My official recommendations for pros in the book industry

Looking for professional services to bring you next book project to publication?

Here's a list of the people I've found who do excellent work:

Formatting:

Editing:

  • I have another awesome editor I use (who is rather inexpensive), but she has no website as of now since she does it part-time. If you're looking for a budget-friendly editor, send me an email and I'll hook you up.

Covers:

ARC Services:

Facebook Ad Management:

  • Isaac Boldery manages my ads. Contact him (isaac.boldery@gmail.com) for info on packages and prices, etc.

Looking for AMS ad generation, blurb help, or other personalized marketing solutions?

Want your service to be featured?

  • Too bad. I only feature services that I’ve personally used and found to be exemplary. You can’t pay to be on the list. (Alright, well… at a certain number I won’t say no, but you’ll need to at least be paying a few of my mortgage payments before you catch my attention)

 

What a cheesy picture…

What a cheesy picture…

Self Publishing, Small Press, Traditional - How to decide...

So you've written your first book. What now?

 

If you're like me, I had no idea what to do when I finally finished my first manuscript. I knew self publishing existed, but I really thought it involved owning a physical book press and printer to make the actual books myself. The only other option I knew was traditional publication through a major house.

So what's the third option most people never hear of? Small press. A small press like mine, Hydra Publications, tries to combine the best aspects of traditional publishing with the best aspects of self publishing. Of course, not all small presses are the same, but I can speak from experience about a dozen or more small presses I know and how the business is generally run. Here's what I know from a few short years in the industry and heavy involvement with my own press:

Self Publishing pros and cons: When you do it all yourself, you need to spend a lot of money. Editing can cost anywhere from $250 - $3000, a cover can run from $20 to $1000, formatting will set you back a hundred or more, and that is just to get your work ready for publication. First and foremost, the downside to self publishing for most people is the cost. It can also be time consuming, but pretty much everything in the writing business is. Once you've got everything paid for and your book is ready for sale, you need to do all of your marketing yourself. While that isn't difficult, it could be expensive. Buying tables at conventions, buying all your own marketing material (i.e. bookmarks, posters, banners, cards, artwork, audiobook production, etc.), travel expenses, online advertising, the list goes on and on. For most self published authors, I tell them to have at least a few thousand dollars saved to drop on their expenses in the first year. That should cover all the basics of pre-sale preparedness and cover initial marketing costs. (These costs include the obvious like covers, editing, formatting, etc. and also cover the often-overlooked costs of marketing, first couple hundred paperbacks, a dozen or so tables at conventions, bookmarks, a banner, and other promo items.) The benefits of self publishing? Control, control, control. You make every single decision. For many people, that is the deciding factor hands down. You pick your cover art. You pick your fonts and formatting. You pick your marketing and event schedule. Period. 100% control is given to the author. Again, that takes a lot of time away from writing, but if you want your books to make money like a full time job, they need to be your full time job.

Traditional Publishing pros and cons: With a big publishing house, you don't have the primary benefit of self publishing: control. The house gets your editors, covers, promo material, etc. Furthermore, big houses are notoriously difficult to get into without a nepotistic connection. Even finding an agent can be brutally difficult for many. The pros? Obviously, it comes down to money. You are nearly guaranteed to make more money with this option than any other, especially if you are just starting out and don't have a following. Huge distribution means your books go to all the major retail outlets.

Small Press Publication: With a small press, you get the benefits of control with the benefits of marketing and support like a traditional press. Have your own cover artist or don't want to use the artist employed by your press? No problem. You might have to then pay for it, or at least part of the art, but typically small presses have no problems paying your own artist if they do quality work. The same is true for editing and proofing. If you don't want to use the people already hired by the press, that's fine. You get the control to decide. Again, that might mean out-of-pocket expenses, but many small presses will at least offer to pay your editor the same they normally pay their own. The best advantage of small presses comes in the form of networking and marketing. If you've read my Marketing Series, you know that selling live at conventions is crucial to the indie author's success. Small presses typically buy several tables at conventions and invite their authors to come sell / sign at no expense to the author. Typically, even my food is covered by the press. Plus, you get the community offered by the small press. I've met some of my best friends through my press and we all help each other out every chance we get. Someone finds a promo strategy that works? They tell everyone in the press. Want to bundle your books together to offer a sale? Just ask and the press will facilitate it.

Can a small press get you the distribution of a traditional press? In short, no. But a small press offers one thing that self publishing does not: legitimacy. The average reader (sadly) doesn't respect self published works very much. It can be a detriment at conventions and when trying to get into real stores. Here is a story I've heard pretty often: A self published author gets accepted by B&N. They have to supply 10,000 copies of their book to be sold in stores nationwide. Yay! They spend $15,000 (probably getting a business loan) on book production and mail the books out on their own dime. Guess what? B&N doesn't market for you. If you don't have a BIG following already, your book will rot on their shelves. And since B&N has your books on consignment, they don't pay you until the books sell. So when they don't sell in a year, you have to cover the shipping cost to get all of your books back into your garage. And you are now literally bankrupt. I've met people who have told their similar stories at conventions and literary events, often ending in tears because they lost everything due to B&N's consignment scheme.

So how do you get into bookstores without being traditionally published? Here is where the small press comes in. Small press owners typically go to the store manager personally, pitch the book, and offer to do a book signing / selling event in their store with a few authors, giving the store a cut of each sale. Pretty much every manager is going to take that deal, especially if the books are available through B&N online. Once you set up and sell in the store, offer to sell the remaining stock to B&N at the industry standard 55%, not consignment. Many accept. Obviously, it then comes down to marketing (leaving bookmarks, displays at the cash register, etc.) to actually sell the books from the shelves, but you've already sold them. You transfer the risk to B&N, not yourself. Sadly, approaching stores like B&N with a self published book will usually get you turned down simply due to the stigma. The small press legitimacy gets you in the door. As your book sells and your brand expands, you can approach more and more stores, employ the same method, and before you know it, your books are being ordered by stores in states you've never been to. It grows slowly, but your distribution does grow.

Royalty Breakdown: self publishing offers the best. Period. You don't pay a middle man so no one has their hand in your wallet. Small presses offer the middle ground. You have to pay the press a portion of your royalties, but if you negotiate your contract well  / find a press with a good royalty rate, it turns out very well. Traditional publishing pays very little (I've seen as little as 6 cents per copy sold) but does it on a HUGE scale, often outweighing the small percentage of royalties. 

 

Conclusion: this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of pros and cons. Media rights, translation projects, and all sorts of other things come into play as well. Personally, if you can get accepted by a traditional press, DO IT. But if not, go for a small press. Small presses give you the best combination of both options.

No matter which route you choose, make sure you do your homework first. Know exactly why you are going with your choice. Is the unlimited control offered by self publishing enough to outweigh the initial costs? Is the host of free benefits offered by a small press the deciding factor, even if it means perhaps getting slightly different formatting than you had in mind? Make an educated decision based on your personal goals. My advice should not be taken as definitive. Everything here is simply my opinion after a few years of success in the industry. 


Looking for your next favorite book? Click here.

Interview with Steampunk Author Rebekah McAuliffe

 

 

Firstly, tell us about Gears of Golgotha, your debut novel. What inspired it? Where did you get the idea for the world of chemists and scientists?

It's kind of a funny story how I came up with the idea for Gears, actually. The basic ideas of it came from a dream I had after a night of hanging out with friends (and no, it wasn't like that haha). From that dream came Erin, the main character; Dr. Sharpe; the villain (at the beginning, the villain was a man named Xerxes, brother of the Supreme Leader); and the Gears themselves. I knew I wanted to turn it into a novel, but I didn't know where to go with it. That was until NaNoWriMo 2013. I was hanging out at my cousin Amy's house (of Bella Morteand Letters to Daniel fame). I had a basic skeleton of the story, but didn't feel it had any meat on its bones. I had two choices to take on for my NaNoWriMo project: develop this new idea, or refine a murder mystery I had been working on. I eventually picked the new idea, but still couldn't think of a name. The idea of Chemists and Mages, as well as the title itself, are actually fossils from the era of story development where Gears was actually a commentary on the science vs. religion debate.

 

 

 

What made you sit down and start writing? Have you always been a writer?

This is another funny story, I think. When I was in first grade, my class had to participate in the Young Authors competition at my school. I've always been very competitive, and when I heard that there were going to be medals (at the time my life goal was to earn one of them), I jumped at the challenge. With the help of my Eighth Grade Buddy (an 8th grader that was assigned to first grade students to tutor them and serve as a role model), I wrote My Alabama Vacation, a story where I go on vacation to a zoo in Alabama, even though I have to this day never been there haha. There was no real plot to the book; it was mostly just about the trip there, and stopping at places like a barber shop and comparing human and animal behavior ("Do animals get haircuts, too?"). I glued in different pictures of animals, including one of a monkey picking bugs out of another monkey's fur for the "haircut" bit. I was really proud of my work, and submitted it to the contest. A kid in my class named Nicholas won first place with his story The Last Dinosaur. Even though I won second place, I didn't think it was good enough. I swore that day I would hone my skills as a writer, so that next year, I would kick Nicholas' butt. He transferred to another school the next year, and there were no more Young Authors contests, but I still kept writing and writing. In 7th grade, I wrote Chapparelle's World,a short story which can only be described as Edgar Allen Poe meets Alice in Wonderland, in which a woman ends up in her dreamworld and confronts her demons while in a coma after a failed suicide attempt. I won 1st place in my school's Young Author's competition, and even went on to the county-wide semi-finals, but it was then I realized something: I didn't care about the awards. Sure, they were nice, but I loved writing. And I was good at it. I've been writing regularly ever since.

 

What has been the most enjoyable aspect of being a writer? What keeps you writing more?

I love making up things. I love asking "What if...?"  When I was little, I used to make up what I called "step-friends," imaginary characters that I would make up stories for. I think about different worlds, wonder what life would be like if someone changed one little thing, or if something never even happened.

 

Who are your favorite authors? Does any of their work influence yours?

I really love the classics; you can never go wrong with them. I feel like the darkness of my stories was inspired by writers like Poe and the Bronte sisters. I love J.K. Rowling's writing style, too; it's so raw and personal, and gets under the readers' skin, which is something that I strive to do as well.

 

What books did you read when you were young? What was the first book you ever read?

I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on. I would read anything and everything. While I can't remember the first book I ever read, I do remember that I started reading from a very young age. My mom will tell you that I started reading at 2 years old, when I picked up the newspaper off the kitchen table and started reading it to my parents. I mostly read Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, and the Magic Tree House books. I didn't start reading classics until 5th grade, with my first being The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

 

What do you have planned in the future? Anymore steampunk? Anything written in the Gears universe?

I do want to write a sequel to Gears, but I haven't even started it yet, let alone set a release date for it. Right now, my attention is focused on ALPHA, book 1 of The ALPHA Trilogy. Think Bourne saga meets Manchurian Candidate. It's my first spy/political thriller, but I've always been fascinated with MK ULTRA and other legends like it, so writing it has been a lot of fun.

 

What's the best convention you've attended to promote your work?

Imaginarium, by a long shot. It was my first convention, and I had never felt more welcome there than anywhere else. That was where I actually felt like my work could mean something to other people. I was offered and signed two contracts there for Gears and ALPHA from Hydra Publications. I had a lot of fun, and I can't wait to go again in September, where I'll be turning 21!

 

What advice do you have for fledgling writers? 

KEEP WRITING. I can't stress this enough. They say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get good at something. And don't let ANYONE tell you to stop writing.

 

Lastly, where can we find your work?

Amazon * Goodreads * Twitter