Monday, May 31, 2010

But I Love New York-- Part Two

Pages written since last post: 28
Books uploaded to Kindle:

CAST ADRIFT  She was a marine biologist on a quest to find a dolphin; he was a sailor with no time for sentiment.  But two weeks alone at sea could change everything...
When last we met, I was trying to think of all the advantages to being published by a major New York publishing house.  Here they are:

1) The advance.  I think we all can agree that a  $25,000 advance from a publisher is appreciably better than $25 a month for uploading your self-published book to Kindle.  At least, it sounds better.  No, it is better, really--- at least, it would be better, if only publishers would actually pay it in advance.  Here’s the way it breaks down:
       1/3 on signing of the contract.  This means approximately 3-4 months after the deal is struck.  If you are writing the book on spec, you’ve probably completed it by now.
       1/3 on delivery and acceptance.  If you submitted a complete manuscript, one would assume that the book was accepted when the publisher actually went to contract on it, but nooooo.  Acceptance can come six months to a year later, after the editor re-reads the manuscript, sends you notes for revision, reads your revisions, approves them, forgets to put in a request for payment, you get the idea.  And that’s if all goes well.
       1/3 on publication .  Most contracts allow for publication 18-24 months after acceptance of the manuscript (see above); a semi-alert agent will change that to 18-24 months from the date of the contract which, as we have already seen, can be 3-4 months after actually selling your book.  So you’re quite possibly  looking at three years before you receive your final payment.
      $25,000 divided by 3 years equals $8,333 per year which is just about 10 self-published Kindle books a day at 2.99.
      The average advance for a first-time author, by the way, is still around $5000.  Divide that by three years.

2) The distribution.  My books are supported, published and distributed by Penguin USA, a pretty big player in the New York publishing biz.  Dave’s book is published, supported and distributed by–well, Dave.  In an informal tour of five independent bookstores within a twenty-five mile radius of where I live, Dave’s book was prominently featured beside the New York Times bestsellers in the windows of four of them.  My books were not carried.         

3)Marketing and Promotion.  The publisher’s job is to sell your book.  That’s why they get 90% of your money, right?  But so much has been written about the publisher’s failure to do exactly that that the whole thing has become a cliche, a joke that has been told so many times it’s not even funny anymore.  Bottom line: Every over-worked, underpaid publicist on staff at Big New York Publisher is responsible for 50-100 titles every campaign period (roughly 2 months before the book is published to one month after).  Dave is responsible for one book.  Only.  His whole life.  Dave has time to chase the radio interviews, the cable t.v. spot, the book signings, the reading group appearances, the blogs, the lectures.  Dave knows somebody who knows somebody who can arrange a major signing at Barnes and Noble with print advertising tie-in.  My publicist is only allowed to arrange two events for me per book.  Let’s hope someone shows up at one of them.

 3.Reviews.  It is absolutely, positively true that the one advantage a major New York publisher has is the ability to get your book reviewed in the trades.  Booksellers read the trades, and decide what books to order.  Movie producers read the trades and decide which books might be worth optioning for film.  Foreign rights agents find their next purchase in the trades.  A quote from Publisher’s Weekly or Library Journal will live on your book cover forever.  This is huge.  And huge would be the word to describe the number of books that cascade onto  the desks of trade publication reviewers every day.  Ditto the major newspapers and magazines.  It took two years for my last book to be reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly.  Nice quote, but it would have been even nicer had we been able to use it to actually sell the book.  Meantime, I get great reviews from amateur bloggers... just like Dave.

4.Okay, I’ve been sitting here with my arms crossed for five minutes and I really can’t think of Number Four.   I can think of things that should be true, or used to be true, but here is what I think is really true about the advantages of being published with a major New York publisher: If you are a multi-published, midlist author with a fan base, the difference between being published in New York and publishing yourself is so small as to be almost indiscernible, with the advantage leaning ever-so-slightly toward the self-publishing and promoting side.  If you are first-time author who takes his career seriously, I still think you need the credibility of having been published in New York .  Earn your stripes, and move on.  I think this for absolutely no reason other than the fact that I had to do it.
       On the other hand, if you just want to see your book in store windows, do book signings, radio and television interviews, see your picture in the paper, have people talking about your work, and cash lots and lots of checks... may I introduce you to my friend Dave?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

But I Love New York-- Part One

pages written since last post: 11 and 1/2
Books uploaded to Amazon Kindle:  For Keeps-- This was my first book featuring a dog as a major character.  It had to be completely rewritten to reflect modern dog-training techniques. Only $1.99 on Kindle!

So I ran into my friend the other day-- I'll call him Dave to avoid embarrassment (mine, not his)-- and congratulated him on his recently self-published memoir.  I couldn't help knowing about his recently self-published memoir because everytime I opened an e-mail, visited a shop downtown, or glanced at a newspaper, I saw an announcement.  He was very pleased with the way it was going and reported he had already sold 600 copies.  "That's great!" I told him sincerely because it was great-- for a self-published memoir that had been out less than three months.  Feeling smug, I didn't bother to  mention that, had I failed to sell less than six thousand copies in the first quarter of my book's release, my fancy New York publisher would have dumped me like toxic waste.

Still, that was a respectable number, and money in Dave's pocket that he hadn't expected.  The book sold for $25, and I happen to know he hand-sold at least 80% of the copies, so his profit was about $12 per book.  Allowing for the other 20% that he sold to bookstores and on which he only collected $5, that was roughly-- very roughly-- $6000.   Free and clear.  In his pocket.

Furthermore, Dave had finished his book at about the same time I had finished mine.  His book was already in print and he had $6000 in his pocket.  I was still waiting for my publisher to send me the money that was due to me on signing of the contract six months earlier.  Bottom line: he had money, I didn't.  Who's looking smug now? 

This caused me to start thinking-- obsessing, really-- about what, exactly, are the advantages of being published by a traditional New York publisher, and why those of us who have made that choice (or, some might say, have been lucky enough to have that opportunity) have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we're getting the better deal.  Sure,belonging to  one of the Big Six publishers is an elite distinction, and one that's becoming  harder earn every minute, but beyond the cachet is there any real value to being published in New York? 

Believe me, I'm not the only one who's giving this question some serious thought.  My conclusions, as they develop, are forthcoming.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A New Day

pages written since last post: 150

But no... getting a start on a new book is not all I've been doing since February. Like so many of my colleagues of late, I've been re-evaluating the publishing business and my place in it. (I've also been trying to get off sugar and processed foods,lower my resting heart rate and plant an organic garden, but that's another post altogether).  I've also been giving a lot of thought to books in general and the way we read them, and, frankly, how much all of these things have changed.  When I first started buying books, a paperback could be had for 2.99.  When I first started writing books, the average price of a paperback book was 4.99.  When the cost of a paperback book jumped to 7.99, and a hardcover to $20.00, some of the most dedicated readers I know swore they would never buy another book.  Well, now they're paying $35.00 for some titles, but guess what?  They're not doing it very often. 

So here's the thing.  I think books should be affordable.  I think this because I am a reader, and because I am a writer who would very much like to have her books read.  The problem is that print books are impossibly expensive to publish, so that even when every corner is cut and every middleman is eliminated, it's very difficult to price a trade paperback (that would be the size of AT HOME ON LADYBUG FARM) for less than $14.00.  Fortunately, there is a solution: the e-book.

I'm pleased to announce that as of today I have four titles available for the Amazon Kindle for $1.99.  They are:
Smoky Mountain Tracks
Rapid Fire
Matchmaker, Matchmaker
A Man Around the House

Over the next several months I will be adding at least fifteen new titles, all for under $3.00, because I believe people should read!

All of titles that I list for  Kindle will also be available on your other electronic reading devices-- I-pad, Sony, nook, etc. a week or so later.  The best-selling of these titles will also be released in print-- but, alas, at the usual 14.95 or higher price point.

If you don't have a Kindle, you can actually download an ap for your PC for free that allows you to read books on your computer or other device, like BlackBerry or I-phone, which I think is incredibly cool.

I'll keep you updated as I add new e-books, and if you enjoy any of my titles, post a review on or elsewhere, and let me know.    After all, for 1.99, what have you got to lose?

By the way, what am I reading now?  In paper, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  On my Kindle:Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayer .