By Jennifer Debenham
My favorite quote from the 2012 LDStorymaker's Conference was, "It's no longer about being published. Today it's about being READ." It came from the husband and wife team of writers, Tracy and Laura Hickman. Their contention is backed by several other writers I spoke with or listened to at the conference. More and more often, these and other experienced writers are foregoing the old system of publication and taking matters into their own hands. Fortunately, you don't have to have a fan-base already in place to get started.
With many of us becoming more proficient with all sorts of computer and media-related tools, we now have what it takes to cut out the middle men--agents, editors, and publishing houses--and develop an audience for ourselves.
And where the audience is, the money soon follows.
It's no surprise that E-books are the way of the future, and the publishing industry, as it used to be just a few short years ago, is non-existent. For instance, writers who keep their e-book rights and publish their books as e-books keep a significantly higher percentage of each sale--about 70%. Because of this, a writer can make a schmancy income with a smaller audience, say 10,000 fans.
This is EXCITING!!! I know to some of you this is old news, but to me it means . . . go for it!
It also means no more waiting for agents to take on your work or for publishing houses to be willing to take a chance on you. It means no more rejection slips.
And it also means we need to start building up our fans.
Here's how Dave Wolverton/Farland recommends we do this:
1. Start writing short stories and make them into e-books. Give them away or sell them for very little.
2. Follow the Amanda Hocking model. If you have a series of novels, give the first one away. Charge a small fee for the next one. Charge a bit more for the next, etc. It took Amanda Hocking ten months to build up her following and now publishers are coming to her for the rights to print her books, but she insists on keeping her e-book rights.
3. Create a great cover and blurb for anything you put out as an e-book.
4. Create an internet following through blogging, facebook, twitter, etc. The more people that follow you, the easier it will be to find readers that want to pay you for your writing.
5. If you already have a following, consider selling subscriptions to your work, as Tracy and Laura Hickman did for their recent fantasy novel, which few publishers seemed willing to take a chance on. They did so well with selling their subscriptions, they were able to offer all of their subscribers a printed, hardbound, souvenir copy of their book. Then, since they had proven there was an audience for their story, they received a publishing contract after all, which broadened their exposure (and their income for that book).
Of course, by getting rid of the gatekeepers to quality, AKA the agents and editors, it becomes all the more important that we preserve the professionalism of our own work. It's our own name that's on the line. Wolverton/Farland recommends going through at least two rounds of excellent beta-readers (around eight each time) and taking their comments into account, making changes as necessary. Then hire an editor to edit your work. Perhaps go through two or three editors at around $300 each. It may seem like a lot, but this helps to keep our writing as professional as we want it to be. Even the best writers need polishing.
So let's go take on the writing AND publishing world.
Calling all fans . . .