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Traditional and Self-Published (no longer versus)

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R.I.P. Stephen Godden

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Geoff North

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May as well address this early - there is no traditional versus self-published mentality in my world anymore. I spent close to three years querying agents with four different projects with little (who am I trying to kid? NO success). My first novel was picked up by a small publisher in 2011 and bombed with zero promotion from the publisher and $4-$12 monthly in royalties.

Halfway through 2013 I decided to quit querying agents and pursuing small publishers altogether and embraced self-publishing. I went all in beginning January of this year. And although I haven't quit the day job yet, I am much happier. I'm in total control of everything - covers, formatting, pricing - I love it! I can now pay the phone/internet bills with my monthly earnings!

Back in the old days - 2012 and prior - there was still a definite feeling (to me at least) that success could only be defined by snagging an agent and publishing the old-fashioned way. I've met a lot of smart, wonderful self-published authors in the last year. Things have changed. There are traditionally published authors and there are self-published authors. Pretty soon that distinction will be hard to define with authors dipping into both. I would definitely still consider working with an agent if the right opportunity presented itself.

I just want to make sure the new Litopia embraces all authors. We're all trying to accomplish the same thing here - to write because it's what we love to do, and provide readers with fantastic stories.

How do the rest of you feel about it? Don't be shy - I would love to hear your stories, and discover what path you've taken so far.
 

Richard Sutton

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Geoff, we seem to be members of the same writers family after all. I'm very glad the new Litopia has room for all of our cousins, warts and all! BTW, I had a royalty check come in back in May that actually paid for a dinner out! Utility bills since, but there was that one...

Lex, it's a hard old market out there, but the signs of the dust finally beginning to settle are seen around the edges at least. Hang in, and ask some of us SPers how we've done it without breaking the bank. It's possible. Tricky but possible.
 

AgentPete

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I just want to make sure the new Litopia embraces all authors. We're all trying to accomplish the same thing here - to write because it's what we love to do, and provide readers with fantastic stories.

Precisely!

I self-published a serial novel/novella collection in 2004. After several years of experiencing the worst the self-publishing world has to offer, I developed a seething hatred of self-publishing and swore I would never touch it again, except to set it on fire.

The thing is, “traditional” publishing isn’t that hot, either. And in some ways, it’s getting worse, certainly for the midlist author.

Both self-publishing and traditional pub have very similar problems to face. Which is why it makes sense for Litopia to be a broad church.
 
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Karen Gray

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My concern with self publishing is the initial outlay. Even the supposedly cheap self publishing packages are too expensive for someone like myself.
 

AgentPete

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That reaction doesn’t surprise, me I’m sorry to say. But I think it’s an indicator of how quickly things are changing that you’d be less likely to encounter that sort of attitude now.

The topic of self-pub / trad pub is so vast, and so dynamic, that it will in - one aspect or another - be a constant and major meta-theme here in Litopia. And it needs to be, because one of our functions is to spread the know-how... what’s working, how is it working, and so on.

I’ll just add that for the majority of “traditionally” published authors, my feeling now is that they would be better off reclaiming control of their backlist, i.e. using trad pub for the frontlist, but then reverting titles once they no longer have a publisher’s full attention. Maybe after 3 – 5 years.

So... even 100% trad publishing authors have much to gain from learning the skills and technologies of self-publishing...
 

Marc Joan

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I wonder if self-publishing is particularly apt for some formats, namely short stories, where interest from traditional publishers is low?
 

SueRoe

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Hi Geoff,

Good post and I do so agree. Self-publishing got a lot of stick a few years ago, but with the hassle of trying for a traditional contract and then getting no promotional help and miserable royalties then SP has a lot more going for it. It's also a path I might be trying soon.

By the way, your book didn't deserve to bomb - I read it and loved it. Have you got your rights back yet? That book needs to be out in the world under the spotlight!
 
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Karen Gray

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What is the best resource for finding out about self publishing? I have been thinking about it more and more and may approach that path in the future, but I would want to know all I could about the ins and outs first :)
 
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Geoff North

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Thanks, Sue! I'm happy you enjoyed Live it Again. Yes, I have the rights back for it, changed the cover, and it has a decent little following with some nice reviews. Now if some of my other books could gather steam and pick up some reviews I'd be even happier! I'm working on another book now called Dearly Departing that is very similar in tone and style. Should be available by Christmas.

Karen: I'm not sure what cheap self-publishing packages you're referring to. The most I've spent on any of my books is around $375 ($300 editing, $25 formatting, $50). These amounts may seem quite low. I've heard that to properly self-publish you should be prepared to spend upwards to $6000. I think this figure is hogwash. I now do all of my own formatting and cover art. Yeah, the covers could probably be more outstanding, but I'm perfectly happy with the results I've achieved so far. And they are only getting better the more I use Photoshop.

Formatting an ms into ebook form is a little trickier, but once you've done it three of four times on your own it becomes much easier.

Proper editing is essential of course, and this is where the bulk of your money should go.

Promotion: this is what I really suck at. I hate facebook and twitter, but I do use them a little bit. I have an author website and a mailing list, and I do promote occasionally on one or two paid sites that feature free or deal ebooks. A lot of self-published authors are self-promoting with great results. If I were put more time and effort into it, I'm sure my sales would increase. Unfortunately my day job is quite exhausting, and I find it hard to just to reach my daily writing goal of 1,000 to 2,000 words a day. I'm hoping this will change soon. I really need to self-promote more.

Last but not least is consistency. To self-publish successfully you need to publish regularly. One book a year just won't cut it. People will forget about you. I've now set a goal to publish something every two months. It doesn't have to be full length novels. Some of my stories are split into monthly serials. At my present speed I'm on course to publish a full length novel every four months (75,000-85,000 words each). That may seem like a lot, but it isn't really. 1,000 words a day is achievable - even with a demanding day job.

Lex: Two decades is a long time! I suggest you listen to some self-publishing podcasts for inspiration. Try these (sorry they're not hyper-linked)
The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast (awesome interviews and advice from a ton of successful self-pubbed authors)
The Self-Publishing Podcast (three self-pubbed authors with great tips on how they found success, lots of swearing though)
Sell More Books Show (news and tips. Very informative)

Marc: Self-publishing short stories is a great idea. The world is speeding up and readers are tending to look for shorter pieces to consume on their small devices. And you can publish shorter stories more frequently - which is a good thing.

I took the full plunge into self-publishing Jan.2014. I knew it would require a lot of work and a steady commitment. It's September now and I couldn't be happier. No, I haven't quit the day job yet, but I do have a date in mind. It's a couple of years away, but at the pace I'm going, it will be achievable. And for a guy that was always bashing his own ability, that's really saying something.
 
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Geoff North

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Karen - just saw your post as I finished mine. Definitely listen to those podcasts I listed. You won't be sorry!
 

SueRoe

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Thanks, Sue! I'm happy you enjoyed Live it Again. Yes, I have the rights back for it, changed the cover, and it has a decent little following with some nice reviews. Now if some of my other books could gather steam and pick up some reviews I'd be even happier! I'm working on another book now called Dearly Departing that is very similar in tone and style. Should be available by Christmas.

I'll check out Live it Again on Amazon and make sure I've reviewed it - and to anyone who hasn't read it, I really recommend it as an imaginative and compelling read. I'll definitely be first in the queue for Dearly Departed.
Totally agree with what you say about getting your book properly edited if you're self-publishing. To have a very good job done you'll need to spend around 300 pounds, minimum. Part of the reason that self-published books got a bad name initially was because they weren't properly edited. And you can't spot your own mistakes...believe me, I hold my head in my hands when someone spots errors in my work and I wonder how on earth I didn't see it. Don't get your Mum or friend to do it either. Make sure it's a professional editor who does it. You'll recoup the money for it in the end with a decent article.
One other thing, Geoff, you say that one book a year doesn't cut it. Crikey! That's all I can say - it takes me two years to write a novel!!! :)
 

Marc Joan

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Thanks for the info Geoff. I wonder if it is worth setting up a dedicated Litopia forum for those interested in self-publishing, where tips could be exchanged and useful resources listed; and perhaps some of us could save each other money by providing reciprocal editing services?
 

AgentPete

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A S/P Resource area makes a lot of sense. Needs someone to supervise it, a reasonable amount of work. Any volunteers?
 

Marc Joan

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I'd be happy to help in principle; in practice, it may depend on what we mean by 'a reasonable amount of work'. Could you elaborate?
 

AliG

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I'm about to publish with Troubador who are great. So far the journey has been smooth, professional and I've been able to farm out the skills I don't have (editing, cover design, distribution) but keep control of the process. So far, all good. Now I must see if it sells. Fairly big hurdle, I agree.
 

Richard Sutton

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We all had them, but Peter might have had to cart them off to make room. I don;t see the one with the big magnolia upholstery anywhere or the one with the fraying tweed...
 

brendancody

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Good to read your post Geoff.

I made the plunge with self-publishing a while ago too. I was wrestling with the traditional versus self-publishing debate at the time the old colony closed. At that time
(I think it is far to say) the colony sentiment was weighted against self-publishing. For better or worse, it now has an undeniable place in the publishing industry and will continue to be a valid option for the informed author. I think it's important that, rather than denying or discouraging self-publication, the "new" colony should be a place where authors can glean valuable and impartial help in making choices about it. There are definitely pros and cons to the self-publishing route, but a well-informed decision means no regrets. I was satisfied before publishing that I had exhausted the traditional publishing options before deciding to move on to the next novel, but I felt the novel written was too good and important to just sit in the drawer forever. I'm glad there are people reading it - that's the only true ambition I had in self-publishing. That said, there are a lot of well-known vanity publishing schemes waiting to trap the wary who might believe some of their promises of an easy way to "out-smart" traditional publishing. I didn't publish with any such illusions, and realistic advice from some of colony members was very important at the time. It's a good sign that the colony will continue in that spirit.
 
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Karen Gray

Guest
Now giving self publishing some serious thought. It's probably the best way to go... at least for the first book in my big mad mental adventure. Plus if I'm going to have to do all the leg work anyway, I might as well. Fair enough I won't have the reach of a traditional publisher, but if I can get book one to do well I have a better chance of book 2 being picked up by a publisher... I think ;)

Going to keep bashing on with book 2 atm and by the time I finish it, any agents who could get back to me would have or not by that time... more or less. Book 2 is one big long freewrite atm.

Any recommendations for who to use? (Ebook and print - POD)

Cheers ears xx
 

Diamond

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I'm not an expert, but I've been through the self-publishing routine a few time.

For POD, I recommend CreateSpace, but a lot of writers prefer LightingSource.

For Ebook, publish it wherever you can--Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, etc.

Smashwords (SW) is the most popular vehicle for digital publication. Through SW your book will appear at places like Barnes and Nobles, Kobo, Scribd and iTunes. But SW isn't the only player in town. D2D (Draft to Digital), Booktango and BookBaby are other options. I think BookBaby has an upfront charge though. The others do not. Then there's the option of setting up your book with each vendor on your own. That's more work than I want to tackle, but some writers swear it's the only way to go.

BTW, Smashwords has a great guide for prepping your manuscript for digital release that's helpful no matter where you decide to publish it. You can download it for free here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52
 
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Karen Gray

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Thanks a lot Diamond :) A friend of a friend (a graphic designer) is being approached right now about the cover art. Unfortunately I want an unknown mythical beast on the cover, lol. So there will be a bit of back and forth with it no doubt. At least what I want for book 2's cover is relatively easy to achieve. Though not ready to publish that yet obviously ;)
 

brendancody

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Now giving self publishing some serious thought. It's probably the best way to go... at least for the first book in my big mad mental adventure. Plus if I'm going to have to do all the leg work anyway, I might as well. Fair enough I won't have the reach of a traditional publisher, but if I can get book one to do well I have a better chance of book 2 being picked up by a publisher... I think ;)

Going to keep bashing on with book 2 atm and by the time I finish it, any agents who could get back to me would have or not by that time... more or less. Book 2 is one big long freewrite atm.

Any recommendations for who to use? (Ebook and print - POD)

Cheers ears xx

I'd agree with Diamond about CreateSpace for print. That's what I used. They have easy tools to set-up a book, but you'd need to be comfortable formatting the content and cover yourself. Some vanity press publishers will do that for you for a fee. However I preferred having full control of the listing, such as the publisher name, synopsis, etc. Also vanity publishing really isn't worth the additional money, i.e. you won't make any more back in sales than you would with self-publishing. Either way you have to push hard to promote it yourself.

I was on Smashwords for a while but I felt you get more exposure with Kindle publishing (with the benefits of Amazon's "also viewed" features, KDP Select, etc.) Check their T&Cs though - certain publishing options require digital publishing exclusivity, which means you can't be on both Smashwords and KDP Select at the same time.
 
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Karen Gray

Guest
I'd agree with Diamond about CreateSpace for print. That's what I used. They have easy tools to set-up a book, but you'd need to be comfortable formatting the content and cover yourself. Some vanity press publishers will do that for you for a fee. However I preferred having full control of the listing, such as the publisher name, synopsis, etc. Also vanity publishing really isn't worth the additional money, i.e. you won't make any more back in sales than you would with self-publishing. Either way you have to push hard to promote it yourself.

I was on Smashwords for a while but I felt you get more exposure with Kindle publishing (with the benefits of Amazon's "also viewed" features, KDP Select, etc.) Check their T&Cs though - certain publishing options require digital publishing exclusivity, which means you can't be on both Smashwords and KDP Select at the same time.

Thanks for the advice. A fellow OU student has his own venture I am looking into too called Castle Green (http://www.castlegreen.org.uk) so chatting with him about that atm... I want POD too so seeing if he can offer that or not. Also have a local artist doing some illustrations for me for cover art. Hoping to be sorted for mid Nov.

Formatting underway atm. Biglearning curve but I'm enjoying it :)
 
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Kelly Michelle Baker

Guest
Geoff, you have a wonderful attitude. I spent years and years querying after agents. No success. Though I struggle with marketing (my first novel is in a tough genre--talking animals) I'm very happy to have all the power in pricing, covers, formatting, etc. As it is, I've heard that many traditionally published authors, including bestsellers, are now going Indie after bad experiences with the big houses.
 
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Katie St Martin

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I was reading about a site called www.authormarketingclub.com, does anyone at Litopia have any information about them? It looks really good.
Also I'd just like to say how nice it is to be back on Litopia, after such a long break. Thanks Peter.
 

Katie-Ellen

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Some feeble stuff, even rubbish gets traditionally published; who knows what better books never made it that route. But, for better or worse, and I seem to be a minority in this, never mind part of a majority group on Litopia, I'm going to go at it trad style, swim or sink. I'm prepared never to see it published at all if it doesn't find a champion. The agent doesn't earn if it doesn't sell, and if an agent should decide they can see income for themselves in it, they could be mistaken, but that's putting one's money where one's mouth is, while I wouldn't know where even to start negotiating with a publisher.
 
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R.I.P. Stephen Godden

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