(If you’re not interested in the business side of publishing, you might want to skip this post. You might want to skip it anyway because I’m such a newbie at publishing, and there are so many more experienced, more business-savvy authors out there than I am. )
ETA: I just started following Hugh Howey’s blog last week. Why did I wait so long? Because I’m an idiot. This guy is smart, and I might have fallen a little in love with him with his post today on if he was in charge of a publishing house. Only thing he should have added was publisher branding. 😉
A little over a year ago, Liliana Hart spoke out my local RWA meeting. Liliana was a member of the chapter, and she’d been pursuing publishing for years. She had an agent and a backlog of books that had almost made it past the publishing gate keepers, but were never bought for one reason or another. So, in 2010 or 2011, Liliana finally heeded the advice of other writers and her agent and secretly self-published some of those titles she had sitting on her computer. At our meeting last year, she talked about how that decision changed her life.
And, boy, did it change it. She went from being an unpublished author to an author making a buttload of money. If you want to know how much, read her story in The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing. Read all the stories in the Naked Truth book. I learned more from that book, and from self-published authors over the last year than I have in the previous two years of being a New York published author.
A lot of my lack of knowledge is my fault. I’m terrible at asking questions. I don’t want to bother people, and I don’t want people to know how completely ignorant I am (or was) of the business of publishing. Plus, when I signed my contract with Penguin in 2010, self-publishing still had a huge, huge stigma attached to it. And my mind was befuddled and overloaded by pregnancy hormones, sleep deprivation, extreme misery, and the birth of my twins. (Sidenote: I don’t recommend having twins the same year you have your debut book release. 🙂
But thanks to the internet and to the self-published authors who are so giving with their time and knowledge, I can learn about the business side of publishing without having to leave the comfort of my keyboard.
I love learning about the business. The fact that this is a business, and that I’m not just a little writer off in a corner by myself listening to the voices in my head, makes me feel almost like a grownup. With a real job. A job that pays well below minimum wage right now, but one that has potential for growth.
Of course, that growth will only come when I publish more books. That’s the thing that has been beaten over and over into my mind. More books out there means more discoverability. It makes sense. It also makes me extremely anxious because I’m not yet a fast writer.
The other thing that has been beaten into my head by publishing experts (mostly self-published experts), has been author branding. Kristine Katherine Rusch has a post on branding today as part of her Discoverability series. She’s one of the authors I’ve learned a lot from, and I look forward to her Thursday posts on publishing every week. She might not be right on everything, and I might not agree with her on everything, but she has a good amount of knowledge, explains things extremely well, and I think her Thursday posts are a must-read for anyone interested in the publishing industry.
She wrote something in today’s Branding post that highlights one thing that’s been bothering me lately: publisher branding.
Readers identify these things as brands (in no particular order): Characters, Worlds, Series, and Writers. Readers rarely (almost never) consider a publisher a brand. There are exceptions—Harlequin has done a fantastic job branding its fiction. But most traditional publishers have not.
It’s always bothered me that publishers don’t invest in building their brands (or imprints). It means something to me to be published by Ace, but the vast majority of the reading public hasn’t heard of Ace. They don’t know what kind of books Ace publishes, and they don’t care. If readers don’t care about a publisher brand/imprint, and the publisher doesn’t care about its brand/imprint, then why should an author care?
I had this idea in my head. Instead of a book trailer, I wanted to create a book commercial. It would have gone something like the video below. (But much, much better. And the music wouldn’t be so god-awful. I created this is around 5 minutes on www.animoto.com.)
Being associated with a publisher and imprint could mean something to the public. Publisher branding could be one of those things New York could add to its benefits-to-publishing-with-us list.
Of course, building an imprint’s brand recognition would take an investment of time and money. But if a publisher isn’t willing to invest in themselves, why should authors?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I love being published by Ace. I love being published by New York. But I’m sure I just love being published. I love people reading The Shadow Reader books and getting to know McKenzie, Aren, Kyol and the others. I feel a kinship with all of you, and signing that contract in 2010 was one of the most exhilarating and best days of my life. I want to sign more.
But I want to be educated when I do. I want to know my options. I want to know what I’m giving up, and I want to know what I’m getting in return that I couldn’t get on my own.
“Knowledge is power,” and all of that jazz.