Why Authors Choose to Self-Publish

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Most authors walk a financial tightrope. 

Hey, don't take my word for it. In a September 2015 an article on a recent Authors Guild survey of its members' incomes,  Publishers Weekly put it this way:

 

Authors Guild Survey quote

Yikes.

Thank goodness for self-publishing. It saved my career, and those of many other authors I know.

Even with four novels (one optioned for television) and two-nonfiction books published traditionally, as early as 2010 I'd dipped my toe into the choppy waves of self-publishing. My subsequent success with it is why I now self-publish exclusively.

Whereas self-publishing has grown by leaps and bounds in the past ten years, ours wasn't the first generation to discover its financial rewards. Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Marcel Proust, and Walt Whitman self-published their books. Misery loves great company indeed.

But before self-publishing became a financially viable option for the current generation of writers, traditional publishing—that is to say, print books, primarily by one of the Big Five New York publishing houses—was the only venue for the sale and distribution of books. Even ten years ago, the thing authors love to do most—write novels—was not possible without running an unwieldy gauntlet that put their manuscripts in front of any literary agency that might deem the book sellable to a publisher, and any publishing house editor who might actually like it enough to purchase it. 

Besides editing, printing, and distributing a book, part of the publisher's job is also to promote it. For doing so  the publisher holds on to anywhere from 80-92 percent of the book's retail price.

(Yep, some authors get only an 8 percent royalty. Worse yet, royalties are paid twice yearly, and they are only paid if their books "earn out"—that is, return any advance paid, which may not happen for years if at all, what with the other variables tied to this equation, including book returns, of which there are no cut-offs; and perhaps the payback of advances of other books as well.)

Sadly, in traditional publishing, marketing is the last consideration—never the first—when purchasing a book from an author. Compared to other products as a whole—and entertainment products in particular, including films, music, magazines, and video games—it gets a negligible budget, if any at all.

Steve Hamilton Publishers WeeklyDon't take my word for it.  In this article regarding the breakup between bestselling thriller writer Steve Hamilton and his former publishing house, St. Martin's Press, Publishers Weekly outs its industry's dirty little secret: there is no there, there:

 A book can be beautifully written, have scintillating dialogue and a page-turning plot. But without the adequate marketing and promotion that puts it in front of a targeted audience, a book is as dead as a beached whale. 

At this point in time, most Authors Guild members are traditionally published. Coupled with the Hamilton/SMP breakup, the Authors Guild survey certainly makes an excellent case for the guild to reconsider what it must do to protect its members. For example, the guild—along with literary agents and intellectual property attorneys—should insist that any publishing contract contain clauses that:

(a) Succinctly spell out a yearly quantitative financial base for the book, with instant reversion to the author if not met. Right now, most publishing contracts hold onto rights forever, under the assumption that digital distribution means that a book never goes out of print.

(b) Outline an advertising budget, tied to an actual, very specific media plan for the marketing of the book—at least for the first full year in print—and allow for immediate reversion of rights if there is no follow-through.

Is it any wonder that hybrid authors—that is to say, those authors who have been published traditionally, but then, like me, elected to publish their books independently of a publishing house—are a growing breed? Of course not. Like everyone else, authors have to eat. They have to pay rents and mortgages. They raise children, and pay for health insurance, taxes, and all the other expenses that come with being self-employed.

I personally know many hybrid authors. Under the traditional publishing model, their advances and sales shrunk along with the demise of both chain bookstores, and the winnowing of independent brick-and-mortar bookstores in the most recent recession. Several of these authors were at the brink of financial disaster (homes soon to be repossessed, couch-surfing, near bankruptcy) when they made the decision to walk away from traditional publishing contracts. After doing so, they rolled up their shirtsleeves and did what they had to do to self-publish: write good books; have their books professionally edited and digitally converted; distribute their books—primarily as eBooks.

The successful one know they must also promote their books.

The good news for their readers: the books are priced lower than their offerings still distributed by their traditional publishers. 

The great news for these authors: now that they retain 70 percent of the book's retail price, they are making a sustainable living for themselves and their families.

Some are doing better than that, having already sold millions of books since starting this journey. Sylvia DayBarbara Freethy, Stephanie Bond,  Bella Andre, and Kate Perry are perfect examples of hybrid authors who took advantage of the changing bookselling marketplace to not just survive, but to thrive. And whereas Ms. Day, Ms. Andre and Ms. Bond still have one foot in traditional publishing, Ms. Freethy and Ms. Perry are in total control of every facet of their books' design, distribution and promotion. 

Another hybrid author who made the leap to indie publishing and never looked back was thriller novelist Barry Eisler. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview him for the International Thriller Writers Organization's e-zine, "The Big Thrill." Some of what Barry says regarding the advantages of self-publishing versus traditional publishing can be found in the article linked here.

However, some of our Q&A was cut. Since the questions are relevant to this post's topic, I've included them here:

JB: If there were one (or two, or three) things you could change about the publishing industry and the novelist’s role within it, what would it be?

BE: The first thing I’d like to change is the popular perception that organizations like the Authors Guild and Authors United primarily represent authors rather than establishment publishers. I have no problem with organizations advocating for publisher interests, but the dishonest way in which the AG and AU go about their publishing industry advocacy misleads a lot of authors. I could go on at length about this topic and in fact I have—so for anyone who wants to better understand the real agenda and function of these “author” organizations, I’d recommend starting with this article I wrote for Techdirt, Authors Guilded, United, and Representing…Not Authors.

JB: But isn’t it true that the AG speaks out on various topics of concern to authors, like unconscionable contract terms?

BE: Hah, the AG going after publishers is like Hillary Clinton going after Wall Street. I’ve had a lot to say about this, including thecomments I wrote in response to this post at The Passive Voice.For anyone who’s curious, just search for my name and you’ll find the comments, the gist of which is, when the AG wants to accomplish something, it names names and litigates; when it wants authors to think it’s trying to accomplish something but in fact isn’t (or, more accurately, when what it’s trying to accomplish is maintenance of the publishing status quo), it talks.

When the AG talks, it’s a head fake. The body language is what to look for in determining the organization’s actual allegiances and priorities.

Another thing I’d like to change is the generally abysmal level of legacy publisher performance in what at least in theory are legacy publisher core competencies. Whether it’s cover design, the bio, or fundamental principles of marketing, legacy publishers are content with a level of mediocrity that would be an embarrassment in any other industry. I’ve seen little ability within legacy publishing companies to distill principles from fact patterns (particularly patterns involving failures) and then apply those principles in new circumstances. Institutional memory and the transmission of institutional knowledge and experience are notably weak in the culture of the Big Five. My guess is that the weakness is a byproduct of insularity and complacency brought on by a lack of competition.

JB: Agreed. Having spent fifteen years in advertising before becoming a novelist, I was abhorred as to what passed for “marketing and promotion.

BE: I'd also like to increase awareness of the danger a publishing monopoly represents to the interests of authors and readers. No, I’m not talking about Amazon; “Amazon is a Monopoly!” is a canard and a bogeyman. I’m talking about the real, longstanding monopoly in publishing (or call is a quasi-monopoly, or a cartel), which is the insular, incestuous New York Big Five. An important clue about the nature of the organization is right there in the name, no? See also the Seven Sisters

Okay, another thing (and then I’ll stop because I could go on about this stuff forever): I’d like to see more choices for authors; new means by which authors can reach a mass market of readers; and greater diversity in titles and lower prices for readers.

Wait, that last set of wishes is already happening, courtesy of self-publishing and Amazon publishing—the first real competition the Big Five has ever seen, and a boon to the health of the whole publishing ecosystem.

Hybrid author success stories are now numerous. As author advocate Jane Friedman's wonderful blog points out,  Claire Cook, Harry Bingham, and William Kowalski are just a few other examples of hybrid authors who made the leap and never looked back.

Products are created from a perceived need. Industries are created by providing sales and distribution venues for products.

But sometimes how the product is distributed changes also how the product is purchased by its consumers. 

Books—in whatever form they take—will always be needed. They entertain, they provoke thought, they provide knowledge.

In publishing, books are the products. Still, how books are distributed and sold doesn't change how they are made: by authors with the perseverance to write a good story, and then do what they can to find readers who will fall in love with it. 

 

Like Mr. Kowalski, Ms. Cook, and Mr. Bingham, I love what I do. Now that 2015 has come to an end, I now know that all my hard work toward creation and release of the my latest four books and a novella (The Housewife Assassin's Garden of Deadly Delights, The Housewife Assassin's Tips for Weddings, Weapons, and Warfare, The Housewife Assassin's Husband Hunting Hints, Totlandia Book 5, and Gone with the Body) was worth it.

It is confirmed by my bookstore royalties. More importantly, it is substantiated by the many kind comments received from my supportive readers. 

Thank you, readers, for taking a chance on me, loving my characters, and chatting up my books with others who they felt might enjoy them, too. 

Here's to a wonderful new year filled with more great stories from your favorite authors.

—Josie

 

For a red hot read on a sizzling summer night! Free excerpt of my book, “The Candidate.”

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Last year about this time, I released THE CANDIDATE, which was a joy to write.

I hope you think so, too. So that you can get a taste of it, feel free to  download an excerpt here.

 

Happy summer,

— Josie

BUY IT IN:

Amazon (US)

 (For a signed digital copy via Amazon, order here)

Amazon (UK)

Apple iBooks

Kobo

BN.com

 

Seduction and intrigue are rampant on the campaign trail when a political campaign adviser discovers that Washington's power broker elite have embroiled his presidential candidate in a plot involving an act of terrorism on US soil…

 

SYNOPSIS

Democratic political campaign consultant Ben Brinker can’t remember the last time he was excited by a candidate’s vision. He feels he’s lost his way, both emotionally and professionally. Worst yet, his show-me-the-money policy seems to have finally caught up with him. Two of his recent clients have been disgraced in one way or another: a senator is caught in lurid sex scandal, and a congressman is indicted in a kickback scandal. In no time at all the political pundits are calling Ben a "candidate cooler." Now Ben is desperate for any campaign gig he can get.

As luck would have it, Andrew Harris Mansfield, the charismatic junior senator from North Carolina  and former Marine pilot, asks Ben if he wants to run his soon-to-be-announced campaign for president.

Little does Ben know what's in store for Andrew, or their country–

Nor does he realize that the key to saving both have been placed in his hands.

“I don’t mind living in a man’s world…”

Marilyn-monroe-reading

 

"…as long as I can be a woman in it."

— Marilyn Monroe

 

____________________________

 

 

HA1 Handbook 768x1024

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
Murder. Suspense. Sex. 
And some handy household tips.

978-0-9740214-0-9

FREE! 
ORDER NOW,  from

Amazon.com (US)  / Amazon.UK 
Also in all Amazon countries!

BN.com (99 cents)

Apple iTunes Bookstore  / Apple iTunes Bookstore (UK) 
In all iTunes countries!

KoboBooks

Goodwill toward all customers, for sure. WestJet airline does it right.

Westjet-holiday-promotion

 

I think this is possibly the best public relations campaign I've ever seen an airline come up with. When you get to the end of the video and see the tears of joy and gratitude in the customers' eyes, you'll know what I mean.

 

Way to go, WestJet!

–Josie

 

 

 

HAH 1 - size 200 X 300

Murder. Suspense. Sex.
And some handy household tips.


FREE! Now in

Amazon.com (US)  / Amazon.UK 

BN.com (99 cents)

Apple iTBooks  / Apple iBooks(UK) 

KoboBooks.com

Woman gets her jollies on a San Francisco Cable Car. One hundred lovers and a $50K settlement later…

Judy-st.-louis

l love this article, from the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle. Brings to mind one of my favorite Judy Garland classics,  "The Trolley Song," from the musical, "Meet Me in St. Louis:"

Love this lyric: "I went to lose a jolly".

I'll just bet you did,

— Josie

"Cable Car Nymph"

Excerpted from

"San Francisco's Top 10 Sex Scandals"
Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle 
Published 4:00 am, Thursday, May 28, 2009

It was supposed to be a routine trip on the Hyde Street cable car in 1964, the 29-year-old woman said. But when the car lurched and she was heaved against a pole, the collision "somehow unleashed emotions hidden deep in the dark closet of her mind," The Chronicle reported – and thus was born "The cable car nymphomaniac" who took a trip on the "Cable Car Named Desire."

The woman sued Muni for $500,000 six years later, saying her injuries had triggered an insatiable sexual desire that drove her to take 100 lovers, leaving her perpetually unsatisfied. Reporters left her name out of news accounts, to protect her privacy, referring to her instead by her nickname, or as "the buxom blonde" from Michigan.

She was awarded $50,000 by a jury, whose members said they hoped she would use it for counseling.

(c) 2009 San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

With my high starched collar

And my high topped shoes

And my hair

Piled high upon my head

I went to lose a jolly

Hour on the Trolley

And lost my heart instead

 

With his light brown derby

And his bright green tie

He was quite

The handsomest of men

I started to yen

So I counted to ten

Then I counted to ten again

 

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley

Ding, ding, ding went the bell

Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings

From the moment I saw him I fell

Chug, chug, chug went the motor

Bump, bump, bump went the brake

Thump, thump, thump went my heartstrings

When he smiled I could feel the car shake

He tipped his hat

And took a seat

He said he hoped he hadn't

Stepped upon my feet

He asked my name

I held my breath

I couldn't speak because

He scared me half to death

 

Buzz, buzz, buzz went the buzzer

Plop, plop, plop went the wheels

Stop, stop, stop went my heartstrings

As he started to go

Then I started to know

How it feels

When the universe reels

The day was bright

The air was sweet

The smell of honeysuckle

Charmed you off your feet

You tried to sing

But couldn't squeak

In fact, you loved him

So you couldn't even speak

 

Buzz, buzz, buzz went the buzzer

Plop, plop, plop went the wheels

Stop, stop, stop went my heartstrings

As he started to leave

I took hold of his sleeve

With my handAnd as if it were planned

He stay on with me

And it was grand just to stand

With his hand holding mine

Till the end of the line

 

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley

Zing, zing, zing went my heart

 

Songwriters: HUGH MARTIN/BLANE, RALPH

Published byLyrics © EMI Music Publishing

 

 

Housewife Assassin Donna Stone is back–and here’s what she did for her summer vacation.

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IN AMAZON NOW!

In Kobo, Nook, and Apple by August 20, 2013

Read an excerpt here..

A nude sunbathing serial killer, a Lord of the Flies 'tween takeover, poison-dart throwing pygmies……

Talk about a fantasy (nightmare?) island!

An NSA scientist has disappeared with a deadly plague virus. Donna and Jack must find him, before it is unleashed on Fantasy island, home of three very different resorts:

Like Kamp KidStuff, where families frolic among dolphins, cartoon characters, 
and warring gangs of tweens who believe in the law of the jungle–including human sacrifices; 

And Eden Key, a nude singles sanctuary where tiki-hut treehouses provide the perfect setting for rum-fueled romances and casual hook-ups—not to mention the occasional swinger slashing…

Finally, there's the Hunt Club, which allows its members to track a very unique, soon-to-be extinct prey. 

And you call this a vacation?

______________________________________________
To celebrate the launch of 
The Housewife Assassin's Vacation to Die For 
I'm giving away a $100 gift card
 
to ANY store of your choice!

    

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