Thursday, January 06, 2011

Dual Success

Can you be successful at being both a writer and a publisher? According to Richard Curtis in e-reads, probably not. The article starts with this paragraph:
Do authors make good publishers? The answer is No. But it’s fascinating to watch them try.
He uses three authors to explain his reasoning: Cory Doctorow, Seth Godin, and J.A. Konrath. Of those three, Konrath has had the most success, mainly because his name is so well-known by the reading public.

You can read the full article, then draw your own opinions. Curtis does quote from Konrath’s blog (the most successful of those big authors going to self-publishing):
Right now, the best way to begin a writing career is to find a good literary agent and sell the book to a well-respected print publisher. In other words, don’t do it on your own unless you completely understand what you’re doing.
I know a lot of you are self-publishing. Do you think you’re successful? Are you making money yet (above what it cost you to publish)? Would you rather publish on your own or would you rather have a “house” take you on?

39 comments:

  1. I think the saying, 'necessity is the mother of invention', comes into this somewhere, Helen. It's very hard work, being both, but also rewarding. I know I shall be become more successful the more books I can write and publish, as there is a demand. Just have to keep working. :0)

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  2. Well, yeah, in the ideal world, every good author would find an agent and a publisher. I don't need to point out that this is wishful thinking, in fact has always been wishful thinking. Now, in the age of Amazon and self-publishing, at least every author who thinks he/she is a good writer, can put their work "out there." Is this success? It depends what you call "success."

    Success: making lots of money through self-publishing? Probably not, with a few exceptions such as J. Konrath and others.

    Success: finding readers and selling the occasional book? Very likely and very possible. It takes some initiative and trials and errors with PR and distribution. But you can almost be sure that you sell more books than if you didn't publish at all.

    Most of us independent authors are probably somewhere in the middle of that range. We need to define "success" for ourselves.

    If you're serious and passionate about writing and sharing your work, you will be a "success" one way or the other. And, yes, find yourself a good editor!

    Happy New Year to my fellow authors and to the readers who support us and give us a chance!

    Christa

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  3. Christa said it well...much better than my poor brain could this early!
    I consider myself successful. I've published more books than I'd have been able to with a publisher and have complete control over everything, from price to cover art. I'm earning a profit as well, which I'm ecstatic about!

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  4. I don't think I would be very good at the self-publishing thing. I haven't tried it yet, nor have I tried it the "old fashioned" way. Mom did always tell me that I should try something before I say I don't like it. Maybe I should get on that. :)

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  5. I think it definitely depends on the writer. I know an author who self-pubbed and has been nominated for major awards in the industry--but he worked extremely hard and it became almost a full-time job for him. I wouldn't be able to do it--not as motivated to promote.

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  6. I think the writers who are successful with it are able to devout a lot of time to promotion. It's more difficult when you have a day job and only a few hours to give to your writing career.
    My romance novels are with a small publisher so I get an editor, someone to do the coverart and make available through online retailers but the small pubs pay pretty fair royalties unlike the big publishers. It works for me right now.

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  7. Good questions. I enjoyed the discussion. Haven't self published, and don't expect to try. But, of course, Kindle is an easy way to go. Some swear they make big money. So who knows?
    Sylvia Dickey Smith

    A War of Her Own

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  8. Ditto what Christa said. If I had my druthers, I'd have found an agent and been published traditionally. Perhaps I didn't give it long enough (1 1/2 years). I'll never know. For me, self-publishing was what I felt I needed to do. Have I made money? Not much. Am I successful? Depends on your definition. If it's monetary, no. If it's about reaching others who might be in pain and touching their hearts, yes.
    Karen

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  9. Carole, you're right. I think part of the growth of self-publishing is due to writers not having any other outlet for their works.

    Christa, that's so true - the definition of success depends on who is doing the defining and what their goals are.

    Alex, I don't know that I could either.

    Yay Laura!!

    Laurita, your mom was right. And (for me) don't say you couldn't do it before trying it.

    Elizabeth, promoting can take up so much time, as you know!

    Susan, small publishers are on the rise now. They used to be shunned in favor of the big pubs, but not so much anymore.

    You really have to do so much work to make it big, no matter which direction you go, but especially if you self-pub. I agree, Sylvia.

    Karen, I love your definition of success.

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  10. I read that and Konrath's response post (http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/01/response-to-richard-curtis.html). I think even if you end up self-publishing you don’t do it on your own. The people I’ve read who have done it hire an editor and a cover designer. The toughest part would be marketing and getting bookstores to carry your book.

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  11. I think if you wanted to sell 'a coupla books' you could do very well self publishing (I mean WRITE 2 or 3 and sell them)--it is more money per unit to the author so you don't NEED to sell as many, and you can self promote pretty effectively.

    But I think to make a NAME for yourself and get a writing career snowballing so each time it is a little easier, you need to go traditional (at least until you are 'there')--otherwise EVERY BOOK is all that work. I ALSO think self publishers should spend the money for the professional editor and probably art (though I have a friend who has done some very professional looking covers for me)

    We still, in self publishing, ALSO have a quality control issue. I am nervous about buying anything self-published, not because there is nothing good--I'm sure there is a ton of great stuff, but because I have no clue how to week out the NOT good (or more commonly, not yet ready)

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  12. LOL! Wow, I could write a novel here...
    Unfortuantely, most people go into the industry without a clue.
    There's also a difference between those who just publish themselves and those who start an actual publishing company.
    Of course, if success meant I had to be like that one author, I think I'd pass.

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  13. I just published to kindle and smashwords. I know I'm unknown to the public. So I have been giving away my book to ten people who have promised to give "honest" reviews on kindle, smashwords, goodreads and elsewhere. If I weren't so confident on my ability to write well and entertain the reader, I wouldn't have done this. Only time will tell if I'm right.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

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  14. It seems like the "tough" stuff never end for writers, but especially when you set out to publish on your own, Holly.

    Good point, Hart. You really do need an editor and a great cover.

    Self-publishing scares me silly, Diane. I am clueless, even though I read a lot on the subject and know other authors who've done it.

    Nancy, I hope you sell well - and tell us your results on your blog. I love hearing about successes and even when something went wrong and the author was able to fix it.

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  15. Helen,
    Epublishing seems to be the topic of the old and new year.

    For me, I'd rather my publisher deal with it.

    But who knows what's down the road.

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  16. I'm traditional all the way...for as long as I can be...

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  17. Even for those who have an established publisher, it's good to know about these things because they'll be in your contract.

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  18. I've never self-published. When I wrote romance, the temptation was there to e-publish because everyone was touting it as the "next big thing," but instinct always told me that even if it became big, the successful print authors would just move over to e-publishers...and I was right!

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  19. Self publishing is working for me. I have a great writing group (Trinity Writers' Workshop in Bedford) and they keep me on the right path with critique and advice on story line. It has been a fun experience and I've enjoyed learning all aspects of publishing. I recently made two of my books available on Kindle so I'm interested to see how they do. Like any new business it takes time to get your name out there.
    Ann

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  20. You were indeed, Stephanie.

    Ann, you do have a good group in Bedford. The nice thing about a great group is that they help you with the editing, plotting and other advice you need, plus they can be help in grasping all you have to know to self-publish.

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  21. I think self-publishing is slowly gaining traction but it is going to be a long uphill grind. I have used SmashWords and CreateSpace, and may in the future, but when I'm ready to send my novels out into the world I'll try and get them published by a known publisher.

    It is also important to remember that agents have a vested interest in convincing writers that there is no future in self-publishing. If and when it does take off they become obsolete. But it won't really take off until consumer filters become established which take the fear out of the buying decision.
    ~jon

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  22. Another thing to remember about self-publishing today vs the old vanity press model is that in the old days it was mostly run by sharks taking authors for all they could. Now with SmashWords and CreateSpace the author has complete control (as Laura pointed out) and minimal costs.

    With a good (and I mean honest) critique group to help you cut the crap, and perhaps a modest expense for cover art, the self-publisher does not have to sell very many copies before they are in the black.

    I envision a day when authors band together to form co-ops in order to shore up each other. Someone weak at art could trade editing services for a cover, or vice versa. New models will eventually emerge.
    ~jon

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  23. I'm not yet published, but would be reluctant to self-pub. I'd be afraid that too much responsibility would fall on my shoulders, and that by wearing so many hats, simply writing might just get lost in the mix :(

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  24. Jon, I think publishers are going to begin an arm that will do the "self-publishing" for writers. They may do it for a cut of the profits, but more likely will charge a fee upfront then a percentage of the profits. They'll do the work; writers will do the promoting. Either that or they'll keep an eye on sales of self-pubbed writers and will take on those who are able to get big sales.

    Joanne, I'm with you. The very thought of learning all that has to be understood to self-pub is very intimidating to me. I really admire those who plunge in and do it. It seems like an all-time consuming project.

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  25. I’m with a small traditional publisher and that works for me as I don’t want to take on all the other ‘jobs’ a publisher handles.

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  26. Jane, more and more people are considering small traditional presses as the "ideal" way to go.

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  27. I've seen many good scientists become bad managers. Same thing, sort of.

    Cold As Heaven

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  28. I understand exactly what you're saying. In my family, I'm the creative person and my husband is the business person. If we tried to switch positions, it would be a disaster.

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  29. I agree with Hart. Whether you self-publish or traditionally publish you need a good editor and good artwork. That being said, either way, writers find themselves engaged in the promotional tasks of publishing until they've established a "name" for themselves, so I can't answer your question as an either/or question. I've self-published more as a jump-start tool than anything else. What's the harm in having a book (and yes it was professionally edited) in print while I slave away at the greater goal of publishing through a traditional channel?

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  30. That's interesting, Literary Magic. You've probably learned a lot during the self-publishing. I hope it enhances your appeal to a publishing house, since you're looking for one. I certainly don't think it's a stigma like it used to be, especially if you have good sales.

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  31. I think writers can publish a book in hardback and/or paperback first and then utilize the growing e-book market for later editions of the book. I have recently joined a group of writers who have BackList Books.com, a place where readers can find low-priced e-books from writers who were published by a traditional publisher first. We are all promoting the group, so we are reaching more readers than if we were doing individual promoting. I may never sell as many books as the top-selling authors, but if my sales are steady, I'm happy with that. And I am still making money with the hardback sales first.

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  32. Thanks Maryann. I don't have an eReader, but my husband does. I'll bookmark BackListBooks.com

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  33. Maryann, I couldn't find BackListBooks.com. I did find http://backlistbooks.web.officelive.com/default.aspx but didn't see eBooks listed. Do you know the URL?

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  34. Thanks for the review. I like to hear what other authors are doing and how they are received in Blogdom.

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  35. I'm looking to be picked up for my next two books. Until then, I'll continue to promote on my own and get my name circulated across the country as much as possible.

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  36. Gotta get your name out there, Stephen (which you are already doing). Without a platform, you're just standing in mud.

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  37. I have s/p my poetry and children's books. I am not going to do the same with my novels, if I can help it. I would like a 'house' to take me on.

    I will s/p if I get no joy after a year. I am impatient. LOL

    Interesting post, thanks.

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  38. Hi Helen .. interesting post and comments - I must read Richard Curtis' post .. to learn a little more .. I've never heard of Konrath - probably wrong country .. thanks for this information .. just an informative read .. Hilary

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