Today's post is for those that may be just starting out. Many of those reading my blog are seasoned professionals who are well aware of the basics, upperclassmen if you will. But I forget that there are those just starting out, let’s call you freshmen, and I sometimes over look what there are some basics that you need help on so today’s post is for you. I was reminded by this recently by three events. One while lecturing at Balticon, another while sitting in a coffee shop in New York the last day of my BEA trip, and the other while reading some comments on Joe Konrath’s blogs.
During a lecture at Balticon I used this phrase, and Michael pointed out that many in the audience may not know what I was talking about. Again, it is used so frequently that I forget some may not be aware.
In general I tend to divide publishing into three types: Self-publishing, big-six, and small press/independent publishing. When I say “Big-six” I’m referring to a very large publishing company that produces most of the big titles from authors that you would recognize their names. Due to consolidation in the publishing industry almost all of the names that are recognizable to an average consumer actually are imprints of one of six large conglomerates. The big six in the United States are: Hachette Book Group, Haper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. Any publishing company that is not an imprint of one of these is defined as an Independent (Indie) Publisher.
The big six need to be separated from everyone else for two reasons.
1. Publishing through them has historically been the goal of most writers. Having a book produced by them is what most people consider being “a real writer” – notice the scare quotes there.
2. They define the industry by their business practices which generally include: a advance/royalty model for payment, performing large print runs that will be distributed through warehouses and brick and mortar retail outlets, and employ contracts similar to the early days of Hollywood which are designed to limit authors options. Now on the third point, in their defense, they have a business reason for this. Their business model requires a HUGE investment in an author and their work and they are only trying to protect that investment.
During my BEA trip someone wrote me and asked if I would have time to sit down with them to pick their brains for a while. Between my marketing meeting with Orbit and the bus leaving for DC I sat with them at the Tick-Tock diner (great place by the way). One of the first things she said to me was, “I just signed up with Kirkus, so I’m set there...” I had to stop her. For those that don’t know Kirkus is a highly respected reviewer of books and one of the big names in the business of reviews. Others include Publisher’s Weekly, and Library Journal. Usually to get a review from them you need to have been published through the big-six. (They have very limited space and so they focus on big releases from major houses). Awhile ago, Kirkus created Kirkus Discovery, supposedly to “help out” the little guys get reviewed by them. They have since changed their name to Kirkus Indie. Here is what they say about their service:
“The Kirkus Indie program gives independent authors a chance to obtain an unbiased, professional review of their work, written in the same format as a traditional Kirkus review, with the same chance of earning the coveted Kirkus Star.”
Sounds great right? Wrong. First they charge $425 for this service $575 if you pay to get it moved to the front of the line. That’s a TON of money that if you had that kind of cash burning a hole in your pocket I can tell you more productive marketing uses for, but more importantly a really bad idea. Paying for a review is the easiest way to lose credibility. Don’t ever do it. I’ll make my post tomorrow about more do’s and don’ts on reviews because it is an important topic. BTW Publisher’s Weekly has also offered paid reviews (at $149), which is still not a good idea. I’m not sure if they are still doing it or not as I didn’t bother to look it up.
so I’m set there. Reviews are, in my opinion, one of the most important aspects to focus on for a new writer. Regardless of which path you’ve taken to get published (small press, self published, or big-six)
DRM (Digital Rights Management)
While reviewing comments on Joe Konrath’s Blog two different people asked about DRM. For those that are self-published you need to make a decision on whether you use DRM or not, for those published by someone else, they’ll decide for you, but hopefully you can have some input into the decision.
Digital Rights Management is a technology whose purpose is to attempt to prevent piracy (stealing) of digital content. It basically locks a file to a particular machine and prevents it from being copied or shared. Sounds like a good idea right? After all you spent months, or years, or decades writing your book, and you want to be paid for that effort right?
DRM is a hotly debated topic, and everyone has their own opinion on it. This is my blog so I get to tell you mine ;-) Others are free to add their comments and unlike some Internet forums (cough Absolute Wrong cough) I won’t censor you or berate you for them.
I oppose DRM, from both a practical and business perspective. From a practical point of view, it won’t stop piracy. Removing DRM is insanely easy and it won’t stop anyone who wants to steal your work. From a business perspective it punishes people who have are have supported your writing with a legitimate purchase. I read books on my laptop, kindle, ipad…you get the picture. If I like a book I want to share it with my husband…I can do that with a print book – why not anebook? Trying to limit people from sharing your work is counterproductive. Word of mouth sells. You should rejoice where you get an email that says I loved your book and passed it on to … (insert name, friend, mother, sister, brother). Don’t worry about the pennies of a few lost sales, realize this a recommendation from an existing reader is the best form of advertising there is – embrace it.
Just one more thing I’ll say about piracy. First, you can’t stop it. I get google alerts all the time about Ridan author’s books showing up on a Torrent (mass download site). I used to try to get them taken down, which was like wack-a –mole. For each one that was removed, a new one popped up somewhere else – it was a colossal waste of time. The more important aspect about torrents, is that they are a sign that you are “making it”. If you have a crappy book that no one likes they won’t bother to steal it. When you start showing up on torrents it’s an indication of a following! I don’t know who said it but it’s true there that obscurity is worse than piracy. If someone likes your book enough to steal then its proof that you’re making it.
That’s al for today…I want to thank everyone here, on Joe’s blog, and kindle boards for their words of support since being banned from Absolute Write’s Water Cooler. To have so many people say so many nice things gives me a taste of what Michael feels when he gets fan mail.
Thanks for that.