First things first: if you want the collector edition of Kinsmen from Subterranean, it’s on sale now for $37.50, 50% off. Click this link, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and it will be the 8th title up. Thank you to Aarya for heads up.
Quick update on SWEEP OF THE BLADE: thank you for all of the emails and inquiries regarding why SWEEP OF THE BLADE is not out on June 1st, as Goodreads says it would be. We appreciate your enthusiasm for our work. 🙂 Unfortunately, Goodreads doesn’t always have the most up to date information. We have no control over what date they put on the release. If you look in the menu above under Books, you will find Release Schedule. Clicking it gives you the following:
June/July, 2019 – *SWEEP OF THE BLADE, Innkeeper #4
The edits will be completed today, and the book will enter production process to be copy-edited, formatted, proofread, and uploaded, which means it should be up in 60 days. We do not anticipate a pre-order period for this one, as it would push the release date back by 3 months.
I was wondering if you or the authors would be willing to answer a potentially intrusive question regarding the choice to use a publishing house vs. self-publish. I’ve noticed that the authors presently use a publisher for some novels, but also self-publish others. I have noticed that several other authors who I follow also do both. If it’s not too nosy, could you explain why authors choose to do both? Is it that the publishing houses are too conservative regarding storylines and characters? Or that it is more flexible in terms of organizing releases when you self-publish? Is it a matter or product promotion? Or perhaps the authors earn a better profit margin self-publishing? I realize that the authors may be reticent to go into details if the answer is more personal than professional, but I thought it was worthwhile to at least ask, just in case they don’t mind sharing. Thanks.L writes.
We’ve talked about this at length before, but this is a slightly different question. To answer: people go hybrid for different reasons and it depends on where you are in your career.
Not too long ago, we were at a conference and while on a panel with other established authors, a new author asked a contract question about non-compete clause. One of our colleagues answered that she would never sign a contract with that kind of clause and the author who asked the question should threaten to walk away, and I had an unpolitic moment and said, “No, you can do that, because you have ten books out. She has one book out.” I’ve got a look, but if you ask me a professional question, I will give you an honest answer.
Writer careers are unique and that’s why it’s so difficult to give advice, so I’m going to talk in general terms and broad categories. When I say, for example, “no control over audio narration,” I mean that most writers don’t have one. However, at this point in our career, I could go to the publisher and say, “The audio reader’s interpretation of my work made me deeply unhappy” and we would get a new reader for the next book. There are certain privileges that come with success and a proven sales record.
- Advance up front (no matter how the book sells, the author gets some money)
- Publisher takes care of all production and printing costs
- Publisher provides publicity
- Publisher has a guaranteed built in audience
- Access to professional editor
- Presence of the printed book in stores
- Publisher dictates length and may request changes to title, character names, and other aspects of the book
- Publisher controls deadlines
- No control over cover or formatting of the book
- No control over availability, foreign rights, or audio narration
- Publisher provides publicity (this can be an infuriating experience)
- Royalties for ebooks typically amount to 25% of retail price, 10-15% on hardback, and 5-10% on mass market
- Contractual restrictions and non-compete clauses preventing the author from releasing a similar work of fiction for the duration of the contract
- Full control over content of the book, including length, editing, cover, and formatting
- Full control over price, availability, and sales
- Royalties on ebooks amount to 70% of the price when the book is priced between $2.99-9.99
- No advance (the author may end up earning nothing on the book)
- Responsible for all costs associated with the book, including the cover, editing, formatting, uploading, audio narration, and so on
- Responsible for all costs associated with promotion
- Limited promotion opportunities
- No built in audience
- Lack of qualified editorial input and often inability to recognize said input
To unpack some of this: if you have an audience, self-publishing requires a larger investment, but ultimately money is better. However, self-publishing typically results in a less polished book than traditional publishing. Good editors, especially content editors, are hard to find, which is why we hold on to them with teeth and claws. Hi, Sandra! And if the author hasn’t had experience with a good editor, they may think they are getting a solid edit when in fact they are being patted on the back.
Also, the publisher has a built in reader base. Even if they seem like they don’t promote the book, they still promote it on the back end by including it in the catalogs and sending it to review publications and so on. A book that comes out through traditional channels will have better visibility than a self-published title, especially if the author is an unknown.
Hybrid authors can be broken down into general categories:
beginning traditional authors
These are people who are starting out. They have a contract with the publisher, but they are trying to build their audience in anticipation of their release. They tend to do free or discounted releases of shorter works or free serials.
former Traditional authors
This category usually includes mid-list authors, although some bestselling authors get fed up and leave, too. (In general, the publishers try to retain bestselling authors much more vigorously.) The mid-listers have good sales and a solid base, yet they don’t hit high on bestseller lists. But publishing is fickle. Sometimes the publisher decides that a trend is dead or that a series is under-performing and they cut the author loose or offer them contract terms that are too restricting or an advance that’s too low.
In the old days, you just took that punch and tried to come up with something new to pitch to your former editor. But now we have an option to keep going through self-publishing. These authors often either continue their series on their own or publish new work in the similar genre. Some of them branch out and experiment with new concepts, others don’t. Some of them keep a foot in the door by still publishing something with a traditional publisher, but most don’t. Once you taste the freedom and the money, it’s hard to go back. All of them seem to be a lot happier.
current Traditional authors
This would be Gordon and me. Gordon and I do this for a number of reasons.
On the traditional side, we like working with Avon. We like our editor, we like the advance – guaranteed money, and we like the publicity the books receive. The publicity Avon generates for our series helps us maintain higher profile and effectively promotes all of our work. We are able to do TV interviews and have book tours where we get to meet you.
On self-publishing side, the money is nice, because instead of 25%, we get 70%. But what is even more nice is the creative control. After SWEEP OF THE BLADE and Iron Covenant #2 is done, we will likely do a fantasy with gladiators. We have no presence in heroic fantasy and when we floated this idea before a traditional publisher, the response wasn’t enthusiastic. It’s off brand. But we still want to do it, we have big chunks of it plotted, and so we will do it. Or we may do a violent dystopian Garbage Princess YA. Or a series of illustrated novellas that came out of the overload of Chinese dramas crossed with fae legends. Or the dragon fantasy we’ve been planning and planning and not getting to write.
Traditional publishing hinges on the publisher’s belief in you. You have to convince them that your work is worth the investment. Gordon and I believe in our work enough to invest time and money in it. We don’t mind taking that risk. You have to stretch or you will creatively stagnate.
So the reasons are complex, but in general, authors tend to shoot for the combination of guaranteed pay of the traditional advance and the traditional publicity and gambling on the joy of full creative control and potential lucrative payout of self-publishing. There is a golden middle of the road there that, when it works, can do wonderful things for the writer’s career.
Self-published authors who chose traditional publishing
In my experience, 95% of the people who do this are looking to expand their reader base. They want promotion from the publisher and legitimacy of a contract with New York. Some really sensational cases might have been tempted by a huge advance, but most people who do this are looking to reach wider and pull more readers in. Some of them are also seduced by the idea that they will do less work since publisher will take care of production and promotion and they will “just write.”
Hehehehehe, oh you sweet summer child. Hehehee. Yeah, come talk to me in a year.
So there you have it. There are other reasons why people choose to go hybrid, but these are the main ones.