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If you aren't sure whether to self-publish, ask yourself what you want.

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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Sheryl Nantus

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It's not sacrilege. It's just the wrong question. Here's the right one: Do you feel your books are good enough that people will buy them at the same kind of prices they pay for other books?

Or, basically - at what level are you willing to whore your talent out?

I can't imagine putting up a 75K novel which I've worked on for months for $0.99 and hope to Gawd I make back the investment.

I'd rather put that hard work into a novel that sells for a decent price and gives me money at the end of the day.

And it sure ain't gonna happen at 99 cents.
 

Sheryl Nantus

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If I can sell my books for far less than the big corporations are charging, and keep more profit for myself, how is this the wrong question?

But you won't sell as many. Guaranteed.

The majority of SP's will never sell as many as Hocking et al. It's why she's getting the attention - it's NOT a common thing. It's not going to be.

But, hey... go sell your novel for a buck. Come back in a year and let us know how it worked out for you.
 

shadowwalker

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Yes, but that's the point, you sound like you are conceding that people will try books based on price. Of course they won't be repeat customers if they aren’t satisfied. That isn’t at issue.

What seemed to be the issue is the assertion that cheap price would win out over high price, if the books were equal. Books are not equal. Readers will not refuse to buy a book they feel confident will be good simply because it's priced higher than 99 cents, and they won't buy the cheap book instead of the higher priced book based only on price, or even in large part because of the price. Books aren't purchased based on the better 'deal' - they're purchased based on wanting a good experience.
 

scope

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Exactly. As I said, the biggest benefits a trade publisher provided for the average writer in the print era were getting reviews and getting books into bookstores. The latter is vital in the print world but irrelevant in the ebook world where anyone can upload a book to sell; instead of selling books to booksellers, publishers need to sell ebooks to readers.

I don't know why you assume that this will be the primary and perhaps the only way trade houses will promote and market ebooks. I think there will be much more involved, although I have no idea what that will be. I assume it's obvious to them that mere uploading isn't enough, and that they will have to devise a marketing system that involves more than reviews.
 

HapiSofi

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I see several problems with this idea:

1. We have published authors continually saying 'you won't be in this business for long unless you self-promote, because marketing budgets are being cut all over the publishing industry'.
They're wrong. Have you read the not-a-FAQ? Self-promotion is fine if you've got a knack for it, or have too much spare time, or need to work off your anxiety while you're waiting for your book to come out, but it's not required. Many excellent authors never go near the practice.

The idea that midlist books aren't getting promoted any more, so authors have to do it themselves, is a meme promoted by vanity publishers and people who are trying to sell books about self-publishing. The idea is that since you're going to have to do your own promotion anyway, you might as well self-publish and keep all the profits. This is wrong. It's a meme that contains more errors and fallacies than words. The AW Bewares Board has discussed it dozens of times.

I don't mean to come down on you with both feet. If I sound impatient, it's because this myth is so all-pervasive that the AW regulars wind up having to explain that it's not true about once a week, and have been doing so for years.
2. By far the biggest capabilities the trade publishers have in marketing are getting reviews and getting books into bookstores; most traditional media outlets won't review self-published books and few bookstores will sell self-published books. Now anyone can get their ebook on the virtual bookstore shelf and while trade publishers probably still have a lock on traditional media reviews there are many more places to find book reviews online which aren't as restrictive.
Conventional publishing doesn't have a lock on the traditional media. What we have is credibility: we do our very, very best to not publish turkeys. Reviewers resonate with that.
3. I just don't see much evidence that other forms of marketing work, unless you're aiming for bestseller status and can afford to plaster ads for the books everywhere. Most books won't get that kind of treatment.
As Jim Macdonald has also explained, the reason most books don't get that kind of treatment is that it's a completely ineffectual way to sell books. When was the last time you bought a book on the basis of an ad? Odds are, the answer is "never." Ads exist to advise people that books they already want to buy are now available in stores. They're also occasionally used as pacifiers for bigfoot authors who want the reassurance of seeing an ad for *T*H*E*I*R* *B*O*O*K* in the NYTimes.

We do promotion where promotion does some good. If you know someone who works in a big chain bookstore, go ask them how it's determined which books go on those table displays at the front of the store.
I'm more likely to buy a book because it's got a good review on one of the blogs I read or because someone I know says it's good than because it got a good review in the New York Times or an ad on a billboard, for example.
That makes you normal.

Why readers buy books:

  1. They read and enjoyed another book by the same author.
  2. It was recommended by someone they trust.
  3. They like the cover.
  4. Everything else.
Each of those reasons is approximately half as significant as the one that precedes it.
 

scope

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But what happens when the reader feels they are as good? That may sound like sacriledge around here...

At random if you were to select and read 100 self-published ebooks and 100 ebooks from trade publishers, my guess is you might find 1 in the former category to be as good. Given your premise, if that is the case, 1 sale out of every 100 might be lost in the future. Does that really matter?
 

HapiSofi

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1. Even with trade houses writers have usuually been asked to self-promote and help drive sales.

2 & 3. I agree, at the moment there isn't enough eveidence to show us how trade houses will market ebooks to any significant advantage. However, given their power, money, and the experts upon which they can call, I don't doubt that they will soon come up with a formula that works. I find it hard to believe that they intend to compete with you and I on an equal basis. On the other hand, that they will crush us I don't find hard to believe, good or bad. Just give them some time.
We don't want to crush you. If you can write a book that people want to buy and read, we want to publish you.
 

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At random if you were to select and read 100 self-published ebooks and 100 ebooks from trade publishers, my guess is you might find 1 in the former category to be as good. Given your premise, if that is the case, 1 sale out of every 100 might be lost in the future. Does that really matter?

It matters to me if my sale is the one. This isnt about law of averages. This is about what is the best way for me to find an audience and make the most profit.
 

HapiSofi

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Exactly. As I said, the biggest benefits a trade publisher provided for the average writer in the print era were getting reviews and getting books into bookstores. The latter is vital in the print world but irrelevant in the ebook world where anyone can upload a book to sell; instead of selling books to booksellers, publishers need to sell ebooks to readers.
We need to do both. We're working hard on doing it.
Lots of businesses spend a lot of money on things that aren't effective. With many marketing techniques there isn't even any way to determine how effective it is; at best you see a correlation and hope it's causation, then you may find that it doesn't work the next time you try it because the correlation was just a fluke.

As I said, I suspect that plastering the media with ads for a book is effective because you need a certain level of coverage before people really pay attention ('oh, it's that same book ad I saw on the bus and in the newspaper, maybe I'll read it this time'); but you can't afford to do that for anything other than a bestseller class book.
Nope. That one just plain doesn't work. You don't buy books on that basis, and neither does anyone else. It's only useful as a notification.
 

AP7

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We don't want to crush you. If you can write a book that people want to buy and read, we want to publish you.

I certainly believe you, but you seem a lot more confident that the cream will rise to the top than I am.
 

HapiSofi

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It's not sacrilege. It's just the wrong question. Here's the right one: Do you feel your books are good enough that people will buy them at the same kind of prices they pay for other books?
If I can sell my books for far less than the big corporations are charging, and keep more profit for myself, how is this the wrong question?
AP7, there are many things on the planet of Not My Problem, and you have just become one of them.
 

scope

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(Note, because there are always a few people who don't know this: none of the things we do for our authors and books get charged to the authors. It all comes out of our share of the take. We're nothing like the recording industry.)
QUOTE]

Excellent point and a great post.
 

HapiSofi

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Or, basically - at what level are you willing to whore your talent out?
It's like taking freelancing at one-third the standard rate, because that way you'll get to work a lot more hours, then discovering that no one will hire you if you're charging that little.
 

AP7

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AP7, there are many things on the planet of Not My Problem, and you have just become one of them.

I dont see what threatens you. I'm just another writer trying to find my way doing something I love.
 

HapiSofi

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IThis isnt about law of averages. This is about what is the best way for me to find an audience and make the most profit.
That one has an easy answer: Write a good book. Charge a fair price for it.
 

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Our biggest unfair advantage is that we don't publish the stinkers. It gives us all kinds of credibility.
Well, I could name a couple. (Have, in fact . . .) Not to mention the occasional fraudulent memoir.

icon10.gif


But those really are the exceptions.

--Ken
 

HapiSofi

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I certainly believe you, but you seem a lot more confident that the cream will rise to the top than I am.
You're right. I am.
 

HapiSofi

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I dont see what threatens you. I'm just another writer trying to find my way doing something I love.
Sweetie, nothing you have said threatens me. I'm trying to help you. We're all trying to help you.
 

Sheryl Nantus

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I dont see what threatens you. I'm just another writer trying to find my way doing something I love.

There's nothing "threatening" here. Just someone who refuses to take good advice from people who know better.

See you in a year.
 

scope

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It matters to me if my sale is the one. This isnt about law of averages. This is about what is the best way for me to find an audience and make the most profit.

Well, the odds of anyone's book being "the one" are pretty slim. However, if you like those odds and believe self-publishing is the best way for you to find an audience and make the most profit, go for it. I wish you luck. But one more question. If you had the choice of self-publishing your work as an ebook or a trade publisher buying your work and putting it out as an ebook, which would you choose? And might I ask you to forget about where you think you might build a larger audience and make the most money, since I assume you would agree that on the surface the trade house would be the answer? Objectively which would you choose?
 

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Sweetie, nothing you have said threatens me. I'm trying to help you. We're all trying to help you.


Talking down to me and calling me Sweetie doesn’t feel like you’re trying to help. I've been at this for a long time. I've been agented and I've published in the small press but I've yet to land a deal with a major publisher. I've seen many friends and colleagues succeed, and I've always been happy for their success, but that doesn’t mean I'll concede their work was "better" than mine. There is an alternative to this ecosystem, which you've admitted yourself is fragile. Of course I too am a lover of good books and want to see the literary landscape thrive. I'm just trying to decide for myself whether I want to explore self publishing. I don’t see why I'm being vilified for that.
 

zegota

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Well, the odds of anyone's book being "the one" are pretty slim. However, if you like those odds and believe self-publishing is the best way for you to find an audience and make the most profit, go for it. I wish you luck. But one more question. If you had the choice of self-publishing your work as an ebook or a trade publisher buying your work and putting it out as an ebook, which would you choose? And might I ask you to forget about where you think you might build a larger audience and make the most money, since I assume you would agree that on the surface the trade house would be the answer? Objectively which would you choose?

I'm interested in why you assume that an ebook only publisher will automatically make you more profit, no questions asked. Especially in the light of what Sofi has been posting (which I totally appreciate and agree with) about the publicity and marketing that publishers do. Most of it is dealing with bookstores and review copies, which are both mostly irrelevant in the e-world.

I would probably go with a trade e-publisher, both for a good cover and and editor. But it would by no means be an automatic, obvious decision.

Now a regular trade publisher who produces actual, y'know, PAPER books? No question there.
 

zegota

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If you love living in a world that produces more genuinely good books than you can read, stop pushing for starvation prices. (If any of you have been reading pirate copies of current titles, knock that off too.) Those extra few dollars per book are what pays authors enough to survive on so they can write full-time, and keeps our doors open and lights on so we can go on working with them.

On the other hand, if that's not something that matters to you, I have no idea why you're hanging out in this forum.

Sofi, while I appreciate this post for the most part, I do think it's a little one-sided. No one author should have to worry about their actions affecting the entire publishing industry any more than the publishing industry worries about the livelihood of any single author.

Without sounding too much like an Objectivist, each agent in the literary economy is going to do what benefits *them*. Publishers don't publish authors they don't think will make them money, even if it would help that author. And while I've gotten more and more skeptical that $0.99 is a great price point for most people, it's clearly worked for a few, and I don't think people who choose to publish at a price lower than the accepted minimum should be made to feel guilty for "pushing starvation prices." What about people who write stories for free and post them on the Internet?
 

HapiSofi

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Well, I could name a couple. (Have, in fact . . .) Not to mention the occasional fraudulent memoir.

icon10.gif


But those really are the exceptions.

--Ken
Some bad 'uns do get through, but I'd still stack the lot of them against the same number of randomly selected self-published books.

Mind you, the generosity of that offer is what rigs it. The larger the number of designated bad books from conventional publishers, the more their average badness would get watered down. Meanwhile, a larger number of randomly selected self-published titles would increase the chances of drawing some real dogs to match against the worst of the conventionally published titles.
 
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Elizabeth George's book Write Away