Posted On December 13, 2010 by Print This Post

The Pros and Cons of Self Publishing

Help me welcome author Lori Brighton to Romance University!! Today, Lori will enlighten us with her take on self-publishing. The covers, the money, the promotion.

Lori Brighton on Self PublishingIf you would have told me a year ago that I would become a self-published author, I would have thought you were insane. We’ve all heard the horror stories of self-published saps spending thousands of dollars to have their books printed, only to be left with a hole the size of Texas in their wallets and a basement full of unsold books. And so I did what all authors are told to do, I spent years getting rejected, until finally I got a deal with a New York publisher. Sure the money was, to put it bluntly, crap. But hey, it was New York! Soon enough, the idea of New York wore thin. I realized quite quickly that it wasn’t some magical place full of puppies and lollipops. In fact, for me it was little money and lots of waiting and waiting and waiting.

Then a friend and fellow author, Edie Ramer, told me about self-publishing. This was a new type of self-publishing that didn’t involve cashing in your life’s savings and selling your soul. This was Epublishing. When I heard about self-published authors like H.P. Mallory making more money than I’d made with my N.Y. book, I decided to give it a try. Now that my first self-published book, The Ghost Hunter, has been out for a few months, I have a better understanding of this self-published world. Just like with anything, there are pros and cons to self-publishing.

Editing

Lori Brighton on Self PublishingWhen I wrote Wild Heart, my New York published historical romance, the editor decided to delete the prologue. As a newbie author grateful to be published, I just nodded my agreement even though I preferred keeping it. When you self publish, you can write the book the way you want it and no one is going to tell you what you can and can’t keep. That’s the positive of editing your self-published book.

The negative? When you self-publish you’re responsible for the content of your book, your characters and any grammar. If it bombs and readers hate your characters or story, there’s no one to blame but you. I had one reviewer go through my book and point out that I had around forty-three typos. Of course I was embarrassed and horrified, but on a positive note because it was self-published I could fix those typos and reload the book.

Book Cover

Authors who publish with N.Y. have pretty much no say in what their book cover will look like. And let’s face it, we’ve all seen those N.Y. covers in which we thought, what the heck were they thinking? When you self-publish you get to decide on your book cover, which can be good or bad. If you can design well or have the money to have someone design for you, the results can be fabulous. But…if you don’t have the talent or money, your cover can definitely hurt your sales. One of the cheapest and most talented book cover designers I know is author Kimberly Killion with Hot Damn Designs. She charges a rather fair price of $100-150, depending on stock designs. I’m hoping she’ll design my covers in the future.

Release Date

One of the most frustrating things that can happen as a New York published author is waiting for your book to hit shelves. It was a good year from when I sold Wild Heart until it hit the shelves. Even worse, my second book, Wild Desire, will be out in March of 2011. That’s 16 very long months after Wild Heart was released. A long wait isn’t at all good for an author trying to make her/his name. The great thing about self-publishing is that you can release your book whenever you’re ready, and you can keep it out much longer than the few months your N.Y. book will be seen in bookstores. The downside… realizing you can release your book when you want can make sloppy editing. Try not to rush and have as many friends as you can read the book for typos!

Promoting

Many New York publishers fully expect their authors to promote on their own. I had four ads on websites and in romance type magazines. These were the minimum I could afford, yet I still used my entire advance just on promoting my first N.Y. book. So if you factor in money spent (my entire advance), I’ve really made no money on my first N.Y. book. Since self-published authors mostly use bloggers to promote their books, they do spend more time emailing reviewers than a N.Y. author would, and you have to deal with the fact that some reviewers will not even look at self-published books. But whereas I spent my entire advance on promoting my N.Y. book, I’ve spent no money promoting The Ghost Hunter and my newest release, The Mind Readers.

Show Me the Money

Let’s face it, people send their manuscripts to N.Y. because they want that big advance. They want that deal that is going to be worth their time and effort, the deal that will allow them to settle into a career of writing bliss. And sometimes, it actually happens! In reality most authors who write for N.Y. publishers don’t make enough to quit their day job.

In the three months that my self-published book has been released, I’ve made the same amount of money that I’ve made in the two years since I signed my N.Y. contract for my first book. Granted, my advance from N.Y. was low, but it’s a rather great feat. Amanda Hocking, Zoe Winters, and H.P. Mallory are self-published authors who were never published by a New York Publisher and are making much more than many N.Y authors.

But let’s be real, the majority of self-published authors won’t make much money. So, how do you get your self-published book into the hands of readers? To be honest, writing in a popular genre about a popular subject helps. Remember that the covers counts! Don’t spend a fortune, but make sure it’s decent. Edit as much as you can, including sending to critique partners. And contact as many bloggers and reviewers as possible.

The truth is whether you self-publish or sell to N.Y., you never really know what books will sell well. Still, gone are the days when authors have to wait around and pray that N.Y. will take notice. Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, but it is now a viable way to publish books.

Have a question about publishing, I’ll try to answer! Or just leave a comment. I’m giving away an Ecopy of The Ghost Hunter and The Mind Readers to two people who comment.

***

RU Writers, have you ever thought of self-publishing?

Join us on Wednesday, when Carrie tracks down Janet Evanovich for an interview. Yes, THE Janet Evanovich. =)

***

Lori has a degree in Anthropology and worked as a museum curator. Deciding the people in her imagination were slightly more exciting than the dead things in a museum basement, she set out to become an author. Her first book, a historical romance, was published in November 2009.

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37 Responses to “The Pros and Cons of Self Publishing”

  1. Hi Lori,

    Welcome back to RU! I love the covers Kim Killion did for you, but I’ve loved her work for quite some time.

    Can you walk us through the steps of actually uploading your manuscript to the site that sells your self-published work? I can’t quite visualize how that whole process works. Does it need to be in a particular format? How do you connect the cover to the mss?

    Thanks!
    Tracey

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | December 13, 2010, 5:33 am
  2. Hi, Lori –

    Thanks so much for exploring the topic of self-publishing with us! It’s helpful to see the pros and cons associated with the different areas involved.

    In your opinion, how would an unpublished writer know if his or her books are ready, good enough to be self-published? And do you have any insight as to how Zoe and the others are gaining readership.

    Thanks for being here today!
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | December 13, 2010, 6:02 am
    • Hey Kelsey,

      I encourage you to really be accessible and available to your readers. I did a free sample and low prices to get people to give me a shot.

      It’s getting a little bit crowded now with a lot of people self-publishing. That’s good and bad. The good of it is that if your cover is good and you present your work professionally, you have the numbers of others doing good work and presenting professionally standing behind you (i.e. you aren’t this lone self-publishing crackpot like I was when I started, lol). On the bad side, it’s more competitive since more people are doing it.

      It also can take a very long time to build strong audience and sales. For the first seventeen months I was doing this I was earning less than $200 a month. It’s really slow, then it’s fast. And then you’ll have sales cycles where sales move up and down. Most important thing is to build backlist and be very accessible to your readers. Interact with them on facebook, twitter, on your blog. Readers remember authors who are gracious and acknowledge them when they say something. Every fan empire is built one reader at a time. So you just get out there like the tortoise and keep going and building a little at a time. In two or three years your efforts start to add up! 🙂

      Hope that helps!

      Posted by Zoe Winters | December 13, 2010, 10:03 pm
  3. Thanks for having me back!

    Hi Tracey! Kim didn’t actually do these covers. My cousin did them for me. But the next one I’ll have Kim do.

    As for the for the format… it’s a bit complicated, but once you get it down, much easier. My husband did The Ghost Hunter for me. But all places, such as Smashwords and Amazon have sites/books/videos for free that tell you how. Once you get your manuscript converted for Smashwords, all you have to do is change it to an html for Amazon and B&N. Here’s the free book at Smashwords that tells you how. And there are forums and such for questions:

    http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52

    The trick is getting it ready for Smashwords, then you’re pretty much set. Once you upload the book, it can take anywhere from a day to 3 for it to show up on their sites.

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 7:13 am
  4. Hi Lori. Welcome back to RU! This is actually something I’ve been pondering for awhile on a cross-genre book I just finished. The early querying results are telling me I’m going to have a tough time selling this book because no one will know where to shelve it. And since I have two books coming out next year with Carina Press, I’ve been thinking about self-pubbing the cross-genre book while those books are in production.

    I have put so much energy into the cross genre book that I cannot imagine not doing anything with it.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Posted by AdrienneGiordano | December 13, 2010, 7:30 am
  5. Lori, great list of the pros and cons. I agree with everything you say. And thanks for the shout out!

    I just have to add that I read a NY published book on my Kindle last week, and I cringed at all the copy edit problems and formatting issues. It was a great book and didn’t stop me from reading it, but it was distracting.

    Posted by Edie Ramer | December 13, 2010, 8:08 am
  6. Hi Kelsey! How do you know when your book is ready? You really don’t. lol. How’s that for helpful 🙂 The only thing you can do is send the book to as many critique partners as you can, just like you do before sending to an agent. With The Mind Readers, I asked some beta readers to take a look. These were just bloggers who had liked The Ghost Hunter. They weren’t reading it like CP’s, but just reading it as readers. But like I said, the good thing about this E self publishing is that you can make changes to your manuscript and resubmit at any time. So when I found those 40-some typos, I was able to go back and fix them. But yeah, you really don’t know. Maybe the editors are right and your book won’t sell. That can happen with your N.Y. books too. But editors can def. be wrong too. Take my friend H.P. Mallory; her two books were rejected by editors because they said her books were too funny. Well, she is one of the best- selling self published authors right now. The majority of readers love her books and they love them for the humor.

    As for how to promote… the only thing you can do is get bloggers/reviewers to read your work and pray they like it. I have seen a huge spike in sales whenever a review comes out. And you can watch your sales, which can be bad since you want to keep refreshing that page all day! I’m nervously awaiting reviews for The Mind Readers. I had beta readers who really enjoyed it, but as this is my first Young Adult I’m incredibly eager to see what readers think and I’m hoping the sales will start to take off once the reviews come back. I also knew sales would be slow at this time of year, so I dropped my prices to 99 cents. Some people told me not to, but you have to go with your gut. My sales were super slow, so I figured why not? Since dropping The Ghost Hunter to 99 cents, my sales have been huge! As a side note, both on Amazon and Barnes and Noble when you drop below 2.99 your royalties drop from 70-80% to like 35%. Sucks, but sometimes it’s not just about the money you’re making but also about sales.

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 8:14 am
  7. Congratulations on your new NY book Wild Desire. I do think that one of the most frustrating aspects of publishing is the long wait times. Even with e-publishers that wait can be very long. I like the idea that I could enhance my emerging writing career by putting out one or two quality book myself. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    Posted by Kat Duncan | December 13, 2010, 8:16 am
  8. Hi Adrienne! I think, and this is my unscientific opinion, that paranormals/fantasy sell better right now. Why do I say that? Because the people I know who are selling well write paranormals. lol. Like I said, unscientific. But I recently read an article, I think with NY Times, that talked about how more and more romance readers are reading ebooks and the reason being that they can hide the covers on their ereaders. So I think in the very near future that the majority of books sold will be Ebooks of all kinds.

    As for a cross-genre book, it seems to me those are the kind that work the best for self publishing. We’re like the Island of Misfit Toys. lol. I’ll use H.P. Mallory again as an example, and I think Edie Ramer fits into this as well. For some reason editors thought their books wouldn’t do well because they were different. They have proven them wrong. H.P. is selling huge and Edie just got a glowing recommendation at Coffee Time Romance for being different and interesting. On the other hand, editors are saying they’re sick of vampires, yet that is exactly why Amanda Hocking started doing so well; she wrote about vampires…a subject some readers can’t get enough of.

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 8:34 am
    • I think it’s interesting that editors are the ones sick of vampires. So they get to decide when vampires end? Because “they” are sick of them? What about the readers? I agree sometimes it’s just too much vampires, but if a story is well-crafted it makes no difference to me if it’s vampires. I’m not going to turn my nose up at it.

      And thanks for the shout out! Your ebook covers look great!

      Posted by Zoe Winters | December 13, 2010, 10:05 pm
  9. Morning Lori!

    Great post! So much information there….it’s all something that I think is in the back of every author’s mind at one time or another.

    Can you tell us a bit about putting together your book covers? I looove the Ghost Hunter! Rawr!

    =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | December 13, 2010, 8:38 am
  10. Hey Edie! I bought a YA book the other day and spent $9 for the e version. I don’t like it and I’m so mad at myself for paying that much! Another good thing about self-published books is that we can price our books at whatever we want. Most are only 2.99 or less. As for typos in N.Y. books, I had a few people email me after my N.Y. book came out to tell me about the typos. lol. Unfortunately I couldn’t do anything about those.

    Hi Kat! Thanks so much for stopping by. For me the waiting is the worst. I was rather upset when I realized that Wild Desire would be out 16 months after Wild Heart and there was nothing I could do about that. So I put out my own book! lol. With The Mind Readers, I had a publisher interested who wanted me to make changes. It took them 4 months just to tell me that. So if I would have made their changes, it would have been probably another 4 months, at the least. Then at least a year before it would have been out. I didn’t feel like waiting on a publisher for 2 years, so I self published it.

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 8:45 am
  11. Hi Carrie! Thanks for stopping by! It’s funny you mention The Ghost Hunter. I was on goodreads and someone was talking about it, mentioned it was Self published. Another person responded with something like, Oh, that explains the cover. lol. Apparently she didn’t like it! But I saw that guy and had to have him for the cover. He fit perfectly. Those eyes! I got my pics on Istock. My cousin put the titles and photos together for me. If you aren’t great with photoshop, try something simple. If you look at the Twilight books, they’re rather simple, yet work.

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 8:51 am
  12. I think the hardest thing to deal with, whether you’re a N.Y. published author or Self published is the same thing…envy. When you read about certain people making thousands by self publishing, you can’t help but think/hope you will too. You have to be realistic. Set your goal as something simple and try not to compare yourself to others.

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 9:08 am
  13. Lori, one more question I forgot to ask! Sorry! I’m curious if you have an agent and, if so, how he/she felt about you pursuing self-publishing?

    Thanks!

    Posted by AdrienneGiordano | December 13, 2010, 9:41 am
  14. No problem Adrienne! Ask away.

    I had an agent for my Kensington contract. I left her after only about a year because it wasn’t working. There were a lot of things that bothered me and had been bothering me awhile but I knew someone with her who loved her. Of course she still gets the money for those 2 kens books since she did the contract. After that I started researching agents, but it seemed like every time I asked about an agent, someone had had a bad experience. It’s funny how it works, for some people a certain agent can be great and then that same agent could be horrible for another person.

    The thing that most people don’t realize is that you can query editors on your own. If you’re polite, they are pretty nice. Some won’t reply, but some will. Now that I’m self publishing I do realize that if I ever sold overseas or movie rights, I would need an agent or lawyer of some sort. But at this point I just don’t need one. But I will tell you this much, I sure as heck am not settling for any agent but the very best.

    As for self published authors, no, you don’t usually need an agent. But with that said, I know of one Self published author who sold so many that an overseas publisher wanted to publish her book, so she got a top name agent just recently. A friend of mine, another self published, is actually talking to another top-named agent today about her book. These are both authors who couldn’t get an agent before and now can because their sales are so good.

    If you already have an agent, you’ll have to discuss the idea with him/her. Some will let you self publish and not take a cut. I suppose some might want a cut. I know of one woman who recently fired her agent. She had been having problems with her and she was going into self publishing and didn’t need her anymore.

    Because of the economy and because more and more people are epublishing, there isn’t a need for agents. I’ve heard of a lot of agencies going under at the moment, others trying to delve into the epublishing world. A lot are trying to stay afloat and a lot of people think that the role of an agent is going to greatly change in the future. They’ll take more of a backseat.

    But as of right now, I dont need an agent. If a top name agent came to me and and said they could sell my book overseas, I’d definitely give it a try, of course depending on the agent. But gone are the days when I’ll take just any RWA approved agent. Just because they’re listed on some approved list doesn’t mean they’re good.

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 10:30 am
    • If I ever start getting foreign deals I’ll work with an IP attorney. I recently spoke with an agent and while she was very nice, I didn’t get the sense that she could do much more for me than I could do for me and I really just think the agent model of doing business isn’t right for me. If I ever do sell any sub rights to anyone, I’ll be working with an IP attorney.

      Posted by Zoe Winters | December 13, 2010, 10:08 pm
      • My problems is that by now I know agents so well. Well, not know them, but i know of them; which are good, which aren’t. With an attorney I’d be starting over. Of course I can always ask around. But yeah, you’re right, in many instances there really isn’t a need for an agent.

        Posted by Lori Brighton | December 14, 2010, 7:20 am
        • Benefit: An attorney will do what you tell them to do and acknowledge the fact that they work for you. An agent, on the other hand, usually feels that somehow they are the boss and “they know best”, and you have to practically beg to get them to follow your actual instructions on anything.*

          *I know this from hearing personal stories from many many author friends who have had agents in the past.

          While there are certainly some good agents out there, many of them balk at the idea that they are working for the writer… despite the fact that that’s where their money comes from. That is a red flag from the beginning.

          Posted by Zoe Winters | December 14, 2010, 10:42 am
          • Honestly, my list of agents I’d let rep me is like 4 people long. Serioulsy. I had my own not so great experience and I don’t want to go through that again.

            Posted by Lori Brighton | December 14, 2010, 5:04 pm
  15. The thing is, as writers, we become these quivering messes of self pity, constantly looking for approval from agents and editors, constantly, thinking we’re not good enough because we’re rejected. Self publishing gives the power back to author. But as I said, it’s still work. You have to query a ton of bloggers to get your book out there, you still have to deal with reviewers and readers hating your books and you have to deal with the fact that you might not make any money. Still, as I mentioned, at least it’s another choice 🙂

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 10:38 am
  16. Lori,

    What a freakin’ fantastic analysis for those of us considering self-publication! Thank you for breaking down the basics for us and giving us the low down on your experiences.

    My fave part of your post was about NY publishing not being made of puppies and lollipops! LOL

    I’ve been trying to sell to NY for about 15 years. Have tried everything under the sun to get there and have watched others make it time and time again in much less time.

    But the one thing I notice is that I’ve never seen a reader choose a book SOLELY because it was or wasn’t from a particular publisher. In other words, if your book is worthy–and you get the word out–I believe readers will buy it.

    I don’t think a true fan of a particular genre will scroll into your book’s detail line and go “oh…geez…this was self-published….ah nah…I don’t think I’ll waste my time”. The truth is…your average reader doesn’t even look at that detail.

    Before I was a writer, I can’t ever remember one time that I even looked at the imprint or publisher credits. The only thing I looked at was cover, blurb, possibly author name recognition, genre, price and sometimes the length of the book. That’s it.

    I think that the self-publishing versus NY publishing thing is a stigma that writers have inflicted upon themselves.

    Just my thoughts.

    Oh, a quick question…would you share what site you used to release your e-books? I didn’t see that in the article.

    Thanks,
    Carlie

    Posted by Carlie A. | December 13, 2010, 11:23 am
  17. Hi Carlie! I so understand that horrible feeling those rejection letters bring. And you’re totally right, I doubt most people even notice our books are self published. The one thing I think people do notice are covers, which is why its so important to have a professional cover. If they think the cover looks self published, they might not buy it.

    There are a lot of bloggers who won’t take self published books to review, just to let you all know. So there is a stigma there and it’s especially harsh from other writers. I have emailed editors and said that I needed an asnwer as to whether they wanted my book or not because I was going to self publish. Not one editor laughed at me. In fact, the opposite. They said they’d read the book asap. I think editors know and admit the popularity of Ebooks and they realize that self publishing is working. They used to say that agents filtered the good books from bad for editors. Maybe now they’ll start saying that about self published books. If the self published books are selling well, of course editors will be interested.

    As for what I use to self publish…right now the big 3 (imo) are Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble pubit. My best sales are at B&N right now.

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 11:51 am
  18. Hi Lori!

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I thought it was interesting how some writers who weren’t able to score an agent before, are able to get one now because their successful self-pubbed authors.

    Have you had any problems with piracy of your work?

    Posted by jennifer tanner | December 13, 2010, 6:11 pm
  19. Hi Jennifer,

    So true! Yes, agents are much easier to get when you’re making money. Many authors I know who got NY deals weren’t able to get an agent until they sold to a publisher, myself included. Although I no longer have that agent. I swear its easier to get interest from an editor.

    I just posted the other day on my blog about piracy. I know my NY printed books have been pirated, but not sure about the self published books. Honestly, there isn’t much I can do about it so I try not to think about it. At this point I’m hoping that its not enough to hurt my sales, but I can certainly see it getting worse the more ebooks there are out there.

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 7:42 pm
  20. Lori, you are a very brave writer and I love all of your covers. I just can’t see myself self-publishing unless I’m willing to pay a good editor. My writing is just not there yet. I love my editor at TWRP and the magic she performed on my book. Things I didn’t notice and things I did but didn’t know how to fix. Perhaps I’ll think differently in a few years. Congrats on your books!!

    Posted by Jill James | December 13, 2010, 9:43 pm
  21. Hi Jill! Thanks for stopping by. Good for you for knowing what you want. It’s so easy to be swayed by people. If you’re happy with your career, that’s all that matters!

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 13, 2010, 10:03 pm
  22. Hi All! Thanks so much for the warm welcome. I had a lot of fun!
    The winners of my books are:

    Jennifer Tanner and Jill James.

    Thanks again everyone!

    Posted by Lori Brighton | December 16, 2010, 8:01 am

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