Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When To Go E, and When To Go Eeeeeeee!

Today's chocolate is a yummy repeat, the New Tree Sexy (dark chocolate with ginger). In its place, the running of the bull(sh-).

With regards to agent/editor one on one time at conferences, I have yet to sit on the author side of the table. At this time, what I have in the cooker is earmarked for release with a publisher, and what I plan to pitch is still in the formative stage. Being the editor, hands neatly steepled before me as I listen to story ideas, I feel I have a good sense of what will work and what will not for my house. I will admit, I like talking to authors in this venue, because I get to see upfront the enthusiasm they have for their books and can share their passion for writing and dreams of print. It's a bit of an ego boost, too, to be approached with work, despite that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that taunts you about being "the safety publisher" for when the big houses say no.

With this thought in mind, I'll add that being the publisher of a primarily eBook house can have its disadvantages at pitch sessions. Authors talk to me of their biggest dream: the day they can walk into a bookstore and find their title on a shelf. I can understand that. It's my dream, too. It came true once when we managed to get Truth or Dare shelved. People would send me cell phone shots of the book at Borders, and I can tell you there's no greater high than that for an author. But I came down pretty quickly, too. We pulled off this feat before chain store policies on POD books tightened. Now you hear of stores cutting back on inventory and squeezing out the Davids in favor of the Goliaths, and though the lone copy of Truth at my local Borders sold I haven't seen it reordered. I'd have to do it myself.

So it may surprise some to know that I have actually advised authors who have pitched me material to persue the houses that can make their dreams come true. Am I crazy for doing that? I don't know, a lot of people think I'm crazy anyway, so why not give them a solid reason? to believe it? Does this mean I'm incapable of getting books into stores? No. We recently secured a standing order with a small indie book chain, yay us. We don't have a problem moving print via the Internet, either, so why would I suggest to an author to explore other options?

It's simple: I will not make a promise unless I know I can deliver. Two years of working as a publisher has taught me my limitations in the business. There are times I may opened my mouth too soon, and I feel badly about it. I know now I can provide solid editing and proofing, attractive cover art, wide Internet distribution and promotional assistance, but I won't claim to have a book buyer wrapped around my pinky when it isn't true (never did anyway). Also, though we offer print titles, the meat of our company is eBook sales. An author coming to us must be as enthusiastic about the eBook as the print book. This is where our money is made, the author stands to earn more in royalties through eBook sales, and while we can argue sales and visibility versus print I stand by the maxim that eBooks are the future, especially in romance. Amazon wouldn't have launched the Kindle, and Harlequin and Red Sage wouldn't be widely touting new eBook lines if there wasn't a kernel of truth in this.

When this glorious future becomes the glorious present, who knows. It is my hope, however, when it does happen that authors and readers alike will be excited about it and willing to spread the gospel. What this means now for authors is that they have more options to explore with their works. Not all authors are the same - I have experienced that before and during my tenure as publisher. Some fully embrace the new technology of eBooks, others simply write their stories and start the next ones as they submit for consideration...and do little else. Some plan multi-city tours for their summer breaks, others won't leave the house. As each author persues his/her dream in their own way, they should also be aware of how well they can fit into the industry.

I know of some authors who won't touch E. That's fine. I know some who will only persue E. That's also fine. Which format is best for you, your work, and your abilities? I can't say, only you can answer that. I can merely make a few suggestions for you to consider or disregard.

When to go E

If it is your dream to be published by a heavy hitter, be it Harlequin or Kensington or Avon or whatever...if your goal is New York, New By God York, persue New York. Write the book, revise the book, shop the book. If New York doesn't want it, write another one and start over again. Don't stop until you are dead. If you never make it, you can't fault yourself for not giving it 100%. If you do make it, wonderful!

If you have that orphaned manuscript and want it to see the light of day, think before acting. It can be argued that an author's chances of seeing publication in eBook is greater than that of traditional print, and it can be argued that submitting to an eBook house is a form of settling for an alternative that you feel you can live with until the next book is written. If you are confident you can get your foot in a New York door, consider eBook publication. At best, you'll have an opportunity to build a readership you can carry over.

But think about it! Research what E can do for you and what it can't do. If you want to go to the spring social with Jack, but he's taking Jill, do you settle for Bob? Are you going to dance with Bob all night while looking over his shoulder at Jack? Are you better off skipping this dance for the next one? Are you better off hosting your own dance (self-pubbing) and inviting people (booksellers)?

Length Considerations

Most, if not all, traditional publishers have length requirements for submissions. They could be anywhere from 50K to 100K words, depending on their respective lines. eBook houses are more flexible: some will publish shorts as low as 5K to epics in the 100Ks. Perhaps you have a nice 15K word paranormal that a NY pub won't touch for an anthology unless you are in-house. You can hold it until you write that novel length and get it accepted for publication, or you can approach an ePublisher for standalone release consideration. Study the market for your style and length of work. Most ePublishers feature bestseller lists on their sites, and you can track bestsellers at Fictionwise and All Romance eBooks. If you feel the gamble of ePublishing will bring in readers, give it a shot.

The Genre That Dare Not Speaketh Its Name, Because It Doesn't Have One

You got my werewolves in your peanut butter. No, you got your peanut butter...well, you get the idea. In the eBook world, splicing sub-genres is fairly common, sometimes encouraged. A New York pub may be interested in urban fantasy right now, but not urban fantasy time travel with MMF menages. Yes you don't have the heart to cut Sven and Bjorn's big scene because it's just that integral to the plot. Here is another opportunity to consider E, or else wait for New York to relax its guidelines. Your choice.

Show Me The Money

Not being NY pubbed, I can't confirm how the pay schedule runs. You may receive an advance, it may be a lot of money, and you may see royalities on a quarterly, twice-yearly, or annual schedule. With eBooks, most I know pay quarterly or monthly...yes, when they do pay. With traditional pubs, you might see 15% or more of what your book brings in. eBook royalties may range from 30%-50%, plus additional print royalties if you book goes POD. If money is not too much of a concern for you, you have a number of options here. If writing is your sole income, the same rings true. I know writers who exist on freelance fees, royalties and other means of generating cash. Consider how often you would like to receive a check (or eat), and make your decision from there.

Am I discouraging authors from submitting to ePublishers? No, I only want to encourage authors to submit smartly. Know what you want, set those goals and keep reaching. Know what you are getting into when you sign a contract, know what to expect of your house, and should things still not go the way you planned, move to the back-up plan. Happy writing.

1 comment:

Bethanne said...

This article has given me ALOT to think about. Thanks for putting it out there.