On finishing (sort of)

Oct 09

Holy crap, I wrote a book.

71,518 words worth.

258 pages (in Word, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 pt, but still.)

And now the real work begins. Allons-y!

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On Harper Voyager’s Unagented Submissions

Oct 08

One of my awesome readers, Nikki, sent me a link to the announcement of Harper Voyager’s (the fantasy/sci fi subset of HarperCollins who publishes George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series amongst others) newest publishing endeavor. The publishing house has opened up a two-week submission period of unagented (but completed) manuscripts. This is a big deal for them, as this is evidently the first time in a decade that they have decided to accept manuscripts directly from authors. The guidelines for submission can be found here.

This is obviously an exciting opportunity for unpublished or previously self-published authors to take a chance on getting their book picked up by a traditional publishing house. It’s also very clearly a calculated move on the part of Harper Voyager in response to the increasing trend of authors self-publishing their books. This particular opportunity, for which I’m sure thousands of manuscripts have already been submitted, is specifically aimed at digital distribution. The selected manuscripts will be edited, polished, and worked up in eBook form only (at first — they say that some may be considered for print as well, but I speculate that will be based solely on how well the eBook does).

When I first read about this endeavor, my initial reaction was a pretty loud, “Awesome!” Naturally I started to consider whether I would want to submit Terra for it (provided I were able to actually, um, finish writing it before the October 14th deadline). And I considered it, and I thought about it, and I started to plan on how I would word my Facebook announcement declaring that I was going to be a published author… and then, I started to really weigh what this opportunity meant. I’m going to go ahead and jump to the end (spoiler alert!) just in case you’re not interesting in reading through the rest of this: I will not be submitting (probably).

Let me ‘splain. See, there’s no doubt that HarperCollins/Harper Voyager has the resources to market my book more successfully than I would be able to myself. They have a team of (hopefully) talented editors, graphic designers, and publicists on their roster, and I have, um, myself. And Elance. And I don’t doubt that any book that they publish, even digitally, will probably sell at least a marginal number of copies, even if the author him or herself doesn’t market as hard on their own.


A digital project like this does not mean your book is going to be on shelves. It does not mean you’re going to have posters in Barnes & Noble, and it does not mean you’re going to make it onto the “Hot New Books” table up front. It doesn’t mean that someone’s going to see your flippin’ awesome cover on the Metro, ask whomever lucky soul is reading it what book it is, and then order it on their smartphone. So right there you are automatically losing out on one of the best advantages of traditional publishing: exposure.

It probably doesn’t even need to be said that your royalty rates will not be anything close to what you would get if you self-published. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program offers a 70% royalty rate on eBooks sold in the US, UK, German, Italian, and French markets. For all other markets, you get 35%. Now, I’m no traditionally-published author, but Professor Google seems to indicate that traditional royalty rates can be anything from 12 – 25%.

What does need to be said, is that Harper Voyager is not providing advances for the books they select. So the WAY you’ll be receiving your money (slowly, as your book spreads and gains exposure) is the same as if you were self-publishing. The AMOUNT that you’ll be receiving will simply be less, relative to what you could have been making. Obviously, these comparisons only work if you assume that you would sell the same number of books self-published or with Harper Voyager, and I think it’s very likely that HV would be able to help you sell more books. But I’m just saying.

Plus, and this is really one of the most important things for me, you would be engaging in a traditional publishing deal, because that’s what it is. Which means signing away the majority of your rights as to how the book is marketed, designed, spun, etc. If it’s planned to be part of a series, you may even be signing away rights to future books in the series.

Maybe I’m in a minority here, but I actually want to self-publish my book. I think it’s a growing minority, but I’m sure that a lot of self-published authors have turned to things like Kindle Direct and Smashwords or CreateSpace and Lightning Press (for printed versions) because they weren’t able to go the traditional route. But to me, the only benefit of going “traditional” is really the legitimacy factor. And don’t get me wrong, that’s something I still struggle with. Because, yes, it would be freaking awesome to be able to tell everyone that my book is being published by HarperCollins or St. Martin’s Griffon or Penguin. But, that’s really all it would be. About telling them.

Published authors that I know personally have told me how difficult it is to tell their books even with all the “resources” that their publishing companies are supposed to afford them. In today’s world, with the publishing industry struggling as it has been, the onus still falls largely on the author regardless of what company is in the “Publisher” box in your product description. Unless you already are a big name in the writing world, it’s on your shoulders to market, to strategize, to plan, and to pimp your book out.

I believe that self-publishing is the future, and I am honestly happy that publishing houses like HarperCollins are starting to recognize that. They need to adapt their business model if they intend to survive, and I think that this is one sign that they’re starting to do that. Maybe it will relieve some of the exclusivity that stigmatizes traditional publishers and keeps amazing work from being discovered due to having gone through one wrong channel, or taken one misstep. I’m excited to see where this goes.

Oh, and if you have a manuscript you’ve been sitting on and DO want to pursue a traditional publishing house, then you have one more week to submit! 🙂

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On not sleeping

Oct 05

Evidently I am Jo March, as all my best writing comes to me inthe dead of night. If you fail to get this reference, please drop what you are doing immediately and go read/watch/both Little Women. I have spoken.

I say this because it is 1:58 AM on Thursday night Friday morning and this little blog entry is providing the first break I’ve taken from the book in the past 4 hours. Well, okay, the second. I mean, it kind of comes in conjunction with the first, which was a very different, though far more crucial, kind of break. (Teehee, potty humor.)

Normally, I would think that this was just the side effect of being on a truly great writing roll. I fear it may be more than that, however, as the same thing happened last night. Maybe I”m just spending so much time writing that I’ve forgotten how to sleep (my other great love!),

I guess I can look at it this way: all true artists are insomniacs, right? All I need now is an opium addiction and a villa in the south of France and I’ll be able to say I’ve really made it.

And hey, at least I’ll have these 65,000 words (okay, okay, fine. 64,882) to keep me warm when I’m fired tomorrow for falling asleep at work.

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