Saturday, May 2, 2015

Has Your Small Press Sales Dumped?

I don't want to offend anyone. And I don't think my opinion is written on gold tablets and from upon high.

I truly believe, after exhausted investigation of my gradual sales slump to nothing, and given the fact that I am a relentless and heavy promoter (for all my books) who belongs to nearly 30 sites and writing groups, it is my opinion that the readership or fan base has switched in a huge way from small press to self-publishing.

The self--pubbed author population is incredibly huge now and growing by leaps and bounds every day. They are close-knit--almost a rebel faction. They loyally support each other. They make many, if not most, book purchases withing their own group: It would not surprise me that the majority of them buy from each other exclusively. I'm a self-published author BTW, and it allowed me to tune in on all discussions at the most exclusive self-publishing sites. And I'm rather proud of my tiny self-publishing company!

Back to bidness...

Just one example of their camaraderie: Look no further than the Kindle Boards to see a massive population of self-published authors who are making fairly decent wages across the board for dozens of non-fiction books--shorts, poetry, novellas and novels. Most of their sales numbers hose the average small press right out of contention because their royalties are so much higher than what a small press could offer.

They have a vested interest in promotion and marketing because everything falls on their shoulders. They are damn good at selling their brands. They discuss various and unique tactics for selling books (ways you've never heard of before) and gathering more readers than any other group of authors I've ever seen.

Is it at all possible that self-publishing has affected commercial publishing? This could be a tie-in factor. Well, the Big Five juggernauts simple try to buy up the most popular self-published authors who have best selling status and miraculous breakouts. They watch Wattpad, Booksie and other display sites for huge page views and followers. Both of these (share your writing) sites are responsible for launching some ginormous best sellers that have gone on to hit the wide screen.

Twilight, The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades really stood out as success stories. Where are the small press movie contracts? What can we boast about? Selling 75 to 150 copies in the lifetime of the book? I do believe all of these movie deals came from self-published authors in some form or another. I could be wrong, and then I could be leaving many others out too.

Small press does not have the financial means to pull in a best-selling self-published author. And many, if not most, self-published authors view small press contracts as a joke. I'm talking about the diehards here. BTW, this faction includes hybrid authors who publish in both venues--they are, for the most part, neutral in their views but very supportive of self-publishing. However, the big money motivates and dominates because the self-published sales figures that I've see don't lie. The line between the best-selling outliers and the medium to heavy sellers is starting to blur.

I can't say that I blame them at all. Many of them view commercial publishing as biased and unfair. Many of them have suffered years and years of writing with no recognition/contracts from agents or publishers. Zip. I know that feeling. Been there done that with nearly 4,000 rejections spanning 27 years.

I've heard the term "The "O-niners" bandied about in the self publishing forums. It appears as 09ers as well. In 2009 self publishing really started to make a huge impact on the industry. It started to come on really strong, and those that got in on it at that time are sitting very pretty right now. Really, some astonishing sales numbers! Their worst writers and tepid sellers smoke my book sales. They've also blown away to shreds my grand prize winner. And I've been told by dozens of people that I have one of the most beautiful covers in the industry.

The self-published motto is write one book after another 'til hell won't have it, and when you're done with that, write more books and stories, only faster.

When media or publishing professionals say the industry has changed or is rapidly transitioning, they primarily mean the e-book phenomenon. But right on its tail is the ravenous self-publishing trend and there are not too many commercial publishers willing to admit that they have taken some lumps because of it.

It was less than a year ago when I saw all my books and shorts slump and go to zero. I had been selling 2--3 books or stories a week for a very long time. I've also seen this with other small press authors who wrote fantastic books and wonderful series.

Don't get me wrong, we do have some very successful small presses and independents out there that have dug in their heels and come out shinning. Entangled, Bookatour, Poisen Pen, Story Plant and many more notables. Start up small presses today are nearly obliged to suffer doom if they don't have pro experience and don't know what they're doing.

Anyway, there might be a number of other factions that have slowed comercial sales in the past few years. And combined with self-publishing and its popularity, it could account for this slump that I see. If someone were to tell me that this was a flash-in-the-pan or a temporary trend, I would ask them where the upswing was.

I'm not blaming small press for all of this. I just think is has had an enormous influence. Phuck, I admire the hell out of them. I think they are going to gain more and more ground and swing additional readership in their direction.

Now, take this overview with a case of salt. It might help if anyone were to reveal that their sales have mysteriously slowed or stalled out. Not holding my breath, because such admittance is rather embarrassing. But if you have, then investigate and see what you come up with. I would be glad to hear any other theories. I don't mind trying to answer further questions on the matter.

Read this report. It's staggering in it's implications about the future of the book industry. I couldn't quite wrap my head around it, and didn't believe it at first.


ETA, Summation: Self-publishing has taken, and will take a huge amount of market share without doing it vindictively. Many of the self-published authors are teenagers or NAs, and they're like kids in a candy store, both in a reading and writing sense.

Ya know, I wish I felt that way.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Picking a Decent Publisher--Part Two.

 Below is a comment from a concerned writer about publisher picks:

My longer fiction is reserved for genre publishers my agent and I trust, after seeing their longterm performance.

My comments and experience:

Yes, mine too. She definitely storms the doors of the large, well known commercial publishers and independents. However, my agent (when it comes time) must diligently work a small press contract with much more scrutiny than the larger pub houses. It's because there is so much variation in small press contracts. I've seen 7.5% net on paperbacks and 20% net on e-books, with others offering slightly higher royalties. Heh, this is an outright holdup.

Some e-book publishers actually insist that the author do ALL the formatting of the book, e-book and paper, for retail placement. And they claim that an author is responsible for supplying the blurbs--front and back matter. Some small press owners are the sole editors of the book because they cannot afford outside professionals.

Some will not make an expenditure for copyright, leaving that to the author.

Others SPs want World Rights for the life of the book or for unusually long contract durations, like six, eight or 10 years

I actually think that my small press credit history, which is very sizable, hurts my chances for larger deals because after reviewing my stats for any given book they show lackluster or even close to non-existent sales. In the eyes of NYC publishers I've tanked with every one of my books and their risk of publishing me are much higher. And if you don't believe that a large house won't do a deep probe on your publishing history, you have another thing coming.

A small press publisher might make some money if their author stable comprises 30 to 50 (I've seen triple digit) individuals who sell in low but consistent numbers. It adds up because the emphasis is on quantity. This is where you approach or end up in an author mill. Mundania is a prime example of a publisher who has an excess of authors, while they do not invest in any significant marketing or promotion. With the profits Mundania has made over the years there has been no attempt at legitimate distribution outside of the Internet. I know dozens and dozens of these small publisher types.

Distribution is critically important for the success of a book, along with submissions to important and well known review sources that have large and influential readership bases.

I am relatively stuck in the small chasm for a few titles. They've come to the end of their agent sub trail. For 16 contract offers over a year for both books, 14 of them have been kicked to the curb. The highest advances won out. This might tell you something about the quality and fairness of their contracts.

Advances say something about a publisher--they are equally, if not more invested in the sales of your book. Royalty only publishers claim that they pay no advances because they offer the highest royalty rates, which is habitually untrue because these percentages are all over the map and most of them are on Net proceeds which can vary in the extremes and conditions.

Small press publishers might give wings (so to speak) to a breakout book while they leave the majority of birds languishing in the nest.

Small press has a terrible time managing their money and paying their editors and cover artists a decent wage for work performed. Many of them are late on royalty payments when the retail numbers have been turned in. Lots of small presses flat-out fold within a year or two. Some can go for several years and then have a catastrophic meltdown, filing for chapter 13 and tying up copyright by failing to provide reversion.

Is there any wonder why self-publishing has skyrocketed in the past five-six-seven years or so?

In short, small press must shine and have, at least, nearly all their ducks in a row. Then comes some notoriety. An expanded readership base results--and this translates to sales. It IS all about money, to keep a publisher afloat and their stable of authors happy