Monday, May 21, 2012

An Industry In Flux


If you pay any attention to the publishing industry, you probably know that everything involved is currently in flux. What is getting published. Who is getting published. What publishers are paying. What readers are paying. What publishers are providing for their authors. What the authors are having to do for themselves. How the reading public is buying and reading the work.

It's all changing by the minute and that means those of us stuck on the outside trying to get in have to pay even more attention. When I started this journey back in 2006, the only game in town was going through a publisher, be it the traditional or digital route. There were self-published books, but they were rarely spoken about in a positive light. Few who wanted a real career as an author saw self-publishing as a valid route.

How times have changed.

I've been hearing the word "gatekeepers" thrown around quite a bit. Mostly, I ignore the article or blog for two reasons. I often assume (likely incorrectly) that the person declaring the agents or the publishers as gatekeepers is likely spreading some sour grapes. But in all honestly, I figured I wasn't to the point where this should matter to me, as publishing was still off in the future and I'd deal with it then.

And then I received that miracle call in March and that "far off in the future" thing didn't feel so far off. Now I found myself with a full manuscript that had just finaled in a major contest. A final that awarded me the benefit of moving to the top of the slush pile in many cases. (Sadly, not all. But that's the business.) Now I'm trying to determine what kind of future I want in publishing, and I can honestly say, I'm overwhelmed just thinking about it.

There are so many camps waving banners these days. There are those who rail against ever again dealing with a publisher. (One example here.) There are those who have done the publisher route and come out with a not so pretty experience. (For instance, read here.) Still others who went the traditional route and decided to (or were forced to) take more control and publish their own work. With great success. (See this author here.) Still others who jumped right into self-publishing and are seeing tremendous success in their first years. Even in their first few months. (See here.)

Just as the industry is in flux, so are my plans. I'm not ready to give up on the traditional route. Not yet. But I'm realistic and excited that there are so many options. So many roads to Oz, as one might say. Used to be, if you couldn't find an agent or publisher who loved your work, you were done. Not anymore.

So I have some questions. An unscientific survey, if you will. This is both from a reader standpoint, and from an author standpoint.

For readers (and that's really all of us):
1.) Are you open to a good book no matter if it's traditionally published (through NYC or an established digital publisher) or if the author skipped the publisher and put the work out herself?

2.) Is there a kind of story you're dying to read but you just can't find it on the shelves. In any genre. For that matter, is there a genre you're not finding that you want? Or not finding enough of?

3.) Do you still chose books the way you always have, or has the advent of the e-reader changed your reading habits? Do you prefer paper books, digital books, or does it matter?

For writers:
1.) Are you staying abreast of the giant shifts in the industry? Are your goals still the same, changing, or are you clueless as to what your goal is now?

2.) Would you consider self-publishing your own work? At what point would you make that decision? Is it a timeframe? A certain number of rejections received? Is the success of other writers enough to make self-publishing look more attractive to you?

3.) Are you meeting obstacles you didn't expect? Feeling like there is a "gatekeeper" standing in your way? Do you see any changes that are making you question your future as a writer? (Industry-wise, not the dreaded internal editor rearing her ugly head.)

4.) The recent silver bullet for more success seems to be turning books out quicker. Are you prepared for this? Or (like me) does this idea of turning out several books a year scare your socks off?

42 comments:

Maureen said...

Staying abreast...gods, it's a finishing line that is constantly moving. But from what I understand, the truth is that hasn't changed. Just the perceptions. The more I talk with authors, new and established, the more I understand that the feeling of never hitting that finish line is the norm.

I intend to self-publish, hoping by the middle of summer and again before the end of the year. But I haven't given up on finding another agent, being pubbed by NY and riding the indy publisher/e-publisher buses.

I'm greedy, I want it all.

Obstacles? Well...I could write a book. Yeah, fast out the gate, straight into wall after wall. Weee.

I do think authors need to be churning out book after book...thought I also feel it depends on the genre. Some readers are more patient for the next read than others.

quantum said...

1.) Are you open to a good book no matter if it's traditionally published (through NYC or an established digital publisher) or if the author skipped the publisher and put the work out herself?

YES. But with so many authors available to choose from and not having much time to spend prospecting for gold, I need a guide to the best books and authors, regardless of who does the publishing. I thank the Good Lord for Janga's blog and the guidance available there!

2.) Is there a kind of story you're dying to read but you just can't find it on the shelves. In any genre. For that matter, is there a genre you're not finding that you want? Or not finding enough of?

I'm sure there is, I'm just not sure what it is. I'll know when I find it! LOL


3.) Do you still chose books the way you always have, or has the advent of the e-reader changed your reading habits? Do you prefer paper books, digital books, or does it matter?

I used to browse second hand bookshops a lot, but now I browse Amazon for e-books and Audible for audio books. I always prefer digital. Price affects my purchase. I hate being ripped off with over-priced e-books from main publishers and applaud the way that indie writers and others will reduce the price, often to below £1, in order to boost sales and become known. With some authors I will pay what it takes to get their stories. There aren't many of those though and one or two are indies.

One gripe I have with publishers and e-books is the excessive use of DRM. When I buy a book I expect to be able to use it in any way I choose, except for sharing on pirate sites of course. DRM affects where I will buy an e-book.

I believe that the pirate sharing sites are gradually being closed down now so the perceived need for DRM will hopefully fade.

If I was about to publish a book I would definitely self-publish on Amazon.

Marnee Bailey said...

1.) Are you open to a good book no matter if it's traditionally published (through NYC or an established digital publisher) or if the author skipped the publisher and put the work out herself?

I am pretty open to different formats but I admit that if I'm going to try someone new, I need there to be good reviews. Either on Amazon or on Goodreads. If the book is cheap (ie, under a buck) I'll usually give it a shot with only a few good recommends, as long as I can read an excerpt. If it's more expensive (1.99-4.99) I need there to be lots of good reviews, I need to have heard of the author.

I think it's the way I would generally wait and read a debut author from the library or through someone lending it to me or whatever old days. I'm stingy with my reading dollars. I hate to feel like I spent a lot on something and then have it be a dud.

2.) Is there a kind of story you're dying to read but you just can't find it on the shelves. In any genre. For that matter, is there a genre you're not finding that you want? Or not finding enough of?

I'm like Q; I bet there are books but I won't know until someone else writes them. If I knew the book everyone wanted, I'd write it myself. LOL!!

3.) Do you still chose books the way you always have, or has the advent of the e-reader changed your reading habits? Do you prefer paper books, digital books, or does it matter?

I'm pretty exclusively an e-book reader right now. I think a lot of it is that they don't keep as big of a selection in my Barnes and Noble these days. But I'm also at the mercy of my little humans. I rarely make it to stores at all right now. If I do, it's Target/Walmart for diapers and paper towels and shampoo or it's the grocery store for sustenance. I don't go shopping for fun. I shop for clothes online a lot too. I bet in years to come it'll be easier but right now, it's not.

For writers:
1.) Are you staying abreast of the giant shifts in the industry? Are your goals still the same, changing, or are you clueless as to what your goal is now?

I think I'm staying abreast. LOL!! My goal is to publish through NY and then supplement with self-publishing after I have an established readership. That's the goal right now. Who knows what it'll be in a few years.

Marnee Bailey said...

2.) Would you consider self-publishing your own work? At what point would you make that decision? Is it a timeframe? A certain number of rejections received? Is the success of other writers enough to make self-publishing look more attractive to you?

I would consider it (see above!) but not right away. I feel like self-publishing requires a LOT of self-promo and I just literally don't have the time right now. When my kids are older, when I get more than an hour or 2 to myself each day, then I bet I'll have more time to chase that. But right now I don't.

As to timeframe, I'll address that below....

3.) Are you meeting obstacles you didn't expect? Feeling like there is a "gatekeeper" standing in your way? Do you see any changes that are making you question your future as a writer? (Industry-wise, not the dreaded internal editor rearing her ugly head.)

I feel like the word "gatekeeper" is like Gandulf in LOTR movie, "You Shall Not Pass!!" LOL!!

Most of the times I think people use the word to talk about agents. I don't see it as them trying to "hold me back." I see it as them trying to make their money. They have specific things they're looking for, the things that they think are going to guarantee them the most money.

I've heard people squawk about that, but I do think for agents particularly, it's not as much about the "art" of it. They're about the money and the business. They perform a service (if they're good, anyway): they're out to get their clients the biggest advances and the best perks they can.

As to things making me rethink doing this. Nope, not at all. I need to write. I have down days, especially as I'm querying, but I don't think it's changed my goal. I don't have a timeframe and I doubt I'm going to get antsy about it. At least not in the foreseeable future.

I think because part of me wonders if I don't sign with an agent because secretly my stories aren't quite ready yet. I'm getting lots more requests this time and plenty of rejections, but people are personalizing my rejections now. I keep hearing that means "No, but keep going!" or "Not right now but keep me in mind next time."

So I'm trying not to get discouraged. I'm taking my encouragement where I can find it. LOL!!

4.) The recent silver bullet for more success seems to be turning books out quicker. Are you prepared for this? Or (like me) does this idea of turning out several books a year scare your socks off?

Right now, I can't write more than 2 a year. And two a year is really pushing it. I'd have to write much more than I do and I"m not sure how I'd do that.

But who knows what the future brings?

Marnee Bailey said...

And I'm beyond wordy today. But I'm in the middle of querying so I think about this ALL THE TIME right now! LOL!!

Sorry gals!

Amanda said...

Are you open to a good book no matter if it's traditionally published (through NYC or an established digital publisher) or if the author skipped the publisher and put the work out herself?

Yes. For example, I will read Courtney Milan's self published books. She has priced them very reasonably and her attention to detail is second to none! However, she did establish her reputation with the traditional publisher first. I agree with Q--I am going to look for trusted recommendations before I take a chance. But, I follow that rule of thumb for print books, too, really. I have certainly seen some samples for self published works that I would not want to take a chance on. But as some of you ladies have pointed out, there are plenty of traditionally published books out there that are of questionable readability!

Is there a kind of story you're dying to read but you just can't find it on the shelves. In any genre. For that matter, is there a genre you're not finding that you want? Or not finding enough of?

Like Q and Marnee, I am sure there is, but right now I cannot think of it. Certainly Regency and later historical romances and contemporaries are where my main focus is, but I have branched out occasionally to other areas depending on the author--Medievals, etc.

3.) Do you still chose books the way you always have, or has the advent of the e-reader changed your reading habits? Do you prefer paper books, digital books, or does it matter?

I have a Kindle so I certainly do a lot of digital reading. I have taken to buying certain books that I have in paperback form that I know I will re-read--I know, a somewhat foreign concept to you, Terri. It is great to have those comfort reads readily available and stored all in one place. I, too, am frustrated by the pricing issue--so if it is a popular author who's publisher is going to have Amazon put it up for full price, then I am going to buy that book at Wal-Mart. For example, Julia Quinn's latest is probably going to be $7.99 on Kindle and $5 ish at Wal-Mart--I am going to want to read the book close to when it comes out, so I will buy the paperback at Wal Mart. I am still buying a mix of books, but leaning more toward the e reader.


If you do self publish, it sounds involved but potentially very worth it. Reading about Courtney's process through her blog, it seems overwhelming. However, as a reader, she has a pretty fabulous product that she turned out with self publishing.

TerriOsburn said...

Chance - I don't think there ever is a finish line, but it feels to me like the entire course is shifting. What was a simple oval is now a cross country course through a field of land mines and live safari. Seems like there are several paths, none are marked, and at least three of them lead to possible death or maiming. LOL!

You are in a prime position to self-publish. Can't wait to see how you do.

Donna Cummings said...

Intriguing post, Terri. I think a writer has to stay on top of all the changes in the industry, otherwise we might miss out on some of the wonderful options available to us.

My ultimate goal is to reach readers who like my stories and my style of writing, and I'm glad there are so many different ways of doing that right now. No matter whether you are self-published, traditionally published, or a blend of both, it's still about connecting with readers who don't know you yet.

It does take time and energy, and some days it feels like you're competing with about a zillion people to be noticed. But when someone new finds you and says how much they love your book--it's a thrill and a half. We also benefit from instant feedback nowadays, thanks to Twitter and Goodreads and blog reviews and Six Sentence Sunday. I'm sure there's something else being invented as I type this. LOL

When I first started writing, almost nobody had an agent because you could submit directly to editors. Then that changed, so you had to get an agent. Now that's changing. I guess we just have to be adaptable, and keep writing our books. :)

TerriOsburn said...

Q - I find it interesting that you hate DRM yet say you'd go with Amazon, which is the biggest DRM culprit out there. And I wish the pirate sites were going away. Sadly, they're as prolific as ever. Like a giant game of whack a mole.

You never think you'd like to read some early 20th century Historicals? (Think Downton Abbey or even WWII.) Or something set during the San Fran Gold Rush. There are so many eras through time that seem to be ignored, but then that might be because no one really does want to read about them.

TerriOsburn said...

Marn - No worries. This one called for being long winded. Goodness knows I put plenty of hot air in the actual blog.

Re: Gatekeepers. I used to write that stuff off, but recently know of an author who was told my 20 agents they didn't believe an editor would buy her book. So she went right to editor and sure enough, she bought it. Then that author had her pick of agents.

That's the gatekeeper stuff. Rejections that "This isn't my kind of story" make perfect sense. But more and more the response has to do with "Editors aren't buying this sort of book." But as you can see in the example above, those agents aren't always right.

So you can see how it can feel like the agents are guessing and placing a "gate" between the writers and the editors who might buy the work.

Though I have to say, agents can only go on what they're hearing from editors. No one can read another person's mind. To sign a writer on an "unlikely but possibly could sell" knowing you won't make a penny unless you sell that writer does require a lot of risk on the part of the agent.

TerriOsburn said...

Hey there, Donna! I believe you're right that writers have to stay on top of this stuff, but the giant tsunami of info out there right now is flooding my little brain. LOL! And I also think a lot of writers aren't paying attention at all.

I was in the "I'm still learning to write and there's plenty of time for me to figure that all out" camp, but then I started reading some of these blogs (like the ones in the links above) and realized ignoring this stuff just isn't possible. Not if I want to have any clue what's going on when the time comes.

Makes me wonder what things will look like in five years. Or even in two years!

TerriOsburn said...

Good morning, Amanda! You have me right, I'm not a re-reader, but my plan is to spend my golden years reading all the books I loved in my 20s and 30s. It will be like reading them for the first time, since I already can't remember any details about them. LOL!

Courtney is a prime example of someone who went traditional, established a readership, then took control of her own destiny. And in the large scheme of things, she wasn't traditionally published for that long. No giant backlist to rely on. She's cutting through the waters of this industry and proving you can have success while calling your own shots.

But you're right, she also puts out a quality product. That makes all the difference in the world, no matter how you publish.

TerriOsburn said...

Some of you have mentioned e-book prices. When you see a full length novel for say $2.99, do you think, "That's a good price, I might try that one" or "If it's that cheap it's probably not very good."

I believe the second response was the norm even a year ago, but not any more. Curious to see how you all feel about it.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

For readers (and that's really all of us):
1.) Are you open to a good book no matter if it's traditionally published (through NYC or an established digital publisher) or if the author skipped the publisher and put the work out herself?

I think most readers don't really pay attention to who publishes a book - especially if it's an ebook. Notice I say most, not all. I want a good story and that means I don't care where it came front - but it would make me pause if that author was never traditionally published before self-pubbing.

For writers:
1.) Are you staying abreast of the giant shifts in the industry? Are your goals still the same, changing, or are you clueless as to what your goal is now?

I hope so! LOL. My goal is to traditionally publish in print and also have a few novellas/shorts with an epublisher a year and then maybe 1-2 self-pubbed "extra" type stories. Like ones about the side characters from my print books.

I think it's important for authors to know that with royalties, money only comes in every so often from traditional print, who getting monthly payouts from e-pubbed or self-pubbed can help fill those $$$ gaps.

2.) Would you consider self-publishing your own work? At what point would you make that decision? Is it a timeframe? A certain number of rejections received? Is the success of other writers enough to make self-publishing look more attractive to you?

Honestly, I would only consider it after I'd built a good solid platform - either with an epub or traditional. Yes, some can have success without having pubbed any other way, but the majority of success is had by those who already had a readership. Readers will follow authors they know - they don't care about the publisher.

3.) Are you meeting obstacles you didn't expect? Feeling like there is a "gatekeeper" standing in your way? Do you see any changes that are making you question your future as a writer? (Industry-wise, not the dreaded internal editor rearing her ugly head.)

In my mind, if you have a GOOD agent they are worth every penny they would earn from your books. Notice I say earn. Yes, they are all about the money, but guess what - you are all about the creativity - it's their JOB to be the one who worries over the $$$ so you are free to create.

4.) The recent silver bullet for more success seems to be turning books out quicker. Are you prepared for this? Or (like me) does this idea of turning out several books a year scare your socks off?

Ah - the thing that scares me. It took me forever to write that first book. I know that to really be successful and make this a career you have to put out at least 2 books and a few shorts/novellas a year. Minimum. Holy hell that scares me.

MsHellion said...

1.) Are you open to a good book no matter if it's traditionally published (through NYC or an established digital publisher) or if the author skipped the publisher and put the work out herself?

I have to honestly say: no. This has to do with the formatting. I still prefer paper books. I pretty much have to be forced to sit down and read my eReader. I have not yet converted. I’d rather smell paper and chance papercuts. The point being: most non-traditionally published works are DIGITAL and I don’t read digital.

2.) Is there a kind of story you're dying to read but you just can't find it on the shelves. In any genre. For that matter, is there a genre you're not finding that you want? Or not finding enough of?

Yes. I would like to read more romance set in the Revolutionary War (1770s) or even the early 1800s America. It’s not popular right now. If it ever was.

3.) Do you still chose books the way you always have, or has the advent of the e-reader changed your reading habits? Do you prefer paper books, digital books, or does it matter?

Yes, still prefer paper.

1.) Are you staying abreast of the giant shifts in the industry? Are your goals still the same, changing, or are you clueless as to what your goal is now?

Not overly, but I still think I have a long way down the tunnel yet to go. However, in discussions with you and articles you’ve shared, I’m more open to the possibility of other publishing alternatives. Especially since I write things more obscure than romance set in the American Revolution….

2.) Would you consider self-publishing your own work? At what point would you make that decision? Is it a timeframe? A certain number of rejections received? Is the success of other writers enough to make self-publishing look more attractive to you?

The latter.

3.) Are you meeting obstacles you didn't expect? Feeling like there is a "gatekeeper" standing in your way? Do you see any changes that are making you question your future as a writer? (Industry-wise, not the dreaded internal editor rearing her ugly head.)

Harlequin not giving much for its digital stuff. Not for a lot of it. To write for Harlequin, you have to be the type of writer who likes to publish quantity. (I mean, we all wants quantity to some degree but not all of us aspire to Nora Roberts levels.)

4.) The recent silver bullet for more success seems to be turning books out quicker. Are you prepared for this? Or (like me) does this idea of turning out several books a year scare your socks off?
I am not yet convinced I could produce more than one book a year. The thought of two a year is daunting! The thought of more than 2 is impossible in my mind, at least for me. THOUGH, the more you write, the better you get and the more…programmed you are for it. (Like running. If you can build up to a marathon, you can keep doing them without missing a beat…that is until you just drop dead of unexplained causes.)

TerriOsburn said...

Sabrina - That initial pause if the writer has never traditionally published is the thing I find interesting. And I'm guessing there are many others like you. But I also believe that hesitation is less than it used to be and will eventually go away. Not that I have a crystal ball or anything, but I wouldn't be surprised if self-publishing becomes the norm in the not so distant future.

I have to disagree about the agent being about the money so the author can be about the creativity. I don't think we have this luxury anymore, regardless of how good our agent may be. Writers have to pay attention more than ever to contracts, royalty statements and the money they're earning from their work.

For those who are writing for the sheer love of it and the joy of sharing their work with readers but could care less how much money they make, then ignore the numbers. But I believe most writers want to earn a fare wage for their blood, sweat, and tears and the only way to make sure that happens is to take charge of the business side.

TerriOsburn said...

Hellie - I knew we'd have someone who still loved the paper books. And from the sales statistics I've seen, you're in the majority there. Though e-books are gaining major ground every day, they've yet to outsell paper books. Which is why I'll never understand why the Romance section of brick & mortar book stores are shrinking to almost nothing.

This phenomenon (in addition to book stores going out of business) is almost forcing readers to take the digital route.

And I'm relieved to see I'm not the only person freaked about turning out multiple books a year. I was talking to a writer on Saturday who said she met another writer contracted to put out 8 books a year. That's crazy pants!!

Janga said...

For readers (and that's really all of us):

I don’t really care how a book is published. Generally, the books I read are by authors I know either through their traditionally published backlists, online connections, or recommendations from friends. I don’t even download freebies or accept review books otherwise. My time is as valuable as my dollars.

I’d love to read more romances set in the first half of the twentieth century. Edwardian-set romances have become more popular in the last couple of years, but I’d be happy to see more of them along with WWI settings, Roaring 20s, WWII, etc. I’d like to see American historicals that aren’t Westerns. Although I love the books of Kaki Warner, Jodi Thomas, Jo Goodman, etc., I want greater variety. I’d like to see more European historicals with settings other than Medieval, Regency, and Victorian.

There will always be some books I want in paper, but most of my purchases now are digital. I love the immediate gratification of downloading a book I want to read, I love knowing that I don’t have to drive an hour or more to find the books I want to read, and I love not having to find space on my overflowing bookshelves. I still get some paper books to review, but the paper books I buy now are often copies of ebooks I’ve read. The eARCS are only good for ninety days, and I always buy either paper or electronic copies of the review books I consider keepers.

For writers:

I read a great deal that’s being written about changes in the industry, but I think being fully informed would take much more time than I can invest. My goal is to write the books and find an audience for them. I’m more open to the means of achieving that goal than I was when I started.

I am seriously considering self-publishing. Knowing people who have successfully self-published has made me view it differently, probably even more so that the the big news self-published authors. I do have a timeframe. I’m old enough to be very conscious of “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” I’d prefer not to be published posthumously.


I’m my biggest obstacle. I have major problems letting go of my work. And each rejection requires recovery time, especially since nearly all of them say that I write well but . . . That three-letter word has become a huge obstacle. However, I'm encouraged by the growing evidence that writers can now, to a considerable degree, control their own destinies.

4.) The recent silver bullet for more success seems to be turning books out quicker. Are you prepared for this? Or (like me) does this idea of turning out several books a year scare your socks off?

I am awed beyond words by writers who turn out a book every three months or so. I can’t imagine writing at that pace. What I am trying to do is write steadily now so that if I am published I’ll have several completed manuscripts ready.

quantum said...

Q - I find it interesting that you hate DRM yet say you'd go with Amazon, which is the biggest DRM culprit out there. And I wish the pirate sites were going away. Sadly, they're as prolific as ever. Like a giant game of whack a mole.

Terri, the DRM on kindle is quite easy to disable. That's important to me as I like to convert to audio format using computer voices. Of course I do this for personal use only, which I believe is legal. It's best to stick to one format for this!

Perhaps I misunderstood but I read somewhere that pirate sites are more and more requiring users to register and books are being withdrawn due to complaint from surveillance agencies. If so it might deter quite a few potential users.

You never think you'd like to read some early 20th century Historicals? (Think Downton Abbey or even WWII.) Or something set during the San Fran Gold Rush. There are so many eras through time that seem to be ignored

On the historicals, I think that you can probably find a novel for most periods, though they may not be romances.

On reflection, Its people from history that interest me rather than particular periods. For example, a novel involving catholic priests hiding in priest holes would interest me as I often visit historic houses which display such hideouts.

Likewise scientists from history, Michael Faraday for example, or artists musicians and poets. There will be many more. There may be novels already available as I haven't really searched. My TBR is already swamping a flash drive!

TerriOsburn said...

Janga - I hope you will let those books go someday. I'm starting to sound like a broken record but readers MUST get their hands on your beautiful stories. Here's a link for some great resources, including affordable covers, formatting, and proof-reading.

http://www.theresaragan.com/p/links.html

I'm guessing for those who chose most of their books through recommendations and word of mouth, the books they buy now are the same as they'd have bought before. But I am curious how many readers out there have been used to going to the bookstore and browsing until they found something good. Prior to 2006, this is mostly how I shopped. I had my favorite authors, but I know my pre-internet book buying was drastically different from my post-internet shopping.

TerriOsburn said...

Q - I do not own a Kindle but was under the impression the DRM was firmly locked. I know I cannot buy a Kindle book and read it on a Sony Reader or Nook. Now I'm amazed you're able to "turn off" the DRM. I've never heard anyone say that before!

I guess I haven't found those articles about piracy of books. From what I see on Twitter, authors are still having to fight to protect their work. Publishers send letters to have the work pulled down, but the pirates simply open a new website and put it right back up.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Terri, I've been a voracious reader since I learned to read. I've always wanted to write, but have only managed the time in the last few years. Up until the point that I started researching the publishing industry, I had NEVER looked to see who the publisher of a book was. If the cover and title caught my attention, I picked it up and read the cover/flap copy. If that sounded good, I'd read the first few paragraphs. If it hooked me, I bought it.

I think authors look, but most readers who are not also authors do not--that's just my opinion based on my own experience.

Great blog! A lot to think about. And, as you say, many roads to Oz. :)

TerriOsburn said...

Thanks, Susan! And like you, I never paid any attention to publishers back when I was just a reader. Even after, I don't avoid a book because of the publisher or seek one out because it's from a specific house.

But self-pubs don't have the luxury of being on the bookstore shelves. And some publishers are digital only or digital first. That seems to change up the game a bit. :)

Maureen said...

You know, I used to be a reader who was aware of the logo on the spine. I can't say I actually acknowledged who that logo represented... I didn't scan looking for Tor or DAW...but! I knew that mountain logo published authors I liked so I'd grab those books and peruse them. It was a visual reminder of quality and type I enjoyed.

With the demise of brick and mortar it is a lot harder to look for those clues.

I read what is recommended. And that is vastly different than how I used to shop. I used to start at the new releases and scan for titles that caught my eye and authors I knew...and I bought tons of books.

Nowadays, I don't read book reviews, I only go to Amazon or B&N online when I know what I want already. I think I'm a bit unusual in that regard, but I think of myself primarily as a writer so that could be part of my shifting attention.

But I don't read nearly like I used to. Sigh.

Maureen said...

I think the idea of gatekeepers is an interesting one. I assumed that agents were the preferred method a publisher used to - put it bluntly - cull the crap.

Somewhere along the way the lines got blurred and agents became editors, since editors don't have the time to actually edit and now a lot of agents are crossing into helping authors self-publish... While publishers throw all their money to the 1% of authors who are already successful...

It's a real skewed world in publishing right now. A good agent is a godsend. The wrong agent is a disaster. And sometimes everyone is good, just not the right match.

TerriOsburn said...

You're right, the editors use the agents as a filter so they don't have to waste time wading through the rough stuff. But then you hear editors on panels saying I want X, Y, and Z and then you talk to an agent and they say that editor won't buy X, Y, and Z.

Then you also hear editors say they just want a good story and they'll know it when they see it. Which isn't good if you can't get the pages in front of them. I think many take "gatekeepers" as an insult but sometimes it really does fit the situation.

Maureen said...

I wonder if somewhere along the lines, things shifted from the guy at the front of the line letting people into the club to the orgre at the gate keeping everyone out. Or even just corraling people into that little roped off area...not in the club, but not part of the rabble...

;-)

P. Kirby said...

Answering as a reader, because, that is what informs my writing:
1.) Yes. But I'm still a bit leery of self-published works because the absence of the so-called gatekeepers still means a higher chance that it will be poorly written and edited.

2.) I'm overly-fond of fantasy and science fiction stories with a strong romantic subplot, preferably one that leads to a HEA. Not romance per say, but with a strong emphasis on a romantic relationship. I find that by and large, it's hard to find a balanced mix of romance and non-romantic plot elements in a novel. If it's SF or F, the romance is too watered down, while Romance usually focuses too much on the Relationship for my tastes.

3.) I prefer to read digitally, because it's easier. But I love the feel of a print book. My reading habits haven't change much, however, because I still rely on the public library for most of my reading material.

Ebooks from the major pubs are way too expensive (>$10). Some smaller epublishers are putting out interesting books, but the majority of that market is romance and erotic romance. Harder to find inexpensive non-romance in ebook format.

As a writer...I will still continue shopping my work to publishers, but if it doesn't sell, I have no qualms about self-publishing. At least, digitally. But unless I can quit this shitty job, I don't see myself writing more than a book or two a year. So volume will always be a problem.

TerriOsburn said...

Janga - I forgot to say I'm reading my first Jodi Thomas right now. Took a little bit to get into it, partially because I'm analyzing to see how she's constructing the sentences, but I'm liking it so far. I jump into book 4 in the series so always feel like I've missed something, but she does a good job bringing me up to speed. Seriously huge cast of characters.

TerriOsburn said...

Pat - Thanks for the non-romance reader input. I never go hunting for anything other than Romance and had no idea other genres were more scarce in the digital format.

Seems many still have the assumption of lower quality in regards to self-published books. Which is unfortunately true in many cases. That's the one obstacle self-published authors can't seem to combat. Though many are seeing success regardless of this prejudice.

Seems readers are speaking. But then again price plays a large part. Like you, I won't pay as much for a digital book as for a print book. On the rare occasion, maybe. But I'd never pay more, that's just crazy. I wonder how much success is based on a full book being $3.99 vs. another traditionally published being $9.99.

Maureen said...

I've heard the same thing from another scifi/fantasy author. If you can sel-publish and be seen by those who are looking, you'll sell. Because there isn't a whole lot out there!

JulieJustJulie said...

Let me answer question number one, then I have a question for you, all of you...
Am I open to a good book no matter if it's traditionally published or self publishedz? Does it matter to me if a writer publishes in paper or ebook/digital?
Its all about the story and the quality of the way that story is crafted and edited. I've noted as off late publishers that used to put out a polished product have let their standards slide. As a reader I am disappointed. As a consumer I am turned off. So its no wonder I am looking for a better crafted and edited product. I feel that in the long run self published books will prove to be of a "higher standard" than traditional pub books. Why? Because the author cares about the quality of the end product since it is their reputation that is at stake. Its that simple.

JulieJustJulie said...

Now here's my question to you:
Do you as a writer feel that your work will be taken less seriously if you take the ereader route?

JulieJustJulie said...

Be honest.
And if you answered yes to this then its time that we have a very frank discussion about this.

To your detractors I say "Beef chop suey Gutenberg Queen Victoria delivery service and the United States Declaration of Independence"
And to you writers I say
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9w6p4gYHd-E
Trust me , it makes sense. Cuz you all are the last car that needs to be hooked to this train. God knows its been a long time comin' ...

Di R said...

For readers (and that's really all of us):
1.) Are you open to a good book no matter if it's traditionally published (through NYC or an established digital publisher) or if the author skipped the publisher and put the work out herself?

If a book has been recomended, I'll read an excerpt, to decide if I want to invest time and money on the book.

2.) Is there a kind of story you're dying to read but you just can't find it on the shelves. In any genre. For that matter, is there a genre you're not finding that you want? Or not finding enough of?

Not that I can think of.

3.) Do you still chose books the way you always have, or has the advent of the e-reader changed your reading habits? Do you prefer paper books, digital books, or does it matter?

My husband bought me an ereader for Christmas, and I really like it, but there is nothing like a real book.

For writers:
1.) Are you staying abreast of the giant shifts in the industry? Are your goals still the same, changing, or are you clueless as to what your goal is now?

I'm trying to keep up with all the changes going on in the industry, but mostly I'm trying to finish my WIP. However, I'm lucky in that in my local RWA chapter we have a great mix of traditionally pubbed and epubs. Plus an editor from one of the 'big' epubs and she is wonderful about sharing her knowledge.

2.) Would you consider self-publishing your own work? At what point would you make that decision? Is it a timeframe? A certain number of rejections received? Is the success of other writers enough to make self-publishing look more attractive to you?

I really don't know.

3.) Are you meeting obstacles you didn't expect? Feeling like there is a "gatekeeper" standing in your way? Do you see any changes that are making you question your future as a writer? (Industry-wise, not the dreaded internal editor rearing her ugly head.)

Not yet.

4.) The recent silver bullet for more success seems to be turning books out quicker. Are you prepared for this? Or (like me) does this idea of turning out several books a year scare your socks off?

If I can get my butt in the chair and quit getting in my own way, I think I can do this.

Di

Maureen said...

Jules, you're a whackadoodle...

Not to say I disagree...it's time for writers to be the locomotives of their own careers...we've been the last car too long!

Laurie S. said...

Great post, Terri -- A lot to think about!

1.) Are you open to a good book no matter if it's traditionally published (through NYC or an established digital publisher) or if the author skipped the publisher and put the work out herself?

I'm open, but I rely heavily on word-of-mouth. If it gets good "reviews," "stars," whatever, or if a friend recommends it, then I'll read it wherever it comes from.

2.) Is there a kind of story you're dying to read but you just can't find it on the shelves. In any genre. For that matter, is there a genre you're not finding that you want? Or not finding enough of?

I actually wouldn't mind reading more "Vintage" books -- like WWII, even up to Mad Men era.

3.) Do you still chose books the way you always have, or has the advent of the e-reader changed your reading habits? Do you prefer paper books, digital books, or does it matter?

The e-reader has definitely changed things for me. My local bookstore (Borders) closed the month I got my e-reader, so I switched from browsing the aisles of the book store to always shopping on Amazon quite abruptly. I miss browsing my book store, but I do love the convenience of shopping at Amazon (and buying the next book) in the middle of the night! :)

For writers:
1.) Are you staying abreast of the giant shifts in the industry? Are your goals still the same, changing, or are you clueless as to what your goal is now?

Trying to stay abreast, but I also know I have to write, write, write before any of this matters. My goals are changing a little, though -- I'm now thinking I should just write like crazy to have several books (plus novellas and short stories) ready to go, and then (and only then) "step out there."

2.) Would you consider self-publishing your own work? At what point would you make that decision? Is it a timeframe? A certain number of rejections received? Is the success of other writers enough to make self-publishing look more attractive to you?

I would definitely consider it, but not as a response to rejections. I would still take numerous rejections as advice that the story's just not ready. But self-publishing seems appealing from a money-making aspect and having control of your cover, etc. -- especially once you have an established reader base.

3.) Are you meeting obstacles you didn't expect? Feeling like there is a "gatekeeper" standing in your way? Do you see any changes that are making you question your future as a writer? (Industry-wise, not the dreaded internal editor rearing her ugly head.)

The changes that make me question by future as a writer are mentioned in your question below -- writing faster and faster and being more prolific.

4.) The recent silver bullet for more success seems to be turning books out quicker. Are you prepared for this? Or (like me) does this idea of turning out several books a year scare your socks off?

Socks are off!! :)

TerriOsburn said...

Ah, Juliejuliejulie... I think everyone would agree with want a good story that's well written, but how do you know how good it is before you buy it? How do you decide? And do you make an effort to look at all books or only the ones that come from the traditional publishers.

That's something that stumps me, but only because I don't have a Kindle and don't "go shopping" for digital books. I'm curious how readers find them and if they even notice if the book is self-published before buying it.

TerriOsburn said...

Hey there, Di R! I think "not yet" is a perfectly good answer. Really, until the last month I was paying little attention. Didn't know half of what's available out there. But I'm figuring knowledge is power and since we writers can feel quite powerless in this publishing game (even though without US there would be no game) I'd better start paying attention.

TerriOsburn said...

Laurie - I hadn't thought of the Mad Men era. Odd how some time periods work on television but no one will touch them in a book. Even the crime dramas. They're everyone in prime time but we keep hearing how hard it is to sell a Romantic Suspense. Just seems backward to me.

I'm not sure my choice to self-publish would be in response to rejections, I just mean I'd have to feel like I'd exhausted all traditional avenues before diving in. Even then there would outside editors involved. But if I have faith in the work and have 200 rejections piled under my mattress, it might be time to take matters in my own hands. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

JulieJustJulie said...

but how do you know how good it is before you buy it? How do you decide?

Readers find out about books through word of mouth, recommendations by favorite or respected authors, and reviews from trusted web sites or print sources.

And do you make an effort to look at all books or only the ones that come from the traditional publishers.

Most people I know choose to read a story based upon the quality of the writer's storytelling, not the story format. Therefore print or digital should not matter to most readers. What is important is the content, not the format of the content.

JulieJustJulie said...

"Jules, you're a whackadoodle..."


Probably M. But more important , with this one sentence
"To your detractors I say "Beef chop suey Gutenberg Queen Victoria delivery service and the United States Declaration of Independence"
I was able to whack-it-too the heart of the e-book matter. And what matters is ...
The publishing industry might be in a tizzy but the truth is ... E-books have been around for a long time.