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Self Published Books

A place to debate issues or to rant about what's on your mind. In addition to discussions about historical fiction, books, the publishing industry, and history, discussions about current political, social, and religious issues and other topics are allowed, so those who are easily offended by certain topics may want to avoid such threads. Members are expected to keep the discussions friendly and polite and to avoid personal attacks on other members. The moderators reserve the right to shut down a thread without warning if they believe it necessary.
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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Thu November 20th, 2008, 5:40 am

My rule of thumb for buying self-published would be to get to know the author first.

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Thu November 20th, 2008, 10:30 am

[quote=""Divia""]Riddle me this...

If a self published book is good. Why can't it make it at a publishing house?

Just curious.[/quote]

CW answered it all superbly Divia.
Basically there's too much product chasing too few traditional publishing slots. For every slot available, there might be a thousand applicants. My agency receives around fifty unsolicited submissions a day, six days a week, every week of the year. These are people chasing the desire to be mainstream published. The agency will take on between one and three new clients a year from that pile. My publishers, LittleBrown UK have taken on one person in five years from their unsolicited slush pile. The rest of the time they take from agencies. The odds against getting a novel, even a very competent one, mainstream published are not stacked in the author's favour.
When I started writing, I was thought of as a bit odd by my friends and family. There were no such things as creative writing degrees or writing weekends or all the other blah that goes with the craft now. These days the world and his wife are busy writing the next big thing. 99% of them are never going to be published in the traditional way so those of that percentage who want to see publication are going to have to go down other routes.
I have seen and assessed material on slush piles and I have to say it ain't pretty. It really is like delving through manure in an effort to find diamonds. They exist, sure they do, but the sheer tonnage of unsuitable fare can be mind-numbing. Some of that mind-numbing stuff can and does wind up as self-published fiction - as do some of the missed diamonds of course, or the diamonds overlooked because publishers are spoiled for choice.
C.W. You are so right about people being impatient and not editing enough. The latter is perhaps the most important part of the process. Putting the words down in a creative splat is fine, but honing them into something that readers are going to want to consume is a different thing entirely.
Another reason is flavour of the moment. If you have written a novel set in an unpopular period or about a subject that publishers don't think will sell (a novel about the life of a medieval cat-skinner or city dung farmer for e.g. might not do well in the commercial market!), then an author may have to consider self-publishing no matter how dazzlingly written. The package has to be right.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

Carla
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Post by Carla » Thu November 20th, 2008, 11:56 am

[quote=""EC2""]Another reason is flavour of the moment. If you have written a novel set in an unpopular period or about a subject that publishers don't think will sell (a novel about the life of a medieval cat-skinner or city dung farmer for e.g. might not do well in the commercial market!), then an author may have to consider self-publishing no matter how dazzlingly written. The package has to be right.[/quote]

Agreed. I put my novels on Lulu after I got tired of getting variations on "Loved your novel, great characters, cracking plot, really well written - but we don't know how to market it!". Fair enough - I haven't tackled a medieval cat-skinner (!), but one novel is set in an unfashionable period ('Anglo-Saxon' Northumbria) and the other is neither a historical nor a fantasy.

I also agree with commenters further up the thread about the unfairness of expecting readers to pay $25 for a book on Amazon that they can't get from a library to try out first. That's why I give the entire book away free on my website as a PDF, so that anyone who thinks they might be interested can browse to their heart's content before they shell out any cash, and why I use Lulu for the paperback version, as I can set the price lower on Lulu than I could on Amazon.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Thu November 20th, 2008, 2:31 pm

Okay, off my soap box. Thank you for indulging me and feel free to tell me to shut up
Thanks for getting on the soap box, it was very enlightening. I had forgotten that I was one of the preliminary reviewers for Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award. This was before the final picks that were actually posted on Amazon. There was some promising stuff there, but some that were well, not so good.

Carla, nice to see you promoting your book this way. With as many book bloggers there are out there, wouldn't it behoove these authors to offer their book out and get it reviewed and noticed? Better yet, offer a kindle version and/or e version.

I have to say that this book I had did have the Search Inside feature and if I'd bothered to pay attention and use it I might have changed my mind.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu November 20th, 2008, 3:04 pm

I have to pitch in here. I co-own a small press, which represents myself and a few other authors. In the last four years I have gotten a very close look at the fate of the publishing industry. This past month, Harper-Collins lost all of its profit for the whole year; Rodale had to cut its staff in half, and two mid-sized publishers went bankrupt. More of this is on its way.

You see, they are stuck with a business model that was adapted to a technology and a market now twenty to thirty years out of date. And it is called RETURNS. Somewhere in the distant past, a publisher promised bookstore clients that any book that didn't sell could be returned to the publisher for a full refund. That made sense when books were expensive and shipping was comparatively cheap, stores expected to keep books on their shelves for a year before they sold, and there were only a few hundred titles produced a year.

The new reality is that shelf space is so expensive that books are given 8 weeks to sell, and then they are out. The shipping is more expensive than the production, so most 'returns' are simply pulped and a bill sent to the publishing house. The stores may order more stock than they need, because there is no risk to them; some books are shipped out and paid for by the publisher that never see the light of day. So in October, book sales were so far depressed that the 'return' bill sent to Haprper-Collins by its many clients was greater than their whole year's profit.

Now up against that inefficient model, three factors are coming at the traditional publishers like a train wreck.

The first is print-on-demand technology, which is used for 90% of what is sold online -- not just for the self-pubbers, but also the big guys on midlist and backlist titles. The book is produced from a digital file the day it is ordered, mailed directly to the customer, and the moeny shuffled electronically into all the right places. No returns, no pulping, no overhead from a brick and mortar store. All profit.

The second is audiobooks. I didn't read EC's last two books; I listened to them on my drives back and forth from L.A. I bought them online from audible, downloaded them onto disks, and off you go. My friends listen while excercising, while commuting, while doing housework. This market is growing like mad, now that cell phones can play an MP3 file.

The third is books in the many electronic formats. Ebook readers are improving, and will continue to improve. Again, no returns.

And out there in the near future, for those who prefer going to a real place and buying a real book, is this machine, which I predict will be coming soon to a Starbucks (or some similar shop) near you.

Meanwhile, the publishers are locked together with their partners the bookstores in their current 'dance of death'. I remember reading the lament of a marketing-department head at one of the major publishers: "Nothing works anymore. Reviews don't work, back-cover blurbs don't work, ad campaigns don't work."

The publishers are trying to stay afloat, cutting their losses by taking fewer unknowns, publishing only big names with a proven fan base. It doesn't matter whether the book is as good as the one that launched a writer's career; they have a following and it will sell. This is known as 'marketing platform' and unless a writer has a large one, they will not get picked up regardless of the quality of their product.

Most self published books are awful. But I predict that in future, everyone will have to start by self-publishing and prove their book with real readers before the big publishers will dare to take them on. If the big publishers survive themselves, that is.

annis
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Post by annis » Thu November 20th, 2008, 5:48 pm

Thanks, MLE, this is all really interesting. I guess that the publishing industry, like the music industry, has been too slow to respond to change, and we've certainly seen what's happened to the music industry. It is hard to let go of a model which has proved a reliable cash cow for many years. It does mean that the responsibilty for getting your product out there now lies more with the artist/writer.

Providing free samples of music on their websites has worked well for musicians, so making sample chapters available or whole books as in Carla's case should also work. For musicians the change has meant that taking their music live to the people has now become essential- not sure how that translates for authors-- I dont think going back to the Dickensian model of giving theatrically inspired readings from your books would be a goer!
I notice quite a few book promotions are now being done through Youtube, and i've certainly checked out quite a few of those, and blogs as well.

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Leyland
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Post by Leyland » Thu November 20th, 2008, 6:30 pm

[quote=""cw gortner""]With the advent of personal computers, many people think they can write a book; they have all the best of intentions but do not take the time to master the craft.

Make your manuscript the very best it can be. Get dozens of people to read it, especially people you barely know who'll do you the favor. Join a writing critique group, join three. Write, write and re-write. Revision is key.
[/quote]
A born storyteller could definitely educate themselves if they intend to write their stories down and then sucessfully sell to a discriminating market.

Learning proper syntax and spelling are basics and hopefully we've all learned that in school. If not, it's never too late to learn from a used English 101 textbook :) . A self-published writer has the spelling check and other tools at hand when using MS Word or other word processing software, so spelling errors should never get into print. A word might be spelled correctly but used in error and I find those in my business writing and research papers. Careful read through of the first few drafts would identify those, I'd think.

I've bought a few books on proof-reading for business school research papers and believe that beginning writers without professional editors can still polish up manuscripts on their own if they learn as much as they can about proofing before letting others at it. If you're imaginative enough to create a great story, then you should be smart enough to learn to tell it on paper!

Fresh eyes are critically important and writing groups could be a writer's best friends. If a writer goes there, then possessing too much sensitivity may be trouble. Developing thick skin might help if a writer can't take critiques gracefully and constructively. Mental radar to detect possibly jealous or spiteful 'friends' may be necessary though - is sabotage a possibility?
We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams ~ Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Ode

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Thu November 20th, 2008, 9:55 pm

I plan to self-publish

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3564
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu November 20th, 2008, 10:29 pm

[quote=""annis""] not sure how that translates for authors-- I dont think going back to the Dickensian model of giving theatrically inspired readings from your books would be a goer!
I notice quite a few book promotions are now being done through Youtube, and i've certainly checked out quite a few of those, and blogs as well.[/quote]
The new publishing model could learn a lot from the changes in the music industry, but as for the public readings -- yes, that is exactly where it is going. Not readings, per se, but speaking. Those who want to sell books must learn to be effective communicators on many levels, including speaking.

Anybody who publishes a book nowadays will be faced with the question (whether from traditional agents/publishers, small presses, or self-publishing) of how and to whom the product is going to be sold.

Authors who think being on the web (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders.com, their own website) will do the trick are showing their inexperience. The future of book sales is personal contact, speaking gigs and reader word-of-mouth. Or keyboard, as the case may be. Which means that the product had better be good enough for your readers to recommend it to their friends, or it's DOA.

annis
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Post by annis » Thu November 20th, 2008, 10:44 pm

Sounds as if the model of the shy, reclusive author will be a goner :)

i can see that for audiences now personal contact is the thing which has the novelty value, used as we are to doing everything at an electronic distance.

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