Shifting Focus and Changing Plans

For most authors in search of traditional publishing, it is only after diving into the deep end head first that you realize that you can barely tred water among all the other authors in the pool. It is only then that you might decide to take a step back and survey the landscape so that you can find a more likely path. In my case, that’s exactly what happened, and now I’m changing course toward calmer waters. It’s not the shortest journey, but it’s become more apparent to me now more than ever that an author must have patience and, in my opinion, layout a series of stepping-stone goals.

It has been my goal to get my novel published. However, the path that I chose to get there was to submit to literary agents (the gatekeepers to the publishing industry). My reasoning was that I knew they could educate me on the process, negotiate for a fair deal (so I would know whether I am being taken advantage of), and sell my manuscript better than I could. However, submitting to literary agents as a new author is like trying to take a shortcut in the publishing world. Literary agents generally look to get their clients that highly desired hardcover deal which is not often achieved by first time authors.

So it is time that I “start small” and choose the other path. I’m going to submit directly to some of the smaller, more focused publishing houses that usually deal with paperback and ebook deals. This was somewhat difficult for me to wrap my mind around as any self published author can achieve those same things via Amazon’s Create Space or other similar venues. However, a publishing house does more than just publish. It’s the editing, the marketing, the recognition amongst the consumers of a quality product, the brick-and-mortor store distribution, and the commitment of a team that is involved in your success as much as you are.

I feel that now, with my short story published, my query letter will exhibit more confidence, and with my progress into book two, it’ll demonstrate my dedication. If successful, I’ll have to negotiate the terms of my own deal and manage my own career, but it’s all about the journey, and it will all be worth it in the end.

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My Short Story is about to be Published!

Myths Inscribed is an online magazine for fantasy fiction only. It was recently created by the wonderful people at MythicScribes.com (a great place to connect with a large community of fantasy writers).

After submitting to them on January 7th, they got back to me on February 16th with the news that they had provisionally accepted my 5,000 word short story, The Ravenous Flock, as long as I agreed to their editing terms. What they proposed is that they wanted to work with me to perform some edits, as well as work with me to decide where to cut the story in half (as they want to publish it in two parts across two issues). If I agreed, no other name other than mine will be on the story; and the story, all revisions included, remain exclusively mine. This extra service that they provide distinguishes their magazine from nearly all others on the market, and is something that they are proud of.

I happily agreed to the terms and I look forward to my first experience with a real editor. I have always thought I knew what they do, but now I will have first hand experience working with one. As Myths Inscribed is a new ezine, they do not offer financial compensation for your work. While this fact is considered “less prestigious” by some (for example, I can’t join SFWA unless I sell a short story for $50 or more), to me, it marks a significant milestone for any author. I have now crossed the threshold from being unpublished to published. My short story was still chosen above others from the “slush pile” all the same, and now it can be added to my author bio. In addition, this publication credit adds extra credibility to my novel.

Since my short story predates the events of my novel and is written in the same world, same style, and contains some of the same characters from my novel, this publication credit should add tremendous value toward getting my novel published. Not only will this help it get published, but once my novel is published, this short story will help sell my novel – and here is how: Per the terms of Myths Inscribed publication policy, after they publish my work, all rights are immediately returned to me, meaning I can do what I wish with my short story. At that point in time, I plan to further self-publish it on Amazon for $0.99. Once my novel is available for purchase, I’ll use my short story as a marketing tool to drive interest toward my novel and will most likely give it away for free at that point to gain readership and a following.

More to come soon as I plan to share my lessons learned with working with the editor!

Self Published Authors are Hurting the Industry

How many of you are giving free ebooks as gifts to your friends and loved ones this holiday season? None of you, is the answer. That’s because with the price tag of “free”, they can get it themselves, so most likely you’ll purchase the book that they really want. It seems that indie and self-published authors drop the price of their ebooks to “free” as a sales gimmick to gain readers and create a name for themselves. However, what happens in reality is that they just want as many downloads as possible so they can shoot up the ranks of the Top “Purchased” (and I use that word loosely) novel in their genre. But do the ends justify the means? In this case, no. No they don’t.

I can understand how a new author that has no reputation and is trying to make a name for themselves could see that the price of $0.99 or Free make sense for their self-published ebooks. However, an author that sells 100,000 copies at $0.99 will only earn ~$12,000. Earlier, I described what the average income is for authors here, and contrary to popular belief, authors earn very little (especially the self-published ones). Here, take a look at CreateSpace’s (the popular self-publishing service provided by Amazon) royalty calculator here to see for yourself. So if you still think it’s possible to make some money by pricing your book cheap, how many authors do you think have actually sold over 100,000 copies in a year? Take a guess. A whopping 30. I think $0.99 would be a great promotional price, but doesn’t do anyone any good as a permanent price.

Indie and self-published authors are focusing on the wrong thing. They believe that price is the important factor, when I say it is quality that counts. There is no doubt in my mind that when you have a quality product, readers will pay a higher price and will also become returning customers. Not only are many indie and self-published authors reducing the price of books, they are publishing books that don’t have the same level of quality that traditional published works have. I’m referring to editing, fact checking, etc. I’ve downloaded quite a few free ebooks myself, and I’ve come across a lot of novels that I stopped reading due to their need for a copy editor. I’m not exactly sure why, but perhaps some indie authors are just too excited to press “publish” that they don’t want to do another round of editing? My book has been “complete” (and I use that word loosely) for 8 months, and I’m still finding things that I want to edit or emphasize.

So, do the ends justify the means? Let’s consider the super success stories of John Locke and Amanda Hocking, each selling over 1 million ebooks. They might be what keeps you motivated, and may be the proof that you’ll use to debunk my opinion, but if choosing the $0.99 price point was used to gain a following, a reputation, and an easy way to enter the market, then why do these mega-authors still keep their books at $0.99 today? Are they afraid they won’t sell if they raise the price? There is no doubt that the publishing industry is in flux and no one knows where it will land, but if more and more quality novels are self-published and sold for $0.99, then they are setting the expectation for the consumer and are therefor hurting the industry. If the market is expecting prices to be that low, then how are authors ever supposed to make a living selling books? Are we destined to always hold a day-job and write at night? Books are something that can take a year’s worth of our time to write (sometimes more), so we shouldn’t be selling them for $0.99. Our time is more valuable than that.

For further insight and detail into this highly sensitive topic, please read through these two articles: