My Novel got Rejected Again

After revising my query and trying again, I finally got an agent to request a partial. After she read it, here’s what I was told:

” I read it and found the plot interesting, but wasn’t as taken with the dialogue or writing, so I’m going to pass on the opportunity to represent this.”

I offered another novel that’s totally separate but that was declined as well (without being read).

So what does this mean? Ironically, I thought the writing and dialogue were good and the plot not so much, so this agent saw things completely opposite. However, as of this writing I’m over 17.5k reads in less than 3 months, and my story is consistently in the top 400 (as high as #49) out of at least 100,000 fantasy stories on Wattpad, so clearly there is interest in Bradan’s story. Per popular demand, I will post book 2 as I have no ability as of yet to market the novels themselves. I will continue to try to seek a traditional publisher but if no one wants the novel, I will self-publish the series rather than sit on them forever.

While I appreciate this agent’s time in reading the first 50 pages of ERA OF BRADAN, it’s disappointing that yet again, I cannot get interest in a novel that, as I note above, has a pretty solid following on Wattpad, especially given that it’s my only book and I only began posting it this calendar year. While the number may fluctuate, I gain about 1000 new reads every 4-5 days, which means close to 7,000 new fans a month or another 55,000 by the end of this year (this is just at current trends- typically as books get more reads, they attract even more people so I could end up averaging 1,000+ a day). Now that’s not a lot of reads on Wattpad, but it does suggest there’s interest in this story. Keep in mind this is a MG novel and isn’t even the right age for Wattpad’s readership. By the time I post the second novel, I should be able to easily get over 100,000 views (and no money for it). This doesn’t even count my kid beta readers, the few who’ve read the whole thing on PDF and have liked it, if not loved it.

I get that agents have a lot of submissions and it’s a totally subjective field. But I think they are looking for different things than what readers are looking for. And remember, we aren’t even up to the publishers yet. Oh well. In the meantime, back to selling card games.

 

What do you think about the traditional book publishing process ? Have you experienced rejection within the industry?

Do Million Dollar Debut Authors Help or Hurt Publishing?

Million Bucks

Point One: Book publishing, like the entertainment industry at large, relies on a few breakout successes to overcompensate for the projects which don’t succeed. Point two: We as humans are wired for “narratives” in our lives-thus we seek opinions which confirm our pre-conceived notions, rather than being challenged.

For book publishers and authors, nothing beats a “rags to riches” narrative, given the struggles of pretty much every author who has a book, many who may live in poverty or low-income conditions, who see their work come to life via publisher. They watch the book become a hit, get rich, and stand tall as the next wave of eager beavers send in their manuscripts, in the hopes that their book might be the Next Bit Thing (NBT). The desire to stand on top of the mountain and shout to everyone behind you “yes, you can do it. See me? See me? I did it and perhaps it could be you.” Whether that desire is eager optimism to help fellow authors or a cynical ploy to sell “services” or “advice” to wannabes, depends on the author.

The desire to find the next breakout story drives publisher to seek the NBT. The problem is, it’s not really clear why some books do phenomenally well and others don’t. If it were, publishers and agents would only accept authors with a 95% chance of that book hitting the bestseller’s list. (Subscribe to my blog for a future post on this 95 percent confidence interval and what it means). But since determining those books is difficult without market research (which I don’t see them do for most books), they are left to what we used to call in grammar school “educated guesswork” or “guesstimates”.

The Wall Street Journal had a recent article about the “millionaire debutantes”- authors who got $1 million or more for their first book. This is like the legendary City of Gold or Shangri-La for authors, since it’s so rare to ever hear of an author receiving an advance this big. Or is it?

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, a former marketing copywriter in Los Angeles, dreamed for years of becoming a novelist but never had any illusions about earning a living from it. Her goal in writing her first novel, “The Nest,” which she tackled in her early 50s, was merely to finish it.

In a whirlwind week as publishers read the manuscript last December, HarperCollins’s Ecco editorial director Megan Lynch made a pre-emptive offer to publish the novel for at least $1 million. “I never imagined people would respond that way in a million years,” said Ms. Sweeney, 55. The book, about four adult siblings whose anticipated inheritance has all but evaporated because of one brother’s bad behavior, is scheduled to be published next March.

Literary fiction, long critically revered but poorly remunerated, is generating bigger and bigger bets by publishers. Thanks to a spate of recent runaway hits such as “The Goldfinch” in 2013 and “All the Light We Cannot See” last year, publishers are increasingly willing to pony up enormous advances to secure potential blockbusters.

Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads have contributed to a culture in which everyone reads—and tells their friends about—the same handful of books a year. It’s increasingly a winner-take-all economy, publishing executives say.As a result, publishers are competing for debut literary talent with the same kind of frenzied auction bidding once reserved for promising debut thrillers or romance novels. “If they feel they have the next Norman Mailer on their hands, they’re going have to pay for that shot,” literary agent Luke Janklow said. “It’s usually the result of a little bit of crowd hysteria in the submission.”

“They’re basically betting on the book establishing itself as an important book in the canon,” Jane Friedman, co-founder of e-book publisher Open Road Media and former CEO of HarperCollins said of Knopf’s deal for “City on Fire.” “You’re betting that this is going to be the most-read book of the year.”

The lack of a sales track record is one of the factors that makes debut authors most appealing, publishers say, because there is no hard data to dampen expectations. “You can pin all your hopes and dreams and fantasies on a debut novel,” said Eric Simonoff, an agent known for negotiating seven-figure advances.

Some worry that large payouts for debut novels could do more harm than good. They put pressure on first-time authors and consume resources that otherwise might go to authors who have posted moderate sales, some agents and publishing executives said.

“It’s not that they’re betting on the wrong writer, it’s that the bet’s too big,” said Morgan Entrekin, publisher at the independent house Grove Atlantic, who noted that Grove can’t afford seven-figure advances.

Moreover, if the book doesn’t turn a profit, the relationship between the author and publisher can sour. And those disappointing sales figures are available for any other publisher to peruse when the author tries to sell her next novel. “That is a scarlet letter that you don’t get out from under,” Mr. Janklow said.

Indeed, million-dollar investments in debuts often don’t pan out, publishers and other industry experts say.

Read that quote by Eric Simonoff again and scratch your head. Is that how a business should operate? Committing millions of dollars to unproven projects because you could project your fantasies onto them?

Authors, unlike musicians or actors, are generally not public figures and rarely have the extroversion needed to build a massive social media or TV following to sell books. Whose fault that is you can argue all day. But the point is, you don’t see any reality TV shows featuring the writer’s life or asking aspiring writers to read their best flash fiction on-air for judges. Just imagine if publishers took most of that over-sized advance and instead committed it to marketing their books. Might they not sell more, especially of the ‘midlisters’?

The whole point of an advance is to provide authors with a source of income for their writing while they waited for their books to sell and collect royalties.But how can you justify handing one author a million bucks, probably 20 years’ of pre-tax pay for their job, when other authors barely get enough to pay their mortgage or rent? Or get nothing at all? Especially when who gets what is based on guesswork and not data.

The bottom line is, in an age where Amazon and self-published authors are taking market share from the traditional publishers of all sizes, the last thing the Big Five need is to spend millions on “guesstimates” of which books will succeed, enriching a tiny, tiny number of lucky authors while leaving the 99.999% out to dry, and focus on marketing the titles they already have. Then they might not need to rely so much on blockbuster titles.

photo: http://mymoneycounselor.com/net-worth-how-are-you-doing/million-bucks

 

Nielsen says: More Dead Trees Coming

A recent blogpost by Joe Wikert, Director of Strategy and Business Development at Olive Software, recaps data from Nielsen Bookscan on the reading habits of Americans. Here is Joe’s analysis:

Self-publishing and the Big Five are crowding out everyone else – According to Nielsen’s data, from Q1 2014 to Q1 2015, self-published books have grown from 14% to 18% of the overall market. In that same period the Big Five’s share has grown from 28% to 37%. Meanwhile, the rest of the market, all the large, medium and tiny publishers, have seen their share decrease from 58% to 45%.

The print/e split is now roughly 74%/26% – Plenty of articles have been written about the plateauing ebook market. Most publishers report ebooks represent anywhere from 15% to 30% or so of total revenue. According to Nielsen, the current state of equilibrium is closer to a 74%/26% split. That ratio varies widely by genre, btw, but it’s worth looking at your own rate to see how it compares to the overall industry average.

Price drives ebook interest – According to Nielsen’s consumer survey, almost 60% of respondents said they’d choose e over p if the savings is at least $4 for the former. Additionally, approximately 50% said they’d do the same even if the ebook is only $2-3 cheaper than the print version. So as publishers wrestle back consumer pricing via the new agency model, driving ebook prices up, it’s clear they’re inadvertently (and sometimes deliberately) nudging consumers back to print.

Consumer prefer print and e, not or – 49% of consumers surveyed said they bought print and ebooks in the past 6 months vs. 42% who only bought print and a paltry 9% who only bought e. Just because a consumer buys ebooks doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned print. This is a huge opportunity most publishers are overlooking. Why aren’t there more digital products that complement print rather than assume the ebook is replacing the print one?

Amazon dominates subscriptions too – It’s been hard to find data on the all-you-can-read ebook subscription market but Nielsen is finally shining some light on the model. And just as they do pretty much everywhere else, Amazon is crushing it. First of all, according to Nielsen only 5% of consumers have signed up for any ebook subscription solution, so the market remains small. Kindle Unlimited led the way with the largest chunk of market share, jumping from approximately 40% in January 2015 to almost 60% in April. Scribd and Oyster were tiny players by comparison in that period, and they’re only getting smaller. Given their teensy share of a small segment, it’s no wonder Oyster is going away soon.

Let’s add that many e-books do not have ISBN numbers and their sales don’t count. If they were, the share of self-published would be higher, between 20-25% of all sales. The takeaway here is the squeeze smaller companies are holding, every single publisher that isn’t the Big Five or one of their imprints. This is worrying, because most publishers are not big corporations or their subsidiaries. If the trend continues, you will see a gap between the select few who get a major publishing contract, and those who self-publish. Those who pursue an indie publisher could wind up at a disadvantage down the road.

Like most people, I prefer print books, but I’m more likely to buy e-books. Why? I spend all day on screens, and print books are essentially my “escape”. With non-fiction, I like being able to physically have information I may need later. Anecdotally, most people I know who are not avid readers prefer print to e-books, though nearly all own some type of e-reader (includes smartphones).

The publishers are overpricing most e-books, and it’s pretty clear they want to protect paper sales. That’s partly why paper is still strong- most people figure for $15 they should just get the paperback. Personally, I think that’s a mistake- the e-book ought to complement the print book, not compete against it. If self-published e-books continue to rise, this model may change as publishers much charge a price comparable to an indie-published book, which means growth in e-books.

Subscription models are the new model of business for many distributors, whether or not they’re good for content creators. Increasingly, consumers expect to get a buffet at their business of choice, paying a flat rate for all the products they can consume. The problem is, not all subscription models are sustainable, and many content creators (rightfully) object to some of the practices by the distributors, namely in how little the creator gets compensated while the distributor keeps most of the money. To be fair, a lot of authors have complained about this with the traditional publishing model too, and it is a legitimate topic of discussion.

The conclusion: Continue to write e-books, but don’t stop killing those trees just yet. A lot of readers want them for their books, including yours.

Is Publishing Unfair?

camnanowrimo.org

Such was this question floated in The Atlantic:

Last month, the Jamaican writer Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his riveting novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings. A spate of articles came out documenting his win, noting the fact that the 44-year-old James was the first Jamaican to win the prize. One article by The Guardian however,focused on the fact that the manuscript of James’s first novel, John Crow’s Devil, was rejected close to 80 times before finally being published in 2005. It also discussed how James had given up when faced with such vast rejection. “There was a time I actually thought I was writing the kind of stories people didn’t want to read,” he said, going on to describe how his desperation drove him to destroy his own work. “I actually destroyed the manuscript, I even went on my friends’ computers and erased it.”

This article was shared among writers on social media with exclamations of, “don’t give up!” and “keep at it!” But this reaction reminded me of the exuberance of many when Obama was elected President: To them, his election demonstrated the country had become blissfully “postracial,” despite all evidence to the contrary.

Time and time again, the literary establishment seizes on the story of a writer who meets inordinate obstacles, including financial struggles, crippling self-doubt, and rejection across the board, only to finally achieve the recognition and success they deserve. The halls of the literary establishment echo with tales of now-revered writers who initially faced failure, from Stephen King (whose early novel Carrie was rejected 30 times before being published), to Alex Haley (whose epic Roots was rejected 200 times in eight years). This arc is the literary equivalent of the American Dream, but like the Dream itself, the romantic narrative hides a more sinister one. Focusing on how individual artists should persist in the face of rejection obscures how the system is set up to reward only a chosen few, often in a fundamentally unmeritocratic way.”

The article author goes on to discuss race and publishing decisions, sans #weneeddiversebooks hashtag. While that is another issue for another time, let’s ask ourselves whether talented writers are being ignored by incompetent publishers who are a) evil, b) incompetent, and c) run by folks who are really, really bad at sales.

Just as occasionally athletes who were undrafted make a huge impact on their team, sometimes authors who were missed by the traditional system will have a second chance self-publishing. Just search for ‘self-publishing successes’ and the names of those who have ‘made it’ self-publishing will be there; many who were rejected so many times they took their shot with the internet, others who got their book rights back or were dropped by publishers, others who didn’t even bother trying.

The thing that drives artists crazy is that art is subjective. Unlike providing accounting services or inventing caffeinated peanut butter or chickpea pasta, there isn’t really any portion that is objective, besides a properly edited book. Even the cover is subjective.

Yes, one can argue that some authors are really exceptional at their craft, or that more people liking a particular story makes it better. Or most people agree a particular cover is better-looking than another. But at the end of the day, art is subjective. Meaning we have no way of knowing whether our work is liked enough to be bought until it’s out there. There has never been a golden age where artists of any kind were appreciated and most artists earned enough from their work to earn a living. We’ve ALWAYS had a few artists making most of the money. I would venture to say the top 50 bestselling authors worldwide earn more from their writing (only their earned portion of the royalties and advances received) than every other author combined, author being defined as having published at least one full-length novel for their genre that is sold for a price besides free.

As publishers are run by human beings, it’s natural like sports scouts, they will miss a particular talent, or choose to overcompensate the latest YouTube celebrity or Wattpad sensation with a bigger advance than could be ever earned back, while authors who could sell more than all of them get a smaller advance, if they even get offered a book contract. No, it isn’t fair, but private companies are not democracies and don’t need to be fair. With limited resources, and with art so subjective, editors and anyone else involved in buying book rights have to take their best guess as to what will be popular in the upcoming years when the book is actually published. Most of the time they guess wrong, occasionally they guess right, and rarely they guess super correctly, but those are the books which keep the company profitable.

Having said that, the author of The Atlantic article is correct in saying that the current publishing system is inefficient and does favor a select few. The few authors who have ‘made it’ happily talk about their rejection letters as proof of their ‘perseverance’. The even fewer who become millionaires from their writing are sometimes even more nauseating, as I have yet to see one of them say the traditional system is unfair, particularly to new writers. Of COURSE they will come out and defend the status quo, because THEY got rich off of it. Since they cannot truly explain why they got rich since art is subjective, they inflate their own writing abilities and defend a mismanaged system.

It should be obvious to every reader of this post why the traditional publishing world and their authors tout their ‘don’t quit’ stories, and this is important for you to understand. The closest I can explain it is a casino. Like respected artwork, winning at table games is largely out of your power. You may know the rules, you may have some experience that increases your chances of winning table games, but most winning is arbitrary. You may win the more you play, or you may not. You could win on your first hand or your twentieth, or not at all. Money you win is paid for by others who have played, or sold books. Bestsellers generally generate enough revenue to subsidize not only those authors’ lifestyles, but also purchase new books that might become the Next Big Thing. This is a lot of why publishers tend not to take risks on new ideas or new authors, sticking with the familiar faces and/or ideas that are like the last bestseller, with some changes in plot and character names. This increases the chances of finding more bestsellers to generate revenue.

Theoretically, if everyone knew which books were the best, we’d have a lean, efficient system and likely far fewer authors, meaning better earnings for those who do write. But no one has a clue. Not publishers, not editors, not agents, not authors, not the self-publishing world, not readers, no one. Therefore, traditional publishers require these ‘I made it!’ stories to make sure the authors who are talented keep querying agents and waiting for their book to be picked up. If the stories stop coming in, the system as we know it will collapse.

To be fair, indie publishing sort of functions the same way. Not for those who just want to publish their 1 or 2 books and be done with them, but who see writing as a career. You do remove the ‘middlemen’ and go directly to readers. But if you actually believe that you’ll hit it big by your fifth book, you’re fooling yourself. Your book is subjective, and it might hit it off or it might not. Anyone telling you indie is more ‘democratic’ is also not correct. It’s the same principle behind why people fear flying more than driving, even though flying is statistically safer: it’s the illusion of control. Just as we can’t control other drivers, indie authors cannot control whether potential customers (readers) will like their product enough to pay for it.

At the end of the day, book publishing has far bigger problems than if they miss some gems, because they always will. Getting people to read instead of doing other things. That said, the author of this article is partially correct: a lot of great work is being ignored. But a lot of great work has always been ignored, and will always be ignored, no matter what we tell ourselves otherwise.

 

How I Sold Fifty Thousand E-books Without Spending Money

character: Lazy Sal, Futurama.

This the kind of click-bait/low-quality post you see on author boards like Kboards and elsewhere. Basically, some author wants to brag about how s/he banged out a book in two weeks, bought a stock image book cover, added their name and book title on it, and uploaded the completed file to Amazon with no editing or formatting, and then saw the book go to #1 on the Amazon bestsellers list for three straight weeks. It’s tough to know who’s telling the truth and who’s just looking for attention, but they do bring up a good question: How much should you spend on a self-published book? Estimates vary, with some people going all out for about $1500-2000 a book and some people saying the spent $5 on a stock photo and otherwise no editing, no formatting, just plopped a cover on there and soon it was making them tens of thousands within a month.

I honestly cannot figure out how any serious author can produce such low-quality work and expect to be successful. Yes, maybe once or twice someone spent, like, ten bucks on a cover, threw a book up on Amazon, and sold 100,000+ copies and is now seeing their movie being made into a Hollywood film. Maybe. Realistically, those people with the shortcut attitude will be lucky to sell more than 500 doing that. But who knows? Apparently you can write Justin Bieber fan-fic and get a million or billion views, or write a poorly written book and sell 100 million, so why not?

The answer should be, there is no “right” answer. If you can barter for editing services, good for you. If you’re a natural artist and you can make a great cover, good for you. Otherwise, any good book should have 1-2 qualified editors (people with a background in editing, at least one of them an actually book editor), at least three reliable beta readers (helps you test plot holes and pick up anything the editor could have missed), and someone who can actually create a book cover. Whether you spend $40 or $400 is irrelevant, whether your total is $300, $500, or $2000, as long as you get the cover you want and can make sales with the best looking product you can make. It’s not the cost, it’s the quality.

The bottom line: You don’t see major publishers or bestselling indies skimp on every process of book creation any more than Rolex skimps out on producing a luxury watch. Wouldn’t you rather emulate the successful than the bragaholic cheapskate looking for clicks?

I can’t answer for you, but I know A LOT LOT LOT of people with that kind of attitude. They want to show off how cheap they are or how little effort they can put in. It’s like someone saying that, instead of producing a great video, they just farted on their webcam, uploaded it to YouTube, and had 500,000 views in a month. Oh wait, I think that did happen.

They put in the minimal effort into everything, and then wonder why they aren’t successful. Hm.

For the record, on one of my just-completed novels, I hired an editor with six-plus years Big 5 experience. She actually was reasonable, in the triple digits for a full development and line edit (the line was the major cost). I will let you know how she does after she finishes work, but so far I’m very enthused about working with her.

What about you? How much do you spend on producing your book? Do you do any marketing?

New Author Earnings report. And…very good for indie #authors

The friendly folks at Author Earnings have taken it upon themselves to measure how much we’re making-at least if you’ve published anything, which I have not (yet- stay tuned, yung’ns). And a look at this says that if you’re an Author Going On Your Own (AGOYO), the bag is mostly good, but some data is still incomplete, IMO.

First, the bad: Indie book sales per title dropped from a high of $4.26 in October 2014 to $3.87. Some people might say this is great, lower prices=more sales, even if you give away the occasional freebie.

BUT (and there’s always one of these) the average e-book sale price of:

small/medium publisher- $9.53, down from $10.81 in October 2014

Amazon Imprint- $4.29, up from $3.95 in February 2015

Big 5 publisher: $9.83, higher than $9.58 in February 2015.

So while the authors who actually had their book published “legitimately” saw there average price per sale go up, indie sales went down. This isn’t great, because this is the average price for what people actually paid, sans freebies. A lot of this is due to authors who can “box” their books, 3 for 99 cents. This may drive total sales, but the cost per e-book is dropped way down. So what’s the actual sales volume?

may-2015-combined-titlecount

Small and medium indie publishers really took it here!

may-2015-combined-unitsales

201505-marketshare-trend-unitsales-datefix

This chart is significant. For the first time ever, 2015 saw the year where Indie sales actually surpassed the collective sales of the “Big Five”. But this is what happens when you charge $12.99 for an e-book, which is merely a digital file. B&B understands the need to pay for more than one editor, book cover designer, etc., but that is a LOT for an e-book. The authors least bothered? Those who earned success in the pre e-book era (pree-book)

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 3.28.19 PM

This is one of the charters I was looking for. Rather than a pie chart which just compares slices of pie versus the total sum, this one shows that every day, indies are selling about 370,000 books, about 100,000 more than “Big Five” published authors. Figure in the high pricing of the e-books.

Author Earnings has their own take on it, which you can read on your own. Here’s the B&B spin:

First, AE is missing one thing- total sales split between the bestsellers and total. The reason we need to see this is to know how much bestsellers are bringing up the market. While 370,000 a day is insanely good, what if the top 25 indies are selling 60% of that. Suddenly the numbers don’t look so appealing to the rest of us. The same with the other published- how many sales are by the bestsellers, versus the rest? I’d like to see that. I have a feeling more than half of total Big Five sales are from the big names and not the midlisters.

Now, to play devil’s advocate, the trad-pubs still have a lot to offer. Since many people still buy print books, medium and larger publishers still have that market cornered since most indies are not very good at handling their own shipping and distribution network. Book translations? Big pubs can take care of that faster than you can, and at no immediate cost to you (though the QUALITY of translation remains to be seen). Want to see your movie on the big screen? While a small number of indies have made it, the largest share of books-to-movies comes from trad-pubbed books. The biggest blockbuster franchises, besides 50 shades, are all trad-pubbed. Indies make a lot of money by quantity more than the other models have.

But the reality is in: cheaper, affordable e-books, written by people who have great stories and were simply not given the time of day by lit agents or publishers, are what readers crave. Authors who can connect with a loyal audience do much better than those who barely acknowledge their fans, except maybe for the occasional retweet or Facebook like. Authors who offer some promo item, whether a “buy 2 get 1 free” deal or a piece of merchandise with every print sale, can engage much faster and more efficiently than when your work is being managed by someone who has one too many authors to promote, and all of them are more famous and respected than you. Also, I am still amazed by how incompetent the publisher’s marketing is. The number one challenge is not to redistribute the wealth, but grow that pie of people reading for pleasure. Put me in charge and you will see book sales increase as I go out to engage kids and adults who might try a book 5 hours a week instead of more Netflix shows.

Finally, to  quote from Author Earning’s October 2014 report:

“What the data tells us, then, is that self-publishing is just as viable as any other form of publishing. Perhaps more so. No one can halt your career because an early title underperforms expectations. You get to hire the editors and cover artists you want to work with. You get to write whatever you want and publish whenever and however often you like. And you can publish every which way. Self-publishing used to close you off to other avenues, now it simply opens them up. Many authors publish in several ways simultaneously.”

“Every author will need to find their own path. There is no one right answer. If there’s anything the data tells us, it’s that readers are starving for great stories at fair prices, and whoever can deliver that consistently has a chance at earning income doing something they love. Maybe not a great chance at earning a full-time living, but a better chance than at any other time in human history. And that must be celebrated, however you crunch the numbers.”

So if you are indie or represented by a small/medium publisher, you could pop the bubbly right about now. While I do not cheer for the demise of the larger publishers, they had it coming. Without being able to tell the reader why one story was better than the other, their high-priced model faltered. Without being able to properly measure quality and an author’s ability to generate sales volume, rather focusing on the already-built “platform” which the author had without the publisher’s help, they struggled to move books. Without the appearance of customer-friendliness as opposed to selling to bookstores and wholesale distributors, they saw their numbers fall.

So if you’re indie, congrats. If not…I sincerely hope your book is getting turned into a movie or tv show soon. Like this author, whom I like a lot.

all graphs in this blogpost were originally published by AuthorEarnings.com

Self-Pub or Trad-pub? You’re asking the wrong question, Lil’ Fella

The never-ending discussion of whether it’s better to go indie or go traditional when it comes to your book’s publication just keeps on going, kind of as a way I think for those who are not big-time to get some consolation as to why you can’t get a book deal. Believe me, I’ve been there.

Now I personally do believe that indies have a lot of advantages in terms of control, flexibility, and freedom to write what they want without being cencorsed by corporate interests. However, let’s not kid ourselves: With the exception of 50 shades of grey, which was a once-in-a-lifetime strike of lightning, the A-list trad-pubbed authors outearn and are better-known than the A-list self-published superstars. It’s the trad-pubbed authors whose bestsellers are more likely to be turned into movies, maintain just about every blockbuster franchise, and sell the most merchandise and products (if that’s your thing) over indies, who don’t have the distribution, marketing, or credibility that comes with an established, big-time publisher. Yes, I know there are indie success stories. Bella Andre, whose twitter feed says she’s sold over 4 million books, mostly as a self-published author, just followed me on Twitter and she has the requisite 135k needed to land a major publishing deal, which she did.

However, I doubt Bella is reading my blog right now, and I doubt Hugh Howey or J.A. Konrath are either (howdy y’all, during National Teacher Appreciation Week 2015 in case you read this in the future- and please don’t unfollow me! It hurts my feelings). So let’s talk about why if you’re deciding to self-pub or find an agent to traditionally publish with, just stop.

First off, the odds are astronomically impossible that you will get an agent to request your full manuscript, let alone agree to an exclusive contract with you, let alone actually find a publisher who wants to buy your work, unless you have a major “platform”, meaning either online or terrestrial. So if you can count big-name talk show hosts or celebrities as BFF’s who will promote your book, then congrats. Here’s your contract.

  • If you have a column in a national newspaper, or you’re a reporter for a big magazine or newspaper, or some other well-trafficked outlet, that’s a solid platform and if your book is at least solid, if not spectacular, then here’s your contract.
  • If you can count millions, or apparently billions, of Wattpad reads for your stories, or you have publicity on another high-trafficked site, stop. Here’s your contract.
  • If you can pull out a list of at least fifteen thousand e-mail subscribers to your blog or website, who are clamoring for your next book, and it’s good if not great, here’s your contract.
  • If you’ve won major (and I mean MAJOR) literary awards, like a Hugo or Corretta Scott King Book Award, and you have at least some type of web presence, you can probably snag yourself a book deal.
  • If you have already self-published and can show at least fifty thousand sales, preferably in the $2.99 or above range, hold on there little fella, you just might land yourself a book deal from a publishing house.
  • On some occasions, if you are lucky enough to get noticed by a small, independent publisher willing to take a chance on you, you can get your book published by an actual company, with or without representation. Just don’t expect your book to end up in bookstores nationwide, because many small presses don’t have much better print on demand (POD) access or distribution than you could get on your own.

If you are still reading this and didn’t get your contract yet, then you don’t have a massive platform, don’t have enough A- or B- list celebrities who can endorse your work, don’t have tens or hundreds of thousands of e-mail subscribers asking for your next book, don’t have a major literary award, and you can’t show indie sales in the mid-5 figures or above, then exactly why are you spending your time trying to query agents? Unless you have a masochistic fetish, you will be hurt when those rejection letters come in. And the worst part is, you will never know if your book was rejected because a) it’s been done ten thousand times before, b) it just flat out sucks, c) your attitude was unprofessional, d) your platform wasn’t considered big enough to sell enough copies to justify the agent spending her time trying to place it, or e) the agent was just overwhelmed with reading too many queries when they have to promote their current list of authors, or go to YouTube conventions/reality TV show sets to find their next writer. You will get a friendly letter of “thank you for your book, but I’m going to pass” with no explanation why.

So what is likely to happen is, you will automatically end up self-publishing as an indie. You can either just go it totally alone, or get published with a very small, truly independent press, which I will count as self-pubbed since you will do a LOT of your own promotion, and you will still have to be on top of your publisher to make sure the book was edited and produced to high standards. You simply won’t be able to do that with a major publisher.

IF you are good/lucky/persistent, you might be able to sell enough copies that some agents will call or e-mail YOU and talk to you about whether you’d like to sign a contract with one (agent) so s/he can help you with traditional print publishing rights, overseas rights, movie rights, etc. You may yet get that traditional publishing deal, which does have advantages over going alone. Namely, the ability to sell and collect money in foreign countries, get your book translated (well or poorly, I have no comment since I don’t know) into multiple languages as opposed to finding translators or learning a lot of languages really quickly, the ease of having your book sold in bookstores and having distribution handled, the increased likelihood of seeing your book turned into a movie (unless you have great connections), the increased odds of winning the very book awards which keep you contracted, and the ease of having other productions like audiobooks handled, which leaves you free to write, do social media, and maybe sell some merchandise on the side if you don’t have a licensing deal in place with a company.

Given that the barrier between indie and traditional is blurred, and that you can still get that book contract if you want it, why even consider otherwise? Even if you don’t want a traditional book deal, for many reasons like loss of control, no compete clauses, mediocre or poor advance, lack of trust in the publisher or agent to properly handle matters, or any other reason, circumstances can always change your mind.

So go indie. It isn’t like you have a real choice now anyway.

Oyster Wants to be the Next Amazon

Yesterday Oyster announced they were going to enter the ebookstore market, and the initial reaction was that they are competing with Amazon for titles. All big 5 publishers have signed on. This is separate from their subscription service, which was popular for those seeking many books at a low price but who then discovered some of their favorite authors or desired books were unavailable from the subscriptions.

Apparently Oyster’s e-bookstore won’t have cross-over titles from their subscription service, which makes sense if you think about it- if you could sell a copy of your book for say 99 cents via their bookstore, then why would you want it bundled with a subscription model if your customers can’t find you anyway? I maintain that subscription models are great for readers and newer authors who are desperate for discover ability, but seasoned authors with successful novels or series may find the subscription model damaging to their earnings, since the wealth is essentially redistributed irregardless of how many downloads you have.

The argument is that Oyster isn’t so much competing with Amazon as it is to keep its members from leaving- they’ve lost some of their subscribers over the last few months as people’s buying and reading habits shifted.

Will this e-bookstore idea work for Oyster? Or will Amazon find a way to maintain its dominant status as the largest e-book publisher in the world? And don’t forget about HarperCollins- they are headed the way of developing their own platform and selling their authors on their site. We’ll stay tuned to the HC-Amazon dispute.

Have English Books Lost their Flare?

I found this article and I didn’t even think about this issue. If you write books in the English language, are you prepared to lose your place to novels written in other languages?

“It’s the calm before the storm for Barcelona-based French agent Véronique Kirchhoff, who has 70 meetings spread over four days at the upcoming Bologna Children’s Book Fair. And that doesn’t include her French and Spanish clients who she sees independently from the fair. A one-woman show, Kirchhoff has been running her literary agency, which specializes in illustrated children’s books, for seven years, the last three of which have been from Barcelona. She is quick to point out that, “I’m not a French agent selling worldwide, I’m an agent from everywhere selling everywhere. Otherwise I couldn’t make a living.”

Later…

“There is another change Kirchhoff has noticed recently at the Bologna Book Fair where she has a stand in the English-speaking halls.

“There are more and more stands from publishers I’ve never seen before from all around the world. More people are going to Asian, French, Italian, Portuguese or Eastern European stands and the English stands are not as busy. The English are losing their supremacy in terms of selling rights because others have books that are so much more interesting. It’s a question of creativity. People are tired of the same style coming from Anglo-Saxon countries. In the texts as well, I see more narrative in other books. English books are sweeter, but so what? What publishers want is an original story.”

As far as digital books are concerned, “we were told digital is the next big thing. It’s definitely growing in fiction but this is not happening at all in illustrated children’s books. As agents we are asked to grant ebook rights, but publishers usually don’t use them. Now I only grant ebook rights if the publisher can tell me how they can use them. So the market hasn’t developed as was announced—it might, but I don’t think so. Most e-books for children are not books but games. You give a child an iPad in a car during a trip, but you give a child a book before he goes to bed.”

Kirchhoff is upbeat about the future: “I think the children’s book market is coming back to life and I can’t explain why. Although pop ups (novelties) are a harder sell because manufacturing prices keep rising, there is an amazing revival of storyboard books that began one or two years ago. I’m selling picture books really well. There is a focus on beautiful illustrations. A lot of my fellow agents say the same thing. I’m super happy because it was very hard there for a while…”

First off, this isn’t a surprise. There are very few things with global popularity. Only a select few books can have mass appear worldwide. Just because you have a novel in ten languages doesn’t mean it will have equal appeal everywhere. It’s only reasonable that each country has its own local celebrities and local literary culture. Why get a foreigner’s book when you may have your own version from a local person who speaks your language and knows your culture?

However, does this mean foreign book-buyers will turn away from English-language books. I hope not. Because if they do, I’m going to be in trouble, particularly with books aimed at kids and teens (debut YA novel expected Fall 2015). Granted, I won’t focus immediately on foreign-language sales right away, but it’s something to keep in mind.

It’s interesting how children’s books are making a comeback even though the number of new kids born every years has been in overall decline for a long time. Of course, we need to separate “Young Adult” Novels with a huge adult following from kid’s picture or middle-grade books.

B&B: English-language books are still in vogue, but it is true there’s been a lot of repetitiveness coming from the market. It’s far easier to publish a book which is a different take on an already successful idea rather than explore or experiment with new concepts.

This brings us to the next allegation: There are not enough books aimed at children from diverse (read: non-Caucasian) backgrounds. Is this a legitimate problem? Or just griping from people who can’t “make it”? I’ll explore this topic very soon.

I just found the secret to making the bestsellers list! All you need is

$50 or more to take one or more Writer’s Digest course(s) on writing a breakout novel: (what, were you expecting something else?)

Write A Breakout Novel in 2015

THIS will be the year you get published! You’ll write the story that launches your career and lands on the bestsellers list. With advice, tools, and hands-on exercises from bestselling authors and agents, this bundle will walk you through the key elements of writing an unforgettable story that is sure to get published in today’s literary marketplace.

Learn the foolproof, time-tested strategies for writing a page-turner readers can’t put down!

Believe it or not, there are essential components of stories that show up again and again in bestselling novels. Learn these building block and you’ll be well on your way to completing your breakout novel in 2015!

(I suppose you could just read the bestsellers in your genre but that will take too much time.)

If that doesn’t help enough you can get some great tutorials:

$199.00 

12-Month Membership – All Tutorials
BEST VALUE Gain access to all writing tutorials for an entire year. Watch every video whenever you like, as often as you would like . . . and be the first to watch the new tutorial we post each week! Your subscription will automatically renew after 12 months if you do not cancel.
Just want to try it to see if you like it? Test it for $25 for one month.

Mastering Description & Setting

Format: Bundle

Many writers struggle with finding a happy medium for descriptive details. Either they have too much detail and lose the reader’s attention or not enough and leave readers confused. In this value pack, you’ll find instruction from literary agents, hands-on exercises from authors and examples from bestsellers on properly developing the description and setting of your novel. You’ll learn the keys to strong plot development, world building and writing characters readers relate to.

It can be difficult to discern which details of your novel are working and which aren’t. You may be getting rejected but are unsure exactly what the problem is (B&B note: Your ‘platform’ probably isn’t big enough yet to guarantee 5,000 immediate sales). This kit walks writers through the process of writing their setting, point of view, plot, and characters in an engaging way that excites agents and keeps readers entertained from start to finish.

Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting
EBOOKMake your stories come alive on the page. In this reference book, you’ll find instruction on mastering the aspects of description and setting in your writing with hands-on exercises that allow you to incorporate lessons into your own work.
Word Painting Revised Edition
EBOOKWriting nonfiction is an art much like painting. The words you choose to describe your nonfiction story have to illustrate the vision you have in your mind and capture the attention of readers. Learn how to develop their senses and powers of observation to uncover the rich, evocative words that accurately portray the mind’s images–and apply these descriptions to characters, settings, point of view, and more.
The Three Essential Building Blocks of Your Novel: Who, What, and Where
ONDEMAND WEBINARIn this OnDemand Webinar, literary agent Roseanne Wells explores the crucial areas of character, plot and settling to show how they fit together and how you can ensure yours are working for your story. If your work is getting rejected, you may be using plot, characters and settings that just aren’t working for your novel.
World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 1
ONDEMAND WEBINARAn overdose of detail stops a reader, just as a deficiency causes reader confusion. But proper use of World Building keeps the reader in the moment of the story and compelled to keep reading, regardless of genre. Learn how to think of world building as a strategy to tell a descriptive story.
World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 2
ONDEMAND WEBINARReaders appreciate knowing where they are in a story. That’s where world building comes in. In this online tutorial, learn how to properly convey era and place in your writing to keep the reader intrigued from beginning to end.
Description and Setting
WRITERS DIGEST UNIVERSITY COURSEWriting a novel can be overwhelming—especially if you are new to writing. Build your writing skills and challenge your creativity with this online writing workshop. You’ll learn the elements on how to write setting and description from Ron Rozelle’s Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting.There is no instructor for this workshop. You will not receive feedback on assignments. You may review the lessons and exercises on your own schedule.
SKU MASTERING-DESCRIPTION-AND-SETTING
Format Bundle

In Stock

Retail: $324.95

Your price: $49.98

10 Elements of a Viable, Lucrative Novel in Today’s Market

Many writers are in the dark when it comes to the question of what makes one novel saleable and another novel a “pass” in today’s complex publishing arena. What makes agents and editors say “no” to so many submissions and “yes” to just a few? (B&B answer: a much bigger platform than you currently have, the right connections within the industry, or you manage to write the EXACT book agents and publishers are looking for at the moment). Is there a specific formula? (B&B: no, vampire love stories and YA thrillers are the rage, and this is apparently making a comeback. I’ll explain in Sunday’s post) Are the criteria different today from 10, 20, or 50 years ago? What effect does the rise of e-publishing have on how novels are published, selected, and promoted? (B&B answer: Sell at least 10,000 copies of your e-book and an agent might actually reach out to YOU to see if you would be willing to sell print rights to a larger imprint. This may actually be the way most authors get representation in the future.) In the end, does it just come down to quality, or are there other forces at work? (B&B: a million YouTube subscribers or Twitter or Instagram followers or a TV show or Hollywood film lead role helps A LOT more than you know. Get on it, grasshopper!) This tutorial answers these questions (and more!)—shedding light on the inner workings of the often baffling publishing process, insight into the kinds of stories agents and publishers are seeking, and commentary on the principles every writer must be aware of to succeed in a dynamic and exciting time of change in the publishing world.

This tutorial is taught by literary agent Jim McCarthy. Jim is also the vice president at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management where he has worked his entire professional life since he started as an intern back in 1999. Jim focuses on adult and young adult fiction across categories from cozy mysteries and paranormal romance to literary fiction and some deeply quirky comedies. He is a frequent guest at writers’ conferences nationwide has numerous clients who are New York Times bestsellers.

In this 73-minute tutorial video, you’ll discover:

  • What elements a novel needs to be considered saleable by agents and publishers today—such as memorable characters, a three-act structure, and more
  • Why great novels will always have a place in the literary landscape
  • How to give your novel a fair self-assessment through self-editing (quick point: everyone thinks their book is the next Greatest Book Ever. It’s understandable; our books are like our babies, only no diaper change needed)
  • Why people read novels, where they get them, and what makes them decide which ones to buy
  • How the criteria for a novel today compares with that of the past, and what can be expected as the industry continues to change

Having trouble world-building? Too many descriptions or too few? Let Writer’s Digest help you out.

Mastering Description & Setting

Format: Bundle

Many writers struggle with finding a happy medium for descriptive details. Either they have too much detail and lose the reader’s attention or not enough and leave readers confused. In this value pack, you’ll find instruction from literary agents, hands-on exercises from authors and examples from bestsellers on properly developing the description and setting of your novel. You’ll learn the keys to strong plot development, world building and writing characters readers relate to.

It can be difficult to discern which details of your novel are working and which aren’t. You may be getting rejected but are unsure exactly what the problem is. This kit walks writers through the process of writing their setting, point of view, plot, and characters in an engaging way that excites agents and keeps readers entertained from start to finish.

Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting
EBOOKMake your stories come alive on the page. In this reference book, you’ll find instruction on mastering the aspects of description and setting in your writing with hands-on exercises that allow you to incorporate lessons into your own work.
Word Painting Revised Edition
EBOOKWriting nonfiction is an art much like painting. The words you choose to describe your nonfiction story have to illustrate the vision you have in your mind and capture the attention of readers. Learn how to develop their senses and powers of observation to uncover the rich, evocative words that accurately portray the mind’s images–and apply these descriptions to characters, settings, point of view, and more.
The Three Essential Building Blocks of Your Novel: Who, What, and Where
ONDEMAND WEBINARIn this OnDemand Webinar, literary agent Roseanne Wells explores the crucial areas of character, plot and settling to show how they fit together and how you can ensure yours are working for your story. If your work is getting rejected, you may be using plot, characters and settings that just aren’t working for your novel.
World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 1
ONDEMAND WEBINARAn overdose of detail stops a reader, just as a deficiency causes reader confusion. But proper use of World Building keeps the reader in the moment of the story and compelled to keep reading, regardless of genre. Learn how to think of world building as a strategy to tell a descriptive story.
World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 2
ONDEMAND WEBINARReaders appreciate knowing where they are in a story. That’s where world building comes in. In this online tutorial, learn how to properly convey era and place in your writing to keep the reader intrigued from beginning to end.
Description and Setting
WRITERS DIGEST UNIVERSITY COURSEWriting a novel can be overwhelming—especially if you are new to writing. Build your writing skills and challenge your creativity with this online writing workshop. You’ll learn the elements on how to write setting and description from Ron Rozelle’s Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting.There is no instructor for this workshop. You will not receive feedback on assignments. You may review the lessons and exercises on your own schedule.
SKU MASTERING-DESCRIPTION-AND-SETTING
Format Bundle

In Stock

Retail: $324.95

Your price: $49.98

I am on the Writer’s Digest list (I bought a one-year membership last year when I first started getting involved in the whole book publishing business) so 95% of my e-mails from them look like what’s above. It is entirely up to you to decide if you should order a writer’s bundle to help you with things. Note that I am not counting essentials like editing, cover art, platform building, etc., which ARE things you need to get published, whether traditionally or self-pubbed. There are reasonable things to offer for a fee and then there’s just basic stuff no book can teach. You can hire a coach for a great athlete to make him/her better and more fit but if said athlete is simply not good enough to make it then no amount of X-treme coaching will turn that athlete into a superstar.

B&B advice: If you need to pay someone to tell you the basics of novel writing or storytelling, you really ought to find something else to do with your time.

B&B extra advice free of charge: How about sharing ideas at the Kboards site or just posting them here and I’ll review your blurb or plot outline free of charge. Seriously, I mean it! I won’t edit the book but blurbs? c’mon man, test me.