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Why I Do Self-Publish

Aloha, everyone. When Charlie gave me this opportunity to guest-blog, I asked him if it'd be okay if I did a counter-post to his March 21 entry Why I Don't Self-Publish. Charlie readily agreed.

First, it feels necessary to say that there is no best path in this business of writing fiction and every author's career is different. I started in the usual way, with traditional publishing, and had six science fiction novels published by New York houses between '95 and 2003. My work garnered good reviews and there were a couple of awards, but despite my best efforts no meaningful amount of money was going into the family coffers. Economically, I was wasting my time. Emotionally I was inhabited by a deep, dark sense of failure, with no viable means to turn things around. So circa 2000 I more or less walked away from the field for almost ten years. I did not stop writing entirely, but it was close.

In 2009 I woke up to the ebook revolution.

My background and situation let me jump right into self-publishing. I'd worked in web development for nine years, so I knew how to handle the HTML behind ebooks, I was familiar with Photoshop, I'd learned the basics of InDesign, I had the rights back to all my novels, and I had time to devote, since the recession had ended my programming job. So I became my own publisher and reissued the novels, first as ebooks and then in print-on-demand editions.

I found that I loved this new business, because I was in control.

In traditional publishing, after a book is sold, the important decisions are made by the publisher--format, cover art, cover copy, sales date, pricing, promotional budget (if any)--and once those decisions are made they can rarely be changed. So my near-future bio-thriller Limit of Vision was released with a pulp cover featuring giant bugs, while my far-future novel, Memory, was released with a back cover description that got the basic facts of the story world wrong.

As my own publisher, I make mistakes too, but because my business model--low upfront costs and no warehoused inventory--is radically different from that of traditional publishing, I'm in a position to correct those mistakes. I can--and I have--changed cover art, cover copy, and pricing after publishing a book.

Of course these days, self-publishing out-of-print backlist isn't controversial. The question writers debate is what to do with original fiction. I looked at it from a business perspective, asking What's best for me? And I couldn't justify trying New York again.

Charlie cites time as a major reason for sticking with traditional publishing. His time is best invested in writing books, not publishing them. This is how he makes a living, and the figures add up for him. He sells a lot of books.

For me, the equation is different, in large part because I'm operating on a very different scale. If I try to market a manuscript, I can expect to wait months (years?) on a response, more months to negotiate a contract, and no doubt the advance would be low. Suppose I accepted $10,000. Fifteen-percent would go to the agent, my home state of Hawaii would take 4%, and I would be left with only $8,100, stretched out in multiple payments. Going by past experience the advance is all I'd ever see. Traditional publishing, even when done well, is no guarantee of success.

Of course financial success with self-publishing is unlikely too.

There. I said it. Self-publishing is not a magic solution, and still the odds of success look better to me because my profit per unit sold is much higher than it would be for a traditionally published book, and the potential exists to generate that profit for the life of the copyright (subject to the risks of piracy, irrelevance, or the end of the world, of course).

As I mentioned, my business model includes low upfront costs. The biggest cost for me is the time it takes to write and revise a novel, but that's the same regardless of how I publish. Less than a month ago I released a new novel, a near-future military thriller called The Red: First Light. I wrote it last summer, beginning in early June and finishing a first draft at the end of September. After incorporating suggestions from beta readers, I sent the manuscript to a professional editor and then spent the month of January rewriting it. This is the same process used in traditional publishing except that I paid out-of-pocket for the editor (and it got done much faster).

Copyediting was next. I solicited an estimate from a professional and was told $2000-$3000. Ahem. I couldn't justify the amount, so I had a fellow member of the writers cooperative Book View Café copyedit the manuscript for me.

To this point, the time I'd invested in The Red: First Light went to writing and revision. Next came the time required to publish. Here's how that worked out: It took me two or three days to process the copy edits, less than a day to hand-code the ebook, and two to three days to do the interior layout of the print book.

Did I do a professional job? You can see the result for yourself. Go look up the book on Amazon and grab a free ebook sample, or use the "Look Inside the Book" feature to see the layout of the print book. In either case, is the work comparable to that of a traditional book? I like to think it is.

In my experience, cover art is the most challenging part of the publishing process. For The Red: First Light, the cover art was done by my daughter and I'm very pleased with it. The title text was added by me and I wrote the back cover copy.

So if I can write the book, hire an editor, get the favor of a copyeditor, coerce an artist, create the ebook, and do the print layout--with the whole process taking less than ten months--what benefit is a traditional publisher to me?

Well, discovery, maybe. Readers can't buy books they've never seen from writers they've never heard of.

Most readers are turned on to a new book by word of mouth--someone they know or follow online tells them a book is good, so they look for it. Another common method of discovery is bookstore browsing--and here traditional publishers win, at least for now. Because of the way the distribution system works, you will not find The Red:First Light in chain bookstores. Of course, not every traditional book makes it into physical stores either, and those that do tend to stay for a very short time.

Would I have benefitted from discovery in stores? I'm sure I would have made a few more sales, but enough to make it worth giving up my independence? Unlikely, especially given the declining number of bookstores.

In the end, it's the total revenue that matters. Ten thousand copies sold of an original novel is not going to impress a traditional publisher or lead to meaningfully higher income for me. But working on my own gives me a bigger cut of the list price. So if I manage to sell online ten thousand copies of TR:FL at list ($7.99 ebook/$16 trade USD) in 2013, I'll have made a nice (but not spectacular) annual income.

So for me--and every writer is different--traditional publishing does not have much to offer anymore. If I'm going to gamble my time, my art, my potential, then I want a large share of the potential profits. Indie publishing gives me that. So far, I am not an indie success story, but my work is mine. I control it. I can do what I want with it. I can try new things. I like that. A lot.

69 Comments

1:

Thanks for this. With different backgrounds and skill sets, it seems like self-publishing might be a reasonable path for some writers. There are, alas, some writers who perhaps should not be self-publishing. Or publishing in any form...

As a reader, I've been changing my habits over the years in how I select books for purchase. I used to love wandering through bookstores, poking through the shelves of books. The rise of the chain bookstore has made that less fun, as I know I am likely to see the same books everywhere, in chains and big shops that think they have to compete with the chains. I suppoe they sell well, but seeing all those shelfs of series of books based on the video game/TV series/beloved licensed characters has me cringing.

I find that I've been looking to more on-line communities for books. I suspect that this becomes a good path to find the gems in the new floods of e-books coming from major publishers, specialty houses, and the intrepid self-publishers out there. That makes this a Good Place to find books, and I've got to thank our Good Host and his guest bloggers, along with the many commenters here for pointing out more good reads for me.

I just picked up the Nanotech Succession Omnibus and The Red: First Light. Damn. Get These Books. It's going to be a late night.

Mahalo nui loa!

2:

I wrote a book once. I made perhaps USD $ 0.30 per hour.

I don't think it's a good way to get rich. Nor a way to work from home in your spare time...

I bet that your ability to change the book after publication, and what you learn from the feedback, is far more valuable than traditional publishers may realize.

(is there such a beast as a "traditional publisher" any more?)

(can you self-publish and still get books on the shelves of public libraries? which is where I encountered by all-time-favorite "Memory". where I found Kage Baker. and other beloved strangers...)

3:

Just bought The Red: First Light from Amazon. I checked first at Smashwords because I understand that they give a slightly better deal to the author. (That is what Walter Jon Williams told me.) However, you weren't there. Is there a reason for not using Smashwords?

4:

Just one more data point for you:

For me, book discovery used to happen mainly in bookshops and libraries. That has changed. Lately, my discovery process seems to involve GoodReads discussions and recommendation/mentions on trusted blogs (like this one). I almost never go to publisher sites; so, whatever they do there has no impact on me. (The one exception is Baen, which I visit regularly. Got in that habit years back because of Baen's no DRM policy.)

5:

Can you self-publish and still get books on the shelves of public libraries?

I don't know about prose fiction, but my local library system does have dead-tree artifacts from web comic artists who've gone that route (such as Jennie Breeden), and some locally relevant nonfiction that wouldn't be interesting to conventional large publishers. So it's possible in some cases.

6:

paquette, online recommendations are my way of choosing books too. No option, really, because there's only one new-book store left on the island and it's almost an hour away.

waters, that rate sounds a little high to me. ;-) Libraries can order from Ingram, and most of my books are listed there, but they're not hard cover, so libraries probably wouldn't pick them up. OTOH, the writers cooperative Book View Cafe has some library agreements for ebooks.

wishamc, I don't use Smashwords because they won't accept epub files. Instead you're supposed to submit a Word doc formatted in a specific way and they create the epub file. The result is not pretty!

7:

I have some doubt about the quality of my writing, though I think it's far from the worst you might find on Amazon.

What I feel is the big barrier is that publishing in the USA, when you're not a US citizen or resident, entangles you with the US tax system. For my likely earnings it doesn't seem worth the hassle.

From what I have been able to find out, Google Play might be a way around that. I've also seen that I can get Google Play gift cards from one of my local supermarkets.

I must admit that in light of Amazon's enthusiastic tax avoidance, here in the UK, I doubly resent the way they organise their ebook publishing to hit me with US taxes.

8:

Hi Linda,

Out of interest, what does your epub toolchain look like? I know that for the very "toes in watter" dabbling I've done with going from "something written" to "readable epub", I ended up doing a fair bit of the toolchain myself (LaTeX -> HTML -> EPUB, all done by a lovingly hand-coded conversion framework). Are there better/more usable choices?

9:

So glad to hear you're writing adult fiction again -- your nanotech books are among my favorites in hard sf: real characters, novel situations, stuff that opens up the back of my head.

A lot of my first exposure to writers used to come from SF Book Club editions (not as much lately) -- how hard is it to get into that market if you're self publishing, and are you even interested in picking up those meager scraps, given their reduced royalties?

10:

"Charlie cites time as a major reason for sticking with traditional publishing. His time is best invested in writing books, not publishing them. This is how he makes a living, and the figures add up for him. He sells a lot of books."

This is one of the main reasons authors don't publish. They don't want to take the time necessary to become a publishing company. They don't want to learn all the little details to get a book produced. However, that is no reason to pass up the benefits of self publishing as you've seen.

The next step is to find a company who you can outsource the self publishing to that is reputable.

11:

I dread to think what Douglas Adams would have done with self publishing. He was always prone to dancing with a deadline - I imagine that if he'd been into SP, he'd have spent a lot of time tinkering with book layout and the like while avoiding writing himself out of the corners he'd written himself into.

12:

I've read your work before, Linda, and I'm glad to hear you're writing again and taking charge of your career.

I hire an editor and cover designer for my work, but I do my own formatting. There is a learning curve involved (especially with formatting for print), but it gets easier with practice. Even a working mother like myself can find time to write and self-publish. To me, the hardest part of self-publishing is finding an audience, but Amazon isn't going to pull my stories after a month, so I have time for word-of-mouth to spread.

13:

I don't know how much of Hitchhiker we'd have gotten - probably some, as a chunk of the material was produced with the BBC was standing over him with a big stick; ditto Dirk Gently, with some of the bones laid down in his Doctor Who script Shada - but we'd never have seen a second Dirk Gently novel...

14:

Great to see this perspective, Linda.

Can I add my vote to getting more description on how you create your ebooks from Text?

As for the wider world, I'd love to see something like a Hugo or other award for best self-published novel, just to throw some publicity to the good writers who are being ignored by New York and London. It's a pipe dream, of course, but I can dream.

15:

With my first ebooks I used a conversion program, but I hated the sloppy code and meaningless style names. Now I use a search & replace routine to insert the paragraph tags, italics, and line breaks. Then I do a search & paste to put in chapter tags, first paragraph divs, and other specialized bits. Next, the chapters get pasted into Sigil, where everything gets checked and refined.

No doubt there are more efficient ways, but this works really well for me, resulting in a very clean epub.

16:

Thanks so much for the kind words!

A lot of my first exposure to writers used to come from SF Book Club editions (not as much lately) -- how hard is it to get into that market if you're self publishing

I've recently inquired with them, but haven't heard back. I imagine it's a very long shot.

17:

The next step is to find a company who you can outsource the self publishing to that is reputable.

I actually enjoy doing the work. I'm not one who can write all day, every day. But the path is different for everyone.

18:

As for the wider world, I'd love to see something like a Hugo or other award for best self-published novel

I'd have to look it up to confirm, but I'm nearly certain that self-published work can be considered for the major awards, so there's no need to create a separate category. I really think self-published work should be of a quality to compete with what is traditionally published.

19:

Linda, you write the books, I'll buy the books.

That is only possible now because of indie publishing.

In a post on your website about your early career you mention that you got great reviews but few sales. That's because the people reviewing your books got them for free, and when people who buy books went looking for your stuff, they were out of print. That won't happen anymore.

Now that I know you are writing and publishing again I will be able to buy real paper books--trade paper, great layout, books done right--without the fear of them going out of print before I find them.

Every day that someone finds Nagata books for the first time, they have access to all of your books. Each new book that you indie publish adds to all of your books.

Charlie is basing his decision to not indie publish based on the short time that his stuff has been published, and yet most of his stuff is either out of print or only available in mass market size; soon to be out of print.

Right now, every person who discovers Stross books for the first time don't have access to his early stuff, and probably never will. Each book that comes out now, should be leading people to his earlier books, that ain't happenin'.

You made the right choice.

20:

Hi Linda. You know, I'd totally forgotten about Limit of Vision. I actually bought that from SFBC back in the day.

If nothing else, the Club's copywriters back then could really sell a book. Their text, did not mesh with the cover art shown (and yes it was pulpy and not in a very good way), but somehow the mix got be to pull the trigger. The book itself was something else, again.

Its like everyone in the traditional chain is just too worried about their cut of the business to make sure what they do doesn't negatively impact the reader experience. Not that the book isn't good and doesn't stand on its own merits. However, neither the publisher nor the marketer did anything to really help the book, long term. They just did whatever seemed to be the most advantages to themselves at the time.

Good to see you worked you're way around that mess.

21:

I am now 64 and nearly 3 months old and it has been a hard winter over here in the North East of the UK and thus various arthritically diseased joints have been complaining. And yet despite the Spinally Spondilic grumblings I would have toured the second hand book shops of New Castle Upon Tyne in search of interesting Books, IF, these days, such second hand Book Shops existed outside of the various sub-sections of Charity Shops.

Sadly the only place that you are likly to discover such specialist Second Hand Bookshops in the U.K.both now and in thefuture is in Tourist Town/Cities where they will pick up the More Money than Sense sentimentality association souvenir trade. Here in the North East of England, and off the Tourist Trap trade, even an Antiquarian Bookshop that was much older than me has now closed...

http://www.getbookshop.co.uk/info/robert-d-steedman-newcastle-upon-tyne.html

And it would seem... for me havent been there...retreated to...


http://www.antiques-united.co.uk/business/show/id/5610


Here in the U.K this is all too commonplace an event and I can’t really complain since I mostly buy recycled Tree books via Amazonian type sites in the internet and pick up such suggestions as appear here - and which look promising - in the form of e books that might, if they look to be well produced be bought as REAL Books.

Sorry, but although I've bought a Nexus 10 to play with as a substitute for my Wet News Print Kindle.... Phooey to I Pad Charlie, for this thing behaves just like an external hard drive to my Windows 7 PC and gives a really good print quality and so Apple can go and... but I digress.

Nevertheless Linda, my E Toy isn’t a REAL BOOK...note the near 65years of age thing... and so it is likely that I will read the rest of Elizabeth Bears " The Stratford Man: Volume I: Ink and Steel ..." series as Real Books though I will finish Ink and Steel as the e book for I'm loath to break off a really good story and await a Real Books Appearence via the Web.

The Nexus 10 was Really expensive and ..oh, all right it’s a nice toy but The Great British Public used to buy me such toys - and don’t think me ungrateful but shouldn’t it have arranged to wean me from the Public Services a bit at a time rather than making me go Cold Turnkey when I retired? The European Unions Human Rights Law probably has something to say about cruel and Un-natural Punishment and such Stuff...I should sue!


In the Mean time? Would you Mind If I Should Compare Thee to a Summers Day? For I am reasonably sure that thou art More Lovely and More Temperate...and will forgive my not having caught up with your work yet.

I will get around to your books real soon now ..honest.

22:

Right now, every person who discovers Stross books for the first time doesn’t have access to his early stuff, and probably never will. Each book that comes out now, should be leading people to his earlier books, that ain't happenin'."

Really? Maybe I'm looking at it in the wrong way but although I did know of Our Hosts Stuff some time ago...he might be suprised just how long ago unless he consults mutual friends like Dave Langford... I did miss his Stuff thanks to a Bout of Clinical Depression that delayed my reading by quite a while and thus meant that I had to catch up. The thing is that once I recovered enough to catch up with my reading I had no trouble at all finding Charlie’s books as back list in Zombie Tree form via easily found sources like Big South American Rivers dealers either NEW ..Hooray!! ..Or as Secondish Hand/Paw. Not that our host will benefit at all from the Second Hand/Paw Hard Back Market..At 2p plus postage at several pounds - ho hum, something’s away there - per book. Even the more obscure titles are available through the magic of the internet if say you buy such as " The Rapture of the Nerds: A tale of the singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations (Hardcover)
By Cory Doctorow “on Amazon.com ... and our Host, though he isn’t mentioned on that Amazon.com American Site entry... but I've had my Hard Back copy from the US of A for ages and very nicely produced it is too.


I'm old enough to remember having to write off to US of A vian Publishers in Pen and Ink on Air Mail letter form and then recieving their entirly charming letter to the effect that of Course they Would Sell Me the Rex Stout " Nero Wolfe " Stories that werent published in the U.K. and that we could sort out some sort of way - bank transfer I think we arrived upon - that I could have these books that did turn up a couple of months later via the Postman in a package ...this LONG before Amazon had even been thought of! These people wanted - indeed they were positivly Eager to sell me Stuff which I can tell you is not the kind of customer experience that we were used to in the U.K. of Long Ago. And people wonder why Amazon is so sucessful.

I dunno ...the Kids of Today ..dunno they are Born, Spoiled, Grummble, Grummble and so forth.

23:

So... $80,000 USD isn't a "spectacular" annual income?


24:

can you self-publish and still get books on the shelves of public libraries?

Yes. Depending on the platform you use, this can cost more though. Smashwords lets you distribute to libraries and bookstores for free, while Amazon's Createspace charges you a small flat fee to activate distribution.

The problem is that librarians still primarily use trade publications (Kirkus, Library Journal, etc) to make acquisition choices and so you have the perennial problem of getting your title noticed by the right people.

The easiest way is to just donate a copy of the print ed. to your local library (and depending on how much you want to spend this way, you could mail out a few copies to regional libraries as well).

I'm planning on doing this with my forthcoming self-published novel. Helps that I'm a former librarian and have friends at libraries all over. I can just mail them copies and thy can donate them on my behalf.

--Keith Edwards

25:

For those that talk about hating reading in a screen (while doing it here...), I still strongly suggest e-ink readers like the Kindle or Kobo. I read almost exclusively ebooks they days but I wouldn't do that if I was using my iPad (which I do have) because the eye strain is too great. On a dedicated ereader, I have no issues and read for hours at a time.

26:

Interesting.
I have almost the opposite experience, but contingent upon the content. I can read small articles and magazines on my e-reader, but a piece of fiction? Forget it. To focus on long pieces, it's almost as if I need to see greater contrast, or maybe even the physical indentations themselves. I end up perpetually reading the same paragraphs over and over...

27:

Linda, a point regarding your self-(re)published books.

I find that unless it is an excellently bound hard-cover, I prefer ebooks by far.

Having recently purchased the whole lot and working my way through them as ePubs read on several different devices (Kobo Touch, Kobo Vox, Nexus 7)and using different applications (Aldiko, Moon + Reader, FB), I find the unmodified formats as good or better than other publishers and they take to my specific reformatting as well as any others.

28:

ARNOLD, perhaps there are two decades and 7.6 million metres between us. And yet I would love to take you along the used bookstores of Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley -- California, that is. Most university towns still harbor a used bookshop or two, but they are often run as "locals only" speakeasies. Alas.
https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=used+book+stores+telegraph+avenue&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

29:

Hi Arnold! The Red: First Light is actually available in trade paperback via Amazon. (http://www.amazon.com/The-Red-First-Linda-Nagata/dp/1937197131/)

With just-in-time printing technology, being self-published does not mean you're limited to eBooks and, like eBooks, the up-front cost is low-to-non-existent. The main downside to that is your books are not carried in bookstores (since there is no inventory), though even that is becoming a bygone problem these days.

30:

Glaucon, USD $80,000 isn't really that spectacular (especially when you live in Hawaii). Yes, it's definitely livable and comfortable, but it's not much when compared to the overnight millionaires we generally consider to be the success stories of self-publishing, and I think that's what she's referring/comparing to.

31:

Hi,
I just bought one of your books (first Nano one) on Kobo. I like their drm-free policy so that's where I have an account. I'm hoping (expecting) to like it and buy more.

I hope you'll let us know how much of a spike in sales you get from this bit of writing for Charlie. ;-)

32:

I'm still working on my ePub toolchain but so far it's Word to Word HTML (filtered) to cleanup in NoteTab Pro to insertion in an ePub book framework in Oxygen. Oxygen is great for editing ePubs because you can work INSIDE a zipped file. Toggle back and forth from editing to viewing with an ereader or app without having to zip and unzip. Oxygen also highlights code errors, such as unmatched tags.

33:

Hi Linda

Like Charlie I picked up a copy of Vast, back in the day and loved it. Sadly you pretty much disappeared from the book shelves so I didn't catch up on the rest of your work until recently when I could buy them second hand on the net.


Glad you are writing again
Best regards
Rex

34:

Linda, you write the books, I'll buy the books.

Deal! Thanks so much. :-)

35:

Good to see you worked you're way around that mess.

Me too!

The problem with the Limit of Vision cover, IMO, was that it gave the wrong impression of the book. It's a dangerous thing to deceive a reader. ;-)

36:

Arnold, here on Maui the volunteer group Friends of the Library have cleverly taken a large space in the main shopping mall, and created a used bookstore, filling in the bookstore vacuum on the north side of the island. Not that this does me any good! But I have to agree with albill (25) on eInk. I was a reluctant convert, but now I read novels almost exclusively on my Kindle. Print books don't let you crank up the font size, after all.

37:

So... $80,000 USD isn't a "spectacular" annual income?

It would be very nice, but no, I wouldn't call it spectacular, (especially not in Hawaii). But the $80K figure assumes I'd be getting the full list price on each ebook sold. Remember that distributors take their cut, typically 30-35%, though it can go up to 65% in certain circumstances. So the total from the hypothetical 10K book sales would be significantly less. And then there are taxes...

38:

I find the unmodified formats as good or better than other publishers and they take to my specific reformatting as well as any others.

Thanks--that is really good to hear. And thank you for trying the books!

39:

I like their drm-free policy so that's where I have an account.

Actually, my ebooks are DRM free no matter where they're bought. A lot of my readers have made a point of letting me know how much they prefer it. :-)

I hope you'll let us know how much of a spike in sales you get from this bit of writing for Charlie. ;-)

It's been eye-opening. I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the interest and the positive comments.

40:

Toggle back and forth from editing to viewing with an ereader or app without having to zip and unzip.

Sigil treats each file within the zip as a separate HTML file, and allows a number of files to be open at once. It also has a toggle feature. It does have a few quirks though. Partly, I think, because it automatically fixes unmatched tags, so your location in the file can jump unexpectedly to the beginning or the end when you toggle. I've never heard of Oxygen before. I'll need to take a look at it.

41:

Hi Linda,

Fair enough.
I just thought it an odd phrasing, given that median US income seems to be about $40,000. Thus, I was thinking that if double isn't 'spectacular', what would be? :-)

That being said, I think it's fabulous that creative people like yourself do now have a seemingly legitimate opportunity to do what you love and eke out a decent life. Though I may groan about my own discomfort with e-publishing from a consumer POV, I couldn't be happier with the fact that it represents another means by which people can be exposed to good literature in particular, and reading in general...

42:

It wouldn't be 80,000 unless she were selling directly from her own site and got it all. From Amazon, she'd get 70% of that.

So, 56,000 before taxes. Yeah, that's good but not spectacular.

43:

waters.boyd wrote:
And yet I would love to take you along the used bookstores of Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley -- California, that is.

The former used bookstores of Telegraph, Ave.

I'm going by press reports and the web (I lived there for 10 years, but I don't get up there that often anymore).

Codys shut down the Telegraph store and moved down to Shattuck in 2006, and then closed permanently in 2008.

Half Price Books moved down to Shattuck.

Shakespeare and Co. moved in up there, and is active.

Moes closed, unclosed, had fits, but is apparently still open.

I lived within three blocks of Codys and two of the old Telegraph Half Price Books, until someone murdered a local elderly couple around the corner from my appartment for no evident motive, and my wife and I decided it was time to skedaddle out of that part of town.

44:

Charlie is basing his decision to not indie publish based on the short time that his stuff has been published, and yet most of his stuff is either out of print or only available in mass market size; soon to be out of print.

Ahem: the only books of mine that are out of print are:

* The Web Architect's Handbook (1996, of dubious relevance)

* Toast (2000, short story collection: the good stuff from which is in "Wireless", 2009)

Everything else is still in print. Hell, Ace even reprinted the mass market paperback of "Singularity Sky" earlier this year; that's been out for ten years.

What you might be tripping over is Barnes and Noble's shrinking shelf-space for back-listed books. As in, they only stock new stuff, stocking it on 90 or 120 day rolling credit and returning it if unsold. This is a bookstore failure, not a publisher failure.

45:

True this; as a worked example, I bought my first Stross as a result of a chance meeting in the dealers' room at Eastercon 2008 and have a full set of fiction except for Toast.

46:

Linda, I found one of your books via an Amazon USA recommendation, then bought the others too. Nice to see your return after a hiatus.

Other authors that were simply not available except by ordering from the USA included Nicola Griffith, Catherine Asaro, Sarah Zettel, Connie Willis, Howard Waldrop, Lucius Shepard, Ted Chiang, Samuel R. Delany, and Joan Slonczewski. The book shops stocked (and still stock) Pratchett, Adams, Tolkien, the occasional reprint of a classic, and whichever hard SF male author was currently being pushed by the large publishers. I am pleased that ebooks promise to make it easier to buy work by writers that are not the subject of mass marketing campaigns.

However, I still can't buy Alex Jablokow's Brain Thief as an ebook, as it seems stuck in USA-only publishing limbo. Perhaps OGH can continue spreading the word about the broken legal software used by the publishing industry, and give advice on how to change it...

47:

Paws,
Toast is listed as available on the Wyrm Publishing website (signed, limited edition, hardback); they are part of Clarkesworld. The same book can be found on Amazon.com, as well as the earlier trade paperback. And an unusual Stross item titled Toast: An Index and Checklist for the Anthologies of Groff Conklin, published by Wildside. Toast can also be found on Amazon.co.uk although more expensive than on Amazon.com. I don't know what the postage from the US would be.

Enjoy!

Frank.
Sorry for going off topic, Linda.

48:

So, 56,000 before taxes.

And understand that's not $56K in WAGES. In the US income from other than a paycheck for non corp entities you get to pay the employers portion of the payroll taxes. Which are typically never included when people discuss salaries.

And when a corp or similar it gets more complicated.

My rule of thumb for a sole proprietor in the US is you get to think of gross income as about the same as 1/2 of that as a paycheck wage. Benefits and all that.

49:

This is a wonderful analysis of your situation! Everyone has their own needs, constraints, and resources that determine what's best for them. I thought when I got my agent I was set, but she was never able to sell any of my books, so I turned to self-publishing, and I've learned a lot from the experience. So many people assume that self-publishing is only for books that aren't "good enough" for traditional publishing, and I try to explain that the real criteria in publishing is "How big is the market for this book?" because that determines what a publisher would spend on it (and of course, they are making an educated guess on that).

FYI, Smashwords does now accept ePub, so long as the book has a statement in the front matter about being a Smashwords edition. If you want your book to be available in Kindle, RTF, and PDF format, you still have to give them a Word file, but since they use the ePub version to push the book to iBooks, Nook, Sony, and other retailers, it's definitely worth it to provide your own native ePub version. I know what you mean about the plain vanilla epub their conversion produces. Not pretty at all.

I recommend Smashwords! I always start with Kindle Select, so I can do book giveaways, but after 90 days I also upload to Smashwords. For one thing, you can make the book free indefinitely on Smashwords, and the major vendors all price match, so it can be free in those stores, too. It's a little like playing chess by snail mail, but eventually, they will price match. But I also think a giveaway is truly of lasting value mostly when it's the first book in a series, or at least when it has a direct sequel. For one thing, a lot of people don't read the free books they download. I've had a book free on almost all ebook platforms since August (I made it free on Smashwords and when B&N made it free, Amazon price-matched it!) and I've given away thousands of copies. I've sold only about 5-10% of that number of the sequel.

If you like control, you will like Smashwords. You do need patience as you don't get other retailer sales info as fast as Smashwords info. But people around the world can buy your book!

50:

And of course a good bookstore will order in a book for you if it is in print or accessibly out of print. The Warrior Woman of the Internet just speeds up the process and removes the excuse to get out of the house and talk to a living person in the same room (not a negligible benefit of physical stores). Similarly, if its anywhere in your local library system you should be able to get it through interlibary loan. So the idea that a book vanishes into a black hole as soon as it goes out of print is very strange to me.

51:

This post could be improved with actual links to the amazon page selling Linda Nagata's books.

52:

We're fortunate in Edinburgh in having Transreal (gratuitous mention), owned and operated by a subject-matter expert who imports US paperbacks :)

...and I'm now on the third book in the Nanotech Succession, trying to drive that sales spike upwards...

53:

Absolutely. I mean I was like "hey, wait a second," and flipped to look at the cover at one point, but I was young enough at the time, and am a determined enough reader that I just chuckled to myself and mused about whether or not cover artists ever actually read the book they were hired to wrap with their art?

I'm unlikely to give a book that much of a chance these days. I've gotten old and realized that life is short are there are far too many books, and if the books on hand aren't up to snuff, my time would be better wasted writing my own until a new supply can be secured ;-p

54:

can you self-publish and still get books on the shelves of public libraries?

Sort of. As a general rule, most libraries can't support self-published e-books, because they don't have any way to distribute them if they're not available via one of e-book library vendors (which in practical terms means Overdrive). Even with books on Amazon this isn't always possible. As nice as it would be to host them ourselves, very few libraries have the infrastructure necessary to do that.

Physical copies also tend to be iffy, mostly because of quality. A lot of libraries avoid soft-cover books as much as possible because they tend to fall apart very quickly, and I've noticed that most of the print-on-demand services don't have even as much quality as a regular or trade paperback. As such even at a low price selectors tend to be wary of buying them. We'll sometimes make an exception, especially if it's a local author, assuming they content is of good quality. (You probably wouldn't be surprised at how much crap gets sent to us.)

55:

George.Herbert: former used bookstores of Telegraph Ave...

Ouch. I lived up Haste St., about two blocks from Cody's, 25 years ago. It was a terrible neighborhood. But between the Big Earthquake and the Big Fire, things started to pick up, with Cody's, and Amoeba Records, and the every-10-years-or-so re-paving of People's Park.

We used to have Cartesian Books and maybe five other places besides. (the other change of hobbit?) And now Moe's lives on customer pledges.

Maybe this is progress, but the old places had their benefits, too. Never trust a bookstore that lacks a resident cat.

(Thanks to Our Host for a good place for book people. No doubt he supports the requisite feline overlord or two.)

56:

Thanks all for the info on self-publishing and libraries.

I have been a Computer Person since 1978, and the horrid Overdrive eBook option for public libraries here completely baffles me.

57:

Linda, I found one of your books via an Amazon USA recommendation, then bought the others too. Nice to see your return after a hiatus.

Thank you! And it's nice to know the books get some Amazon recommendations.

It was a huge frustration to me that I'd only ever had one book published in the UK. Ebooks have certainly changed the rules, no matter who is publishing the book.

58:

FYI, Smashwords does now accept ePub, so long as the book has a statement in the front matter about being a Smashwords edition.

Right, someone else mentioned they'd finally changed that policy.

Marketing strategies are hotly debated, but I'm not doing Kindle Select because I want the books available at multiple retailers.

59:

So, 56,000 before taxes.

And let's not forget those 10,000 book sales are highly theoretical. ;-)

60:

This post could be improved with actual links to the amazon page selling Linda Nagata's books.

How about a link to my website where all vendor links can be found? Scroll down a bit to find all the novels listed. http://mythicisland.com/

61:

...and I'm now on the third book in the Nanotech Succession, trying to drive that sales spike upwards...

Awesome. Thank you.

63:

Yes, Boyd, you can get library shelf space with the right connections. The Book View Cafe that Linda mentions is an author's cooperative that has a growing presence in libraries in the US and elsewhere, both directly and through a variety of distributors. Libraries like that we don't put onerous restrictions on lending our books like "big" publishers.

64:

So ... Am I correct in assuming that you get the best return when we purchase ebooks directly from Mythic Island Press?

65:

So ... Am I correct in assuming that you get the best return when we purchase ebooks directly from Mythic Island Press?

Yes, that's true. Book View Cafe is close behind, and they have books by many writers. Then again, buying a book at Amazon drives up its rank and helps expose it to more potential readers. But there's an array of vendors so readers can pick the one that works for them. Thanks for asking!

66:

The interesting aspect to me is that if you are self-published, or traditionally published, as a small scale author the discovery bit is up to you - aka marketing.

Even our host does quite a bit of the lifting on publicising his work.

It's almost a question of getting good at that first, preferably via an avenue that you own and can utilise for different propositions as needed (hello boingboing). If you can reach and keep those eyeballs coming back to you, you have a major ace in the hole.

Maybe THAT is a subject they should be teaching kids at school for a secure future - and No.1 on the priority task list for many different avenues of endeavour?

67:

@soyweiser

This post could be improved with actual links to the amazon page selling Linda Nagata's books.

Are you really so jaded that you can't navigate to Amazon and type 'Linda Nagata' in the search window?

68:

OK. Gottcha.
I will buy from Mythic Island Press and post reviews on Amazon and GoodReads.

69:

Great to see you here Linda! I loved The Bohr Maker, Deception Well, Vast, and Limits of Vision (my favorite).

I think self-publishing may be not advisable for a new author (if you self-publish your first novel, that means nobody wanted to publish it). Also, most new authors still have things to learn and can benefit from editorial advise.

But established authors can and should self-publish. I very much prefer paying 4 bucks directly to you instead of paying 15 to the publisher, of which less than 2 go to you.

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This page contains a single entry by Linda Nagata published on April 9, 2013 4:32 AM.

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