Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Replying to Outliers

I wrote this as a reply to Rob's post, but it's too long. Surprising, right?

I get your point. I do.

But people are leaving out what e-publishing offers.

Suddenly...I will get 100% control. That means no more title changes, covers of my choosing, leaving things the way that I want them.

It means writing what *I* want to write - not trying to think of the next high concept that will get me in the door, not trying to be aware of what I have to write for what market, not worrying over whether or not my new agent/editor will force me to write questionable content because that's how it's done; it suddenly means that everything is in my hands. It doesn't matter if another author has a book like mine. It doesn't matter if the publisher has taken on another book with similar content. It means I don't have to worry about the, "Oh, you're so close. But no thanks." None of that matters anymore.

Not for a second do I think it's easy. Not for a second do I imagine that I'll be making $100,000 next month. But...at least there are possibilities that didn't exist before. What if someone had told Amanda Hocking "This e-publishing thing is crap. It's too hard. Don't do it." Or Victorine Lieske? Or HP Mallory? Or Michael J. Sullivan? (All indie authors off the top of my head with recently acquired agents shopping deals for them, which means they *must* be outliers or anecdotal, right? ;) )

For the first time in a long time, I am *excited* again. Books I've been wanting to write, books of my heart, have been put aside because they won't work for certain markets. My Muse had gone silent. And suddenly the floodgates have opened. I have ideas, dialogues, scenes coming so quickly I can hardly write them down.

This isn't because New York doesn't want me. I don't know whether or not they do. I haven't tried. I don't have a drawer full of rejections. Not because I assume they will reject me, but because I haven't had anything to give them that I think will work. The midlist author is disappearing. It'd better be big or go home (see also: Ally Condie, Rob Wells, Stephenie Meyer).

Here's the reality: publishing is changing. Publishers will fight it tooth and nail for as long as they possibly can. But for generations that consume all their other media digitally, they will expect to consume their books digitally and they will be livid that the book they want costs $12.99 and is more expensive than the paperback. My mom got excited today by the possibility that she could get a certain author's books as e-books, until she saw all the prices. While a consumer may understand paying $25 for a hardback (they can look at the book and see the costs involved), there's nothing like that involved with e-books. Consumers will clamor for lower prices, and if traditional publishers refuse to give it to them, someone will come in and fill in the gap (see also: John Locke. Go to Amazon's Kindle Store. He's the guy that's got most of the Top 100 slots).

And the simple fact that I see ignored - there are people that no matter how hard they try, no matter how many times they submit to New York, are never, ever, ever going to get published. And before that meant languishing in obscurity with only your mom to read your books. Now it could mean that you might be like Tina Folsom and sell 100,000 books in less than one year by e-publishing all those New York-rejected books. And there are so many authors that are thrilled beyond belief to have just five people buy their book in a month. That means five strangers went out of their way and actually read something, paid for something, that previously just sat on someone's hard drive.

Publishing is hard. It's hard to go through New York and succeed, it's hard to do it yourself and succeed. But so what? Marketing? Up to me whether I'm with NY or just me. Accounting? For sure 100% accurate, because it's just me (NY tends to have a slight problem in this area). Cover? Plenty of excellent designers who can do it for me on the less expensive side (and there's even websites where you can bid the work out - a writer I know did that and got 150 covers to choose from). Editing? I'd be using a professional for that either way - one way means I get to keep the money I earn, the other I give up 90% (give or take) of the money in perpetuity.

It's not the same beast. E-readers have turned everything on its head. You asked how many authors are making a decent living on e-publishing - I would garner a guess that it's probably a tad more than make a living wage via traditional publishing.

I'm actually feeling a deep urgency to get started with this stuff because I want to get my foot in the door before other excellent authors figure out what's going on, before we get more midlisters and more bestsellers turning to this medium and suddenly there will be so much more competition.

So, never mind. Ignore everything I just said. As you were. ;)


18 Comments:

At 3/23/2011 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is possible that the books in your heart may not be the books a lot of other people want to read. But then maybe not. There could be a huge, untapped audience for your narrow interests.

Where the e-book has freed your inner muse, a third party, like your editor, may just tether you to the reality that the general public may not be as interested in your stories as you are.

Or you could write the next Potter series. Who knows. Go Sariah. Go e books. Down with publishers! Let them eat cake!

 
At 3/23/2011 2:05 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Like I said, epublishing isn't bad. I disagree with just about everything that you've just said, but that doesn't mean epublishing is bad. :)

Your post seems to have all of the issues I was complaining about in mine. You're making assumptions and guessing (by your own admission) about trends. More power to you--I'm again not saying epublishing is wrong. I'd never, ever jump into it using the reasoning you just gave, but I'm not you.

If you want to do it, I wish you nothing but the best. I may soon be looking back at this post with egg on my face and saying you were right.

 
At 3/23/2011 2:44 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Anonymous, I don't know how whether or not the general audience will be interested in my books. That's the nice thing about e-publishing though - I no longer need to reach as big an audience as I would have if I'd tried to publish them any other way.

And I'm not saying down with publishers. I'm saying there might be another way for people to write and publish, and that there are other avenues besides just one model, and that does excite me.

Rob, I don't know if I'm just guessing about trends when they're backed up by good old-fashioned data. E-book sales went up by 115.8% in January. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-books have gone up significantly every year for the last nine years. Amazon claims that e-books now outsell their paperbacks. And while e-books are on the rise, every other adult fiction category fell (in January hardcovers were down by -11.3%, paperbacks by -19.7%, mass markets by -30.9%).

I suppose it's possible that next year e-books could crash and burn and no one will ever buy them ever again.

It's also possible aliens will invade California and a really bad movie will be made about it (wait, wasn't that Skyline?).

None of us know, but based on nearly a decade of information, I would hazard a guess that e-books will continue to increase in sales.

And what will happen when Borders is completely gone? When Barnes & Noble follows?

If nothing else, at least you've given me a goal to shoot for. Egg on Rob's face. I demand pictures. ;)

 
At 3/23/2011 10:14 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

First of all, let me say that I think the e-book question is the most exciting issue to hit authors and publishers since before I was born. As such, it creates lots of emotion and excitement. I also agree completely that everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want on the issue, as long as--and this is where I think Rob is coming from--they are coming in informed.

So my responses to your points would be:

1) Editors are not a bad thing. Having one tell you to add more sex is 99% of the time limited to steamy romances. When editors normally ask you to change your story it is because your story needs the changes to become better. The idea of throwing a story of mine out to the public without a professional editor "changing" it scares me to death. It does not excite me.

2) Statistics mean whatever you want them to mean. E-book sales are up. What does that mean? Are individual--especially self-pubbed authors making so much more? Or does it just mean that a new media source is being filled with previously published material, new material from existing authors, and tons and tons of books that sell less than 100 copies?

What most people don't realize is that self-pubbed books have always sold a ton. Not individually, but as a result of millions of self published authors
selling a handful of books. I promise you that there are FAR more traditionally published authors making a living writing than self-published ones. It's just that the guy selling six books doesn't make USA Today.

3) I also find it interesting that the authors you mention are shopping deals to national publishers. In other words, going back to national publishers with editors, lower royalties, lack of control etc. I just find it funny that after tasting the world of a successful e-book author, they are coming back to the "outdated" one.

If I had tried and failed repeatedly to get a NY agent and publisher, would I self-publish my e-books? Yes, I think I would. And anything that gets you excited about writing again is a good thing. But think about this. If self-publishing e-books was really the money maker lots of new authors seem to think it is, why aren't all the successful authors jumping ship? What do they know that most people don't?

My guess is that they know 99% of what the media is saying is hype. Mid-list authors haven't disappeared. You quote Ally, Rob, and Meyers as examples to prove mid-list is gone. But you are ignoring the dozens and dozens of LDS nationally published authors who have published many, many well respected books and never once received a six figure advance.

I hope your e-books kick butt and I can say I knew you when. But if it were me, I would at least try submitting nationally before I took the plunge.

 
At 3/23/2011 10:32 AM, Blogger Tina Folsom said...

Sarah,

since I'm mentioned in your blog post, I'll chime in.

Don't listen to the nay-sayers. E-publishing is here to stay. My sales and those of other self-published authors are steadily increasing.

Do what you feel is right. I published the books an agent said weren't "dark enough" - whatever that meant. Well, now my Scanguards Vampires series is selling extremely well. For a few days, I even hit the top 100 B&N bestseller list with one of them. Take that New York.

As to why all these other self-published authors are seeking traditional deals? Beats me. I sure don't go out shopping my books with New York. I don't have an agent, and I don't want one. The only agent I'd take would be a foreign rights agent to sell my translations rights.

I'm set to make over 1/2 million dollars this year, and that's if sales continue at the same level. But aren't more and more readers buying a Nook or a Kindle every day? Aren't those readers looking for books to buy? I'm telling you they are, and some will stumble upon my stuff, some will stumble upon yours, but only if you're out there to be found.

So, do it!

Tina Folsom

 
At 3/23/2011 10:34 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

What I don't understand is the either/or mentality. All of publishing, whether traditional publishing or self-publishing, is a business decision. For the eighteenth time, I'm not anti-selfpublishing. I'm anti making bad business decisions. Maybe a selfpublishing is perfect for you, but maybe it's not. My whole point was to say: let's look at this a little more skeptically before devoting our time and money to it.

Of course, as both Sariah and Moriah pointed out (it's a pain in the neck that we're having the same discussion in two places), there are some authors who don't care about the business--they just want their voice heard by a handful of people. If that's the case, then great. More power to them. But if that's the case, then I hope those authors don't mention Amanda Hocking in their reasoning.

 
At 3/23/2011 10:44 AM, Blogger LisaAnn Turner said...

I love your post! You hit the nail right on the head. I want to purchase ebooks that don't cost a ridiculous fortune. Why should I pay as much for a digital copy as I do for the hardback? For this reason alone I prefer to self-publishing ebook market. Yes, the grammar isn't always the best and there are times when the heavy hand of an editor would be nice. But I paid 99ยข, I'm not picky.

I am excited to hear your interest in publishing through this route. I must admit I've been toying with the idea myself. Keep us appraised as to your experience with it.

 
At 3/23/2011 10:48 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Jeff, I think editors are WONDERFUL. At no time and in no way did I ever say I wouldn't be using one. I fully plan on budgeting to pay what I have to pay to get an excellent editor who can look over my book and tell me how to improve. I'm not sure why people think editors aren't involved. :)

And I don't think you're right on the 99% limited to steamy romance. Do you know that MOST romance is now "steamy?" You can find Christian/sweet romance from Christian publishers, but it is expected that nearly everything else nationally will have sex in it. Look no further than "RT Book Reviews" (*the* romance book reviewer) who, when labeling levels of sensuality in a romance, say that "most" romances fall in the "hot" category, where the sex ranges from conventional lovemaking to explicit sex. I'm in RWA. I'm pretty familiar with what the market trends are when it comes to romance. :)

I have a good writer friend who had to add a love scene when she didn't want to. Not because it made the story better, but because romances for that publisher had to have them. The book would have been just as good without it. And the publisher refused to publish it without it. She's not the only story I've heard like that.

There's no real way for us to prove one way or the other which side is making a better living at it. I'm meeting so many people who keep selling more and more and are making insane amounts of money. More anecdotal evidence for Rob. :)

As for the authors getting traditional deals, I don't think they're lowering themselves or picking a lesser outlet. I think they used their e-publishing to help get themselves fantastic print deals (Hocking in the minimum seven-figure range, Sullivan in six figures, Lieske waiting on hers, Mallory hasn't mentioned her advance). Also, not one of these authors has said, "So long, suckers! That e-publishing thing blows!" In fact, they've all talked about their desire to continue e-publishing. Victorine's given her agent three weeks to sell. If it doesn't happen, she's self-publishing because she knows how well she can do. And you and I are not privy to their contracts, so neither one of us know how much control they are/aren't giving up, what royalties they'll get, etc.

We can also have a very, very long discussion about why more authors aren't jumping ship. And why a lot are, and why, most likely, even more will in the future. I know of quite a few midlist romance authors who are having phenomenal success with their e-books (that their agents just couldn't sell for whatever reason). I think the fact that a NYT bestselling author walked away from a two-book $500,000 contract speaks volumes. I don't think he'll be the last.

Midlist authors disappearing isn't me making it up. It's what I keep reading in news outlets and from hearing authors talk about it. I'm not trying to disparage what anyone's doing - I'm trying to be realistic for myself and for what I want.

I'm also realizing that this is probably a topic I can't discuss here at this blog, so it's probably not one that I'll be bringing up or engaging in again. :)

 
At 3/23/2011 10:56 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

One last thing to add - I'm not anti-publishing. If someone came calling with a print deal for me, yeah, I'd more likely than not jump on it. I'm not anti-publishers. I think publishers have provided a valuable service for a very long time and helped a lot of people. But I'm also saying that there's a new avenue open to writers, and that's exciting to me. :)

 
At 3/23/2011 10:57 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

"I'm also realizing that this is probably a topic I can't discuss here at this blog, so it's probably not one that I'll be bringing up or engaging in again. :)"

Why? This totally confuses me. Isn't discussing exactly what we are doing here? I don't believe anyone on this list is belittling e-book publishing or e-book self publishing. No one is saying don't do it. In fact, of the people I read in these discussion who say don't do it, almost all of them are talking about traditional publishing.

At least the way I see it, what we are doing is having a bunch of published and published authors from a variety of backgrounds discussing the pros and cons of both traditional and non-traditional publishing. If this discussion is somehow bad, then it makes me wonder what people are actually looking for. I know you fairly well, and I don't believe you are looking for a bunch of flag wavers saying, "Rah, rah, rah. It's great do it!"

Before I made a major decision like this, I'd want to talk with all the people on both sides of the issue.

 
At 3/23/2011 11:47 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Tina, thanks for stopping by. You are definitely very inspiring! I think your success is awesome!

LisaAnn, I'm so with you on this one. I just had to shell out $12.99 for Maeve Binchy's new e-book. And I did it because I heart Maeve Binchy, but it annoyed me. I paid out money for Jeff and Julie and Kerry and Stephanie because I know them. I'll pay the higher e-book rate for Rob's "Variant" because despite me cyberstalking him, he won't give me an ARC. But they're people I know. Someone I'm not familiar with? I'm not going to be paying that kind of money for an electronic book. I really do think publishers need to seriously rethink this approach and lower their prices.

Jeff, I just got a couple of personal emails that weren't what I would call appropriate over this. That's what I was referencing. :)

 
At 3/23/2011 12:16 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

I'm fairly new to buying ebooks so I only own a couple of dozen of them.

I do think ebooks are a great option for those who want to self-publish, but they must realize it will be even harder to promote in my opinion. And the chances of them making huge sales are the same chances of a traditionally published book making huge sales. There are many factors, and a huge one is just plain luck.

Yes, ebook sales are doubling and tripling, but the majority of those are from traditionally published authors.

I just hope those who are planning on self-publishing an ebook will do their proper due diligence and hire an editor and cover designer.

Also, I think the competition has already begun and is very fierce. The trend is well underway.

 
At 3/23/2011 12:23 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

E-publishing is here because technological advances have made it possible. Traditional publishers are jumping on this bandwagon. Things are advancing rapidly and who know what the Lord has in store for ten or even five years down the road. The Church has a page on Facebook. I didn't see that coming a few years back. More and more members have their scriptures on e-readers.
This may not specifically address the thoughts of those posting before me, nor is it meant to. Just my thoughts and impressions.

Charlie

 
At 3/23/2011 12:55 PM, Anonymous Moriah Jovan said...

I'm anti making bad business decisions.

Well, I can't really say I've ever met anyone who was PRO making bad business decisions.

Bad business decisions get made every day in and out of publishing. Lots of people turn their hobbies into businesses, make money, but then kill their love of their hobby deader than dead, so that was a BAD BUSINESS DECISION even though it made money. (Oh, cross stitching, please come back. I WANT to love you again, I do...)

I run Stonehouse Press, which is Warren Adler's publishing company. (Warren Adler wrote War of the Roses, in case anybody here is as old as I am and can remember seeing that movie as a first-run.) He is one of the pioneers of self- and e-publishing, but he is very aware that for most people who self-publish fiction, it's a matter of what he calls "psychic satisfaction." And that's fine.

So it's not always just about business. Sometimes it's not about business at all.

We all define "bad business decision" in different ways. And what may look like a teeny little bit of money to one person is thrilling to another. People don't need to be protected from themselves.

 
At 3/23/2011 2:44 PM, Blogger Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Interesting comments, one and all. I'm looking at e-pub for a few projects that I know will not find a traditional publisher for various reasons, perhaps the same reasons they were rejected previously: "This book is great, but it doesn't quite fit our line," for example for a NF book for teachers. I'm also seeing a line of demarcation, so to speak, between my earlier writings, some novels that people often ask me about but which haven't been picked up by publishers, and the new projects I'm working on. These new projects are definitely going out to traditional agents and publishers, yet I'd like to see some of my previous projects also see the light of day, so e-publishing seems to fit best for them. On those projects I'm not worrying so much about numbers and I am the peace of mind at feeling like they had their chance to inform or entertain.

 
At 3/23/2011 3:22 PM, Blogger LisaAnn Turner said...

The cheaper ebook option really does need to be considered. I live in a very rural area and my access to, let's say, LDS authors is pretty limited. Unless they're way popular like Lund or Anita Stansfield my library won't carry them.

I can't afford to fork over money to buy very many books. So, I don't get very many opportunities to read LDS fiction. Which sucks! If these same books were available at a discounted price via ebooks I would buy A LOT of them. But at the current price, I don't buy any. Publishers need to realize the consumers they are alienating by this ridiculous price issue. Come on, they really can't have invested all that much extra to get the books formatted so what's the hold up? Are they worried about hurting their hard copy sales? But considering the cost of hard copies, would the trade-off of ebook sales really hurt them?

Thanks for your post!

 
At 3/23/2011 4:02 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Charlie, I have thought about how things will change in how LDS information can be presented to a general market. How typical, national readers may never pick up a book like Jeff's Shandra Covington because they don't shop LDS stores/catalogs, but if it were a well-priced e-book on Amazon, they might very well get a great suspense with a main character who just happened to be LDS. It is fun to think of how things could happen!

Lu Ann, I think a lot of authors are feeling the way you are, and maybe it is time to get those projects online!

LisaAnn, I'm not an LDS publisher, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that they're probably not going to do $4.99 e-books when their trade paperbacks cost like $15. I think most publishers are afraid they're going to cannibalize their own sales, which is why Amazon was forced to enter a deal with publishers where publishers get to dictate the e-book prices and Amazon's not allowed to discount them. (If you take a look at a nationally published e-book, right below the price you'll see a little note saying that the publisher set the price! LOL)

I don't know at what point publishers will come around - it certainly took the music industry a long time to understand that iTunes was a good thing - that they could still make money selling songs at low prices and selling them one at a time.

 
At 3/23/2011 7:35 PM, Blogger Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

I just ran across this Tweet from agent Ted Weinstein that contains a spreadsheet authors can use when considering legacy publishing vs self-publishing, as recently discussed by J.A. Konrath and Barry Eisner on Barry's blog. For what it's worth: http://www.twliterary.com/selfpub/

 

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