If you’re a writer, reader, or heck, if you’re alive, you’ve heard some gory tales lately about the publishing industry. Book sales down, book stores closing, publishers going bankrupt, widespread industry layoffs. Editors don’t want to take risks on new authors. Mid-list authors can forget about it. Established authors report lower print runs and increasing difficulty placing books with traditional booksellers.
The bright spot, if you want to call it that, is the meteoric rise in the sales of e-books. So what about writing for an electronic publisher? Everyone knows that financial planners tell you to diversify your financial portfolio. What about your submission portfolio?
I write young adult fiction for Disney-Hyperion, and I’ve had the incredible thrill of seeing my book displayed on the “New for Teens” rack at Barnes and Noble. I absolutely would not trade that experience for anything. But my October release, an adult paranormal romance, will be with Entangled Publishing, a new, boutique romance publisher with a primarily electronic target market. Why did I add Entangled to my portfolio? Because I believe there are enormous benefits to writing for a different kind of publisher. I’ve listed a few below, but I would encourage you to add more in your comments. I certainly can’t cover it all in one blog.
SPEED. It took three years – yeah, that’s right, THREE – for my debut novel, The Candidates, to go from contract to release. I started writing the book in fall of 2006, and it was released in August 2010. That gave the market four years to evolve and change. I would never tell an author to chase trends, but I would advise authors to read in their genre and look at what is selling. For example, in YA, what do readers expect in terms of action, violence, sex, etc? What’s the profile of the average buyer? The book that I wrote in 2006 preceded The Hunger Games, the dystopian explosion, and the trend toward adult-teen crossover marketing. While a book can buck the trends and succeed, lagging this far behind the market can make the already-difficult road to success in publishing that much harder.
Another benefit to speed? Building your backlist. The sequel to The Candidates will be released in April 2012. That’s a 20 month lag between books. If I want a backlist, I’ve got to spread out. The path for publication of my e-book was four months. In that time, the book was thoroughly edited (two passes), copy-edited (three passes), and a fabulous cover designed. Many authors write for multiple publishers, so this isn’t new. E-books simply take it one step further by being more nimble and responsive than a traditional publishing house.
NO ADVANCE. Entangled, like many electronic publishers, doesn’t pay an advance. Instead, they pay higher royalties on sales. This may not sound like a benefit, and believe me, when you’re doing the family budget, it doesn’t feel like one. But here’s how “no advance” translates into a benefit: no advance means lower overhead and lower risk to the publisher. A “no advance” publisher doesn’t have to gamble on the royalties an author will earn, and doesn’t have to offset six or seven figure deals with lots of smaller deals at the base of the pyramid. They can take a chance on debut authors, support mid-list authors, and allow established authors try something new. They can reach niche markets that don’t have mega-bestseller potential, but do have the potential to earn their authors a living. In my book, that’s a huge win.
THE ‘WHAT IF’ FACTOR. Editors leave, or may be fired. Publishers change direction. Imprints close. As a writer, you can’t afford to become complaisant. The future of publishing is anything but certain, but many, like myself, see a trend toward electronic media, responsive relationships between authors and readers, and a need for a creative new approaches. I certainly wouldn’t give up on traditional publishers, but I see significant value in experimentation and risk-taking.
Are there risks to e-publishing? Absolutely. In the hands of the wrong publisher, you can end up with a shoddily-produced book with a bad cover. Your royalties, if you’re lucky, may not amount to much more than a venti latte (no whip, please). But there are risks in traditional publishing as well. That’s why for me, the smart money is on a little of everything.
Inara’s debut novel, Delcroix Academy: The Candidates was released in August 2010, and was recently named a 2010 Oregon Spirit Book Award Honor Book. Her naughty faerie tale, Radiant Desire, will be released on October 4 from Entangled Publishing. Look for it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books on Board, or wherever your browser might take you.