Posts Tagged ‘indie publishing’

Where do you buy your books? A statistical rant.

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Where do you buy your books?

I’ve heard in author discussion recently that the publishing press and the traditional publishers they front for want us to still buy that 70% of all books sold are still sold in bricks and mortar stores.

If they’re talking about only print books, and maybe hard cover books or best-selling authors (and I mean the ones who sell millions of copies of each release), then, yeah, I’ll buy that. And if you’re one of those authors who can score a decent hard cover print run or for whom it doesn’t matter where you sign your next contract you’ll sell because you’re already branded, then New York must seem quite flattering and attractive for you.

old books

If you’re mid-list author or a newbie, or even some of the best-selling authors I know (who’ve for years been hitting lists left and right and USED to score tasty hard cover print runs but not so much anymore), you aren’t buying the above statistic any more than I am. Because you live in the real world where digital is the new mid-list, mass market platform and traditional publishers have no clue how to make digital publishing work except for the branded, and for the branded the money’s still in physical stores.

In the real world, at least in commercial fiction,we want to see our books in stores, but we know that 70% of our sales won’t happen there. At least we hope not, because print distribution more than sucks, it’s becoming non-existent.

I write for Amazon. Montlake. They’ve made me more money in a year (my first novel with them launched the end of Oct., ‘12) than my primary traditional publisher has in my entire career (and that would be over 8 years of being “successful” on their lists). Montlake finds readers who love my work (reviews prove that), buy almost exclusively digital (95% of my sales) and come back for more (proof that my new team understands their marketing business and doesn’t care that we’ve been blacklisted from most physical stores). They’ve sold more of each title so far (including the one that’s currently been out for just a couple of months) than my traditional publisher could through their “successful” print distribution when I walked away.

Do I wish that my Mimosa Lane books were in print bookstores?

I do. Print readers would love them, too, and I trust my publisher to make that connection for me when they can.

Do I regret that I’m making TEN TIMES the royalty rate on my digital sales at Amazon Montalke than I have at any of my traditional publishing houses?

I do not.

Do I believe the publishing press that doesn’t want digital publishing to be the end of the print publishing model as we know it (notice I don’t say the end of print publishing, just that the way it’s always been done is going to have to change) includes my and my peer’s digital sales in their calculation of “book sales” to come up with their 70% statistic?

Don’t make me laugh.

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Me and Dorchester, the CliffsNotes Version

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

You have to be willing to take risks in this business of ours. Calculated risks that are nonetheless precarious for the careful thought you put into jumping off whatever cliff of opportunity looms before you. Sometimes a marvelous parachute glide awaits you, easing you into your next step forward. Sometimes there turn out to be holes in your plan and you land in the trees–if you’re lucky. Sometimes you crash and burn completely. My experience with Dorchester Publishing these last few years, like many authors, has been more the latter.  But as of last week I can officially say it hasn’t been a crash and burn fiasco, and the trees that were grabbing at my chute are receding farther and farther away each time I look back. Perspective?One might call it that, this ah-ha sensation filling me. Hind sight gives us the illusion of finally seeing things as they were always meant to be. Maybe it’s just dumb luck… You be the judge.


Too often it feels as if I have absolutely NO idea how I got to this moment of deep sighing and appreciation for a journey well traveled and a fight bravely faced and won (Amazon, the publisher who also recently signed a three book deal with me to publish a women’s fiction/contemporary romance series has bought out Dorchester’s list at auction and will not only pay me royalties due from the last three years, but will re-list and potentially buy new titles into my sci-fi/fantasy series).

To be honest, I have some idea. But my mind’s still spinning as I process the twists and turns and decisions and retreats–stopping myself, ultimately, from making several end-game decisions that would have ended this wild ride before I achieved what I’d set out to. What follows is the CliffsNotes version of that adventure, because publishing can be a sucky journey for all of us and I’m happy to share my personal suckage if it might possibly help others finding themselves in their own potentially no-win situations, trying to choose the least objectionable of the unsatisfying options before them.

no win decision

But first, let’s identify what exactly I wanted to achieve from the start. Because the best business decisions are potentially bad business decisions, regardless of the odds in your favor, if you don’t understand your goal. My best advice to anyone when they ask me my opinion of what they should do about a book, agent, publisher or contract is to figure out what you want and determine the best way to achieve that. Beyond that, I got nothing. Because as you’ll see below, the rules are always changing and what works for me or someone else now may be a no-win choice for you tomorrow. You have to be flexible in this business. You have to dodge and duck and know when to jump or stand still.  None of which you can do effectively if you aren’t sure where you’re headed.

My goal with my sci-fi/fantasy series: To establish my mainstream fiction work and to build a series for a broader audience than my contemporary romance roots, into which I could continue to sell future novels. Simple right?

success failure

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

  • Round about the fall of 2008: Dorchester offers a 2-book deal for my Legacy Series. Dark Legacy to release nationwide in mass market paperback in the fall of 2009.
  • I deliver the book on time, but the advance money isn’t coming from the publisher as quickly as it should. Agent pushes hard behind the scenes, but we don’t pull the book from the schedule. It’s more important to my goal to be established as a mainstream author with bigger stories to sell than my category romance roots, than it is to join in the shrieks of dissatisfaction with the publisher beginning to rumble all over the Internet.
  • Fall, 2009: Dark Legacy in stores, positioned well, I’m signing in the B&N flagship store in New York’s Lincoln Center, and we’re off. Sales are good but nothing fabulous. We can do better, publisher says. My series is repositioned away from traditional romance and closer to the sci-fi/thriller market it’s better suited for.
  • Secret Legacy due to editor in early 2010 for a rushed summer 2010 release because they want to break it out. They’re behind this very different, edgy thing I’m doing with my mainstream work 110%. They’ve also by now paid me the advance I’m owed to date. Agent and I see this as a good chance to shine within a smaller traditional press, so I keep working.
  • Health issues and surgery prevent me from turning the second book in on time. Editor and publisher couldn’t have been more understanding. Deadline for delivering Secret Legacy is pushed to the spring of 2010, with a fall release. It’s the hardest writing period I’ve ever had, and I called my agent to quit more than once, but the book was finished and revised in a gruelingly short amount of time. If nothing else, this experience proved to me that I had to keep writing–if for no other reason than I couldn’t seem to make myself stop.
  • Fall 2010: Serious money spent on my part and committed by publisher to promote the book that should break out, even though remaining advance for the second book on the contract hasn’t yet been paid. However, lots of publisher plans–print and digital promotion. Extensive online blog tour being set up. Again, agent and I are staying focused on the publishing possibilities and my investing in my mainstream future, which means I continue to do my job and play nice while she rattles their cages fighting to get me the money owed.
  • Two weeks before Secret Legacy’s launch: it’s announced on the Internet (not to individual authors) that overnight Dorchester’s pulling their print publishing arm (meaning all my mass market print books are being yanked, never to be distributed retail) and beginning immediately  to shift to a digital first/print on demand business. My break out release: not going to happen. My sizable investment in promoting to mass market retailers and readers: wasted. My remaining faith in publisher: destroyed.
  • (more…)

How We Write: Don’t Overwork Your Muse…

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

What do you do when your muse deserts you? What keeps you going when today’s tight market seems to be saying you should give it up? I’m on vacataion this week. And, yes, working a bit while I’m here. But first and foremost, I’m taking some much-needed downtime to recharge and prepare for the next big push in my job–which is waiting for me a soon as I step off the plane in Atlanta. I better be ready to go when I get back, but how exactly do I make that happen, and how do I keep from getting even more burned out?

Well, for me butteflies work…

butterfly farm blue

But maybe not so much for everyone else ;o)

The midlist is dying, we’re told. The task of getting the right manuscript on the right desk at the right time and selling a book has never seemed more Herculean. The average writer watches seven to ten years go by before she publishes her first manuscript. With odds like that, is it any real shock that from time to time the excitement that once inspired you to keep going just up and vanishes? We’ve all been there.
And let’s face it, nothing feels worse than to find yourself stuck in the quagmire you affectionately call your *%#$! work-in-progress, meanwhile everyone around you is effortlessly producing at Mach 3. You used to be producing, too. But now, plucking a fresh description or an unforgettable character out of what was once your boundless creativity is about as effortless as pulling a splinter from your hysterical six-year-old’s fingernail. There’s lots of screaming and tears involved, lots of wasted time trying to pin the little bugger down, only to have him scoot away just as you’re starting to make real progress. Finally at the end of your rope, you give up wrestling and wonder if you’ll ever be able to get the darn thing out.
So how do you recapture your muse?

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: But you absolutely MUST whine…

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

You hear it all the time, how hard this writing and publishing thing has become. Or whatever else your thing is, you know what’s making your journey impossible. ”Suck it up,” everyone says. “It’s just business.” And they’re right. Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to say, “‘Tis,” and battle on. But other times, you need to whine. If you don’t let the frustration and anger and disappointments out, how will you know what’s most important to you and what’s worth waging your epic battle over?

epic battle cuteness

I mean, you need to have a plan, right? Beginning with a goal, so you know what you’re staying in the fight for. When it gets ugly and you want to quit, your battle plan is all you have to keep you going. Make the battle simple and clear, and about what’s most important to you. And your army must be filled with those who see your vision most clearly.

pez army

How do you give yourself all of that, if you’re  not honest about what you’re fighting for. If you’re not whining with clarity ;o)

My full proof plan for whining with purpose and pride, whatever your battlefield ?

  1. Begin with a tantrum. A completely out of control moment where your barriers are down and there’s nothing left but what’s driving you round the bend and the people who’re willing to stand beside you, calmly watch the meltdown, and be there when the dust settles to help you pick up the pieces.
  2. Dig beneath those real emotions for the core conflict that sparked your freak-out. What’s being threatened that’s so near and dear to you, you can’t let it go, no matter how irrational your instinct to rebel? That’s your nugget. That’s the invaluable part of you that you feel powerless to get/protect/preserve/make thrive.
  3. Now, leave the irrationality behind, and suit up for battle. (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Capturing the Inspiration…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Road trips clear your mind, so why not take your  mind on a trip whenever you need that hit of inspiration, whenever your work needs that fuel? We all are in the weeds at some point, in every creative endeavor–writing, editing, parenting, not killing our children or spouses when they’re jumping up and down on our last nerve. That’s when we need a trip the most: a mini-fix, capturing you back to a past getaway, through the pictures that refuse to let your forget. Like these I took on my beach walk last night. Now, they can be every night for me. And your night, too, if you’ll let them…

Misty surf becoming clouds.

misty doc

Violet consuming light.

stormy dock back

The sun, a valiant, final stand.

clouds sun breaking

An ethereal show. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Inside the Barrel

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

The end-all-be-all of surfing is riding inside the barrel, where the wave hollows out and curls over you and you’re riding free inside the monster. It’s a bitch to get there, it’s a dangerous place, yet it’s heaven at the same time. Much like how a writer feels, cruising  toward the last third of a novel’s rough draft. It’s a desperate place, hollowed out and empty, but it’s magic–if you can grit out the ride long enough to get yourself there.

surfing barrel

Most writers are clucked from time to time: a surfer’s term for being scared of waves. Writers, we’re scared of our stories more often than we want to admit. Not exactly what we want the world that devours our end-goal to know. Because it’s not really the story, in the end, that freaks us out. It’s the drop (yeah, this will be a running theme, deal with it ;o).

surfing drop

While surfing, the drop is where a surfer first gets up on a wave, then points his board straight down the face of it, plunging toward nothingness, until he either takes the needed turn and flies, or eats it. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: On the Radar

Monday, February 13th, 2012

I’m an author, always writing and pitching my work to publishers and (hopefully) reaching readers with ever-new titles. Now I’m also an acquiring editor, too, officially reading other writer’s submissions, searching for the perfect new story for Entangled Publishing’s soon-to-debut Dead Sexy suspense line. Which for some has become a, “Houston. We have a problem,” moment.


“What are you thinking?” a few have asked. Let me ‘Splain.

For me, I’m seeing more options than problems these days. And where I see and understand options that are in my best interest, I act.

I’ve freelanced edited for fiction writers for years–private work stemming from the countless workshops and weekend retreats I teach about writing craft and the romance publishing industry. Before that I was an professional editor, in my senior tech writing gig. Before that…well, we won’t get into (again) how my IT training and project management experience prepared me for the type of analysis needed to break story down, understand its parts, and help people learn how to knit it all back together in their own unique way.

Because that’s all backstory. And as I tell authors, backstory is only a place to begin. Me being qualified for the gig isn’t really the point–without primo qualifications, the savvy team at Entangled wouldn’t have hired me in the first place. The real issue I had to face as I decided whether or not to take their job offer, was what did it mean, me officially moving over to the business side of this journey, at least as I work to help other authors achieve their publishing dreams.


And that, that being a conduit for another writers’ hard work transforming into a dream-come-true, IS what matters to me and the other editors at Dead Sexy. (more…)

How We Write: The Soul of the Matter…

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

If you want to write, write. If you want to publish, prepare to work your ass off getting very, very good at your writing. This business is all about soul. And I’m not just talking about your unique, creative voice–though that’s incredibly important, too. Today, I’m talking about grit. Stick it out, find your own way, stop waiting for everyone else to make this crazy business sensible and welcoming and easy, G-R-I-T.


I write my books; I edit for other authors. I’m close to offering my first two book contracts for Entangled Publishing. After publishing 16 novels of my own and reading countless propsals others have written over the years, all I know for sure is, this is all about soul.

  • Have you been rejected (like me)? Figure out if you have what it takes to get up the next morning and start over from nothing–because every published author must do that each and every time they meet a deadline.
  • Do you have a day job (like me)? Buckle down and accept that your personal life off the clock belongs first to the book you need to finish, not your hobbies and social (media) life–because the majority of published authors don’t make enough off their writing to support their families, so we’re all hoofing it to make ends meet while trying to stay creative in the dark hours of early morning.
  • Do you have a busy family (like me)? Love them and care for them, the tell them your entire life doesn’t revolve around them and they’re going to have to take care of themselves the 1,2,3 hours a day that you devote to your writing. Otherwise, they’ll consume you (and maybe that’s what you want, if family is the excuse you’re making daily for not creating new words).
  • Have you been dealing with an illness (like me)? Deal with it, by all means, your health is everything. But for Dog’s sake, knock off saying your illness is responsible for you not moving forward in your writing. I don’t mean to be insensitive or unkind, but whatever your condition is, I assure you I can find others who’ve managed to succeed battling far worse circumstances–because they refused to quit.

Soul is the thing that lives and breathes inside us, regardless of the piles of s**t raining down on our worst days. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies–Conquer Your Fear!

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

What new facet of the publishing business will you conquer this year? With all the changes rushing at us, what’s your greatest fear? How can you turn that perceived weakness into an asset? Small press or indie digital publishing has long been my wishy-washy place.


Yes, I can publishing solo, but do I want to? Yes, there are small indie digital presses out there, but do I trust their ever-evolving business models. In the end, I realized the real question was: Do I trust myself, without the umbrella of a large, established publisher propping up both me and my work?

I love my traditional publishers and hope to always have a home in print. I respect most of the inroads these huge corporations are making into digital media, too, though the changes they’re enacting have been slow to come and even slower to implement. Which has left a huge opportunity open for me to make a digital impact with my writing without them… But until lately I’ve been too hesitant to investigate those options on my own.

  • Where will I be without a major press behind me?
  • Will anyone notice if I go out on my own?
  • Will my publisher/agent be less enthusiastic about my work, if I’m also self/indie publishing in the digital market?
  • Will I be wasting a lot of time I should be spending writing, by taking on even more “other” business beyond the hours I need to focus each day on my creative pursuits?

Hard questions, all of them. And each question sprung from a core fear of the change happening all around me. Because the reality is, the playing field of publshing that I thought I’d conquered when I signed my first traditional book contract is gone. A new world with exciting new opportunities and scary pitfalls has arrived. I can’t fly beneath the radar and expect folks to find me, because I have THIS publisher or THAT one backing me.

publishing piles

In this publishing world, a writer is either a brand/entity unto herself, or she won’t be found, period.

  • Traditional publishers expect us to do all the things we have to do to be successful as self/indie published authors.
  • Branding is essential to a book’s success now, regardless of how it was published.
  • (more…)

How We Write Wednesday: Putting the Writing First…

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

I’ve been asked to HoWW blog more about putting the writing first…even when we’re being told (and seeing)  EVERYthing else in the business is more important. Especially the insanity we call social media (yesterday’s topic, where I ranted about writing first, because who knows what’s really making a difference on Facebook and Twitter anyway, no matter what the “experts” say).

Social media Insanity

It’s funny, when you think about it. Blogging about not blogging or tweeting or FB statusing so much that you never groove on your craft. Your art. Your purpose to begin with for dipping your toe in the Internet mustof “connecting.” We try to carve out niche in this great beyond. #weWRITE is a great example, which Jen Talty and I started after a few months of HoWW blog posts, to get writers talking about writing alone on Twitter, not just pimping their books or blogs or promo platforms.

We work to be relevant and plugged in and visible. But why? To support our writing, yes. But we do that best BY writing. To support our career? Better. But many of the folks doing the social media thing most fervently don’t have creative writing careers yet. They’re following the advice of social medial gurus telling them that building a following and pseudo platform (before there’s anything to sell from said stage) is more important to publishers these days than the product of the hard, daily, grinding writing work they’ve yet to do long enough to publish. To connect? That’s more to the point, I think.

We write alone, as I said yesterday, most of the time. And social media is a great way to connect with other writers, those we admire in the business, and, yes, those we trust to advise us about our journey. But it’s the massive scope of that very content we’re daily struglling to take in that, in my opinion, begins to overtake the writing itself, unless we’re very careful.

Because here’s the thing for me–anyone, ANYone, telling you to spend any significant portion of your day doing anything BUT writing, is doing damage to your chances of publishing. (more…)