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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, January 4, 2015

Why the Self-Published Ebook is No Longer the "New Query"

by Anne R. Allen

A few years ago, soon after the debut of the Kindle e-reader, the world was buzzing with talk of self-published "Kindle Millionaires" like Amanda Hocking and John Locke, and big publishers were beating a path to the doors of all the newly successful self-published ebook writers.

Even modestly successful self-publishers were being approached by agents with offers of representation. Agents were actually urging authors to self-publish, as in this quote from agent Jenny Bent from Sept 7, 2011, which I gleefully quoted on this blog.

"Unpublished authors, do you have a great book but can't find an agent? There's no excuse not to get that book out there independently and prove to yourself and to the world that there is an audience for your writing."

Soon after, as Ms. Bent said in an interview a few years later, an "industry" grew up of agents and publishers who approached Amazon bestsellers and offered them contracts. Some were more ethical than others, but many did get lucrative deals for their formerly self-pubbed clients.

That year, at the peak of "the EBook Revolution," Random House bought a self-pubbed book that became one of the bestsellers of all time, the notorious Fifty Shades of Grey

But four years is a long, long time in publishing years.

Since then, a number of things have altered the publishing landscape (yet again).

Update: When I wrote this post, I forgot that 90% of people never read to the end of a blogpost. There are many hopeful things at the end of this blogpost.

But now I'll add some here:

This is not the end of the indie revolution. Far from it. This is still a great time to be a self-published writer. If you WANT to be a self-published writer. The landscape is changing, but it has always been changing. Tomorrow a brand new retailer may spring up that offers us better deals and more money. I just heard from one today. Anything can happen.

But if you're hoping for a Big Five contract, self-publishers are not as welcomed as they were four years ago. And big, expensive self-publishing packages offered by vanity presses owned by the Big Five are not leading to many lucrative contracts.

If you're hoping for a contract from Amazon imprints, things may be different. I understand they are still offering deals to top selling indies. Amazon Imprints won't get you in bookstores, and may not impress your Great Aunt Susie as much as an offer from Random Penguin, but they will give you amazing perks and some of their authors are getting rich.

Here are some of the reasons self-publishers are no longer as appealing to the Big Five as they were in the early days of the "Kindle Revolution".

1) Many of the authors who made those big deals did not earn out their advances.

As agent Janet Reid says:

"If you dig beyond headlines and snakeoil blogs, you'll discover that a lot of the people who "got discovered" by self-pubbing have not gone on to stellar print careers."

The Big Five usually charge a whole lot more for the same ebook, so sales often plummet once a book goes from indie to trad. An ebook that zoomed to the top of the charts at $3.99 often comes to a screeching halt at $12.99.

Also, agents usually take a book out of circulation from the moment the deal is inked until a year or more later, in which time the book loses all momentum. If people do recall the title when it resurfaces, they'll remember it as old news.

2) Ebooks provide higher profits than print, and the ebook market for your title may be tapped out.

An ebook doesn't have to be printed, shipped or displayed in brick and mortar bookstores, and electrons don't cost a thing. That means the profit to be made with an ebook is a much higher percentage than for a hard copy.

An indie title that has sold millions in ebook form has probably raked in the biggest profits already.

Even if sales can be expected to be brisk in print, the bottom line isn't big enough to be worth the trouble for most publishers. Executives at the Big Five are loathe to put money into a print run for a book whose profits have peaked.

As agent Kristin Nelson said in November, "a St. Martin’s editor was willing to go on record to explain exactly why her house will no longer buy indie authors who have self-published ebooks that have gone on to be wildly successful. St. Martin’s claims their data shows that the ebook sales have already tapped out the market."

This hasn't always proved true, as in the case of Nelson's client Hugh Howey and his Sci-Fi novel Wool, which went on to sell millions in hard copy after his phenomenal self-publishing debut. But Howey is the exception rather than the rule.

Since super-agent Nelson is well known for getting some of the biggest traditional deals for former self-publishers, her words have weight. If she no longer can get the Big Five to look at self-pubbed titles, it's unlikely that other agents will be willing to try.

3) Some chain bookstores refuse to promote formerly self-published books

Nelson also says bookstores often refuse to promote former indies, even with an enticing "co-op" deal (that's when publishers pay to rent the real estate in the front of a store to promote certain titles. )

Kristin Nelson was  quoted in the Digital Reader, saying, "…even if a publisher buys a successful indie title intending to publish a trade paperback edition, and even if they’re willing to pay bookstore co-op, booksellers are reluctant to grant that title the physical retail space. They are simply turning down the co-op offer."

I don't know exactly why this is, but I have some theories.

By "chain bookstores" she may have meant Barnes and Noble specifically. B & N is a rival of Amazon, and they may see giving space to former indies as promoting Amazon, since indies generally make the majority of their sales on Amazon.

Or she may have been referring to the reputation indies have for producing unvetted work, including illegal, hardcore erotica.

After the big mess with illegal self-pubbed erotica making it into some of the big UK bookstores via Kobo in 2013, Kobo removed a huge number of indie books (both small press and self-pubbed.) Many of these books (like mine) didn't have a bit of sexual content, but Kobo's executives saw all small presses and self-publishers as suspect. (Kobo did eventually restore the majority of titles, but they took their time.)

UK bookstore chains like W.H. Smith and Waterstone's refused to carry any indie books after the scandal. I hear they are starting to restore a handful of very popular indie titles, but the big UK chains seem to continue to fear that indies will flood their websites with nasty stuff about getting it on with Bigfoot. 

4) E-readers are full. People are more selective about what they download, even if it's free.

In those heady days of 2008-2011, anybody could make a book free on Amazon and it could hit the bestseller lists without a bit of promotion. In fact, at the beginning, there was no freebie bestseller list. An unknown self-pubbed ebook like Elisa Lorello's Faking It could be "sold" as free in 2008 and make it to #1 in the whole Kindle store. (And Amazon soon scarfed it up for their own imprint.)

But even after the introduction of the "Free" list, it wasn't hard to make "bestseller" status. My first freebie put me in the top 1000 in literature and fiction, and I didn't even know about it. My publisher just put it free for a couple of days and there it was.

That was because e-readers were new and picking up new ebooks for them was fun. But now a lot of people (including me) have 200+ books on our Kindles, so we think twice about downloading new books, even if they're free.

As author/publisher Bob Mayer told the New York Times, "If you’re not an author with a slavish fan following, you’re in a lot of trouble. Everyone already has a ton of things on their Kindle they haven’t opened."

5) Amazon is no longer the indie playground it used to be

Amazon's algorithms no longer treat indies as equals with the same "also-boughts" and advantages they give their own growing list of imprints, so becoming a bestseller is a whole lot harder if you self-publish or go with a small press.

The Zon also requires that you stay exclusive with them in order to offer freebie runs and countdowns, plus the borrows everybody used to get with Amazon Prime. Plus borrows pay a lot less than they used to since Kindle Unlimited debuted last summer.

In fact, the Kindle Unlimited program has been mostly a disaster for authors. Borrows only get a payout if at least 10% of the book is read, and the payout amount decreases by the month.

Amazon has also started to offer big bonuses to the superstars at the top of their bestseller lists. Most of the stars are with Amazon imprints and other trad. publishers, so that hurts indie authors as well. The superstars get big monthly checks from the K.U. pot, so the pot shrinks for everybody else. Amazon has become a zero-sum game where a handful of winners take all. Even former megasellers like H.M. Ward have seen their incomes plummet by 75%.

As Mark Coker said on his blog in November:

"The gravy train of exponential sales growth is over. Indies have hit a brick wall and are scrambling to make sense of it. In recent weeks, for example, I’ve heard a number of indie authors report that their sales at Amazon dropped significantly since…Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited."

Why? Partly because Kindle Unlimited draws the readers who buy the most books and decreases the amount of money they spend. For a flat fee, they can read all the books they want. So somebody who used to spend thousands a year on books now only spends $10 a month.

Also, people in the program are more likely to choose expensive trad-pubbed books over the 99c-$4.99 indie book because it looks like more of a bargain.

For more on how K.U. has ended the "indie honeymoon" with Amazon, see Porter Anderson's piece at FutureBook , David Streitfeld's piece from last Sunday's New York Times and another on Friday, as well as Mike Shatzkin's Dec. 31st post in the Shatzkin Files.

All the big name authors' books available at bargain prices have had a huge impact, too, as Russell Blake said on his blog in December:

"The tried and true gambit most indies have been using, which is selling based on price, at .99 or $2.99 or $3.99 or $4.99, likely won’t work particularly well anymore. Because when you can buy Gone Girl for $2.99 and Connolly’s latest at $3.99, why would most readers buy your book at or around the same price?"

Another thing Amazon has removed recently is the nice button that allowed you to share your purchase on Twitter, FB, etc. Clicking on a button that said, "I just bought [title] by [author]" was a simple way for a reader to endorse a book. Now it's gone. One more way that Amazon is becoming less author-friendly.

6) Most of the "tried and true" techniques for marketing indie books are no longer effective

a) Trad-pub has taken over Bookbub. The bargain book newsletter which used to be the most effective marketing tool for indies is now often dominated by Amazon imprints and Big Five backlist titles at bargain basement prices. The prices for advertising in a Bookbub mailing have also gone through the roof, and it's so popular, very few books make the cut.

b) Freebies don't mean much anymore. One of the best marketing techniques for indies was the free book. But now that Kindles are full, most people aren't excited about getting another free book. As reviewer Ed Cyzewski said on his blog recently, "If you’re promoting a book, you need to keep this in mind: A FREE BOOK IS NO LONGER A TREAT." (Ed's caps.)

c) Social media has been spammed to death. Facebook has become pretty much useless for authors, since FB only shows your posts to about a tenth of your followers unless you pay extra. Plus so many writers post endless streams of Twitter spam that nobody pays attention to any of it. Some writers say they make sales through Pinterest, but even those are fading.

You Can Still Have a Career as an Author-preneur

I don't mean to discourage anybody who genuinely wants to self-publish. Many self-publishers are still doing well and much prefer having control of their own careers.

Self-publishing is here to stay.

It's also growing and changing. Ebook sales have stalled at about 25% of the market, but indies are finding better ways to distribute their paper books. A few months ago, indie superstar Barbara Freethy signed her own deal with the #1 US distributor Ingram to provide hard copies of her books for bookstores without going through a publisher

As Porter Anderson wrote at Thought Catalog, "If Ingram can translate what it’s doing for the big-selling Freethy into practical, actionable avenues to bookshops for more modestly producing self-publishers, a considerable shift might be in the offing."

Other indies are also doing well. Romance superstar Marie Force has made the NYT bestseller list 6 times with indie titles, and Brenna Aubrey, who turned down a six figure deal with trad publishing last year has had phenomenal success this year. It still does happen, especially for romance writers!

As Mark Coker said "If you publish for the right reasons and you adopt best practices that make your books more available and more desirable to readers, your future is as bright as your imagination."

But ebooks are no longer a novelty and the Amazon gravy train has left the station. Authors who want to make it as indies will have to use patience, well-placed advertising, and smart platform-building. Facebook and Twitter are no longer enough.

They will also do better with frequent launches of shorter books than a handful of long ones.

Most important: indies have to make their products available at as many retail sites as possible.  Even though K.U.'s policies hurt most authors, other subscription services like Scribd and Oyster pay full royalties for all borrows.

Authors will thrive if they think outside the Amazon box.

For a great overview of the post-K.U. ebook outlook, Jason Matthews has a thoughtful post at The Book Designer. And here's another from indie guru Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who reminds us that "the publishing business is about ups and downs, not a slowly upward trending line."

But if your ultimate goal is a Big 5 contract...

Self-publishing is not the best path for authors who hope to have a "hybrid" career with the Big 5. If you want some of your titles to be traditionally published, you'll be better off going with the trads first, which means starting by querying agents.

Some YA agents say they still do check Wattpad for superstars with an eye to signing them as clients. But Wattpad is a social network where people give away chapters of their books for free, not a self-publishing platform.

I recently read a blogpost by a self-publisher who used self-publishing as a kind of apprenticeship. She unpublished everything when she felt she was good enough to publish traditionally.

But in today's climate, I urge people like her who want a trad. career NOT to self-publish. Go the traditional route from the beginning. Don't put money into expensive cover design and marketing when you don't have a product that can compete with trad-pubbled titles. It's especially unwise to throw amateur work on Amazon with a homemade cover and no editing if you're hoping for a real writing career someday. Those things can lurk in dark corners of the Interwebz and come back to haunt you.

Put that energy into workshops and conferences and classes. The publishing business is for professionals, whether you self-publish or go traditional. Become one.

Mild self-publishing success will not work in your favor with agents. You need to first have a mega-seller, then query with another book (not in the same series.) Even then, agents will not be as interested as they were four years ago.

The new query is the old query. If you want a traditional or hybrid career, learn to write at a top-notch professional level, create a great book, and start the agent hunt anew. The best places to start hunting are QueryTracker and AgentQuery. The QueryShark archives can help you polish up that query.

If you're still on the fence about whether to self-publish or go the traditional route, here's a handy infographic to help you decide.

Next week:  we'll have a guest post from Agent Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary Agency talking about all the latest news in the agent business.

And as a special favor, Laurie McLean will accept queries from readers of this blog, even though she is closed to queries from the general public.

So what about you, Scriveners? If you're self-published, have you found that K.U. is cutting into your bottom line? If not, can you share your success story with us? Or are you pre-published and still hoping for that Big Five contract? Have you felt pressured to self-publish? Are you planning to query agents with your current work?


I have a new book! 

It's a collection of eight stories and eight verses, formerly only available in anthologies and hard to find literary journals. Some are award winners. All are kinda funny. 
Only 99c. 

I love the fun cover by designer Keri Knutson

99c on Amazon

Humorous portraits of rebellious women at various stages of their lives. From aging Betty Jo, who feels so invisible she contemplates robbing a bank, to neglected 10-year-old Maude, who turns to a fantasy Elvis for the love she's denied by her patrician family, to a bloodthirsty, Valley-Girl version of Madam Defarge, these women—young and old—are all rebelling against the stereotypes and traditional roles that hold them back. 

Which is, of course, why Grandma bought that car


VIGNETTE WRITERShere's a contest for you! The Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Contest. The prize is for a collection of vignettes and poetry up to 20,000 words. Fee $25.  Prize is $500, publication by Vine Leaves Press (paperback and eBook), 20 copies of the paperback, worldwide distribution, and promotion through the Vine Leaves and staff websites. It will be judged by an editor from Simon and Schuster. Deadline February 28, 2015.

THE MEADOW NOVELLA PRIZE $15 ENTRY FEE. The winner of the contest will receive $500 and publication in the annual print edition of the journal. Submissions should be between 18,000 and 35,000 words.  Deadline February 1, 2015.

Vestal Review Condensed Classics Anthology Call for submissions to an anthology of world classics condensed to 500 words or fewer. Submissions are still open for the new anthology edited by Mark Budman titled "Condensed to Flash: World Classics." Find specifics here and Scroll down to "Condensed to Flash" and check out the sub guidelines. The payment: $15 and a digital copy for an original story and $5 and a digital copy for a reprint. The deadline: January 31, 2015.

The M.M. Bennetts Prize for Historical fiction. $10 Entry fee. $500 prize for the best historical novel published in 2014. To be announced at the Historical Novel Society Conference in June in Deadline January 31st, 2015

Writer's Digest Short Short Story CompetitionFirst prize $3000. Top 25 will be published. Entry Fee $25. 1500 words or less. Deadline January 16th, 2015.

Prize is $250 and publication in Best New Writing to the best short fiction and creative nonfiction. Entries are limited to 500 words or less. Gover Prize winner and finalists will be published in the upcoming BNW edition. Deadline January 10th, 2015

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Blogger Greg Strandberg said...

It's a real shame everyone's just throwing in the towel and saying self-publishing is done. Or was there another message to this post? Won't find any of these doom and gloom, self-defeating and perhaps self-fulfilling prophecies on my site, and I'd encourage other serious authors to abstain as well.

January 4, 2015 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations, Anne!
That is one of the most interesting posts I've read in a while. And it all makes sense. I know a lot of self-published and small press authors who have seen their sales dip this year. Now I know why, and yes, mine dipped as well.
Some people rave about Wattpad, but it's not something I've ever seriously considered.
I didn't think it was doom and gloom. More go into it with your eyes open.

January 4, 2015 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne, thank you for a sensible and sober post. Publishing has been a gloom-and-doom business for as long as I can remember. "Returns are killing us." "Advances are too high." "Too many titles for the market to absorb." "Paper, printing and distributions costs are going through the roof." Etc, etc, blah, blah.

Bottom line: Plus ça change…

Or, as we say here in NYC, "So what else is new?" :-)

January 4, 2015 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Most interesting, Anne! I am particularly interested in your comments re Bookbub. I have a Bookbub ad going on Jan 14, for my fantasy trilogy. The ad is expensive ($300 for the item for sale at .99) and as I have a trad publisher, I will be splitting the royalties. At 15 cents a book, I figure I need 2000 sales just to break even. It's iffy! I'll share my experience with you, after the face.

January 4, 2015 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Dang! That should be 'after the fact." Curses.

January 4, 2015 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger The Hostess with the Mostest said...

Well Done!

January 4, 2015 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Anne, I add my thanks to those who've already posted. Your style alone removes any doom-n-gloom attitude that I've seen on other posts. This is just as Ruth said, sober and direct. Things have definitely changed. And in an odd way I feel better after reading it! The last few months I've definitely felt as if the marketing is scuffling, despite my best efforts and those of my friends. The tried and true is so yesterday now, you're right.
I was always a bit suspicious of freebies,I'm not sure they ever worked. To make you a "bestseller" in oxymoronic terms, maybe- but to get readers? As in, "I downloaded this book for free and then I READ it"? I have yet to hear a proven case of that. We need analytics to reach right inside the readers and track that, beyond the 30%- hey, not too creepy!
You really assured me that my failures in marketing are not all my own fault! Now I just have to find another motive, besides the ability to impose my own self-pub deadlines, to keep my writing moving forward. Somehow it HAS to matter. I'm still searching.

January 4, 2015 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Sasha A. Palmer said...

I didn't think this was gloomy at all.

This site is anything but discouraging. Always informative, balanced, and down to earth. It's complicated out there, and Anne and Ruth make it easier to navigate the whole writing/(self)publishing thing.

Thank you for the great post, and Happy 2015, everyone!

January 4, 2015 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Greg--I'm certainly not preaching doom and gloom! I know it's a long post, but it's best to read the whole thing before jumping to conclusions. I have a whole section titled, " You can Still Have a Career as an Author-preneur". I'm not telling people not to self-publish! I am telling them not to use self-publishing as a step to trad publishing!!!

January 4, 2015 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--Thanks. I'm not intrigued by Wattpad, although I did join it, But I think the authors who have the most success there write for teens.

Thanks for reading the whole post. This is not about doom and gloom. It's about not taking the wrong path to reach your own personal goals.

January 4, 2015 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--Exactly. Just because the Amazon gravy train has left the station doesn't mean you can't have a career as a self-publisher. You just have to open your eyes and pay attention to the changes.

But I want to tell newbies not to self-publish unless they want a self-publishing career. It's no longer a stepping-stone to the Big Five.

January 4, 2015 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melodie--Do please let us know how the Bookbub ad goes. As a trad-pubbed author, you're much more likely to be accepted at Bookbub, but that doesn't guarantee results. Good luck!

January 4, 2015 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melodie--I figured that out. :-)

January 4, 2015 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

The Hostess--Thanks!

January 4, 2015 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Patricia Lynne said...

I was getting tired of reading so many doom and gloom posts about publishing, so it was nice to read a post that was informative, but not attempting to quash my hopes and dreams. Thanks for the information.

January 4, 2015 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Will--Your "failures" in marketing are NOT your fault. It's just that what worked last month isn't as likely to work this month. Things are changing rapidly and Amazon's sudden changes affect us all.

I think free works some of the time. If you have a series, making the first book in the series (or a short prequel) can be a great hook to draw readers in. For me, the Amazon count-downs have had better results than freebie runs, but our last countdown netted a profit of less than $2. Yeah. The time before was over $300.

I like Kris Rusch's quote, "the publishing business is about ups and downs, not a slowly upward trending line."

January 4, 2015 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sasha--Thanks! I did not mean this to discourage indies. As I said above, "self-publishing is here to stay." Many, many authors are very happy as author-preneurs and will continue to be.

January 4, 2015 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Patricia--I'm so glad that you read far enough to see this is not meant to discourage anybody. It's meant to help people find the right path to fulfill their own dreams.

January 4, 2015 at 11:21 AM  
OpenID haydenthorne.com said...

It's always good to have a realistic view on things, and your post as well as Rusch's (I read hers a few days ago) are needed. One can't just dive into the pool with blinders on. It's one thing to encourage indie authors, it's another entirely to mislead them with promises of the moon when reality doesn't work that way. It's definitely a survival of the fittest situation now with the market maturing and adjusting accordingly, and that's always a good thing for those who're in it for the long haul and aren't out for a quick buck. It's also good for the readers, especially.

January 4, 2015 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

I'm going indie in 2015. It was a long-term decision, and I didn't just jump into it. I've been working on my writing skills, which included working on weak areas and shedding bad writing advice that was messing up my writing in major ways. If I spelled out the details, most people would wonder why I hadn't given up. But I really do enjoy writing and always have. That's why I want to go indie, because I can write as much as I want and write things that I want, and I want to write fulltime.

I haven't liked the trends in traditional publishing I've been seeing, like publishers wanting fresh and new, but it has to be like an existing book (how does that work?!). Add to that sending out queries for a year, hoping to find an agent, and running into agents who can't even get around to reading a full manuscript they requested. And none of this includes a book getting dropped because the editor leaves, or the marketing department decides they can't sell it. I won a painting as a prize from a series author. It was a good series, and by the time she sent the painting, the publisher had dropped the series.

Do the changes bother me? No. It's an opportunity. While the other writers are dropping out, I'm going to be moving in.

January 4, 2015 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hayden--We're at a point where there's a lot more money being made by selling products to authors than by the authors themselves. Authors who educate themselves aren't as likely to be scammed by the more predatory "author services providers".

What Ruth and I have always done on this blog is try to help new authors to keep their eyes open and protect themselves. (And Kris Rusch has too. Her advice is never influenced by hype.)

And thanks for bringing up readers. Our #1 obligation is always to them. A lot of not-ready-for-prime-time stuff has been put out there in the past 5 years. Maybe that will start to fade as people realize that good content is always the best marketing strategy.

January 4, 2015 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Congrats on making that decision. I always read your comments with interest and I can see you've got what it takes to be a self-publisher. You're certainly not going into this with pie-in-the-sky delusions.

I also admire your ability to take the advice you can use and disregard the rest. That's the mark of a mature writer who knows her own style and readership.

As I said, self-publishing is here to stay! Motivated, business-savvy authors can still build great careers by bypassing the trad-pub obstacle course and publishing themselves. Best of luck!

January 4, 2015 at 11:49 AM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Really great post and I'm glad your readers are taking it in the spirit in which it was given. It's best to know ALL the facts and there are tons of anecdotes out there I'll bet that will support what you're saying. BRAVA!

January 4, 2015 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Maia Sepp said...

Anne, interesting as always - and happy New Year!

I wanted to make a point I don't see being raised in these types of discussions: the bargain-basement pricing that Americans are now seeing in the Amazon.com store for tradpub heavy hitters is *not* being seen in at least some other territories.

I'm Canadian and shop via the Amazon.com store, but the low tradpub pricing in the Amazon top 100 list is not available to me (and, I suspect, people in other territories). "Unbroken," currently #5 on the Amazon Kindle top 100 at $4.99 is $13.68 for me on .com and and $13.99 CDN on the Amazon.ca store. Just an interesting tidbit. (And equally interesting, it's at #9 in the Canadian store, even at almost 3x the price).

January 4, 2015 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

My dinosaur-like behavior (of not getting enthused lo these many years about self-publishing my work) has put me - finally, for once - on the cutting edge! I continue to slog toward my goal of becoming traditionally published. Thanks for telling me (this once) that I might be doing the right thing.

Also, folks, I've had the good fortune of enjoying Anne's new collection, WHY GRANDMA BOUGHT THAT CAR. It's a great read that will inspire many a chuckle, while moving you to ponder some serious issues. And for ninety-nine cents it's a steal.

January 4, 2015 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--It's all about keeping our eyes open and watching for what is ahead. A writing career should be approached with the long term in mind.

January 4, 2015 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maia, Thanks for the reminder! Not only do we have to think outside the Amazon box, but we have to think outside the US-UK box.

There's a big English-reading market out there that doesn't get all these perks. Amazon countdown deals only apply to the US & UK. Ditto most freebie runs. And most of the Bookbub type bargain newsletters target US readers only. (An exception is EBUK Bargains UK.)

This is why diversity is going to be the key to future success. We need to get on retail sites like Kobo and use distributors like Smashwords and D2D so we can get into the smaller regional retailers that give good deals to ALL customers, not just a chosen few.

January 4, 2015 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--Ha indeed. As Ruth says, the more things change, the more they're the same. We seem to have come full circle. (Although the big change--the possibility of self-publishing--is here to stay.) The recent changes only apply to people who want a trad-pub career eventually.

Thanks much for the shout-out for WHY GRANDMA BOUGHT THAT CAR!!

January 4, 2015 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

Well poo! I wasn't logged in and lost my comment. Dang it. I had to clear out my cache earlier and that's what happens.

Enough of me whining. There was a lot to digest in this post, but I think we (most of us) saw it coming. I'm glad the post ended on an upbeat though. I wonder where the publishing world will be in a year...

January 4, 2015 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Southpaw--Sorry Blogger ate your comment. That happens to me too. Usually I'm signed in, but sometimes Google signs you out just to keep you on your toes. Or something. Only the Google gods know for sure.

I'm not willing to make any predictions for this year, except that staying diversified is likely to pay off. This isn't the end of indie publishing by a long shot. But we can't keep partying like it's 2009!

January 4, 2015 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Excellent insight, Anne. I think indies (like me) need to do it for the right reason. For me it was about creative control and getting on with life. But the top of our list must be to always, always write the best book possible. Then we edit it to death, then have it professionally edited, and then have a professional cover designed. In my opinion, those are a must. If you're in self publishing to get rich quick, you'll be disappointed. But if you indie publish to gain control of your career and have some fun with words, you'll be glad you took that leap.

Congratulations on your new release! LOVE the cover!

January 4, 2015 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Meg Wolfe said...

Hi Anne--just came up for air and for a look around the Internetz after being immersed for the past three months finishing and self-pubbing novel #2. Yikes! KU has everyone freaking. Free isn't what it used to be. Self-pubbing doesn't lead to trad pubbing. Mostly true, as far as I have seen. But for the newbie who isn't selling at a high price in the first place, all that is sort of a nice problem to have. My free days got my book in front of a lot of eyes, and borrows brought in more money than sales would have on novel #1. Getting in front of eyes and developing a following is a long game, and that's what it's going to take during the crawl up to Mid-Listdom.

Agree that Kris Rusch nailed it. Publishing is about the ups and downs. Fortunately, self-pubbing means flexibility, and while what works today might not in six months, we're free to try something new in six months. Or sooner.

Terrific post, and I'm going to follow the links for the other posts on this topic. Happy 2015 and hope it brings you good fortune and much happiness.

January 4, 2015 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--Creative control is a HUGE factor. 4 years ago I decided to go with a small press where they "got" my writing rather than accept an offer from an agent who wanted to edit all the comedy out of my work. No matter what happens in the future, I know I made the right decision. Only the individual author knows what that is. Sounds as if you're happy with your choice, too.

I'm glad you like the GRANDMA cover. I think Keri did a fabulous job!

January 4, 2015 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meg--Congrats on the new release!

KU can work in your favor, especially if you write shorter books.(I've got my new book in KU, so I'm not against using it.)

Now that you have book #2, running freebies on #1 will really pay off. Indies can still make good money. It's all about staying nimble.

January 4, 2015 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Thanks for the insight. I remain confused and undecided, however. Just my nature, I suppose. Or perhaps the nature of the industry? I'm back to querying agents and small houses who take un-agented queries. Why not? Who knows? Could work? Right?

I love the cover of your new book! Can't wait to read it!

January 4, 2015 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

I wasn't exactly uplifted by this post. :-) But as Mark Twain wrote: "It is always better to know than not know."

As many have said earlier: publishing has never been easy nor author-friendly. If you can be one of the first to find a "novel" approach to Indie publishing, you will flourish until everybody else stampedes along the same path.

Amazon has always been concerned about itself ... like any other business. They gave great beginning benefits for KDP publishing just like pushers give the first "taste" free.

Your new book of poetry sounds neat!! Highest sales with it. Roland

January 4, 2015 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger D.T. Krippene said...

A sobering, but necessary post. In the end, there is always room for a well written yarn, and a bit of persistence to get it out. Thanks Anne.

January 4, 2015 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for writing this article, Anne.
Seeking a literary agent is good advice, if you are an author residing in the United States. However, here in Canada (I've done a lot of research into it) a better route is having short stories published in literary journals. It's not an easier route but is the usual one.

January 4, 2015 at 5:14 PM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm published with three different small publishers but I've been hearing what you've said above from my friends who are self-pubbed. Their earnings have dropped from small to almost nothing. It's a tough business.

January 4, 2015 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

Interesting post with a lot to think about. I went to a conference about a year and a half ago and took a course saying exactly the opposite of this and yet I really think, if I went tomorrow, that same agent would be saying what your post says. E-books and self-publishing are here to stay. But as an "in" to traditional publishing, it's probably not the best option. Also, so true, e-readers are getting full. I am picky about which books I grab even if they are free now because they are not "free", they are taking up space and I need time to read them. As an aside, I've read a few self-published books that really were great.

Eh, who knows. Like you say, things change so quickly. But I think you're right on here. Congrats on your new book!

January 4, 2015 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--As Ruth said in her comment, this has *always* been the nature of the industry. There are no sure things. I'm glad you like Keri's cover!

January 4, 2015 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Roland---Oooh, I don't think I've seen anybody else compare the Mighty Zon to a drug pusher, but there's a certain amount of truth there. They do want to get us hooked, then slowly take away the perks.

Thanks. My little book has 8 stories and 8 short verses. Just a short, fun collection.

January 4, 2015 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

D.T.--I don't mean to discourage anybody. Just to open eyes. There's a lot of nonsense out there right now. But in the end it's always about patience and persistence.

January 4, 2015 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Leanne--It's not either/or. ANYBODY seeking representation in any country has a better chance if they've published first in journals and magazines. Querying agents without any pub credits is tougher, no matter where you live.

January 4, 2015 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susan--I'm with a small press, too. But small presses are also feeling the pinch. Everything is changing fast.

January 4, 2015 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--Absolutely: a year and a half ago the "Kindle Revolution" was still riding its first big wave. But Amazon changes so often that the disruption is constant. The industry has always been volatile, but it has never before been so controlled by one eccentric billionaire.

Lots of self-published books are as good or better than trad-pubbed. Some of the best writers in the world chose to leave the confines of trad pub and take their careers in their own hands. It has nothing to do with the quality of their work.

January 4, 2015 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

Wise words, Anne. Those who know and love your blog count on you for the truth, even when it hurts. This is one of those tough love messages. And once again you're right on the money. I've been hearing the same thing from my own sources in the industry. The honeymoon is over. That doesn't mean you can't still find success as an author, it just means the wheat is being culled from the chaff. Be the wheat, not the chaff. Write a kickass book. That's what it's always been about it, and what will always be.

January 5, 2015 at 4:27 AM  
OpenID augustmacgregor said...

Thanks for this great post! I've certainly missed the big rush of self publishing a few years ago, but I'm convinced that self publishing is still worth it. I'm not going to become rich within weeks, but I will be able to publish my stories, so that they're available to readers who want to connect with them. And that's completely worth the effort.

January 5, 2015 at 5:29 AM  
Blogger John Wiswell said...

Very good job covering the recent complications in the indie pub dream. I'm very curious about the B&N claims. Is there any evidence that leads people to the conclusion that they "may see giving space to former indies as promoting Amazon"? Or evidence that they've actively avoided giving titles that otherwise seemed as promising as the rest of their stock such space? I can see why we'd think B&N might want that, but haven't read incidents of it actually happening.

January 5, 2015 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eileen--Thanks. I don't think we'd be doing our job if we kept telling people everything is the same as it was a year ago. It may be a little harder, and we may have to be more creative in our marketing, but it's certainly still possible to find success as an indie.

January 5, 2015 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

August--Self-publishing is still a great option, as long as you go into it with your eyes open. If you have fantasies of a Big Five contract, it's not the best path, but otherwise, it's wide open.

January 5, 2015 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--I only know what Kristin Nelson said in that quote. It surprised me, which is why I included it, But I honestly don't know the reasoning of the "big chain stores" in turning down co-op for previously self-pubbed titles.

January 5, 2015 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger MikeAngelGumshoe said...

I read the whole article and while it's not exactly gloom and doom, it's not upbeat for Indies. That's my take. I'm doing my 4th Bookbub promo in a few days and I don't agree with your assessment of them. It's still a good, viable marketing approach that always yields a long tail run of sales in my series. Why anyone would want a trad publishing deal is beyond me. They suck. And why anyone would try to get a trad publishing deal by going indie is just as vacuous to me. While the "gravy train" might be over for some, for others of us who have seen gradual growth since 2010 or earlier, 2014 was our best year. Boolyah!

January 5, 2015 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

Don't I know that. Pushing for publication here in Costa Rica becomes even harder. It's a must (I think so) to have some experience before querying. Also, I believe blogging and certain activity in social networks is necessary.

January 5, 2015 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mike--If you're a happy indie, you can ignore this post. But I want to warn newbies that a lot of the hype they hear--especially from vanity presses--that self-publishing is the gateway to the Big Five is no longer true.

January 5, 2015 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

Thanks for the enlightening post! I have an interesting situation because here in Costa Rica, to publish locally it's evident that self-publishing or indie is the way to go, basically, the only way to go, but shooting towards a bigger, international market, the hunt for an agent is a must so it becomes harder. No one said it was easy anyways :). I for one prefer the traditional manner, call me old-fashioned.

Thanks again.

January 5, 2015 at 12:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bernardo--You know a whole lot more about publishing in Costa Rica than I do. I can imagine publishing in Costa Rica is an important step before getting a US agent, and if self-publishing is the only option there, then you have a special set of circumstances. I realize getting to the US market involves a lot more hassles for people outside the US.

You may have to use both self-publishing and querying to get into the US market. It will depend on your genre and the scope of your book.

January 5, 2015 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bernardo--I agree that no matter where you are, you do much better if you have some good publishing credits before querying. Guest blogposts count as credits with most agents these days. And a good social media platform is a big help, too.

January 5, 2015 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

As I hope you know, I admire you as a fiction writer, and appreciate the sound good sense that figures all the time in your blog. But: it strikes me as just a tad irritating when you caution writers not to self- publish "unless they want a self-publishing career." In a climate where most agents won't accept anything but e-queries, and (at least in my experience) almost never condescend to hit the "reply" key, I'm not sure the idea of choosing or not choosing to self-publish makes much sense.

January 5, 2015 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

My writing is basically stalled at the moment, mostly because real life has gotten in the way. The plan I do have, once I can get my life restructured and reorganized, was to self pub through Amazon (print) and Smashwords (e-book) and to take another stab at marketing.

At the moment, I only have two books out (one print/e-book and one just e-book) which isn't really much of anything to work with. Like I said, life has put a very severe cramp into my writing and who know if/when I'll be able to get my groove going again.

Father Nature's Corner

January 5, 2015 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G. B. Things may take a complete about face by next week. We never know what is going to send the industry into a tailspin next.

But for right now, I'd advise new authors to diversify. Smashwords is good because it can get you into places like Scribd and Oyster and foreign markets you can't reach otherwise. But you also want your ebook on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iTunes and if possible, GooglePlay. Amazon is still where most of us make the bulk of our sales. (although the sales aren't as bulky as they used to be for most of us.) My advice to any self-publisher is: get into as many markets as you can.

January 5, 2015 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--Finding an agent has always been a tedious slog, even when the queries went via snail and return mail brought a little slip of paper in your SASE that said "not right for us at this time."

But there are lots of small presses out there, so if you prefer not to self-publish, and you've exhausted the agent hunt (I sent out thousands of queries in my day), it would be worth your while to start investigating the smaller presses. I've been very happy with my small publisher and at the moment I have no agent.

January 5, 2015 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger J. R. Tomlin said...

"a) Trad-pub has taken over Bookbub. The bargain book newsletter which used to be the most effective marketing tool for indies is now often dominated by Amazon imprints and Big Five backlist titles at bargain basement prices. The prices for advertising in a Bookbub mailing have also gone through the roof, and it's so popular, very few books make the cut."

Bookbub is certainly more expensive. That is because it does a good job. As for 'taken over by Tradbooks', in that case it is odd one of my self-pub books was promoed at Christmas. And one at Thanksgiving. And one the month before that.

No, the day of making a living as an indie is a long way from over but then my goal was NEVER using my indie novels as a 'query'. Maybe if that is someone's goal, they should rethink.

Otherwise, I have to largely disagree with most of what you say here, Ruth.

January 5, 2015 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

J. R.--Thanks for your input. Ruth Harris didn't write this post. I did.

I hear writers complain all the time about how hard it is to get into BookBub. But if you've made it onto their list, good for you!

I didn't say anybody is not going to make a living as an indie. Do read my section with the header "You Can Still Have a Career as an Author-preneur."

You'll notice that most of what I've said here is supported by links to well-known people in the industry. Bob Mayer, Kris Rusch, Porter Anderson, Chuck Wendig, Mark Coker, Russell Blake, and many, many others have all said the same things.

January 5, 2015 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

I agree with you 100%. The self/indie publishing landscape is not the same as it was when we first started. And Amazon is NOT who they were either. But as they say business is business and Amazon is out to make money. Which is why I lasted about one cycle in the Select program 4 years ago and never looked back.

Mark Coker is right, diversification is the key. Another adage -- Don't put all your eggs into one basket. If you drop it, they there's a good chance they'll all break.

I always wanted a trad. pub contract, but now see no sense in it, other than to be able to tell all those people who look down their noses when I say I'm self-published that I'm with Trad Pub House in New York. However, even that prestige is wearing thin.

I think the key to success in any business is to have a good product, market appropriately, and just keep plugging along. After 5 years and 16 books, I'm finally starting to gain some traction in the markets. It's a nice feeling to be recognized. And to get a decent paycheck.

Happy New Year Anne and Ruth! Congratulations on both your new books!

And yay to me for finally figuring out how to comment on your blog.

January 6, 2015 at 3:01 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I self-published in 2008 with the idea that my book would sell big and I'd get an agent. I had queried the book and most agents thought it was too short so I thought I'd self-publish it instead and write another. I liked doing my own covers and thought it was only a matter of time before I snagged an agent. Ha. Seven years later, I've self-published other books, mostly novellas or short stories but have no more hope of getting an agent this way. I've also published with small presses. I have small sales of some of my books but I still hope to get an agent with my newest book (not self-published). I realize this is like finding a needle in a haystack that's disguised to look like straw but I keep trying. There is no right path for any author any longer and whatever path you choose to follow there is no one way, all roads lead to the same end: putting our books in the hands of readers.

January 6, 2015 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anne--Yay! I'm so glad you defeated the Blogger elves and found a way to post. I apologize for their unfriendly behavior.

In spite of all the snark I'm getting on other blogs and forums, I know very, very few indie and small-press authors who are doing as well as they were a year ago. Amazon used to do a lot of lovely things for indies they don't do any more. But as you say, it's their sandbox and they make the rules. And Amazon will probably always be our main source of income. But we can't count on it any more. So diversity is the key. I only made $3 on Kobo this month, but I can always hope....

Great news that plugging along is paying off for you now. A decent paycheck makes it all a whole lot easier.

Happy 2015 to you too!

January 6, 2015 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kathleen--Thanks much for weighing in. I really appreciate it. Some people don't seem to know how many authors share your experience.

Self-publishing can be lucrative and rewarding for some. But if you're not cut out to be a business person, the process can be a big, nasty slog. Only the authors know what path is right for them.

So I wish you the very best of luck in finding an agent. Do read Laurie McLean's post next Sunday. I think you'll find it hopeful.

Novellas and short story ebooks are much more popular now than 5 years ago. If you do get a trad-pubbed book out, I'll bet your other books will take off.

January 6, 2015 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Joylene Nowell Butler said...

My story is too long to repeat here, but let's just say your post is like food for this author. I doubt I'd ever self-publish again. It was quite a learning experience and did land me a publisher. Ah, for the golden years of the 40s when writers were considered gods. Thanks for visiting my blog, Anne. And thanks for summing up the S/P issues.

January 6, 2015 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Joylene--Thanks for visiting! I love the IWSG. Good for you for getting a publisher through self-publishing. It happened more a few years ago, but people tell me it still does happen--not with the Big Five, but with smaller presses and Amazon imprints. I'm happy with a small publisher because I'm happier as a team player than a lone entrepreneur. Self publishing is still a great route for some authors, though.

January 6, 2015 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Trisha Cronin said...

Thank you for (once again) sharing such helpful information. Right now I'm more in the 'getting competent at fiction' phase, but I've always been someone who thinks ahead. I worked in bookselling and publishing for twelve years, and it was always doom and gloom. I'm guessing it's that way in any business. Change is hard, but that's what life is about. In publishing, like any career, you need to be prepared to alter the way you do things based on current circumstances, then do it again in a couple of years (months? days?).

January 6, 2015 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Trisha--Exactly! As Ruth Harris says, "The more it changes, the more it stays the same". I'm sure the publishing business has always been about to collapse since Hammurabi wrote his first cuneiform tablet. The trick is to pay attention. Remember when writing chick lit and throwing a pink cover on it would guarantee success? Or every agent wanted sparkly teen vampires? This is an industry run by fashion. People who are "so five years ago" may run into trouble.

January 6, 2015 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Brenna Aubrey said...

I'm re-posting this comment I made at The Passive Voice since you haven't responded:

hey Anne,

Just want to correct a bit of information in your article where you state, “The really successful indies have no interest in traditional contracts.”…and then you go on to use both Marie Force and me as examples.

Marie Force is actually very happily traditionally published alongside her indie titles.

And I have never stated that I have no interest in traditional publishing. What I actually don’t have interest in is signing a contract full of draconian clauses that dictate my writing future and claim ownership of intellectual property beyond the rights signed over to the publisher. If an acceptable contract were offered to me, I just might be interested in a trad deal.

One thing I’ve learned in life (and in this business) is to never say never!

January 6, 2015 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Brenna--Thanks for the clarification! I guess there are fewer contented indies than I thought.

January 6, 2015 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Brenna Aubrey said...

Oh I'm perfectly content with where I am!! I just don't believe in resting on my laurels or ruling out options, that's all. :)

January 6, 2015 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Thanks for your reply. Of course you are right in noting that finding an agent has always been tough. But now, because of the sheer numbers seeking agents, the odds are approaching those in state lotteries. I'll follow your advice, and investigate small publishers.

January 6, 2015 at 3:14 PM  
OpenID dannyboystories said...

Hi, Anne: This Old Scribe (76) writes because I've been writing all my life. I publish because I think my "inspired by real events" stories, ca.1950's are more than just entertaining, and worthy of publishing...emphasis on worthy and well written. I'm currently working on my second full length book and have 10 novellas published, also combined in two collection volumes. I have no intention of ending it all...so to speak.

January 7, 2015 at 4:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Danny--It sounds as if you're a happy indie. You probably wouldn't want a Big Five contract even if it was special-delivered by the Random Penguin itself, so why would you consider suicide because that might not happen?

Do read the whole post, including the section "You Can Still Have a Career as an Author-preneur." This is a post warning people not to self-publish only because you believe that Random House will come knocking on the door.

It does not tell anybody not to self-publish. Many self-publishers are making very, very good money. I have several self-published books myself that are doing well.

But vanity presses that offer expensive self-publishing packages with the promise of Big Five contracts simply can't deliver. Self-publish with your eyes open, not dancing with Big 5 sugarplums.

January 7, 2015 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

Thanks for the perceptive and mind-boggling (if depressing) info. It's all seeming pretty hopeless unless you write romance. I think your new book sounds wonderful, and I wish I could get it at such a great price. You deserve a lot of support, considering all the support you give others.

January 7, 2015 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexa--Well, now Blogger ate *my* comment. It happens to all of us. :-)

Don't be depressed. There's still lots of hope for indies. It's just that the landscape has changed. And it will change again next week. New retailers are appearing all the time. I just heard from one that will allow you to sell books from your own website. Sounds very promising.

If you want a copy of my book and can't get it in Egypt (I guess the Zon doesn't sell in the Middle East) just contact me. I'll be happy to send you the file.

January 7, 2015 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Rosalyn said...

Such an interesting post! I decided to go traditional mostly because as an academic, a trad publication might count for tenure, but self publishing won't. Still waiting to see how it plays out, but I did just sign with a great agent, so I'm hopeful! I met him at a conference, but I did have offers from queries, so the traditional route does still work.

January 7, 2015 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Laurence O'Bryan said...

Wrong conclusion, Anne. Trad publishers have been ripping writers off for a long time.

Why don't you warn the authors you recommend to pursue a trad deal that only one in three hundred trad published books becomes a bestseller and that the vast majority of trad published authors are paid poorly and get dropped within a few years.

Please be honest about trad publishing. Authors need to edit, edit, edit, work hard at their profession and get marketing on the new sites like GoodReads, BooksGoSocial and ALiA. Forget the siren voices!

January 7, 2015 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Laurence--I am NOT recommending either path to publication. I am saying IF you want a Big 5 contract, self publishing is not the best route to reach your goal

If you're a happy indie, please stay that way.

I did not say any of those other things you bring up in this post for the same reason I didn't talk about bladder control, global warming, or the heartbreak of psoriasis. They are not the subjects of this post.

I am giving the latest information from the tradpub front so people can make an informed choice.

A lot of vanity publishers are telling authors that expensive self-publishing packages will lead to Big Five contracts. I'm saying that is unlikely.

I have no interest in how anybody chooses to publish. I am published by a small press and I'm also self-published. I don't need everybody to copy me in order to feel validated.

BTW, I do not recommend that any author market on Goodreads. It is a site for READERS, not authors.

Ruth and I have many, many posts on marketing and how to use social media. For a more in-depth look at both publishing paths, please see my book. HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE, written with Amazon #1 seller, Catherine Ryan Hyde.

January 7, 2015 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rosalyn--I never thought of tenure being a motivation for trad publishing, but of course you would want to pursue the trad route if you're in academia. It's a very conservative culture. Congrats to you on signing with a great agent!

Conferences can be goldmines for networking. I know of many agents who only take queries from authors they meet at conferences.

Thanks for letting us know the trad route still works for people who want a trad contract!

January 7, 2015 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger Ernie J. Zelinski said...

"Authors will thrive if they think outside the Amazon box."

Heck, I have been thinking outside the Amazon box since 1989 when I self-published my first book. But thinking outside the Amazon box to me also means doing things related to Amazon that 99 percent of authors would never think of.

Not only should authors think outside the Amazon box, authors should think of marketing their books in ways that all other authors would never think of. This quotation definitely applies.

"Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day,
something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else
would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually
be part of unanimity."
— Christopher Morley

I have done many things that others authors are not silly enough to do. The problem with most writers is that they think of themselves as special creative beings. Fact is, they aren't close to being creative. Plain and simple, if they were that creative, they would think of many totally unique ways of marketing their books that no one else is using. I love this quotation that Dr Wayne Dyer (an international best-selling author with millions of copies of his books sold) used on one of his blog posts recently:

"He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt.
He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord
would have been enough."
— Albert Einstein

Fact is, there are many creative ways to market books that are much more effective than the trendy things such as social media and Kindle Unlimited. I have at least 50 to 100 original creative techniques that I have used over the years to sell over 850,000 copies of my books (mainly self-published). I have used similar unique marketing techniques to get 111 books deals with various foreign publishers around the world. My books are now published in 22 languages in 29 different countries.

Incidentally, even though I have 50 to 100 unique ways to market my books, in the last two weeks I just thought of another one. It entails something I will be doing by attending the San Francisco Writers Conference in February.

Ernie J. Zelinski
The Prosperity Guy
“Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
(Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
(Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

January 11, 2015 at 2:43 AM  
Blogger Laurisa White Reyes said...

I have been querying agents for 9 years with 5 different manuscripts. I've had 3 published with small presses, which has resulted in zero income. I've put years and tens of thousands of dollars into conferences, platform building, marketing my existing books, etc with literally nothing to show for it. I am in the process now of self publishing a book because I like it and want to get it out into the world. In truth, I am beyond disillusioned by the entire writing/publishing industry. Writers put in the bulk of the work in producing a book and yet most get little or nothing in return for our efforts. I keep trying, but it's extremely frustrating.

January 11, 2015 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger Laurisa White Reyes said...

But do you write non-fiction How To books. Fiction seems like a black hole. I am beginning to realize that to write fiction has to be a labor of love because it is very unlikely most SP fiction authors will really earn much of anything.

January 11, 2015 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ernie--I'm not sure the old cliche about thinking outside the box applies to a time when there was no box. :-) But good for you. Sounds like you're a true "happy indie."

Later today, we'll feature a post by agent Laurie McLean, who's a founder of the San Francisco Writer's Conference. I'm sure she'd agree that going to her conference is a wise move.

January 11, 2015 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Laurisa--I feel your pain. Literally. Like a lot of writers, I've seen my income fall off a cliff recently. That's for both my traditionally and self-published books.

But when one door closes, another opens. I think there will be new and different opportunities for self-publishing in the next year or so. The way to keep from getting discouraged is to remember that nothing is constant but change. When you run into trouble is when you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Best of luck with your self-publishing venture. The one thing about self-publishing, is you have control. You can always try new things. .

January 11, 2015 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

Great post! I'm leaning more towards an agent given the fact that I'm outside the US. The indie publisher would be for a local book I want to publish here in Costa Rica next year

January 11, 2015 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bernardo--It sounds as if you're planning your career well.

January 11, 2015 at 4:46 PM  
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October 4, 2015 at 3:28 AM  

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