This is my first post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group that the awesome Alex Cavanaugh has started, and I wish I had known about it sooner. I’ve suffered through the struggles and insecurities that every author has, but today I’m offering encouragement to those who are trying to navigate the waters of the churning publishing world by giving a peek inside my decision to self-publish. My post last week, Taking the Road Less Traveled Redux, talks about embracing the path that works for me, even if I have to whack through weeds to get there. I came to believe that some things that seemed risky, weren’t risky at all, while others that seemed “safe” were the biggest risk of all.
In short, like the inspiring Talli Roland, I decided to take control of my writing career and treat it like the business we’re always told that it is. After careful consideration, that led me to cutting short an agent search in order to self-publish Open Minds, for three reasons:
1) Publisher interest in paranormal is waning, even though paranormal YA novels are still burning up the charts
2) Price control
3) Writing investment diversification
(Plus I have to admit to a certain desire to try the shiny new gadget of self-publishing.)
When Your Genre is Too Hot
Big publishers have to look two years out to decide what to acquire. They take a pulse, try to read trends, divine the tea leaves…I’m not really sure how they decide, and I don’t envy having to make the call on what the next big “thing” is going to be. But if big publishers decide that your genre is peaking (or won’t be hot in two years) then your chances of publication go down. For paranormal, the rumor is that it’s on the way “out”, even though it’s still selling like mad. Self-publishing has the advantage of getting a book on the (virtual) shelves fast, giving people something they want to buy now. I was inspired by Susan Ee’s choice to self-publish her YA novel Angelfall after hearing that “angel books” had peaked. Her outstanding novel has been up and down the charts and is currently residing at #18 in the Kindle Store for Dark Fantasy – congrats to Susan Ee!
Open Minds is a paranormal novel with powers not creatures. And it has a lot of science fiction elements, which is why I call it paranormal/SF. Two years from now, that may or may not be a hot genre, but I decided to self-publish now to give the book its best chance at finding an audience that loves it. Plus, I really want to write the sequel Closed Hearts, and self-publishing ensures that won’t be a wasted effort.
Price Control or Enticing the New Reader
One option for me was to go with my small publisher, Omnific Publishing. I am sure it would have fit in with the other YA novels they are publishing, and I will always be grateful to Omnific for believing in me enough to publish Life, Liberty, and Pursuit. I recommend Omnific all the time to writer friends – in fact, Cherie Colyer from my SCBWI writing group will be releasing her first novel this December through Omnific (yay, Cherie!). Being a small pub, Omnific certainly could have released my novel more quickly than a big pub. And having worked with Omnific, I knew that if I self-pubbed, I would have to invest in professional editing and cover design (which I did for Open Minds). Whether you go with small pub, large pub, or self-pub, those are costs that have to be considered in putting out a high quality product.
The advantage of self-publishing here is pricing control. As a self-published author, I could offer my readers a much lower price, hopefully enticing people to give the book a try. I see this as a great way for lesser known writers to build a base of fans of their work that might take longer, if price were more of an obstacle. There are great, wrangling debates over pricing right now, with throw-downs over devaluing the author or book vs. providing reasonable e-book prices for readers. I see it more as an established-author vs. new-author dynamic. I’m much more willing to pay top dollar for an author I know and love, and I’m more likely to try a new author if the price is low.
Diversifying My Writing Investments (Note: I’m not an investment adviser.)
Any financial adviser will tell you to diversify into bonds (for consistent small dividends) and stock mutual funds (for higher risk/return). They warn against having more than a tiny portion of your portfolio in high-flying individual stocks. For your writing investments, your options include: 1) publishing with a large publisher, 2) publishing with a small publisher, 3) self-publishing.
Can you guess which is the high-flying individual stock?
*dramatic pause* It’s publishing with a large publisher.
This is no shock to anyone who has examined the odds of making it through the big pub gauntlet, which is really an all-or-nothing deal: either you win the lotto or you trunk your novel. The return is potentially large (or not – most traditionally pubbed authors don’t outsell their advances), but there is a risk of losing years of time waiting to win (at least in writing you only lose your time, not your money).
My writing investment portfolio has a novel and an anthology with a small pub company, paying small monthly dividends (like bonds). I also have several unpublished novels in various states of “completeness,” including a middle grade SF, middle grade fantasy, Open Minds (young adult paranormal/SF), and another project not listed on my WiP page (that will be going through the big pub route).
These have all been, or will be, queried to agents and/or big pub editors, making my portfolio very risk heavy.
Putting Self-Publishing in the Portfolio
With the successes of self-publishers making the news right and left, self-publishing seems more and more like a stock mutual fund – some risk, but also a good chance of a reasonable return (in fact, I imagine book sales in general look a lot like the DJIA). There is some investment required (professional editing and cover design), and the returns may be small, but there will be some. With luck (and books 2 & 3 in the series) those small sales could grow. Either way, I’ll be getting books into the hands of readers and hopefully building a base of people who like to read my work.
I still have a couple novels that I’m investing in traditional publishing – because I’m a risk-taker at heart and don’t mind owning a few high-flying stocks. But self-publishing Open Minds offers the opportunity to build a portfolio of readers, enticing them to sample a new author at a low price, in a genre they might like to read anyway.
My Logic Brain thinks that’s just prudent planning and my Creative Brain is jumping for joy over owning my writerly path and making it happen.
For me, overall, it’s just the right path, right now.