Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Left coast Crime: Publishing Panels

What I'm reading: Daphne contest entries

Thanks to Ellis for yesterday's post reminding us to love our characters.

Back to Left Coast Crime reporting. One of the 'fun' events was the opening reception. In keeping with the flavor of the meeting, the Rocky Mountain MWA sponsored the entertainment, a buffalo dance by young dancers from the Ohkay Oweingeh Pueblo. (I tried uploading a video I shot with my cell phone, but no telling if it worked.)

There were two panels on publishing at the conference, and I attended them both. The first was made up of professionals on the publishing side of things—agents, editors, booksellers, and publishers.

They discussed writing for traditional publications, and pointed out that different publishing houses have different areas of expertise. If you write a book on gardening, then it's not smart for you to approach a fiction publisher. Likewise, a fiction publisher shouldn't try to publish a gardening book if that's going to be the only one of its kind they put out. In addition, they echoed what's been said so many times: Don't write to trends.

They are also not afraid that digital will replace print. There's room for both. But both panels agreed that the big decline will be in mass market, and that the e-book market will rise to fill the gaps.

One thing I noticed at this panel, was that the speakers seemed to generalize when they spoke of things digital. When they quoted figures, they used royalties and pricing of legacy publishers who controlled the digital formats to their e-books. There seemed to be a blanket assumption that self-published books weren't edited, and were of lesser quality.

In contrast the second panel was made up of authors who had chosen to take their books and publish them as indie-publishers. Here, one pointed out that part of the decline in print books, especially mass-market paperbacks, is due to a change in the tax laws. Bookstores are required to pay taxes on inventory at the end of each year. To avoid higher taxes, they returned books. Publishers followed by remaindering books. Thus, authors who in times past could have a publisher behind them while they grew a following, found themselves left in the cold.

These authors are choosing to go the independent digital route. But unlike the comment made at the first panel, they all spend money on professional editing. They also say they publish in as many formats as possible to make their books available to the widest possible audience. Most pay others to have them formatted for each market as well. Some use services to create print books, but all agreed that their print sales were a tiny fraction of digital sales.

When asked if they made money, one panelist said that for the first time in her writing career, she was able to pay her mortgage with her royalty checks.

I'll be back tomorrow with more.


Kari Wainwright said...

Thanks for reporting on these two panels. I attended the first, but missed the second one. It's amazing how quickly the industry is changing, but attitudes often take a lot longer to catch up.

Susan Oleksiw said...

This is a very important discussion, and the comments of the writers on the second one are worth hearing in detail. I hope you'll tell us more about both panels. I didn't know about the changes in the tax laws, but I can see what a big change that will be.

Terry Odell said...

Kari - As an author who's dabbling in the indie publishing route for my backlist books, I found the authors' advice on the second panel very helpful.

Susan - I probably didn't make it clear - the tax laws changed years ago, which is part of the reason for the decline of mid-list authors.

Robert W. Walker said...

What publishing panels Won't Tell You is that for the first time in their careers, they are writing contracts demanding digital rights whereas a half a year ago and a year ago, they could car wheat you did with your digital rights, or they demanded you wait a year before you do anything with your digital rights - worded into the contracts. Now they want those rights. What does that tell you? The problem in handing over those rights willy-nilly is same as what has happened to me with HarperCollins - the foolish publisher insisting now for over a year that the ebooks be sold at same price as the paperbacks so NO SALEs are going on there.

Agents and publishers are taking money out of our pockets left and right. Do your own Indie publishing of your ebooks, no middle man. Partnership with Amazon is a whole lot simpler and easier and lucrative than with others who blow smoke up your skirt or my behind telling you they will do all these wonderful things for you book - do all your promo, all your marketing, all your PR, see to it every detail is taken care of while they rake off half or more of your profits.
Cynical, yes I am and for good reason. If you want to sell ebooks check in at my Expedia blog - Wiki-e-books blog. Or find my thread on Kindle Community forums "What Moves Kindl bks. off Shelves."
Believe in yourself, do-it-yourself with the help of editors you trust, early readers you garner, cover artists you pay. I love the freedom of decision and consequence Kindle publishing had given me as much as the money to pay my mortgage each month.

Rob Walker

Kris Bock said...

Glad to hear the report on the first panel, which I missed. Despite the number of published authors looking at indie publishing a) for their out-of-print titles, b) for new books in a series that was dropped by the publisher, and c) as potentially a better way to make money, traditional publishers seem to have a disconnect. They still see self-published authors as wannabes who couldn't make it traditionally. That attitude is so 2009! Sure, many people try self-publishing as the easy route (which it's not), but I've seen great interest from traditionally published authors in all genres and at all success levels.

You can find my recent blog series on self-publishing -- why traditionally published authors may want to try it, warnings for first-timers, and a step-by-step guide to the process -- here:

Terry Odell said...

Rob - there are a lot of publishers who included digital rights years ago; I'm aware of at least one author who is now saying, 'who knew' because the royalty rates are so low through the publisher. Back in the days before e-readers were commonplace, nobody foresaw what's happening now.

Chris - thanks for the link. And the times are certainly changing.

Kaye George said...

Terry, I was delighted to meet you at LCC. I attended half of each of these panels and got the same impressions you did. Thanks for the summary!

Terry Odell said...

Kaye, so nice meeting you too.

Maryannwrites said...

Thanks for posting the summary, Terry. It has been helpful to get the tips you have been sharing from LLC.

Regarding the indie authors and publishing, I wish there was a way that we could designate on Kindle, Smashwords, etc that the books have been professionally edited so they could rise to the top of all the content uploaded. I know that would make a big difference for readers who are tired of getting burned by buying a book only to find multiple errors in the writing and formatting.

L.J. Sellers said...

Terry, Kaye, and Kari: It was great to meet all of you at Left Coast Crime! As the indie author who is finally able to pay her mortgage with royalties, it was terrific to be given an opportunity to speak on a panel and hopefully be inspiring to other writers.

Terry Odell said...

Maryann - I think downloading the samples helps in many cases. You can see what the writing's like before paying.

L.J. - I enjoyed talking with you -- and I'd be reading your book, which I bought via my NOOKcolor during your panel on research, but I got my Daphne entries to judge, so it'll have to wait.

Deni Dietz said...

I was on the second panel, with LJ. If I hadn't been on the panel, I would have been in the audience. My newest venture is a full-cast audiobook of "Footprints in the Butter - an Ingrid Beaumont Mystery co-starring Hitchcock the Dog" -- produced by Siren Audio (with an original song by one of the cast members). What fun to hear your book scripted! And I believe audio venues will increase in popularity.

Like LJ, my ebooks are professionally edited. I'm a terrific editor but I can't edit me!

Terry Odell said...

Deni - and it was great meeting you. I've got a mention of audio in tomorrow's post; I didn't forget you and your new venture. :-)

Jenny Milchman said...

Fascinating, and somehow hopeful. Thanks, Terry.