Tag Archives: publishing

Sunday Reads: 3 June 2012

Since we’re focusing on publishing options during June, this week’s Sunday Reads are all about aspects of publishing.

Boyd Morrison takes A Detour in the Publishing Journey.

MJ Rose reflects on the E vs P Debate.

Pub(lishing) Crawl discusses Bringing Your Baby To Editorial Board.

The Write Type discusses Self-Published vs Traditional: Candid Tales from Frontline Authors.

Slate asks What Will Become of the Paper Book?

Lindsay Buroker has 3 Tip for Self-Publishing Success.

Amanda Hocking discusses reasons to pursue traditional publishing in How Am I Doing Now?

Nathan Bransford discusses The Biggest Challenges in the New Era of Publishing.

Tonya Kappes asks How Bad Do You Want Success?

Failure Ahoy! examines Amazon’s Ever-Changing Algorithms.


Missed any Fictorians articles this week?

David Carrico – Anatomy of a Collaboration

Kylie Quillinan – June: Publishing Month

Guest poster Celina Summers – Different Paths to Publishing



Celina Summers: Different Paths to Publishing

  When we started discussing the idea of a publishing themed month, we talked about the different types of publishing. I’m fortunate enough to be part of a wonderful E-Publisher, Musa Publishing. Celina Summers, the  chief editor and founder of Musa, often talks about how she was frustrated that people equated E-Publishing with Self-Publishing. As a result, Celina was a natural choice to be our first guest poster this month. Writers have more options than ever to get to the reader. For a general overview of those options, read on and see what Celina said.

So take it away, Celina.


It’s a great thing to be able to tell your family and friends that you’re published.  After all, you’ve achieved a lifetime goal. Millions of people have written stories or novels without any of them seeing the light of day.  But in the last couple of decades, the publishing industry has changed significantly.  With the onset of digital publishing, self-publishing-once an outlet only the financially well-endowed could consider-took off.  According to The Bookseller (http://www.thebookseller.com/news/publishing-proliferates-thanks-pod-and-digital.html) :

Nielsen 2010 book output figures show that 151,969 new titles were published in 2010, a leap of 14% on the output number given this time last year. The figure is derived from the number of ISBNs Nielsen issues over the year. However, the 2009 figure, of 133,000, has since been increased to 157,039 because of the late addition of digital titles in that year, a factor that may also further increase the 2010 figure. It means that year-on-year book production fell 3.2%, though the trend shows that output has soared: since 2008 it is up 13%, and  since 2001, the market has risen by close to 40%.

Once upon a time, there was one way to get published. You wrote your novel, typed it up, sent it to an agent, the agent loved it and submitted it to a traditional print publisher, who bought it and then published it.  But now, things are a lot more complicated.  E-publishing has taken off, with thousands of young publishing houses releasing digital-only content.  At the same time, self-publishing has exploded, with authors publishing their own books directly to the reader.  And of course, lurking around the sewers of the industry, vanity presses are always eager to prey upon the uninformed author.

But these four terms are not synonymous. There’s a lot of difference between traditional publishing, electronic publishing, and self-publishing.  (And vanity publishing is, at its heart, a scam) Where this becomes a problem is when the writer announces “I’m published!” but doesn’t distinguish between the different types of publishing.  Because unless your self-published book sells millions of copies, chances are that an agent or book industry exec isn’t going to be interested in that publishing credit-or a bookstore.  Regardless of what folks might think, there is a big difference between landing a multiple book deal  with Random House and self-publishing a book through Lulu. So in order to avoid trouble down the line, it’s important for an author to self-represent correctly-and, more importantly, to use the different avenues in publishing wisely, to build a foundation for a writing career.

So, let’s take a look at each term separately.

Traditional publishing-Print. To most writers, this means New York.  These are books that are represented by agents (most likely) and subsequently published by a major house-known as the Big Six-and any of their imprints.  These books are released in paperback. Some come out in hardback.  These books (usually) are where the legitimate bestseller lists originate. The author receives an advance for her book(s), and her titles are found in brick and mortar bookstores. In the past couple of years, the Big Six have jumped on board and begun to digitally publish their titles-at much higher prices and a much smaller royalty rate.

Let me interject that there are hundreds of legitimate, reputable, outstanding small presses out there-independent publishers that have nothing to do with New York or the Big Six.  Indie presses are a fantastic place for a young  writer to start out, especially genre writers.  I’m going to put indie publishers under the traditional publisher title because they, too, publish primarily in print.

 E-publishing-These publishing houses are digital first.  They publish e-books primarily, although some are moving into POD(print on demand) availability for their books.  An e-publisher is a genuine small house, following the same submissions, acquisitions, and editing processes as traditional publishing.  Five years ago, e-publishing wasn’t considered a legitimate publishing credit by agents and New York publishers. That mindset is changing as the popularity of digital books increases.

 Self-publishing-This is when a writer circumvents the publishing industry and releases his work himself.  That also means the writer is completely responsible for making sure the book goes through all the proper processes-editing, typesetting, cover art, formatting, uploading, publicity and marketing. Unfortunately many self-published authors don’t do this.  They release the book and then wait for the millions of dollars to roll in, which, unfortunately, rarely happens.  For every self-published author like Amanda Hocking, there are tens of thousands of authors who never sell more than ten copies of their book.

Vanity publishing-Where an author pays to be published.  Any time a publisher (or agent) asks for money up front, run away. Run fast. Yog’s law: money flows TO the author.

In the past six months, I can’t tell you how many people have told me their book was e-published, attempting to hoodwink me into thinking that another publisher had signed their book, put it through the processes, and released the book-only to find out later that in fact, the writer had self-published. (And no, making up a publishing company that only publishes one author’s work really doesn’t fool a publisher. If you’re self-published, just admit it.) Some come  to me only when their book didn’t make money and they want to try again.  Usually, those writers don’t know why.  I do know why.

You see-there’s a reason for the ‘gatekeepers’ in publishing. The agents, the slushpile readers, the acquisitions assistants all have the same goal in mind: they are looking for publishable books. Books that are strong technically, that are engaging and entertaining. In other words, books that people want to read.  When I am reading through submissions, I might ask to see one manuscript out of fifty.  That’s not because the stories are bad, but because the story is not publishable in its current condition.  Occasionally, however, I will be tempted to put more work into a manuscript because of the writer’s publishing history-her resume.  And this is where the correct publishing types really makes a difference.

In publishing, as in any profession, people need to be accurate and honest about how they present themselves to others.  If a writer’s book was self-published, it does no good for that writer to claim they were e-published.  Sure, the author electronically published his book, but the book never went through any kind of evaluation, most probably wasn’t edited (because many self-published authors wish to retain all creative control over their book) and more than likely didn’t sell more than a hundred copies.  If that book was e-published, to me that means that the author is familiar with the publication process-namely editing.  And that right there predisposes me to look upon that submission more favorably, because I know that I won’t be having to drag an unwilling writer through the process that will make that particular book better.

And of course, once you start talking traditional publishing, unless your books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, it doesn’t matter very much if you’re e-published or self-published or published-by-your-Uncle-Vinnie-in-Des Moines published.   To a traditional publisher, it might as well be your first book.  However, among the gatekeepers to traditional publishing, e-publishing is no longer considered the red-headed stepchild of publishing.  I asked an agents’ panel three years ago if they considered e-publishing a legitimate publishing  credit. About 70% said yes.

Since we opened Musa Publishing, agents are now submitting to us.

It makes sense, after all. With e-publishing’s higher royalties, lower overhead and international  availability thanks to e-tailers like Amazon, authors and agents are intrigued by the possible financial rewards of a popular e-published success.  Publishers like Musa Publishing are able to create a high quality product that readers enjoy, at a price readers appreciate.  A lot of writers are making the same decision I made too-to begin my writing career in e-publishing. I could make better, immediate money while learning my craft and improving my work.

And the readers are reaping the benefits, as anyone with a fully stocked Nook or Kindle will tell you.

So there are sizable differences in the different types of publishing currently available, and it behooves the author to self-identify correctly.  As a writer, it’s important to understand the differences-and to use those differences wisely as you plot out your career.


Thanks for that great insight. Celina. For my short story collection, Paths Less Traveled, my collection releasing today, Shots at Redemption, or a host of other amazing stories in just about every genre, please check out Musa Publishing.



June: Publishing Month

Here at The Fictorian Era, we have something of a motley crew, a bunch of writers at all stages of their careers.  Some of us have been writing for only a couple of years, others for many years.  Some are published in a variety of formats, others are still trying to get a foot in the door.  Some are pursuing the traditional route, others are more interested in the indie path.

Not all that many years ago, the traditional path was the only legitimate publishing option.  Within traditional, the options were to go with a major publishing house – the New York Big 6 – or a small publishing house.  Self-publishing wasn’t an option if a writer wanted respect, readers, or an income.  Epublishing changed all that.  Self-publishing – or indie as it tends to be referred to – is becoming more and more of a real option.  We’ve heard the success stories.  We’ve seen writers who originally self-published go on to sign contracts with traditional publishing houses.  And we’re seeing the stigma of self-publishing fade away.

During June, we’re exploring publishing options.  We have guest posts lined up from writers Brandon Sanderson, David Dalglish, Stephen Nelson, Gini Koch, and Jordan Ellinger, literary agent Laurie McLean, and publisher Celina Summers.  We’ll also be hearing from some of the Fictorians, some who you’re familiar with and a couple you don’t hear from often.

June is going to be an exciting month.  We look forward to sharing it with you.

Publishing Options-As I See It

I used to see getting published as something similar to a game of roulette. If I learned to write well and finished a short story or novel, I’d place a token on the table. With each rejection, I had to remove my token and place it on a different number. Of course, as I put more tokens on the table, my chances of winning went up. It would take a long time and a lot of tokens before the odds would be worth measuring, let alone in my favor.

Having recently published a short story in an anthology, the odds should be going up, right? I’m not so sure. And here’s the rub: New York is still the respected place to publish, and they’re still the people with the money and the resources…when they choose to spend them on their authors. So here are the options, as I see it, with their pros and cons:

The increasingly difficult option of getting an agent and publishing with a big New York publishing house doesn’t appeal as much as it once did, but they still have their plusses. They don’t seem to have more promotional power in the e-world as anybody else, not in terms of e-world shelf space, but they have more money for promotion. The likelihood they’ll put out that money for a new author? Slim to none. So what’s the point of going there? Some of the brick and mortars are still the place people go to find books, word spreads from there, and sells go up. They’re also one of the best places for book-signings and personal promotions. Only NY is truly effective in that field. But the big wigs are all about business. The author’s share of profits is low-understandable when you consider all the costs they cover, but still low. There has been talk of interesting accounting practices among the NY groups; I don’t know if it’s true, but it makes one wary. And their distributing efficacy is starting to waver.

So, let’s go through small publishers, right? Maybe. My anthology is through a small publisher, it’s available in hardcopy and through Amazon, but it’s not being distributed in bookstores. At least, not last time I checked. I’m still waiting to see how this model plays out. One very important point to note, some small publishers are giving a much larger portion of their sales to their authors. The downturn in sales numbers may very well be offset by that percentage of writer profit. But there are a million small publishers, and while most of them are good, some exist to rip you off, and others are incompetent. Makes me think of trying to find my way through a swamp.

So, let’s all self-publish. The author makes all the profit, has complete control over his/her property, and doesn’t have to worry about bossy people. Sounds great, right? Not so much. If you self-publish, the stigma still exists that your book must be crap. For a reason. Have you looked at the mountain of self-published works out there? Much of it wouldn’t make it past the slush-pile warehouse let alone into the possible considerations pile. How does anyone sift through all of that to find your gem of a story…or is it? A writer’s group is great, but without professional critique, acceptance, and editing, how do you really know if your story is truly good enough? It’s like throwing your time, money, and reputation at a wall so you can see if it sticks. Unfortunately, if it falls flat enough times, you’d better find another name.

So, is the conclusion to give up hope? Absolutely not. I think we’ve entered a wonderful new era where any model can work if we’re aware of the pitfalls.

New York can do a lot for a beginning author, but you’d better read the fine print, have your wits about you, and be prepared in case they stick you on the back burner and you’ve got to super-manage your own publicity. They have a lot of power; they can hurt you, or make you a star. You have to be prepared for the gamble.

Small publishers give you the critique and the gatekeeper, but find one with a good track record or at least a business model you believe in. That will take research, and you’ll still have to manage most of your own publicity. They don’t have tremendous distribution power or the funds to do a lot of publicizing, but a good independent company will back you up and give you the personal help you need to kick off your career.

And self-publishing can work, but you’ve got to make a reputation for yourself. From the very beginning you’ve got to be the promotion guru. If you have the guts to throw yourself out there, garner publicity, and spend a lot of time on the publishing process, go for it. One thing, though…make absolutely sure that what you’re selling is of comparable quality with your New York competition. Not in your opinion, but in MULTIPLE, reliable peoples’ opinions.

So pick your venue, keep writing, and do your best to succeed. The chips will fall where they may.