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

 

LOL! One of my fave scenes in THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING

Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-FinalEnjoy!

— Josie

 

EXCERPT

My cell in the Santa Monica hoosegow could do
with a little sprucing up, but my roomies, Big Bitch Bitsy and Shitfaced Leona,
would get in my face and threaten me with some smackdown should I even consider
rearranging their fine collection of Chippendales trading cards, which has been
stuck onto the concrete wall with Bubblicious.

I’ve been in this hellhole for the past seven
hours. I don’t plan on staying here another night. Still, Bitsy (whereas she
uses this as a surname, I don’t want to disrespect her by calling her by the
much less bestie-friendly Big or Bitch) is no fool. She sees me eyeing the
bottom bunk near the window, and wants to set me straight up front that it’s
hers. Bitsy’s fist goes for my nose. To her surprise, I’m able to stop it with
my stiffened palm, and twist her arm out behind her, which is all it takes to
warn her that not only sticks and stones, but pressure in the right spot, is
all it takes to break her bones. Being raised by gentlefolk, I release her with
a warning that doesn’t mar the reputation of the woman who bore her, or
reference some embarrassing part of her anatomy.

You’d think she’d take the hint that I’m not
someone she should be messing with, but no.

The long shadows cast by our cell’s fugly
fluorescent overhead light tip me off that she’s about to stab me with a shiv
made from a metal spring from Leona’s bunk. A roundhouse kick to Bitsy’s gut
sends her reeling backward into the wall. I cram her head against it with my
version of a Vulcan Mind Meld, where pressure points in three key spots on her
cranium has Bitsy repeating every word I say. “I will act like a lady at all
times. I will share with my bunkmates. I will talk in a lady-like voice. I
won’t use my nasty pottymouth.”

Works every time. Thank you, Mr. Spock.

“Tsk, tsk. Is that any way to make friends and
influence enemies?”

I turn around to find Jack smiling at me from
just beyond the bars. So, that was the reason for the salacious whistles and
catcalls coming from the other cells. Usually, it’s for a new prisoner, or as
they call them here, “fresh meat.” This time it’s for six-feet-two-inches of
prime beefcake in an Armani suit.

I wave gaily at him. Okay, it’s more like a
middle-finger salute. “’Bout damn time you got here. If it’s going to take you
seven hours to drive a whole two miles, why do you own a Lamborghini?”

“Because the girls love it.” Noting my raised
brow and Bitsy’s shiv in my hand has him rethinking his answer. “In all
seriousness, Ryan and I are having a hell of a time convincing the local
authorities that you didn’t kill Edwina. It doesn’t help that your prints are
the only ones on the murder weapon.”

“But I explained that to the SWAT guys! It was
in my hand when Breck and I wrestled for it, and he twisted my arm so that it
was pointing at her when he squeezed the trigger.”

“Likely story,” mutters Leona, through her
drunken stupor.

I peel her favorite Chippendale off the wall and
tear it in half. She whimpers, but takes the hint that she better keep mum in
front of my gentleman caller.

Jack shakes his head at my cruelty. “It doesn’t
help that the security video shows you as coming out of the House of Mirrors
right after Breck got shot in there.”

Suddenly, it looks like I’ll have the time to
complete a full makeover of my jail cell.

I smack the bars between us with my fist. “Oh my
God! If I end up in jail for Edwina’s murder, Carl will be given custody of the
kids! I’ve got to get out of this mess!”

“Don’t worry about Carl. The files Edwina left
behind have put him back on the Watch List, and Breck, too for that matter.
Unfortunately, Carl left with Asimov’s contingent before we could stop him.”

“Well, that’s some relief.” I feel tears forming
in my eyes. “What have you told the children about my absence?”

“Just that you were in the wrong place at the
wrong time. Unfortunately, your arrest made the news in a big way. The police
leaked Breck’s version of it. Needless to say, all of Hilldale is buzzing about
it. Penelope and her posse actually believe that you’re jealous of Babette.
Mrs. Breck’s silence on the topic isn’t helping matters.”

“Figures she’d be towing his party line.” I
shake my head in disgust. “Breck is a member of the Quorum. For that alone,
we’ve got to bring him back. Seriously, Jack, what are we going to do?”

“We just have to wait it out, for however long
it takes.” He looks down at his watch “Which should be about… now.”

For just a few seconds, all the lights in the
jail flash.

Jack looks down the hall. Seeing that the two
guards have been distracted by the shouts of the cellmates over this disruption
of their routine, he slips me a small bag through the bars.

“That was Arnie,” he mutters, just barely loud
enough for me to hear. “He’s just put their security feed on a loop. It’ll run
for a couple of hours. In the meantime, this spray turns these two into
sleeping beauties. If need be, you can use the spray on the guards, too, but I
think the diversion Arnie is causing in Cell Block C will keep them busy for
awhile. We guessed at the uniform size. The smart card gets you through every
door in this joint. Abu and I will be waiting down the block in his ice cream
truck.”

I give him a thumbs up. I wish I could kiss him,
but I don’t want to make my roomies jealous.

I’m just glad he’s kept his shirt on, and he’s
kept his a bowtie and French cuffs at home.

(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 


Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-FinalThe Housewife Assassin's 
Guide to Gracious Killing 
(Book 2) Only $3.99! 

Signal Press / In bookstores now!

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Havent' read the first book in the series?

Click here to get both books, the first one free!
The Killer 2-Book Set! 

Book 1, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
 

Book 2, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S 
GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING



Author excerpt game! Should I choose page 7 or 77?

For years now, I've called novelist Eileen Rendahl my evil twin, for good reason: her books have a snarky irreverance that remind me of my own.

Now I have another reason to say we're joined at the hip (along with six other of her closest author pals): I've been
tagged by her to play "7 or 77."

Here's how it works. I go to either page 7 or 77 of my latest manuscript — in my case, The Housewife Assassin's Killer Christmas Tips,
count down 7 lines, then copy the next 7 lines here

After that, I get
to name 7 more authors to come out and play. Mine are Kate Perry, Kristin Harmel, Susan C. Shea, Karin Tabke, Tawny Weber, Stephanie Bond, and Deborah Coonts and Laura Griffin. Hopefully by the time you've read this, they've put up an excerpt of their latest. If not, you can check out their books on their websites. Each has a unique voice, and their stories — anything from thrillers to women's contemporary to romance —  range from heartwrenching to poignant to laugh out loud funny.

Okay, this is from page 77 of The Housewife Assassin's Killer Christmas Tips

Enjoy!

— Josie



Louis-vuitton-plane-private-jet-luxury-travel

By the time I’m finished, Melmud’s Kickapoo Joy Juice has kicked in.


“Who is the Quorum?” My voice is gentle but authoritative.


“Infidels. But they pay well for arms. Enough for me to buy the mansion next
door to Oprah in Montecito. But Oprah’s dogs crap in my yard all the time.
Still, I don’t mind. They are Oprah’s dogs! Some are Labs, but also a couple of
Springer spaniels. Not to mention the golf club in Montecito is top notch. I
have a two handicap. Soon they will soon make me a member. I am sure of it.”


Someone should have warned me SP-117 leads to diarrhea of the mouth. If this
were just another extraordinary rendition, I’d have already given this dude a
Cheney spa treatment and tossed him out the door.


I start over. “Melmud, try to stay focused. What is the Quorum doing with the
heat-seeking missiles?”


“Taking down a plane.”


Like, duh. At thirty-three thousand feet in the air, this guy better tell me
something I don’t already know, or one of us is going to jump ship. I don’t
want it to be me. “Where will it occur? On what day, and at what time?”


“What I know is—”


A sharp rap at the door stops him cold. That damn bodyguard!

 (c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).


Killer-Tips-Cover-v3

On sale now! 

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Buy it on Amazon! 

’Tis the season for murder, mayhem and mistletoe! 

There will be no peace on Earth if Donna and Jack don’t find a shipping container filled with heat-seeking missiles.

Forget Santa! Terror is coming to town…

 

Squeeeee! Free books, two days only, just in time for Thanksgiving!




HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012
Thanksgiving Free
ParTay!
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A man and woman conspire to stop their parents' wedding, and fall in love. By Stephanie Bond. 

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Enter my contest for The Housewife Assassin’s Guide to Gracious Killing

Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-FinalYippee, skippee, the second book in my Housewife Assassin series has launched: 

The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing

Buy it from 

Amazon

Donna and Jack are in to all kinds of trouble–the kind of hot mess that can cause an  international incident:

A nuclear arms summit, hosted by a politically-connected American billionaire industrialist, provides the perfect opportunity for a rogue operative to assassinate of the newly-elected Russian president on US soil. Acme operative Donna Stone's mission:

Seek and exterminate the shooter, before all hell–and World War III–break loose.

Not to mention what happens when Donna files for divorce.

Throw in a couple of off-the-map school field trips and a few naughty neighbors, you've got a whole lot of fun.

To celebrate, I'm doing two things:

First, I've lowered the price of 
The Housewife Assassin's Handbook to 99 cents! 

Also, right now I've got a brand new contest going. 
On Midnight PT, on Sunday, December 15, 2012, 
I'll be drawing the name of some lucky winner 
for a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice.

To enter, all you have to do is read the excerpt here, then answer this question:

What is the name of the song Prince Harry is dancing to, and who sings it?

All correct answers, must be emailed to be at MailFromJosie@gmail.com to be automatically be entered.

I'll be posting the potential winners here…

And guess what? 

Gift-cardYou can add bonus points! Each point equals an extra entry for you. Here's how:

– Click the "Like" button for The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, on either Amazon (1 point) or BN.com (1 point).

– If you've read it, give a review for The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, on Amazon (1 point), on BN.com (1 point), and iTunes Bookstore (1 point). Also, you can review it on Goodreads.com (1 point). 

(If you haven't read it already, you're in luck! It's only 99 cents, during this contest period!)

– If' you've read it, give a review to The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing on Amazon (1 point). Soon it will be up on BN.com (1 point), and Apple iTunes Bookstore. So you can do it there, too. Also, be sure to put up a review on  Goodreads.com (1 point). 

– If you haven't done so already, sign up for my eLetter (1 point). If your name is already in my eLetter list, you'll automatically get a bonus point, as soon as you correctly answer the question above.

– Friend me on Facebook (1 point) at http://www.Facebook.com/josiebrownauthor

– Friend me on Twitter (1 point) at http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA

Remember: each bonus action means an additional point! 

Email me with any bonus points, and I'll be sure to include them.

You. Will. Love. It,

— Josie

*Cover design: Andrew Brown, ClickTwiceDesign.com. Thanks, Andy, for another great cover!

Stephanie Bond Loves SECRET LIVES – and I Love Stephanie Bond

Stephanie-and-Josie We authors are a needy bunch. I guess that's because, for the most part, we are shy people, used to holing up for hours (make that months) at a time to scribble out our next opus.

(Yeah, okay, who do I think I'm kidding?)

Which brings me to the topic of friendship.

I had the great fortune of meeting Stephanie Bond at a gathering of mostly authors, in my home town of Atlanta. I didn't know any of these women, but I will always appreciate the fact that they were gracious enough to come out to support my first novel, True Hollywood Lies. By then I'd been on the road for about three weeks and my voice was GONE. It was a small group, but I had to talk through a mike, anyway.

Thank God there was wine.

And Stephanie. Her sweetness and light got me through it.

We kept up with each other through the years, and whenever she was in my neck of the woods –  San Francisco — I would make it a point to spend time with her, show her the out-of-the-way views that are off the typical tourist locales. We'd meet up at author conventions and pick up just where we left off.

She is now one of my dearest friends.

Proof of friendship is that you aren't afraid to share your darkest days with someone. I can honestly say that she's been there for me when I needed her. The terminal illness of my mom was one. My husband's cancer (now in remission) was another.

I would be honored if she can say the same for me.

One of my happiest days was to hear from her that Sony Entertainment had optioned her series, The Body Movers, for television. Friends love it when something goes your way. She would feel the same if the shoe were on the other foot.

You'd think that would make it easy to ask her to read my novel and give me a few words that could be an endorsement, right?  Wrong. If you truly respect someone's opinion, you're always afraid that you won't–can't— live up to her exacting standards. 

I know Stephanie well enough that, had she not liked the book, she would have passed on giving a quote. Instead I got back a rave: both by her, and a girlfriend with whom she'd gone on a gal pal weekend.

Here it is. Pretty great, eh?

Now, when someone asks me if my book is good, I can say: "Stephanie Bond raved about it, so it must be!"

That makes my life easier — and makes it a must-read for you this summer (I hope I hope)!

Your review counts, too,

—Josie

http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA




SecretLives400 Josie's
Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it
TODAY
!

“Brown proves that a story with suburban bodies can be just as
suspenseful as one with dead bodies! Secret Lives of Husbands and
Wives
is a probing, entertaining fishbowl of married life in a
well-heeled, wayward neighborhood.  Loved it!”  Stephanie
Bond, author of
Body Movers series