Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

My Friday posts are usually full of fun and frivolity, but today I've a discussion instead. Several people, here and elsewhere have expressed an interest as to what I think about e-publishers. I swore I'd never go there. I swore up and down and sideways, I'd never go there. Guess what? I'm being swayed. I should rephrase that -- I'm being swayed to think about it more.

My reasons for not heading straight to an e-publisher with MASQUERADE were very simple in the beginning. I wanted it to be a BOOK. A tangible, living, breathing thing, that people can hold in their hands, laugh with, cry with, then send on to their best friend saying, "Oh, this is so wonderful, you've simply got to read this." You know how you feel when you've read a good book, you want to pass it on. With an e-book you can't. (I don't think.) Unless your friends have their own e-reading device. You certainly aren't going to let them borrow your reader.

After reading Roni's post the other day (Fiction Groupie) and her discussion on the pros and cons of e-publishing, I went to a couple of e-pub web-sites. Some were very well presented, some were kind of schmaltzy, some made me want to cringe. The only one who gave (that I read anyway) any kind of mention of renumeration was Samhain Publishing.

Now I'm not crass enough to ask my published writer friends how much money they made on a book or what their contract looks like but being who I am, (and in the restaurant business for so long) I always want to know 'the numbers'. I appreciate Samhain's posting this on their website.

"Our pricing philosophy
Samhain believes the price of an ebook should be less than a print book; after all, it doesn’t need to be printed, stored or shipped! Why should it equal the cost of a print book? Samhain is dedicated to delivering excellent books at reasonable prices.

Short Stories: $2.50 12,000 to 18,000 words
Novellas: $3.50 18,001 to 35,000 words
Category: $4.50 35,001 to 60,000 words
Novel: $5.50 60,001 to 100,000 words
Plus Novel: $6.50 over 100,000 words

Royalty and Contracts
Samhain is a royalty paying ebook company that offers 40% of the cover price (as set by Samhain Publishing, Ltd) for a single-author ebook.

The author is not required to pay any fees for editing or for publishing in either digital or print. We are NOT a vanity publisher.

Our contract requests full rights to the work, including both digital and print, is fully negotiable and available for review upon acceptance of your story.

5.1. Will I have to pay to publish my book or for it to go to print?
Absolutely not. Samhain is not a vanity or subsidy publisher. We pay royalties (40% of the cover price on single-author ebooks sold through My Bookstore and More, 30% of the cover price on single-author ebooks sold through third-party vendors, and 8% of the cover price on single-author print books), and we require no money from authors at any stage of the publishing process.

5.2. What are your terms of contract? May I review the contract?
Our contract is for seven years, requires full rights, including digital and print, and is fully negotiable. All details are available for review when we offer a contract for your book.

5.3. If I contract the first book of a series with Samhain, do I have to give you first refusal on subsequent books in the series?
No. Samhain contracts one book at a time. We hope you’ll love working with us enough to send us all your other books, but we want you to be free to make that decision for yourself."
(All of this in italics was taken directly from the pages of the Samhain Publishing web-site.)

So for my novel (95K) to be published by them, I would get $2.00 per book. From them. Consequently, if I sold through other vendors the price per book would go down.

The problem with that is, I have to sell the books so I can get the money. (Yes, I know, isn't that the point but bear with me.) Ten thousand books equals $20,000.00. If I were Sabrina Jeffries, that wouldn't be a problem. However, I'm just me. I don't have a fan base, I have (to date) 128 "friends" on my blog, and I know maybe 6 people who would buy my book in real life. How long would it take me to make twenty grand?

In the traditional publishing world, you get an advance. As to what that would be, I have no idea. It all depends on the book, the contract, the publishing house, lots of other factors too numerous to mention here. However, that is the deciding factor (for me anyway) -- the advance. I need the money now. I can't wait for 10,000 books to be sold. I can't live my life on $38- a week, or worse yet, pay period.

That being said, in the traditional publishing world, you can always negotiate the contract. My thought has always been (and I'm strictly speaking about my Regency Romances here -- this is not about Genna & Tony -- that's a different animal) I sell MASQUERADE, I take a higher advance and a lower royalty rate on the back side. In each of the subsequent books in the series, I would negotiate for a lower advance with a higher royalty rate on the backside, so when I "sold through" I would earn more money.

With the contract from Samhain, you get $2.00 per book. Period. For seven years. And if anyone knows different here, please please please jump on this discussion.

If I, say, sold through MASQUERADE (with a traditional publisher on a seven year contract) in the first two years, (yes, I'm being very optimistic) the last 5 years of the contract would be royalties. And because I've built such a great fan base, the sell through of each of the subsequent books would earn me more royalties. (And also the publisher and the agent.)

(Note -- I had a whole paragraph on publicity to aquire a fan base but I took it out because I just don't know anything about that, and I don't want to insult anyone.)

Now, Samhain also doesn't say anything about serial rights, movie rights, audio, book club, or foreign rights either. And that's a whole other ball game. I think I would want an agent behind me to negotiate all those things.

Also with a traditional publisher, if the first book is well received by the editor there is the chance you could get a multi-book deal. With most of the e-publishers I read, you are bought, book by book. Query by query. And who wants to go through the query process for every book? With a multi-book deal, sure you have to write proposals and synopsis, (of which I have already done for the rest of the Regency series) and all kinds of other stuff, but you already have an agent, and an editor. You're already in. With an e-pub, you're a newbie every single time.

For me, right now, it's all about the money. Yes, it is also about fantastic awesomesauce writing and creating a book that will delight people when they read it, but it's also about the money. I'm not going to get into why, that's personal, suffice it to say, I need the cash. (Hey, who doesn't, but for me it's different.) And even if the traditional publisher is only willing to shell out say $8,000- for an advance, (I have no idea what a traditional pub is willing to pay, I just took a figure off the top of my head) that's nothing to sneeze at. And a multi-book contract would be totally freaking awesome. How many times have you heard, "So and so just signed with such and such for a multi-book, six figure deal." I want to be that so and so.

Which brings me around to the beginning of the discussion -- I've been swayed to THINK about e-publishing. It's all about the money. A girl's got to make a living (and in this economy, where I live, 237 resumes later, I still can't get a job) and I have Monster Baby to support.

Finding an agent for my genre is hard. There aren't many that will even look at Regency romance. And those that do, already have their very successful clients. It takes a lot of research and a fabulous plot to write a great Regency. It takes a great agent to take a chance on a newbie author like me.

That being said, I have to do what's right for me and my little family. I've never not worked. I've always had a job, sometimes, 2 or 3 at the same time. I've always had money. The reason I actually started writing MASQUERADE in the first place was because, besides restaurant-ing, writing is the only other thing I know how to do and do well. If I can't get a job as a waitress, or even a dishwasher, I can write a book.

The question is -- can I get an agent? And publish in the traditional way? OR do I bite the bullet if I can't, and publish in the 21st century way? I don't know, it's anyone's guess at this point. I still have a few queries out, one partial request that I pray turns into a full. It's all I've got for the moment. Which is why I'm starting to think about e-publishers.

And that's my take on e-publishers. Now please, if you have anything to add that I may have flubbed or mis-read or interpreted, please feel free to set me straight.

And this is only MY opinion as it pertains to the e-publishing world.


Zoe C. Courtman said...

Hi, Anne! Boy, that's a big topic to tackle. I guess, for me, I'm with you on wanting to hold an actual book and have a tangible product. I'm definitely in the hold-off-in- favor-of-traditional-publishing club, you know? And I think your writing's strong, so there's no reason to think you won't land an agent. We know the drill: wait. Wait. Wait. Followed by more wait....I think your agent's out there - and HEY you got a request for a partial! You're in the game, no worries :D

Piedmont Writer said...

Zoe -- Thanks for the pep talk! I really needed it today. And for the compliments. I know, 'The waiting is the hardest part'. Thanks Tom Petty.

Jen said...

Wow you have really taken on quite the monster haven't you! I didn't know anything about e-publishing but you have sure given me the insight on all of it!

If it were me I would go the traditional publsihing route. You are a wonderful writer we can see that on each blog post you leave us with, there is that perfect agent for you the real question is how long you're willing to wait. In how big of a hurry are you? Do you want to lose money or give it time and make the right money for your book. I'm not saying e-publishing is not the way to go but there is certainly a lot of logistics to work out before making such a massive decision.

I personaly work at a job that isn't my favorite. It's boring and I don't plan on doing it the rest of my life, I hope that I will finish my book, start the querying process and become successful overnight but I have to be realistic and know that won't happen so until then I need to find a job I love while I wait for the job I will really love.

Good Luck!

DL Hammons said...

You certainly have done your due dilligence and legwork. Good for you.

As for me, this isn't about the money. Don't get me wrong, if I ever do land an agent I'll expect fair representation and not to be taking advantage of. And this isn't just some hobby I give minimal effort to. But I'm not on a time-table nor do I need the money, so I can afford to wait out the mainstream publishing mill.

My only advice would be not to jump into e-publishing too quickly and give mainstream a fair amount of time to decide on the merits of your manuscript. You could be leaving some $$ on the table if you do.

Falen said...

i'm pro e-pub for short stories and novellas. But for an actual novel, i'm on the same page as you. i want a book. Something i can show my grandma. And e-book would not meet those needs

Piedmont Writer said...

Jen -- Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. They mean a lot. If time were the only impediment, I would wait. If I could find a job, I would wait. Unfortunately I have 4 months left before all the money is gone and that's why I'm starting to panic.

DL -- That's my biggest concern, leaving all the "rights" money behind if I do go with an e-pub. I promise I'll finish the rest of it this weekend.

Sarah -- Hey, if I ever do get pubbed with a traditional, would you do me a favor and show your grandma my book?

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I don't know anything about the e-publishing field, besides tid-bits of info on blogs like yours. Is e-publishing equivalent to self-publishing? I mean, I realize self-publishing represents out-of-pocket cost to the author. But my question pertains more to whether e-publishers accept all non-solicited manuscripts? The thing that makes me skeptical about self-publishers is there's no guarantee the quality of work is good. The obvious downside is: work that really is good gets lost in a sea of work that's just "eh."

The upside of traditional publishing is every book represents work that some members of that elite industry found worthy of publication.

So, before deciding to go the e-publishing route, I'd want to be sure it isn't an easy way out, open to all writers who want to be published but whose work hasn't been deemed strong enough. Because you don't want MASQUERADE judged unfairly by virtue of its e-publishing representation.

Of course, if e-publishing represents a completely different scenario than self-publishing, then my discussion is a moot point. I'm interesting in this topic and looking forward to reading how others weigh in on the conversation.

Hope your weekend is fab!!

Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with DL to give traditional publishing a fair go first. Even with the argument that e-publishing may be an option it sounds to me you'd rather publish a book you can hold. Remembering what your are about, what you stand for, and in keeping with your integrity, may help make the decision that's right for you.

Elana Johnson said...

I like this post a lot. I do just want to say, that if you're looking for money, publishing is probably not the place to look at all. And e-publishing would be less than traditional houses.

Sure, there's some people who make a lot of money with the big deals. But most people get a "nice deal" ($0 - $50K). And that's broken up over two payments, sometimes three. So if you get a deal for $8K, you'll get $4K (minus your agent's 15%) when you sign a contract (which takes forever) and the other $4K when the book comes out (which takes 18-24 months). So you've really made $8 K over a two year period.

Which isn't much. definitely not enough to support a family on. So I think there are people making money off their books. They get the big deals, the big publicity and all that.

But most of us don't. But our books will be out there. Our names. And the potential to then make the big money is there. And that's why I'm sticking with traditional publishing. So I think you nailed that part of it.

Talli Roland said...

I'm with Elana. The chances of being able to make a living through publishing are practically nil. I read somewhere you'd have to publish on NYT bestseller per year to break above the poverty line.

Still, that's not why we do it, is it? I'd stick with traditional pub for now.

Matthew Rush said...

Great, informative post, thanks Anne. I must admit I have next to no knowledge about this kind of thing but reading about all the research you did has already enlightened me.

sarahjayne smythe said...

Wow, great post. You really did the homework here. Thanks so much for sharing with us. I'm glad I'm not at the stage where I really have to worry intensely about this, but I'm glad I'll have this to look at if I'm ever lucky enough to be there.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

What an insightful post, Anne. e-Publishing is a sinkhole. If you mention an e-publishing history to an agent that means little as compared to an actual print history where the publishers were impressed enough and thought there was money in it for them -- to pay you cash money up front.

Elana is the pro at this. Writing will always be for most of us the second job. We will always have to work at a primary job to get the bills met. We write because the stories burn to get out of us.

Have fun with your writing. Live your dream. But like most actors starve, so do most writers and artists. Wish it were different. But like the title for my next post : It is what it is.

Have a beautiful weekend, Roland

Crimey said...

I've completely avoided discussing e-publishing or thinking about it for that matter. It's too early in the publishing game for me to be remotely interested in that route. I'm with you on 'how the heck am I suppose to reach 10,000 plus people on my own'. Self-marketing's a part of traditional publishing as it is with e-publishing, but we're talking two different ballparks here.

Piedmont Writer said...

Nicole -- With a big name e-pub like Samhain, no, e-publishing isn't like self-publishing, but in a way it is. You still have to self promote. The quality of work Samhain produces is very good, they have a slew of editors that go over every manuscript. They even publish print books, although that's very rare. Hope I've cleared up some of the confusion. Happy weekend to you.

Lynn -- Thank you that's the word that kicks it for me every time -- INTEGRITY. And I do so want to have a BOOK in my hands.

Elana -- Thanks for the reminder about the money part. I knew it came in chunks, but forgot about that. Still, right now, 4 grand really wouldn't be anything to sneeze at for me. And yes, I will not go near an e-pub until ALL my options are gone.

Talli -- I know, it's a shitty living but so is waitressing. At least with writing, I love what I'm doing.

Matthew -- Thanks. I try to share what I know.

Sarah Jayne -- You won't have to worry about an e-pub believe me, I've seen your work, you'll get snapped up by a major house right out of the gate. Especially if you kill people.

Piedmont Writer said...

Roland -- I know, but the trouble really is, I can't find a job here. I told my father, if I wrote a book, at least I'm doing something, rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself. He agreed. And as for starving, I was a waitress for many many years. At $2.13 an hour plus tips. I'd rather be a writer.

Crimey -- Yes, about the self-promotion -- at least with a major house they help you out somewhat and at least answer questions and tell you what you need to do about a book signing.

Shelley Sly said...

Wow, so many friends have made such great points. I'm not sure I have a lot more to add, but I will echo what I agree with:

1) I'm totally with you on the hold-the-physical-book-in-your-hands deal. For that reason, I'd hold out for traditional publishing.

2) I understand your financial situation. While trying to get published by itself isn't really a solution, I see where you're coming from. In this market, you need to do *something* when there are no jobs available, and I so applaud you for taking initiative.

Also, random thought, but have you thought about publishing a few short stories in the meantime, both for extra cash (not a lot, but a little can help when the holidays roll around, etc.) and for credits to put on your query?

Piedmont Writer said...

Shelley -- Thank you for the applause. Sometimes I feel like such a waste-oid. I wish I could write short stories. I don't know how. Well, I mean I do, but I'm so trying to get G&T finished so I can query that too, I just don't have the time, strength or energy to put somewhere else. But if push comes to shove, maybe I will. Hope you're feeling better.

kanishk said...

I think your writing's strong, so there's no reason to think you won't land an agent.
post free classified ads

Piedmont Writer said...

kanishk -- Thank you so much for your lovely comment. That's very sweet of you to say.

Susan Fields said...

Great discussion, Anne! I've never looked into this before, so this has been very educational. I agree with wanting to have a real live, paper-and-ink book in my hands - isn't that the dream? But the world and the industry are changing, that's for sure.

Donna Hole said...

Anne you summed up my own personal dilemma perfectly. It's always a "on the one hand - but then on the other" quardary.

I doubt selling my first novel will allow me to support a family, and I doubt I'll quit my day job even after the second. But if the entire trilogy sells, maybe I sit home a year or two and spend the energy it will take to write a potential best seller. And the padding for my retirement.

Thanks for all the juicy insights.

Have a wonderful weekend, and productive week unplugged.


Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

I would buy your book in a heartbeat. So, unless I was counted in the 'six'?? you would now have seven purchasers.

Very good post. As always.

Rena said...

I bought my first e-book this past fall, but it was more of a curriculum program for my boys. It was nice because I paid a one-time fee and then was able to print copies up for all 3 of us. I'm like the rest though and love having a book in my hand. The other day my youngest picked up a new book and smelled the pages. He said, "I love how books smell!" I thought that was unique coming from an eight-year-old boy!

Good luck with your decision and please keep us posted on what you decide to do.

Ted Cross said...

I don't want to ePublish either. Like you, I want a hard copy of a real book that I can see in book stores. However, I believe that agents/publishers will not truly consider my book. I think they are wrong, as I believe there is an audience for what I do (when others have done realistic Tolkienesque fantasy - Sword of Shannara, Iron Tower trilogy - they have sold very well), but from what I read on the web there is a stigma against it. So, I may have no choice but to ePublish. I just don't think it can reach a wide enough audience that way, though.

Piedmont Writer said...

Susan -- Yes, the world is changing. There's just something about having a 'library' in my house. How can you have one if you don't buy 'books'?

Donna -- Every one tells me there's no money in publishing. Yet I'm always hearing about 6-figure deals. I just have to write the best damn book I can, that's all.

Wendy -- Thank you Sweetpea, but I think you would be one of the friends I would send an author copy to.

Rena -- What a fantastic boy you have, smelling books at 8 years old! I don't think e-books are bad, I'm sure there are tons of excellent ones out there. I just want to hold it in my hands. Without the plastic.

Ted -- Now Ted, you never know until you try, and like what everyone is telling me, you just have to find the right agent. It takes some detective work, a shot in the dark and I think, a lucky break, but don't give up on the traditional pubs just quite yet. I'm not, only mine to query are dwindling. It's not over until the fat lady sings.

Bossy Betty said...

Thanks for your post. Lots to think about here....

Lisa and Laura said...

This is such a personal decision and it varies greatly from writer to writer. We actually know a few people who started out ePublishing or even Self-publishing and then went on to land contracts with mainstream publishers. You have to do what you think is best for you and your work.

Tahereh said...

oh anne, this is a toughie. a big toughie. but i'd say hold out until you've exhausted all other options. maybe because i'm selfish, but *I* want to hold your book in my hand. i want to go to a store and purchase it and tell the lady at the checkout that I KNOW THE AUTHOR HEHE. you are incredible. just hang in there -- you can do it, love.

don't lose hope!


Piedmont Writer said...

Betty -- Just sharing what I know.

Lisa and Laura -- Yes, I know writers who've done both as well. We'll see what happens.

Tahereh -- You are such a bestie, thanks for the pep talk. All I can do now, is send out the remainder of my queries, and pray for the best. xoxoxox

Lady Glamis said...

Anne, what a great discussion! I'm not sure I have anything to add that hasn't already been said here. I do know that a very small percentage of people actually live off their writing, but it's certainly something to aspire to. I think it's a good suggestion to get your work out there with short stories, too, and to also consider self-publishing and/or e-publishing if you're not willing to wait for an agent and the amount of time it takes to traditionally publish. I'm certainly self-publishing my novella. I never thought of e-publishing it! That might be something I look into.

Thank you for sharing this. I hope Davin comes over to read it, as well.