Monday, February 28, 2011

Industry Changes! Which Way Do I Go?

With all of the changes in the industry - the shift to eBooks, bookstores dying, etc. - it’s difficult for a writer to know what path to take. Look for a publisher? Look for an agent? Or self-publish?

I decided to ask an author in each one of those positions who has achieved (or will hopefully achieve) success with her books. Below are the responses from an author with an agent & big publisher, an author with an independent publisher, and an author who self-published.

With all of the changes in the industry - the shift to eBooks, bookstores dying, etc. - what are the advantages of an author in your position?

From Elana Johnson, an agented author with Simon & Schuster, whose first book comes out this summer:

With all the changes, I’m glad I have an agent and a big publisher to help me every step of the way.

My agent fights for every dollar from any kind of sale, whether it be a digital copy, a physical copy, or the rights for audio, to come to me. I think that’s a huge advantage, because it’s something I don’t have to think about. I don’t have to be “the heavy,” and negotiate percentages. That’s her job, and she does it well. My time is freed up for writing my next project.

With a larger publisher, the ability to reach more people is increased. Simon & Schuster has a built-in network of librarians, booksellers, bloggers, teachers, and readers. Those are markets that I could attempt to break into myself, but with a track record like S&S’s, I don’t have to.

Of course, I’m still organizing marketing strategies. Every author should. But with an agent and a larger publisher, I also have their wealth of knowledge to supplement whatever I do.

Elana Johnson's debut novel, POSSESSION, will be published by Simon & Schuster on 6-7-11. She runs a personal blog on publishing, is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog and The League of Extraordinary Writers, and is a WriteOnCon organizer.

From Talli Roland, an author with independent publisher, Prospera Publishing, whose second book comes out later this year:

As an author published by a small press, I’m in an ideal position to capitalize on the growing market trend towards e-books. Smaller presses don’t have the long lead times of traditional publishers, so they can get a product to market much faster. With e-books and their unlimited reach, the major drawback of independent publishers – distribution – doesn’t exist. Also, small presses have much more flexibility when it comes to pricing e-books. They don’t have the large operational costs of larger publishers, so they can afford to be more competitive. Finally, small presses care if their titles are performing, and if they’re not, they work to fix it. When the cover of my debut novel The Hating Game wasn’t hitting the right target market on Kindle, my publisher had a new one designed and displayed, within a day. In my opinion, small presses provide the right mix of quality control and quick-wittedness.

Talli Roland’s debut novel The Hating Game is out now as an e-book with Prospera Publishing; paperback coming next month! Her next title, Watching Willow Watts, will be released later this year.

From L.J. Sellers, a best-selling author of multiple books, who chose the path of self-publishing:

The biggest advantage for the indie author is the speed to market. For example, mid last year I had three completed novels scheduled (but not yet contracted) to be published by a small press in late 2011, 2012, and 2013. I decided waiting that long to publish them was not in my best interest. Readers were excited about my stories and wanted more.

I was able to hire editors, a cover designer, and a formatter, and release all three books in a matter of months. Now I’m earning money from each of them that goes toward my bills. Which in turn, gives me time to write more novels, instead of having to freelance to get by.

The second main advantage is that all the royalties come to me, so again, I’m able to earn a living from novels for the first time in my career. And last, as an indie author, I’m more motivated to do the necessary promotion everyday because I can directly witness, and benefit from, the results of my efforts. Leaving my publisher to go indie was best thing I’ve ever done!

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series: The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, Passions of the Dead, and Dying for Justice. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene and Spinetingler magazines, and all four are on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has two standalone thrillers: The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes. Visit L.J. at her website, blog, and Amazon author page.

Thank you Elana, Talli, and L.J.!

Which path will you choose? Bookstores are dying. EBooks are taking over. Gatekeepers no longer control all. The Internet levels the playing field. An agent gets you a better deal but working with a smaller publisher can be more personable. Which way will I achieve more success?

It still all comes down to promotion - and your personal goals!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice overview of the choices facing 21st century writers! And good does all come down to our personal goals.

Am tweeting. :)


I enjoyed your views on todays writers, as you say so rightly it depend on your personal goals.

Thanks for the visit how you could ever imagine me choosing Daniel I can't imagine.

Have a good day.

Unknown said...

Great post! There's a part of me that's excited about the changes to come and a part of me nervous about it. But, I have a feeling we're on the edge of big change!

J.L. Campbell said...

I agree that promotion plays a huge part in a book's success. Ideally,I'd like to have an agent so I can concentrate on my writing. I have quite a few projects going, you see. However, the knowledge that one has complete control over ones product must be tempting for so many writers. I figure that when I have more of a handle on the ins and outs of publishing, I'll attempt to self-publish one of my books. 'Til then, I'm plodding on with publishers.

Enlightening article. Thanks!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thanks Elizabeth!

Clarissa, we're in exciting times.

J.L. wise choice to wait until you understand more. So many choose self-publishing because they know so little about the industry when that's the one that requires the most knowledge! Otherwise, I always tell writers seek out a publisher first. (Wise advice from my mentor and friend, author p.m. terrell.)

Jules said...

I agree with Clarissa but the information provided here was great. Hard to make an analytical decision without both sides or in this case three :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Talli Roland said...

Many thanks to L Diane for asking my point of view! There are benefits to each, and it's sometimes difficult to know which way to go. I certainly wouldn't turn down a big publisher (of course!); likewise, I would also consider self-publishing.

The good thing is that now, there are many options from which authors can choose. It's a very exciting time!

Margie Church said...

I agree that self-pubbing requires the most knowledge and doing it right requires getting an editor, not skipping it. I also think it is tremendously difficult to get an agent and land a contract with a big house. My opinion is there are many exciting opportunities with excellent small and medium-sized houses that offer eBooks and print (if you desire.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know a couple of those authors! I agree with Talli - I like working with my small press. I feel more a part of the process.

Tara said...

This is a fantastic post. I loved seeing each in a "pro" light instead of one person putting down all other ways - which is often how it happens.

Thank you (all of you)!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tara. The benefits on why the publishing method they used worked for them is refreshing to read, rather than debating the pros and cons. Thanks for doing this D.

Heather Hellmann said...

I love this post! It's interesting to hear everybody's point of view.

L.J. Sellers said...

Thanks for including me in this important discussion. What I should have added is that regardless of who the publisher is, to be successful, writers have to be involved in promotion. Some small publishers won't even sign writers that don't have a website or internet presence.

Jess said...

This was enlightening--I loved reading about all three perspectives!

N. R. Williams said...

Like all authors, I wanted to make it in the traditional way. When that didn't happen, I choose the indie way. I don't have a huge success to report at this time because I'm an unknown writer. But good reviews keep coming in and my sales are slowly growing. I look forward to meeting my future fans and paying me bills would be nice too. LOL
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

Megg Jensen said...

Thank you for presenting all sides without putting anyone down. Indies aren't any less interested in editing or promotion - I'm happy to see a blog post that puts us a good light. Kudos to you! :D

LJ Sellers is an inspiration to me, along with Joe Konrath. Without them blazing the indie trail with professionalism & integrity, I might not have made the jump myself - and I couldn't be more thrilled with my decision.

Megg Jensen

Patricia JL said...

Great post, awesome to see three examples of success. Especially since all three are great ways to get published. It's up to each of us as an individual to decide which path is best and work hard to make it happen.

Helen Ginger said...

Thank you Diane. Having, in one place, authors who took different routes to publication was really helpful. I think it's getting more and more difficult for writers to know what to do. Everything seems to be in flux now.

Elana Johnson said...

Thanks for a great article! It is an exciting time in publishing. This last weekend, I sat in on a class from Barne & Noble community relations manager. He gave some amazing statistics about print books and ebooks. The industry is definitely changing, and the bookstores are too.

Thanks Diane!

Tana said...

What eye opening insight! Thanx Elana!

Jai Joshi said...

Thanks for these different perspectives, Diane. Great post!


Hannah said...

I loved seeing all the points. Thanks for this!

I worked in a bookstore for a dozen years so I know about this from selling standpoint but it's so good to hear it from the authors.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Margie, you're right on all counts!

Lynn, we could debate until the cows come home, but there's advantages on each path.

L.J., you got that right!

Megg, so glad it was a great experience for you!

Pleased everyone enjoyed this. Just look at all the self-pub and small press authors here!

M Pax said...

I'm sticking with trying to go the traditional route first. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Finding an agent and then going with big publisher sounds like the best way to go, if you can do it. However, I’m still happy with my independent publisher, even though they are slow.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks for all the perspectives. I'm currently doing the small pub route but I believe my next book will take the self-pub route.

Southpaw said...

It was great to hear all three perspectives at the same time.

Tony Eldridge said...

Great post! It's interesting to hear how others see the future of publishing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for having these three ladies today. Its great to hear from successful writers on what is working these days.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

It is difficult to know which way to go. And this only proves that there is at least one right way for every title and every personality.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Glynis Peters said...

A very interesting post.

My dream is for an agent. If not, I will have to consider other options. There are so many changes going on out there. Who knows where the path leads!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane .. good thought posting these three different approaches - each has their own merits.

For all writers it's getting their name out there .. if necessary starting small til a reputation is attained.

Thanks - Hilary

The Old Silly said...

Excellent choice of subject - timely, and three very good feedback responses from some highly qualified authors!

Marvin D Wilson

Hart Johnson said...

Very nice array of perspectives! I can see all having advanatages in different circumstances.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

wow! theses are great! thanks for putting this together

Arlee Bird said...

Just goes to show that there are advantages any way you go and an author probably needs to decide which method suits their own personal agenda and resources. No doubt though that promotion is the most important thing. No matter which way you go, if nobody knows about your book then it's not going to sell.
Very good information for consideration.

Tossing It Out

Donea Lee said...

Wow - this is just some wonderful insight from all three ladies. Thank you! My dream, of course, has always been - agented and big-time publisher! But...I may change my mind when/if the time is right. :) New follower and fellow crusader here, just (finally) making the rounds. Happy Tuesday!

Angela Scott said...

Very good post. Gives me a lot to think about and the possibilities out there. I still want to try the traditional route, but when all is said and done, I'd much rather have a book in print one way or another, than just one saved in a file on my laptop where no one gets to see it.

Susan Fields said...

These are three very interesting viewpoints - thanks for sharing what these ladies have to say!

Kari Marie said...

Great post! I love the contrasting viewpoints.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Finding the right path isn't an easy one. I appreciate your contrast offered by authors who chose various paths publishing.

the cool thing is I'm familiar with all three.

Thanks for the info, Diane.

Will Burke said...

The trouble with living in a revolutionary time is that we're too close to see who the winners will be. I mean, as far as agents go, their role will be very different in 5-10 years, so a luke-warm agent today may be right in his element in a few years.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

M Pax - LOL!

Carolyn, that's so true.

Hilary, and that's how most need to do it.

Lee, you said it best.

Donea, that's why it's important not to get set on just one path.

Angela, I hear you!

Will, who knows what will happen next?

India Drummond said...

About 6 months ago I sat down and wrote up a 10 year business plan for my writing career. Then I mapped out the different options. Although I had a contract on my first book with a small indie press, I realised the only way to meet my ambitious goals was to go indie for future books. I just don't have the time to wait 12-18 months for a publisher to schedule my release. So every month they sit on my MS is a month I'd be losing money. I know some authors want the security of having an agent and publisher take care of the details. For me, I realised my publisher isn't doing anything I couldn't either do myself or hire done for a very reasonable price. So why give them the lion's share of the profit?

India Drummond

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

This was great to read. I liked all the different perspectives. i did a recent post about my life in bookstores and how all the changes happening in store closings are making me so sad!