Monday, August 12, 2013

The New Publishing Dynamic

There's nothing like reading your work in front of a live audience and hearing comments afterwards.  This past weekend I read from my memoir Morning at Wellington Square and really appreciated the immediate feedback, the support and validation that my story resonated and touched a chord.

This is the joy of the new publishing dynamic; not waiting years for your work to see the light of day, but sharing with an audience and potentially new readers who might be interested in writing their own journeys or just appreciate yours.  We know this in the Women's Writing Circle when we go out into the community and read our work.

But authors these days are facing more challenges than how to turn a phrase; whether to write a chronological story or one that plays with words and explores a stylistic approach.  We are confronting the new publishing dynamic.

A highlight of the IWWG Conference for me - where I read the excerpt from my memoir -  was the “bonus” lecture offered Saturday afternoon by April Eberhardt, a literary agent who has embraced with invigorating enthusiasm the new publishing options.   This includes traditional publishing, small presses, partnership publishing (such as SheWrites), self-publishing and hybrid publishing, (where a traditionally published author decides, for example, to self-publish a Kindle Single through Amazon).
Costs are associated with all but traditional publishing. And few, if any, of the other options offer advances and some require payment in return for assistance with author platform, marketing, cover design and editing.
April Eberhardt was a breath of fresh air in what I felt was a bit of  “stagnant” atmosphere at IWWG's three-day conference in Madison, New Jersey  with its emphasis on meeting literary agents, and adhering to the old rules of publishing.  What does this mean?  It usually means waiting three years from literary agent to editing to book publishing, as one agent told me.  Add to that poor royalties and no control over your work.    Traditionally published authors make 10 to 15 percent on each book.  Self-published authors get as high as 70 percent on each book sold.
Eberhardt noted if a book doesn't sell after six weeks (hit blockbuster status or a close equivalent), traditional publishers have been known to fold up the tent on the book; worse, if the book "doesn't earn out" the publisher's initial investment, they won't take a risk on a 2nd or 3rd book, which, of course, makes sense. It also means a lot of fine books get tossed in a forgotten heap since the publisher bought the rights to the book they published but which posted weak sales. (Owning the copyright to your work and having creative control over your book makes self-publishing even more attractive.)   Publishing is, after all, a business.
Self-publishing is not easy; no walk in the park as anyone who has done it knows.  It takes courage and imagination, along with a strategy and vision and the confidence and perseverance to see a finished quality product through to the end.  It is by no means the choice for everyone. 
As a journalist I mastered early on how to write a press release and craft condensed, to-the-point writing.  I felt these skills were crucial in writing my synopsis and other promotional materials for my books. In addition, I already knew people in the writing community, which made it easier to find an editor, trust her and meet with her in person. This figured prominently into my decision to self-publish back in 2010 when I published my first memoir, Again in a Heartbeat through CreateSpace, which is the self-publishing arm of Amazon.  The other, of course, was getting on with it and sharing my memoirs, which I hoped might help others going through similar journeys.  In the summer of 2012, I published Morning at Wellington Square, the sequel to Again in a Heartbeat, also with CreateSpace.
"Discoverability is the challenge," Eberhardt noted.  If your goal is to move from self-publishing to traditional publishing, those publishers (Random House, Harper Collins, etc.) only consider an independent author who has sold at least 20,000 books.  This is a dramatic increase from "the olden days"  (two weeks ago), she said, when selling 5,000 or 10,000 copies was the threshold.
The five "musts" for any independent author:
  • Write a good book.
  • Hire an editor, copy editor and proofreader.
  • Create a "killer" cover.
  • Develop your marketing skills.
  • Commit to quality.
Those embracing the new publishing dynamic can move forward, SELL BOOKS and GET THEIR WORK IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE.   Selling to independent bookstores on consignment, being creative with your marketing skills to include but not limited to author book fairs, being on Goodreads, mastering social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,) are musts for the serious writer with an eye toward publishing. 
The key in my opinion:  Keep the door open to all possibilities, but understand what each offers and assess your comfort level and monetary commitment to your book.
Whatever you do, know this.  In the final analysis, "no one knows why anything sells," Eberhardt said. 

Amen to that!
Thoughts, comments and experiences with publishing?

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