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Steve Lenaghan
12-16-2006, 07:34 AM
I am withdrawing my participation with Absolute Write. I have had a bad experience with one forum and as a result have no desire to continue. My thanks to those who meaningfully helped me.

Over and Out

James D. Macdonald
12-16-2006, 08:09 AM
Did he truly self-publish or go through a vanity press?

If self-published we have an entire forum for that. If vanity press, you're on the right board, but what was the name of the company?

That list of Famous Self-Published Authors is well-known ... and widely derided. Yes, Margaret Atwood did self-publish. A book of poetry the year she graduated from college. Yes, Louis L'Amour did self-publish, and again it was a book of poetry. Yes, Mark Twain did self-publish, but it was after he was already the best-selling author in America (and he went bankrupt doing it).

Heck, I've self-published. But it was for specific purposes, and it isn't what I'm known for (to the extent that I'm known for anything at all).

jeffrivera
12-16-2006, 11:53 AM
Self-publishing is an excellent way to get an agent and a major publisher they no longer turn their nose up at it at all.

victoriastrauss
12-16-2006, 06:44 PM
If you can sell several thousand copies of your self-pubbed book in the first few months of release--especially if your self-pubbed book falls into a genre that is currently perceived as "hot"--yes, a legit agent or commercial publisher will be impressed. Short of that (and most self-pubbed books fall way, way short), the stigma still exists.

I'm moving this to the self-pub forum, since it doesn't appear to have anything to do with B&BC questions.

- Victoria

Cathy C
12-16-2006, 07:02 PM
Self-publishing is an excellent way to get an agent and a major publisher they no longer turn their nose up at it at all.

Could you expand on this, Jeff? When you say it got you an agent and publisher BY self-publishing, do you mean that you DIDN'T query said agent or publisher? Did they approach you after seeing your book someplace? The reason I ask is that from talking with agents and editors I know, self-publishing is no longer a stigma to selling the book, but it's also not a benefit. It's a neutral---about the same as sending in a ms. from your desk drawer. If that's changing, it would be useful to know.

ResearchGuy
12-16-2006, 08:57 PM
... honestly self publishing seems to imply a lot more work to get sales and that would detract from being creative. ...
You are right. Self-publishing (serious self-publishing, that is, pursued as a business) is only for those who want to both write AND run a real business, and who have the entrepreneurial tools to do so. It involves a lot of skills and takes a lot of time. (Some of those skills can be contracted out, of course, but that has to be factored into the finance calculations.) I think it is much more difficult for fiction writers than for nonfiction writers with an identified market segment, especially those looking beyond a strictly local market.

Your non-writing efforts probably are much better invested in the relentless pursuit of commercial publication than in any sort of self-publishing or subsidy publishing. (Go for it! And good luck! Be sure to study the art of writing queries and book proposals.)

A Naida West can combine high-quality writing with effective management of a publishing business, but she is of a rare type, and not reluctant to contract out editing, book design, and other requirements.

--Ken

jeffrivera
12-17-2006, 10:43 AM
Could you expand on this, Jeff? When you say it got you an agent and publisher BY self-publishing, do you mean that you DIDN'T query said agent or publisher? Did they approach you after seeing your book someplace? The reason I ask is that from talking with agents and editors I know, self-publishing is no longer a stigma to selling the book, but it's also not a benefit. It's a neutral---about the same as sending in a ms. from your desk drawer. If that's changing, it would be useful to know.

Good question Cathy. I really stand by that self-publishing is a great way to get your book out there right away (sometimes when it's half-cooked and shouldn't be out quite yet) but I built up an audience mostly from word of mouth and online promotions. The first agent I had from the book invited me to send the book when I had emailed him about something completely unrelated to my own novel. The second agent who is my agent now and is who I like to call the "best agent in the universe" I got when I sent her an excerpt from the book in the body of the email (not even a cover letter or anything, just an excerpt.)

The reason I think Warner was attracted to the fact that it was self-published was because I had a built-in fan base and they knew I wouldn't be an author who would just sit back and wait for them to do everything. Also because it had a niche market and hopefully because they really enjoyed the story.

Self-publishing doesn't have that stigma anymore at all. A good book is a good book, but a bad book is a bad one whether it was self-published or not.

The reason why I endorse self-publishing is because it gives writers a chance to understand the other side of the writing business (promotion, sales, fulfillment, etc.) and you learn so much. I highly recommend it. And also if you really believe in your book and the industry just isn't getting it you can go out and PROVE to them there's a market for your novel.

victoriastrauss
12-17-2006, 07:43 PM
Jeff, will your book be with Warner's new Solana imprint? Also, can you give us an idea of how many copies you sold of the self-pubbed version?

Not to belittle your success, but your experience is VERY unusual--even more so because your book is fiction. Where self-pubbed fiction is picked up by large publishers, it's nearly always under unusual circumstances--lots of sales accomplished by the author on his/her own, or a hitherto-unnoticed (by Big Publishing) market where it has suddenly dawned on Big Publishing that there's money to be made--as with YA fantasy a few years ago, or hip hop/urban fiction now.

Certainly some authors have broken into commercial publishing by self-publishing (this is nothing new, by the way; publishers have always been interested in picking up successful self-pubbed books). But compared to the enormous number of self-pubbed books, it's a tiny, tiny percentage. Self-publishing makes a lot of sense for some authors, and it makes sense for those authors to seriously consider it. But it's irresponsible to recommend it as a "way in," because most of the time it's not.

The reason why I endorse self-publishing is because it gives writers a chance to understand the other side of the writing business (promotion, sales, fulfillment, etc.) and you learn so much.The kind of promotion an author does is very different from the kind of promotion a publisher does. Ditto for sales and fulfillment. What an author can learn through self-publishing--if he's successful--is only part of the story.

- Victoria

jamiehall
12-17-2006, 09:04 PM
The reason why I endorse self-publishing is because it gives writers a chance to understand the other side of the writing business (promotion, sales, fulfillment, etc.) and you learn so much. I highly recommend it.

It may just as easily not be a teaching tool at all (because the writers can't master it, and learn nothing) or only be a teaching tool by causing writers to learn everything the hard way (perhaps after the book has bombed). Everything learned that way can be learned in far less expensive and risky ways - such as by reading reputable books about the publishing industry.


And also if you really believe in your book and the industry just isn't getting it you can go out and PROVE to them there's a market for your novel.

You can only prove it to them if you succeed big-time. Furthermore, what you are saying has only a minuscule chance of success with novels. Most experts only recommend that nonfiction be self-published.

jeffrivera
12-17-2006, 09:27 PM
Jeff, will your book be with Warner's new Solana imprint? Also, can you give us an idea of how many copies you sold of the self-pubbed version?Not to belittle your success, but your experience is VERY unusual--even more so because your book is fiction. Where self-pubbed fiction is picked up by large publishers, it's nearly always under unusual circumstances--lots of sales accomplished by the author on his/her own, or a hitherto-unnoticed (by Big Publishing) market where it has suddenly dawned on Big Publishing that there's money to be made--as with YA fantasy a few years ago, or hip hop/urban fiction now.

Thanks for your comments Victoria. I definitely stand by my claim that self-publishing is a wonderful "way in" even with fiction. I think at the time I sold the rights to Warner (not Solana, they're not coming out until the Fall 2007) I had something like 8000 books in circulation.

You just have to show them that you've just scratched the surface for your particular market. For example, my market is mainly Latinos, but more specifically: teen Chicanas. I could have focused on another market maybe just YA (but there's lots of competition there) or black market (lots of competition there) or even literary competition (but definitely lots of competition there) I focused instead on a market that really is still underserved.

Even if you've written for a market where there's lots of competition if you can focus more on a particular segment of that market and show them the statistics, you'll often sell more books and be able to present to them the potential. They just want to see the potential, they don't want to see that you've saturated your market. That's the one danger in self-publishing.

jeffrivera
12-17-2006, 09:29 PM
You can only prove it to them if you succeed big-time. Furthermore, what you are saying has only a minuscule chance of success with novels. Most experts only recommend that nonfiction be self-published.

From talking to agents and editors self-published authors don't necessarily have "succeed big-time". You can also show your success by showing them proof that you have an enormous online fanbase for your novels. I think Seth Grodin (is that his name?) that did the Viral marketing books was successful in that way.

jeffrivera
12-17-2006, 09:31 PM
But it's irresponsible to recommend it as a "way in," because most of the time it's not. - Victoria

I think different personalities will fit self-publishing better. And if you've tried for years and can't get published it's a great way to get your story out there. It's an excellent learning tool and it doesn't cost that much to get started. I think I started out with like $200 to print my first 20-30 books. To promote it didn't cost me any money at all. So I don't think it's a very expensive learning tool at all. I just kept reinvesting all the money I would make from selling books back into printing more books.

veinglory
12-17-2006, 09:55 PM
I don;t see how self-publishing can be an wonderful excellent way in -- given that the vaste majority who self-publish do not go on to nab a major publisher. It was wonderful for you, and your experience is one many could learn from -- but you are clearly over-generalisong if you look at the outcome for a 'typical' self-publisher.

It is like a top athlete saying 'all you have to work hard and you too will get a gold medal' when that simply isn't true for most people, no matter how hard they work.

jeffrivera
12-17-2006, 09:58 PM
I understand your point, but based on my experience, I can't recommend it enough. It's another alternative to getting your foot in the door. I decided to self-publish my novel originally cause quite frankly I didn't want rejection ... I'm glad I made that decision. Some people find success going the traditional route, some find success using alternative routes such as epublishing or self-publishing. To each his own.

LloydBrown
12-17-2006, 10:29 PM
It's another alternative to getting your foot in the door.

So, in your opinion, what's wrong with the 99.99% of the writers who end up not getting a foot in any door? Why would you recommend that they self-publish their work? Do you just like to see people waste time, money and effort?

I'm sure some people really recommend buying lottery tickets as a financial investment. Look at how well it worked for them!

veinglory
12-17-2006, 10:54 PM
I understand your point, but based on my experience, I can't recommend it enough. It's another alternative to getting your foot in the door. I decided to self-publish my novel originally cause quite frankly I didn't want rejection ... I'm glad I made that decision. Some people find success going the traditional route, some find success using alternative routes such as epublishing or self-publishing. To each his own.

When giving responsible advice you need to have some way of estimating whether you are setting *other* people up for a good experience rather than assuming their's will duplicate yours.

If you mean 'it worked for me' say that rather than a blanket 'it will work for you too'. Consider, for example, the option you haven't included in your list--not finding success (or, for that matter, being a 'her'). Some people will find success *only* if they choose the most approprate strategy for them, and some won't find it either way. Even those who never find success might be highly skilled in guiding others, whereas a best-selling author giving over-generalised advice in a promonant venue might cripple a score of careers.

ResearchGuy
12-17-2006, 11:31 PM
...You can only prove it to them if you succeed big-time. ...
How do you define "big time"? Would 30,000 copies qualify?

--Ken

ResearchGuy
12-18-2006, 12:22 AM
...I hear the sizzle, show me the steak.
Here is some steak (these are people I know personally, conventional self-publishers):

Naida West, novelist (www.bridgehousebooks.com (http://www.bridgehousebooks.com)). 30,000 copies sold (so far) of her first novel in a trilogy. She pre-sold entire 3,000 copy first print run of second novel in the series. She has turned down commercial publishers who had been reluctant to publish her big historical novels BEFORE she proved that the appeal was not merely regional. (It is in fact national and even international.) BTW, search for Naida's comments on "Why People Hate Self-Publishers" here (http://www.slushpile.net/index.php/2006/04/21/why-people-hate-self-published-authors). That will help to explode a lot of misconceptions. She minces no words and knows whereof she speaks.

Karl Palachuk, author of books on computer network administration (http://www.greatlittlebook.com/). Thousands of copies sold (probably few or none through bookstores -- his books are adjunct to consulting business). Only thousands, you say? Ok, printing cost of a few dollars, selling price of $40 to $90 (the latter version comes with a CD with forms or the like). You do the math.

Bill Teie, author of textbook on wildland firefighting and ancillary books and tutorial/reference materials, with a national and international audience (www.deervalleypress.com (http://www.deervalleypress.com)). Upwards of 30,000 copies of the flagship textbook, and total sales of 78,000 and growing. Now developing an edition for Australia (to be published there under contract). He has turned down buyout offers from a major textbook publisher.

Alton Pryor (www.stagecoachpublishing.com (http://www.stagecoachpublishing.com)), author of (mostly) Western regional history. Top seller: 75,000 copies. That is one of 16 books so far, with #17 on the way. He prefers to sell directly as his profit is MUCH higher per copy -- and he has a great time doing it. (BTW, he wrote his first book at age 70.)

Not enough? See first chapter of Tom & Marilyn Ross's book on self-publishing.

The point is that it CAN be done. I am not claiming that the examples listed are typical. They most certainly are not. But they prove that self-publishers CAN do well. It is extremely unlikely that I just happen to know the only four successful self-publishers. (Actually, I know more, but they have not cited sales numbers; but they seem to be running good businesses.) Dan Poynter and Tom & Marilyn Ross have made careers of teaching people how to self-publish WELL (Poynter's book is now in its 14th edition, I believe, and the Rosses' book is in its 4th), and organizations such as PMA and SPAN support those efforts and provide extensive training.

As I have said time and again: self-publishing is a BUSINESS and is suitable only for people who want to run a business, who have or are willing to develop the skills to do so, and who can and do write materials that will have a real audience. Those who only want to write or who do not have entrepreneurial skills and interests should not attempt it. Those who want to test the waters might want to compromise on POD. (I have seen that work for authors who then went on to commercial publishing, including a novelist and a business writer.)

Those who are skeptical might want to attend meetings of the nearest affiliate of PMA or SPAN. Might be eye-opening. If one LOOKS in the right places, one finds examples. But they are invisible to those who do not look or whose eyes or minds are simply closed.

--Ken

veinglory
12-18-2006, 12:26 AM
I don't think the skepticism is at all contradictory with your reply. It is directed to blanket 'self publishing is the answer for (the generic and inclusive) you' blanket statements.

There is a very wide stretch of territory between "can" work and "will' work. The pragmatists in the middle would probably like to see more on "what" works rather than the usual head-butting. That is certainly what I hope to see in this forum.

Sheryl Nantus
12-18-2006, 01:40 AM
one only needs to read many of the threads on the boards here to find out how self-publishing can NOT work for everyone.

ResearchGuy
12-18-2006, 02:38 AM
...The pragmatists in the middle would probably like to see more on "what" works rather than the usual head-butting. That is certainly what I hope to see in this forum.
If I can extrapolate from the successful self-publishers I know, successful self-publishers do not hang out on forums like this. They are too busy writing, marketing, and managing.

A few hours with Dan Poynter's book on self-publishing would provide more, and more coherently arranged, information than could be accommodated here. (Or at least look here (http://www.parapublishing.com/sites/para/).) Pragmatists might want to buy a copy of that book or of Tom and Marilyn Ross's comparable book and study it. If they are really serious, they would want to join a regional independent publishers organization.

IMHO.

--Ken

veinglory
12-18-2006, 02:43 AM
such folks do not hang out on forums like this. They are too busy writing, marketing, and managing.... Folks who merely want to engage in generalities or take potshots, well, won't.

IMHO.

--Ken

Just as well you said IMHO, otherwise, y'know, I'd call that a cheap jab and quite unwarranted.

ResearchGuy
12-18-2006, 02:52 AM
Just as well you said IMHO, otherwise, y'know, I'd call that a cheap jab and quite unwarranted.
No offense intended. The "Folks who" encompassed a type, and was not directed to you.

--Ken

jeffrivera
12-18-2006, 05:34 PM
For anyone who thinks it's impossible to have success as a self-published author, or thinks it's like winning a lottery ticket here's a link to over 200 successful self-published authors (fiction & non-fiction) it's what encouraged me to go ahead and try:

http://www.bookmarket.com/selfpublish.html

In my book, there's nothing more responsible than inspiring others that they can do it too. Whether you decide to go the traditional route or go an alternative route, just go. You can do it! And don't let anyone tell you that you can't.

Roger J Carlson
12-18-2006, 05:47 PM
If I can extrapolate from the successful self-publishers I know, successful self-publishers do not hang out on forums like this. They are too busy writing, marketing, and managing.As opposed to the unsuccessful wannabes that actually do hang out here? I'd thought better of you, Ken.

LloydBrown
12-18-2006, 06:18 PM
Whether you decide to go the traditional route or go an alternative route, just go. You can do it! And don't let anyone tell you that you can't.

Once again, what about those situations where it's a bad idea? Don't care about that, huh? You really, really want people to self-publish so badly that you don't care if it's not a viable option for those people. For some reason, you feel better when somebody else self-publishes a book that they should have sold to a commercial publisher and it sits there and soaks up their life savings and their time that could be better spent writing their next book. It's mind-boggling.

jeffrivera
12-18-2006, 06:28 PM
Once again, what about those situations where it's a bad idea? Don't care about that, huh? You really, really want people to self-publish so badly that you don't care if it's not a viable option for those people. For some reason, you feel better when somebody else self-publishes a book that they should have sold to a commercial publisher and it sits there and soaks up their life savings and their time that could be better spent writing their next book. It's mind-boggling.

Hi Lloyd, when you get a chance take another look at the quote from me, it mentions not only self-publishing but also traditional. Whichever is best for the person, I say go for it. Take another careful look at it and you'll see that's what I stated.

I definitely encourage people that you can go for the traditional route and fail just like you can go for the self-published route and fail. But you could also succeed. Whichever works for you, and only you know. Also remember it doesn't have to as you said "soak up your life savings." I only had $200 when I started. It's not as expensive as it used to be. I think you can get books for as cheap as $3-$4 each. Try this company: www.NetPub.net I think there's others that are around the same price too.

:D Jeff

ResearchGuy
12-18-2006, 08:58 PM
As opposed to the unsuccessful wannabes that actually do hang out here? I'd thought better of you, Ken.
Don't get your knickers in a twist. Folks do not sell tens of thousands of books by spending their time NOT involved in the business. The folks I have named (and I would expect, others like them) are not spending their time on message boards. They are writing books and running businesses. Sorry if that offends you.

Sheesh.

--Ken

P.S. If anyone on this board is selling thousands or tens of thousands of their own self-published books, please speak up.

Roger J Carlson
12-18-2006, 09:48 PM
Don't get your knickers in a twist. Folks do not sell tens of thousands of books by spending their time NOT involved in the business. The folks I have named (and I would expect, others like them) are not spending their time on message boards. They are writing books and running businesses. Sorry if that offends you.
How about people who run successful consulting services? Do they post here? Or just the unsuccessful consultants?

James D. Macdonald
12-19-2006, 01:56 AM
http://www.bookmarket.com/selfpublish.html

Please, not that list again.

Look at it.

Most of those works are from a long time ago (publishing changed a lot between the time of Benjamin Franklin and Nathaniel Hawthorne and now), or the work that a person self-published isn't the work that the person is known for (Louis L'Amour's poetry?), or the information is misleading (do you want to know about Strunk&White's publishing history? Or Mark Twain's adventures in self-publishing?)

Yes, there are some folks who sucessfully self-publish. Usually these are in the categories of:

1) Specialized non-fiction.
2) Niche fiction.
3) Poetry.

Often the successful self-publisher has non-bookstore methods of distribution (e.g. from the back of the hall after a speaking engagment).

You need to define what you mean by "success." If "success" means "picked up by a publisher," that's one thing. Would anyone have ever heard of The Book of Questions if it hadn't been picked up?

There are some successful self-published novelists, who continue to act as their own publishers. In those cases the author uses author skills, and also uses publisher skills. Not everyone has both skill sets, and while writing can be a spare-time occupation, publishing seldom is. It's as tough as any other business.

Most of the books you've heard of weren't self-published.

It isn't impossible to go the self-published route, but remember if you do that it's far more likely that your book will get marked as a proven failure than a proven winner, even if it's excellent.

jamiehall
12-19-2006, 05:57 AM
I think what is being overlooked here is self publishing or any other business model where production in in control of the writer or inventor the product will ultimately determine success.

Not exactly. If the writer/publisher does not have top-notch marketing skills or just the right lucky breaks, even a high-quality product will not get noticed. It is a myth that the reading public decides the ultimate fate of a self-published book. The reading public doesn't even have that chance if the book isn't being put out there (and I don't mean mere listings in online bookstores, either).

That is not to say that the process only relies on business-savvy. Regardless of what kind of marketing genius you are, you still can't successfully promote a book if it is really bad.

jamiehall
12-19-2006, 05:59 AM
Please, not that list again.

Look at it.

Most of those works are from a long time ago (publishing changed a lot between the time of Benjamin Franklin and Nathaniel Hawthorne and now), or the work that a person self-published isn't the work that the person is known for (Louis L'Amour's poetry?), or the information is misleading (do you want to know about Strunk&White's publishing history? Or Mark Twain's adventures in self-publishing?)

I'm sure I've seen a website or blog somewhere that systematically debunks nearly every item on that list, but I'm not finding it. Does anyone have a link?

victoriastrauss
12-19-2006, 11:11 PM
A couple of other things demonstrated by that list:

- Most of the books are non-fiction. Self-pub success is rare (as a percentage of all self-published books), but self-pub success with novels much rarer.

- Commercial publishers picking up successful self-pubbed books is not a new phenomenon, as many self-pub boosters would like people to believe. It's been going on for as long as there have been successful self-pubbed books.

- Victoria

Elektra
12-20-2006, 12:15 AM
I can easily name more than 200 lottery winners, even without going back hundreds of years to do so. I'm surprised the Brontes aren't on that list. They self-pubbed a book of poetry (only sold one copy, IIRC--maybe two). I think Jane Austen's father was going to pay to have Northanger Abbey published, but then Sense and Sensibility took off.