Monday, February 25, 2013

Editor Aubrey Poole Discusses the Value of Having a Publisher

*Quick announcement: I had to turn my word verification back on (which I despise) because I've gotten so many spam messages. I'm so sorry and hope this will not discourage you from commenting!

Today I am wrapping up my series on Indie vs. Traditional Publishing with a post from a very special guest, Sourcebooks editor Aubrey Poole. But if you have any additional questions leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer or find out. 

Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this ever-changing and increasingly important discussion.  The rise of the eBook has meant a lot of changes for the publishing industry, and I’m proud to be a part of an organization that has embraced those changes. Sourcebooks is a privately owned independent company that’s gained a reputation for being agile, forward-thinking and willing to experiment. So, we may not quite fall under the category of “traditional” publisher, but we definitely acquire, package, produce, market and sell books, and I’m very happy to talk a little more about what value a Publisher brings to its authors.
I can throw a lot of terms at you about each piece of the publishing process, like so:

But I’m going to break it down to one core idea: Discoverability.
What does discoverability mean? How readers find your book.  If they don’t know about it, they can’t buy it (or check it out), and they can’t read it. So, the billion dollar question is: how will readers find your book?
With the close of Borders and the increasing popularity of eReaders, brick-and-mortar stores are gradually decreasing in number, limiting the opportunity for chance discovery. It’s becoming less common for readers to be browsing a shelf to find their next must-read and more important for publishers (or self-published authors) to find ways to bring attention to their books.
So, essentially, a Publisher’s job is to connect authors to readers.
This is done in a variety of ways from creating eye-catching book covers (that look good as thumbnails), to writing intriguing jacket copy, to placing ads in magazines, to sending ARCs (advance readers copies) to bloggers, reviewers, booksellers and librarians, to booking spots on TV or NPR, to purchasing advantageous placement in Barnes and Noble (those front-of-store table displays aren’t free!) to making sure the metadata (title, author, pages count, age level, etc.) is sent to Amazon correctly, and more.
With all of the noise out there (347,178 new books published in 2011 in the U.S. alone), it’s a Publisher’s job to make your book be heard.
What about Amanda Hocking and E.L. James, you ask? Didn’t they become successful, bestselling authors without a “traditional” publisher?  Yes! They are part of the lucky few whose self-published eBooks got that magical word-of-mouth momentum combined with low price points that shot them to the top of the bestseller lists. But for every success story, there are thousands of self-published authors you’ve never heard of and likely never will. And, you may have noticed, both Hocking and James turned to “traditional” publishers to take their eBook phenomena and publish them in print to reach an even wider audience.
So, what does this all mean for you, the writer?  Self-publishing is a fantastic new and growing option that will become an important part of the publishing sphere and allow for more and easier access to information than ever before. And for some authors, it will be the right fit. I think it will be especially important for authors of controversial, innovative or niche subjects and genres fast converting to eBooks (like romance!). But in my opinion, a Publisher is still a writer’s best bet when it comes to finding an audience for you book.  

Aubrey Poole got her start as an editor correcting her friends’ grammar in high school, an effort which naturally guaranteed instant popularity. After a brief internship in the marketing department at Penguin UK, she started her first real job as a news assistant at The Real Estate Journal in Los Angeles. But when she was offered a position as a reporter, Aubrey thought it would be less scary to move cross-country to New York City and try to break into the book publishing industry.
Aubrey is now an associate editor at Sourcebooks, acquiring children’s books from picture books through young adult. Her first YA novel, Send by Patty Blount, was a Junior Library Guild pick, and she hopes to continue shamelessly courting librarians with her forthcoming middle grade novel The Ninja Librarians.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Susan Kaye Quinn and Laura Pauling Debunk Indie Publishing Myths

*Before we begin I want you all to be sure to come back next week when the amazing Aubrey Poole, Editor from Sourcebooks will join us to provide a more in depth look at why having a publisher is a good idea. But now for our Indie experts!

A post from Susan Kaye Quinn on Debunking Some Indie Publishing Myths, combined with Lisa Gail Green’s posts on Indie vs. Traditional kicked off a discussion between Susan Kaye Quinn and Laura Pauling (both indie authors with the Indelibles author group) on indie publishing myths, publishing middle grade, and the new hybrid author. For a peek behind the curtain at the real experience of indie authors today, check it out…

There are too many self-pub books; mine will be lost in the pile!
Laura Pauling
Laura: Sue’s post is a great list of myths (about indie publishing). (There are) so many more too when it comes to why authors self publish and quality issues. But Lisa has  definitely covered some major ones. :) We're never doomed unless we quit trying. 

Susan: I’ve been countering some myths on the blogosphere lately, so I collected them into a post. Interestingly, I’ve heard less lately about the “all SP (self-published) books are trash” meme – maybe I’m just hanging out with the cool kids now.

Laura: I see the knocks on quality about SP from posts in the traditional world; usually people who don't know much about it or who really don't know how to find the well written books. I just walk away. :)

You have to publish fast to be a successful indie author.

And I agree, the whole rush, rush thing is slightly exaggerated.  A career will not be made or broken based on that factor. Does rushing books to market help? If they’re quality. And it helps get the author to a point in his/her career where they could be full time, but it's not the determining factor.

Susan Kaye Quinn
Susan: Getting quality books out quickly helps for the same reason that being 10 years down the road in my career would help – I’d have more to sell. But I don’t see a good way to short-cut that process – you have to actually write the books and earn the fans along the way.

I try to insulate myself from the indie naysayers of the world – it doesn’t help to listen to people who are dissing what I’m doing. I’ll let them play in their sandbox and I’ll play in mine.

Laura: I know what you mean. I'm attending and volunteering at NESCBWI (New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) this spring. I have to seriously debate whether it's worth my $$ in the future. Ansha Kotyk is presenting and will be able to sell her self-published book in the bookstore and sign, so I'm curious to see how that goes for her. :) 

Have you decided what to do with your middle grade? Query? I'm torn about the future. I'll continue to write and self publish some companion novels to promote my middle grade that's out. And I have another idea for a series, that I'll self publish. I’ll see what happens. 
Susan: Everything I see still tells me that middle grade indie books struggle. Writing and publishing really are two separate functions in my brain – I write what I love, then figure out the best way to publish. Speaking of: has your small press (Pugalicious) gotten good reviews/distribution for your MG novel about the Mayans? Has that opened any doors you wouldn’t have had with self-pub?

Laura: Honestly, publishing with the small press has certain advantages. Pugalicious Press did fantastic job with editing and cover design. I had a one-hour phone conversation with a marketing specialist. I think it also opens doors for certain contests, if a writer cares about that. I could submit for the bigger awards.

But, over all, in all honestly, it doesn't help as far as distribution. But, let's say, a book took off, then it would be much easier to get into bookstores b/c bookstores would see your book as traditionally published. So it has the potential to open doors that I wouldn't have self-publishing.

I think querying a middle grade would be much easier knowing I was writing and self-publishing other works. That my career didn't hinge on that one manuscript. Middle grade is really hard, even though everyone clamors for it. But, there is a certain freedom knowing that if they're not interested I can go with a small press or self publish. It frees me to write for me, not for them or what I think they're looking for. I don't think I realized how much that influenced me until I started self publishing. 

Susan: This is SO true – and it’s really hard to explain it to people until they’ve self-pubbed and seen it for themselves. There’s an unrestrained variety in self-pub. You’re not locked into what publishers see as having high sales potential.

Laura: I think some authors truly feel that self-publishing is giving up the dream. I guess if you want to be published traditionally, than it could be. But underlying what we've been told for years, is the dream of reaching readers, of possibly making an income. That's never been more possible than it is today. 

Susan: I think it’s definitely ok to pursue the dream (of traditional publishing). In fact, I think it’s imperative that you do so, if that’s your dream, until it plays out, whatever the outcome.

Laura: I do understand writers not wanting to take on all the aspects of self-publishing, so ultimately it's their choice. But I see traditional publishing just as stressful and time consuming as far as the business aspect, worrying about selling through and the huge pressure (along with excitement) that comes with release.

I'm so interested to see what the next couple of years bring, but I see over and over again that 2013 is the new normal. The gold rush is over. Now it's about self-published authors playing it smart, seeing the long tail, producing good work, improving craft, and sticking to a schedule. And most importantly, not giving up. If something isn't selling well - try something else.

What do you think of the hybrid author these days? Advantages/disadvantages?

Susan:  I’m not sure I know what a hybrid author is any more. I thought I knew – it was an author who was trad-pubbed then went indie or who was an indie success and got plucked from the bestseller list and offered a contract from the big six.

These days, I think less and less in terms of publication route and more in terms of distribution, intellectual property, and opportunities. I just finished putting out a live-action trailer that has helped me connect with film agents who might be interested in shopping film rights. I’m working on an audio version of Open Minds where I’ll be revenue sharing with the narrator. And I’m exploring possibly translations to other language. Meanwhile, indie superstars like Hugh Howey and Colleen Hoover are negotiating print-only deals with publishers.

All these things used to be only available to trad-pub authors, but now I see this as the true future for hybrid publishing – managing your intellectual property through all the most effective channels (trad-pub for print, indie for e-rights, film agents or indie producers for the film world, indie collaborations for things like graphic novels, audio books, and translations into foreign languages).

Indie publishing is a whole new business model, and authors are still feeling out all the pathways to success.

It’s a brave new world. Still.

Laura: Definitely!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Indie Vs. Traditional Round 5

photo credit
Personal Satisfaction


  • Pros:
    • You do it your way.
    • You get to see your book out there in the hands of readers.
  • Cons:
    • You may not have shelf space or an end cap.
    • You won't get that third party recognition from the big guys. Unless of course you sell above 50,000 books and attract a little attention, which is difficult to do.
  • Pros:
    • You made it the "hard" way! You have the recognition.
    • You are dealing with others who can do certain things for you that you don't want to deal with yourself.
  • Cons:
    • You may have to struggle to sell more books if you are a mid-list author, which most people are. 
    • It may take years. Even decades.

Yup it all comes down to this. What is it that drives us? We don't write because we think it's glamorous - those that do are probably due for a checkup. We write because we HAVE to. But beyond that we each have different goals and preferences. 

Over this series we've examined pros and cons to both Indie and Traditional publishing. Does it look like one is better than the other? There's no knockout here. I believe they are both valid and wonderful ways to pursue our art. That's why I'm pursuing both. 

Now I don't expect you to rely on my word for it. In the next couple weeks I'm going to have some better authorities weigh in on BOTH sides. Next week we will start with the amazing Susan Quinn and Laura Pauling, both successful Indie authors, discuss the benefits of Indie publishing from their viewpoint. Then we'll give the other side a chance. :D So don't forget to stop by!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Indie Vs. Traditional: Round 4



  • Pros:
    • They can get the word out and are featured prominently at chain bookstores and online. So you have a boost right away
    • People trust what they know
    • You have a better chance at hitting the best seller list and your book becoming big
  • Cons:
    • They may be trying so hard to mass market that they miss the real gem inside your book
    • If it flops, it usually happens right away and it's tougher to get a second book deal
  • Pros:
    • You can publish a book designed to fit the needs of a small or particular audience
    • You build your name as an author over time and by word of mouth, so if you don't "make it big" right off the bat, you're still doing just fine
  • Cons:
    • It's tough to get noticed
    • You have to work hard to get the book in the hands of the right people to spread the word 
What do you think? Did I get that right? It's tough to say, but that's what I've gleaned so far. Next time? The final round: Personal Satisfaction.