The world of publishing

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Jinral, May 30, 2011.

  1. Jinral

    Jinral The yet to be published

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    In today's high tech world, there are all kinds of ways to publish books. You have got traditional, self-publishing, POD, and each one of these has an electronic counterpart, except for print on demand, but the service is ran through the same company.

    There are several big time authors electing to go the self publishing route to eliminate the middle man issue, but then again, they can do that.

    For all you new authors out there, how are you getting started? Ive nearly completed the rough draft for my second book, but my first is still waiting in the wings so to speak.That one I have been holding out for traditional publishing because it has been a 6 year dream. The story of Jazer and Octavius though, has been a 4-5 month endeavor so far and after the 2 months of editing, about half a year of work. I plan on going the POD electronic service route, just to get my name out there.

    That's my plan, what is yours?
     
  2. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    As I see the world of publishing today:

    the traditional route isn't a wise choice. The terms writers are getting now are much worse than twenty years ago, and publishers - for the most part - are demanding more and paying less by the day. Most recently, they've been burying shameful rights grabs in odd places in the contract, as well as non-compete clauses and absurd option clauses. Agents, who aren't lawyers, don't catch them (and often don't care if they catch them because their relationship with the publisher is more important than their relationship with the writer). Lawyers who don't deal in copyright law don't catch them. You need a lawyer who specializes in Intellectual Property (hereafter IP) law, and who specializes in publishing IP law because publishing is so unlike anything else that the contracts don't make sense to anyone.

    This may all change in five years. I hope it does, because if it doesn't book publishers will kill the industry and may take bookstores along with it. Sooner or later, publishing companies will arise with a better working model, but don't be surprised if the top ten publishers in the world then are operations that are Mom & Pop publishers now, and that the current leaders are all dead and buried.

    Say Biggest Publisher on Earth (hereafter BPE) buys rights to my novel, gets an option on the next book in the series, and contracts to advance me $5000 for each book on 8% royalties. Assuming the advances are paid in four parts (as they usually are these days) that means I'll get $1250 now, $1250 when I deliver the book, $1250 on acceptance, $1250 on publication. Okay, BPE cuts me a cheque for $1250 and I deposit it. I deliver the book per contract and wait for my next cheque to arrive. It's only three weeks late when BPE files for bankruptcy. Then what? First, the creditors seize all assets, one of which is my book. Then all assets are lumped together and valued against BPE's total debts. Since BPE is bankrupt, it's 100% certain that the assets won't cover the debts. So who gets the money? Whoever has the biggest lawyers. I have $1250; $1250 doesn't buy a cup of coffee with a lawyer big enough. The odds I can get my book back are minimal, the odds it will be published are bugger all. I've just lost all my writing time, and I wouldn't be surprised if some lawyer for the creditors demands my $1250 back. Of course I don't have it because I've spent it on frivolities like bread, tea, electricity, and rent.

    Just too dangerous right now. In five years, maybe; in ten years probably. But by then the whole state of publishing should have sorted itself out and things should be much surer.

    Traditional electronic publishing has all the same problems that traditional publishing does, because it's the same companies operating a sideline, and making the sideline conform to the mainline. The truth is the big publishers are scared that ebooks will take over and they're trying to limit sales so they don't. That's why ebooks from big publishers cost $12.99: they won't price the electronic version cheaper than the print version for fear of putting themselves out of a job, because they've come to think of their job as selling paper instead of selling books.

    There are some companies trying to be traditional publishers in an electronic format. Some offer legitimate publication under relatively normal terms. Others are crooks. If you want to try one of these companies, keep one hand on your wallet and the other on your wallet. Watch out for rights grabs (IP lawyer again) and keep a careful eye on the words like "net." "Net profit" must be defined as the price of the book minus the bookstore's cut. If "net" isn't defined, or if the publisher's expenses are factored in, then there will be creative accounting going on and what you make on a thousand copies sold won't buy a burger and fries.

    Print self publishing was a legitimate business until the mid twentieth century, and in some ways still is. If your church wants to publish a cookbook to give away or sell at the bazaar, fine, self publishing will do. But if you're hoping to get into bookstores and make money, you're out of luck. Anyone advertising it as a way to make a living as a writer is scamming you. I'm not going to bite on that one.

    Electronic self publishing is a whole different story. Anyone can write a novel, edit it or pay to have it edited, proof it or pay to have it proofed, design a cover or pay to have it designed, and upload the whole thing onto Smashwords and Kindle. Many people can upload it to PubIt (Barnes & Noble) as well, but only if you have a US address.

    Note the order I put the stores in, though: Smashwords, then Kindle. Yes Kindle is the biggest and likely the best, but putting a story up on Kindle only gets it up on Kindle. Putting it up on Smashwords gets it into PubIt, iBooks, Diesel, Kobo, Sony as well as Smashwords. You don't have to go through Smashwords to get to Kindle, so don't. If you live in the US, don't use Smashwords for PubIt either. Smashwords takes a 15% cut, Kindle and PubIt take a 30% cut. But if you use Smashwords to get to Kindle, Smashwords takes 15% after Kindle takes its 30%. To do the math, if you sell a novel on Kindle for $3.99, you get ($3.99 x 0.7 =) $2.79. if you sell it on Kindle through Smashwords you get ($3.99 x 0.7 x 0.85 =) $2.37. If you sell it on Smashwords directly, you get ($3.99 x 0.85 =) $3.39, which is the reason I prefer to buy on Smashwords when possible. To put this in perspective, if your traditionally-published novel sells in mass-market paperback for $9.99, you're likely to get anything from $0.80 to $1.20 depending on your contract which depends on your clout, but that's only after your advance has paid out, and odds are very good that it will never pay out.

    If you believe in your ability to tell a story, and believe that your work will rise enough above the dreck to be noticeable, there's a lot of money to be make in electronic self publishing.

    POD is relatively new. I first read the term about eight years ago. The key to having POD work is in the distribution system. If your company doesn't have the ability to distribute your book widely, then you're stuck with the same problems you had with print self publishing. And yes, a lot of POD companies are just running scams.

    There are at least two exceptions: CreateSpace (hereafter CS) and Lightning Source International (hereafter LSI). CS is owned by Amazon, LSI by Ingram, and either makes money from selling your books, not by soaking you out of your life savings. They'll get you into Amazon.com and into Ingram and Baker & Taylor catalogues. They'll also ship books that you pay for anywhere you want them, so if you sell a book from your website, you can buy if from CS or LSI and have them ship it to the person who bought it. At this point, I don't think it would be a good idea to work with anyone else. The main differences between them are that LSI charges when you make a mistake and have to correct it, while CS only charges for a proof copy; LSI prints hardcover as well as trade paperback; and LSI has a much better distribution system outside the US.

    What I'm Planning on Doing

    Well, that's my reasoning, based on the state of publishing in early June 2011. In a year many things may have changed. But for right now, my plan is:

    Electronic self publishing: Upload onto Smashwords and Kindle, including worldwide distribution in all formats and distributing to all ebookstores that Smashwords will get me into. Concentrate on short fiction for the moment. The more pieces you have up the easier you are to find. Also submit shorts to magazines. Anything that sells goes up on Smashwords and Kindle a year later, priced at $0.99. Write novellas (ideally around 30,000 words, but don't worry too much) and sell for $2.99. Once I have decent web presence - and I hope have quit my day job - write novels as well, probably priced at $4.99. Provide short story and novella collections. Magazine publication isn't a big deal, and may well cost me a bit of money (lost e-sales for a year vs payment of five cents/word or less) but should pay for itself by getting my name in front of readers' eyes.

    POD: Early on, try short story and novella collections through CS for North America and LSI for the rest of the world. Later, do novels as well. If there seems to be any demand I'm willing to create a hardcover through LSI.

    Traditional publication: if circumstances change with traditional publishers (if they stop attempting rights grabs, start paying decent advances again, start writing understandable contracts and providing understandable and complete royalty statements) or if someone offers me a good deal and my IP lawyer approves, I'll be happy to see something of mine traditionally published. But I don't think I'll ever want to abandon self publishing completely.
     
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  3. Jinral

    Jinral The yet to be published

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    Yeah I have always wanted to work through CS only because I'm art challenged and my friends who are artists just don't have the time to work on a project, despite offering price. CS would get me a decent cover, and easy distribution, since I am not currently in a distribution friendly situation. My only issue is due to the size of my book, I make a very small profit when it comes down to it. Only saving grace is if I can generate some website traffic and sell them from there, it's a big difference in profit. I think I have decided though, I am going through one last edit of my 1st book: "Council of Cult'ura; Pride of the Wolf Pack" (still a working title) and I am going to submit it... *crosses fingers* here goes nothin
     
  4. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    How long is the book?

    And are you thinking of POD alone or POD and e-publishing at the same time?
     
  5. Jinral

    Jinral The yet to be published

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    both at the same time, it's 94,000 words long (yes I know it's taboo for a new author for such a long book), I would break it up, but it is already part of a trilogy
     
  6. rmathew

    rmathew New Member

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    WOW!! Thanks, this is exactly the thin I've been looking for. Thanks for the road map.
     
  7. rmathew

    rmathew New Member

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    I just set up a Smashwords account. Is there a fee for uploading your books/stories to the site? Just curious
     
  8. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    Not for uploading. Smashwords charges a 15% fee on every book sold. Dirt cheap considering the value. They also take all their money in through PayPal, and PayPal gets 30 cents plus a small percentage (3% IIRC). So if you sell a book on Smashwords for $2.99 you'll make 2.99 x 0.85 - 0.30 - (2.99 x 0.03) = $2.15. If someone buys four books from you at the same time, you get 4 x 2.99 x .85 - 0.30 - (4 x 2.99 x 0.03) = $9.51. In that case, Smashwords would get $1.79, and PayPal would get $0.66.

    It gets a little more complicated when you sell through other stores that Smashwords distributes to. Smashwords is primarily a distributer, not a store. Their job is to reformat your Word file into .Mobi, epub, .pdf, .lrf, PalmDoc, and others, then send them to all the bookstores. They're like Ingraham or Baker & Taylor, they act as a go-between between the publisher (you) and the bookstore (Kindle, Sony, PubIt, iBooks, Diesel, XinXii, GoodReads, and others). In that case, the other store takes it's cut (in Kindle's case 30% on anything priced $2.99 - $9.99, and 65% on anything else), then Smashwords takes it's cut, then PayPay takes it's cut. As you can figure, buying one 99-cent story doesn't do the writer much good. That's why, when I buy, I make a list of a half dozen or more titles, and buy from Smashwords if I can. That way the 30-cent Paypal fee is distributed among the titles, and the writers get more.

    Publish to Kindle directly, and to PubIt since you're in the US. That way you don't have to go through Smashwords. Most other sites make it prohibitively dificult for the self-published writer to upload, and there are dozens of them, and will be more soon.
     
  9. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    94,000 words isn't that long. 90,000 is typical for most genres these days, and 94,000 is within tolerances.
     
  10. Jinral

    Jinral The yet to be published

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    I truly don't know myself, every agent I sent it in to had stipulations posted on their site, no novels from new authors over 100,000. Thanks Greybeard, you have been a big help!
     
  11. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    Publishers generally prefer novels in the 90,000-word range because that minimizes their risk. Don't ask how those calculations went, I haven't a clue. Writers with a proven following can write pretty much whatever they want, but publishers are less willing to take risks with new writers outside that range. These days, 90,000 words - or more accurately 80,000 to 100,000 - has become the standard novel length, and it's all pushed by the needs of the publisher, not the writer, the reader, or the story.
     
  12. Jinral

    Jinral The yet to be published

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    Well thanks for all of your help greybeard, I have done some research, read several books on the matter, but I think your short speal has been the most helpful in deciding. I'm going to publish through createspace and then publish on ebook as well. Then comes marketing...there is a headache in itself
     
  13. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    You're welcome.

    You might want to do the ebook first. I'm told it's a lot easier, and it's free. I see the POD as the advanced version.

    And whatever you do, write first and worry about publicity later. No matter how much you publicize, someone with one title is harder to find than someone with twenty titles, and short stories contribute to visibility just as much as novels.