Two Years?

I just came across some pretty disturbing information about the time frames involved in legacy publishing. Right now, from the time a book is signed until it’s actually released is running upwards of two years. TWO YEARS! And in some cases, we’re talking about ebooks taking that long!

What on earth are publishers doing with writers’ manuscripts that it takes them two years to publish them? I mean, seriously. I’m asking the question.

As an individual, I can put an ebook out in a matter of months. That includes a couple rounds of editing, copyediting, cover design, formatting, uploading, and marketing. And I work full time, so it’s not like I just have all day to do these things. If I can do this in a matter of months, why does it take publishers years? These are people with staff. With resources at their fingertips I could only dream of. And it takes them twenty-four months to put out a novel? As a freakin’ ebook?

And if you tell me that it’s because of backlog, because there’s too much in the pipeline to begin with, then the problem is only going to get worse. I’d say it’s time to fix that pipeline problem. Hire some additional staff or publish fewer books, faster. It’s not rocket science. I’ve worked with a large publisher, and I have to tell you that the inefficiencies in that system are astonishing.

Yet they wonder why indies are doing so well? As an indie author, I can see a market trend that I find interesting and I can write to it. I don’t have to wait three or four years (if you consider the time to write the book, get an agent, make the submissions rounds, and finally get signed, in addition to the actual publishing time) for someone else to put my book out. I see a trend, decide if it’s something I can actually passionately write about, and I can write it and have it out before that trend has reached its peak.

Publishers have a very hard time doing that anymore, because their publishing workflow and timeline is just too damn long. There are too many steps to the process that aren’t necessary and there are too many points of failure (and let me tell you, they do fail, and in my experience, they fail quite often). There are hundreds of digital tools out there that can be used to speed up the publication process and make it more productive and more useful, and from what I can tell, large publishers aren’t using any of them.

Granted, some publishers are putting books out rather quickly, in less than a year (my own non-fiction book was done in less than eight months between the time I signed the contract and the time it was available on Amazon, and less than a year when you look back to when the proposal was originally submitted). Some small fiction publishers manage to get books out in a matter of months. But the standard, the length of time most legacy published authors are coming to expect, is now eighteen months to two years. And that’s after the contract is signed.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t acceptable. Let’s actually crunch the numbers here:

I write a novel. Let’s say it takes me six months to get it into submission-ready condition (which is typical for a lot of professional, career-oriented authors). Let’s say I start this on January 1, 2012 (for ease of tracking). It’s ready to go on July 1, 2012.

I send it out to agents. It takes six months to find an agent who wants to take me on (which is honestly probably a bit on the quick side, as I know a lot of people who sub for much longer, but we’ll be optimistic here). It’s now January 1, 2013. It takes that agent another three months to find an interested publisher, and a month beyond that to negotiate an acceptable contract (again, this is being optimistic, but I’m trying to paint a best-case scenario here, not a worst-case one). It’s now May 1, 2013.

The publisher schedules it for release in April of 2015, just under two years after the contract is signed. But that’s three years and three months after I started writing the thing. And don’t forget that I’ll need to do a good bit of marketing after the book is released, so I better just round it up to four years.

Now, let’s say I have a very good agent, and she gets me a good advance for a first-time author: $30,000 for the book. I know a lot of authors would jump at that kind of advance, and a lot of them are getting paid a whole lot less than that. But broken down yearly, that’s only $7,500.

You might argue that during the two years that book is with the publisher I can be writing other things. But that publisher might just (probably does) have a clause in their contract saying I can’t publish any other novels (or even book-length works) before this one comes out. So effectively, my hands are tied. And the publisher isn’t going to contract another book from me until they see how the first one fares.

$7,500 a year. A part-time minimum wage job at McDonald’s pays more than that. Sure, you might get royalties down the line, but probably not until after that four years is up. And even then it’s completely up in the air whether you’ll actually get anything more than your initial advance. And we’re expected to make a living on that? I don’t know about you, but that wouldn’t cover my mortgage for the year (and I live in a very, very inexpensive area).

Authors need to look at writing and publishing as a business if they want to actually make a living at it (and if you don’t, then ignore what I’m saying here). You need to site down and crunch the numbers and the time involved in each and figure out which one fits your own goals. Just remember that there are indie published authors out there who are making the best seller lists (including at least two in the Kindle Millions Club), so that’s not a deciding factor anymore.

What I’m Reading: Indie vs. Legacy

So I was thinking about my reading habits due to a few discussions on various websites, and I realized something: for the past six months or so, I’ve been reading a ton of indie published books and books published by very small publishers, and very few legacy published books. In fact, most of the legacy published books I’ve read in the past six months were purchased a long time ago and have been sitting in my to-read pile for awhile.

Since I got my Nook Color back in the spring, I’ve read ebooks by Amanda Hocking (indie), Zoe Winters (indie), Lindsay Buroker (indie), Greta van der Rol (small press), Kimberly Menozzi (small press and indie), Poppet (small press), Calista Taylor (indie), and Randolph Lalonde (indie). Print books I’ve read this year only include Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series (which I started reading last year) and Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. Oh, and some books I either picked up at places like Big Lots (when they’re $2 apiece for a hardcover), or books that have been shared among myself, my mother, and my grandmother (like John Grisham’s A Painted House). Continue reading

Writing: Career or Hobby?

I was driving home from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 midnight release one night (my husband’s airsoft team always does an appearance at these things) and we got talking about creative pursuits as a career vs as a hobby. It started out, I think, with a discussion of the music industry. Individual recording artists are often upset about the low royalties being paid out from services like Spotify. They get a fraction of a cent for each time their song is played, meaning they have little chance of gaining any kind of real income from these plays. And so they decry the industry and these services, and say they’re what is killing the music industry.

Independent movie producers say the same kinds of things. They only make a few cents (if that) whenever their movie is streamed via Netflix. Unless their film is viewed millions of times, they won’t make much money off of it.

I hear the same kind of thing coming from a lot of authors. If they’re forced to sell their ebooks at $.99, they’re only making $.35 on each sale. They have to sell thousands of copies to make any money. (The same things are said at $2.99, $4.99, and pretty much anything under the price of a mass-market paperback.)

Part of this has to do with the number of celebrities we see in each of these fields, and pretty much every other creative field. We see the J.K. Rowlings, the Stephenie Meyers, the Stephen Kings, of the world, and we think that that’s what success looks like. We think that all we should need to do is write something great (or not so great, depending on your opinion) and the riches should follow. Continue reading

An Experiment with KDP Select

Earlier this year I published a women’s fiction book, Hold My Hand, but have done very little to promote it (I sent it to a couple of review sites, but so far no reviews have been posted). Sales, as could be expected, have been dismal.

So yesterday, when I logged into my Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) dashboard, I was very intrigued by the new KDP Select program. Basically, KDP Select lets indie authors add their books to the Kindle Owners Lending Library in exchange for a 90-day exclusive with Amazon (you also get 5 days of free promotion during that 90-day period). Now, the best part is that you earn a royalty every time your book is loaned out. There’s a royalty pool each month, and you get paid based on the number of times your book is loaned, based on the percentage of the total number of loans.

The book will still be for sale during this time, but only via Amazon. It’s in the process of being un-published from everywhere else (though I’ll probably put it back up once the 90-day exclusive is over). I’m hoping that if nothing else, this will get the word out about the book, and hopefully even get some reviews. If, at the end of the three months, there’s no change in sales and it hasn’t been borrowed much, then I’ll have to rethink some things about the book (probably the cover first).

So, I’ll post an update at the end of the 90-day period and let everyone know how it went. I’m also interested in how others who are trying the program fair, so if you are, please let me know in the comments how it goes (feel free to post a link to your own blog if you write a post about it).

Why $2.99 Doesn’t Devalue Your Work

There seems to be a certain camp in the writing and publishing worlds that feels like selling a novel at $2.99 is somehow devaluing that novel, and novels in general. The idea seems to be that readers will refuse to pay more than $2.99 for novels eventually, and that will somehow topple the publishing industry.

But no one is asking whether readers should pay more than $2.99 for most books. We’ve just accepted that paperbacks are priced at $8.99-$16 and that hardcover books are priced at $20-$30. And so we feel like ebooks should be priced somewhere along that line, too. But does anyone know why a mass market paperback is priced at $9? Or a trade paperback at $16? Or why a hardcover book is $25?

In the 1960s, a paperback book might cost anywhere from 25¢ up to around $.75 or so depending on the length, publisher, genre, author, and specific year (you can find evidence of these prices by looking at old book covers from that era). Now, a lot of these books were shorter than what we’re used to these days, coming in at around 150-200 pages. They were “pocket books”, in their truest sense: they would fit in your pocket. Continue reading

Transparency in Indie Publishing, Month 10

Wow, it’s hard to believe that I’ve been self-publishing for ten months now! I hit a big milestone this month: I sold my 1,000th ebook! This is a huge deal to me, since most self-published books never sell more than a couple hundred copies. I’ve also had my best sales month to date.

As far as marketing this month, I’ve been plugging a little bit on Google+ and Twitter, which I know has generated a few sales. And I had a couple of new reviews on Amazon (if you’ve read either of the books and feel like leaving a review, I really do appreciate them!), some of which were really favorable. One of my favorite quotes from a review of The Great Healion Race:

This is not Edward and Bella, living in perfection for all eternity. These are two adults with overwhelming baggage as the ballast for their journey. I especially appreciated how Ms. Chapman allowed her protaganists to be messy, angry and human.

Seriously, that’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about my books. Because that’s exactly what I was going for: complicated people who have messy, screwed-up lives, and find a way to love each other anyway.

Below are my sales numbers for this month. I saw a drop in sales for the second book, but a big jump in the first book. Hopefully that will translate to more sales for the second book in the next couple of months. Continue reading

A Quick Note About a Common Self-Publishing Misconception

This is going to be short and sweet.

I recently came across someone on a forum talking about how they wouldn’t recommend self-publishing ebooks via Amazon because then you only get the Kindle crowd. And my eyes bugged out of my head.

When you self-publish your own ebooks, you can distribute through as many platforms as you like. That means you can publish on Amazon for the Kindle via KDP, on Barnes & Noble for Nook via PubIt!, and on Smashwords for everywhere else. You can also self-publish on your own site or other sites you find (so long as it doesn’t interfere with their terms of service, and if it does, I’d run away from that site as quickly as I could). Let me repeat:

You can publish on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and elsewhere, simultaneously.

You don’t have to pick just one. These are not publishers who expect you to turn over your rights. They’re distributors. They allow you to publish to particular platforms, nothing more, nothing less.

Do yourself a favor and publish to as many platforms you can manage if you’re self-publishing. Don’t limit yourself!

Pushing for 200 Sales!

There’s less than 10 hours left in November (in the EST time zone anyway), and I’m having my best sales month yet for The Steam and Steel Chronicles. I would really LOVE to break 200 sales this month, but I’m still a ways away from that. Not so far that I don’t think it’s possible, though.

But I need your help! If you haven’t bought the books yet, now’s your chance. They’re only 99¢, available for a variety of ebook reader platforms (including Kindle and Nook), and are sure to entertain you (I hope).

Here are the links to buy them:

Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris:

Barnes & Noble | Kindle/Amazon US | Kindle/Amazon UK | Smashwords | Goodreads

The Great Healion Race:

Barnes & NobleKindle/Amazon USKindle/Amazon UKSmashwordsGoodreads

If you’ve already purchased them, then please pass along the links to someone you think might enjoy them. Post a link on your Facebook page or on Twitter. Send out an email. Or even buy them as Christmas gifts for family members.

What am I offering in return, you might ask? My unending gratitude. And it will give me more motivation to get the third and fourth books finished (the first draft of the third book is already done, and I’m about 75% of the way through the fourth book). Nothing extraordinary. (Though I am planning some pretty awesome stuff for the release of books three and four…)

See? I’m not at all above begging for sales! I just think it would be really awesome to end this month on an even higher note than it’s already at, since winning NaNoWriMo and having great sales anyway.

A Rant About Self-Publishing Rip-Offs

Okay, so I was going to mostly stay out of this debate/conversation (with the exception of a brief status update on Google+), but the more I think about it, the more it pisses me off.

I guess I should start at the beginning. Back in April (?), I signed on as a private beta tester of Penguin’s Book Country site. I had been a relatively early member of Authonomy but that site had gone downhill and I was looking for somewhere new to converse with other writers, get feedback, etc. Book Country looked like the place to be.

I posted some work, got some feedback, had some conversations in the forums, and generally found it to be a decent resource. I kind of stopped using it around mid-summer, though, because I had a lot of stuff going on.

This week, Book Country did something that has made me decide to close my account. They’ve started offering self-publishing services.

Now, I self-publish and have no interest in working with a legacy publisher. Ever. And I understand that not everyone wants to take the time to learn to format their own books. That’s fine. What I take issue with, in Book Country’s case, is their complete and utter price gouging. Their pro package, which offers ebook and print book formatting and uploading and basically nothing else that you couldn’t find with some quick Google searching, is $549. That’s FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY-NINE DOLLARS. I’m sorry, but under what system is that not a total rip-off? Continue reading

Over 1,000 Sales Since February!!! (And a NaNoWriMo Update)

As of today, I have sold more than 1,000 ebooks since February! This is a big deal for me, as it means over 1,000 sales in less than 10 months, for an average of more than 100 books sold per month.

To celebrate, I’m making Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris available for free for a couple of days through Smashwords. If you haven’t started reading the series yet, here’s a great way to start! All you need to do is enter the coupon code HN48E at checkout and you’ll get it for free (the coupon code expires on the 19th, though I’m not sure at what time). All I ask in return is that after you’ve read it, leave a review on Smashwords, Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or elsewhere if you feel like it. I’m not asking for positive reviews, just honest ones.

It’s said that most self-published books don’t sell 100 copies total, so I feel like the fact that I’ve sold over 1,000 so far this year is a big accomplishment, and one worth celebrating. So, please, feel free to pass this coupon code along to others, or share this post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or wherever else you want.

I’m also at over 28,000 words on book 3 of The Steam and Steel Chronicles, which I should be finishing up either today or tomorrow. Then it’s on to book 4, which will be packed with adventure, more so than any of the other books in the series. I’m really excited about writing it!