Monday, July 9, 2018

Journey to the Center of my Net Worth

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
What is French Press?  Read on to find out, true believers.

It's true of investment, it's true of education, and it's true of publishing.


What does that mean, though?  How many different opportunities are there in publishing?

One of the most common questions I'm asked, particularly at events like last weekend's Shore Leave Star Trek convention is, "Are you self published or traditionally published?"  (Sometimes it's phrased differently - casual readers don't commonly use those terms.)

Well, up until today, actually (we'll get to what happened today in a minute) I've always had to answer, "Well, neither.  All of these novels are with small presses."  Then, if they're really interested, I may explain the difference between the Big 5, small press, and self-publishing, but usually the person just nods and moves on.


Why do we diversify?  Well, MySpace is an illustrative example, though not in the publishing field.  As recently as ten years ago MySpace was the social media platform.  Facebook was considered a MySpace clone and things like Friendster and LiveJournal were still kicking.  Advertising types saw MySpace as the wild West, and figured the gold rush would never end.  How much time, money, and energy did they expend to get millions of followers for, say, Taylor Swift?

And what do you suppose those followers are worth now?  I'll tell you: Jack and shit, and Jack just left town.

So what does this example illuminate for  us as authors?  Well, I know more than a handful of authors who gave all of their books to a single publisher.  Let's call them...Meisure Publishing.  And wouldn't you know it, when Meisure collapsed, well, those authors didn't just lose all of their back royalties in the bankruptcy.  They also lost all of the rights to their books.

The authors who were devastated by that collapse suffered because they had only had a single revenue stream.  When it was a fire hose, it was great.  But when that single source got cut off, they were just shit out of luck.  It's better to have many streams of revenue.  That way, if one gets cut off, your garden's not going to suddenly dry up.  (In this metaphor your garden is, I don't know, your kids and your mortgage, I guess.  Not everything is an apples-to-apples comparison, people.)

In other words: diversify.

Don't put all your books with whoever today's Meisure is.  Put them with different publishing houses.  Some will be better than others.  Some pay on time, some don't pay at all.  Make sure you do your research first, of course, and try to always go with respectable houses.  But when I came on to the scene I made it a point never to put all of my books with a single small press.  If one of them ever stops paying I have a problem, but I don't have  disaster.  If one of them disappears and my rights go into limbo, I may have a hole in my bibliography, but I still have a bibliography.

But you shouldn't just diversify the small presses you're working with.  Also diversify how you're publishing.  Self-publish some things.  That's a different revenue stream.  No publisher can screw you on that.  Of course, Amazon can still screw you, and they often do screw self-publishers.  Which is why I don't recommend you self-publish everything. 

And don't self-publish exclusively on Amazon, either.  Publish on Kobo, Google Play, iTunes, Smashwords (well, maybe), and Barnes and Noble.  Oh, and guess what?  Barnes and Noble is probably going bankrupt any week now.  That'll be a missing revenue stream for you.  But as long as you didn't publish with B&N exclusively, you're not going to suddenly be sideswiped, are you?  Starting to get the gist?

And I know it probably sounds crazy - utterly, improbably, impossibly insane, perhaps - but Amazon could go bankrupt someday, too.  Think that's impossible?  Yeah, that's probably what Tom from MySpace thought, too.  (Remember Tom?  How cool was it having a friend as soon as you sign up for the site, huh?  Yeah, that worked out great.)  It's weird how few empires are impervious to the march of progress.  It's almost as though all empires are destined to fall.  But I ramble on and on.  What's the point of this blogpost, again?


Earlier this year I signed with an agent, as I've discussed elsewhere.  I'm looking forward to working with the Big 5.  But I have heard horror stories, my friends.  Books being completely rewritten.  Covers depicting nonsense (and often nonsense with a portrait of a character who, um, shall we say, doesn't resemble the actual protagonist in the book.)  And big companies have a knack for finding creative accounting practices to prevent creatives from getting the money they're owed.  It wasn't terribly long ago, after all, that an accountant embezzled nearly four million dollars from literary agency Donadio and Olson.  It sent Chuck Palahniuk, often held up as one of the more successful writers of our time, straight into bankruptcy.  I wish him well as he finds his way back on his feet.  And I guarantee you one thing he's going to do in the next chapter of his career:


So, no, I'm not going to start giving all of my books to my agent.  I'm going to publish some through the Big 5, some through small presses, and...oh, yeah, as of today I'll be self-publishing as well.

The logo at the top of this post belongs to my brand new personal imprint, French Press.  (And muchas gracias to the multifariously talented Natasha Tara Petrovic for designing it.)  I have often in the past jokingly referred to my then non-existent imprint as Kozeniewski Basement Publishing.  I seriously, seriously considered calling it that, too, but I couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger when the day came.  The whole point of having a personal imprint is to add a veneer of legitimacy to your self-published titels, and while KBP would have been a fun joke, it would have defeated the purpose of that altogether.  And thus my brilliant coffee pun was born.

The first two offering from French Press are the Author's Preferred Editions of my second and third novels, THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO and BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS.

Thanks to Chris Enterline for the fabulous cover!

So what prompted this decision?  Did I have a spat with my publisher, Severed Press?  Did I have to fight the corrupt man and now I'm trying to dust myself off and move on with my life?

Well, no, nothing that exciting.  Every publishing contract has a natural lifespan.  So far, with all of the small presses I've encountered it's been 5 years.  My contract for TGA is up shortly, and since my sales with these two titles weren't anything very impressive, Severed contacted me earlier this year, expressed their thanks for working with me and regrets for ending the contracts early, and unequivocally offered me all of my rights back.  (For those paying attention at home - that's exactly what a good publisher's supposed to do.)

Faced with the opportunity to seek out another small press for a second edition or self publish, I decided it was time to start taking my own advice and...


See, I've always been reluctant to self-publish because I didn't feel that I knew all of the ins and outs of the industry well enough to be successful.  Now I think I do, so it'd be hypocritical of me at this point not to at least dip my toes into the pool.  

Next time I plan to let you all know about the nuts and bolts of my self-publishing process (including the hair-pulling moments) and hopefully give you an update on sales and how well it's been going for me.  Of course, until then, I could sure use your help getting the word out.  Thanks, everybody!

Thanks to Natasha Tara Petrovic for the fabulous cover!


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Bravo, Steve! I completely agree with this entire post. I am diversifying too. I've put all my books on all vendors. I like being indie but I also want a Big 5 experience. Great post!

Carrie Beckort said...

Thanks for the post, Steve! I'm currently 100% self-published. I guess I'm just scared of giving up control over something I've put my heart and soul into. But, I am looking to possibly go a different route with my next book. We'll see...

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Thanks Steve! I have yet to publish a book but this is definitely a lot to consider if (when) I do!

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