Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We've Come a Long Way, Baby! By Morgan Mandel

It wasn't long ago that those in the writing community looked down on self-publishing, considering it the only means less talented writers could get published. Large and small publishers made sure to propogate this notion. I suspect it was their way to stay in control and reap profits from books they hadn't written themselves.

Publishers held the cards and called the shots. Many hired readers, young twenty-somethings, to vet manuscripts. If by chance a reader thought a manuscript worthy, an actual editor would then deign to look it over. And that manuscript better be in tiptop condition, free of grammatical errors, and following specific guidelines as to format and topic, because many editors didn't have time to do full edits. So much simpler to receive an error free manuscript and set it up for production than to spend time actually editing.

Then, if a writer was fortunate enough to be among the chosen, input may or may not be allowed concerning the cover art. Even if suggestions were made by the writer, that didn't mean they'd be followed. You got your cover and you better be happy with it, unless you were a big-name author with lots of pull.

And, you wouldn't dare object to a release date as being such a long way off, even if it was almost two years away.  And if your book didn't come out on the release date, you'd have to accept that inconvenience.

Also, if you were lucky, your publisher would send in Arcs for reviews, and mail you a few Arcs so you could garner reviews as well. If you were extremely lucky, a few magazine ads might also appear publicizing your book.

The upside was if it were a large publishing house, you'd get an advance, after which if you earned it out, you'd also receive royalties. A small publisher couldn't afford to pay you an advance, but you'd get a percentage of the sales as royalties, after all the expenses were first deducted.

Seeing your book in print, being paid anything at all for writing it, no matter how miniscule the amount, still made you feel validated. You'd finally made it as an author. People were actually reading what you wrote. Some of your advance and/or royalties you gladly socked away to cover your own advertising, travel and clothes expenses for book signings and special events to get your brand known. You happily attended conferences at your own expense because it was so much fun to be finally recognized as a published author.

That was then. This is now. There are still many authors who choose to go the old-fashioned way, for a variety of reasons, but many are jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon.

Barry Eisler

Robert W Walker happily self-publishes
 Barry Eisler, a successful traditionally published author, is part of the new revolution. He's had the temerity to turn down a $500,000 offer from St. Martin's and opt for self-publishing instead. J.A. Konrath is another author who has happily  made the transition, and is reaping profits. One of our own bloggers at Acme Authors Link, Robert W. Walker, has also chosen to go the self-publishing route. If you've read any of his posts, you'll understand he's thrilled with his decision and added bankroll.

Morgan Mandel is a happy self-publisher
  Upon the advice of Austin S. Camacho, I also chose the self-publishing route. I self-published Killer Career in August, 2009. That's when self-publishing wasn't cool. Now it is, and with the emerging popularity of the kindle and, Killer Career is coming into its own.

 It's a heady experience to be able to choose your own cover, either by devising one yourself, or by collaborating with a skilled professional. It's wonderful to know the book of your heart can get out to the public, even if it's about something publishers consider unmarketable. Not only that, it's your decision when to get it published, either electronically, such as on kindle, which is the most popular right now, and/or in print, through such avenues as Create Space and/or Lightning Source.

 As a warning to the unwary, it's best not to get carried away with power. Don't think your manuscript is so great it doesn't need changing. You have the choice and means to provide a quality product, so don't get impatient. Take the time, make the effort and be sure to get a skilled editor to check your manuscript before you release it.

So much more is yours for the taking, if you want it to be. Yes, it requires more responsibility, but self-publishing is worth going the extra mile.

It's a brave new world out there for authors. More than ever the fate of our books and our brands are in our own hands, where it should have been all along. We've come a long way baby, and we're not going back!

Morgan Mandel
Killer Career is now 99 cents on


Anonymous said...

Morgan, you are so right about the benefits of getting your rights back and doing your own publishing. It got my attention that would be best for a writer years ago when some well known ones made headlines by considering it. I still kept one of Mary Higgins Clarks magazines for years after it folded - but the idea stayed with me and I've now got small list on Kindle and two novels on Smashwords. There ain't no way but up and sales are beginning to grow. Good luck to all of us,
Jackie Griffey

T. Forehand said...

As a newbie, I am not sure about the technical process so my first book is with a traditional publisher. However, I am going to research more about this and the price of software necessary to self publish. Those who have established a name will of course do better but the market is wide open.


Rob Walker said...

Oh man, Morgan! Placing my face up against Barry's? The guy is a publisher's wet dream, looks like a Hollywood actor, then there's me. Thank goodness Pongo is in the shot to take some of the heat off me. This came as a surprise, though, and I thank you for adding me in with Joe and Barry. My move to Kindle has not been near so dramatic. I rather quietly place up books calling the new ones KINDLE ORIGINALS as I did not offer them anywhere but Kindle. I knew the Kindle device was the great game changer that in effect brought about a dream of mine--to be able to afford being my own publisher. Now I have 47 titles up and doing well.

My KDP thread has gone to 23,000 viewers, 48 pgs., 700 plus replies. The Kindle Amazon team is a writer's best friend. I am loving this decision.


Morgan Mandel said...

Don't sell yourself short, Rob. You're certainly no slouch in the sales department! Obviously, you've got something readers go for!

Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel said...

Good for you, Jackie! I love hearing about self-publishers!

And Terri - If you have Word, you can self-publish at Amazon and on Smashwords. You just have to be very careful following the formatting guidelines.


Kris Bock said...

I recently interviewed a half-dozen agents and got their feedback on self-publishing. Some are ignoring it, but others are looking at how they can be part of the trend and are even guiding their clients in self-publishing. I've posted a few of the quotes on my blog:

Kris Bock
Rattled: romantic suspense in the dramatic and deadly southwestern desert
Read the first three chapters:

Unknown said...

Having been writing in the teensy leagues for decades, I've watched publishing change.

I think the coporatization of publishing is one of the major reasons self-publishing has become "respectable".

When the sales departments started calling the shots and the mergers proliferated, the writers got lost in the shuffle. Self-publishing is one way to level the market.

Cheryl said...

The stigma surrounding self-publishing has definitely changed. I might consider it one day too.

jenny milchman said...

As I site here with a novel being submitted by my agent, I am virulently reading threads such as yours, Morgan, and following Rob's and Karen McQuestion's and Barry's and Joe's process...and really wondering which is best now, and which 1 or 2 years from now when a book from a major would come out. Thanks for the post, and congrats on your success.

Kathleen Kaska said...

I needed to read this, Morgan. You articulated my fears and concerns. It is a brave new world, and I'm trying to plow my way through.


jean hart stewart said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I have twenty books out there, but think I'll try the self-pub route just to see. Been thinking of this for some time.

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm sticking with self-pubbing myself, but I could be swayed by an offer of a huge advance, such as Barry's offer. (g)

Morgan Mandel

Norma Huss said...

I'm preparing my newest MS to self-publish. You are so right about cover design. Right now my daughter - a designer - is crafting an entirely professional cover using two photos I took and a photo from a stock file she owns rights to. We are fine-tuning it just like I fine-tuned my MS, and it will be just right!

Sharon Hays said...

Loved your article about self publishing. I have self published with createspace, Xlibris and now IUniverse. I am looking at going with Lightning Source now for my fourth book. I have learned so much! Yes, it is an extra mile but you get your work out there faster and you are the boss. You are the marketing tool and its not easy! But in the long run, I think its worth it. I started in 2010 and seem to be picking up some steam now. My website is I will be following this blog for some time!! Thanks! Sharon