I'm an established full-time author - willing to answer questions if you have them

question

#221

Producing content slowly is a problem for self publishing. If you really want to go that route, you might wait until you have 2-3 publishable books, and then take the plunge, publishing them at a rate that would make your next book come out in a seemingly reasonable time frame.

Alternatively, consider traditional publishing. They work on a longer time frame.


#222

Problem I have is that I was going to trad until I read the horror stories. Self pub you at least have control of income and book cover.

Trad for me doesn’t work but convince me otherwise. I’m undecided at this point anyway.

I’d better have 10 novels when the times comes then haha.


#223

Sure hope you meant 2–3.


#224

ROTFL!! Yes, I did. Let me fix that.


#225

So two things.

  1. There are a certain number of books you need to write to fully develop your skills to get them to a “publishable level” - For me that number was 13 (but I’m a slow learned and operated in complete isolation - not a smart way to go." Stephen King says you should treat your first 1,000,000 words as practice, and Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours working on any task to become proficient at it. I think those numbers are just about right.

  2. So, let’s say you’ve done that work and you now have a good mastery of writing skill and found your own “voice.” Now you are at the “real” starting point. Now, in self-publishing there are many who are doing what’s sometimes called “rapid release.” Where they write a bunch of books and then can put them all out in failry short order. It’s a technique that has worked for many…but it’s also risky. What if the first book fails to find an audience, then you’ve spent a lot of time on a property that may not have been worth that investment.

My advice. Put out your first book, but then spend 90% - 95% of your time writing the next one. Don’t get “wrapped up” in promoting that first book - what you need is “more content.” During that 5% - 10% that you are “marketing” you should be concentrating on getting the books in peoples hands so you can get reviews/feedback. Then when the next book is ready and polished put it out. In general, I’d say the BEST distance between books is 6 - 9 months. If you are taking more than 2 years, that may be a problem.


#226

umm.

i am writing xianxia with a system (think xianxia litrpg). which isn’t popular anywhere except china/SEA right now.
that said, i have written the book in a way where the system can be removed, leaving a very traditonal and accepted xianxia

i have mentioned before that xianxia is a genre of wuxia, where people can become immortals.

right now, a few other readers on wattpad here have pointed out that wuxia is gaining traction with western publishers and one of the biggest wuxia stories are coming to the west as well which is kinda good news for me, since it seems like what i writing isn’t really unwelcomed anymore.

i also have my novel on wattpad and webnovel right now, and it seems to have gained a small number of readers so it isn’t as “unwanted” as i thought before.

i still feel like it will be difficult for western publishers to be interested but since there are much more wuxia books right now, for example the grace of kings which is a series is published by a big publisher and there are more such wuxia books right now.

so i guess, if i feel like publishers will not like my book since it isn’t mainstream, i should just do self publishing and be prepared to do the marketing and everything all on my own? otherwise just write a more mainstream book that people are familiar with if i want western publishers to pick it up?


#227

whats wrong with going trad publishing?
besides the very low cut you get on your own book and no control over your cover?


#228

There are a lot of cons for traditional…but that can be said for self as well. @XimeraGrey is right in that one BIG advantage in traditional is it a long and slow process, and that may give you some breathing time while you are producing more content.

When considering self and traditional there is no one universal “right answer” It’ll depend on the authors, goals, genre, and abilities. If you KNOW you are a slow content producer, then you may be leaning more toward traditional than self. But that’s looking at just one slider. If you are a “control freak” then that slider will lead you toward self. I don’t have enough information at this point to say which is right for you. But I think you should make a “realistic” list about your goals and abilities and that may help to put your foot on one path or the other.


#229

Thank you for your response Michael!

I will consider this in due course.

But when I mean trad - I’m in the UK this is the state of author’s wages.


https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/27/publishers-pay-writers-pittance-philip-pullman-antony-beevor-sally-gardnerhttps://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jul/19/book-sales-skyrocket-but-authors-report-shrinking-incomes

Median income is 10,500 - convert to us dollars, 13,367.

Very low.

Its using pounds, but I think you will understand the picture of it quickly. Sure its one newspaper, but there’s also a writing magazine which I read which also details the horror.

One author was at a publishing house, but they never talked about his/her story. It was always about something else.

Finding a good trad publisher is a godsend. Finding a bad one however - there are plenty out there.

And marketing wise, even if you’re trad, you have to do it by yourself.

Hence why I think SP is better in that regard


#230

Three paths lie before you. Here are my opinion on them.

  • Traditional - based on what you told me I do think your audience is a bit niche so it would be VERY hard to get picked up. Grace of Kings isn’t a best-seller (it’s not even a heavy hitting midlist) and that will be the “comparable” the publishing house will use and you’re likely to not get out of the gate because of the small audience potential. - I would say this isn’t a good choice.

  • Self-publishing - works really well for “niche” books because (a) you can be a big fish in a small pond and (b) you make more money per book so you don’t have to sell as many copies. So that is a possibility - but if you go this route, you must jump in fully. The “put it out and see what happens” is a bad idea. You need to educate yourself on what it takes to produce a HIGH QUALITY self-published book and do that. LitRPG is actually really hot in for self-published these days, but mostly “off the radar” for traditional publishers.

  • If #2 sounds like too much work and something you wont easily achieve. Then I suggest starting a new project that has more “commercial appeal.” Then you could take that project through traditional.


#231

Well in my opinion its just that the income will be either taken away by the publisher, then the agent etc. However feel free to correct me.

Marketing wise you have to do it. Unless you’re connected, say in UK, London, with lots of contacts then great. Otherwise, new? Build yourself up from scratch.

The publisher may reject some of your changes. And cover I’d control. Otherwise it’d be some weird mash.

I was ironically on the side of trad publishing at one point and didn’t like self publishing. Now its the opposite. Again, what I say is opinion - my viewpoint could change any time depending on which side gets better. Now SP is going through a very good age, in the future that could change and Trad publishing could go into a new golden age.

It all depends.


#232

honestly i really want trad publishing simply because of the connections they can give me.

like i said, my book would probably do stupidly well in china and SEA because its super mainstream and what they read on a daily basis. but then they would have to translate my book into chinese and do a tiny bit of marketing for it to take off because the competition is very stiff there.

everyone is writing very similar things.

grace of kings seem to be selling really well tho…its surprising to hear that it isnt a best seller

that said, grace of kings is still a heavily “westernized” wuxia that it’s target audience might dislike… unlike mine which hasn’t really been writtein for a western audience. (my characters still have chinese names and many things would not be appreciated or understood by western readers)


#233

So you are right about low incomes in traditional publishing…but that’s not just a “UK thing.” We have the same issues here in the US. The ability to “earn a living” from writing is now, and has always been, a difficult thing. In general, the way you combat that is by providing more content. To earn a living with one book is damn near impossible. Most dont’ even start to find a following until they have 3 books out. And it’s common that 5 - 9 books is what is required to produce a “livable wage” (and that’s assuming all of those books are “fairly good” sellers.

Now self-publishers, those that are producing books that are good enough such that they COULD be traditionally published are probably earning more then their counterparts in traditional. They have lower prices (which can lead to higher volume) and they make more per unit. But that “market” also has higher expectations regarding releases. When traditionally published, readers expect a book a year (and will likely wait for a book every other year), but in self-publishing the readers tend to “binge” read and when they see only one book - they may be “waiting for more” before digging in. The other thing about self-publishing is you’ll have a lot to learn…and that takes time…time that will slow down your writing which may already be a little on the slow side in general.

As for traditional publishers, if we take out the scammers and the incompetent, there is still A LOT of very reputable places to publish through. But yes it has a price…and they’ll receive the bulk of the income. But they also might be a better fit for the speed at which you produce, and, of course, they already have people that don’t have to “come up to speed” about publishing.

As for marketing, yes, either route is going to require you to work on that front. And there are some differences with respect to timing. In traditional you do have to make sure you “land on the scene in a big way.” Your fate is pretty much determined by pre-orders so you’ll have to “turn on the marketing burners” before a release…and during that time you probably won’t be able to get much writing done. The reason pre-orders are so important is it determines (a) print run (b) marketing budgets © how much “push” you get from the publisher’s sales team. You have a very small window for being on bookstores shelves, and if your titles don’t sell well, then they will be returned and a different book will take their place.

Self-publishing is one where you don’t have to hit the ground running. You can put a book out, and let it sit while you are working on another book. Once you get three books out, then it’s time to turn up the marketing. Before then, don’t worry if the book isn’t selling, spend 90% - 95% of your time writing more content. The 5% - 10% of the time that you do spend on marketing should be related to getting comp copies out and reviews posted.

Hope some of this helps.


#234

Fantastic answer Michael, very honoured that you give your time to give valuable advice! I don’t dispute anything because I’m agreeing.

A lot more could be done to improve wages for authors.


#235

You are right on that front. Let’s look at the divisions:

  • on a trade paperback: 50% goes to the retailer | 42.5% goes to the publisher | 6.375% goes to the author | 1.125% goes to the agent.
  • For ebooks: 30% goes to the retailer | 52.5% goes to the publisher | 14.875% goes to the author | 2.625% goes to the agent

This is the same in both paths.

This shouldn’t be too much concern. (1) When you sign the contract you can make sure you have “final say” on content - I have that on all my contracts, and it came to me that way (I didn’t have to “push for that.” (2) Most publishers won’t accept a book that’s not already 90% - 95% of the way there, so the chances of them coming in and asking for sweeping changes is low. (3) If they do make a recommendation, it’s your choice whether you implement it or not.

Both have pros and cons. Early in my career I was all self, then I was all trad, now I’m a mix, in the future all my works will be self, but I’m I’m already established, I write quickly, and I am well-versed in what has to be done to produce a quality book - and have a lot of experience doing self-publishing.


#236

Thanks Michael,

With the contract, can you negoitaite with the publisher to get a fair outcome? Can’t you sign a contract that can make both parties enforce themselves out of the obligations? Might not be a good question to ask but still worth try.

One author I know who is called SJA Turney writes Roman fiction. But he’s a hybrid author, meaning he’s a mixture of the both. Could that be the way forward?

Why wouldn’t publisher houses allow authors to profit from doing their own self-publishing? Or am I wrong in that assumption?

Of course, you have the experience so you now have the ability to do that. But then how did you get the attention of the big publishers, did you send your manuscripts or did they come to you?

And how tough was it for you at first when you SP at Amazon? How did you overcome that?


#237

A perfectly understandable reason to choose that path.

The translations and lack of marketing makes that (IMHO) too much of a challenge.

It really isn’t. There is a program called KDSPY that takes Amazon rank and estimates sales. GoK is ranked…

  • ebook: 133,000+ which equates to 23 books a month which produces the author $34.21 a month ($410 a year).
  • Hardcover: 473,000+ which equates to 11 books a month = $26.18 a month ($314 a year)
  • Paperback: 58,368+ which equate to 80 books a month = 50 books a month = $60.57 ($726) a year.

Now that’s JUST Amazon but I get about 80% of my income from that store so assuming Ken is doing similarly he’s probably making $1,812 a year or $151 a month. That said, he had higher sales when the book came out…but I remember watching it (because it was a book from a new press that had made me an offer) and the rating on it never reached a lot "in those days.) If i were to make an educated quess? I’d say he hasn’t earned out (which means the advance is all he received). And he probably got $10,000 - $15,000 which was divided into three payments.


#238

Indeed.


#239

In theory, everything is “negotiable” but when it comes to publishing that’s just not true. There is a well-established “industry standard” that all the publishers walk lock-step on, so there are some tings carved in stone and don’t change. For instance, I make the same royalty %'s as Stephen King, which sounds crazy right? The difference. Steven King’s royalty rates mean nothing because the advance he gets is so high, he’s not expected to “earn out.” In other words he and his publishers basically estimate the sales of the book over its lifetime and then set the advance such that he gets some % of that. Not sure if it’s 50/50 or 80/20 - but bottom line his contract royalty rates are meaningless. Now, for someone like me, who does earn out, the royalty rates are important and can’t be changed.

Personally, I don’t think the contracts are “fair.” But they are what they are. Some terrible aspects of the contract (like the non-compete clause) I’ve “defanged” so I could sign them, and others, well I just have to accept as is – and the trade off was worth it or I wouldn’t have signed. So, the contract will always be weighted toward the publisher, but even with that the trade-offs can (and for me have) made them worth what I gave up.

I’m also a hybrid author (many people are but I think there will be more going forward). I have…

  • 1 book with a small press
  • 8 books with the big-five
  • 3 books that are self-published
  • 4 books written that will be self-published when they come out.

Publishers can’t stop you from self-publishing. You DO have to watch your non-compete clause – to make sure you’ve not hamstrung yourself. But there are all kinds of hybrid authors that do both.

Publishers don’t generally “come to you.” (I know of only once case where this happened). With me, I had a series that was doing relatively well in self-publishing (one which had been turned down by the traditional houses) and before I released the last book of the series, my wife (and our agent) decided to give New York another try. They put together a “packet” about the series and it’s sales, and I got about 50% of the editors who saw it interested. Orbit (an imprint of big-five Hachette Book Group) made a pre-emptive six-figure offer and we took it.

Well, first it was 2009, which is a MUCH different time as now. I certainly didn’t make a big splash. But each month saw more and more sales and with each book I started getting more of a following. 3 was (and is) a “magic number” and once I hit that, I had enough sales to pay for the utilities and what not. By the time book #5 and Christmas hit I was earning really well (about $45,000 a month). In early 2010 I signed with Orbit and everything shifted to traditional at that point. My “next” self-published fantasy came out in 2015. And it did very well - I think it’s up to around $350,000 in sales since then.


#240

holy shit.

a thousand dollars a year.

but he has a movie trilogy confirmed sooooooooo

you mean publishers dont want usually translate books or get people to do it?