Self Publishing: the Conversations in Romance

Love Me, Love My Man Titty First up: the link that sent listservs on fire and had everyone pulling that old manuscript out from under the bed. Bella Andre, kicking ass and taking names.

I wish the headline were a little less “Anyone can do this!” because I don’t necessarily believe that anyone can make a $100,000-go at digital self publishing. I think Bella Andre was a perfect example of Seneca’s definition of luck: when preparation meets opportunity. It’s not as if it’s as simple as tossing your self published work up on the wall and having spaghetti and hundred dollar bills rain down on you – but regardless it is an epic opportunity for those with the preparation and the opportunity. Way to go, Ms. Andre. Go on with your bad self.

So we know that money can be made by some – but what else don’t we know? A lot, according to Jennifer Crusie and Barbara Samuels.

To add to the conversations happening in other genres, Cruise and Samuels are talking digital self publishing (which I tend to call DSP) in a two part blog conversation this week.

Jenny: So now all of a sudden, e-publishing isn’t just viable, it’s taking over the place. Half of the sales of my first week hardcover sales were e-sales. That settled down to about 20% later, but that’s still a huge chunk. We were surprised (g).
Barbara: That’s an amazing percentage, and illustrates how fast things are changing.
Jenny: The thing is, we still don’t know if those who bought the e-version that first week are people who dropped the hardcover purchase to buy, or people who would have bought the paperback and went for the lower price, or people who just like e-books. Which is why this so fascinating. NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.
Barbara: Absolutely. Nobody knows ANYTHING. Which makes it all terrifying and scary and exciting and confusing, especially for people who have been in the business a long time and don’t have any other marketable skills.

Oh, the opportunities, the possibilities. There’s a lot of options – and a lot of scary potential for not as much of a success as has been reported by so many.

So here’s my question: have you thought about digitally self publishing? Do you have a book with rights reverted or a book you couldn’t sell that you’re thinking would be a good test case for self publishing? Readers, are you finding more self-published books by romance authors that you love?

 

Categorized:

The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Josie says:

    A couple of things.

    First, I am not crazy about reading on my e-reader. It has its uses, and it can be convenient, but I infinitely prefer reading a book.

    More importantly, I am leery of self-published books. I picked up one that was so riddled with typos and other errors that I couldn’t get past the first chapter. Another was so bad I felt as if the author should have paid me to read it.

    I’m all for backlist from authors I know and love, but it’s going to take word of mouth from people whose taste I trust before I try another unknown.

  2. 2
    Amber Shah says:

    I think Bella Andre is such a great poster child for self-pub, especially within the romance genre. Her stuff is well (enough) edited and the titles/covers are great. And I’ve seen her on forums being friendly but never spammy. I mean, geez, I’ve seen tons of digitally “published” stuff that is wayyy less professional. I just want to say: authors, self-pub or otherwise, take notes!

    As for me, I am writing mostly for fun, so certain considerations don’t come into play (ie. how much money you have to spend/make). So, I will try with a “traditional” publisher, but only the select few I would really like to work with. If that doesn’t work, I’ll either self-pub or just put it out for free. But when I look at some of the poor editing and crappy covers that come out of certain (but not all, of course) indie pub shops, then I know I can do it better myself!

  3. 3
    EC Spurlock says:

    I think if you’re an already published author looking to republish reverted titles from your backlist, that’s a win-win; your readers get to enjoy books they otherwise would never have found, and you get to profit from that loyalty.

    But if you’re an unknown newbie who keeps getting turned down by publishing houses and instead of looking at WHY you are getting rejections, you think, “What do THEY know? I’ll just publish it myself!”—that to me is just plain arrogance.

  4. 4
    Lynn M says:

    I’m not naive enough to think that self-publishing is the way to instant success as a writer, but I admit that this article and Bella Andre’s success do give me a spark of hope.

    I’m a writer who knows too much for her own good. I read so much about how hard it is to break into traditional publishing, and that even if you do manage to land a contract, the odds of ending up in midlist hell and then being dropped are pretty high. For me, I find the whole prospect paralyzing, and it keeps me from writing. I end p with a why-bother? attitude. Because as much as I do write because I love to tell stories, if I never actually share them with anyone I might as well be single-handedly clapping in the empty woods. Communication is a two way street.

    But it’s kind of reassuring – and liberating – to think that e-publishing is a safety net or back-up option of sorts. If I work hard, polish my stuff until I can’t polish it any better, and then give traditional publishing a try with no success, there is still an open door. No, it might not lead to JK Rowling levels of success, fame and fortune. And yes, any rejections must be studied and digested for the truthful criticisms they offer. But self-pubbing is a way to share stories that would otherwise never get read past my immediate family.

  5. 5
    Jen G. says:

    I love Bella Andre’s works and had no idea they were self-published.  All I knew is that they’re good.  I agree that self-publishing is only viable if you’ve got a product worth buying.

  6. 6

    I am similarly shocked.
    I put a book up on Amazon. I had used it for prizes, giveaways and such, and I serialized it in my newsletter. A personal favourite, but I’d never sent it to a publisher. So it had been around. A Regency, never a huge seller for me. But I thought I’d put it out there for anyone who wanted it.
    I got a cheque last week. Wow. I have another book on my hard drive. I got the rights back from a previous publisher when it closed. I am so finding the time to put that one up.
    It was a bit of a pain, working out how to do it, and I only did it because I wanted to see what happened. Well, now I know and I’m planning to do it some more.
    If I did this seriously, it would be great to have an editing and formatting service, maybe one that could also provide cover art. Just a thought.

  7. 7

    I believe an author is more likely to be successful in self-publishing if he/she has previous experience in the publishing world (or, like HP Mallory, professional experience in Marketing). I think one reason Bella is so successful is that she was already a professional author before she started self-publishing, meaning that she knew how to write a “complete” book (a lot of unpublished authors can manage a polished first three chapters for a contest entry, but then the book falls apart), that she’d been through the content and copy-editing process, and also had experience in marketing and promoting her books. This isn’t to say that an author who hasn’t been traditionally published before can’t do very well in self-publishing; I just think it’s less likely because it takes practical experience to learn how to be published. I hope that makes some kind of sense.

    It also doesn’t hurt if you’ve developed a following of readers who love your work. Even midlist authors who get dropped by their publishers because their print sales are flat or declining often have thousands of fans who will buy each and every book they write, regardless of who publishes it.

    I personally feel that I don’t have the kind of name recognition or following that it would take to be successful at a Bella Andre or Julianne MacLean level (hello, her self-published book has sold like GANGBUSTERS), which means I’m still in the market for a traditional publisher, either print or digital or both, to help me get that following. I have self-published a short story (that was also in a print anthology and thus had already been professionally edited, saving me that cost), and while I’ve been incredibly pleased by the number of sales I’ve made since I put it up in January (I must be closing in on the 750 total mark right now), at 99 cents it’s not going to make me rich and it’s certainly not going to make me famous. That said, it serves a purpose in that it gives readers a story of mine to try on the cheap before buying my longer/pricier titles.

    At the moment, I’m working on titles I hope to sell to major publishers. But one wonderful thing about self-publishing is that, if these manuscripts aren’t picked up by a publisher, I don’t have to shove them under the bed to gather dust; I can publish them myself. What I have to weigh in making that decision is whether I think the publisher didn’t want to buy the book because it doesn’t quite fit into their marketing plans and imprints, or whether it genuinely sucks and isn’t publishable. But I think by now, I know the difference between a bad book and a “we didn’t love it enough” book.

  8. 8

    I’ve been watching Bella’s career with green appreciation for years—ever since I saw her written up in our alumni mag. She’s been in epub (EC) and print pub, now a huge producer in indie pub. I find her inspiring.

    I’ve gone indie this year after years of being in RWA. I love it. I’m new, and who knows what will come of it, but I’ve hired freelance editors and I’ve got readers and all I know about the future is that I will continue to write. Indie or under contract, who knows, but I’ll continue to write.

    As a reader, I’m still hooked on paperbacks and hardcovers from big houses. I’m picky. I just stayed up late reading SEP’s Call Me Irresistible and I’m in awe of the complexity, sophistication, mastery of craft that she has. I can’t control the big world out there, but I can read and work harder, improve my own books, work some more.

    One reason I went indie is that a straight (pun intended) contemporary romance just isn’t very hot right now for a debut author. Romantic comedies, chick lit, western romances, and other niche subgenres that aren’t being gobbled up by NY are finding their audiences online. Find your tribe, don’t try to please everyone: these are the advantages of small epub (either self or other.)

  9. 9
    ZoeG says:

    I’m giving the option to self-pub careful consideration. Self-pub has advantages but, as someone who’s been traditionally published (in non-fiction), I know the value a good publishing house brings to an author in terms of editing, design, and promotion. And an advance. I like money in my pocket up front.

    If I opt to self-pub,  a lot more work is placed on my shoulders like finding competent and affordable editors, layout/cover design, marketing and promotion. All these things take away from the time I have to write; is it worth it to go DIY publishing? I’m not sure. I like the idea of getting my work to market faster, being able to track real-time sales, putting money directly into my pocket with each sale, and having some control editorial and design. I want to put out quality work; I’m not sure I can do that on my own.

    Bella Andre-level success is to be celebrated but it’s not the norm for the vast majority of self-pubbed writers. It is exciting that it’s becoming a more respected (and viable option), though, and that’s part of the allure.

    As a reader, I am finding a few self-pub romance writers I enjoy. However, I’ve read far more self-pub writers that were just… bad.

  10. 10
    dm says:

    But if you’re an unknown newbie who keeps getting turned down by publishing houses and instead of looking at WHY you are getting rejections, you think, “What do THEY know? I’ll just publish it myself!”—that to me is just plain arrogance.

    I’m not sure if it’s arrogance—I think it’s ignorance. A lot of self-pubbed authors really believe their work is ready for publication. Many of them don’t have the skills yet to recognize the difference between their work and what is currently on the shelves. These folks are hurt by the self-publishing game, because they gain a false sense of accomplishment from being “published,” and never produce the level of work they might.

    But the folks who will be winners in this game are the authors who are totally ready to go pro, but whose work is ahead of the editorial curve. Genre fiction publishers are playing a numbers game that requires them to play it safe. They know what has sold in the past, so they bring out more of it. They know there are certain tropes that will turn segments of the market off—unpopular (for now) settings or professions or character types. They are much likelier to publish an undistinguished Regency scandal book than a breakout Civil War romance, because they know the Regency book, if marketed like all other Regencies, given the right cover and a familiar sounding title, will sell just fine. Whereas the stay-up-all-night book with less popular elements might be a runaway bestseller, or might tank.

    This is where self-publishing authors can win big, because they can bring out books that aren’t on-trend, and tap into new markets that just might be the next big thing. The problem, of course, is knowing into which camp you fall.

  11. 11
    Las says:

    The few self-pubbed I bought from smashwords were disasters in all sorts of ways, but that’s not the reason I don’t buy self-pub. I just don’t now how to look for them. There are way too many options out there and it seems impossible to find ones that sound appealing. Unless a new-to-me author is getting tons of buzz (I’ll be checking out Bella Andre’s books as soon as I post this), or it’s an already loved author’s backlist, I won’t even try.

    And, after typing out that paragraph, I realize that the same can be said about trad-pubbed books. I’ve lost my book-browsing mojo and have no idea how to get it back. I still try with trad since I theoretically know where to look, but self-pub just feels too daunting.

  12. 12
    Joy says:

    Yes, I have considered it.  I am helping 2 friends (one previously published material, the other not, but both experienced writers) self-publish.  Once I actually finish writing the book, I’ll decide what to do with it but self-pub is not out of the question.  After seeing what my friends are going through,  I have a good idea of the kind of work involved.

  13. 13
    Kate Pearce says:

    I think Bella was successful because she a) writes awesome books, b) already had a following and a brand and c) did all the right things (quality editing, covers etc etc) to make her self-pubished books stand out and be readable.

    I self published a short story last year just as an experiment and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the experience. At 99c and parked midway romance-wise between my more erotic and my steamy historicals, it has encouraged new readers to try me out and sold regularly all year (on the kindle mainly although the B&N sales are increasing). I think it sells because its visible in my list of titles and cheap enough for readers to see if they like me before committing to mass market or Trade prices.
    I’m planning on publishing another longer work this summer and I’m currently working with an editor and a cover artist to get that into shape.

  14. 14
    Sharon says:

    I am optimistically watching the self/e-pubbing industry. Like too many other readers, I’ve had more than enough bad experiences to turn me off for a long time. However, I want to be able to approach self/e-pubbed books with the same confidence I’ve approached traditionally published books in the past. Unfortunately, it seems that I’m being given more reasons to lose confidence in traditional publishers while also NOT being given more reasons to trust e-publishing. Traditionally published authors are too often sinking to the lowest practices of the worst of the self-pubbed writers—and traditional publishers have turned into weenies. They don’t take chances, they don’t spend time nurturing new authors, they’ve all caught the me-too disease, like so many other industries.

    The loss of brick-and-mortar bookstores left me in the dark as far as locating good books, no matter how they’re published. I would love to see more small bookstores with e-book sales options (Green Apple does this in SF, although not for Kindle because Amazon sucks). To be able to physically browse titles in a bookstore setting, chat with booksellers and other readers about them, and then immediately e-purchase is a best-scenario option, IMO, from a reader’s perspective—and, I think, from a writer’s perspective.

    Readers are looking for an independent, objective venue in which to browse, discuss, discover and purchase books. That pretty much no longer exists, either.

    It’s not the electronic book format that’s the problem—it’s losing the traditional publishing process and the traditional purchasing process that’s killing the industry.

  15. 15
    Meggrs says:

    I agree with the posters above who pointed out a couple of things about Bella Andre’s success: brand establishment and a successful history of print pubbing.

    B.A. didn’t come out of nowhere. As has been mentioned, she pubbed with EC, she’s worked through several contracts, and she’s built a brand and a name. I read the article, and noted in particular that she has spent her career working hard to stay connected with her readers, and originally used self-pubbing of her backlist titles (which had reverted to her) as an experiment. When it was a successful one, she pushed further and put out a sequel to her most successful trad. pubbed title, all the while reaching out to her established readers and keeping them in the fold as to what she was doing.

    I think it’s important to make this distinction. Jenny and Barbara made this point in their well-reasoned discussion on indie pubbing as the new frontier—yes, it can be tremendously successful, but as Jenny cautioned, she’s worried about new writers not understanding all the groundwork, history, and brand-building that went into making this a successful venture.

    Again, NO ONE KNOWS what’s happening, and I think there are many reasons to be positive and excited. From a reader’s perspective? I’m wary. I know to look for publisher info now when I’m browsing e-books, but that’s not something the majority of readers are doing—yet. And as a writer AND a consumer, the idea of being flooded with a ton of poorly written or poorly edited stories just because self-pubbing technology is all the rage is a little exhausting. I want to find quality work, and I don’t want it to be a hassle.

  16. 16
    SAM I Was, SAH I Am now.. says:

    As a reader only.. I don’t look or even care who is publishing books. Self or big house, doesn’t matter to me as long as the story is there. I haven’t been in an actually book store in forever. I buy all my books e or dtb online. All on word of mouth OR because it pops up as a ‘you bought this.. check this out” kinda of thing.

    And small mistakes don’t bother me. I’ve read numerous paperback books with spelling, wrong name (Unveiled by Country Milan had this happen in like the first 55 pages) that I’ve learned to roll my eyes and keep reading. I view books that I know are newly self published as I would listening to an unknown band at my favorite bar. Yeah, they might make some mistakes but as long as the talent is there under it, I’m going come back again to see if the next time is a little more polished.

  17. 17
    Diane V says:

    Who I’d like to see follow in Bella Andre’s footsteps…Gennita Low with her book about Alex and T that the publisher wasn’t interested in publishing despite the fans’ demand for it.

    My code for spam “probably75” which hopefully doesn’t mean I’ll probably be 75 years old before I get to read Alex and T’s story.

  18. 18

    I’m seriously considering self-publishing a short story about my main series characters. I am published as a crime fiction author, but this would be straight-up romance-with-problems, not a mystery. It wouldn’t fit into a mystery short-story collection because of the lack of crime and the fact that I tend to write long – it’s shaping up to be more of a novelette. It wouldn’t work in a romance anthology because it’s about an already-established couple.

    The thing that’s held me back is the time I’d have to invest figuring out how to do the layout, formatting, etc. However, my daughter-the-aspiring-librarian is home for the summer, so perhaps I can set her to the task.

  19. 19
    biteythingy says:

    St Martin’s has some of the worse edited, badly cobbled together, (missing pages and repeated pages!!!!) books I’ve ever seen.  Just check out the last four of Lora Leigh’s Bound Heart series.  My ebooks have been well edited on the whole except for anything on Wattpad.  I love Smashwords and Feedbooks.  I now only buy authors I know in paper or hardback, especially if I already own the rest of the series.  But new authors, I’ll check out any one if the story looks interesting and it’s free or at a low price point.  Then, if I like them, I’ll buy more of their work.  No way am I paying the same price for an e-book, I pay for the paperback.  That’s crazy.

  20. 20
    Lisa K says:

    I had a short story that won a contest sitting on my hard drive, and I thought I would learn by jumping into the self-publishing pond.

    Since my story was 26 pages long it was too long for most anthologies, and too short for a novella.  Seemed like a perfect fit for a .99 single.

    First lesson learned was that self-publishing is HARD! LOL

    I labored over cover art and editing.  Thank god for an amazing crit group who helped me polish the book.  I didn’t want to put something up with mistakes and edit-hungry sentences.

    Then you finally format, put the book up for Kindle and all the other formats, then realize no one knwos it exists yet! LOL Whoops!  Goodreads has been a HUGE help and Book Bloggers ROCK!!!

    I’m glad I took the plunge.  Even though a .99 story hasn’t made me rich, it has gotten my name out there with book bloggers and readers so hopefully when my novel is published there might be a readership hungry for it…

    Self-Publishing won’t instantly make you rich, but if you’ve got an “out of the box” project it might be worth having it edited and giving self-publishing a whirl…

    Lisa

  21. 21
    Michele says:

    Another reader chiming in.  I am also on the only-buy-ebooks-from-authors-I-know bandwagon.  Two reasons for this- the limited number of ebooks I can get through the library (so trying out new authors can be difficult) and the inability to use my rewards dollars/discounts towards an ebook like I can towards a paperback.  The system as it’s set up (the Big SIx)  in inherently unfair to the reader.  I only put books on my reader that I absolutely must have because I know it’s an author I can rely on.  It’s easier (and cheaper) for me to take a chance on an author in mmpb, because I can always trade it away if I didn’t care for it through an online bookswap.

  22. 22
    shiloh says:

    I’ve got three out, with a fourth releasing next week. 

    One has done really, really well-stayed in the top 100 of erotic books on Amazon from November through sometime in April. 

    One was…pfft.  The third? Eh.  I earned out the money I spent on it to begin with and it’s still selling. 

    It’s a gamble, though, and one that requires a heck of a lot of work.

  23. 23

    Within the next week or so I’ll self-publish my debut romantic suspense novel “Shadowed Hearts Surrender” on Kindle, so this article is pretty timely for me.  I don’t blame readers for being upset over typos, etc. in self-published books. Once you put a price tag on it and someone pays, it transitions from a hobby into a business and should be treated as such! But I hope readers will continue giving self-pubbed authors a chance. I planned on having my book on Kindle a week ago, but I’m still doing a final polishing for any missed typos. Readers deserve the best I can serve up! I’m sure, as more authors realize how truly viable the self-publishing business is becoming, the quality of editing will go up. Please support both traditional and self-pubbed authors! Thanks! :-D

  24. 24

    I don’t have an e reader but am definitely thinking of putting my work on Kindle.  The querying thing is just so dispiriting and even if someone bites, it is a year til it’s on the shelves.  Comments like Lynne Connelly’s convince me, but as she states, the process seems a bit daunting.  I put up a survey type blog in a few places so I’ll let you know if I get any feedback.

  25. 25
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    I love my Kindle so much that my husband is starting to get jealous. I would so much rather buy an e-book than a print book. I can start reading it right away; I don’t have to worry about buying more bookshelves; if the book has a raunchy cover, I don’t have to be embarrassed; and nobody knows whether I’m doing homework or reading erotica, checking my email or finishing a crossword.

    As for what I buy, I often get the free books (public domain as well as just the freebies they sometimes have). Usually, the freebies are crap, but I’ve found a few that have rocked my socks, and in several cases, I’ve bought paid e-books by the same author. Just this morning, I happily paid $10 for the sequel to a book that I got for free a few weeks ago. Same with the $.99 books; as long as they don’t completely suck, I’m happy. I have bought so many more books since I got the Kindle; I can easily believe that e-books are going to dominate the marketplace.

  26. 26

    This is not a put down for those who self-publish, but I always shy away from self-published books because I feel that the only reason the author self published was because traditional publishing houses thought it was a bad book. However, a lot of popular African-American authors got their start that way and they weren’t turned down, necessarily, because it was a badly written book.

    I don’t have an e-reader but I did download adobe digital on my netbook. I prefer traditional books but I’m not anti e-readers though.

  27. 27
    Deb Kinnard says:

    I admit the idea of self-pubbing one of my “unsellable” novels tempts me. Now, my market (Christian romance) has more parameters than fleas on a stray, so one author’s instant success might be called unmarketable for me. That said, I have one or two stories I love that my agent won’t touch due to subject matter (there’s some marital sex in one of them, and in the other, the hero is divorced). So if I go this route, it’ll be under a pen name. It does tempt me, though.

    Does that make me baaad? Wow, I hope so.

    Captcha is “man52”. No, actually my hero’s closer to 30.

  28. 28
    Gennita Low says:

    I released my self-pub, Big Bad Wolf, into Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords early this year and it’s been selling steadily. It’s been a plus to my tight finances, so I’m planning to put up my two SEAL books whose rights I’ve gotten back because SEAL books are hot now :-D. I had planned on re-adding some edited scenes in The Protector first, but now, maybe not so much rewriting because I want them available ASAP.

  29. 29

    I think it’s great that Belle Andre and all these others have made a success of it. But like the article said, they’re outliers in the trend. They aren’t the norm.

    Meanwhile, yeah I’ve thought about indie self publishing but I like my contract with Entangled and as a new author I don’t think I know enough yet to not embarrass myself with all my mistakes. Personally I know that I still need a good editor, cover artists, ect. I’m not that good yet. Would I like to be? Yeah. But I’m not there yet. Ask me in a few years and my answer might change.

  30. 30
    Cheryl says:

    Self publishing is losing the stigma it had a few years ago.  Yes, there will always be trash, but I’ve found traditional print books with flaws.  Good writing wins out every time.  Very few will get rich out of the box, but persistence and building a readership will incrementally pay off.  The good news is, the turn around time is so much quicker, and your book won’t be yanked from the shelves after a month.

↑ Back to Top