Tag Archives: traditional publishing

Choosing Your Path

Happy Tuesday, Scribe’s followers. PJ Sharon here, sharing my thoughts on a topic near and dear to my heart—choosing your path. I love being the Captain of my own ship!

My fellow Scribe sister, Sugar, did a great post yesterday on reasons why one should consider pursuing a traditional publishing career. She had some excellent reasons for doing so. You can read about them here. For as many reasons as there are to seek a traditional publishing contract, there are just as many on the side of going Indie (the PC word for self-publishing).

But how does one know which path is right for them? How do you choose your path to publication?

First, let’s happily recognize that there are now many options open to writers for getting their stories into the hands of readers. Up until five or so years ago, that wasn’t the case. A writer had to jump through hoops and pound on a lot of doors, hoping to sneak out of the slush pile and onto the shelves through a series of death defying strokes of luck. If they grew weary of the chase (and the dozens of rejections), they could pay thousands of dollars to have someone publish their work for them and end up with nothing more than a trunk full of books. This soul-sucking practice, called “vanity publishing”, was more or less a scam to bilk writers who were desperate to see their work in print and couldn’t make the cut with traditional publishers for whatever reasons.

For some writers, the reason for rejection was as simple as having their books not “fit the market”. Traditional publishers were in that unique position of having thousands of “applicants” vying for the ten slots they might have available. They were the gate keepers who decided what books got published, where they were distributed, and what types of books readers were likely to buy based on what was currently selling on the market. Those parameters left a lot of amazing writers out in the cold with no way in.

Fast forward to the digital age of Amazon, e-readers, and the new world of publishing. Writers could now bypass the query-go-round, skip fighting for an agent, and jump into the fray with the hundreds of thousands of other writers making their books available to the masses. Yes, there is crap. Yes, there are still poorly edited books that shouldn’t see the light of day, and yes, the market is so saturated that it’s a wonder that anyone can sell more than a single copy of their book these days. But over the past few years, the quality of books being produced by Indie authors have steadily improved as they’ve learned to hire good editors, cover artists, and formatters to help them in producing a competitive product. And the avenues through which to sell those books continues to grow daily.

For those not interested in handling all of the fine details, there are a plethora of small press publishers cropping up to take those chores off the shoulders of the author.
But buyer beware. Anyone attempting to handle their career on their own without the advice of an agent or the backing of a reputable publisher, is in for a bumpy ride with lots of pot holes. I’ve had a few missteps, but have managed to avoid many of the big pitfalls myself by participating in yahoo group loops where Indies congregate and share information. They have been an invaluable resource in navigating the shark infested waters of the publishing world. Honestly, I haven’t seen that small press publishers do much more for authors than they could do for themselves, but if you are looking to get a foot in the traditional publisher’s doors, and don’t want all the responsibilities of creating your masterpiece, a small press might be a good first step.

As Sugar mentioned yesterday, many authors are NOT making buckets of money, whether they are DIY’ers or traditionally published, but there are also many in both camps who make a good living. There seems to be no tried and true way to guarantee success, and I’ve come to the conclusion that success in publishing requires dogged determination, perseverance, and a huge chunk of luck. Timing is everything and no one seems to know what will sell tomorrow or why some of the crap that comes along the pike sells like hotcakes. But one thing is for sure, the doors are open and it’s as good a time as it has ever been to be an author…no matter which path you choose.

If you’re still on the fence, I’ve created this short list of pros and cons that might help you decide.

Traditional Publishing
PROS: See Sugar’s post from yesterday. If you want the name recognition and backing of a reputable publishing house, a support team of editors, cover artists, and marketing professionals, and access to distribution and space on store shelves, this might be the route for you. It can take considerable time and effort to break in, but if you are lucky enough to be a top seller, your path will be paved in gold, the red carpet rolled out for you, and your tiara awaits! Kudos for making the big time!

CONS:  If you know that your story is a tough sell with a traditional publisher, you have a time sensitive topic that needs to be published NOW, or you aren’t willing/able to work to someone else’s deadlines and demands, this might not be a good fit for you. Also consider that negotiating contracts can be tricky and getting the attention of a good agent to help you navigate the process can be daunting. In addition, if you aren’t a top seller, don’t expect a second contract, and your dismissal may mean that it will be tougher to get contracted with another publishing house.

Small Press Publishers
PROS: Generally speaking, it’s somewhat easier to get in the door and you’ll have a faster turn-around time getting your product to market with digital first publishers. They will handle the editing, cover art and formatting for your book, and may even give you some tips for effective marketing…or not.

CONS: Depending on the sales of your e-books, you may never qualify for a print version of your book. And let’s face it, most of us still want to see our books in print and on store shelves. Royalty rates may be higher than larger houses but getting those royalty checks within a reasonable amount of time and having access to your sales numbers is hit or miss. It also seems that small press publishers do very little to help their authors with marketing, (please feel free to let me know if I’m mistaken), which for me would be one of the few incentives to move on over to traditional publishing. The other is the coveted ADVANCE, which you will likely NOT get from a small press publisher. Or if you do, it will be well…small. As it stands, it wouldn’t make sense for someone like me who has established myself in the Indie realm to jump on board with a small press. They really can’t offer me much that I’m not already doing for myself.

Indie Publishing
Love those 70% royalty rates! (Even at the 35% royalty rate for lower priced books, I can charge .99 cents and still make more per unit than trad authors whose books sell for $7.99). I can change my price point at any time, update my covers, or change my categories and descriptions on retailer sites, which is enormously helpful when running a sale or promoting my books. Love the control I have over every aspect of my product. Love setting my publication schedule and not worrying about meeting someone else’s deadlines. Love the real time sales numbers so I can easily keep track how my promotional efforts are working…or not. Love the flexibility and freedom!

Hate that I don’t have access to mass distribution of print books. Hate that I have upfront costs of a support team, ie: editors, cover artists, etc. and NO ADVANCE. Hate the stigma of being “self-published”, although this is slowly becoming less of an issue and I’m not one to be too concerned about what others think of me, anyway. Hate that I am solely and completely responsible for everything—including writing, producing, and marketing a high quality product that may or may not sell based on a market that is constantly changing.

Hybrid Authors
I have not wrapped my mind around how anyone can do this without being able to write full time. To have multiple projects, deadlines, and demands from more than one publisher as well as self-publishing would make me insane! Fast and prolific writers are doing it every day, and if you’re writing in more than one genre, this makes sense.

For me, the best of both worlds will be when authors and publishers can be on equal footing and work together to create great books and put a system in place to get them into the hands of readers; when authors are paid fairly for their work with contracts that reflect the best interests of BOTH parties, and when marketing becomes a joint effort that takes into account that a “target audience” doesn’t necessarily live in a box.

Then everyone will be happy and there will no longer be “sides” to the issue. Publishing will simply be publishing, and whichever path you choose, it will be the right one for you. You’ll gain the respect you deserve from peers and industry professionals, there will be rainbows and butterflies, and we will all live happily ever after.

What do you think?

Kickstarting Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here. Please welcome Michael J. Sullivan. He is much too modest below. He writes kick-ass stories and is super generous with his time. As I

Michael J. Sullivan
Michael J. Sullivan

mentioned a few weeks back, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael and his wife at ConnectiCon and it was a wonderful, fun time!

Today, Michael is sharing his experience using Kickstarter to fund his science fiction novel Hollow World. Michael will be stopping in to answer questions so be ready at the end!


I want to thank Casey Wyatt for inviting me to do a guest post. For those who don’t know who I am, let me start out with a very brief introduction. My name is Michael J. Sullivan and I’m a speculative fiction author. I have a varied publishing history and have “done it all”: small press, big-six (five), and self-publishing. I also try to do what I can to help authors navigate this wild world that is publishing in 2013.

I had self-published five of the six volumes in my debut series, The Riyria Revelations and then sold that to the fantasy imprint of Hachette Books (Orbit) who republished it as three two-book omnibus volumes:


I had fully intended to self-publish my next series of books, The Riyria Chronicles, but Orbit made me a nice offer for them as well, so I signed my second contract with them.

Riyria 2

When I decided to switch genres to science-fiction, Orbit wasn’t as enthusiastic. They loved Hollow World but didn’t think it would sell well and that I would be better off sticking to fantasy. So they passed. This was fine with me, as I could return to self-publishing, a venue that has worked well for me in the past.

Hollow World

One of the things I’ve always felt strongly about is that if you are going to self-publish you should produce a product that stands toe to toe with anything coming out from New York. In the past, my self-published books did exactly that, but because I was operating on a shoe-string budget, I had to do a lot of the work myself. That meant cover design, meticulous copy editing, and layout. Being traditionally published, I was spoiled. I liked having a team of professionals doing all this for me so that I could concentrate on writing other books while the production was being done on the book I had just completed. And this is what brought me to Kickstarter.

Hollow World 2

I desired to use the same professionals that my traditional books use, which is easy because many of these people are freelancers. I contacted the artist who did the French edition of my Riyria books (his covers are my favorite of all the versions both English and foreign) and got a quote for artwork. For structural editing (something that many self-published author have to do without), I turned to Betsy Mitchell. She has thirty years experience editing science fiction and fantasy and was the editor-in-chief at Del Rey for over a decade. At the time of the Kickstarter I hadn’t yet selected who would do the copy editing but I had a pretty good idea about the costs for that. In total, I figured $6,000 would cover all the production aspects of the book.

Now, let me be clear…I’m not saying you need to spend this kind of money when self-publishing. Some of my self-published books cost me just $50 (for ISBN and distribution channels), while others ran around $500 – $700 (main cost was in editing). So it can be done cheaper, but these are the people I wanted, and if I could make that happen, that was my first choice.
I’d never run a Kickstarter before, and I didn’t want to fail. So I set my goal at $3,000. My thought process was that I would finance ½ of the startup myself and hopefully my readers would finance the other ½. My worries about not fully funding turned out to be unwarranted as the Hollow World Kickstarter ended up finishing at just under 1030% bringing in $30,857. What this meant was not only did I get the production costs covered, but I got a nice “advance” as well.

I should note, that there was a bit of a miscommunication with my agent, and she had submitted Hollow World to another publisher after Orbit had turned it down. That publisher made a nice five-figure offer, but I ended up passing on it because I wanted to try out the Kickstarter route. I’m very glad that I did.

To me the whole process was a real eye-opener. I’m already familiar with the high revenue that self-publishing can bring, but it has the cons of:
• No advance
• No team of professionals
• Initial out-of-pocket expenses

Using Kickstarter took care of all of these problems. Not to mention it solved the cons of traditional publishing such as:
• Getting the project past the gatekeeper
• No control over the product produced or price it is sold at
• Most of the money going to the publisher
• A greater concern over how much money a book will earn rather than how good a read it is.

Now, I should note that I don’t think Kickstarter is for everyone and every project. In my case, I already had an established readership. To start off with no following makes crowd funding VERY challenging. For this reason, I suggest Kickstarter to those who already have a fan base. It doesn’t matter whether that is through self-publishing, traditional publishing, or even just a large blog following. The important thing is knowing a sizable number of people who believe enough in your work that they are willing to help make it a reality.

Also, not every Kickstarter is as successful as this one. At the time it completed it was the highest funded Kickstarter for a single traditional novel in the fiction category. There were some that funded higher, but they were either for a series of books, an interactive story, or an anthology. Some of the reasons I think mine worked well include:
• I had already written the book, which reduced risk and ensured people that they were actually going to get a final product
• People saw the caliber of people I was employing, and supported the concept quality
• I had already commissioned Marc Simonetti’s artwork and used it in my promotion – again demonstrated the high quality I was shooting for.
• I had existing readers that I could reach out to. I didn’t bug or pester them, just “made it known” and let the rest take care of itself.
• I provided some nice perks: free short stories, posters of the artwork, signed bookmarks, and a wide range of contribution levels ($2 – $250).
• I gave the contributors a period of “exclusivity.” They received the books in July but the rest of the world would have to wait until January. This made them feel special as they had something that other readers couldn’t get.
• I offered a variety of formats including: limited edition signed hard covers. I also provided the ebook to everyone that bought the print edition, and at the higher levels they got a hardcover (to sit on their shelves), a trade paperback to loan out, and the ebook to read.

Since running my own Kickstarter, I’ve become a big fan, and I’ve funded a number of projects. I really like the entrepreneurial vibe that Kickstarter fosters. As a contributor, I feel like I play a part in getting something that sounds interesting to market. I’m also hoping that authors will see my success as a template for works that they have shelved. Usually this is because they couldn’t get the book picked up by traditional publishers or they were offered too little money. Now, if they believe in the project, and they can get their readers to as well, it will see the light of day…gatekeepers be damned.
Kickstarter is just one of the myriad of changes that is opening up opportunities for authors. I think it is important for authors to keep abreast on what is going on and be agile. Remember, what worked yesterday, may not be the best choice today. I know I’ll certainly look toward Kickstarter and other avenues for my future projects.

Michael, thank you for being our guest today. Scribes fans, have you ever contributed to a Kickstarter campaign? And if not, would you do so in the future?  And, please, feel free to ask Michael questions! He’ll be stopping by to respond to comments.

Imposter Syndrome

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here. If you have a moment, please stop by my blog. I’m hosting another Goodreads giveaway to celebrate the paperback release of The Undead Space Initiative.

Lighthouse, Stonington CT In case you hadn’t yet heard the news, Mystic Storm will be published in 2013. And while this is my third published novel, I still feel like a giant imposter.

Like someone is going to single me out and yell – “Fake! Fraud! She’s not a real writer!”

I know that sounds totally ridiculous but I know I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way. I have heard an established NY Times bestselling author admit to having the same feeling – that no matter how many novels you write and sell that this one might be your last.

That you will never, ever write anything “good” again. Your career will be over!! You’ll be a “has been”, the equivalent of a dried up old spinster.

Eek! What’s a writer to do? Well, for starters, it’s time for a reality check.

By the power invested in me I say to you –  You’re a writer. A real, honest to goodness writer. Doesn’t matter if you’re unpublished, published big, published small, self-published, or any variation in between. If you’re dedicated to the craft of storytelling and you are actively putting words on a page, you’re a writer.

Feel better?

If not, and you’re still fretting,consider this:

1. Ignorance is bliss. Remember back in the early days of writing before you knew any of the “rules”? When it was a thrill just to type those words on the page and “publication” was some far off dream on a distant shore? If you find yourself traveling down the road of uncertainty, hark back to that earlier time. Too many “rules” equals zero fun. Ditch’em. Be that dreamer again. The completion of one book doesn’t mean you’re doomed to never write another good story again.

2. There are many paths to publication. Readers don’t care who published your novel. All they want are well-written, entertaining stories. I know I don’t go looking for books based on who published them. I just want to read something good and judge accordingly.

3. Tell the Doubt Monster to shut his (or her) gob. If you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, consider it a form of self-doubt. Cut it out.

And finally, square your shoulders, hold your head up high and be proud of your accomplishments (no matter how big or small they are that day, week or month).

Now say it with me – “I am writer, hear me roar!”

Time for the truth – who else has had imposter syndrome? And what are your suggestions for combatting it?

Interview with Author Jenn Reese

Greetings Seven Scribes Fans!  Jamie K. Schmidt here filling in for J Monkeys.  Keeping with my crafty resolution, I’m going to give away another pair of earrings to a lucky person who comments on this blog post.

Today, I’m pleased to introduce to you an old friend of mine, Jenn Reese.  Her MG book, “Above World” is scheduled to be released on Valentine’s Day this year!

Tell us how Above World came about.  What was the spark or the “what if?” moment that made you decide to write a middle grade book about Aluna and the Coral Kampii?

As ridiculous as it sounds, I was sitting around one day and I thought, “You know who would make an awesome space captain? A mermaid!” That’s what gave me the idea of combining mythology and science to get my various bioengineered humans of the future. Although I dropped the space captain angle, I do mention “sky ships” in book 1 in honor of that initial spark.

How did you go about searching for an agent and what made you decide to go with Joe Monti from Barry Goldblatt Literary? What was harder to write, the query letter or the synopsis?  Got any tips for improving a query/synopsis?

I am fortunate to have many published friends, so the first thing I did was ask them for their agent spreadsheets. Then I researched for months using agentquery.com, Publisher’s Marketplace, and several different mailing lists. I created my own spreadsheet with data and feedback from others until I had a three-tiered agent hunt list.

I got two offers from my first tier, and chose Joe – a decision I have never regretted. Joe had been to my website, read my blog, and I was confident that he wanted to represent me – in all my geeky glory – and not just this one book.

I spent over a month working on just my query letter and synopsis while friends read the latest draft of my novel, and I think it was time well spent. I’m certainly no expert, but I definitely recommend going lean and mean in your query. No unnecessary details about either your novel or yourself. Your goal is to get agents intrigued, to get them to ask for more. The longer your query letter is, the more likely you are to say something that will turn them off.

Did Joe have any edits for you? What about Candlewick?  How long did it take you do the revisions?  Did you wrestle with the changes or did they fit with your vision of the book?

LOL. Yes, both Joe and my editor at Candlewick, Sarah Ketchersid, had edits. Lots of edits. They all made the book stronger. (Joe is notorious for wanting more fight scenes, a request I am always delighted to indulge.)

Admittedly, you can’t always tell right away if you agree with the suggestions. I have to sit on editorial notes a minimum of four full days before my brain starts thinking about them constructively. For Above World, I actually changed the book’s villain. Instead of killing him at the end of book 1, I killed off a lieutenant instead and saved the Big Bad for future books. (A suggestion that implies the need for future books? I’m all over that!)

In the end, every single editorial pass — one from Joe, one before we sold, and two under contract – made the book immeasurably better. I will be forever grateful that no one has to read the book as I originally wrote it.

The cover to Above World is gorgeous. As a graphic designer yourself, can you tell me what you think makes this cover so great?

I love the cover! Candlewick was generous enough to include me in design discussions. We all wanted something bright and gender neutral that hinted at the fantastical elements of the science fictional plot. I think the intense colors and simple, bold design scream “adventure,” and I couldn’t be happier!

The artwork is by  Alexander Jansson (http://www.alexanderjansson.com/) and the cover design is by Candlewick’s Kate Cunningham.

Your first book, Jade Tiger — an adult urban fantasy, was published in trade paperback by Juno a few years ago and you’ve just recently released it out for Kindle and Nook. What can you tell us from an author’s perspective about the difference between the two mediums?

When the rights to Jade Tiger reverted back to me, I enjoyed converting it to ebook format – mostly because I was able to edit the book slightly and take out a section that had always bothered me. (No, I’m not telling you what it was!) I’m also loving the ability to change the book’s price whenever I want, just to see what sells. Ebooks give authors the control that they crave.

Having said that, I still vastly prefer to sell my books traditionally. It’s not just that the money is better, it’s that the book itself ends up better. All those amazing editorial notes! Copyediting! Proofreading! Professionally designed cover and interior pages! Marketing, sales, and publicity teams! Distribution channels! I would be lost without Candlewick.

Traditional publishing is for me – no question — but I love that authors now have a choice. And I also love that many authors are now putting their out-of-print backlists online. So many wonderful titles that we once again have access to! “Out-of-print” will soon be out of style.

I noticed you’re doing a book signing at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, CA on 2/17/12.  Did you set that up or was that something Candlewick did?  How did you set it up?  What are your plans for the signing are you going to read chapters or give a talk?

The signing is a result of networking. While I was at the World Fantasy Convention, a good friend introduced me to the awesome Maryelizabeth Hart who manages publicity for Mysterious Galaxy. She took care of everything, including contacting my publicist at Candlewick (the equally awesome Tracy Miracle). I’m sharing the signing with a fellow debut author Sara Wilson Etienne (check out her novel Harbinger!), and we have yet to decide what we’re going to do. It will be my first-ever such event. Suggestions welcome!

Jenn Reese’s book “Above World” will be available on February 14, 2012. You can pick it up at Barnes and Noble  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/above-world-jenn-reese/1104308923  or wherever you prefer to buy books!

Inspired by the denizens of the City of Shifting Tides, the Coral Kampaii, I’m giving away a pretty pair of lampwork glass fish earrings to match the cover of Above Word.  I’ll announce the winners here around noon Thursday, January 12th.


Last week’s winner, Katy, will receive these funky vampire earrings.  

Frankie Robertson: Veiled Mirror

Veiled Mirror

Happy Friday everyone! Casey Wyatt here. I’m so excited! Today we have a special guest blogger: Frankie Robertson sharing her self publishing journey. Take it away Frankie!


Thanks, Casey, for inviting me to blog here today!

I’ve been writing about my self-publishing journey on my own blog, http://FrankieRobertson.wordpress.com. One thing I haven’t talked much about is how my traditional publishing experience has compared to self-publishing.

When I started writing the path was pretty clear: publish some short stories, write a novel, get an agent, agent sells book, money rolls in, repeat. I’m not sure it was ever that simple, but that was the prevailing paradigm back then. Boy, have times changed! When I write that now, I feel like I should open with, “Once upon a time. . .” but it wasn’t a complete fairy-tale, I know people this  worked for. People who told me,“ I’m
glad I’m not trying to break in right now.”

Nevertheless I persisted. Then, on the same day my husband found out that he’d made his first short story sale, I found out that I’d made mine! I was pumped! Hallelujah! The tide had turned! The future was rosy!

Several weeks later I learned the magazine’s editors had gotten into a power struggle. The editor who liked my story lost, and my story was dropped. No contract, no sale.

Eventually I did make that first sale. It was a contest win that included payment and publication in an anthology of speculative romance (SUM 3) but I refused to let myself get quite as excited about it. Not until it was printed and in my hands. I’d learned
that the publishing business could be uncertain – everything about production
was outside the author’s control.

A year ago I sold Veiled Mirror to The Wild Rose Press. It was the third novel I’d completed but my first novel length sale. I love the cover Rae Monet created, and the communication with my editor Laura Kelly is wonderful. She had a light touch while still
strengthening my book.

I decided to self-publish my second book. I probably could have sold Lightbringer to TWRP. Why didn’t I?


It came down to a perfect storm of reasons:
•    I’d read a lot about the potential of self-publishing.
•    I had more than one friend who had done it. (It no longer seemed like a heresy.)
•    I wanted the higher royalty per unit sold.
•    The requirement to self-promote is no greater than with small press and trad-pub.
•    I could bring it out in less than four months instead of a year.
•    I wanted to practice before I self-pubbed  my two fantasy-romance novels.
•    But perhaps the most compelling reason was:  I wanted more control over my career.

I’m really glad I had the opportunity to learn from being published with The Wild Rose Press and I would consider publishing with them again. It gave me confidence and it taught me about the process. The biggest difference between my traditional and self-publishing experiences is that with TWRP, I had one person to ask when I was confused about something. In self-publishing, there are hundreds, but I had to decide who to listen to. And in the end it’s all up to me. Even though I chose to hire out the
cover, the editing, and the formatting, the ultimate end product will be a
result of all the decisions I made over the last four months.

And I love it! I have never been more excited about writing and publishing than I am now. Self-publishing may not be the right choice for everyone, but it was for

Thanks for letting me share my story with you. Please join me over on
my blog where you can  read excerpts from Veiled Mirror and Lightbringer. Veiled Mirror was just released (Yay!) and is available at http://www.thewildrosepress.com and http://amazon.com.). Lightbringer will be available in late November.


Thank you so much Frankie. Best of luck with both novels.

Please share your thoughts on traditional vs. indie publishing. Which path are you taking? One or both? Debate and discuss!