Thursday, April 12, 2012

What Makes Us Different? Indies vs. Traditionally Published

Yesterday, I spent all day with a good friend who was responsible for introducing me to Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series. She yanked out her Kindle and firmly asked me "Alright, who can you recommend?" I grinned and knowing her taste in books, suggested both Anne R. Allen and Talli Roland. :)

She wanted to know why my book wasn't mass market paperback yet, and I explained to her the ins and outs of traditionally publishing. She opened her mouth in horror when I said 17.5% on ebooks. And then when we talked about royalty statements, she said "Surely there's laws where they must give you an itemized accounting of each book sold, right?" I laughed. Nope. And she cringed when she heard statements only came every 6 months.

So anyway, on the heels of announcing that agency pricing is possibly/probably going away and what will this mean for indies? I like David Gaughran's assessment that traditional publishers will still set high list prices, so Amazon won't be deep discounting too far.... he has an awesome blog on all cool things publishing called Let's Get Digital. Anyway, one refrain I saw was this: "But our ability to be better priced was what gave us the little edge we had!"

So let's brainstorm other ways to be DIFFERENT:

Unpredictable Story Lines

We know the formulas. We know the rhetoric out there about what agents/publishers supposedly want or are willing to publish. Check out reader forums (don't spam them, just read/listen). What are readers in your genre tired of? Even if it's just a small percentage of them, you can get inspired to take your audiences to new places they haven't been before. We can take the risk on a potentially niche story because....

Kill 'Em on Overhead

Be smart about how much money you invest in your book. There is NOTHING wrong with planning to sell X number of copies and planning the book's production around that number. I knew I needed to earn out on CANCELLED within 12 months. Luckily, I earned out in 6 months. I have a tentative three year plan before I see profit on my fiction writing, but between now and then, I must stay solvent. That means I need the money invested in one book returned in time to invest it in the next book. When you're small like we are, you can do those kinds of plans very easily.

Deliver  a Superior Ebook Product

Ebooks are still an afterthought to many publishers. Take some time to learn the craft of formatting. Know that readers don't like tons and tons of padding at the end of the ebook because it distorts the progress bar. Know that Kindle now defaults to Chapter 1 on ebooks, so front matter stuff is moot, you need to put a link at the end of the book to take the reader there.

Focus on the Most Important Part... The Story

Work your chapters so they compel the reader to press next page. Work with your beta readers, ask them to do some active reading, noting places they got bored, places they sighed and kept reading because they're your friend. Try out 3-4 different beginnings. Play with the structure of the story. I'm looking forward to trying out writing a novel in episodes, rather than chapters. I can experiment like that because there's no one to tell me not to!

We don't have to just beat traditional publishers on price points to stay in the game. We can deliver a superior reading experience. We can write ahead and then publish so we can publish more quickly than a traditional publisher. Our sky is the limit, so be brave and be bold. There's a bunch of readers out there needing a break from their everyday lives!

A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby. CANCELLED is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble 

WIP: STONE. Can Melanie Stone let her mother back into her life and kick out the creep trying to worm his way in?

1 comment:

  1. This is great food for thought. Been thinking more and more about the self publishing route lately. :)