WITS is happy to welcome Cynthia D'Alba. And psst, she has a giveaway . 🙂
Hi all! Cynthia D’Alba here. Today we’re going to talk about going with a publisher, be it digital first (such as Samhain Publishing) or NYC publisher (like St. Martin’s Press, Harlequin, Penguin, etc) versus Indie Publishing (do-it-yourself, aka self-publishing). I have one short story, Texas Two Step: The Prequel, that I indie published. The rest of my work is with various publishers (Samhain, Running Press, and Cleis.)
If you are relatively new to writing and the publishing world (like the last 2 or 3 years), you might not be aware of how much and how fast this world is changing. I’ve watched the world of “self-publishing” transform from a looked-down-upon sneer to “indie publishing” where writers of all levels of experience, from newbie to established, are exploring the new publishing frontier. Before digital became popular, authors who wanted to self-publish were usually bamboozled by unethical “publishers” who took their money and produced poorly edited, cheap paperbacks. (I realize this is a broad generalization but bear with me.)
With the digital revolution, authors were given direct access to the reader via online stores such as Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Nobles, etc. Writers could hire the most professional editors, the best cover artists, format the book themselves or hire that done, and publish their work to these online stores ready to be purchased by the reader. No driving around with books in the trunk of the car to sell.
I confess that I don’t blink at buying a book at $3.99 or less. Click. Bought. It’s that simple. I probably buy MORE books digitally than I ever bought in print. Those of us in this writing world hear fabulous stories of wealth and riches to be made via indie publishing. Authors report six-figure incomes without a hitch. So the question Laura Drake posed to me was … Why are you using a publisher when you could do all this yourself and make mega bucks? (Okay, she didn’t say megabucks but she did ask the first part of the question!) And it’s a good question!
Today, I read an article in Publisher Weekly that we may be seeing print no longer being the norm even for the big publishers. The pressure on the author and the publisher to get books out faster is changing how our industry works. Every major NYC publisher now has a digital only or digital first line. In fact, I’ll go further and say that when I first started, digital publishing was thought of as second rate at best.
So if readers are demanding faster turnaround for books and willing to the pay the author directly, why did I decide to go with a digital first publisher and not just indie publish my work?
- Editing. With my publisher I had an experienced editor to work with. Now there are excellent freelance editors out there. You’ll see ads all over the place. I’m sure some of them are better than others, but how would I know? I was a relative newbie author. If I got a hack job from an editor, I don’t believe I would have known it. So the key was research. Lots and lots of research. Talk to other indie authors. Review editor websites. Read the books these editors had worked on. And while I’m researching who is a good editor, I have to also be researching what one pays a good editor. This is going to take time. Unfortunately, some indie authors use a good friend, or a relative, or another inexperienced author to “edit” the work and then pops it up for sale. Then the mistakes begin to surface … misspelled words, missing words, incomplete sentences, story holes, story plotlines unresolved, etc.
- Talented Cover Artists – With my publishing company (Samhain Publishing) I am fortunate enough to have major input into the design of my cover. In fact, the last two (TEXAS TANGO and TEXAS FANDANGO) used a picture I sent them. So the cover department has been receptive even when I didn’t know what I wanted. Somehow my cover artists have been able to take my rambling on the cover art form and pull together exactly my vision, even when my vision wasn’t clear in my own head.
Again, there are independent cover artists for hire. Plus some authors are doing their own covers for their indie published work. Just as with an editor, who do I hire? What do I pay? What if I had a friend who can do it for free or cheap?
I think if I knew what I wanted on the cover, this is the smallest hurdle (for me) when thinking about indie publishing. I’ve seen some fabulous covers produced by freelance artists. But having Samhain's art department behind me on my first book was liberating.
- Built-In Readership – As a newbie author, readers had never heard of me. Of course I could do lots of advertising, blogging, searching for readers online, participating on forums, etc. To do all the work to get my name out there for the readers “to discover” would be time consuming and possibly expensive. Going with an established publisher gave me a base of readers. Now, these readers may or may not like my book but at least it gave me a good starting point to build a readership.
- Distribution – With indie publishing, I would be responsible for getting my digital book on all the sites, i.e., Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance ebooks … shoot, I don’t even KNOW where I need to put my books. With a publisher, they took care of that for me. They got my book all the places it needed to be to be found by readers. In addition, my book is available in print in the Ingram catalog, meaning bookstores COULD stock it if they wanted and the books are available to order for book signings. With indie publishing, getting your book into print and into the Ingram catalog is pretty much impossible.
- Foreign Copies – Even though I haven’t sold enough to get picked up by a foreign publisher for my books, a book has to be with a US publisher to even have a chance to be picked up for foreign sales. One very well known author who had a best selling indie-published book, sold it to a NYC house based on that fact alone. She was getting interest from foreign publishers but without a US publisher, the foreign publishers wouldn’t move forward. She got a US publisher and the book is now an international best seller. So if you want the option for foreign sales, you have to be with a publisher.
- Marketing – Now I’ll be the first to admit I don’t take advantage of most of the marketing services Samhain offers me, they do get my book to reviewers, a task that would be another time suck for me to do myself. I am positive there are marketing services Samhain has that I don’t use but that’s my error. I know that my publisher will send Samhain labeled promo items (pens, mouse pads, etc) if I requested. Again, I just haven’t. Still, it is a benefit offered.
- Conference signings – Conferences (RWA, RT, etc.) are becoming much more friendly to indie authors. However, to participate in a signing as an indie author, I would have to front the expense of printing the books and getting them to the conference and that’s IF the conference allows indie authors to sign. There are changes coming down the pipeline. New and exciting innovations to allow for signing digital books may produce a positive change for book signings in the future.
In a nutshell, I choose to go with a digital first publisher rather than an indie publisher because I wanted to share the post-writing workload. I didn’t want to spend my time researching editors, cover artists, distribution channels, book reviewers, reader locations, etc. I enjoy the marketing (i.e., blogs, chats, Facebook, Twitter, etc) but beyond that, I like having a team behind me.
And I like that I provide employment for others.
There’s nothing wrong with indie publishing and in all likelihood, I’ll do more in the future. But I’ll have an established reader base then and maybe not such an uphill struggle with sales.
About Cynthia & fun stuff ...
Maybe you’re curious about Cynthia D’Alba. Here’s a little more about me: I was born and raised in a small Arkansas town. After being gone for a number of years, I’m thrilled to be making my home back in Arkansas living in a vine-covered cottage on the banks of an eight-thousand acre lake. I started writing on a challenge from my husband in 2006 and discovered having imaginary sex with lots of hunky men was fun.
My first book, Texas Two Step, released in 2012 to outstanding reviews, was a Samhain Publishing best seller. The second book in the Texas Montgomery Mavericks series, Texas Tango, released November 5, 2013, again from Samhain Publishing. In February, 2014, Texas Fandango, a Novella in the Texas Montgomery Series will be released by Samhain Publishing. I am currently at work on book 3 of the Texas Montgomery Mavericks series (Texas Twist).
or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To send me snail mail, write to: Cynthia D’Alba, PO Box 2116, Hot Springs, AR 71914
Now some fun stuff! 🙂
In the spirit of Christmas sneaking up on us, I’ll pick among the comments for someone to take home a western-themed ornament. Here’s just a sample…
Plus, I'm doing a TEXAS TANGO Jewelry-Themed Rafflecopter Giveaway. Since we are on a WordPress.com blog, the widget can’t be embedded. BUT if you click HERE, you’ll be magically transported to my Facebook page and a back-up Rafflecopter widget. Also check out my personal blog for other places you can enter! Here’s the loot you can win…
AND I have swag for the asking! But when it’s gone, it’s gone. Pens, jar openers, postcards, bookmarks, trading cards…just go by my contact page and send me a note.