Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thadd Presley Presents and his personnel, the publisher I edit for through WAKE Editing, was just interviewed about an upcoming anthology and invited me along for the ride. The upcoming anthology is a collection of stories based on Dante's Inferno and his nine levels of hell. Simon Critchell did a bang-up job on the cover and Thadd is quite enthusiastic about its release. I will soon begin truly editing the manuscript, but from what I've read and heard, this should be a hellacious anthology that you don't want to miss. It should be available around May 19th, but for now, check out the wonderful interview with Dan O'Brien, a fellow author and editor. His blog is great place to visit and find recommendations for new and upcoming books.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

To Traditionally Publish or Self-Publish? That is the question.

An editing client recently asked my opinion on whether to traditionally publish or self-publish. I thought it was a good question to answer on here. I hope it answers questions many others incoming writers may have. It's a bit long, but quite interesting, so here goes:

So far as publishing, I've been offered a book publishing deal through a small publisher before (as I mentioned in a previous post about My Publishing Experience), but that was after months of submitting, many rejection letters, and lucking out by attending a writer's conference. Even the best sellers are rejected a dozen times before they finally get a nibble. However, I turned down the offer. I had already edited my book, paid for additional editors, and had other authors edit my material. I had also researched and formatted my books, paid for cover-art, and self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace.com. So, my books were getting out to people, being reviewed, and were meeting with great approval overall. Being a small publisher, she had less money to risk on a new author and less clout when it came to marketing. She also wanted me to pay for the first print run while she would cover editing, type setting, cover-art, etc. So, the offer wasn't attractive enough.

Large publishers rarely pick up unknowns for the same reason in today's down market. There are some, but the number of new authors published by traditional publishers each year can normally be counted on your fingers. Plus large publishers still have more money and experience, but are going to put it into a book/author that is less risky. For example, now many large publishers peruse the Amazon best seller lists looking for top independent writers before they ever even look at the slush pile of manuscripts submitted to them directly. This is because if they can find an independent with a fan base that's already been built, there's little to no risk in publishing their books and less marketing for the publishing house to do. However, for the same reason, they will have to sweeten the deal to get that author to sign on with them and confince the author to lose a large chunk of his/her sales and income. But those are almost sure bets, and that is much more attractive. The publishing house will make the money back that they gave to that author and more.

There are some attractions to traditional publishing. One is that to some people, there is still a stigma about self publishing. Although it is no longer vanity publishing and no longer costs the same with Print on Demand, some people still equate self publishing with vanity publishing, but that is quickly changing. The second reason is that many unpublished authors would like to see their books in bookstores, although bookstores now account for less than half of the total book sales in the U.S. I believe it was in 2010 that ebook sales surpassed them and the percentage is still growing. In addition, traditional publishers have deep pockets, so every author hopes that the big publisher will use that money to market his/her book. If you can guarantee a good fan base and sales, then the traditional publisher will probably do so. But if you're a currently unpublished author trying to make a name for yourself, you're likely not going to get the upfront payment from them for the rights to publish your book, nor will they put much into marketing it. Traditionally published authors have said that basically, you can count on the amount of marketing you're going to get from a traditional publisher based on how much they are willing to invest in you at the start. This is called the advance on royalties. If they are willing to cut you a large check for the publishing rights to your book, then they are willing to risk money on it in marketing etc. If you are an expert in your field or have a name and reputation, you might very well be able to get someone to do this. There is no harm in trying. It just takes time to print off the manuscript, create summaries and query letters, and research the requirements for formatting your submission and who to send it to. They all have slightly different ones. Then, you will be in what they call the "slush pile," which an intern will normally go through and you might hear back from in three months to two years.

However, many traditional publishers now require that you have an agent before they'll even look at your book and only accept submissions from agents. In down economic times where print sales are dwindling in favor of ebooks and large and small book stores are closing, this adds a middleman to help weed out works where the author is unpublished or the books don't meet their standard after just looking at the first ten pages or so. Also, it requires them to spend no money. In fact, many have let editors and other people go because requiring an agent makes it less necessary to have editors on staff, paying them benefits etc. They can just hire freelance editors for each project they take on. Financially, it is a smart decision for publishers with firm foundations and a good reputation. However, this basically creates a catch-22 where the authors that are accepted for publication are the authors they or another big publisher have published before. Those looking for their first publication are left in the cold to try and build up their publishing portfolio through writing short stories and submitting to small magazines or small publishers like I mentioned above, even if their book is a wonderful book. But now, even small publishing houses are hard to get accepted into because with dwindling sales, small publishers are having to tighten their belts too. Because of this same reason, they have little ability to market your books well due to a lack of money.

From what I've seen, both small and large publishers are suffering from this because of a decision to maintain high sales prices of ebooks, only reducing them by a dollar or so, while independently published books, when done right, will be the same quality and priced at around $4.99 or less. In this situation, the savings are passed on to the customer, and independent authors actually make a much larger percentage. With the evolution of Amazon.com and ereaders, this competition has become the bane of traditional publishers and is part of the reason for the increase in digital sales over print sales. However, even though production costs are almost nil for these same books, traditional publishers have not been willing to reduce the costs of their ebooks. In fact, I walked into a book store the other day and bought the print edition of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones, a great book by the way, for $5.00. However, both the ebook and print edition on Amazon.com were listed at $8.99 equally. The reason for this is that the book store reduced their profit margin to sell the book for a lower amount. If book stores are able to do this and independent authors have the control to sell theirs for less, choosing to make their money in quantity of sales instead of more per sale, why doesn't traditional publishing in order to compete? This is an interesting question that I have not found a publisher willing to answer. However, the trend is changing. I've seen some interest by small publishers in lowering ebook prices and attempting to compete using this method.

So where does that leave new authors? I wouldn't say give up on traditional publishing or getting an agent, but you have to do the legwork for them and show them that your book has potential by self-publishing, all the while continuing to send submissions to agents and publishing houses. You can do this through online marketing, promotions, etc . . . by getting your book out to readers, getting reader reviews and feedback, and building up demand for your book. Then, if you're able to do this, one of the traditional publishing houses or agents may pick up your novel, or at least make you an offer based on one of your submissions. If your book goes viral, meaning people latch on, can't get enough, and your sales go through the roof like Amanda Hocking's did, then you won't have to submit manuscripts to the big publishers. They will come looking for you, and you will decide how much you are willing to lose in income and control (decision making regarding pricing of your book, choice of cover-art, and more) in order to turn over the marketing reins to a publisher and just write. This is a far-fetched notion, the idea of becoming the next J. K. Rowling overnight. The funny thing is that more authors have been able to successfully give up their day jobs and write full time as indie authors in the last few years than ever before with traditional publishing. This is because the overhead and costs in traditional publishing leave the author with such a small cut of the profits that they have no choice but to work whatever day jobs they can find.

The publishing world now is very different than even a dozen years ago and is changing daily. However, if you are willing to put in the time and effort, you can work your way up in sales, get more money, and make a name for yourself on your own. If writing full time isn't your goal, what I would advise is to hire a professional editor, a good cover artist, and then format or pay someone to format your books for ebook through Kindle Direct Publishing and print through CreateSpace.com, Lulu.com, or another POD service. Afterwards, your book will be up for sale digitally on Amazon and in print on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. People will even be able to walk into a Barnes and Noble and order your book. You might want to think about enrolling your book in Amazon's Kindle Select program because it allows you to do promotions by putting your ebook up for free or cheaper for five days out of every ninety. This will get your book out to 80-90% of the ebook market, because around 80-90% of ereader owners have Kindles. In addition, it makes your book free to borrow and puts you in the running for a percentage of a $500,000+ fund that Amazon pays to authors each month based on how many people borrow your book.

If you still want to be traditionally published, then after six months to a year, depending on how well your book is selling, I'd start submitting your manuscript and/or query letters to agents; around ten submissions a week. If you get a bite and an agent takes you on, they'll do a lot of the legwork from there for a cut of the pie. In the end though, publishers generally only give royalties of 6-12% of the profits (meaning whatever they make after their costs for manufacturing, sales, distribution, etc... are deducted). Then the agent would get around 15% off the top of that 6-12%.

A good estimate for an advance on sales for a first time author, if you get one at all, is $4,000.00 - $6,000.00 (which is deducted from your 6-12% of initial sales until they are paid back). Celebrities and people with a fan base can demand much higher advances. It has now become common practice for many publishers to forgo the advance or give a much smaller one to new authors in lieu of a larger percentage of the royalties, increasing the 6-12% to upwards of 25%, and with big name celebrities 50%. This way, they are not out as much money if the book doesn't sell. However, the adage I mentioned before about how much they are willing to spend in marketing being equivalent to how much they are willing to give as an advance still applies.

It has taken me years of research to discover most of these things and by tomorrow, some may have changed with the ever-changing publishing world we now have on our hands.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of Invisible Dawn, A Life of Death, and Strange Circumstances

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 14-15 Weekend Giveaway & Interview

This weekend I've teamed up with two wonderful bloggers who reviewed my most popular book thus far, A Life of Death, in order to do an ebook giveaway this weekend, April 14-15.

Katy Sozaeva reads and reviews tons of books, editing many of them. I had the benefit of having her edit A Life of Death and my other novels early on and value her opinion. She's always quite blunt with me when something doesn't work and many people respect her reviews, taking them to heart when they are interested in finding the next book to read. To see her review of A Life of Death, visit her blog.

David King is another wonderful blogger and book reviewer with a stellar track record when it comes to hunting down great novels and weeding out the rest. I am very happy to have teamed up with him this week and honored by his review of A Life of Death. Give it a read and check out the wonderful interview he and I did. His questions were quite personal and genuine. In addition to promoting my free giveaway of A Life of Death, I highly recommend that you take a look at some of his other recommended reads. I've added some of the recommendations from both reviewers to my to-be-read list and look forward to finding the time.

And finally, to get your free ebook copy of A Life of Death this weekend, April 14-15, visit Amazon.com.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of Invisible Dawn, A Life of Death, and Strange Circumstances

Monday, April 9, 2012

My Publishing Experience and a Word of Advice to New Authors

I was recently asked a question by a past student who is now in college and considering stepping into the publishing world. It's a question I've been asked before and one I thought best answered here: What has your publishing experience been like, and do you have advice?

As to my publishing experience, it is different from a lot of traditional authors. Originally, I wrote poetry and then short stories for a time. I like my poetry (I haven’t written enough to compile a book of it yet, so as of now I may be the only one), but never really did much with it, and before I ever started submitting my short stories for publication, I outlined and wrote a novel. The novel, Invisible Dawn, only covered the beginning of the story I’d outlined, so I’ve been working on the rest a bit at a time. I revised and edited it eleven times after getting people’s feedback and realizing what rough shape it was in. During that time, another idea hooked me. So, I wrote a second and separate book, A Life of Death. While writing this novel, I shopped Invisible Dawn to publishers and agents. I also researched, researched, researched.

What I came to discover was that in this digital age, when more ebooks are being sold than physical books and at a much reduced cost, publishers are tightening their belts like everyone else in this down economy. I discovered in my research that many traditional publishers were eliminating overhead costs by reducing full-time employees; often this meant editors because they could hire freelance editors per project and not have to pay benefits or a salary to them between jobs. I also spoke with some well-known authors that I look up to and was told that even they were fearful that their publishers would drop them if just one of their books didn’t do well in its first few months out. I found prominent author like Konrath and Scott Nicholson, bloggers, and some agents that talked about how scarce it had become for traditional publishers to take on new, unproven authors due to the risk of paying to create, market, and manufacture a book that had no guaranteed readers or following. Would they get their money back? According to those agents and authors, that was a risk traditional publishers were much less inclined to take. Visit Konrath or Nicholson's blogs to see some examples of what I'm talking about, and these are authors published in New York traditionally who turned to self-publishing and found great success. Basically as a result, what had been incredibly difficult for many years, getting your book into a publishers hands and getting them to bet on you, had now become almost impossible. Look at Borders and other book stores that have closed as a result of shrinking sales. (Writers Readers) Small publishers have been pushed out too and they are often the ones seeking out new talent. However, some still exist and are open to taking a few risks, but not much.

Around a year ago I went to a writer’s conference and met a very nice publisher who ran her own small publishing company, Little Creek Books. I pitched A Life of Death to her, offered her a summary, and emailed the information about the book after I got home, as she requested. A few weeks went by before she got back to me, but when she did, she wanted to schedule a meeting. I went and we had a very long discussion about books, marketing, and specifically, A Life of Death. She said she was interested and offered to publish the book, even saying she had another novel she wanted to market with it locally. However, the catch was that she was a very small publishing house and couldn’t afford to pay for the initial run of books because there was no guarantee they would sell; meaning, I’d have to come up with over $2,000 for her to publish the book. She said that she was very interested in A Life of Death and would cover the costs for another edit, cover design, type setter, etc . . . and even the print runs for all books beyond the first if it sold. I believed her and still do today.

I understand the difficulties of having a small publisher. She seemed very sincere and like a very good publisher to work with. She was open to new ideas and was very family oriented. Unfortunately, being the lowly teacher and suffering as many people are through this economy, $2,000 was an insurmountable amount. However, there was also something many people told me: Your book is only valued by a publisher based on how much they are willing to put into it; meaning, if a publisher doesn’t want to front the money for a book, including the print run, marketing, editing, cover, etc . . . and pay you a royalty, or at least a much larger percentage of the profits than the 6 - 12% most traditional publishers give authors, then your book won’t do well. It’s simple. The old adage, “You get what you pay for,” still applies in this world. Publishers make money from books. They do. If they believe and are interested in your book, then they should be willing to take a risk on you. This small publisher was interested in giving me a much larger percentage than 6%, which I would have liked, but most of the marketing would have to be done by me due to the financial limitations of such a small publishing company, and the first $2,000 would have come out of my pocket.

At the time, I’d already had multiple editors go through the book, I am a trained English teacher, writer, and editor, and I already had a working cover. I’d formatted the book for print and had print copies available through CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble. The book was also selling in ebook on various online retailers like the aforementioned net stores, Sony, Kobo, and others. In the few weeks the book had been available, I’d received five or six reviews by readers, bloggers, and literary critics, and all of them were very good; most were even glowing five-star reviews. I couldn’t see paying money for something that I would get a lower percentage of in the end and still have to market myself online and to bookstores. So, we discussed other options, and she stated that her offer would still stand if I later changed my mind. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great meeting and from the little experience I had with her, I’d recommend Little Creek Books to authors, assuming they have the money to pay for the first run of books.

As I walked out, I couldn’t for the life of me believe that I had actually turned down an offer for publication. It would have meant that I’d have been traditionally published, if with a small publisher. After searching for a publisher for over a year, I’d turned down the answer to my prayers. I felt like I might have just turned down my one chance, but in the modern digital world of publishing, I’d already done everything she’d mentioned. Paying more just to get the first printing of books just wasn’t in the cards, or my bank account.

So, since then I’ve continued with my independent publishing through CreateSpace.com and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. For a time I used Smashwords.com too, but with the recent development of Kindle Select, I couldn’t help but give it a try. So far sales and fans are picking up, as are the giveaways I sometimes do. I’m glad to see my books making it into the hands of thousands of readers. I also began submitting short stories for publication, which Thadd Presley Presents expressed an interest in and has now published in a couple of their anthologies, including Creature Feature, Murder, and a couple upcoming anthologies that have yet to be released. Right now I’m not actively looking for a publisher, but can’t say I wouldn’t consider representation by an agent and/or publisher. However, I have complete control as an independent author. It is a trade off compared to the marketing potential and connections many big publishers have, but it’s a choice you have to make. Up to now, the offer hasn’t been right, but you never know what the future holds. The modern publishing world is ever-changing.

I realize that was quite a diatribe, so as to your second question, I wouldn’t be too concerned if you continue to get rejection letters when attempting to publish a book through a traditional publisher. It is often an intern looking through the slush pile to find the gems, and whether you get through to an actual editor or publisher is just based on their opinion. However, if they give you personal advice in the rejection letter, consider it. A personal response means they took time and put thought into getting back to you. That is saying something in today’s world of copy-and-paste rejections. Your first book, more often than not, will require revision and work. I’d recommend an editor if you haven’t already had a professional go through it. As an editor and an author, I still have a trained editor go through my books. The reason for this is that your mind sees what it thinks is there, and you need fresh, knowledgeable eyes to find what your mind is missing. It is almost impossible for an author to truly step back and take a look at books they’ve written because there is so much there. Your mind reads it as it is supposed to be read, not as it actually reads. After it has been professionally edited with a fresh set of eyes that know what they’re doing, you most likely still won’t be ready to enter the publishing ring. But the remaining lessons you have to learn are what some call OJT, on the job training. So, at that point, give it a go. It will probably be the worst book you’ve ever written. It won’t be perfect. Don’t kid yourself. I only have a few books under my belt at this point, and there are things I would go back and change, but at some point you have to stand back and ask yourself, “Is it good enough?” You will never reach perfection, but you will improve throughout your career. I look forward to eventually becoming a good writer myself, someday. Strive to get better and ask yourself if your story’s good enough.

You can do this by writing smaller things for publication: poetry, short stories, and novellas. There are many exciting places to publish your short stories and some will even give you feedback on how your stories can be improved. Dark Fiction Spotlight, Thadd Presley Presents, and many others accept fiction stories from lesser-known and unknown authors. They are looking for a good story, not necessarily a renowned writer. However, don’t expect to get into the most prestigious publications like the New Yorker with your first story. Try places like Duotrope.com and the Poets & Writers list of magazine publishers. They are quite handy and allow you to sidestep the time-consuming task of searching for each publication individually. And for my final word of advice, do your research and follow the submission directions. If you foul up even one particular thing, such as submitting your manuscript stapled instead of with a paperclip, your loving manuscript will only reach the trash can in many publishing houses. They are particular and put the instructions up on their site for a reason.


Weston Kincade ~ Author of Invisible Dawn, A Life of Death, and Strange Circumstances

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Strange Circumstances Easter Giveaway!

Strange Circumstances, my most recent release, will be free this upcoming weekend on Amazon.com. This collection of co-written tales deal with choices, fate, and often the horrible consequences. Join me, Marshall J. Stephens, and David Chrisley for our Easter Giveaway and grab a copy this Saturday or Sunday, April 7th & 8th.

Strange Circumstances:
The future's a gamble. Few people know what they really want, and those that reach it often find that it isn't what they expected. Strange Circumstances is an anthology of stories exploring the predictability of fate and destiny . . . or rather their unpredictability.

In the twelve twisted tales and fifteen flash-fiction pieces, Strange Circumstances explores the boundaries of our universe to see what lurks in the unknown, hidden within the mysteries of science, magic, extraterrestrials, religion and the paranormal. Amid celebrities who hit their peak and vanish, a tree that grows up from the floor of a moving train car, unspeakable conspiracy, monstrous espionage, and wicked sorcery, there is something within these pages for anyone who enjoys dark tales and twists of every sort.

And a great way to give thanks is to leave a review stating what you thought of the book for others to see. This can be done on Amazon.com or Goodreads.com.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of Invisible Dawn, A Life of Death, and Strange Circumstances