Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Choice In Publishing

Or, The Circus Comes To Town

I'm sure this isn't the first, or the last, blog post to equate the current climate in publishing to a three ring circus.

Into which ring will you throw your hat? Today seven bloggers discuss their decisions, on their blogs, and on twitter, #MyChoiceInPublishing. Follow along, or better yet, join in and discuss! (Links to other bloggers at end of post.)

Center ring? Traditional publishing. The big six, and their imprints.

When I first got involved with the on-line writing world, it was in order to research agents so that I could pursue publication with the big six.

Right now, I am not just researching agents, with hopes that an agent will procure a solid deal for me with a publishing house. I am researching publishers as well. Because some publishers have changed the language in their deals to reflect their concern with how easy it is for writers to e-publish. Language in contracts has become more controlling and restrictive.

See this blog post by Anne R. Allen and follow through the links if you want to read about one author's cautionary tale. If you aren't following Anne's blog, you should. It's incredibly interesting and informative! Remember, not all big publishers are giving out raw deals, but I believe that hiring a lawyer to protect ourselves from bad contracts IS A MUST in this climate.

Further evidence of this need is featured on Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog. Like this post about deal breakers. Or this post about surviving the transition. It's not light reading, but necessary food for thought.

Do I hope that I will have a kick butt agent, who will stand one handed on an elephant's back to get me a kick butt deal with a publisher? For sure. Am I hiring a kick butt lawyer to advise me on the finer print of the details of the balancing act in the center ring? Absolutely.

Now, tear your eyes away from the chaos in the center ring.

Side Ring Number One: Small Presses.

Small presses can be a great way to go. You may have an agent, but lots of small presses allow for unagented submissions. Small presses might be able to give your book more care and marketing.

However, I go forward in this ring with caution as well. Let's talk about the elephant in the room:

I have received emails from friends who have been published (or dropped right before their book was to be published) by small presses, and who had a very rough go of it. These writers could not go public with the issues they faced with small presses, because they didn't want to sabotage their career. Which is smart. This isn't limited to small presses--writers largely don't talk publicly about things that go wrong with interactions with big publishers either. Which again, is smart. But makes it tough for the rest of us to choose wisely.

I find that it is harder to find good information on small presses. Going to forums, and looking at threads where people post anonymously about their experiences is a good start.

I am researching small presses as best I can, and plan to have a lawyer (!!) go over any contracts.

Side Ring Number Two: Indie, or Self E-Pubbing.

To hear Joe Konrath talk about it, traditional publishing is in dire straitsHere's a link to a convincing conversation Joe has about e-pubbing. And, I think it is evident that the publishing world is in transition. Some small presses have gone under, and big publishers are changing how they do business. Do we really know where the balls are going to fall if the juggler stops frantically juggling? No.

I think it is a great idea to think of e-pubbing as a viable option. The author retains all control, and all profits. That being said, I think having a great team help with editing, cover art and marketing is always a plus. I would consider, quite strongly, having an agent assist me in e-pubbing. However, I don't think I would use an agent as an e-publisher.

I think we should also be thinking further than e-pubbing, however, and into the multimedia realm. E-books give us amazing versatility, especially since a lot of us are publishing for kids and young adults.

E-publishing is a fantastic avenue in and of itself, but it is also a great companion publishing technique. Agents at talked about the benefit to publishing a companion e-book to a traditionally published book, both coming out at the same time.

So, the long and the short of it is that I am planning on trying to throw my hat into every ring. I don't want my career to suffer because I'm walking the tightrope without a net. My security will be in knowing that I have many avenues of revenue for my career. Like in this post.

Oh, and I'm hoping to have an agent as a ring master, and a lawyer lion tamer to help protect my interests.

Please check out the other bloggers sharing their point of view on their #MyChoiceInPublishing:

So, what ring (s) are you choosing? Does this conversation stress you out? Are you actively thinking about more than one type of publishing?


  1. Actually, I'm not stressed out at all (about writing). :) I think as long as writers make sure we don't paint ourselves into a contract corner, we can go either and/or both ways with our writing. It's all good. If we write a freaking awesome book, readers will find it no matter who the publisher or form of publishing it occurs in.

    Great post!

  2. I happen to really like the idea of a small publisher. Glad you came in with that option! :) I am feeling pretty distrustful of the big. I agree with Anita. The freaking awesome book is the key and I think it will find it's way. Now more than ever. AWESOME POST!

  3. These posts are great! I love that there is no bashing, just realisms that no one can deny. I love that everyone is acknowledging that big publishing isn't necessarily the bad guys, but they're going through a rough patch and a lot of authors aren't getting very good deals.Of course, lots are too!

    it's really about the book. :)

  4. Great--and well thought out post--Heather! Good luck to all of us in whatever path we choose.

    So interesting to read everyone's post--I don't have time this morning to read them all, but I'll catch up later!

  5. I meant to mention in this post that amazon might be creating a fourth ring by becoming a publisher. What an amazing time to think about publishing!

    Anita--I agree, write an awesome book, readers will follow. Great point.

    Tina--I feel that some of the big publishers are being proactive, and others are making fear based decisions. I think you have to research any publisher well, big or small. But, I agree, small press can be a great choice.

    Laura--Great points. I'm glad too, that these posts aren't about fear and anxiety, but about what's happening in the publishing industry. All about the book!

  6. Kris--Have fun today, I wish I were going with you guys. That exhibit looks awesome!

  7. This is a great conversation to have, so I'm glad you guys are posting about it! It's tremendously important (even more so now) for writers to be well informed about the choices out there.

    lawyer lion tamer to help protect my interests.

    I like to think I can do my own lawyering, but really, that's just for smaller stakes. More and more, I'm seeing the value (and losing the fear) of hiring a lawyer to look over contracts. I think it was K. Rusch that had a really good post about the (usually unspoken) fear of hiring a lawyer? #greatread

    For me, I'm firmly in all three rings: already pubbed with a small press, pursuing traditional press with my MG books, and just about to release my self-pubbed YA book (first in a trilogy, all of which will be self-pubbed).

    I think more and more authors are taking this multi-pronged approach.

  8. I love you're 3 ring circus analaogy. Especially with the juggling. As writer/authors/parents we juggle all day long. Choosing our path to publication is definitely choosing which ring to juggle in. :)

  9. I think every writer owes it to him/herself to do some research to see what will work best for. I looked at self-publishing as something I wouldn't do in a million years, but having gone the traditional route, my eyes have been opened to the other options that exist. Definitely agree with you that we should explore all angles before throwing our hats into an exclusive ring.

  10. wow, thanks for this extremely helpful post and the links. I've been thinking a lot about this subject and the possibility of going indie, especially after seeing so many awesome indie books lately. Again, thanks!

  11. Great post, Heather. The circus analogy is right on! Yes, it will be very interesting to see what happens now that Amazon is going to be competing with the big houses. Lots of good comments here.

  12. Susan--it sounds like you have your career well in hand! I hope I can do something similar. Thanks for stopping by--it is so great to hear from a writer who is accomplishing what we are all talking about!!

    For me, it was a post by K. Rusch that got me over my initial hesitation about hiring a lawyer. She convinced me that if we are going to take ourselves seriously as small business owners, then having a lawyer to protect ourselves is logical. Publishers have lawyers, as do many agencies now. And those lawyers don't put the writer's interests first. The only lawyer who would is one that the writer hires.

  13. Ansha--I can't wait to see your book come out! Thanks for the great insight into your publication journey!

    J.L.--When I started out, I was exclusively considering traditional publication. But now I think that self publication is a viable and necessary route, to focus on, or to round out a career. It's wonderful that we have more than one option.

    mshatch--you're welcome! I think it is good to stay informed about what's going on, and you are right--there are some amazing indie published books out there right now. I'm sure we'll see more in the future!!

    Lynn--I think your post is amazing--such great links to peruse at my leisure! I'm interested to see the impact amazon has on things. Thanks so much for doing all that work. :)

  14. Good luck on all the avenues you're trying. I'm going the traditional route first and see where that takes me. If that doesn't work, I'll look elsewhere.

  15. A circus it is! I'm on the tight rope right now wondering which is the best decision for me.
    Great post!

  16. Alicia--sounds awesome. :)

    Kelly--I liked what Kris said in the beginning of her post--that it might depend on the day, the book, the moment as to what is the right route to take.

    I just wanted to define indie publication in case someone is reading the comments, and confused. Indie publishing is publishing independently of publishers, or self pubbing. I once wondered if that term meant small publisher, since Indie bookstores are small, independent ones. :) It's easy to be confused by all the terminology!

  17. There is a bit of controversy about the "Indie" vs. "self-pub" name. I'm not so concerned about the name, but I'm not trying to hide what I'm doing either.

  18. Susan--I agree with you. The best thing is to go boldly, whichever way you go. Your book looks amazing, by the way!!

    It was Marcy's comment (mshatch) which made me feel like I needed to add the definition. I know the words can be confusing. :)

  19. And, in case people didn't click through to Susan's link in her comment (fancy, Susan!) here is the blog post that she pointed out.

    I have to say that recently, I have seen indie as referring to self-pubbed, almost exclusively.

  20. Aw shucks. :-) What a great post! I'm so honored to be included. Thanks. It IS a three ring circus--or maybe four, as LynNerd pointed out. Amazon the publisher is going to be THE biggest factor very soon. But the right agent can help you in any of these, so it's very much worth it to keep querying.

    I'm with two small presses right now--run by grown-ups willing to work together. I like working with a team and my work is too quirky to fit in to the big 6 paradigm, so it's a great fit. Would I like to be published by one of Amazon's new imprints? You betcha. It's the new holy grail of publishing. Right now you have to be invited.

    (BTW, small presses like to be called indie presses, even though self-pubbers have kind of taken over the term. "Non-corporate" is another way of distinguishing small from Big 6.)

    But with YA and MG, Big 6 is different. You're dealing with nicer editors and traditionally stakes haven't been so high & people aren't so hysterical and/or mean.

    Thanks again for the shout-out!

  21. Anne--Thanks so much for stopping by. You were one of the first blogs I ever came across, a few years ago. I think I did mostly lurking. :) Amazon will bring in some interesting changes, I imagine.

    I'm glad you have a supportive team. I think that is really the crux of the matter.

    The YA and MG blogging world is a wonderful place to dwell--it's good to hear that the editors of such a world are nice too. That definitely should factor into the decision making.

    Thanks for bringing up these hopeful points!

  22. Hello all! I know we got a little sidetracked by confusing lingo at the end, but I want you all to know that if you want to keep talking about this, here, on the other contributing blogs, or twitter, please feel free. I'm hanging out, keeping an eye on things!

  23. I found the comments and clarifications about lingo and what-not so helpful. Thanks for all that jumped in.

    I agree, H, it is nice to hear that the editors of YA/MG are like minded. That is an interesting point - the role that children's lit plays in the bigger adult lit world. Something for me to think about...

  24. How on EARTH did I MISS this whole entire series? OMFG. I'll catch up on the posts shortly.

  25. Jon--I thought that you were deliberately taking yourself out of the discussion. Otherwise I would have reminded you it was happening. :) Goodness knows I've missed some great stuff on your blog recently! Life happens. :)