Canada . . . a name to reckon with south of the border.” Check out Cheryl’s website and Imajin Books website, and connect with her on Twitter (Cheryl and Imajin Books) and Facebook (Cheryl and Imajin Books).

http://www.imajinbooks.com
http://www.cherylktardif.com

Blog: http://www.livewritethrive.com/2014/09/29/25-tips-on-how-to-impress-a-book-publisher

8 Unexpected Lessons From Working with a Literary Agent by Brian Klems


With self-publishing becoming more widely accepted and Amazon waging wars with publishers, more and more I get the sense from aspiring authors that they don’t think landing an agent means as much as it used to.

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Writers’ Digest Guest post by Bethany Neal, who writes young-adult novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. She graduated from Bowling Green State University and is obsessed with (but not limited to): nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, pickles, and dessert.

“My Last Kiss” is her first novel. You can connect with her online at http://www.bethanyneal.com.
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They believe “traditional” publishing is going the way of VCRs and none of the old rites of passage apply anymore. That’s fine if you think that, but, in my experience, it simply isn’t true.

I signed on with my agent, Stacey Glick of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, in September of 2010 for my first (unpublished) young adult, suspense novel and it has solidified some valuable lessons.

Guest post by Bethany Neal, who writes young-adult novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. She graduated from Bowling Green State University and is obsessed with (but not limited to): nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, pickles, and dessert.

My Last Kiss is her first novel. You can connect with her online at http://www.bethanyneal.com.
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    Searching for an Agent

The beginning of this journey started with little more than a polished draft of my manuscript. I started simply by researching agents through Literary Marketplace, which is a massive tome that sits behind the reference counter at most public libraries.

Some of this research was review because I had previously queried a paranormal YA trilogy that ended in 32 rejections.

Having revived my search, I made a shortlist of reputable agencies looking for YA. I browsed their sites and found agents within each agency looking for my specific flavor of YA. I write a little on the dark side—somebody is almost always dead—and I write a lot of kissing. Not everyone wants to represent that, and that’s fine.

I think the most important part in the agent search is reading every agent’s bio and only querying those you feel a connection with and who are interested in not just your genre but also your style. My agent, for instance, at the time was looking for darker YA projects with a strong voice. That’s my writing in a nutshell.

Landing an Agent

I had two full manuscripts and one partial out with various interested agents when I got the email.

The email that said Stacey read my manuscript and wanted to set up a time to discuss it. I’d been rejected by 14 other agents already, so I wasn’t even sure what that meant. Then I got the call.

Thus began a string of very important lessons for my writing career.

1. Look before you leap.

My agent told me what she liked about my writing and the story and answered every single one of my questions.

I was so out of my mind excited that she wanted to represent me. So I told her I didn’t need to wait to hear back from the other two agents interested and I wanted—needed her as my agent.

This is my one regret in my agent search. I should have given myself a day to regain sanity and speak with the other two agents. I don’t regret signing with my agent because she’s been an enormous support throughout the years, but it’s something I know I should’ve done for peace of mind.

Take that day to pause before you jump on the first agent who smiles at your manuscript.

2. Prepare to move.

Almost immediately, my agent was requesting more information.

Stacey asked me to send her an author bio and a synopsis for the other novel I’d written, then emailed me an agency agreement that stated DGLM exclusively had the right to sell my novel for one year.

Right out of the gate there were deadlines. This one at least was a soft deadline, but it stoked a sense of urgency.

We went back and forth on revisions for a few months and ended up pushing back the submittal date so she could feature my novel in DGLM’s Upcoming Projects newsletter to generate interest with editors.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

3. Anticipate nice, bad news.

After about a month being out on submittal, she sent me an email chocked full of the most positive, helpful, optimistic rejections I’ve ever gotten in my life. It was the best of a worst-case scenario I could have hope for.

I made revisions based on feedback and we made a round two submittal, but the basic consensus was to move on.

Luckily, I’d been writing away during all this waiting and close to finishing a draft of my new project that editors were eager to read because they remembered liking my first novel. That new project is titled MY LAST KISS and was published by FSG/Macmillan on June 10, 2014.

I didn’t expect to feel encouraged by rejections, but aligning with an agent allowed me to receive bad news in a way that turned out positive.

4. You’ll idolize your agent a bit.

It’s strange waiting with bated breath for someone’s email while also kind of loving and worshipping them even though you’ve never physically met them. I don’t think I could ever do online dating because it was weird. I’ve since met (and loved even more) Stacey in person.

I wasn’t anticipating, though, how many emotions I would wrap up in whether or not I heard from her.

5. You will hurry up and wait.

There is a lot going on, but the process from signing with an agent to publishing is a pretty drawn out experience.

I had no idea how long every step would take. It took us five months to get my first novel revised and ready to get out on submittal. It took another couple months worth of waiting to hear back from editors. And there’s more waiting once you get published. You can make good use of the time spent waiting though. For me it became an opportunity for uninterrupted writing time, which is invaluable.

[Learn important writing lessons from these first-time novelists.]

6. Expectations will drive you mad.

The biggest, dirtiest little secret about getting an agent (and being published) that no one tells you: Expectations, albeit mostly self-imposed, will drive you mad.

You start worrying about what will sell. Don’t. It will lead you down a dark, dark path—like Van Gogh, cut-your-ear-off dark.

Do yourself a favor and don’t go there because it’s extremely difficult to climb out of that pit of author-ly sorrow. You can’t predict the market and what will or won’t sell. The sooner you accept that, the saner you will be.

7. Agents breathe fresh life into your work.

An incredibly positive, unexpected bonus to finding my agent is how insightful and willing she is to collaborate on revisions.

Stacey will send me an email with literally one sentence asking something about my manuscript and it will enlighten me to the exact issue I’d been trying to fix for eight months. Having access to an expert with a keen eye is invaluable.

8. An agent is a partner in your journey.

On the warm and fuzzy side, how much she believes in me and my writing is something I couldn’t have anticipated.

Being an author still feels like this soap bubble that might burst at any moment. Even after having my first novel published, that insecurity hasn’t gone away. If I didn’t have my agent to give me pep talks and reassure me of my talent when the chips are down, I don’t know where I’d be.

Being a writer is hard work. Getting published is even harder work. Having an agent can give you a much needed hand. Just know that there are some surprising twists and turns along the way.

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Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

WHEN SHOULD WE SELF-PUBLISH? WHY? WHY NOT?


By Charles S. Weinblatt

My first book would have been a perfect poster book for self-publishing. It represents every solid reason why an author should self-publish. Forget the years of effort writing books and then devoting months or years attempting to contract with a small, independent publisher. Forget the years of writing, searching, struggling to gradually create an impressive author platform to attract literary agents. Forget depending upon someone you did not hire for editing, graphic design and printing. Forget waiting until a publisher is ready to schedule your book’s publication, and then the added time to distribute, promote, market and sell your book. When you self-publish, you make every decision on your own and on your own schedule.

Why was my first book such a perfect example of when to self-publish? First, it was not fiction. Fiction is harder to sell if it is self-published. It was a textbook on job seeking skills, something that I had honed for six years as a vocational rehabilitation counselor and then continued on my own in my private consulting practice. I taught it so frequently that I might have done it well in my sleep. And I knew that I was good at it. Thus, my textbook, Job Seeking Skills for Students (1986, Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company), would be viable. I could sell almost as many copies as I desired through my consulting practice and as required reading for graduate students in my university (The University of Toledo). Why share the profit if you don’t need to?

Of course, I wrote that book in 1985 and I understood nothing about self-publishing then. Along came Kendall-Hunt Publishing with a nice advance and I required no convincing. They could see that I would have little trouble marketing and maintaining regional sales. All they had to do was replicate it elsewhere. Given my complete lack of understanding that there was another option (self-publishing), I took the advance and gave my book to Kendall-Hunt. However, if I had the same decision to make today, I would self-publish it in a heartbeat.

Of course, with self-publishing comes serious responsibilities. The author must hire a talented editor, a gifted graphic artist with successful experience designing winning book covers and jackets, as well as a solid printer and an excellent publicist. The self-published author must purchase the ISBN, arrange distribution contracts on different continents and make sure that every retailer of value around the English-speaking world has copies to sell. This author must also handle promotion, marketing, sales, returns, stocking and restocking retailers, etc. Not rocket science – but very time consuming.

If it happened today, instead of 1985, I would also need to create the e-book version of Job Seeking Skills for Students and format it for each type of e-reader, tablet, computer and smart phone. Then, I would need to post it for sale at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Diesel, Apple (iTunes), Kobo, Sony, Scrollmotion, Baker & Taylor, etc. But it would have been worth the effort. These are books made for self-publishing. Bypass the annoying, laborious platform creation and go directly to sales, where you, not a publisher, keep most of the profit.

There is a time and a place for everything. And when it comes to self-publishing, there is a difference in the chance for success between fiction and non-fiction. If the author is a celebrity or a highly-recognized subject matter expert, self-publishing makes perfect sense. But if the author is unknown and writes fiction, all such bets are off.

You can count on your digits the number of best-selling self-published fiction authors who were not already made famous by celebrity or by traditional publishers. Today, many famous fiction authors are deciding to carry their readers along into the self-publishing world. In other words, this works in only one direction. You use small independent trade publishers to attract literary agents, who will attract major publishers to your books. After you’re a famous fiction author, you may then decide to self-publish and keep more of the profit.

There are some excellent self-published books. I’ve self-published three books. They’re probably not excellent; but through them I was able to comprehend the process. Here is the single most important factor. There is no talent entrance bar for self-publishing. No one evaluates your writing. No aptitude is necessary. You can literally make your cat a self-published author in a few hours. This fact degrades all self-publishing books in the eyes of readers, agents, publishers, distributors, publicists, reviewers and bookstore owners. Please note that I am not advocating this as a desired condition; only stating it as a fact. It is not good, bad, right or wrong. There is still a stigma attached to self-published books. Thankfully, the stigma is somewhat lower than in prior years. But it remains. Since anyone can become a self-published author, regardless of talent, all such books are stigmatized by those careless, inept, unskilled “authors.”

This lack of industry vetting might mean nothing to a non-fiction author who is already a celebrity or known subject matter expert. But it can mean everything to a novice fiction author. Tread here very carefully. The vast majority of self-published books are not well written. They contain a multitude of errors in spelling, grammar, character development and punctuation. Just sample a few self-published books.

Do not suspect that most readers won’t notice these “little mistakes.” Readers will most definitely notice and they will roast you in reviews because of the mistakes. If you’re not willing to take the time and spend the money to hire a talented and experienced editor, why publish? It will only be embarrassing after it’s been read.

Self-published fiction is almost never reviewed by the most respected, persuasive and compelling review organizations in any genre. I am a long-time reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. Believe me, the best review organizations will reject it. As none of the best reviewers will take on a self-published book (so far), the author is left promoting reviews from readers, family members, neighbors or workplace buddies. Such reviews might appear nice on the surface, but they are unconvincing to the public. You would not buy a car if it was rejected by every major automotive review organization. Why would you not feel the same way about a book?

Self-published fiction books rarely appear on the shelves of bookstores, where more than half of all books are still sold. I’m not arguing for or against this – only stating a fact. Yet, that’s an enormous market to just give up because you want to self-publish rather than go through the trouble to create a winning author platform and attract publishers.

Unlike the trade-published author, who typically receives an advance and pays nothing to be published, the self-published author typically invests several thousand dollars on editing, graphic design, printing, ISBN, distribution, publicist, video trailer designer, marketing, promotion and sales. In most cases, the self-published fiction author will not recoup those expenses, let alone earn a profit. Please understand… I’m not telling you not to self-publish. I’m telling you why your chances for self-published fiction success might be poor and why you most likely will never recoup those expenses.

 

Although all authors must market, the SP author is completely on her or his own. She must hire her own editor, graphic designer and publicist. Without prior experience, hiring this kind of talent successfully can be hit and miss at best. The author must then hire a talented and experienced video producer to create a quality video book trailer and then it must be distributed in literally dozens of the right places.

 

Publishers, especially major publishers, promote your books at key international book fairs, conferences and conventions, something that would cost the self-published author thousands of dollars each year. Yet these are the best places to reach film producers and studio executives, screenplay authors, directors, as well as opportunities for translation and foreign rights sales. So add the cost of trips to London, Paris, Jerusalem, Berlin, etc., to your book budget.

And while the self-published author is devoting at least 20-30 hours per week to distribution, promotion, marketing, sales, stocking, etc., the trade-published author has more time to write new books because their publisher handles some of this heavy lifting. Don’t take this too far. All authors must promote and market their books. It’s just somewhat easier and less time-consuming when you have a publisher helping out.

A novice fiction author requires a powerful author platform to attract an agent. Major publishing houses only accept proposals from trusted literary agents; and well-connected agents almost never take chances on their reputation.

When an agent decides to read your query, he or she will also Google your name. When that occurs, you’ll want the agent to read many pages of powerful author platform, including dozens of positive articles and references about your books and your author reputation. Platform also includes influential writing awards, especially with regional or national media recognition. Agents and publishers want to see a gradual increase in sales of prior trade-published books. National or international news articles about you and your books in newspapers, magazines and journals are prominent platform building blocks. Major radio, TV and Internet interviews with powerful agents are useful. Blogging successfully and guest blog appearances with the best and most well-liked blogs help.

All of this takes a lot of time – years – to accomplish. To a novice fiction author, platform means everything. The big advances and publicity are earned one trade-published book at a time.Of course, being trade-published for fiction is not a decision. You need talent, a marketable book, a high quality publishing proposal (see other articles on this site for information about how to fabricate a winning book publishing proposal) and the determination to contact dozens or even hundreds of small independent publishers. During this time, building your author platform is the single most important focus of your task. It’s more important than royalties or sales. Platform means everything to a fiction author, because generates success later. And it can attract one huge piece of the puzzle – a well-connected literary agent. More about that, plus book marketing ideas elsewhere here: https://cweinblatt.wordpress.com.