Tag Archives: self publishing

Turning Over the Reins: Education and E-Pubbing

Eldest left the home this weekend. As he begins college tomorrow, he will be firmly in control of his life. Successes and failures will be his. Choices will be made–sometimes impulsively, sometimes not. And while they will not always be the choices I would have made, the outcome of these decisions will be entirely his. He controls his future.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s why we have kids in the first place. It’s why we mold them gently, challenge them and teach them as much as we can in a few short years. We want them to become viable members of whichever community they decide to inhabit. We want them to earn their freedom.

Writing used to parallel parenting. Writers toiled over their pages and perfected their manuscripts. We then turned over the reigns to agents and editors and marketing departments. They controlled the final output. They shaped our careers and decided which books to print or not and who best to market them to. It worked out really well for a lot of authors for a lot of years. And still does, for that matter.

But, this traditional method isn’t always used in today’s publishing world. In fact, it’s not always desired. Some writers have taken publishing matters into their own hands and maintained control of every aspect of their novel’s successes or failures.

Take Ruth Cardello, for instance. This entrepreneurial dynamo tackled self-publishing and took charge of her writing destiny. Roughly one year ago, she struck out on her own and e-published her romance novels.

She put up with readers and writers believing she wasn’t a “real” writer because her books were not traditionally published. Instead of giving up, she persevered. She worked harder and smarter. Good, bad or indifferent, she took responsibility for the choices she made.

Ruth Cardello just turned down a seven-figure deal with a traditional publishing house. I repeat, “She just turned down a seven-figure deal.”

Seven figures.

Yeah.

All so she could remain in control. All so the responsibility of failures or successes would rest on her effort, not on the decisions of someone else.

Ruth has become the parent and the child. The writer and the publisher. The agent and marketing director.

I can only hope that Eldest’s transition into adulthood will follow a similar path. I hope he takes up where we left off and strives to give himself the best possible future. I hope rebellion isn’t just around the corner and tightening of the reigns in ours. I hope we can work together to make him a viable and successful member of whichever community he chooses to inhabit.

Dang, I miss him already!

A Sharp Stick and a Writing Tip

Youngest had it out at the park the other day–according to the mom on my porch and her ice-packed daughter.  Trust me, it’s a front door visit no mom ever wants to get.

Dude, says Upset Mom, your kid punched mine in the face and poked her with a stick.

Now, Youngest can be a scrapper and he–admittedly–has a bit of a temper.  Yet, I’ve never known him to punch another kid in the face (even his brother).  Or poke someone with a stick, for that matter.

His style is more…well, let’s just say he’d throw the stick at you, then tackle you and shove your face in the dirt.  Again, not a proud mom moment, but there ya go.  I know my kids–their perfections and imperfections.

And while I don’t doubt for a second he took part in this playground scuffle, I do question how it all went down.  Especially when he wailed, “But she started it,” as I marched him down the hall and to the door to apologize.

While Upset Mom continued to “just wanted to let you know what [name redacted to protect the not-so-innocent] had done,” the two tusslers made see-ya-at-school-tomorrow faces at each other.

Writing Tip 2011: Do not poke your friends with sticks or punch them in the head.  Because tomorrow, you just might want to play with them again.

Seriously.  I’ve seen authors shred reviewers even as they beg to be reviewed.  I’ve seen the idea of agents bashed by the very people trying to garner notice and representation.  I’ve seen bitter writers decry traditional publishing companies even as they ask, “If my self-pubbed book sells well enough, will I get a publishing deal?”

Here’s the cliché: don’t bite the hand that feeds you.  Or at least not the one you want to be fed by.

You don’t have to slide with them or swing with them.  You don’t even have to talk to them.  Certainly, don’t punch them in the face or poke them with a stick.  All you have to do is walk away until you may want to play with them again.

PRESSING QUESTIONS THAT INCITE LOTS OF CONTENTION

  • Do writers really need agents?
  • What does an agent do that you can’t do for yourself?
  • Can you sub directly to editors?  What are the pros and cons to each of these options?
  • To self-pub or continue querying?  That is the question.

Writers, research your options.  Weigh the pros and cons.  Make the decision that is right for you.  Share  your knowledge in a respectful manner with others who may or may not make the same choice you did.  But never, ever attack others.  Especially if you just might want to be fed by them in the future.

So, what about you?  Are you a professional writer or a playground scrapper?  How do you respect an industry that seems to quash the dreams of aspiring writers with great regularity?  Do you find yourself growing bitter and disillusioned?  Is the competitiveness of the industry and the rapidly changing landscape a challenge you still want to tackle?  If so, how do you go about it?

Curious minds want to know.

E-Free: savvy or stupid?

Lucky me, I woke up to a FREE newspaper this morning.  In fact, every house in town had a neatly rolled up paper just waiting in the driveway for unsuspecting homeowners to fall in love with.  And order a subscription.

Two days ago, Dear Hubby checked out the fitness center in town and came home with a card that gained him access to a FREE week of membership.  Ya know the “Try us out.  If you like us, come back,” kind of thing?

I also got a Buy One, Get One FREE coupon in the mail the other day from a shoe store. 

Seriously, free seems to be the new…well, old…marketing model.  Businesses have well-learned that a sample goes a long way in attracting customers.  Some of those customers will enjoy the services/product so much they will become loyal buyers.  Others will swoop in for their freebie and never be heard from again.  Some will turn up their noses and throw the coupon away in disdain, for obviously, free means inferior.

And still more land somewhere in the middle.  They will read the paper, check out the gym membership and pick up two new pairs of shoes.  At times, they’ll come back to work out whenever possible, doing so in cycles as it works with the rhythm of their lives.  They will pick up a news stand copy of the paper when the fancy strikes them and definitely remember the great selection of shoes the next time they need some kicks. 

So, is free savvy or stupid? 

Do we give away too much for the little return on life-long loyalty?  Is the sheer quantity of freebies given worth the quality of future buyers?  But what if nobody buys?  Or what if everyone buys and they hate the product and will never, ever, ever under duress of life and limb purchase another membership, shoe or paper again?  What if they tell everyone how much they *gasp* hate their free product, essentially poisoning the sales well for life?

And how does this apply to the writing life?  Well, brick and mortars allow readers to browse through books, feeling the cover, sniffing the pages and reading a chapter or two before exchanging gift card credit for a new novel.

In my opinion, astute e-book authors–whether self-pubbed or traditionally published–will allow readers to view a sample chapter or two.  That’s akin to the week of free membership.  And I’ve NEVER heard anyone complain about that before.

More convoluted, however, is the debate over an entire FREE book.  Arguments against this tactic include:

  • the author is selling herself short both on time and talent, 
  • the author doesn’t believe he has a superior product and must give it away to be read at all,
  • and free books will become the rule and readers will expect to read all their novels without paying a dime thereby destroying the very essence and livelihood of every author everywhere.

Without aruging for or against the practice of free-ness, I ask a few simple questions. 

  • Does the free newspaper on my driveway diminish the integrity of newspapers all across the country and threaten to destroy this mode of news gathering forever?
  • Does the BYGO philosophy only pertain to crappy tennies and ill-fitting sandals, or can you still get quality kicks for a deal?
  • After cashing in a coupon, do you always expect the same deal forever and ever, amen, or is your tweeter tickled simply by virtue of getting a good deal at that moment in time?
  • Can a name-brand shoe not only cost more, but also give it’s wearer more corns and blisters than a cheap pump?

I don’t mean to be so cheeky, but I can’t help but wonder about the double standard for free e-books as a teaser. 

Author and writing friend, Calista Taylor recently unleashed her first novel, Viridis, on the cyber world.  She describes her reasoning behind the pricing scheme for her steampunky goodness (and provides links for the free version and the $0.99 copy).  In fact, many bloggers post on this topic because it is so widely debated. 

So, let me ask you, dear readers, how do you feel about FREE?

  • I think free e-books diminish the integrity of the written word. 
  • I think only self-pubbed writers give away free e-books and therefore would never “buy” one because the quality is sure to suffer.
  • I refuse to pay full price for anything.  My (insert e-reader here) is chock full of free books.
  • I use free to check out new books and authors.  Some I love and some I hate.  But the marketing plan worked and got me to try a sample I otherwise might not have.
  • I have downloaded free books, grown to love the writing and bought–with real money–more books from the same author.

Curious minds want to know.

PS- in case you’re curious, Calista Taylor has a traditional publishing deal for a nonfic book.  Self-published doesn’t mean can’t-cut-the-mustard.  If you don’t believe me, check her out.  She rocks my socks off.

PPS- my spell check isn’t working, so forgive any spelling errors.  I didn’t sleep well last night!

When to sell your writing. When to pawn it.

Last night Igot sucked into the show, “Pawn Stars”, with DH.  It was more intriguing than the book I was trying to read.

The premise is to highlight the great treasures people bring in to sell.  The pawn shop owner seemed to have integrity and called in professional appraisers for items that might have been of significant historic or financial value. 

One guy popped in with a bar of gold.  After Granny passed away, the fam was going through her estate and found a hidden bar of golden goodness.  Pawn Shop Owner’s eyes bugged.  He held the bar and said, “Eh, you’ve got about $24,000 worth of gold here.  But…”

Yeah, the crusty white stuff on the bottom of the bar?  Coral.  The 1500’s bar was from a ship wreck.  Apparently, Granny and Grandpa hid the gold during the depression to save it from Roosevelt and his gold ban.  This little gem was found almost forty years after the ban was lifted in 1974.

The surviving family had no clue of its existence prior to dividing the estate.  The appraiser valued it at roughly $48,000.  Pawn Shop Owner bought it for $34,000–cash.  Gold Guy walked away with crisp $100 bills and a slight scowl.

Other people brought in worthless junk that Pawn Shop Owner wouldn’t touch.  Only one person with an offer walked away with her goods.  When Pawn Shop Owner didn’t settle on her price, she packed up and went home, believing she could find a more lucrative deal somewhere else.  One dude brought in his $100 artifact and walked out with a grin and $1,500.

Of course this got me thinking about the road to publication.  The process is really no different.

Fair market value (manuscript worth) is an estimate.  The real price is not known, can never be known, until the product is sold.  Anything is only worth something if someone is willing to buy it.  Period.  We might write up the cure for cancer, but unless someone will ante up cold hard cash for it, the formula remains worthless.

Take Gold Guy for example.  He wanted the entire $48,000 for his ship-wrecked gold.  Who wouldn’t?  After all, if it’s “worth” that much, why not pocket that much?

What Gold Guy needed to understand was that Pawn Shop Owner had the connections to sell the gold bar–something Gold Guy didn’t have.  Also, PSO was taking a gamble by purchasing said gold bar.  He still had to sell it and make a living in the meantime. 

Chances are Pawn Shop Owner will walk away with a hefty chunk of change for his effort.  But he has to work for that change.  He has to contact his buyers, haggle over a price and sign on the dotted line.  He may only sell the bar for 41 grand.  This can take time, energy and money.  In the interim, he has to pay for the lights, heat, rent, employees and those little trinkets that he loses money on. 

My assessment: Gold Guy wanted the full value–which can never be valued until after the final sale.  He was disappointed, yet sold anyway because on some level, he understood he couldn’t move that kind of artifact on his own.  Seriously, what’s he gonna do, sell it on ebay?  And get raked over the coals by someone with less integrity than the Pawn Shop Owner?

If we are smart, we will follow Gold Guy’s path.  We will realize our limitations within the industry and defer to the expertise of those more seasoned and better connected.

But sometimes we are like the lady who walked away.  We want what we want–ie, sell it now to the biggest publishing house in the world and get it on the NYT Best Seller List, yesterday.  We get grumpy when we our demands get turned down.  We pack up our manuscripts, shout invectives (from the comfort of our home) and covet our runaway debut novels because we know something great when we see it.  Even if the agent doesn’t.

If we are in that 2%, we are surprised to have our writing’s worth validated.  We hit the right agent who hits the right editor backed by the right marketing department that wants the publisher to print.  We hit the jackpot and end up turning our $100 worth of paper into a $1,500 advance.

Agents have the contacts that we don’t have.  They have the experience in negotiating contracts.  They have a far better understanding of the market value of our work.  Editors have a marketing department, and publishers have the cash for printing.  They can get our books on shelves where we simply cannot.

We need them as much as Gold Guy needed Pawn Shop Owner.  He could have taken his gold bar and gone home.  He could have told everyone he had a bar of golden goodness worth $50,000.  But really, until he had cash in hand, Granny’s hand-me-down gem was as worthless as our unrepped manuscripts.  

Conversely, he could have pawned it (left it sit in the shop until someone paid his $48,000 price) and paid a preset commission.  In this respect, he could have pocketed more money–whenever someone with a cool $50,000 stumbled into the store.  In other words, without active marketing, the gold could have sat unsold for an undetermined amount of time–and maybe even forever.  

Some publishing options sound frighteningly similar to this last scenario.  Unreputable agents and publishing companies can tie up manuscripts and rights and return little or no profit to the author.  Sometimes “repped” and “pubbed” manuscripts sit on the shelf collecting dust.  Self-publishing can work if writers are astute about the industry and know how to find buyers on their own.  Often, it fails and writers are left holding a gold bar with no customer base.

So, in the game of pawning your writing, how do you know when to sell or when to pack up and walk away?  At what point do we list our writing on ebay?  Do we go straight to the publishers and bypass the Pawn Shop Owner so we can keep a bigger cut, or do we trust in the value of an agent to have the better contacts?

All P’sOV are welcome here as long as comments remain respectful.

~cat