It’s the wild west in the publishing world these days. With the legitimization of self-publishing by the Romance Writers of America (acceptance of self-pubbed books in the RITA, many conference sessions on the nuts and bolts of how to go about it), more authors than ever are jumping on the bandwagon, resulting in thousands of new titles being released monthly.
I say hurray to those brave souls who are navigating being their own publisher. And, someday I may join you. But, for right now, I’m content to be with my small press, even with smaller royalties. Why, you ask, would I turn my back on larger royalties? Here are my reasons:
1. Time. As a debut author, I knew I’d be spending a lot of time building my brand and my backlist. I’m slow to learn new things on the computer, so I had to decide whether I wanted to learn the nuts and bolts of publishing my own book or if I wanted to establish a presence.
2. Money. If you’re going to self-publish the right way, you have to outlay some cash up front. To pay for editing, cover art, formatting, ISBNs, copyrights, the going rate for any self-pubbed book is $2,000-$5,000. And that’s just to get it out the door. Promotion is a completely separate cost. And I have less money than I do time.
3. Validation. Call me crazy, but the self-doubting author in me wanted a legitimate publisher to tell me my books were worthy of their time. My books don’t fit into a traditional line, since I choose to write my historic romances about America in the 1850s and 1860s, and my contemporaries always feature women over 40. I was rejected by the Big Six because, although they were good stories, they didn’t know what to do with them. Small presses are more flexible. They just want good stories.
4. Editing. This one is big for me. I’d never been through the editing process before, and didn’t know a good editor from a lousy one. How could I possibly have sifted through all the editing services out there today if I didn’t know what I was looking for? Now that I’ve been through the process a number of times, I can spot good editing from the first page.
5. Cover art. Another biggie for me. Having been through this now seven times, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted for the cover of my latest historic. It was the first time I had a clear vision of what was to be on the cover. My publisher gave me their reasons why I shouldn’t go down that road, and gave me several choices, none of which made me happy. They finally gave me two choices—one as I pictured it in my head and the other a lovely young woman. They were right. My version sucked. But, if I’d been doing it on my own, I’d have gone with the cover from my head.
6. Help with promotion. Since my funds are limited, I can’t afford a big ad budget and get my books in Bookbub, The Romance Reviews, RWR or any of the hundreds of other places where a presence wouldn’t hurt. Nor can I get Amazon to publicize a Kindle Daily Deal on my own. Sure, as a self-pubbed author, you can play with the pricing, but can you get the word out to everyone on Amazon’s list when you drop your price to 99 cents for the day? I still do a lot of promotion on my own, such as setting up blog tours, keeping my own blog up to date, being a contributing editor on a number of national sites, but the assistance I receive from my publisher is vital to my success.
7. Distribution. Want to hold your book in your hot little hand? That’s a whole different ball of wax with self-pubbing. It’s one thing to throw it up on ebook sites, quite another to have it in print. A good publishing house will be able to sell your books directly from their site, as well as on all the ebook sites. And they’ll offer print versions within six months of publishing the ebook version. They’ll arrange for distribution to brick and mortar stores, and make them available to the sites bookstore owners and libraries use to purchase their books. If you’re a self-pubber, that means you’re also your own distribution source.
8. Fellowship. Last, and probably most important is the friendship with other authors. Becoming a success in this business means forming circles of fellow authors, through publishing houses, through local chapters, through a social media presence, and at national conferences. They can help you with promotion, aid you in picking one cover over another, assist with proofreading and writing those tricky cover blurbs. And, most important, they can write a review for you and help spread the word to their friends. The heads of the publishing houses know people in the industry that I don’t, and help spread the word if they enjoy a book.
Writing may be a solitary profession, but it takes a village to get a manuscript to print and then into the hands of the public. I’m grateful I have the help as I attempt to get my foothold in this business and keep writing, so I can have a decent backlist. The one argument I keep hearing over and over from self-pubbed authors is that they’re control freaks and need to be involved every step of the way. Well, when you submit a book to a publisher, it doesn’t just automatically go from manuscript to print while you sit on the sidelines. There are multiple editing steps to get through, reviews to garner, covers to approve. If the publishing house is a good one, you have a locked-in release date and can begin to promote it on your own months in advance. I still can control the outcome, and to some degree, the success of my books, by leaning on the publishing house to assist me in my efforts.
That’s not to say that I will never take the plunge into the world of self-pubbing. I enjoy writing a series, which do well in self-pubbed land. But right now, I’m picking my battles and trying to keep my head above water.
Grace Wagner needs a husband by July, in order to inherit the trust her father has left for her. Her stepfather, though, has plans for the money that don’t include Grace, and the last thing he wants is for her to find a husband before she turns 21, thereby fulfilling the terms of the trust. She's been in love with Halwyn since she was thirteen, but he hasn't noticed her at any of the balls they've attended over the years. With the aid of his new eyeglasses, he spies Grace from across the room and they share a dance. Grace decides to present him with a business proposition that will satisfy them both. But, can a clueless knight in shining armor and a desperate damsel in distress find a way to turn a marriage of convenience into something more?
Avalailable at Amazon.
Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s or in present day middle America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a regular contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After column. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com