Posted in Fiction Writing, Misc Topic

Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 7

We continue on with our discussion of the three paths to publishing your novel. This week we will examine Independent Presses.

The first thing you should note when considering indie presses is that each and every one of them is different, operates differently, has a different contract, produces products of differing quality, and has different ethics. Indie presses are called small presses but they can be tiny one-person operations or huge organizations. What makes a publisher a small press/indie press is that they are not affiliated with the Big 5 Publishers, and they generate revenue of less than $50 million dollars a year.

Is any of this important to you?

It should be.

Are there bad indie presses you should be wary of?


There are indie presses who will contract your book without reading it, do not edit or proof it, throw on a shitty cover, only do ebook, and call it published. This is not good for you, the author. If readers buy your book and put it down because it hasn’t been edited or proofed, and write bad reviews on Amazon or Goodreads this is bad for your writing career.

Don’t get me wrong. There are indie presses that ONLY do ebook and do a great job of it. But make sure this is what you want.

The point is you have to do your research. All indie presses are different. Each has their own process, and you need to know what those are.

Independent Press Information

  • The publisher contracts with you for the right to publish your work for a specific period of time. There should be an end date on your contract. Make sure there is.
  • The publisher assumes all costs of production of the book. You should not be charged for production, or marketing or anything else except author copies if you want additional copies of the book to give away or sell. If they want you to pay for your cover or production costs, they are a vanity press, not an indie press. Don’t do vanity press, unless you have a specific business reason for doing so.
  • There may or may not be an advance.
  • They may or may not accept unsolicited manuscripts, or they may only accept unsolicited manuscripts. You will need to research what the particular press’ policy is.

Not all Indie Presses are the same. Questions you need to ask:

  • Do they publish in print and digital? Digital only?
  • Where do they distribute? Amazon only? Ingram? Baker Taylor?
  • Do they do print runs or only Print on Demand (POD)?
  • What is their submission process? Each house will have a unique process and you will need to submit according to their rules. Some will want ten pages of your manuscript. Some will want three chapters and a synopsis. Give them what they require.
  • Contracts will be different at each house. If you are offered a contract, I highly recommend that you use a literary attorney to review your contract. There are contracts out there that are bad for authors. Really.
  • What are their royalty rates? They (probably) offer higher royalty rates and more flexible contract terms than the Big Five. But this is not always so. Do your homework.

What are the benefits of publishing with an indie press?

  • Small presses can kickstart your marketing efforts and aren’t afraid to think outside the box. The profit margins for indie presses are small in general, so they do tend to find ways to market on the cheap. But, there are indie presses who do no marketing at all. Ask.
  • Small presses may give you more editorial control. They may allow you to discuss requested edits to your manuscript. But they may not. This will be outlined in your contract, which you should read in detail.
  • You may have more accessible interactions with your editor. These interactions can translate into a more rewarding writer-editor relationship. You also may have the option of changing editors if you are unhappy with the editor you have. But, some presses only have one editor, so you should do your homework before you sign a contract with them.
  • Small presses offer unknown and emerging authors a place to get a foothold in their pursuit of success by publishing those early works upon which a career is built. You may never get a Big 5 contract, or you may get one later in your career. Either way, you will have time to grow your readership over time, and that is good for everyone.
  • Most indie presses have limited resources, so don’t expect the diva treatment. By the way, if you do the diva routine, you also could get your contract canceled for being a pain in the ass. Yes, this is possible. Remember that publishing is a business and you should be as professional as possible at all times.
  • The packaging of your book may not look as professional as a Big 5 package, but it might. Take a look at their website, ask to see a media kit. Do their covers look good? Do they even create media kits?
  • Ask if they have a marketing plan for their authors. Do they assist authors by sending out review copies? Do they advertise? Do they offer suggestions to their authors on what marketing they should be doing? Remember that every author markets regardless of the publishing path, but it’s always good to get help if it is available.

Next time: Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 8


Posted in Misc Topic

Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 6

Continuing our discussion of the three potential paths to publishing your novel, today we will talk about the difference between those paths, specifically focusing on contracting with one of the Big 5 publishers. See earlier posts for the similarities. Later posts will focus on contracting with independent presses, and self-publishing.

When you sign a contract with one of the Big 5 publishers:

  • The publisher contracts with you for the right to publish your work for a specific period of time.
  • You may or may not get an advance
  • The publisher assumes all costs of production of the book.
  • The Big 5 typically offers Lower royalty rates.
  • Better distribution than some independent presses.
  • Higher potential for bookstore placement.
  • Slow—can take up to two years to release.
  • They may have sales expectations. Keep in mind that there are many mid-list authors who make a good living by selling an expected number of books, and so you may be expected to meet a sales quota. This means it is possible that an author could get dropped if sales expectations are not met.

There are advantages to publishing with a major, traditional book publisher.

  • You’ll get multiple rounds —and different types —of book editing
  • You’ll get expert packaging and production
  • You probably will get a baseline amount of book marketing and book publicity
  • Your book has a better chance of getting bookstore shelf space
  • You will have a better chance of being reviewed.

But how do you submit your book to the Big 5 so you can get a contract?

Here is an example submission text at Hachette (website)

Publishers in the Hachette Book Group are not able to consider unsolicited manuscript submissions and unsolicited queries. Many major publishers have a similar policy. Unsolicited manuscripts, submissions, and queries will not be answered and the publisher will have the right to destroy any unsolicited material or mail without returning to the sender.

If you are interested in having a manuscript considered for publication, we recommend that you first enlist the services of an established literary agent.

What all this means is that you must have an agent. This means that you must submit to, and contract with an agent before you contract with one of the Big 5.

What makes a good agent?

  • Good communicators who are well-informed and organized
  • Assertive but not aggressive and advocate for the author, or the publisher
  • Maintain professional relationships with editors and publishers to get their projects read (by only shopping high-quality projects that are polished)
  • Are good negotiators who get higher royalties and advances

Realize that there are bad agents, just like there are bad independent publishers. Do your research and make sure the agent offering to represent you is who you want to represent you. You will ideally have a very long relationship with them over the entirety of your publishing career, so think about that before you sign.

Next time: Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 7

Posted in Fiction Writing, Misc Topic

Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 5

We’ve been talking about the paths to publishing and what each path entails so that authors can make the best possible business decision. For the last few weeks, we talked about the need for every author to market their books regardless of their publishing choice.

I was asked, are there exceptions? Does everyone really market?

The truth is that there are exceptions. Below are some examples.

Example number one:

I have an author friend who has been writing novels for a particular romance publisher for a bazillion years. Okay, literally not a bazillion years but definitely somewhere in the vicinity of four decades. The publisher of these romance books has a loyal following of readers and so sales have always been good. Consequently, my author friend has never marketed a day in her life. She didn’t have to. She’s written four books per year and got reasonably good advances. Her advances, though have decreased over the years, as they have for most authors.

If my author friend wanted to continue to write four romance books a year for the next hundred years, she probably could do that and still never have to market her books. She has a good thing going.


What if she wanted to write something different? What if she wanted to write a mystery or romantic suspense?

Her romance publisher doesn’t do romantic suspense or mystery or any other genre so my author friend would have to start from scratch. She’d have to find a publisher, and make a website, and go through all the things that the majority of authors go through to market their books. It wouldn’t matter that she’s written close to 100 novels. She would have to find new readers, and that’s the rub.

This new writing project would in effect make her a new author. She would have to market.

Example number two:

I have another author friend who is a writing machine. She writes eight to ten (yes, 8 to 10) books per year. She has multiple publishers and she publishes multiple series with each publisher. She also does very well for herself.

This author friend also appears to be a marketing machine. She is on Facebook, and Twitter, and Tumblr, and Pinterest, and she does newspaper interviews, and Youtube videos and a ton of other marketing tasks. Not only does she post different information on each different social media platform, she does it several times per day. She engages her followers personally and interacts with them. Each of her followers probably feels that they have a personal relationship with this author, and the result of it is that she is able to create a big readership for her books, regardless of publisher.

But here’s the reality. This author friend loves writing. But she hates marketing. Luckily she is able to afford a full-time marketing assistant, and that is all they do.

Hiring someone to do your marketing if another exception. But I don’t know many authors who can afford to do that.

The important point I am trying to make with the everybody markets rule is that it is easier to plan to be an author who markets than it is to plan to be the exception, because you can’t really plan for that.

Remember that even James Patterson, who sells a gazillion books per year still does commercials for each book.


Everybody markets.

Next time: Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 6

Posted in Fiction Writing, Misc Topic

Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 4

We’ve been talking about the paths to publishing for the last few weeks. Every author is unique. One author’s publishing journey is right for them but might be wrong for you, and so I’ve laid out some general information so you can make a wise business decision about the publication of your books. Remember, you are the brand and the books are the product.

Last time, we left off with the Big 5 and the marketing quandary of why do you still have to market your book if you publish with the Big 5. Don’t they do that?


Sometimes not.

Here’s the deal. The Big 5 publish 800,000 books per year and they don’t have enough staff or time or financial desire to market every single book they publish.

But how do they decide which books they will market?

I hear you asking. I do.

It goes kind of like this. They have an A stack, a B stack, and a C stack of books they are publishing. Books in the A stack will get some kind of standard marketing package that includes a baseline list of things they will do. Books in the B stack will get some kind of simplified baseline marketing package. Books in the C stack get nothing. Zip. Nada. Well, maybe they will be listed in the seasonal catalog, but they don’t get much more than that.

But you, the author, do not get to decide which marketing package you will get. And you may not be able to find out which pile your book is in. So it’s possible that your book is published by the Big 5 (Congratulations!) but you don’t see it anywhere, and it doesn’t sell much because you haven’t marketed it at all.

Sorry about that.

So even if you publish with the Big 5 it is in your best interest, and the best interest of your book, to create a marketing plan, have a marketing budget, and market.

One thing you should know…

Everybody markets is a good mantra but marketing does not guarantee book sales. It is totally possible that you are a well-planned, luxuriously budgeted marketing machine. And in spite of that, your book doesn’t sell. Or at least it isn’t as successful as you wanted it to be.


Maybe your sales are down because you write in a niche market and your reading audience is limited.

Maybe you’ve written an Octogenarian Mystery where your protagonist is 80 and your reading audience is limited.

Maybe you’ve written the same kind of book that everyone else is writing. Your fabulous weir rabbit with the gravy fetish coming out next month is sure to be a hit! Except there are 25 other books coming out next month with that same idea. Oh no!

The market is flooded.

The reality is that supply always, always, always outweighs demand in publishing. Remember the publishing math we did last time?

So what do you do?

Keep marketing anyway.

Keep building your brand.

Be persistent.

Don’t give up.


Next time: Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 5


Posted in Fiction Writing, Misc Topic

Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 3

We’ve been discussing the similarities between the paths to publishing for the last couple of weeks. The main similarity is that regardless of the path that you take, everybody markets.

I hear you groaning. I do. But all authors should be promoting their work.


Let’s talk publishing math.

The US population is roughly 318 million people. There are some generous estimations that 70% of the population reads regularly, which works out to about 223 million readers, who each read on average about 5 books per year. Note that not all readers purchase their books. Some readers borrow from the library, or from friends etc., which will decrease the number of readers willing or able to purchase a book.

There are about 1 million books published in the US each year. The other 999,999 books are competing with your 1 book for a sale.

It’s a lot of books and not a lot of readers. If each of the 223 million readers each bought 5 different books so that every book published that year sold in equal numbers, each book would sell 1,115 copies. But, bookselling doesn’t work that way. Readers purchase books by authors they’ve already read, or they purchase a book because a friend recommended it, or they might purchase a book because it got a plethora of great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and they are willing to take a chance. Or they saw some form of advertising that got their attention.

The reality is that some books sell well (define “well” however you choose) but most books sell very little.

Discoverability is an issue for everyone.

But if I publish with the Big 5 why do I need to do marketing?

I hear you asking. I do.

Here’s the reality. Even the Big 5 publishers do not have enough money, time, or staff to market each and every book they publish. The Big 5 publish about 80% of those million books or about 800,000 books per year.

  • Penguin Random House publishes about 37%
  • HarperCollins publishes about 18%
  • Simon & Schuster publishes about 12%
  • Hachette publishes about 10%
  • Macmillian publishes about 5%

How do the Big 5 decide which books they will market? We’ll talk about that next time.

Meanwhile, the Big 5 publishes a lot of books every year. Which leaves about 200,000 books published by independent publishers and self-publishers.

Next time: Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 4

Posted in Fiction Writing, Misc Topic

Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 2

So you’ve written a book and it is ready for publication. Congratulations! The first thing to know is that every author’s path to publishing is unique, just like every author’s writing process is unique. What is right for one person is not necessarily right for the next person.

The main point here is to make sure that you take the time to figure out what it is you really want and then take the path that is best for you. Remember that publishing is a business. You, the author, are the brand, and your books are the product. Regardless of publishing with the Big 5, an independent press, or deciding to self-publish, you are a business. It’s time to start thinking of yourself that way.

Look at the paths and make a business decision based on what is best for you, and what you can reasonably achieve. Whichever path you choose, if it is based on research, and is a sound business decision based on your personal business, and I support your decision.

In the next couple posts, will talk about the similarities and differences between the three paths to publishing.

You might think that there are no similarities between self-publishing and traditional publishing, but there are. Let’s look at the two similarities below.

  1. Regardless of the publishing path you take, THE absolute most important thing that you do is write a story that will appeal to readers. Remember publishing is a business and ultimately it is about selling books. If you are going to spend a month, a year, ten years writing your story for readers, make sure that the book will meet reader’s expectations. This means that you have consistently learned writing craft and you are clear on the requirements of your genre.
  2. Everybody Markets. I hear groans, but it’s true. Everybody markets. Next time I will go into the details of why everybody markets and why it is so important.

Next: Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 3