The Turn of the (Publishing) Wheel

I’ve been wondering what to work on as my second project. I do have some money sunk into the first book and would like to get some of that back as soon as possible. The best way to do that is to continue the series. I have a lot of other ideas that have sparked my interest, but for now I’m really more passionate about making this whole self-pub thing profitable.

So, it’s on to the next Bloodbound Iron book. I’ll give you a few hints: a great evil force, battles, new allies… so yeah, it’s your typical epic fantasy in those regards. It’s had a lot of interesting inspirations, though, and I hope those will come through in the writing.

This Wheel Doesn’t Turn Itself

Unlike in the Robert Jordan classic series, the Wheel of Publishing doesn’t turn itself. I’ve finished and published an eBook, gotten it into stores, and passed through the urge to constantly publicize it. It’s time for me to write again.

Luckily for me, I’ve been archiving my better ideas during this whole long process. Now I know that once the book is out of drafts, I can have it edited, the cover art finished, and the whole thing up for sale in about a week. Formatting is such a non-issue right now that I don’t consider it to be a stage of the process. At some point I’ll go back and do better formatting for the books, or do it through Scrivener again if it gets better at autoformatting, but for now it’s not worth the time.

One week. That’s the bottom line, set only by the length of time it takes to have the story proofed. Sure beats a year or more, doesn’t it?

Sunshells Has Been Pub’d

The PubIt! process for Sunshells was amazingly simple. I’m still not totally sure about a bit of the formatting, but it was a minor enough issue that I went ahead and hit the green button.

All of this is a bit hilarious to me. I spent a lot of time studying and reading up on the formatting process and its horrors. In the end, it was a very simple matter to get a .mobi and .epub out of Scrivener.

Now, dear Chaos Theory, send me my disaster.

Mission Failed

So I’ve been negotiating with an artist to have some art done for my cover. I went into it without any real knowledge of what things would cost, and in the end I wasn’t ready to offer what he wanted. I don’t think the amount he wanted was too much, considering what I’ve discovered in the past 24 hours, but it was still a lot of money to sink without having any selling work. Considering I can get a complete decent cover done for $100 and a better one for $200-$400 I’m very wary of spending a lot even for great art.

The biggest factor was that my story is a short story/novelette and I’m aiming at a $2.99 price point. Short stories seem to sell more slowly than novels, and mine will be competing with full-length works at that price point. Spending $300 means I have to sell 150 copies to recoup the cost and another number of hundreds to pay for the editing. If this story stays in the hole long enough it would prevent me from being able to properly treat the next story I publish. There’s a fuzzy line between investing in quality for the long tail and stifling the flow of released work by overspending at the beginning.

Lindsay Buroker has a good article about finding cheaper cover art. A lot of starting companies posted their pages there as well, but the two she featured looked the best. Their prices have risen since the writing of the article.

Is he really suggesting a $0.00 advance?

“This might be too radical, but if a book hasn’t earned out, and isn’t earning much, the publisher could consider restructuring the contract with the author.  Erase the advance, and work out a profit sharing model that gives the author incentive to seriously promote.  Right now many authors are locked into contracts where they have a disincentive to promote in the vain hopes they might get their rights back.  Or offer the authors a chance at buying their rights back with reverse royalties.”

This is a quote from Bob Mayer, writing at the Digital Book World Expert Publishing Blog. You can find the article here. The quote is near the bottom of the article.

The reason I found this worth quoting is that Mr. Mayer proposes this move as an incentive for authors to promote their own books. The problem is, he recognizes that many authors with current contracts already have an incentive to get the rights reverted to them by refusing to promote their own book. Exactly how do authors benefit by having their rights reverted to them? By self-publishing and making four times the money per ebook sale and taking 100% of the profit for further print editions.

The question that isn’t being asked is: If publishers cut out the advance, what incentive is there for an author to go with a publisher rather than self-publishing? The skills needed to bring a book to market can be hired out. What does the publisher offer when they give no advance and then take the lion’s share of the profits forever after? They’re definitely not offering marketing, since this proposal is meant to be an incentive to get authors to do more of their own marketing.

This suggestion was offered as a solution to a problem that publishers have. It’s written from that perspective. The thing is, it would only end up convincing writers to go elsewhere. From the perspective of a writer it’s an entirely negative move. Do more work and we’ll pay you less, or maybe just far more slowly.

Hey, folks? Why not offer more money? More money has been a proven incentive for getting people to do things. It seems obvious to me that you could get authors to do a heck of a lot more marketing by raising their royalties.

I guess I just don’t know how to think like a publisher. This looks like more of the “we are a brand, therefore we have value” thinking.