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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Way We Publish Now

This week I saw a new item at our local dollar store—hardcover books. Well, actually one hardcover book—hundreds of copies of it, dumped in a big bin. It’s sad enough to see good books remaindered on the sale tables of Barnes and Noble, but these were being dumped for a buck a piece, along with off-brand detergent and dented cans of dog food.

What’s worse, I recognized the title. I'd seen the author interviewed by Stephen Colbert—just a few months ago.

I felt a little sick.

Kind of like the way I felt when the only remaining indie bookstore in our nearest big town closed. And the LA Times killed off their book review section. And the Borders at the mall shut its doors.

What’s going on? Have people stopped reading? Should we give up our dreams of becoming authors and take up hula-hoop decorating? Is the book dead?

Nope. It turns out the opposite is true. In fact, The New York Times recently reported that sales of books are going nowhere but up. In the US, trade titles grew 5.8% in the past three years, juvenile books grew 6.6%, and adult fiction went up a hefty 8.8%—in the middle of a recession!

So the book business isn’t really going to Hades in a handbasket. But it is on one wild ride—a ride that’s moving so fast that even industry professionals can’t keep up.

Here’s a little recap—

Back in the dear, dead days of 2009 B.K. (Before Kindle), book authors had only three options:

Option #1: Go through the long, painful process of querying literary agents, hoping to find one who could sell your work to a big or biggish publishing corporation. From the mid-20th century until the early 2000’s, if you wrote a book good enough to snag a reputable agent, you had an excellent chance of launching a professional writing career. But the agent-funneling-to-the international-publishing-conglomerate paradigm had been developing flaws over the past few years:

  • Ever-shrinking advances

  • Bullying market departments seizing creative control

  • Non-existent marketing budgets, except for superstars (Here’s a link to the great 2009 piece on the subject from the New Yorker for those who missed it two weeks ago.)

  • Ever-more draconian contracts, demanding ownership of copyright and preventing writers from “competing” with their own books by publishing anything else, anywhere.

  • “Creative” royalty-eating accounting

  • Rigid genre formulas

  • Fad-publishing and lemming-like overbuying: giving two or three genres dominance to the exclusion of all others, thus killing off those genres by oversaturating the market. Examples: chick lit and vampire romance.

  • Dropping writers who didn’t make the wildly optimistic sales quotas established by the marketing department (as reported by the reliably inaccurate Bookscan.) Your career could be ended by an accounting mistake. The only way you’d ever be able to publish again involved changing your name and never, ever admitting you’d been published before. 
Option #2: Submit to smaller, regional presses that read their own slush and don’t require an agent-gatekeeper. This minor-league option sometimes led to the big leagues, but it had major drawbacks.

  • Small or no advance

  • No standardized practices—hard to tell the good from the bad.

  • Difficult distribution. Usually big chains wouldn’t order from them, and many indie bookstores would order titles only as special orders.

  • Tiny profit margins. With the high cost of materials, and small mark-up on paper books, they often went belly-up, owing royalties to writers and back pay to staff (speaking from experience here.)

  • No marketing budget 

  • No reviews in the big publications like Kirkus, NYT, People, etc.

  • Titles unlikely to get the notice of Hollywood.
Option #3: Self-publish

  • Oh, pu-leez. You’ve all heard the stories. “I read a self-pubbed book by my hairdresser’s son and it had no plot and typos on every page—and if I ever have to read another 50-page masturbation scene, I’m going to throw myself off a bridge.”

  • Unless you wrote something sappy and inspirational like The Celestine Prophecy or The Shack, you wouldn’t even recoup costs.

  • The only way you’d be able to publish again involved changing your name and never, ever admitting you’d been published before.

But a revolution started late in the year 2009 A.K.

You can read that as “After Kindle” or “After Konrath”, since mystery author J. A. Konrath sounded the first voice of the Kindle revolution on his blog A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.

The A.K. era has provided many new paths to publishing, and those paths go in remarkable new directions. Sometimes they even make U-turns.

Option #1 is still the same: query agents and hope for that Big Six contract. Some people will argue with me, but I think this is still the best path to fame and fortune for the writer with a shovel-ready, trending-right-now debut novel. If you write like Raymond Carver and have a YA steampunk zombiepocalypse thriller—all edited, polished and ready to go—and a few more like it in the hopper, you just might be the next superstar. It still happens.

But this traditional road is an even rockier path than before, because:

  • The big bookstore chains who worked in partnership with the Big Six to create bestsellers are going belly-up. Borders is dead, indies are evaporating, and the book shelf space in supermarkets and drugstores has shrunk drastically.

  • The mass market paperback is disappearing. Publishing Perspectives gives it three years to live . Mass market publisher Dorchester went bankrupt, transferred to an all e-book format—and has yet to pay royalties to its former mass market authors.

  • As the Big Six acquire fewer and fewer non-celebrity titles, agents are unable to sell books they adore, and being “on submission” can be an emotional Bataan Death March.

  • Now less than 1% of books published by the Big Six are by debut authors

  • The Big Six are pricing ebooks higher and higher, thwarting sales of even their bestselling authors.

  • As marketing departments insist on “guaranteed sales numbers,” agents are looking less at their own queries and more at the Kindle bestseller lists.

  • Big Six authors are getting tiny royalties on ebook sales, and their paper books are being pulled from shelves within weeks of launch (and sent to the Dollar Store, apparently.) The average advance is about $5000, and most authors never see any royalties. You have to write really, really fast just to make minimum wage.
Option #2: Submit to Small Presses. This is the same, too. Except it's a much more appealing option than it used to be. Technology has decreased overhead and Amazon and other online retailers have leveled the playing field.

  • Small companies, which have fewer cogs in their wheels, can move faster. Most are pricing their ebooks under $5.00. Most also use POD technology for paper books, so they only print as many books as they have orders for. This drastically reduces overhead, so they’re much more likely to stay in business than in the past.

  • Because of low overhead they often pay much higher royalties than the Big Six.

  • With online retailers dominating the book market, distributors are no longer essential to sales numbers. Every book is available for browsing with a few clicks on Amazon. A book from a tiny press has equal space with one from Random House.

  • Ebook-only presses are mushrooming all over the ’Net. They are willing to take chances on new authors and innovative genre-bending because they have very little overhead. This also means they can afford to keep retail prices low.

  • Genre-specific small publishers can service neglected niche markets and connect writers directly with fans looking for a particular type of fiction.

  • Small presses offer professional book design, coding, paper book distribution and sometimes, more publicity than a Big Six publisher.

  • But you’re still not likely to get that call from Stephen Spielberg. 
Option #3: Self-Publish. With the phenomenal success of self-pubbers like Amanda Hocking and John Locke, the stigma has been lifted. Self publishing isn't for rejects any more. It's for rebels and literary innovators. And anybody can join this wild-west gold-rush sparked by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and his little Kindle. (You can also now self-pub paper copies quite cheaply through Amazon's Create Space.)

  • This is no longer the “I’ve been rejected everywhere, so I guess I have to…” option that hairdresser’s son took.

  • Fortunes are being made, and even mid-listers are making a living.

  • Self-publishing an ebook costs next to nothing, especially if you can design your own cover and get a fellow writer to exchange editing/proofing duties with you.

  • New companies like Smashwords and BookBaby provide self-epublishing services at very reasonable prices, and also supply helpful things like ISBNs.

  • Agents, publishers and filmmakers are ignoring their own slush piles and trolling the Kindle self-published lists for new clients. (Yes, I mentioned this above, but my point is: although that’s not so good for queriers, it’s great for self-pubbers.)

  • Big Six publishers are offering self-published stars the kind of huge advances usually reserved for literary superstars and members of the Rolling Stones. Self-pubbed Kindle stars like Amanda Hocking and Mark Edwards and Louise Voss   have taken this U-turn route back to Option #1.

  • This week, Amazon opened a Kindle Indie Store just for self-pubbers, so you don’t have to compete with the Big Six guys to become a bestseller. (I’m not entirely sure this isn’t ghettoizing the indies, but we’ll wait and see.)

  • Plus you just might get that call from Hollywood. The film rights to Amanda Hocking’s initially self-pubbed paranormal trilogy were sold to Media Rights Capital in March for major bucks, and I’m hearing from indie readers of this blog that Hollywood has been knocking on their doors.
Option #4: Query an agent who will help you self-publish ebooks that will stand out from the crowd

  • Agents like Andrea Brown are helping their clients self-publish to bypass the high cost of Big Six ebooks. There’s been a lot of noise about this being a conflict of interest, but the authors themselves aren’t complaining. Agents know how to provide editing (which they’ve been doing for years) plus hook you up with top-notch cover and book designers. They can help with publicity, marketing and career management as well as handling film and foreign rights (a biggie).

Option #5: HIRE an agent who will help you self-publish ebooks.

  • Yes, hire. Some very reputable agencies like Bookends LLC are forming separate branches that accept all comers and help them through the e-publishing process for either a percentage or a flat fee. A flat fee service—as provided by Laurie McLean at Agent Savant—feels better to me, but both seem to be working.
Option #6: Publish both e-books and paper books with Amazon’s new paper book lines. This is the new holy grail of publishing. You only get in by invitation at this point, but Amazon is making changes almost daily, so stay tuned.

  • The first of these was Amazon Encore. This doesn’t provide a huge advance, but your book is printed on real dead trees and you get to sell to the 70% of readers who still don’t have Kindles. Plus your royalties are way better than if you published with the Big Six

  • Then came Montlake Romance in June. Amazon lured bestselling romance writer Connie Brockway from Simon and Schuster to debut their new romance line.

  • Next to be announced was mystery/thriller line Thomas and Mercer. This is where indie superstars Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath are now, having accepted reputedly huge advances and impressive royalties.

  • More are coming—and we will probably be able to submit directly to them at some point.

  • Major drawback: these books will be sold mainly through Amazon. Amazon would like other retailers to carry them, but many bookstores are planning to boycott these lines, because Amazon is a rival bookseller.

These options aren’t either/or, as some of the arguing in blogs and forums might lead you to believe. Most of the Big Six published authors I know are also releasing indie books. Some are also using small publishers as well.

Yes, it is scary that one corporation--Amazon--is cornering such a huge segment of the book market. Let's hope that Barnes and Noble and Apple and new start-ups will challenge their growing monopoly.

You can get a beginner’s overview of ebook publishing from the ever-reliable Jane Friedman on her blog here.

If you want more in-depth information, you can buy a great little book on epublishing from the (incredibly smart) Irish writer David Gaughran on his blog Let’s Get Digital or in the Kindle store  for only $2.99.

The publishing world has changed irrevocably in the past two years. The changes came about partly because of the e-revolution and partly because the old system was already in a state of decay. Even though we’re going to miss the corner bookshop (which may be replaced with cool coffee-house/wine bar/print-while-you wait media emporiums) the good outweighs the bad—for both readers and authors.

As Gaughran says, "[Big Six publishers] have been underestimating readers for years. If you talk to readers, their main complaint is that everything is the same, piles of books chasing one fad after the next. Readers want diverse voices, readers like works of different lengths, readers like writers who play outside conventional genre boundaries. Indie writers have been filling that need."

But the greatest thing to come from the ebook revolution may be the way it empowers writers. We now have choices. Even authors who are still publishing only with international conglomerates know they can walk away if they want to. They can demand more equitable royalties. They can refuse to take orders on what to write and how many books to churn out per year. They can publish novellas and short stories and books outside a specified genre.  

And for newbie authors—you’ve all got a chance to make the big time.

One caveat: Don’t publish before you’re ready to be a disciplined, professional writer. (See my post Three Questions to Ask Before You Jump on the Self-Publishing Bandwagon) Reviewers can be unforgiving—even of things like trite cover design, overpricing and a few typos. Amateur comments on Amazon can be cruel, and trolls are being hired to post nasty reviews and bring down a rival’s stats.

So hone your skills, build your inventory, and develop some calluses on your soul. Then set out on whatever publishing path feels right to you. The way things are going, there should be even more options very soon.

So how are the changes in the industry affecting you, scriveners? Are the new possibilities changing how you view your own career goals? Is it affecting how you write?

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Blogger E.J. Wesley said...

This is such a phenomenal recap and outline Anne! It's a long read, but absolutely important for those who are behind on what's happening. Kudos for putting it all in one place.


August 14, 2011 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like being with a smaller publisher, and my book was reviewed by several of the big-time reviewers. I don't think hiring an agent to self-publish a book is a smart move though.

August 14, 2011 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Anne, this is amazing! Thanks so much for breaking it all down for us. In my opinion, writers now how more choices than ever, because buyers can drive the market. Love it.

August 14, 2011 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks for all the info and great links.

August 14, 2011 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Lexi said...

Masterly post.

What astonishes me is the cavalier treatment meted out to writers by the publishing industry, although it would not exist without us. Let's hope that is now changing.

August 14, 2011 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Susan Tuttle said...

Thanks, Anne,for a fabulous recap. It gives hope to those of us out here whose readers love our books, but can't get a nod from the majors (or even semi-minors) because we cross genres or don't follow the "formula." It's a steep learning curve these days, but posts like yours make the effort seem worthwhile!

August 14, 2011 at 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Karen S. Elliott said...

Excellent piece! Thanks!

August 14, 2011 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Cynthia Lee said...

I love this. I'm going to bookmark it. Thank you very much!

August 14, 2011 at 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Vanessa Grant said...

Excellent summary of the AK era for authors. Thanks, Anne

August 14, 2011 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger KarenG said...

Wonderfully thorough analysis! You pretty well sum it up. And I've seen the hardcover books in dollar stores, too. How strange. Yesterday I discovered a new little used paperback bookstore/exchange, and asked about their policies. Do they take hardcover books or just paperbacks?

Answer: "If you bring in hardcover we just throw them out. We can't sell them. We can't even sell them online anymore."

Um, bad news for publishers with stacks of hardcovers in their warehouses.

August 14, 2011 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wow, Anne, you really did an excellent overview of the issues, with lots of backup linkage. Thank you so much. I may link this in a post, because I think every writer should read it.
There are so many choices now it's daunting but also exciting. The gates have been opened. But it's still up to each writer to do the best job possible no matter which route they take.

August 14, 2011 at 3:52 PM  
OpenID jenniecoughlin said...

Nice summary/analysis, Anne! I've been having this conversation with a lot of folks in the past few days, and I'm going to send this link to some of them because it does a much better job of explaining than I did, with excellent back-up links.

August 14, 2011 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger bob said...

Great post, Anne. The new publishing world is exciting, but scary too.

August 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM  
Blogger Ranae Rose said...

I say it's about time for changes in the publishing industry. I'm too young to have been a writer trying to make it in the olden days of pre-2009 (lol), but the recent changes have empowered me both as a reader and a writer. I have more variety of titles to choose from for reading (and awesome low prices), which is great. And then as I've mentioned before I'm using small presses and have self-published some e-books as well. So far, I'm liking both. I'm glad to be a writer now, because I doubt there would have been a place for most of my work in the old traditional publishing world. Now I can write what I really want to and have the satisfaction of seeing readers enjoy it.

August 14, 2011 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

As always this is a very thought provoking post. What I truly love about what is happening is the open buffet of it all. Like eating in Las Vegas or going to the nearest all you can eat joint.

Roam around the isles, find what you are in the mood for and satisfy you pallet.

Nothing says lovin' like something from the oven and what's cooking in the industry these days is a feast ... "Life is a banquet, and most poor sukers are starving to death!" Thanks Auntie Anne :)

August 14, 2011 at 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer Tanner said...

My writing career isn't off the ground yet, but your mention of possible accounting mistakes deraling one's career makes me nervous.

As far as Montlake and Thomas and Mercer publications only being available on Amazon...I have to wonder if Barnes and Noble will be the only brick and mortar store left to browse new titles.

Terric post as always. Thank you.

August 14, 2011 at 11:57 PM  
Anonymous Crystal Smith said...

Thanks so much for writing this. I self-published and sometimes feel like I'm hitting my head against a brick wall trying to market this thing. I think the stigma still exists to some degree, but the tide is turning and posts like this will help change people's minds.

August 15, 2011 at 6:34 AM  
Blogger SBJones said...

Very good read. Thank you.

August 15, 2011 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Cassie said...

Excellent post, Anne, thank you!!! As a new author, I appreciate all of the tips you've listed - they are extremely helpful!

August 15, 2011 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

E.J. Thanks a bunch. I was trying to explain it to a non-publishing person recently and realized that even a lot of writers aren’t really aware of all the changes.

Alex—your success with a small publisher helped me to make my decision to go small press. It’s wonderful to hear you got the attention of prime reviewers without the Big Six behind you.

I think hiring an agent would be very useful for some writers—especially the ones who aren’t social network savvy and have no idea how to find people to design and sell their ebooks.

Julie—I agree that the changes are positive.

Susan G/K Thanks!

Lexi—Yes. Corporate publishing has got really cut-throat in recent years.

Susan T—You’re so right. Corporate publishing formulas have become so rigid, it’s near impossible for innovative writers to break in. The legitimizing of indie publishing has changed that.

Karen, Cynthia, Vanessa—Thanks!

Karen G—Yikes! That’s scarier than I thought.

Tricia—Great point that we mustn’t lose sight of: in the end, it’s still about writing a good book.

Jennie—It’s so hard to get people to understand isn’t it? They can’t believe so much has happened in a short time.

bob—You’re right. Change is scary, too.

Ranae—Small press and self-pubbing have become so much more attractive, that going with Big Six would seem like a big loss of freedom for me, too.

fOIS—I love that line from Auntie Mame. (I’ve played Mame and Vera Charles—two of my fav roles) It’s so true!

Jennifer—Yeah, the corporate publishing world is crazy-mean to writers these days.

Crystal—Hang in there. It may take a while to reach your audience, your books aren’t sitting in a bin at the dollar store--you can stay "in print" forever.


August 15, 2011 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

Masterful. Thanks.

August 15, 2011 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Elle Strauss said...

Self publishing isn't for rejects any more. It's for rebels and literary innovators-- love this. Thanks again for such a great amount of information. The spinning wheel of publishing can easily overwhelm.

August 15, 2011 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Nicole MacDonald said...

I'm enjoying self-publishing through Kindle. A fantastic experience that has me hooked :) Who knows, in a year or so I may be able to be self employed as well as self published. Indie and proud!

August 15, 2011 at 11:56 AM  
OpenID ninabadzin.com said...

WOW!!! Just retweeted this! So informative!

August 15, 2011 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

This was so informative. I feel like such a newbie in this area with all the choices. My current MS is on submission, but who knows what will eventually happen. Kind of a frontier landscape for newer writers, it seems. Thanks for the info. :)

August 15, 2011 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Wonderful post! You are so thorough and so generous. I feel inspired to push my manuscripts out of their hiding place and introduce them to the public. Yikes...that still sounds scary!

August 15, 2011 at 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Sara Flower said...

Wow! Great post about the options we have today. Publishing has changed so rapidly, and for the better I have to say.

It suddenly does not seem so daunting and hopeless if one cannot land an agent. Although I like how you point out the discipline and the work involved in any type of publishing route one chooses.

August 15, 2011 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger J.L. Campbell said...

Since being published, I've been paying more attention to book marketing trends and the change has been phenomenal. Now, you've given me even more to think about by putting all of this information together in one place. Thanks!

August 16, 2011 at 6:33 AM  
Blogger paul said...

Another great post. Anne's blog is one of the best resources out there for up and coming authors.

August 16, 2011 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Bill Schweigart said...

Tremendous post, Anne - thank you for compiling all of this information. Sunny Frazier has been sending around blogs like yours and more, letting us know it's a brave new world in publishing. A point that was underscored last weekend when I visited a Borders for its "Going Out Of Business" sale. It was a pretty shocking sight, and a hell of a wake-up call....

August 16, 2011 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Cassie--Congrats on your publishing debut!

Judith and nina, Thanks!

Elle--Thanks to you, too, and BTW, you have such a great blog! It's a great resource for anybody just getting into the publishing blogosphere.

Nicole--I love hearing success stories from indies. Amazing how many of you can support yourselves with writing.

Kara--Taking the traditional route (and landing an agent--congrats!) is still the way most of us would like to go, I think. As slow and painful as the submission process is, once you have a Big Six book you can always self-pub later books when you're better known.

Christine--Yes! You can do it. (And I happen to know your books are great.)

Sara--That's the best part. If your book doesn't fit into an agent/Big Six pigeonhole, you have a chance now.

J.L. Congrats on your publication. Yes, we just have to keep listening and watching what happens next.

Paul--Aw shucks. Thanks a bunch.

August 16, 2011 at 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Karyne Corum said...

Just when I think I'm going to be overwhelmed by the whats, wherefores and whatfors in the ever changing world of publishing, you post an incredible blog like this one. I always feel like it's my one stop blog for whatever I need to know. Thanks Anne for wrapping it up and showing us what's coming down the pike. You make keeping abreast of things really easy. :-)

August 16, 2011 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger C.K.Crigger said...

An awesome post, Anne, filled with essential information. It should be required reading for every writer,whether new to publishing or an old pro. Thank you.

August 16, 2011 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

This is such a timely post. It's helpful the way you've broken down very aspect of the publishing industry -- and very encouraging. I'm book marking this to reread and consult often. Thank you.

August 16, 2011 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Spook said...

Awesome post Anne! It's made me happy to be a young writer in the Kindle times I tell you! I actually have a chance now! :D

August 16, 2011 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bill Schweigart made this comment, which seems to have been blocked by the spam filter, although it came into my email box just fine.

"Tremendous post, Anne - thank you for compiling all of this information. Sunny Frazier has been sending around blogs like yours and more, letting us know it's a brave new world in publishing. A point that was underscored last weekend when I visited a Borders for its "Going Out Of Business" sale. It was a pretty shocking sight, and a hell of a wake-up call.... "

August 16, 2011 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Kat Hinkson said...

I like your recap of the book business. It'a encouraging and discouraging at the same time. Encouraging that we now have more chances to be published, discouraging when the big brick and motar stores put our indies out of business and then put themselves out of business.

August 16, 2011 at 8:45 PM  
Anonymous mark williams international said...

Great post, Anne.

A wonderful overview and sound advice all round, especially the caveat about being disciplined and professional.

The new indie store on amazon.com highlighting the top indie titles should make it easier for everyone to find and sample great indie writers.

And is a great place for thinking of self-publishing to browse first, and to be clear the quality expected is every bit as high as for a traditionally published book.

August 17, 2011 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger jbchicoine said...

Actually, these changes give me more confidence in how I write. I feel as if there is a niche for everyone. Love the way you expound on all that here--I don't get around the way I used to, but I can always count on catching up with everything here...Thanks Anne!

August 17, 2011 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Karyn—thanks so much. It means a lot to know I’m helping.

CK—It’s amazing how many professionals aren’t up on the changes in the business

Mrs. Serafina—Thanks for bookmarking!

Spook—I think your generation will have an even bigger array of options to choose from.

Bill—Seeing the bookstores die is sad, but a lot of the big chains didn’t plan well enough for change.

Kat—You’re so right. As I said to Bill, the big chains aren’t total victims here. They did kill off our indie stores, which might survive this change better than the biggies.

Mark—Thanks for the insight into the new Kindle Indie store!

jb—I think we can all be more confident. And I hear you about “getting around”. You just can’t visit all the blogs, or you’d never have time to write.

August 17, 2011 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Robin Sullivan said...

Great analysis. There are so many more options for authors. I run a small press (Ridan publishing) and the top selling months for some of my authors....

Michael Sullivan (11,500)
Nathan Lowell (9,500)
Marshall Thomas (19,500)
Leslie Ann Moore (5,500)
Joe Haldeman (3,000)

Michael is actually my husband and so he is self-published (others are small press published) and we took his self-published success to get a six-figure deal with Orbit books for his Riyria Revelations.

It's a great time to be an author!!

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

August 18, 2011 at 5:19 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks Robin. I love to hear those small press success stories.

Guest poster Michelle Davidson Argyle will be giving us an overview of the small press option on September 18th. I'll make sure to include a link to Ridan with that post.

August 18, 2011 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger smcelrath said...

Great Post! As a writer trying to break into publishing, this is valuable information. As a Librarian in a middle school and alternative ed. high school, it is also helpful information. Right now--due to cuts in education in Michigan--we have less and less librarians and therefore a lot of the ordering is done through a vendor. At this point, they don't carry self-published books. I can order from Amazon, but I have to have the time to do so (which is becoming less and less as I get spread between more buildings.)

The vendor I use now offers ebooks, so we are moving that way, but education lags behind.

August 18, 2011 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Sierra Godfrey said...

One of the things it's really important to remember is that every author who has had success self publishing has worked their TAIL off at marketing-- and they've used innovative methods that take a lot of time. An incredible amount of time. Self publishing is not an easy ticket and you must market yourself accordingly.

Robin Sullivan's comment above doesn't mention how much effort she puts into marketing but I know she does, we talked about it. I was astounded by how much.

August 18, 2011 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

smcelrath--Libraries and schools are getting squeezed during this transition, because the tech hasn't caught up yet--and boards and committees are so very slow to act. Add the current anti-education, reverse-Robin Hood political climate and you've got a mess. I commend you for being there in the front lines. Can't be easy.

Sierra--Self publishers do need to work hard to self-market. But Big Sixers do too-and the pressure is much more intense, because they only have a few months to get big sales or their book is pulped and they may not get another chance. Self-pubbers can take their time.

Small presses like Robin's are a fantastic alternative. With a publisher like Ridan, you get better royalties, you stay in print longer, and you get Robin's tireless work on your behalf. I'd say her authors are a very lucky bunch.

August 19, 2011 at 10:13 AM  
Anonymous James Piper said...

Thanks for the post. Informative.

August 19, 2011 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Jason Stuart said...

Used you as a source for my follow-up post. Fine article you've done here.


August 19, 2011 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Lola X said...

Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

Lola x

August 20, 2011 at 5:39 AM  
Blogger Patricia Gligor said...

Fantastic post! So much valuable information; I saved it in my "Favs."

August 20, 2011 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...


Jason--thanks for the shout-out on your blog and best wishes on the launch of your new book.

Lola--your blog looks like a lot of fun, too.

Patricia--Love to be in that fav folder!

August 20, 2011 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Amish Stories said...

Id like to invite you folks to come to Amish Stories for a recipe for "Famous Pennsylvania Dutch Sticky Cinnamon Buns" along with a book signing schedule for Amish fiction writer Wanda Brunstetter for Pennsylvania and Ohio as well as a contest to meet her. I hope everyone so far is having a great weekend. Thanks everyone. Richard from Amish Stories.

August 21, 2011 at 7:18 AM  
Anonymous Phyllis Humphrey said...

What perfect timing. I had planned to do a tour this summer, up the West Coast, L.A., San Francisco, Portland, Seattle - visiting friends and relatives and calling the gas a writing expense. But then I got shot down. What's that saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans."?

So, instead, I wrote a series of six weekly blogs, started Monday the 22nd, about what I learned doing research for COLD APRIL, my Titanic love story. With the 100th anniversary of the sinking next April, I'm hoping other Titanic "buffs" like me, will click on my website www.phyllishumphrey.com and learn some fascinating stuff. No "pitching" -"just the facts, ma'am."

August 24, 2011 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

Anne - after three bathroom breaks, I finally finished reading this extremely comprehensive post! :)

Thanks so much for such a wonderful recap. I hadn't heard of BookBaby or David Gaughran's books, and I will check both out.

I think the advances in the self-publishing industry are fantastic - but are any of these big successes literary fiction or memoirs? It seems they are all genre fiction. Nothing wrong with genre fiction, but I haven't been convinced yet that self-publishing is right for everyone. If you don't plan to crank out two books a year to build your backlist (which is how most of the self-pubbed stars made their fortunes), it probably won't be as lucrative as landing a book deal with one of the Big 6. You said above that the avg advance for a Big 6 publisher is $5000, but I think that's closer to the avg for small presses. A writer I know recently sold her debut novel for $60k and was disappointed that she didn't get more. I'll take $60k with the Big 6 over Tweeting my fingers to the bone for a fraction of that (which is what my single memoir is likely to make since I have no backlist) any day.

I'm excited about all the new opportunities for emerging writers, but traditional publishing isn't dead - yet.

August 24, 2011 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger Cara Marsi said...

This is a great blog. Thank you. I'm saving this. I'm indie and traditionally pubbed. I love the freedom of indie publishing. I've been on the receiving end of some of those Amazon review trolls and it's not fun.

Thank you again.

August 25, 2011 at 6:17 AM  
Blogger Patricia said...

Great superb recap - one I'll save for when I decide which route to take. Loved it.

August 25, 2011 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meghan--You're right that these successes are NOT for literary fiction or literary memoir. The rules are different. As I said in response to your comment on the book tour post--hand-selling to academics on campuses is still very important for literary books. As for the advances, congrats to your friend. $60K is almost unheard of now. But that's probably a debut book. Authors who got $50 or $60K on their first are now getting under $10K on second and third. And most genre midlisters who used to get $30K or $40K per book are now getting 10% of that. Everything has changed in the past 3 years.

Cara--Indies get so much freedom authors haven't had before, but there are downsides. Like the troll problem.

Patti--Things will keep changing, so there may be very different options later down the road.

August 25, 2011 at 10:23 AM  
Anonymous M A Clarke Scott said...

Thanks, Anne for a terrific post. I'm late discovering it but your summary was most thorough. I learned about options I hadn't heard discussed elsewhere. It all helps toward the decision making process. Every writer has specific needs and it's important to know who you are, where your audience is, and what your comfort zone is regarding marketing and promotion, as well as your longer term career goals. This helps so much.


September 2, 2011 at 12:05 PM  
OpenID tamarapaulin said...

This may be my Confirmation Bias talking, since I just quit querying and decided to self-pub all my books, but terrific post! I'm linking it in my next "rah rah self-publishing" post.

September 12, 2011 at 4:18 PM  
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