Friday, December 19, 2008

Managing Your Property - Part II

Rejection from the traditional agency/publisher community needn't spell the end of your book project, from either a commercial or a production perspective. In the past, your only alternative to the agency/publisher scene was to self-publish, often via the "vanity" press community. Unfortunately, the vanity press route has a terrible reputation, in large part because they would print anything regardless of quality, so long as the author was able and willing to write a check. In the vast majority of cases, a self-publisher using a vanity press for their book project got nothing for their trouble besides a garage or an attic full of unsold books and a big hole in their checking acccount.

The emergence, and growth, of the print-on-demand (POD) community has changed the face of self-publishing. A self-publisher using POD can get their work out to the public with no upfront cash investment. The reputation problems with the quality of work coming out of POD shops will always remain. If anything, the lower barriers to entry that POD provide a self-publisher ensures that even more garbage that should never see the light of day will make it into book form.

Obviously, the general attitude towards POD in the mainstream agency/publisher community is one of scorn and ridicule. And it is not an avenue you should pursue unless and until you have thoroughly exhausted every entry on your list of reputable agenst who might consider representing your kind of literary work. But don't leave your book for dead if you can't bring it to the public with a mainstream publisher.

For an unknown writer with a limited portfolio of output, POD provides you an opportunity to get your work into people's hands. If you're a "one and done" kind of author with no intentions of pursuing another book project, signing on with a POD publisher may seem like the end of your dream to get published. However, you should retain all rights to your work. (Avoid any POD publisher where the rights to your work can be compromised in any way.) Show an agent a POD work with tens of thousands of units sold and you might find they'll have a change of heart about representing your work. In the case of a non-fiction work in an industry or field where new events could justify an update to your work, consider bringing a second edition back to the agency community with POD sales data on your first edition.

If you do intend to pursue other writing projects, let your POD work serve as an introduction. An author with a past work on a platform, even a POD platform, is better than an author with no platform at all.

So don't completely write off the possibility of using POD. Accept that it's a far inferior means of getting a book published and generating income, but don't dismiss it completely as a means of furthering your writing career.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Managing Your Property - Part I

One theme that we will visit frequently is the issue of managing your intellectual property. Anyone who writes a book with the intent to publish usually has financial renumeration as a motivating factor, even if that particular factor is secondary to fulfilling an artistic desire, advancing one's non-literary career, or achieving some form of personal satisfaction from the process of creating a literary work and seeing it through the business process of getting it to market.

In an ideal world, you'd present your work, or a proposal regarding the work you'd like to create, to an agent. The agent would gush over your work, immediately sign you to a contract, and hook you up with a publisher. Your book would get lots of marketing exposure. You'd schedule scores of book signings, sell a gazillion copies, get massive royalty checks, and then go shopping for a water-front condo in a community with awesome restaurants and a reliable mechanic to service your Jaguar.

Now get over it. Fantasy Land is a fun place to visit, but it won't stock your liquor cabinent.

Chances are you will not find a reputable agent that will want to represent you, and you certainly do not want a disreputable agent. Even if you do find a decent agent willing to take on you and your work, there is a very good chance they will not find a publisher interested in taking your work public. And even if you get to the point where your work gets published, chances are you will not make a substantial, "Rock Star"-like amount of money from it. I'm not trying to rain on your parade; you need to accept how the world is.

You should still try to find a reputable agent to represent you and your work... not just try, but try very hard. Because while the odds of your achieving a high degree of financial success are very much against you, your best bet for achieving that financial success is still with the traditional agency/publisher process.

However, rejection by the traditional agency/publisher community does not mean that your work has no financial value at all. Our goal at Net Novelist is to help you unlock the value of your property that the agency/publisher community has overlooked or decided to ignore.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Will Kindle Kill the Softback?

There are a lot of comparisons to be made between the delivery of text and the delivery of audio in the world of media. However, there is one major difference... the format of a "book" has never really changed very much. 78's gave way to the 33/LP which in turn splintered into cassettes, 8-tracks, 45-singles, tape-to-tape, and eventually CD's, with many unusual formats in between. Killing the CD, as the iPod and other digital musical devices have effectively done, wasn't really such a big technological leap, given the transitions that had already occurred over the past fifty or sixty years.

Sooner or later, the means of delivering text will change. It's a transition that's already begun, given the popularity of eBooks and various devices that negate the need to dedicate paper to hold the information contained within a book. Electronic storage is less expensive, more efficient, and, frankly, less energy intensive and more environmentally-friendly.

Still the transition away from the Softback will be slower than the transition from "physical" forms of music storage to "digital" storage. Another reason for the delayed transition for print media is the absense of a qualitative difference between the two. The letter "a" on a digital display is as readable as the letter "a" on a page of paper, even a page of paper that's been sitting on a bookshelf for twenty years. On the other hand, Peter Frampton's "Lines on My Face" sounds significantly better as a digitized file than it sounds on an old piece of vinyl.

The Kindle, offered by Amazon, might finally be the "iPod" of digital books. It has some short-comings, but you have to admire Amazon's approach. Their hooking up users to a free internet service to download titles is very shrewd. It's a captive device and every download will bring them revenue. The device has some shortcomings; in many ways it is reminiscent of the very first iPods which had some issues of their own. But it is a first step in what could completely turn the publishing industry upside down.