Entrepreneur to Collaborator: Appendices

Appendices

Appendix A: Motives for Self-Publishing

Motive Agree (Multiple answers acceptable)
Creative Freedom 40%
Efficiency 40%
Expense 20%
Hot-Button Topic 0%
Bad Experience with Traditional Publishers 0%
Limited Audience Appeal 0%
Bringing Out-of-Print Books Back into the Market 20%

*Note: Due to being fairly recent, these surveys encompass a very small number of authors.

Appendix B: What Authors Have Heard About Publishing

Statement Disagree Strongly Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Agree Strongly
“Self-published books are low-quality.” 0% 50% 16.67% 33.33% 0%
“Professional publishing houses won’t give new authors the support they need.” 0% 16.67% 33.33% 50% 0%
“The industry is in a state of transition away from publishing monopolies.” 0% 0% 33.33% 50% 16.67%
“Self-published writers are desperate and more likely to get swindled.” 16.67% 0% 66/67% 16.67% 0%
“Self-publishing gives its authors complete creative freedom.” 0% 33.33% 0% 66.67% 0%
“Even with the percentage of profits taken by publishers, traditional authors make more money.” 0% 16.67% 33.33% 50% 0%
“Self-publishing means being an entrepreneur.” 0% 0% 16.67% 66.67% 16.67%

Advertisements

In which I interview CSE Cooney

This interview is sadly the last one I was able to do before my deadline arrived, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I originally met CSE Cooney when she and some of my siblings were performing with Flock Theatre. She’s written several poems and novellas, getting them published through small traditional presses, and is part of a band of authors called the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadors. Her main site can be found here.


 

1. What, in brief, is your history with publishing? As far as you know, is this a common experience, or were there special factors?

I really can’t speak for anyone else’s experience, although from what I’ve witnessed, the combination of mentoring, submissions, beta-readers, writing groups, and networking is all part of many people’s processes. I didn’t know that when I was 18, though! When I was 18, I met my mentor, Gene Wolfe. He took a look at the first few chapters of the novel I was working on, wrote me a letter–full of both critique and compliments–and recommended I start out writing short stories and submitting them. After I’ve gotten short stories published, he said, I’d have enough credentials to present myself to an agent or publisher when I submit a novel.

Gene also took me to my first writing convention. It was there I met the editor of Subterranean Press, Bill Schafer, who ended up publishing “Stone Shoes,” which was my first pro-rate sale. At different conventions over the years, I also met the editors who published my first poems. I’ll never regret this–ever–but it has made me wonder from the first if editors published me only because they liked me personally and not solely on the basis of my work. People have told me time and again that no editor would publish something bad on the basis of personality. However, I do think having a face to set to a submission name never hurt me!

Fourteen years later, I have had many short stories, novellas, and poems published. I am currently looking for an agent for my novel. I think that if I had written more novels instead of short stories, and began looking for an agent sooner, in my twenties, I might be further along in my career now. But I might not be as good a writer. It’s hard to say. There was a three year chunk in college while I was only writing for my classes. Perhaps this was a necessary break; again, who can know?

For me the publishing process has been arduous, surprising, occasionally frustrating, and mostly splendid. The only thing I know for sure is that everything happens so much slower than I thought it would when I was a teenager! Which is not everybody’s experience, I think. But it is most people’s.

2. What was the best part about being published? How about the worst?

There is a sense of unreality when you hold your own book in your hand, and look at your byline and think, “That’s me. This is the house that I built.” A kind of euphoria.

Sometimes it’s even enough to make you forget the true difficulties of working with small presses, which are great fun, but usually only run by one or two people, who have pretty full lives of their own. Publishing books in a small press is not their only, or even their major, source of income. Communication can get hairy, especially in this age of social platforms, when one expects immediate responses. Deadlines aren’t always met on time, or ever. Promises get broken.

On the other hand, other small presses perform quickly, are enthusiastic and helpful, and one’s relationship with them grows into a kind of long-distance friendship, which is really cool.

3. How do you connect to your audience outside of writing? I know you have a site and a LiveJournal.

I do have a LiveJournal. And a Facebook page. And a website. And, now, on my friend Amal El-Mohtar’s insistence, a Twitter. I like to blog the big things (I like to blog in general), but I’m on Facebook more than anything. My friend Julia Rios, one of the editors of Strange Horizons, likes to tease me and say, “You always have CONTENT.” But I do pop my head up and…assert my personality as often as possible. This will sound callous, but I mean it in the most earnest possible way:

If people like you, they might buy your book for your sake. Then, if they like your book, they’ll buy your next book for the book’s sake.

It’s another way to get your foot in the door. It’s sort of like that Irish curse: You’ll know writers by their limping.

4. What about other authors and people in the publishing industry?

Again, I can’t speak for others. Some people are geniuses, and their work is worthy of recognition right away. Some people are geniuses and aren’t recognized for the first few decades they’ve been writing. Some people start out with novels and stick with them. Some people only write in the short form. Some people are far more garrulous and social than I am, and their pool of friendly, professional acquaintances is wider, and therefore their chances are broader. Some people are brilliant and have bad luck. Some people are awful and are blessed by the gods. I don’t know! I only know that I have been helped so much, and there is an honor system of returning the favor to writers younger than myself. People are pretty conscious of this mentoring system in the Speculative Fiction community. It’s something we talk about often.

5. Is there any other non-writing work you do for your books and poetry?

I have done a few lectures, many readings (at conventions and the like), and performances as well. My training is in writing and acting. I have my BA from Columbia College Chicago, which is an arts school. A few friends and I decided that a group we had far more likely a chance to boost our own signal than being tiny flames on our own. Together, we could become a beacon. Plus, we’re all stage-trained and musically trained. So we formed a performance group called The Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours. We excerpt and dramatize sections of our fiction. We write and sing music. We recite our wicked, mythic, storytelling poetry. And we just went on our first mini-tour.

6. Is there anything you’ve learned from experience that you wish you’d known before you began?

I suppose it would be to know how slow all of it is, and to have started earlier and more aggressively. I’m pretty timid in any new given situation. I wish I could tell my younger self (as many people TRIED to tell me) to spread my net more widely. To be courteous but not so tender as to retreat in the face of defeat. To submit a hundred times more than I did. To write faster. To read more.

But so much can only come from experience. There is no possible way that me telling my younger self could have changed much; my brain needed to change. It needed years to grow and mature and to specialize in this particular career. Maybe the truth is that I’m a slow bloomer. Maybe someone else will be able to read this at 18 and have it all by 25. Everyone has their own speed, their own time.

7. Have you run into any real differences between publishing fiction and poetry? Or between short and longer works?

There are fewer markets for poetry than for fiction. For fiction, there are fewer markets for novellas than for short stories. I write more novellas than anything else. Often short story markets also have a poetry department.

The main difference between selling short works (be they fiction or poetry) to magazines and small presses and selling longer works like novels to large presses is that for the former you are working directly with the editors, if not the publishers themselves, and for the latter, you have to ally with an intermediary, an agent, who knows the business end of books in and out. I’m in the process of questing for an agent myself right now, and it’s trickier than you’d think. People have compared it with dating. If one were dating around for a business partner instead of a romantic relationship. I haven’t been on my quest long enough to come up with a comparison of my own yet; the dating one doesn’t quite work for me.

8. Which would you usually recommend to a new author, self publishing or traditional? Why?

Oh… This is a tricky question. Part of me would recommend traditional first. Writing, in a weird, is weirdly communal. Your story comes through you first, raw in its early form, then polished through the draft process. Usually it passes through the hands of other writers who are your friends: beta-readers or writing groups, that sort of thing. Then when you submit it, it can come back to you with useful rejections from editors (who have seen hundreds, thousands of stories) telling you why the story wasn’t working, or why they couldn’t publish it. Alternately, it could be accepted and go through undreamed-of changes that improve the story beyond anything you could have done to it.

If you self-publish, most of those latter steps go right out the window. Your product may still be beautiful and unusual, but perhaps not as honed.

Now, if one has tried all the traditional venues, and your product is perhaps TOO unusual, too beautiful, too strange or interstitial or liminal, or you know it’s good, but you also know there are a billion others like it, and the magazines and small presses can only choose the absolute best. But you know yours is just as good – and besides, you already invested all this time in it, then I think exploring self-publishing is absolutely spiffy.

But part of me says, publishing is changing. Technology is changing. The world is changing. Change with it. Do whatever. Do all the things. Make money by writing. By fair means or foul, sell your work.

I think casting a wide net, getting both feet and a head through the door, boosting your signal, spreading out in all directions can all be necessary in this business.

Of course, that makes focusing on the craft a little harder. So. Artist’s choice.

9. The industry’s been changing, especially in recent years with companies like Amazon getting into the publishing game. Do you think this is for better or worse? Why?

Oh, I have no idea. I’m going to let better minds than mine decide. There are plenty of articles on this very subject all over the internet. I rarely read them. It’s hard enough to find the time to write, much less speculate on if I even have a future in it. I think that as self-publishing gets easier, big publishers are going to get more… refined. I think the market will be inundated with all kinds of unfiltered, unedited manuscripts and it might be harder to get to the good stuff. But then, publishers of big presses haven’t always (in my opinion) only published good stuff. Not by any means. Unfortunately, this part of the industry is one that’s never really interested me. I’m probably the poorer for it. But I only have so many hours in my day. And I’d rather be writing.

10. I saw you’re looking for an agent. What made you decide to do this?

It’s just the next step! I have a book I’m really excited about: Miscellaneous Stones: Assassin. It’s the first in a trilogy. I think it’s supermarketable. And I’m not up to the task of self-publishing it. In a sense, I feel the book is better than what I can give it, in that sense. It deserves a team of professionals, from the copy-editor to the cover-designer. And I’m not those people.

11. Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours. There’s got to be a good story behind that—even just the name.

See above!!!

In which I talk to Geri Krotow

Geri Krotow is another find from Facebook–note to self: personal connections are a lot more reliable than cold-calling strangers–and a traditionally-published romance writer. Also I did ask her a few more questions than this, but her response was a body of text so I had trouble separating it into Q & A format. Her site is here.


What were the best and worst elements of publishing?

The best is having my books on the shelf in Kmart, WalMart, grocery stores, etc, all over the country and world. My stories can reach so many people, and now with the digital market it’s beyond my dreams. The worst part is the wait—it took me 6 years of submissions (and rejections!) to sell. But this is good because it forced me to keep learning and improving my writing.

Would you recommend this to a new author? Why or why not?

I recommend traditional publishing to everyone as if I’d independently published that first manuscript (that never sold and never SHOULD sell :)) it would have been a BIG mistake. My writing wasn’t ready for “prime time.” That said, my friends who have a large backlist of books AND have gotten the rights back from their publishers are re-publishing on their own (indie) and some are making big profits, especially if they have a large readership.

How much of the legwork (like marketing) did you have to do yourself?

As for marketing, in this day, every author is her own marketing person. You have to be. I am very conscious of my brand (military romance/romantic suspense) and it’s important to keep giving my readers what they expect from me. This is the promise to the reader. The most important platform is the author website, which must be kept up-to-date and give readers a place to go and learn about you after they’ve finished a book (and hopefully find more of your books to buy!). Next is a strong social media platform. I’m active on Twitter and Facebook, and a bit on Pinterest. Also, Goodreads. I have an Author Page on Facebook, too. I do this all myself, except I do pay people to do my website (which costs A LOT, you get what you pay for.). But it’s part of building my business from the ground up, and having a secure platform I’ll be able to rely on when I hit it “big.”

For that, I trust God. If I’m meant to be financially successful, I will, if not, the most important thing is that I’m true to the stories that come down for me to put on paper. If they reach and help one person through a rough day, then I’ve done my job (vocation). 

In which I talk to Kimberly Herbert

In doing this project, I seriously underestimated the power of Facebook. In an attempt to get some actual responses on my survey, I posted a link. My Mom reposted it, and some of her friends turned out to be authors. I asked and got a couple of useful interviews out of the deal.

My first was Kimberly Herbert, She’s self-published, and has actually been doing it for twelve years. She has a site here, and you can check it out if you want.


 

What was your experience with the publishing industry (in brief)? As far as you know, is this a common experience or were there special factors?

My first experience 12 years ago was not so favorable with the company I had originally tried. I found their system requirements for submission and their program was a bit difficult to navigate. Their price was fairly steep as well. However, self-publishing was fairly new at that time and there were few companies to go with. But in my most recent experience the new company is definitely much easier to navigate and their price is one of the least expensive in the market.

What were the best and worst elements of self-publishing?

The best thing about self-publishing is that I have complete control of my work including the cover. The worst part is the marketing end of it. I am responsible for everything including promotion.

The industry has changed a lot over time. Do you think it’s for the better, or worse, and why?

For myself it is absolutely for the better. There is much more variety for the choices I make in which company I will work with in the future.

Would you recommend self-publishing to a new author, and why?

That depends on how far the author is willing to go in order get his or her work on the market. There is a lot of leg work involved in self-publishing and some people do not wish to take on that much responsibility. Some authors would rather have a publishing company take the reins and make decisions for them. That’s not a bad route, if an author can get themselves accepted by a publishing company and is willing to change their work when told, in order to please someone else.

I’ve heard it said that self-publishers are also entrepreneurs. Do you usually find that to be the case?

Yes, entrepreneurs are motivated people who go out into the world finding new avenues to become successful. In order to be a successful self-published author, one must have that drive to get their work out into a very crowded market.

In which I talk to Bonnie Watson

So far this assignment has been rather . . . uneven. Because I am searching for firsthand data, there are long stretches of time where I can do nothing but sit and wait for other people to respond to me. Then everything comes together at the very end of the last week, and I spend a frantic Saturday throwing my paper together and turning it in.

Here I am on Friday night, with a paper due by midnight on Sunday (though thankfully not a necessarily long one), and now the interviews are finally creeping in. My first, and one I’m very happy with, is with author Bonnie Watson. I found her through a mutual acquaintance and she was great to work with, giving me useful answers quicker than anyone else–within a day of my request.

Her site is Wisdom Novels, if you want to check out her work, and you should.


 

1) What was your experience with the publishing industry? As far as you know, is this a common experience or were there special factors?
My experience with the publishing industry was definitely an eye-opener. For one thing, it taught me what to look for between the two types of publishing: self-publishing and main stream/traditional. If anything, you have to be PATIENT when waiting for responses. You have to look at what they’re offering in their contracts, how much you make in royalties, how much they want, the do’s and don’ts and “watch out for’s”, etc. 
 
I once gave a talk at a high school about the “roller coaster” ups and downs when dealing with publishers. Since there are so many different features each one can give an author, sometimes it just depends on what an author needs at the moment. I choose self-publishing first time because I wanted to give book signings like all the rest of my author friends, and I wanted a quick turn-a-round. 
 
I’m sure every author goes through some crazy moments in the publishing field. I’ve heard several complain, and then several compliment. Most complain. Do I have complaints? Not so much since most of the kinks are being worked out.
 
2) What did you learn from self-publishing? Did anything prove useful when you got a contract?
 
What I learned most with the self-publishing way, and probably the most disappointing way, was that you really couldn’t get into bookstores unless it was a company that that already had contracts with the bookstores. Take for example, Lulu.com. No book, to my knowledge, unless picked up by a big brand company, gets into a bookstore that has lulu’s logo on it. Why? Because anybody can use them, and you can easily publish any book without even proofreading it. It makes the company look shabby, but I have to admit that they were my first choice when self-publishing because I didn’t have to wait. Submitting a book takes mere minutes, and within a week or so you’ve got your order of books.  
 
3) Is there anything that you regret from your self-publishing days? Conversely, is there anything you miss now about that time?
 
I really have no regrets. It was a nice learning curb that slowly transitioned the more I studied between the different companies. I knew where I wanted to go. It was only a matter of time before I could get there. So what’s there to miss about self-publishing? I suppose it would be the fact that I could control my prices, change up books on the whelm. Not so much now, at least with print. Now ebooks… that’s a different story.
 
4) What was the biggest change in the process of making a book when you switched publishing styles?
 
I really didn’t see a change as far as switching publishing styles. If anything, it threw business my way since I became sole graphic designer for the publisher who did my books. When do chances like that come about? 
 
5) Which would you recommend to a new author, and why?
 
Which would I recommend? Since I’m with a small publisher who’s just getting started, I can’t say either way because we’re all still learning the process. Marketing is still a big factor and is very expensive. It depends on the author’s needs. I’d say that if you want to see what your book looks like quick, then choose something like lulu.com and then it’s easy to edit once you have the proof copy. Something like that is fine for friends and family. Big game stores, I’d recommend doing your research. 
 
6)I’ve heard it said that self-publishers are also entrepreneurs. Has that been the case for you?
 
I would definitely have to agree with the entrepreneur question. You really have to be because all the expense is on you. You are responsible for your own marketing, and really even now I still am. I can get books anytime I want, but it’s up to me to sell them. If I can’t sell them, and the publisher can’t sell them, there’s a problem. That’s where creative marketing can add up. I’m still looking into ways to market, since that’s definitely my weakness in this whole deal. 
 
7) Success is a hard thing to measure. I’ve chosen to ask, having come through the publishing process, can you look back at your book and say “I and the people I worked with made it the best book I could and I’m proud of how it turned out”?
 
OH, I’M SO PROUD OF MY WORK!!!! And not only the writing, and the people who helped edit, but the fact that since I’m an illustrator it helped build my portfolio of characters and landscapes, creatures and concepts. The two go hand in hand. Every painting has a story behind it. Every story has a picture to paint. So I’m just an endless beacon of stories for both worlds. The world of Art. The world of Storytelling. There’s no living without either ~ see porfolio: BONNIE WATSON
 
Soooo…. I hoped I answered everything you needed. 
 
Enjoy the artwork, too! Bonus, right?
 
Hey let me know if you ever want to read one of my books, because I’m offering a free PDF in exchange for Amazon reviews – yeah it’s a marketing tactic, lol

So I think that went pretty well. I’m starting to realize that there are a lot more writers around me than I thought . . .