S is for spam. I'm not positive, but I think I might have 'arrived' this week. I have started to receive fan mail (yay!), and my blog started getting spammed (less yay).
Oh, wait. S didn't start out being for Spam. It's supposed to be Self-Publishing.
I had an offline conversation with someone recently about my choice to go with self-publishing. Hopefully, it won't embarrass her that I'm bringing up the conversation, because I found it a really helpful one. I will, however, not mention who she is, to protect the innocent. :)
Here's the interesting thing about the conversation. She read the sample query pitch I posted, and she really liked it. Basically, she said, "This is really good. Why aren't you going to try to go traditional publishing with this idea?"
The underlying assumption is what caught my attention -- the belief that only stories not good enough for New York end up being self-published. Now, I'm not offended by this assumption (at least not from her), and I am quite aware that many people assume this. But it also made me realize what an odd duck I am in this situation. A writer with some minor creds who has had an agent, could probably get one again, and who stands a fair chance (as chances go in this industry) of getting a good editor to take a look at one of my books. My project hasn't been rejected by 100 agents (or even submitted to any), and I'm not raving bitterly about the ebilness of agents, editors, or the Big 6. Some pretty big assumptions going on just in that description, I might add! What's up with this? And here's where this post comes in.
Why have I decided to invest the next five years in a self-publishing experiment?
-The midlist income. A midlist author from traditional publishing still needs a day job. A midlist self-published author does not. Is it harder to reach midlist in self-publishing than traditional? I don't know. It's not terribly easy living the midlist life in traditional publishing right now, with backlists going out of print and advances dwindling. So this point comes down to a financial consideration. A small fish with a day job or a small fish who stays home and writes and still pays all the bills.
It suddenly occurs to me that some of my fellows might be asking how that is possible. It's a matter of the royalty structure. A traditionally published author with a mass market paperback selling for $7.99 is going to receive (in general) 80 cents for every copy of the first 5,000 books sold, $1 for each of the next 5,000 copies, and $1.20 per copy thereafter. Then 15% off the top goes to their literary agent. A self-published author with a novel priced at $2.99 (about as close to an industry standard as you're going to find in self-publishing) is going to keep about $2 per copy sold. It varies slightly between distributors.
But won't traditional authors sell more books? Some yes, some no. Earning out even a small advance (say, $5000) is becoming harder and harder. Robin Sullivan (wife and business partner of fantasy author Michael Sullivan) pointed out on her blog that it's not uncommon for her to see self-published authors make that kind of money in the first three months without hitting any of the Kindle bestseller lists. Of course, it's also not uncommon to see someone sell three copies in three months.
So who has an easier time reaching midlist? I dunno. That one's a draw for me. But reaching it with self-publishing provides greater financial returns.
-The schedules in traditional publishing. It usually takes months to find an agent. It's not uncommon for a publisher to sit on a manuscript for six months or more before making a decision - and a longer wait does not indicate a better chance. The contracts are taking forever to come back, longer than normal these days. I'm guessing it's staffing cuts and morale problems. Then the book gets scheduled for publication about a year out (sometimes more). In many cases, the publisher won't want to put out more than one title per year from an author (unless maybe they are using more than one name). None of this holds true for self-publishing, obviously. And I'd kind of like to get this show on the road sooner rather than later.
-Traditional publishing has its own tastes and cycles. Urban fantasy might be a hot read right now, but the buying at the houses has slowed down. There's also the waxing and waning of personal taste among agents and editors. How many now say on their website or blog that they don't want to see anymore vampire or faery or demon characters? As it happens, I have a faery project I'd like to put out. Generally speaking, agents and editors are just not very interested in seeing that right now. I could hang onto it and wait for the cycle to shift, but there's no telling when that might happen. Are readers as tired of faeries as editors are? Maybe I'll find out.
-And finally, because I think I have this weird thing about being the odd duck. I'm the girl who didn't wear a prom dress to prom. Who didn't enter the school writing contest in my junior year because everyone knew I would win. Who kinda likes not doing what is expected of me. At least when my choices are all more or less equally viable. I like the idea of being the writer who is good enough to go traditional and instead becomes a part of the evolution and elevation of self-publishing, breaking the expectations that only the washouts go that direction.
You might notice, my fellows, that none of those reasons involve demonizing agents and editors or predicting the end of print books by next Tuesday or rants about how the reader will prove that my oft-rejected book is actually the foremost of all Great American Novels.
Of course it might be. I am a leo. :P