My Publishing Choice For Shattered

I want to spew my opinions on publishing into the ether, but I really hate doing that sort of thing without having some sort of personal experience. I am going to ignore the distaste this time, because I want to explain a decision I’ve recently made.

A Wizard’s Work: Shattered is the first novel that I will release to the world. It’s not the first novel I’ve written, but it’s the first piece of work I feel comfortable showing large numbers (well, larger than my circle of friends) of people.

If this were five years ago, or perhaps even two years ago, I would be sending it to publishers. Would it get rejected? Who knows. Probably. Every author takes their lumps initially. However, this isn’t five years ago, nor is it two years ago. It’s now, and the rules appear to have changed.

If I were to submit AWW:Shattered to publishers, the minimum time frame for it to be published would likely be eighteen months. This assumes that the first publisher read it loved it and accepted it within the first week. I suspect, however, the book would be out on submission for a year or more before finding a publisher, and then it would be another eighteen months after that before I could find it in my local book shop. Two and a half years before it starts making back the advance.

And what kind of advance would I get? Typical advances for first novels appear to be no more than $10,000 with an average of $5,000.

$5,000 spread across 30 months is $166 a month, and the chances that I’d make back that advance are small. It’s likely the advance money is all I’d ever see.

But since this is now, and not two years ago, I have the option of publishing it myself via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords in electronic formats. At $4.99, I’d only have to sell 48 copies a month to make that $5000 advance over the two and a half years of submitting and waiting. And, I’d have the first part of the money a year earlier than I would if I found a publisher after a year of submitting.

Now, here’s the best part. Let’s assume the likely scenario that AWW:Shattered never finds a publisher at all. Then, I’m a year or two down the road, and would have no money in my pocket.

If, in the worst case I’ve seen, I self publish AWW:Shattered and get only 10 sales per month over that same two years. I’d have an extra $838 in my pocket.

Keep in mind, I’m only talking about one book here. If I write a second and a third, and each one totally sucks and I sell no more than ten copies a month of any of them, I’m still money ahead over submitting to a publisher. If your sales are that low over a period of two years, you can pretty much guarantee a publisher wouldn’t have picked it up anyway.

One other consideration to keep in mind. The publishing industry is in a challenging period and is changing rapidly. The chances that one of the major book chains will fail in the period before AWW:Shattered could get published is high. The chances that the publisher might fail is not particularly low. There will be some publisher failures in the next couple of years. Do I want to have my book in the middle of that?

I can see little downside and a huge potential upside to publishing it myself. Besides, I enjoy the whole indie thing.

8 thoughts on “My Publishing Choice For Shattered”

  1. I definitely understand your reservations to look for representation. Financially speaking, the self-publishing industry does seem more advantageous to writers in the short and long run. $5k really is chump change for the effort one puts into writing a novel (writing, editing, querying, editorial revisions, marketing, the list goes on). And like you said, if you can’t sell 10 copies, chances are a publisher wouldn’t have wanted it anyway. On the other hand, if the book was wicked awesome and a publisher did want it, the chances of you making a decent living self-publishing is very high.

    Look at Amanda Hocking (not saying an agent would have picked her up). But she’s definitely doing quite well for herself. If I’m not mistaken, her first book came out 2010. She sold 99K books in December. I’m the best at numbers, but I’m pretty sure that’s more than $5k in sales. If she’d have gone the traditional route, she’d have a measely $5k to show for her efforts at this point in time. Her results aren’t typical of course. But it definitely makes me look at self-publishing versus traditional publishing with new eyes.

  2. Amanda’s story is just awesome. Makes me drool and wish I was writing YA paranormal romance. The interesting thing about Amanda is that everyone turned her down. She couldn’t get an agent or publisher until after she self published. And now, she’s got an agent and has recently turned down a publishing deal to remain self-published. If I do 1/10 as well, I’ll be extremely happy.

  3. Nah, I’m not looking for money to finish the project. The thing about writing books – it’s cheap to write them. In any case, doesn’t solve the dilemma of choosing which publishing route to follow.

  4. Interesting post, Mark. It sounds like you’ve thought this through, and I wish you the best of luck. You know I’ve always been skeptical of self-publishing, but you seem to have a solid plan, so let me know how it works out.

    I guess my primary problem with self-publishing is that I take a different approach to my writing career. I don’t care if I have to wait longer to get published, because that means the less marketable books are weeded out, and only my best writing will make it to publication. And that way, my first novel will more likely become a bestseller–if a lower quality novel had been my debut, I might only get a $5-10K advance.

    But if my novel blows away an agent, editor, and publisher, then they will pour time and money into marketing my book. Writing might be an individual effort, but publishing is a team effort. Sure, I can brush up on my marketing skills and hire a freelance editor, but I’m not a full-time agent with connections, or an art director who knows the market, or a publisher who can get my books into stores and send me on signing tours. And once I’m published, it’s in their best interest to keep my career going strong.

    Then again, if the Indie route works for you, then more power to you. Good luck, and let me know when your book is up for sale!

  5. If I were younger and didn’t have certain financial responsibilities, or if I hadn’t just spent the last seven years self-employed, I might be tempted by your reasoning. One thing I’ve learned running my software business. The earlier I get product out, the more money I make. Yes, some people see early work and turn up their noses, but others see potential and buy in. There are far more people in the world that will never see my self-published work than will ever read it.

    Also, from reading articles from many professional authors, I’ve come to understand a couple of things.

    1) Just because you can’t find an agent for a book doesn’t mean that it’s not any good. Just because a book never finds a publisher, again, doesn’t mean that it’s not any good and not worth publishing. Amanda Hocking’s books were turned down by publishers and agents, over and over. She finally decided to self-publish them. She’s sold 185,000 copies as of January 4th. Most of those readers think her work is good enough to buy. That’s a lot of money to leave in the trunk.

    2) The traditional book market is under a significant amount of pressure right now. Just look at the Borders debacle. They could end up going bankrupt and taking with them several publishers. If my book were accepted by one of those publishers, what happens when they can’t pay their debts? What happens if the paper market dries up in three years? Not saying it will, but the growth rate of e-books certainly looks like it will cause a significant shift in publishing strategies.

    Looking at the schedule I have for publishing things, I’ve decided I will be sending my books to publishers. There’s time enough from the first edited draft to the pub date to get responses back, and there’s no reason to not explore that avenue. But I’m not going to live my life by their choices, or their opinions of my work.

    Eh, that sounds to me kind of militant, so don’t take it that way. Every writer is different and has different needs, both monetarily and emotionally. I just want people to read my work, and be able to make a living from it, and I’ll do whatever I can to get there, even if it’s not conventional.

  6. One thing I’ve found in terms of agents/editors/publishers is even if your work does blow away one of those entities doesn’t mean they’ll take you on. It’s more than just loving a work or writing style, it’s about marketability also. Even if you write the best novel ever, if the agent or whoever doesn’t think it has a place in the market to bring in the big bucks, they won’t take you on.

    The traditional publishing business is highly subjective. They’re speculating what’ll sell and turning down the rest. If they think great story, but the market is saturated with the theme (YA vampires for instance, paranormal romances with werewolves), they won’t take you on. There’s an entire list of reasons agents my send you that rejection.

    I imagine that’s what happened to Amanda Hocking. They figured the market wasn’t big enough for her work so passed her by. Surprise. Not only is there a market for her work but she’s doing a lot better than most writers who went the traditional route.

    I’m not saying to forsake traditional publishers. Just keep in mind the number of book slots they have open are limited. You could wait a lifetime for representation and not receive it. You might send off a query tomorrow and find represenation. Personally, I’m just a little wary to put all my eggs in one basket. 🙂 Nothing wrong with keeping an open mind and researching the options available.

  7. I’m very interested in what you choose to do in the end, and in how well it works out. Traditional publishing is definitely an entity in flux, as it needs to be. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying something similar for the Amazon Kindle, but I need to do a lot more research first — but I see quite a few e-book stores on the ‘net.

    Not sure anyone would read anything I write, though; maybe it’s just a personal confidence problem, or maybe I’m being realistic with myself, but since my biggest dream has been to be “a real author” I somehow think it will never happen. Realistic view to take, I suppose, but maybe I’ll be brave enough to try one day.

    Best of luck to you! Please let us all know how it goes. I’m fascinated by the whole thing.

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