Friday, August 10, 2012

Shhhh! It's a Secret!

Tip of the Day: I'm still a fan of spiral-bound desktop calendars. Find really cool ones at your local museum or arboretum instead of just picking up some generic 52 Cats calendar at your local bookstore. (Yes, I'm already thinking ahead to 2013.)

I was trying to think of blog post topics for this week when a traditionally published friend suggested I discuss why some loud & proud self-pubs jumped the ship and signed traditional contracts.

Is it the fame? The money? The stamp of approval? Is the self-pub end goal a traditional contract, no matter how much we scream that it's not?

Amanda Hocking says she wanted more time to just write. Honestly, I believe that. Self-pub is a lot of hard work that doesn't involve much actual writing time. There's marketing, social media, and promotional events. Hey, wait a sec, my traditional friends have to do those things too. Was it the formatting? Well, that can be hired out for a flat fee. Maybe it's the professional editing. Huh, that's something we can buy for a flat fee too. But yeah, with more management, there probably is more time for writing.

Jamie McGuire preached endlessly about how money should flow to the author, not away. She just sold her books to Simon & Schuster. In my mind, that tells me that the money is no longer flowing toward her - unless she got some incredible royalty rate that other authors don't receive. Or maybe she's betting S&S can get her more exposure.

Besides, let's assume her novel was at $2.99 when she self-pubbed. She would have made approximately $2 per sold ebook. Let's assume she's getting 25% now (which is probably generous) at $7.99 with S&S. Her royalty would be $1.99. Interesting, right? Same income, but now she's got a bigger team on her side. (It's totally possible my math is wrong due to a slight learning disability. Feel free to correct me in the comments - I won't be offended.)

Before anyone gets upset, this isn't a flame on these two authors. I've read Amanda's books and I love 'em. In fact, I'm meeting her tonight at my local bookstore. As for Jamie, I don't know her and haven't read her books, but we have friends in common who tell me she's total awesomesauce.

I have a feeling there's more to the story than we know. There could be a million reasons these two uber-successful ladies chose to change paths. One thing I do know is that traditional publishers have access to contacts that most indie authors do not. Sometimes the trade-offs are worth it.

Point is, authors are going to make decisions that puzzle us. Unless you're good friends with someone, you may never know why they made the decisions they did. It's okay to speculate, but hold off on judging someone. Until you walk in their shoes, it's impossible to truly understand.

As for me? Would I take a trad pub contract if it magically came my way? Depends on the terms, royalties, distribution, and a million-zillion other things. I'm a never-say-never gal. But I can tell you one thing - I LOVE self-publishing. I love the freedom it gives me to explore my imagination. I love owning the rights to my creation. Giving that up would be really, really hard.

Publishing, in any form, is a gamble. Support your friends when they win and when they lose.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber


Kristina Springer said...

I would be completely shocked if her royalty was 25%. More like 10% on a hardcover (6-7% on paperback). And her hardcover would be $15.99 at least. I assume hardcover since they paid so much for it. But you are hitting a different buyer now-- the same people who are willing to buy a $2.99 book might not be as willing to buy a $15.99. But libraries/collectors would buy the $15.99 book.

Bonnee Crawford said...

I'd definitely be looking at which way gives me more $$. Though in all honesty, I'm tempted to do it backwards: Get trad-contracts first to gain publicity and get my name out there, and then switch to self-pub when I have it going well. Lol :3 If I'm lucky enough to get a trad-deal first.

I also know of some cases where the author uses both means of publication. :)

Megg Jensen said...

Kristina - I was thinking more along the lines of ebook pricing. lol. I totally forgot about paper books. lol

Bonnee - Getting a trad contract doesn't guarantee your name will get out there unless your book happens to be the lucky one that takes off. There are a gazillion midlist trad-pub authors I bet you've never heard of. ;) Your best publicist is you.

Kristina Springer said...

OH! I should have figured that out that it was the ebook price. Then yeah, 25% would be standard.

Here's what I'm thinking though-- isn't there some saying that 3/4 of book purchases are still in paper? Maybe they're aiming to tap into that 3/4 audience and get new readers. I just looked up Jamie's paperback and it's selling very well in paperback at $9.51.

Megg Jensen said...

Depends on the statistics. If you believe Amazon, more ebooks are sold than paper books. BUT - aren't the majority of Jamie's fanbase ereaders?

lol - again, we'll never know...but it's fun to speculate. ;)

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion...

I have had a lot of success in self-published ebooks (over six figures this year so far) and to be honest, I'm still actively pursuing traditional publishing - agent, editor, and all.

I have found self-publishing to be extremely stressful, more so as sales went up and up. I've found myself constantly nervous that I'm 'doing it wrong,' wishing all the while that I had a team behind me to help out. It may sound weird, but that very same control some self-pubbed authors love is something that can make the next self-pubber very nervous.

For a while I worried the success wasn't real or that someone would take it away somehow. It sounds ridiculous, but that is the brutally honest truth.

At the same time, there are also goals that I just plain want that only traditional publishing can do for me.

~ I'd like to know that I CAN do it, that I am good enough to get past the 'gatekeepers' and maybe even find success there.

~ I want to expand my readership - while I already have amazing readers, as Kristina points out, LOTS and LOTS of readers still prefer paper.

~ I want that team behind me, pushing me to get better, pushing me to do the really hard work, helping me so I don't have to make so many mistakes or learn the hard way. Obviously self-pubbed authors push themselves already and often pay editors to push them. (I do wonder though, how does a writer trust that the paid editor isn't sugar coating the edit to gain future business? I certainly hope this doesn't happen, but you never know). How do we really know our limits and potential until someone gives us an honest nudge?

~ I just plain want to see my books in a book store someday :)

Don't get me wrong, self-publishing has been very good to me, and I am so, so grateful for my success, but for a shy, unsure, quivering in her boots author, going it alone can be a scary thing.

DeenaML said...

Interesting thoughts in this post and comments!

Megg, how was AH in person??? I'd love to meet her and really respect all the writing and work she has done!