My Journey through being a Novelist, reaching Literary Agents and Comparing “Indie” and “Self-Publishing companies”.
Let me be clear up front. I love writing. And people love what I write. But at the moment it isn’t paying the bills. Even the most confident of us can become discouraged sometimes. Between being turned down by several Literary Agents, being fed up with my current Self-Publishing company, wondering why most Indie Publishers call themselves “Indie Publishers” and seeing how many thousands maybe millions of people are out there publishing books, when they’d be better served changing oil; I’m tuckered. Definitely at the point where I’m ready to write this last book and throw in the towel.
Phew! Glad that I was able to get that out, in what my editor, Rob would probably mark-up as the longest run-on ever.
On top of finishing and sending in for the copyright license to my latest novel Invasion of the Most Sacred, I’ve been researching several things:
- the authenticity of the foreign terms I’ve used in my book
- how-to get traditionally published
- how-to find a literary agent
- how-to submit a query letter to a literary agent
- how-to weep quietly each time one turns you down
- how-to find an Indie Publisher
- how-to not want to send them hate-mail when they all state under their submission requirements “Not Accepting Query Letters At This Time”
- finally, which self-publishing company is the best bet. Because at this point, that’s again what I’m left with.
And of course, here I am again. “Self-publishing” with Outskirts Press. I still don’t understand why it’s considered self-publishing… there are those who do it entirely by themselves. From writing to distributing. So, utilizing a company to do most of the work, even though that work is done for hire, I’m still not doing it myself.
I submitted about 16 query letters to some key Literary agents who claimed to be accepting query letters. My book is a time sensitive, current/pop war/military/espiionage fiction story. I can’t wait forever for it to be published. I terms of relevancy if I ever become relevant this must happen in a timely manner to be relevant. How’s that for neccessary redundancy?
Luckily, I don’t have to wait forever. Literary Agents typically get back with an authoer within three months. Which is perfect for me because I want this process to start promptly on January 1st. All but one of my Query letters were in before the 1st of Ocotber. Let’s say I don’t get any favorable responses, which if things remain the same, will be the case; I could move on to “Indie Publishing” [eyeroll] or resort back to what I know.
When it comes to Self-Publishing, I must say my original search back in 2011 while I was looking to start publishing Truth’s At Distance I didn’t research as much as I should have. I did a general search. I read some reviews. Went to about two or three websites and landed on Outskirts Press. They seemed alright, and I was in Afghanistan, so the starting fee of $999 wasn’t too bad.
I already enlisted the services of my editor, Rob Bignell whom I love and need very much. I had already recieved my reciept from the Library of Congress for my copyright license [I always copyright my own shit]. I was ready to go!
My experience with Outskirts Press in short: It was a blast the first time. It was just so surreal. I knew I was being “self-published” but who cares? I was going to have a book! After writing hundreds of sought-after blogs, and rants and a couple of short stories that will NEVER see the light of day, here was something that I could actually send out to the public and say, “Here! I’m a writer, and I deserve to be read! I’m confident enough in my talent to present this to you… the consumer…”
But I knew nothing about “the consumer”. All I knew was I liked my story for once, so I figured others would too. I had no idea there were over 5 million books for sale on Amazon. And the other ten-thousand tiny details I was missing out on.
I noticed that dealing with Outskirts was somewhat of an à la carte experience. These guys wanted to charge for EVERYTHING! They wanted to charge $99 to get my copyright license. A process which takes 12 minutes and $35! They held me to a process format that didn’t really mesh well with what I wanted to do. Any time I wanted to do something that wasn’t within their normal process they shot the idea down. Even though their hook is the author [ME] has 100% control over everything.
I recall getting into arguments with them while publishing The Guidon Bearer about my cover. My first three books, Outskirts press took the liberty of placing their name and or logo on my cover three or four times whereas my name was only there twice! I had to argue with them to get them to take it off. I still have an email of an Outskirts PRess rep telling me that they were the publishing company and they’d put their logo on my book as many times as they saw fit. As you can see on my book cover… it only appears once on the spine and once on the back, just like I said it would. On my press release [the standard one, not the good one which costs more] the heading read “Insider’s Journey through Air Force Basic Training: The Guidon Bearer Published by Outskirts Press” When you search online for press releases that’s what you’re going to see. My name isn’t even there! Which leads me to believe they’re more into getting their name out there than mine. And yes… I get it, we’re capitalist, it’s what we do… but come on!
On top of that, they royally screwed me on my royalties. I’ve stuck up for Outskirts on online forums where people are bashing their business plan several times before, but I can’t do it anymore.
So, here I am. Looking for a different company. I looked at Author House/Xlibris [Author Solutions], Trafford, IUniverse, Lulu, createspace [Amazon], infinity publishing and others.
Most of them offer a lot of the same things, but it seems like not a single one has it right. Some offer a lot of services, but are expensive as all hell, like Author House. Some offer lower prices but don’t offer hardcover, or don’t have custom artwork cover options like Infinity. I probably at this moment have accounts with every single major self-publishing company in the world because I’m really trying to do my research this time. Createspace was a great option and of course, they have a pretty tight business plan, it’s Amazon! But as I said, no one has it right yet.
Take me for instance, I’d like to publish a paperback, hardcover Dust-jacket, audiobook and digital book. I want people to be able to buy this book which ever way they want. Some people have gone 100% digital. That’s great! As an author, that’s the cheapest and easiest way for me to publish. All of my books are available on Kindle, Nook, e-reader and my latestThe Guidon Bearer: A Basic Training Story is also available on iBooks! Some people are always on the go and would rather ‘read’ their books with their ears! Hell, I used to do it when I was a teen and I had nothing better to do! It’s just a preference. People should have the choice. Some people like to fold their books and stuff them in their back pockets while they’re not reading. Great! Paperback! And people like me, who will only read a book if it’s a hardcover. Preferably with a dust jacket. I have no rational reasoning for it, that’s just how I like to read my books. I want to have that option. I’m taking care of a grown person, myself and 5 children, so I don’t have $11,000 to spend on this… even though before it’s all said and done with marketing and all, I’m sure I’ll be out much more than that. But I don’t need that to be my initial publishing price, guys!
It’s funny, writing the book is a quarter of the battle. Publishing is another quarter, and marketing/selling it is the remaining half!-Robert Lovelle Rooks
I came across one final company. Dog Ear Publishing. The name somewhat put me off even though it was clever, it seemed a bit flaccid and immature. Nonetheless, they seem to have the best business model and a pretty decent price. They offer paperback, hardcover, digital and audio book. Their audio version costs about $500 more for the DIY version over everyone else but other than that they’re pretty solid.
What really impressed me about Dog Ear was they have a Publishing Company Comparison Page. Which makes them somewhat like the Progressive Insurance of the Self-Publishing world. One is able to go to their website, get an overview of the other competing companies and how they compare costwise to themselves.
In conclusion, if I get a call back from a literary agent who wants to read more of my manuscript and is enthusiastic about getting me published and putting a contract and big starter check in my hand all will be well. But, I’m preparing for the opposite and deciding right this second how on January 1st, 2015 my fifth novel Invasion of the Most Sacred will be published and marketed.
By this time next year I’ll either be working on publishing my sixth novel and playing video games with my kids, or looking back on all these experiences with a smile while I work my day job… and play video games with my kids.
Which is okay too.
Scream At Me
List of Terms
[ones that I wasn’t familiar with years ago, that you might not be at the time you read this… you’re welcome]
- Literary Agent – is an agent who represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers, film producers, and film studios, and assists in the sale and deal negotiation of the same.
- Indie [Independent] Publisher – publishers who are independent of the major conglomerates that dominate the book publishing industry. Independent book publishers include small presses, mid-size independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors.
- Query Letter – a formal letter sent to magazine editors, literary agents and sometimes publishing houses or companies. Writers write query letters to propose writing ideas.
- Self-Publishing – Self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. [SEE HOW IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO CALL THEM SELF-PUBLISHERS??????]
- Traditional Publishing – In traditional publishing, the author completes his or her manuscript, writes a query letter or a proposal, and submits these documents to a publishing house (or has a literary agent do this for them, if one can be acquired). An editor reads it, considers whether it is right for the house, and decides either to reject it (leaving the author free to offer it to another publisher) or to publish it. If the publishing house decides to publish the book, the house buys the rights from the writer and pays him or her an advance on future royalties. The house puts up the money to design and package the book, prints as many copies of the book as it thinks will sell, markets the book, and finally distributes the finished book to the public.
- Copyright License – a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
- Press Release – a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy
- Dust Jacket – the detachable outer cover, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that hold it to the front and back book covers.