This coming week, Hubby and I will make our way to Boise, Idaho for the Idaho Writers Guild conference. I’ve attended the past several years and have enjoyed and learned much from them all. We’ll go a few days early so we can visit our friends in the area. Even though we live far away, I still keep in touch with some and miss being with them all.
While at the conference, I’ve scheduled a pitch session with a literary agent. I’ll have 10 minutes to try to sell Meredith the book I recently finished called Desert Dreams: Murder Mystery in Moab. The story, set in 1948, follows Pearlie Merrick, an auto mechanic in Moab, Utah who is ostracized by the townspeople because she’s a woman doing a man’s job. She doesn’t mind much because she loves her job and has her friends, her dog Gary Cooper and a kind hermit named Old Pete who calls her his daughter. She loves to travel and camp out alone in the slickrock backcountry, something everyone says no decent woman would do. When the townspeople find out a mysterious Navajo man gave her old gold and silver coins, bad things begin to happen. My hope is that plotline will interest Meredith enough to read at least the first three chapters. I haven’t done this before so I’m really nervous.
All my previous books are self-published with Amazon. The professional editing, book cover art, and marketing lands squarely on me. All that takes a lot of money, but it ensures I have a quality book out in the world with my name on it. Okay, I have one, maybe two that could be better. They were my first ones, and I didn’t know a lot back then. I considering unpublishing one, rewriting it, and releasing it under a different title, but that decision is for another day.
I know a few very successful self-published authors who work hard making a living that way. Most of them release four or more books a year and have a team of editors, proofreaders, assistants, and other professionals to help them achieve their success. I’m very happy for them. I don’t write that fast or have the team of experts on payroll to help me with the task. I’m doing well to get one out a year or year and a half. The advantages of self-publishing are retaining one hundred percent of the royalties and maintaining all copyrights to your books. Self-publishers are in control of what happens.
I know even more traditionally published authors who are successful. Their teams are the publishing houses they have contracts with. Their royalty percentages are much less but are made up in volume with a wide distribution to stores, libraries, schools, and places across the globe. Some books are translated into other languages and distributed even wider. To traditionally publish with the big houses, you need a literary agent who will take part of that royalty too. The downside is you get only a fraction of the royalties which must be shared with your agent. If you hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, your royalties are large despite the small percentage, but if you don’t make the list, you don’t get much. Also, a part of the copyrights are given to the publishers which means relinquishing part of your right to determine what gets done with the book.
There are other ways to publish books such a hybrid presses and small publishers. All have advantages and disadvantages, making it hard to determine which is right for me. I love self-publishing but have never made back the investment it took to produce the book. The saying “it takes money to make money” is true for writers and authors, especially those trying to do it themselves. Editing a book can cost up to $8,000 for the very good professional editors, and I’ve found with editors you get what you pay for. Book covers can run up to $1,500. I’ve never paid that much for either editing or book covers because I can’t afford it. Research and shopping around pay off, and you can get the quality you need for a quality product for less. You can pay people to read your book and leave reviews, costing up to $700. The more reviews you have on your book, the higher the ranking in Amazon. The really prime advertising venues won’t take books without a certain number of reviews, but it’s difficult to get the reviews without a great advertising spot to get them. It’s a vicious circle. Paying for advertising and marketing is an ongoing expense after publishing. Done right, your return on investment should exceed your expenses. I’m still working on that part.
I won’t quit writing and self-publishing. I love it too much to stop. I’ll toss this one book out to see what I can hook an agent with it and maybe traditional publish this one or maybe two. It’s easier to make decisions when you know what you’re dealing with.
I hope you’ll read self-published authors and leave reviews for them. You’ll be helping someone like me who is trying their best to reel you into their worlds.
Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go. Ecclesiastes 9:10