As readers, I’m sure you all know how quickly the publishing landscape is changing. The rise of online shopping and digital ebooks has changed the marketplace forever. But while some believe we’re doomed, others see it as the opportunity of a lifetime.
As with most things, my views are more philosophical.
Things change, that’s the truth of it. If I could hide out in a house with an abundance of beautiful old lamps, candles, and music from a Victrola, I might. But that’s just not our world, is it? With that in mind, I’ve always believed it’s better to embrace change. Only by embracing it can you help shape it. Otherwise, you’re dragged kicking and screaming into it long after all the decisions have been made.
Maybe I’m an optimist, but I believe there’s room for both self-published works and traditionally published works. As with the battle between Indies and big box stores like Borders and B&N, it was only after Borders closed that I think many of us realized we were all on the same side.
The book side.
I don’t believe authors are going to stop making money (or even that publishers will stop making money, if they can adapt and harness these changes). I hate to see self-published authors and online-only merchants like Amazon vilified, because the truth is, writers want to write for a living (who can blame them?) and online retailers have fulfilled a need that was obviously there. If it wasn’t Amazon it would have been someone else.
I like to think there’s a way this can all work together. The publishing cycle for traditional publishers is notoriously long. I see tremendous opportunity for authors to fill in the gaps of their publishing schedule by producing shorts stories, writing outside their brand, etc. This is good for publishers, too, because it keep an author’s readership interested in between books. In addition, digital content offers some very cool opportunities to make reading appeal to younger generations that have been so saturated with digital media, they have trouble sitting still to read a book.
Would I like it if all young people just LEARNED to focus. Sure! In my perfect world, we could all go back to a time when kids had very little to do but play outside and read. But that’s not going to happen. There’s no going back. We can only go forward.
So the idea of offering up illustrations, music, sound effects, video and other digital content and maybe sucking in a whole new group of reluctant readers? Well, I think that’s a win.
The one gap in all of this is the Indie. I think we MUST find a way for Indies to make money on digital books. I don’t know what the answer is (I keep wondering if there can’t be coded gift cards or something that Indies can sell but that’s probably a whole other post), but I would hate to live in a world without Indie bookstores and I have to believe there’s a way to make them a part of this change.
As all of this has unfolded, I’ve had to change, too. My dad gave me a Kindle as a gift, and while I still read a lot of paper books (and I buy anything I really love for my physical library), I have to say that I’ve come to love the things that ereaders bring to the table. I love being able to carry all my books in one little device. I love being able to try new authors without plunking down $20-$30 per hardcover (and then going out and buying their paper books for my shelves). I love supporting traditionally published authors in the digital formats (authors make more on their digital copies than on traditional ones).
And I’ve been giving some self-pubbed authors a try, too. I was curious; Was the quality THAT different from traditionally published books (answer; as with published books, there are good ones and bad ones)?
One of those authors is Katie Klein, author of Cross My Heart, The Guardian, and Vendetta. I met Katie on one of the many author forums I belong to and was intrigued with her story. I purchased Cross My Heart for my Kindle and was surprised. Because I kind of loved it, and this was a book that had been rejected by seventy-something agents.
I thought you all might be interested in what went in to Katie’s decision to self-publish and how the journey has been different from her traditionally published one, so I was super happy when Katie agreed to an interview. As part of this discussion, I’m giving away one copy (for Nook, Kindle or whatever) of Katie’s books – your choice! – to three winners. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. Giveaway runs from now until Friday 10/14 at Midnight, EST. Winners will be chosen at random from the comments.
And if you’d take the quick poll at the end of the interview, it would be awesome (though no required to win).
Without further ado, here’s Katie!
You also write and publish traditionally under another name. What led you to consider self-publishing under a pseudonym?
At the time, I felt like I’d hit the end of the road. I’d recently parted ways with my literary agent, and began querying new agents with The Guardian. After a few misses I started querying again with Cross My Heart. Seventy-five rejections later I’d had enough. I knew that epubbing was a viable option thanks to the Kindle, and I figured I’d upload it and let the market decide if it was “too saturated” or not. The pseudonym was for protection: I assumed this little experiment of mine was going to be an abysmal failure, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself if it didn’t work out.
How does the self-publishing process differ from that of a traditional publisher?
It’s time-consuming. I put a lot of work into designing covers, formatting the books, and keeping my blog updated. My husband keeps my website going, but otherwise I am, quite literally, a one-woman show.
The best parts? No “waiting rooms.” I work on a story, and, when I think it’s ready, I upload it. I also love the control I have. No tears shed over editorial demands or cover angst. The bad news? If something’s not working, it’s all my fault.
What has been the greatest challenge of self-publishing?
Time management, without a doubt. It’s up to me to keep the readers happy and coming back for more. This fall, especially, I’ve struggled with staying active via social media, balancing the day job, and squeezing in writing time. I don’t think this is limited to self-pubbing, though. I think all writers are desperate for “more time.”
What has been the greatest surprise?
The greatest surprise is how awesome readers have been. As a traditionally published author, I was very low on people’s radar, it seems. People have totally embraced Katie, though, and the tweets, email messages, and reviews have been so positive and inspiring. The readers confirmed that I made the right decision to put my work out there.
Another huge surprise is the number of ebooks I sold this year. Since January, I’ve sold more than 15,000 copies of my ebooks. I never expected Cross My Heart to take off like it did, and it spent over 100 days on the Amazon Teen Top 100 this summer. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. It was all very surreal.
Teen readers have been slower to jump on the ereader bandwagon than adults. Why do you think that is? Do you see it changing?
To be honest, I was kind of slow jumping onto the e-reader bandwagon. I finally bought a Kindle this past spring (which I love, btw). I still read more print books than ebooks right now, but the Kindle has been great for travel and trying out new indie reads. I do get fan mail from teens, so I know they’re out there, but I think we’ll see even more teen readers after Christmas. The basic Kindles are coming WAY down in price, so I predict a popular Christmas present, and the Kindle Fire seems appealing as an “all in one” device, too. I know plenty of readers who were “anti-ebook” until they saw how easy and convenient the Kindle was. Once teens realize there’s a device out there that gives them access to books almost instantly, there’s no going back.
In your perfect world, what would the future of publishing and self-publishing hold?
I’d like to see everyone getting along. The “ebook revolution” happened so quickly (yes, a lot of romance and sci-fi readers have been reading ebooks for years, but they didn’t really hit the mainstream until a year or two ago). I think this left a lot of publishers and agents reeling, and everyone is still trying to find their place. A lot of traditionally published writers are uploading backlists or publishing books outside their genre, and unpublished writers are finding readers for the first time. We’re no longer dependant on “New York” to get our books in reader’s hands. In a perfect world, authors, agents, and publishers are working together to bring new and exciting works to readers in a variety of formats.
I’d also love to see a shift where the author is given precedence again. I’ve heard too many stories of writers being manhandled and mistreated by their publishers (both big and small). Without the author, there are no books, and some pretty important people have forgotten that. Authors are artists, too, and all artists deserve to be compensated fairly for the work they do. I want to see all aspects of publishing tip back to the author’s favor.
Any predictions for the self-publishing market over the next 12 months?
I think it’s impossible to predict anything when it comes to self-publishing. We had no idea the Kindle was going to revolutionize the way people read books, and that epubbing was going to be accepted so quickly. In the midst of the “gold rush,” though, we also couldn’t predict the changes that Amazon would make to their site to keep their bestseller lists moving. We’re already seeing a shift, and Indies are going to have to work as hard as traditionally published writers to keep their books in front of people. This is a big change from six months ago, even. Right now, I’m focusing on the upcoming holiday season. This will be my first full season of sales, so I’m interested in seeing what happens.
What do you think is the biggest misconception of self-published books?
That they’re poorly formatted, rife with errors, etc. Yes, those kinds of books are out there, but they usually fall flat pretty fast. You can tell by a cover and a description whether or not a book is for you, and the Kindle “sample” feature makes it easy for you to test the first few chapters before you buy. Don’t write off a novel because it didn’t make it past the “gatekeepers,” because there are some real gems out there.
What advice would you give to traditionally published authors who are considering self-publishing?
For All Writers: Do your research. Know what you’re getting into. It’s okay to set certain goals, but make sure they’re realistic. You CANNOT predict what sales will be like from month to month, so don’t even try. You will have ups and downs: expect the downs. Never upload a first draft of ANYTHING; part of writing is revising. Make sure you’re submitting your best work: your reputation is on the line. This isn’t a way to “Get Rich Quick.”
For Traditionally Published Writers: Fill your literary agent in on what you’re doing. Make sure you check any contract clauses that would prohibit you from epubbing works under your current name. Be prepared to use a pseudonym (and keep it quiet) if you have to. Check to see if your agency has an epubbing division, and ask what your agent expects in terms of compensation (if any), if you choose to go through them. Consider the pros and cons carefully, though. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but there’s nothing your literary agency can do for you that you can’t do yourself when it comes to self-publishing. Paying a flat fee for something like editing or cover design is much better than paying an agency royalties on a work for the rest of its shelf life (which, for ebooks, is FOREVER).
What can we look forward to from Katie Klein in the future?
More books! I’m currently working on the final book in my urban fantasy series. Ideally, I’d like to have it available in early 2012. After that, I plan to go back to YA contemporary romance. We’ll see how things go, I guess. I’ve always said that as long as readers are enjoying my books, I’ll continue to write them. I’m not against going a more traditional route, but the right opportunity hasn’t presented itself, yet. I’m happy epubbing for the foreseeable future.
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS!