Sunday, July 01, 2012

My e publishing decision

I'm sure those of you who follow this blog have noticed more and more e book posts creeping in alongside the craft ones.  Not that this is new in principle; I'm always very much about being practical about craft. I think writing is a marvelous hobby, everyone can benefit from doing it, and I strongly believe just writing is just fine. But if you are going to go through the agony of writing an entire book, a real, finished book, don't you want at least the possibility of getting it out there in the market, for others to read and experience and for you to make money for your labor?

So I am introducing more blogs about publishing and e book issues.  Partly because it's astonishing to me how many writers and aspiring writers still have so many misconceptions about e publishing - and there is a LOT of misinformation out there. (As my last workshop class knows,  I was outraged enough about this to teach an impromptu e publishing seminar in the middle of our writing intensive last week!)

The fact is, a very large number of the authors I know who started out in publishing at about the same time I did (2007) have made the leap and are now e publishing directly - either exclusively so or in conjuction with traditional publishing contracts.  My friends and wonderful authors Blake Crouch, Brett Battles, Rob Gregory Browne, CJ Lyons, Elle Lothlorien, Zoe Sharp, Ann Voss Peterson, and JD Rhoades are just a few who are doing VERY well with e publishing. Friends who started even earlier are doing even better (Scott Nicholson, Diane Chamberlain, Sarah Shaber and of course Joe Konrath, whose Newbie's Guide to Publishing is a must-read.). In a few short years, e publishing has filled retirement funds for older writers and elevated midlist authors to bestselling - or rock star! - status.

And now that I have several of my traditionally published backlist titles up as e books and the sales numbers are coming in, it's clear to me that at least THIS YEAR, e publishing is the right choice for me.

How do I know this?  Well, one of the amazing things about e publishing, for those of us who are used to the cryptic and essentially useless sales reports that we get quarterly - maybe - from our traditional publishers - is that now we can see exactly how many copies of each book we're selling and exactly how much money we're making per month.  This is a VASTLY easier way to ensure that you're making a real living, and it takes huge amounts of anxiety out of the process.  Plus you get paid every month, instead of when your publisher gets around to it, which is a vastly easier way to keep up with the bills, if you see what I'm saying.

E publishing has made making a practical living a much more realistic proposition for authors who are not (yet) bestsellers in traditional publishing. I don't know how long that will realistically last, whether it will get better or worse, but by now, for now, it's unignorable.

So this month I will publish my new thriller, HUNTRESS MOON, directly as an e book.

(This great cover is by the megatalented Rob Gregory Browne!)

Lots of thought and agonizing went into this decision.

First, I know that some people who have not yet succumbed to the rapture of e readers still want to hold and touch and smell their print books and get peanut butter on them and all that. I feel you.  I have a real pang about this as well.  But it's not a very realistic pang.

The book is the book, whether there's a paper cover on it or not.  And I can publish it this month and get it into the hands of thirty thousand readers in a week (Based on my numbers for Book of Shadows, The Harrowing, and The Price.)  Even if I never sold ONE book after that, that exposure alone would be worth it. Because exposure sells my other books.

But based on the numbers I've compiled with my other books,  I will sell thousands, and very quickly.

If I went through traditional channels, the book wouldn't even hit the shelves until a year and a half from now.  How can I possibly think of giving up the tens of thousands of readers I will be able to reach with this book starting NOW?

Plus, I'm already almost halfway through my first draft of the sequel to HUNTRESS MOON (this is a series, my first-ever!).  I'll be able to publish that one in the fall. No longer do authors have to hold to the glacial timetables of their publishers, or worry about the possibility of the publisher deciding not to publish at all (which has happened to several of my friends, recently).

I can have two books out this year, with a guaranteed income.  What that income will ultimately be, well, I don't know, but traditional advances are way down and, much worse than that, most publishers are demanding e rights in perpetuity in traditional contracts, which seems to me an insane thing for authors to give up in the current climate. That alone pushed me in the e publishing direction.

Please hear me. I am NOT saying this is the way to go for a never-been-published author. Be warned: it is not the Gold Rush that it was back in, oh, January - there's a lot of competition out there.  I - and the other authors I listed above - know the benefits and drawbacks of traditional publishing because we've lived it; there's no Holy Grail mystique about it. To me the choice between the (waning) prestige of having a print book in stores and having an army of dedicated readers is a no-brainer.  Someone who doesn't have several years of actual sales numbers to compare and crunch is not going to be able to make the same kind of decision that I am doing, it would be much more of a leap of faith.  That doesn't mean don't do it, it just means it's riskier.

Also, going through the gauntlet of traditional publishing prepares an author to e publish like bootcamp prepares a soldier for war.  I KNOW how much editing it takes to come up with a clean and readable book.  I KNOW how much time I'll be spending marketing, and I have some idea of how and where to do that.

But even if you haven't had the benefit of that kind of trial by fire, you do need to know that there is an opportunity here that was never available to an author before, and that - is nothing but good news.

Now is the time. Things may change within months.  But I'm not excessively worried about the current system collapsing, because no matter what happens out there,  I can still write books.  Or scripts. I've always figured out how to make a living with writing. And I've been doing the figuring once again, and  this is how I can do it right, right now.

So first, I want to hear e publishing stories, and of course questions.  Are you doing it? Thinking about it?  If you're not, what's holding you back?

And second - I'm giving away 50 copies of HUNTRESS MOON for potential reviews (Amazon reviews are what I need the most, but am glad for any, anywhere!).  You DO NOT have to review the book - I just ask that you be open to posting a short review if you are inspired to do so.

e mail me at  AXSokoloff AT aol DOT com for a copy in whatever format. 

Here's the story!    

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is just closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can't believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of "accidents" and murder, and who many well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.  

Roarke's hunt for her takes him across three states... while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and must race to capture her before more blood is shed.  


I am not launching the book officially until July 11, but it's up in online stores starting today so that I can collect some reviews.

E mail me at AXSokoloff AT aol DOT com for a copy in whatever format.

But if you just feel like reading, or want to support me and this site, of course you can buy a copy! $3.99 on Amazon, $2.99 on Nook

A note to Nook readers - Huntress Moon will only be available for Nook for the next two weeks, after which it will be exclusive on Amazon for the next three months at least. I'm truly sorry to have to do it that way, but it's unavoidable (read more on that here.)

Thanks for reading!

- Alex

Related marketing posts:

The Madness of Marketing
Letting it Ride (Kindle Select promotion)
Bestseller lists and Tag lists
Liking, Sharing and Tagging 
My e publishing decision 
To Nook or Not to Nook? 
Giving it Away (Kindle Select promotion)


Mary Stella said...

Going off to buy a copy right now!

Alex, that cover is stunning and the blurb grabbed me right away.

I'm happy for you that your e-book efforts are producing good income results.

Mine, not so much, but I take great pleasure in knowing that books that would otherwise have been dead still reach new readers every month. Sure, I wish I had more new readers than I do, but I appreciate every single one!

Unknown said...

Good luck with your new release! I hope you'll let us know how your e-publishing venture works out!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Mary Stella! Hope you like it. We should talk about what you're doing with your books. I'm going to be posting about what I'm finding effective.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Lara, and I'll definitely be posting about strategies and results. Everyone's experience is really different, but I think there are enough commonalities that people are finding by now to make that a really useful ongoing discussion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your journey. Ditto. Slowly getting my backlist (nonfiction) up as e-books, and my debut thriller (yay!) will release as an e-book this fall first, and MAYBE then go to print. I'm working with another fab traditional-to-indie successful author Bob Mayer.

Virginia said...

Hi Alex, I love your blog, it's always interesting. I bought your "Screenwriting Tricks" 2 years ago and I loved it! I'm Italian and I wrote a fantasy book, I think I'm going to try a self publishing experience with Amazon too, here in Italy. I' don't know if my work is any good, but I worked hard to make it and in some way I love it :)
I wish you all the best and I'll stay tuned to see the results. Ciao!

Ellen said...

Can't wait to read the new one, Alex!

I remember around 19XX, when VCRs were brand new (we were toddlers at the time), being amazed and impressed with your insight into the potential of video. You saw that the ability to own beloved movies, have them in our homes, play and replay them, pass them around, would be revolutionary. Actually, it took me a few years even to see that your vision had been right on. ("By God, young Sokoloff was on to something!")

I think you've got a gift for What's Up, among your other gifts. Not that e-publishing is new-fangled at this point, but my money's on your trustworthy weather eye as things continue to evolve--

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Amy, congratulations on getting your backlist back (was THAT a white-knuckling experience for me, yike) and out there. Keep us posted!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hevonie, I'm glad the workbook worked for you! Publish that book! Expand the Italian market!

You will learn so much about your writing by having reader feedback. That's what it's all about.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Wow, Ellen, you are my collective memory! How cool is that?

It's true, I guess I've always been obsessed with delivery systems for story. Since we were, right, toddlers. It was even the key issue I was involved with when I was on the WGA Board of Directors.

And you know, the whole National Theater Frankenstein experience was a HUGE demonstration that the delivery system doesn't matter - it's the STORY that counts. The theater was packed with teenage girls (baby Cumberbitches, so cute...) both nights that I saw it and OH MY GOD, did they scream at those two key moments. I see horror movies all the time and I don't think I've ever seen that intense a reaction from an audience.

For a filmed PLAY!

That is amazing.

And all the way through both showings, there was almost continually that quality of pure, focused SILENCE that you get with really good theater. It gave me goosebumps.

It's the story. It's always the story.

aniko said...

I never considered traditional publication, nor have I seriously considered making a paper version of my novel. I knew my first book would be a tough sell from a marketing standpoint, so I decided I'd take on the financial risk of publishing it myself as an e-book. I loved having full creative control over all aspects of it. Given that you are a well-known name, you are at a wonderful advantage to strike out on your own and really do great things. Congrats on the decision to directly publish HUNTRESS MOON. I think you're going to enjoy the journey!


Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Aniko, you seem to making a splash of your own! I saw your book up on the charts the other day and thought, hey, I know her...

Grabbed the book and am looking forward to reading it when I am in one place again!

Ellen said...

awww, baby Cumberbitches!

So I always believe the delivery system matters hugely--but perhaps that is true except when it isn't. To your point, I happened to see the NT recorded Frankenstein last year within about two days of getting back from London, where I'd seen a bunch of shows, including at the National. And for weeks after, whenever I told somebody about it, I'd think "wait, did I see that live or on film?" They do an exceptional job with those recordings. (NT Live showings are my regular date with Jody Pollak, by the way.)

I love my Kindle for all kinds of reading, and can't travel without it. But for a few books and pretty much all plays, I need the thing itself, actual and paper.

NOW, a question I've wanted to hear from you and everyone about, and that I might conceivably wedge into this topic: pen and paper or keyboard? I believe in writing longhand for first drafts; it seems more virtuous to me somehow, and when I don't do it, it's one more thing I can beat myself up about. And yet I've ALMOST come to accept that when I'm in Bash mode, where word count is king, I can write badly just as well on the computer as by hand. You? Anyone?

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Well, is it a play you're writing? Because I think I would probably always write a play by hand first. But a novel is a lot more words and it's way too cumbersome to do a first draft by hand, and too much of a two-step process, too time-consuming on a deadline, to get in into the computer. Plus you would not BELIEVE how bad my handwriting has gotten. Absolutely unreadable, even to me.

I will usually brainstorm my outline by hand, though, and I write exceptionally well on planes, so I do a lot of writing by hand then.

Jacqui said...

It's hard to argue with that time element. My agent's had my book for six months--we're doing edits. Then he'll look for a publisher who will take 12-18 months if I'm lucky. My topic is timely RIGHT NOW (a geopolitical thriller).

Interesting article.

Ellen said...

How fun that you write exceptionally well on planes! That seems like a very useful thing to know. Plus I wonder about the metaphysics of it. Do you think you write especially well up there because you're neither in one place or another?

Yes, I write plays mostly by hand, then it's another step to get them typed up but often there's forward energy in that--but yes, massively fewer words!

Right now, however, I am playing around with some mystery novels and having a great time. Writing/typing the Bash draft, and actually having a good time doing it. Nothing like a change!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Or maybe because there's no Internet?

(Tragic, really...)

But yeah, I think the "no place" has quite a bit to do with it. Also movement. I love that on the road feeling.

How fabulous that you're writing a mystery! Can't wait to read THAT!