RWA 2013 - Indie vs Traditional

book launchDani Collinsharlequin presentshustled to the altarIndie PublishingIndie vs Traditional Publishingmills and boonPrint Publishers vs IndieProof Of Their SinRWA2013self-promotion

In case you're just coming across my posts, I've been blogging about the RWA conference I attended in Atlanta this year. Here are the previous posts:

Being Queen Of Cliff Hangers, I've made you wait when I actually promised this in my Overview. I'm sorry, but these posts have taken longer than I expected.

Technically we're still on Friday. In the Friday post, I forgot that I'd gone into the Liliana Hart workshop on Indie publishing between breakfast and the Harlequin booksigning. After lunch, I went to What Traditional Publishers Offer Their Author which was a PAN session, meaning only published authors could attend.

It's worth noting that they had to bring in extra chairs to the Liliana Hart workshop and she was already in a ballroom with a big screen because she was just a speck in the distance. Also worth noting: there were many a pink PAN badge in that room. Quite obviously, everyone is interested in what indie publishing can do for an author.

Further note that if you click onto my Books page, I have an indie title, Hustled To The Altar, and three Harlequin Mills & Boon titles. I can tell you right now that even though I haven't seen a royalty cheque from HMB yet, I've received advances on five books and still haven't earned out what I paid to produce Hustled.

My indie experience is very typical and that is why I am what the industry is now calling a 'hybrid' author. I've seen my sales pick up slightly on Hustled since Proof of Their Sin came out in North America, but it is not paying the bills. HMB is.

So that's the short answer to what Traditional publishers can do for an author. Pay them.

Having said that, for a savvy few indie authors, their cheques are in the neighbourhood of $120,000 per month. You read that right, it is not a typo. HMB has not sent me a cheque with that many zeroes on it as yet.

I already knew what trad pubs could offer in terms of production and I'm quite happy to let Harlequin (or Champagne or a future publisher--call me Sourcebooks, Montlake or NY agent) take over the task of cover art, back cover blurb, copy editing, formatting, printing, and distribution.

Distribution, by the way, is a huge, huge reason I'm thrilled to be working with Harlequin Presents. Liliana Hart's schedule is as gruelling as mine. I'm currently putting in sixteen hour days because I have a day job. My first book only came out in N.America this month.  My expectations with regards to writing full time are very realistic.

Liliana Hart is doing as much social networking as I am, likely more. Incidentally, she said blogging is dead. I disagree, we all have different reading tastes for different reasons, but a comment from a real live reader would make me feel better about all the work I'm putting into these posts :)

The biggest secret she put on the Power Point was frequency of releases. Her marketing strategy is to have five titles and one in the hole before you even start publishing. Then you put up one title a month and maintain that pace. These can be full length books, short novellas, boxed sets... whatever keeps you on the Just Released lists.

A lot of her strategies can be pulled over to traditional publishing, series for instance. She put out four novellas of 20k words each (she didn't mention what she charged for them. I'm guessing ninety-nine cents. Then, after a free snippet at Christmas, she put out a full length book that was linked to the series and because the anticipation had built since August, it went gangbusters when it came out.

Her other big advice was that indie writers should price to make a living. (To that end, I just went into Amazon and Smashwords and put Hustled up to $4.99.)

Liliana had other material, but I'm not going to transcribe her whole workshop. Basically, if you read ten or twenty books on how to indie publish, you'll know what to do and frankly, it would behoove you to do that kind of research before jumping in.

Now we'll skip into the What Traditional Publishers Can Do For You workshop. This was a panel consisting of Dianne Moggy (Harlequin), Dominique Raccah (Sourcebooks) and Liate Stehlik (Avon/William Morrow.) It was significantly less attended than the indie pub one.

To my mind this puts me in an even better position with HMB.  Author retention will work in the favour of the writer, likely increasing advances and royalties . It won't happen overnight, but long term they will be forced to compete with Do It Yourself publishing.

It's interesting to note that Liliana Hart published her first indie title in 2011 under a pseudonym because it was still considered a vanity move. The next year, it was a legitimate route to finding readers. Last year, writers were bemoaning publishers slow response to this revolution, but can you imagine what had to happen to turn these behemoth ships of publishing?

I think this is something that many authors are overlooking and again, will hopefully work in my favour long term. Once the big houses have got themselves up to speed in these new publishing waters, um, look out little guy.

Obviously the editors were quick to point out how much work they do on the writer's behalf with regard to production and while it would still behoove me to read up on the industry, they are doing massive studies on marketing, reader focus groups, trends and all sorts of things that aren't available to the average dopey writer who just wants to stay home and write books.

Most interesting to me was the pie charts from Sourcebooks that showed how they analyze each writer's market, so if one sells better in Walmart and another has a bigger chunk in libraries, they take advantage of that and look to respond in a corrective way to those places they're not selling.

A quotable quote from this panel was Dominique's "Fire us if we suck."

In an attempt not to suck, they're trying to get their authors noticed above the pack and visibility and discoverability are becoming a real issue with the influx of self-published books. They talked about it taking a village to launch a book and yeah, I agree. I'm already working with Market or Die and am shopping for an assistant.

Indie authors can do a lot of what they're doing: sampling, securing foreign sales and translations, audio books, etc., but do you/they have time for that? How about the will? Do you really want to be your own (small) corporation? If you do, Fill your boots. If not, keep reading.

Harlequin is looking at developing new compensation models--see? They're already responding to the author retention problem. They are as invested as the author in nurturing them to the next level. They're looking outside the box at new tools that create a more interactive experience for the reader and you know what? They have the deep pockets to experiment with something like that.

Paying monthly is still tough for some of the houses, partly due to the way their business partners work. Amazon might report sales monthly, but other retailers don't.

Print publishing is not dead, by the way. That's why Bella Andre signed a deal with Harlequin to publish all her books in paper. And the relationships they have developed with those print merchants, like Walmart and Target, are invaluable.

Oh, and then they have the in house publicists--people who are somewhat better connected than my husband and kids.

Okay, my computer has been on all day and keeps trying to go to sleep. I think it wants a break. I hope this has given you food for thought. If you have questions on this topic, shoot them through my contact page and I'll do my best to compile and answer them.