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Self publishing or a publisher?

edited May 2016 in Writing
Going the ebook route, but wondering about a publisher with regards to possibly selling paperbacks and audiobook versions of tales I write? Bearing in mind that I can only promote books online, because of my disability, would a publisher consider me a good prospect, and would they just consider paperbacks and audiobooks, and leave sales from my ebooks and any related money accrued from film scripts, out of the contract?

Would it be a good prospect, any percentage of sales money from a publishing contract? Have heard of print on demand. Would that be more beneficial? Only when a sale is to be made, and keep all the profits to myself?

Just read a thread on this discussion one, about one of the TB members who allowed their ebook to be downloaded for free, as a promotion. Well over 1800 copies downloaded over two days. Do you get any money from that, via the KDP Programme? How does that help if you are giving it away free? Puzzled? They were peeved about their publisher, and had to wrestle their book away from that contract to try the ebook route. Heed the warning perhaps?


  • That's a very big question and there has been a lot of stuff written about it if you Google it. Each has advantages and disadvantages and you will find staunch supporters of each route.
    However, getting a traditional publishing contract is very difficult and the chances of then being able to set your own T&C (like keeping e-book rights) would be close to zero.
  • Agree completely with Heather.

    Publishers have woken up to the advantages of having the option for audio as well as print and ebooks.

    A few romance publishers only produce an ebook, with the option of a print copy later if it is doing well digitally.

    Plus mainstream publishers want to know that there is another book.

    Since so many smaller publishers have become part of the big publishing groups, I'd assume they don't have as much choice as they once did.
  • So what are the actual advantages in joining a publishing company, should you be invited? How does being part of that, enable bigger sales, rather than putting in the sweat to promote your own ebook, yourself? Would it be better to 'go it alone' to begin with, to see if you can establish a presence online without losing a huge slice of your profits to a publisher, and if that doesn't work, then perhaps try to seek out one..?
  • You don't join a publishing company. You try and find an agent who will represent you and then you (working with the agent) try and find a publisher who will offer you a contract.

    The advantages? In today's market there aren't that many unless you're the next Rowling.

    Either route demands the same effort – in the writing and promotion.

    Establishing a presence is essential.

    Many authors opt to self-publish. Even traditionally published authors are embracing the idea of self-publishing.
  • Unless you're selling very well you may not be kept on either.
  • edited May 2016
    I would imagine that, at first, most writers would try to find a traditional publisher. It is hard. Really, really hard.

    I don't know how much you've looked into this, Lydia, but the world is heavily populated now with 'writers', all of whom would like to be published. A very small minority do get offered that elusive contract, but it can be after years and years of going through the submission process - with very long waits before the 'Thanks, but it's not for me' message comes back to you. If you look at the figures, the number of new authors taken on by any publisher in a year can be counted on one hand. Also, access to most is limited as they will only look at submissions that have come through agents, so maybe finding an agent should be your first port of call.

    Have I mentioned how hard it is to get an agent...?

    So, yes, the alternative is to self-publish. As Baggy says, the onus is on you to promote, whichever route you take. Fortunately, much of that can be online, although a physical presence at events would have impact.

    I have just offered a book free, as part of a KDP promotion. In the beginning, I thought to do this was to undermine the time and effort put in by an author, but there are positive repercussions. Since Wednesday, I have had 60 downloads. This should ensure that I will get more reviews. Reviews help ranking and to sell books. Also, by having lots of sales in a short time, even in the 'free book list', has got me on the second page of the top 100 which means people will see my book. Because of previous promotions, I have now got 'fans', people who have come back for more as they like my style. It also means I have something to say on social media.

    Making money has never crossed my mind. I'm really, really not in it for that. If you offered me £100 or five reviews, I'd go for the reviews every time.
  • And, by the way, have you actually looked in to how much you'd make per book? Peanuts.
  • If your ebook sold really, really well then a publisher just might be interested in the remaining rights. It's not usual, but I have heard of it happening once.

    If you'd like a publisher to handle the paperbacks then you'd have a better chance offering them the whole package. It's still difficult though.

    Self publishing a paperback isn't much different from publishing the ebook. If you can do one, you can do the other.
  • The important thing is not to be disheartened! It's a challenge - but one that's worth embracing.
  • I mentioned this because I have been in touch with a female writer, who is on my Facebook page, and who has her own publishing company, so I wrote to her and she is interested in reading some of my writing, when completed.

    I was just wondering what type of money could be had, and gaining of status as a writer, how that would compare, compared to self publishing. Thinking in terms of potential for sales and the percentage of sales profits that might be accrued? But if you have to do most of the promoting, which her company assists their writers in, and also pays for the editing of the book etc, just wondering whether it would be worth it, should she be interested...?
  • Well... I kind of disagree about some of the comments on actual publishing. If your writing is tiptop and you are taken on by an agent and then a publisher, your book will have every love lavished upon it in regard to design for a start. And it will be promoted and it will be in bookshop across the land. That guarantees sales.

    If your writing really is the sort that people love and they buy, you will not get peanuts - you will first of all have an advance (which isn't huge nowadays) but the advance is not money that is just given to you - it is in advance of actual sales. so, say you were given £2,000, then as soon as the book has sold more than that in profits you will get royalties. If it sells well this could be a considerable sum. Especially if it has a wider appeal than just this country and is sold to other territories - America, for instance. HUGE market.

    BUT some people's books just don't take off for whatever reason and they don't sell enough to pay back the advance - but you don't have to pay that back.

    Bear in mind that most people's first books are NOT really first books, they are the first to be PUBLISHED. If you have only written one or two books it is a vanishingly small likelihood that your book is actually any good.

    in which case it will not sell well to a publisher OR if you self publish.10 years of writing is the usual time it takes to produce an elegantly created book.

    Whether you have a publisher or self publish, you will have to promote the book. I am disabled to an extent and cannot sell in schools much which is the usual route for what i do - but that has not stopped publishers publishing me.

    The thing about having a publisher is that if you DO get a contract and it is for instance for 3 books, you do have a system that is already in place working for you and you can put in as much effort as you can - and it doesn't have to be loads. I know a children's book author who used to work 3 days a week, write the other 2 usually, but occasionally did schools or publicity events. She keeps a blog about her character. Then she cut down her work to 2 days and now i think she only does 1. She has written about 5 books now and is now doing a PHd - which means not a lot of publicity at all, but it's still fine.

    If she had self published she'd be flogging herself everywhere, still.

    AND if you have a publisher and are selling well then travel arrangements/hotel are made for you.

    AND the product does not 'look' self-published. Most do. Sometimes it's indefinable - sometimes glaring. But although they have improved a lot, they do.

    And also - getting seen above the parapet when every man and his dog thinks they can write and is self-publishing is bloody hard work. But if you have an excellent product, are an able self publicist, and have a bit of luck, then not only would it be a good way of proving to a publisher that you DO sell, you will get more of the profits. And when you are in that position you could relook at either going down the publishing route or sticking a what you are doing.

    At east nowadays you don't have to buy 10,000 books and store them in your lounge while trying to sell them.

  • Sorry Liz, I do think published poetry writers are treated much better by their publishers, but that's not always the case with fiction.

    Some publishers don't pay advances and give a higher royalty % instead. The big names can afford to pay an advance but even 'names' have had their advances cut.

    Publishers often take all the potential rights but don't necessarily use them, but then neither can the writer- it's one of the elements the SoA have been pursuing:


  • Poetry writers treated better? Are you JOKING?

    They certainly try to take all potential rights, but you DON'T have to accept the contract, and a good agent will fight this corner for you.

    I had two publishers fighting for one book last year (very unusual for poetry, which is actually the poor man of publishing) and one book which was a fight to get published. I questioned both contracts and had them changed. Authors are often just too starry-eyed and grateful to anything like this. It is not impossible. By the time a contract has ben issued the publisher has already invested considerable time in you. Don't underestimate your power.

    You can also have a higher royalty paid by a poetry publisher instead of an advance. If it's a fab book, this is fine, you will get paid and a higher royal could be a plus, not a minus... it's a gambol for both sides.

    The SoA is a brilliant place for getting your contract looked at - I sent one of my contracts to them and they sent back a report questioning much of it - this helped me with the wording of what I questioned and gave me the reassurance it was right to do so. The publisher conceded everything.

    Publishers are as aware as anyone that there is a choice for authors nowadays and I suspect the former injustices will soon be starting to become a thing of the past and contracts fall more on the side of the author.
  • The pub!isher that I am in contact with, is a niche one, for a specific market, so not sure about books in shops etc. And knowing that America IS a huge market, I am trying to use a 'crossover" storyline and theme, so I can reach beyond my own small community., to gain both sales and reputation and status as a writer.

    So, you are saying that, even though I will get just a small percentage of the profits from any sales made, if accepted onto their books , financially, this would likely be much more, especially if it proves successful, but more money would accrue to me that way, than trying to promote it myself, via an ebook, and gaining all the profits from sales? Is that it? Even if the tale in question is only about 40,000 words in length, but packed with dramatic dynamics and twists and turns...?

    I've been writing for well over 20 years now, learning my craft, and believe, hope, I have found 'my voice?'. Sending the first 50 pages off to this writer should give me a better evaluation of my style of story telling. It's likely potential, if any.. So that is the immediate plan.

    I'm also thinking that, as I am drafting a film script from this prose drama, then a publisher might be more able, willing and have the knowhow and contacts to sell this, maybe, for big bucks? More so than my efforts, as an unknown trying to make contacts and selling it onspec?

    Just a thought. If I were to be accepted by this writer, onto her publishing company, would I need an agent to fight for all my rights, and to ensure I don't get exploited? Would one be willing, one of the mainstream ones, do you think..? From what Liz has written, the SoA could be an alternative to an agent, and save some money.. Would they be able to spot any loopholes or again, would an agent be better at this. I have learnt my craft well and believe I have important things to say in my stories. And as one article writer put it:- 'Get to the good stuff and keep it coming...'. My style precisely... A drama queen, literally, in writing style...
  • If you write film scripts, have a look at
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/ They are always on the lookout for excellent scripts.

    I'm sure you know this, but this 'publishing contact ' isn't asking you for money, is she?

    An agent will deal with the legal side of a contract and do the legwork in matching your book up with the right publisher, but there are other organisations, as Liz says, that can help you with legal jargon. An editor will sort out plot holes. You don't pay the agent, but they will take a percentage of sales.

    Good luck. Sounds like you have written a great book!
  • Yeah, I'll checked that out previously, but again, for the most part, they are looking for script writers for their shows, and I want and need to develop my own ideas and, being unable to travel, I couldn't participate in studios, which is what they are mostly looking for too.

    Also, I am pretty sure of have quite a good story here, for a drama, but just not quite sure how good it is, its real potential. So really need an independent advisor like an agent, who would be in a better position to sell.it to the highest bidder, should there be one. On spec is how I will have to sell my scripts etc, as I simply cannot participate any other way.. it's all 'pie in the sky's right now, but has potential,methinks...? Time will tell..
  • I know of one writer on Facebook who is making progress with scripts, but it's been years for her to get to this stage.
  • I think you are putting the cart well before the horse.

    There are plenty of excellent books out there that haven't had the screen rights bought up.

    I'd think about the things you need to think about NOW. Has anyone had a look at it, who isn't family or a friend?

    Why not try sending it to one agent and see if you get any feedback, as a first step? If you do, then you can use that to adjust if you think any crit is valid and send off again. If someone accepts you, you don't have to go with them - but it's a good way to find out if what you are producing is likely to get any takers.

    Or get another writer or a company that does crits to read it first.
  • I guess she is encouraging authors to shell out so that self-publishing can hold it's own next to trade publishing. That would be in the interests of the society.
  • I agree with Liz, I'm afraid.
    Before you start worrying about things like which publishing route to choose and how much money you're going to make you need to know if you have a publishable book.

    Also, 40,000 words sounds rather short, though that does depend on what genre/age group you are writing in/for.
  • And even when a book is publishable, it doesn't necessarily follow that it will be published.
  • I should add that I have spent some time studying with a former Hollywood screenwriter and studied some books he suggested, so know how to format a script properly. It is just coming up with one that meets the zeitgeist, or catches the attention of those with power on these things...

    I'm completing my e-book, and doing some drafting of the film script as I go along. With both stories, they are essentially there. Just need to flesh out some of the scenes/chapters to make them 'come alive..'.

    Yep, quite aware that, just like Dick Wittingham, London's pavements are not embedded with gold. Having said that, some people do succeed, and all the advice is to be determined and persevere.

    As they say. 'Think Big and don't listen to people who tell you it can't be done. Life's too short to think small...'. ( That's a previous injunction from my past. 'Don't think or try.' Discounting. That's why I'm fighting those ideas, but I do understand and agree with your words of caution. I've been trying for so long now, it is well ingrained within me, that..
  • edited May 2016
    Thought I'd add my tuppence worth - probably as much money as most writers make nowadays! Getting an agent is nigh on impossible unless you're fabulously talented, incredibly lucky or related to Katie Price. Saying that agents have to take on new writers every so often - most seem to sign up 1 or 2 a year and their goal is to get you a traditional publisher from which they can earn a crust.

    An agent will work with you to hone your writing to make it commercial and sellable.

    You can try independent publishers but they are falling by the wayside or getting snapped up by the conglomerates and even some of the independents now only accept agented submissions which in my opinion kind of defeats their purpose. Don't give up though because you just never know. Especially if you've got something distinctive like a style or new twist on something that catches the attention.
  • I'm quite aware that I have a,certain flair for writing, to aim at certain target groups, commercial ones, but also know this is no guarantee for success.

    Am thinking now, after all the helpful comments on this thread, that perhaps I should make some enquiries with some agents to see what their policies are on this topic, especially for novellas.. Right now, that might prove positive to attempt...?
  • I think research is invaluable. A lot of us here have had a wealth of experience in working out what's what. There are some very talented writers on this forum who are still striving for a traditional publishing contract.
  • Yeah. I'm like the rest of you here. Seeking a way to transform my life with whatever amount of talent has been given to me.

    Life's a bit of a gamble, really. You never know if the gun is loaded when it is being fired in your direction, so the trick is, to not panic and learn how to play by the rules so you can shape them to your heart's rendition of fair play...

    Experience? I like that word. It conjures up some real.meaning of wisdom. Something that was missing in my early existence, hence my late entry into ' the land of the giants..'.

    When I hear common sense being spoken, that inspires me, so.much has there been a lack of that in my personal.life. Guess that makes me hungrier for success etc than most? The thing that propels me on. Always...
  • edited May 2016
    I'm not sure all of us are seeking to transform our lives, Lydia. I write for pleasure, for personal amusement and satisfaction, and if the spin off is that it sometimes gives pleasure to others, that's fine.

    I think I have a small talent, but total income from my writing so far stands at £76 05. (plus 16 p unclaimed royalties $-) ) I don't anticipate troubling HMRC any time soon.

    Be ambitious by all means, but Feet On The Ground will serve to ease the inevitable setbacks and disappointments.
  • Agents want full novels, they won't take on someone with a novella. :(

    Self-publishing was the hero of the many novellas lurking in the drawer or in a folder on the computer, but publishers didn't want them.

    You may find digital only publishers who will consider them.

  • Don't worry. I have suffered so many setbacks and disappointments, in life, that as one aged character suggested in a Marilyn Munroe film:- 'What's one more disappointment when you get to my age...'.

    That's my view on life, but there is always room for optimism, don't you think..? That is what has always cut me out as different from the rest of the people in my life. My ability to light a flame to my dreams, and 'dream the impossible dream...'. It's what gets me through the day. Doesn't have to come true but, evidently, it is one of those driving forces that propels people onwards towards success, if it is within their grasp to do so..

    I like the idea of digital publishers. As you wrote, that might be more appropriate. Just wondering how that works, as there won't be any book stores to assist in promotion of one's ebooks, so how is that going to work in one's favour...? I'll check that now, online.
  • Just as with paper books you have to do a lot of promotion because you only have a few months to make an impact and hopefully get the surge in sales.

    There's nothing to stop you continuing to promote, but the publisher will have moved on to the next crop and your ebook has slipped into the back catalogue.

    Some are better than others of course, but I can think of one writer who changed publisher.
  • Lydia, July's WM p100: a 'collaborative creative initiative' (that's a lot of 'ives') 'that provides a platform for emerging screenwriters' etc. Don't know if it's of any use to you, but you could check it out. www.create50.com
  • How do they promote your e-book if there are no bookshops involved? Someone suggested you only have about two months to promote your e-book, then you should have another one available? Afraid I am.not that prolific.

    Is it possible to gain sales after that period, especially if you establish yourself as a credible wtiter, and followers come to your ebooks later on, and start buying them after a period of them having been made available for sale?

    How do you get momentum in sales, is it just all about making contacts and chasing potential followers up...?

    As for 'create50', I'll go check.out the details now. Thanks for that, Mrs Bear ..
  • Just checked out that website. The one thing that seemed a bit restrictive, was if you agree to join, you are hooked up into their scheme, with no guarantee of being 'seen', without the ability to pull it from there if you want to try somewhere else... That seems a bit of a bind to me...?

    Also, the page to more info 'crashed', it wouldn't load, so didn't get all the info on that, apart from the above. Think I need a,bit more flexibility to that possibility, than this allows, of joining a scheme to aim.for a film being created from my script..
  • Most bookshops aren't interested in ebooks for obvious reasons. I don't want to pour any water on your flames of ambition but I wouldn't expect your life to be transformed by getting a book published you need to have realistic expectations. Jane constello didn't give up the day job until she'd had 8 books published and built a huge following. For most it's a long slog and the chances of ever seeing anything you write being made into a movie....well we can all dream.
  • Talent also.plays a big part. Lady luck too. But belief in your writing ability and confidence to try for the winning line, aids things. Making the right type of contacts, helps too...
  • E-publishers rely on social media and the author.

    Couple of useful books: Sell Your Books: A Book Promotion Handbook for the Self-Published...by Debbie Young and Alison Baverstock.

    Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners: a guide to publishing...by Sally Jenkins (a Talkbacker)
  • I met a writer (she's a friend of a friend in the writers' club) whose book was optioned years ago. The film still hasn't got off the ground. Sadly most never get optioned and very few of those that do reach the screen.

    But as datco says, we can dream.
  • Lydia I admire your optimism but I think you'll need an agent to achieve all the things you want to do but good luck with it all.
  • edited May 2016
    It sounds like you have a lot of plans and aspirations for your book and screenplay, Lydia and I wish you well. Sometimes I think it's no bad thing in life to forge ahead without heeding the naysayers - provided you're prepared to accept that they may be right in the end!
    From the questions you've been asking it sounds like you don't have a great deal of knowledge about the publishing process, yet you say you've been writing for twenty years. I'm curious to know what you've been writing and if you've had anything published.
  • OH being in the film industry, I do know a bit about (well quite a lot about) films and how likely they are to be made. It's agony, basically.

    There is so much more to it than you can possibly envisage.

    For a start, Pete has edited several promos (costing enormous sums to get done) to 'pitch' film ideas of various sorts. Some fabulous things. But they have all but one been ditched even after scads of money has been poured into them. At the marketing people stage, the stage many books fall at.

    How many times have you seen an unknown writer's book filmed? They count on the gazillion book fans along with everything else to get the film seen and bringing in the millions it will need to to claw back costs and make it worthwhile.
  • Just purchased those books, Carol. Thanks for them. They should make good reading...

    I've been developing my writing techniques all these years. Come from a very chaotic background, lots of stunted growth etc, lack of encouragement, thus dropped out of school early. Been playing 'catch up' ever since..

    Now, I believe, I am in flourishing form and wanting to test the waters. If I succeed, great. My desire for success is crazy. If I don't I'll die trying, like a donkey in its harness..

    The film script is based on the original idea, formatted properly with POGS dynamics in every scene. Protagonist, opposition, goal and upping the stakes. That's what I was taught by that screen writer. There's only one way to find out. That's to put these things out to tender, once they are completed, to see what happens then. Could be exciting? I'll wait in judgement on that..
  • Well, bearing in mind the time you've spent developing as a writer, I think it's time you put yourself out there. Contact some agents and see what they suggest.
  • That's what I reckon. Time for blast off!
  • And in the meantime, keep writing! If someone asks for a full novel/script, have you got one ready? They really won't wait.
  • I read it takes over a million of words written by a would-be writer before their writing begins to take on a degree of authenticity and expertise about them. So you could say, I've done my million and believe I have learnt my craft...

    Yeah, I could just send out enquiries or get the authors' handbook on agents etc to read through to see if any do novellas? While I am still doing my writing...

    Is there a handbook or website for contact details of digital.publishers? My computer skills aren't great when it comes to.inputting the necessary words for such things... never can figure those things out. In fact, the only thing I am any good at is my creative writing, so restricted in life..

    Thinking that perhaps I should concentrate, right now, on my film script. I have all the plot there, it is just a case of tweaking this and putting it into acts, sequences etc. Shouldn't take long to do, re-reads and everything...

    I was told that, if you can only sell.on spec, you have to have two properly formatted scripts before an agent will look at this. Does anyone know if that is true? There is this website that, if you join, it allows you to potentially link up with the movers and shakers in that business, but not having much experience in these things, that's quite daunting..
  • They will judge your writing on one script and whether you are a one-trick pony by the second. It's the same with novels. Always have at least 5 ideas and another worked up when you approach an agent.
  • I'm not sure anyone here was being a 'naysayer' just that you need (whether you want to or not) learn a bit about the business of publishing/film scripts or whatever before embarking upon sending your work out for the inevitable rejections and criticism that will be fired back at you. I like the comment Lydia about a million words you can add to that a million rejections and false starts along the way. All we try and do here is help everyone who's crazy enough to put their printed word out there prepare for what will happen along with what was successful and what worked.
  • I'm quite aware that I have the ability to 'tell a story' with all the necessary plot turns and devices to keep a reader hooked into the tale. I've read enough commercial fiction to be able to make the comparison.

    I recall a journalist saying, about Elvis Presley and his 'acting skills as being 'natural' as obviously he hadn't studied that, acting, was just 'cashing in ' on his good fortune and looks.

    Well, that's how I sort of see myself. Self taught and natural in my writing style. The equivalent of a Joan Armatrading in prose style... my style IS very commercial, to which I make no apologies. That's what sells obviously, and I have read quite a few of the 'Writing magazine' over the years, and taken on board all the advice given out there.

    And yes, I've sent out writing to various agents over the years, and got some feedback which I have introduced into my writing as a corrective.

    It is not just a,case of being able to write a story properly, but also having the right type of imagination to conjure up saleable stories which have 'legs' to run with, so to speak.

    I can see that I do have this skill, but that still doesn't mean I will succeed as a writer. The readers etc can determine their own choices in entertainment, but the fact that ebooks are now a possibility, means that more of the world's population can have stories aim.at them, and if you, as a writer, can tap into that mass audience, and provide stories that satisfy their hunger, you are certainly more than half way to being a winner, the potential of.

    Nothing is guaranteed in life. . I could write a,best seller and then drop dead the next day... you just have to trust your instincts, and put it out there and see what happens..

    Currently reading through those book's Carol suggested, that I download. If there is a problem in someone's strategy, there are always ways around that if you try hard enough, is the hope and belief..
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