Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why I Chose a Traditional Publisher

It's How I Write week here on the blog as we gear up for the release of JACOB WONDERBAR on May 12th. Monday: How I Write. Tuesday: How I Edit. Wednesday: My Query Letter and How I Found an Agent. Today: Why I Chose a Traditional Publisher. Friday: This Week in Books

Please stick around!

One of the more common questions I receive in interviews and the like is this one: You have a blog, you were in the business by virtue of being a former literary agent, why didn't you self-publish? Why didn't you do it on your own? Couldn't you have made more money self-publishing?

I know there are lots of people out there asking themselves whether they should go through the potentially months- or years-long finding-an-agent-and-then-a-publisher process or just get right to it and self-publish. But I decided to go the traditional route with Penguin for a two book deal (JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW and JACOB WONDERBAR FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSE), and I'm very pleased to announce today that we finalized a third, tentatively titled JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE INTERSTELLAR TIME WARP!!

So why did I choose a traditional publisher? Many many reasons.

They are...

My Editor is Amazing

Having a professional editor in your corner is indispensable, and here's the part where I give heap tons of well-deserved praise on my amazing editor, Kate Harrison, who understood and believed in WONDERBAR from the start. Kate has a ton of experience, I trust her instincts and editorial eye, and she is deeply committed to making every book as good as it can possibly be.

We went through pretty extensive revisions for COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, and I think they resulted in a much stronger book.

I Don't Have Time to be a Self-Published Author

I have a very full-time job that I am deeply committed to and a blog that takes up a good chunk of my free time. I don't have time to hire an editor, hire a copyeditor, hire an illustrator, hire a cover artist, buy ISBNs, make sure the formatting is right for all the various editions, choose trim size, write cover copy, and all of the other seven billion tasks that go into making a book.

I write, I do the bloggy things, I do the Twitter and the Facebook, and Penguin handles the making-of-the-book thing. Better still? Penguin does a fabulous job. I love my illustrator, I love my cover, the interior looks amazing. They did a way better job at all of that than I could have done on my own.

Print is Still Where It's At, Especially for Children's Books

Yes, this balance will continue to change as we move into the e-book world. But as I articulated in a post a few months back, this is still a print world. Even with the exponential rise of e-books we're still somewhere between 65-80% print, and perhaps even a bit more for children's books. Parents aren't exactly rushing out to buy their 8-12 year-olds e-readers.

That may well change in the next five years. But for now? Print is still where it's at. And if you want to get into bookstores you need a publisher.

I Appreciate Penguin's Cachet

A few years back I honestly don't know that the average consumer really knew the difference between a traditionally published and self-published book. If it was bound it was a book. Who cares what name was on the spine?

Now though, in the past year or two I feel like I've noticed a subtle change. People will hear I have a book coming out and I'll see them squint, and they'll say cautiously, "Oh, really? Who's it with?" Then when I say Penguin the reaction is different.

This isn't to take anything away from self-published authors, many of whom are really really great writers and who I know are very hard at work bucking that skepticism. It's nothing personal at all, I just think being associated with an established brand helps.

An Advance

Yes, in the long run maybe I could have made more money self-publishing. Then again, maybe I couldn't. Maybe I would have made ten bucks. Who knows.

But hey. When you get an advance you can literally take it to the bank.

And finally...

I Believe in the Traditional Publishing Process

Having worked in publishing I have a deep appreciation for the professionalism of publishers. They are in the book-making trenches. They know what works, they love words, they are eating, sleeping and breathing books.

Now, I don't think the traditional publishing process is for everyone, and I don't consider myself an advocate for either traditional or self-publishing. But for me? When my writing career is getting started? I really appreciate having a professional editor who is invested in the outcome of my book. I appreciate the expertise of the designers and the marketers and the sales team and all the people who help make the process work smoothly.

As I alluded to in some recent interviews, traditional publishing is a collaborative process. The author doesn't have total control. I'm okay with that, in fact I appreciate it and I think it's resulted in a better book than I could have produced on my own. Other authors may want more autonomy. It's important to know who you are.

JACOB WONDERBAR is available for sale at:

Amazon!
Barnes & Noble!
Books-a-Million!
Borders!
Indiebound!
Powell's!






82 comments:

Lucinda Bilya said...

Again, Nathan, you wow us with your sharing and comments.

Although the "self" publishing is on the rise (almost seems in a race with the e-books), I am not tempted.

By jumping through those fiery hoops to get traditionally published, we learn a lot on how to perfect the craft.

I pinned your blog link to both my blog and my website.

leadlinedalias said...

An honest and well reasoned defense of traditional publishing without deriding the self-publishing route Thank you Nathan.

Anonymous said...

Great post! For the exact reasons you listed is why I choose to go tradtional.I have nothing against self pub but I don't have what it takes to make it work.

Mr. D said...

Self-published? Not for me either. But kudos to the people who made it work for them.

Dorota said...

Great post and many great points, but I wonder, would you have still chosen the traditional route if you went through years of rejection letters from traditional publishers and agents? I ask this presuming that, having been a literary agent, you were that much closer to the publishing world, and had that many more contacts to help get you to the right person that could offer you the right deal.

Domino said...

I agree with you on all fronts, and I think the point about e-readers not being significant in the middle grade market is especially apt.

When I was a middle school teacher (up until last year) I never saw one in the hands of my hundreds of students. Not one. I know they're on the rise, and there may be some parents who give their old kindles to their kids when they upgrade to Ipads, but I don't see this as having a large penetration any time soon.

Then again, if your book becomes the next The Lightning Thief, I imagine you will get e-book sales to older readers. But they're not likely to be your initial readers.

Anonymous said...

This all makes perfect sense, and I agree about print and kids' books...except my eight year old has coopted my kindle, and my 10 year old regularly reads on my iPad (the library looks hilarious, as do my Amazon, "we thought you'd be interested in [blank]" emails.

For awhile the 10 year old said she liked the feel of a book, but what she meant was she didn't like the kindle--she loves the iPad and how a page looks like a page.

But the real reason they love the e-readers? They're super fast readers and they go through books like crazy and they like being in bed, finishing a book and being able to get the next one right away. (Also, perhaps their parents say yes more quickly than when they have the psychological experience of handing over money or a credit card in person!)

So I think this will shift, sooner, as the prices come down on the readers.

So...can my 8 year old get your book on "his" kindle?? :)

Aaron Pogue said...

Those are a lot of good reasons. I feel like people personally connected to the traditional publishing industry have a lot of reasons to stay with it.

Since I didn't have that relationship, most of your reasons didn't apply in my situation. The only one I was really concerned about was the time investment of self-publishing that you mentioned. And it was some real work on my first book out the gate.

The good news, though, is that it's all reusable information. High initial cost, but with each new book you release it takes less and less of a (time) investment. That exchange has really worked out for me.

anon 7:28 said...

Domino, it's almost like my email was a response to yours, even though I was typing as you posted!

Yes, I handed off the kindle when I got the ipad. But my kids all have their hands on the iPad, too. I would never let her take it to school, so maybe kids are reading on it at home and teachers don't see it?

Anonymous said...

Insiders may want to know who published the book. The general public could care less.

Chris Phillips said...

I like your point about print for children's books. Another thing to consider in addition to parents not wanting to buy ebooks (most will eventually) is that school libraries will be the slowest to convert, because school districts are cheaper than parents will ever be.

WriterzLife said...

Yes, sir. It is indeed still a print world. even wonder how whenever someone says "paperless" you have to fill out 10 forms to get it?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@7:38-

I disagree, average people know Penguin. That's why I say Penguin and not Dial, which is the imprint at Penguin. Insiders know Dial, outsiders know Penguin.

Barbara Watson said...

Thank you for your insight. From someone who knows the business like you do, this background is more than helpful.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@7:28

Yep, it will be available on the Kindle!

Munk said...

I agree with your decision on the strength of having an editor alone. Having a trusted partner with similar goals and a unique perspective is paramount.

Stephanie McGee said...

Congratulations on the new deal!

And pretty much everything you said here is why I'm willing to endure that agent search as long as it takes.

Felicity said...

I really appreciate this series, Nathan. This kind of inside info is so helpful. Thanks!

Britt* said...

A well written and informative account of your decision. You make some vaild points without making self publishing seem negative. Kudos!

Brittany Lavin said...

A well written and informative account of your decision. You make some vaild points without making self publishing seem negative. Kudos!

Barbara Kloss said...

Everything you listed is why I'm trying the traditional route. The team you get to work with. That level of professionalism/talent is invaluable! That being said, if I'm not so fortunate as you, I'll probably bite the bullet and hire the editor, cover artist, etc., and self-pub. And, consequently, there goes my time.

Also, that was a well-said account of why you chose the traditional route, without putting down the other.

I'm so glad you use free time to blog - your posts are ALWAYS so informative and helpful!

Nancy Lauzon said...

Hi Nathan - if an author has a chance to be published traditionally, especially with a first novel, it's definitely the way to go, in my opinion. To already have a connection to the publishing industry is a huge plus, obviously. Some could argue it's a necessity.

The challenge for a newbie is finding that great editor and/or agent. You can't get near the Big Pubs without an agent. An agent doesn't want to know you if you don't have an editor. There are a lot of fantastic writers whose books will never be given that chance, because publishers are looking less and less to nurture new authors and build their careers, as they are looking for the next celebrity author or the next great breakout novel, i.e. Harry Potter or Twilight. That's fine, but it doesn't leave a lot of room for midlist authors. I've spoken to a lot of writers who equate getting a publishing contract to winning the lottery.

I gave myself 10 years to perfect my craft and try to find a traditional publisher (i.e. New York). After 5 years I copped out and went with small press which gave me really ugly covers that I hated, and got me nowhere in terms of distribution.

Self-publishing saved my career and gave me a third option. I was tired of being rejected even though I know my novels are as good or better than what's out there. I have to believe that or what's the point? So now I'm back in the driver's seat and selling books again. I did my own covers and I'm proud of my product.

I also believe traditional publishers will eventually be forced to go digital (paperless is the way of the future, whether we like it or not) and then it will become a financial question. Who will give me a larger percentage of my book sales - a traditional publisher or me? But that's another story.

So for anyone out there who's tired of being told 'your novel doesn't fit in with our plans', take the reins and make your own plans. Sure, it's hard work, but the 'hard' is what makes it great.

Francis Tuohy said...

Interesting topic as usual. You put point accross politely, but essentily I would imagine that 90% of writers who self publish get rejected by traditional publishers rather than do the rejecting. Traditional publishing is the blue ribbon, and I know that there are lots of good books that might slip through the cracks, but i doubt many great books do.
Bar the exceptional, those whose work is not "good enough," self publish.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Nathan, totally off point, but do you think you'll write a book for adults in the future? I know you have sort of literary leanings and I'm just curious if you feel a pull to write something for that market?

D.G. Hudson said...

Thanks for the explanation of why you chose the trad publishing method. The more we know, the better we can make our own choices.

Can't disagree with your reasons, but I really like the last comment:It's important to know who you are. And, it's important to know what you are capable of accomplishing.

Your honesty is appreciated.

Lexi said...

Dorota got there before me.

Surely the elephant in the room has to be that an agent of Nathan's stature, should he write a book, will have little or no difficulty getting a publishing deal?

Two things fuel the self-publishing boom; the new technology, and the sad fact that excellent books by non-celebrities without connections frequently fail to find a publisher.

Erik said...

It's rare to see a fair and balanced blog on this subject. Nice work. Writers just need to sit back and look at the pros and cons of trad vs. self and do what makes sense. I made the decision to self-pub last month and I couldn't be happier! That's not true. I'd be happier if my sales were quintupled, but you get the point.

Nathan Bransford said...

Mira-

Actually it's more like 15% after commission. But I'm willing to make that tradeoff.

anon-

The first novel I wrote was actually an adult novel, so I wouldn't rule it out. But I really feel like I found my voice writing for children so I see myself writing kids books for the foreseeable future.

lexi-

Is it really an elephant? I'm not going to say I didn't have some advantage, but if all it took was being an agent the first book I wrote would have sold.

Mira said...

Nathan,

Well, the math of 15% of 25% escapes me, so I'm just going to say 10%. And I know you were willing to make that trade-off. I didn't mean to imply that you didn't have your eyes very wide open and know what you were doing. I phrased that poorly, and am thinking of deleting the post and trying again later tonight.

D.G. Hudson said...

@Nancy Lauzon - I like your attitude. Never give up. Just try something different.

Sounds like good advice to me.

mmshaunakelley said...

Natahn, I love this and am so glad you posted it! I have been mulling over self publishing my second book (I actually talked about it on my blog a few weeks ago at www.mmshaunakelley.blogspot.com), and ultimately decided not to go that route. I recognize the expertise and resources that come with a traditional publisher (I LOVE my publisher on my first novel), and I think that is the best case for many authors like us (with very full time jobs) to see their book as a success.

Caroline said...

Very eloquent, Nathan! I think you encapsulated my thoughts on the traditional vs self-published debate. I personally feel like I would consider myself more of a success if my novel makes it into print. I don't do this for money--I do it for the satisfaction of knowing that I have contributed something of merit.

Rebecca Stroud said...

First of all, congratulations to you, Nathan. I'm sure you must be happier than a monkey in space.:-)

That said, and despite the fact that you no doubt had an advantage in the traditional publishing process, I'm reading a book now by a very well-known author, published by Simon & Schuster. And, Lord, the typos!

So it's very frustrating and disappointing to be rejected time and again when you know your work is clean and solid. Ergo, after only a few efforts, I chose to self-publish (not POD). I did my own editing (I'm a former journalist), my own covers, etc. Yes, marketing is a bitch. But at least I'm seeing results vs. waiting in that "please accept me" limbo most unknown authors are relegated to...for years.

Bottom line: Every writer is different so whatever path we choose to take, I wish all of us the best.

Nathan Bransford said...

Rebecca-

Spoiler: there are typos in my book. It happens.

Anonymous said...

I believe most would choose traditional publishing given the choice. I too would like to dab a little of Penguin's cachet behind my ears. However, we unknown, unconnected writers are quickly realizing that taking the traditional path to readers is on par with counting on winning the lottery to pay the bills. I'll buy a lottery ticket and cross my fingers now and again, but I know saving those dollars for a good editor is a much better bet.

Rebecca Stroud said...

Nathan - Sure, I realize that mistakes are made. Just seems to happen more & more in recent years. So I do get a bit annoyed when I hear ad nauseam about the superior vetting process of trad publishers. Good example: My self-pubbed novel of 40K words had only a few errors (which I fixed) vs. the novel I mentioned had over three in one paragraph...and there's no correcting print once it hits the press.

Again, I'm not advocating one way or another. Just be careful what you wish for, I guess...

Livia said...

Random question, if you don't mind my asking. I'm curious, since you were also an agent, about contrast negotiations. Were there any terms going in that would have been a dealbreaker for you, or that you wanted to make sure you had?

Anonymous said...

Any chance you'll share the query for the book that didn't sell? :)

Even if not, do you think there is anything to be learned there, or do you think the query had nothing to do with the result? This one is so good, and knowing something about how you write and your experience, I just have to believe that the adult novel query was pretty fricking good, too.

Mark Cecil said...

hey nathan....thanks for this post, and all the posts this week. super informative, as usual. great stuff.

question: are you nervous? how do you feel? will you be watching how much your book sells once it launches? how many books would you like to sell? just curious how you're feeling and what your expectations sa the big day looms....

Nathan Bransford said...

livia-

I knew pretty much what was going to be in the agreement because I was familiar with Penguin's boilerplate, so there weren't any dealbreakers for me.

anon-

Thanks for your confidence! I won't be sharing that query because I have a thing about sharing projects before they're fully baked. That novel was based on an ambitious idea but I wasn't skilled enough to pull it off.

Mark-

No, not nervous! Sort of dazed, busy and excited. I have been strenuously avoiding expectations of any kind. I'll be keeping tabs on things but I'm not living and dying by how it does. Just having it out there is reward enough.

Domino said...

Hey I've got a question:

How do you track sales, anyway? Do publishers provide numbers? How often?

I have a published play, and I get a statement every six months. That's the only way I know how it's doing.

Nathan Bransford said...

domino-

Publishers will sometimes provide sales numbers, but for the most part you know official sales from royalty statements. Nowadays though Amazon offers Bookscan numbers through Author Central, which doesn't rack all sales but gives a partial snapshot.

Kristin Laughtin said...

You might have time to be a self-published author, just not a good one, or likely a very successful one. (Well, you might do better than most. This blog gives you a lot of name recognition.)

But I can understand your reasoning, as many of your reasons are mine as well (and, I suspect, this hold true for many of your other readers).

Has your book sold in any other countries? That alone would seem a good reason to have an agent handle your career.

Nathan Bransford said...

kristin-

It has! It should be published in Spain in the fall.

J. T. Shea said...

JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE INTERSTELLAR TIME WARP? Good, but JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE INTERSTELLAR TIME WARP AND THE VACATIONING ALIENS FROM ANOTHER PLANET WITH ADDED SPACE MONKEYS would be better. If the cover is big enough.

Publishers eating books!? Rice paper perhaps? Yet another argument against e-books. Just try eating a Kindle.

I'm not so sure about publisher recognition. Some readers may think your books are published by a Batman villain.

Anyone who's figured out who Gordon is can have more fun guessing what Mira's first question was.

Seriously, Nathan, many thanks for this excellent series of posts.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Your reasons are all great for why to go with traditional publishing. I also have a full time job and blog. Like you, I wouldn't have the time to market and design a self published book.

Just got my copy of your book in the mail. Can't wait to start it as soon as I finish what I'm reading.

Jim Thomsen said...

Nathan, you cite have a professional editor as a reason to traditionally publish ... and you seem to imply that self-published authors can't have that. Well, they sure can ... from the ranks of many fine editors who have been laid off from publishing houses in recent years precisely because many choose not to pay for top-tier editing any longer. I have many friends who have hooked up with Big Six refugees for developmental and copy editing, for very reasonable prices, and get quality work that's every bit the equal of what you say you're getting. Not all the best editors work for publishing houses.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Yes to every single one of these, plus the insight and wisdom of the art dept., publicity, and all those behind-the-scenes people I know nothing about.

I can't imagine doing this alone. My work would be ridiculous without the prodding and encouragement of my editor. And then getting the story out into the world without backing? No thanks.

Jim Thomsen said...

What backing? Two weeks of co-op placement (maybe) before your book is remaindered and pulped? Before the book is closed on you and your sales potential ... and thus your future in traditional publishing?

Really, all we're talking about is a difference in how professionals are paid. In self-publishing, authors hire out all these services themselves. In traditional publishing, the publisher arranges for these services ... and then recoups the cost, plus the cost of your advance, before the earn-out threshold is reached and any royalties paid.

It really all boils down to paying now ... or paying later.

Marcia Richards said...

I respect your reasons for going with traditional publishing and maybe in the world of children's books it is best. But I'm hearing a lot about how publishers are leary of taking a chance on a 1st time author. I know the process can take an awfully long time as well. An advance for a newbie is very small, too. I have the free time to devote to self publishing and would like to see my book in print within a year of beginning to write it. You're right about the fact that it may be a toss-up as to which route will yield the most income. Good luck with your new book and hope sales are high!

Liz Alexander said...

Self-publishing needs to be a collaborative process too, Nathan. The sad part is, it's up the author to decide that...often to their detriment. Most Indie authors don't know what they don't know, including the business they are really in: which is to connect their books to readers, not just to write and publish books.

More on this in my blogpost: http://www.bookdoula.biz/hobble-ins-welcome-write-to-relate

JM Leotti said...

Not until recently did I even consider self-publishing. I used to work in publishing, so I'm partial to the traditional route.

That said, as someone who likes the whole process of book-making, I'm so tempted to try self-publishing, especially now with all the new and exciting 'toys.'

I'm torn, though. It would be so great to have the pub dream in my head fulfilled...

Thanks Nathan for blogging about your experiences. Sharing your excitement is inspiring!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you!!

Karen Duvall said...

Another point to consider is that writing is a solitary endeavor. Yes, you have your crit buddies, possibly a writers group to hang with, but a traditional publisher comes with a team of pros who are all there to support you and cheer you on.

I was published by a small press years ago and I now have the best agent in the world (yes, I'm biased) who got me an awesome 2-book deal with a very big publisher. My agent works with my editor who works with me, and there's a marketing department, and an assistant, and it's like a big family. They give me those "atta girls" and rain praise on me and encourage me to keep up the good work. If I self-published, I wouldn't have that unless I hired people to do it. I don't have that kind of time or money. And Nathan is right about the advance. It's money in the bank.

The traditional publishing world is a whole different ball game. There's stress and deadlines, sure, but you're not alone. You're part of a team and it's awesome. I didn't have an "in" with anyone in the industry, I was just a hardworking writer writing the best book I could and taking my rejection lumps along the way. It all paid off and it's awesome! I wouldn't want it any other way.

Other Lisa said...

I'd like to give a shout-out to my traditional publisher, Soho. They are a large indie with an extensive backlist and a 25 year history. They've done an awesome job supporting my book(s), which goes way beyond "two weeks co-op, then pulp." I do think they handle things somewhat differently than a lot of Big Six imprints -- they publish fewer titles and support each one, which seems to be a somewhat rare, but very sensible business philosophy. They really get what their market is and how to promote within it.

Anonymous said...

Didn't you choose a traditional publisher because you could? Let's face it -- most of us would accept an offer from Penguin if we got one!

wry wryter said...

Nathan, Amen.

Anonymous said...

But could you have self-published? As a lit agent, you had to go the traditional route, no? Not sure you had a choice.

Kevin Lynn Helmick said...

You had me at Penguin, and I pretty much stopped reading at "third."
Kinda of no brainer here. How much further up the book publishing ladder could you hope to go? It takes most writers years to get that, or only on the heels or reprint of some previous break away success. What if none of the big 6 were interested? what if your offers were only coming from small presses, mid sized independent publishers, with small budgets and no advances? Retorical now, I know. But would you have chosen one or not published at all?
"Why I chose Penguin?" -doesn't sound like much of a choice to me lol.

Deana said...

These are my thoughts exactly. When the time comes for me to query my ms and quite possibly the years slip by it really is some of these key elements that will keep me hanging on to traditional publishing.

Plus, I have an e-reader and still prefer a tried and true crispy paged book over it any day.

Kristi Helvig said...

Someone here got their copy of your book in the mail today? Where's mine? I pre-ordered months ago! Anyway, the reasons you listed here are exactly why I want to go the traditional publishing route...with an agent of course. :)

Anita said...

The great thing is there are choices today that weren't available even a year ago. I decided to epublish my MG on my own and am loving the process. But you're right...it's not for everyone. You really have to have a DIY attitude and spirit.

For those of you who think indie authors don't have what it takes to make it traditionally, I encourage you to buy an indie book in your genre...a good number are available for $.99 on Smashwords. There's some quality work out there by indie authors who have decided to go it alone for a variety of reasons. These authors usually explain their decision on their blogs, much like Nathan has explained his reasoning here.

Nathan, I'm looking forward to reading your book!

Nikki said...

Hey, congratulations on your third book! That's wonderful news.

Mira said...

I am just way too tired to navigate such a controversial topic. All I know are three things, in order of importance:

a. Congratulations on your third book deal! That's wonderful. :)

b. I really like this week and this opportunity to learn more about you. It's interesting and lovely to hear about what goes into your thinking and choices.

c. There are many factors that go into choices, and what may be right for one writer, a worthwhile trade-off, may not be right for someone else, and that's okay.

d. I really don't like math. I think if you multiple 25 by 15 percent, that makes 3.75, which means you get 21.25 percent of every e-book?

e. I still wish that when I bought your book, you got 100% of the profit.

One more week! I can't wait!!! I don't care how much is going on for me, classes and work can wait, I'll have a book to read.

Nathan Bransford said...

mira-

Say an e-book is $10. In the agency model, the publisher gets 70%, so $7.00. The author gets 25% of that gross, or $1.75 (17.5%). Agent gets 15% of that, ($0.26), so the author ends up with about $1.50, or 15%.

Mira said...

Nathan,

Lol, I still got it wrong.

Thank you. I appreciate your patience with my math disability. That's nice of you. So basically the author gets 15% of the e-book.

got it. :)

Karen Peterson said...

This is all really helpful. Thank you!

I plan to pursue traditional publication mostly because I believe that if I can't find an agent and a publisher, I'm probably not good enough to be published at all.

Don't get me wrong. There are a number of exceptional self-published titles out there. But the number of good ones is a tiny percentage.

If no one wants to publish my book, I'd rather just take the hint and find something else to do with my time.

Marion said...

Penguin. Cool! Congrats!
I remember Puffin books, too, from when I was a kid.

Marilyn Peake said...

Congratulations, Nathan, on the upcoming publication of your first book and for signing contracts for two more books in the series! That’s fantastic!

I think it’s wonderful when writers get published by traditional publishers. I also think it’s wonderful that there are so many alternative ways to get published today, and that opportunities arise in every type of publishing. This week, my indie publisher announced in a press release that the Executive Producer of THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies will be selecting books from among our publications for possible movie and TV show contracts, including possible shows on the SyFy channel. The Executive Producer has formed his own company to produce movies, through which traditionally-published Judy Blume currently has a movie based on one of her novels in production, scheduled for release later this year. Who knows where all this will lead, but it’s a wonderful time to be a writer. :)

Shannon said...

Do you think the rise in popularity of self-publishing has altered the odds of getting an agent? I mean, I wonder if agents are being queried less than say 10 years ago...

Meg said...

Congratulations on the third title!

Though I'm not quite to the point where I need to worry about how to get my book published yet (still plowing through those revisions!) I had gone back and forth on the idea of if I wanted to do traditional or self-publishing.

I'm a bit of a control freak so the idea that I could design everything myself sounded tempting, but I'm starting to lean more towards letting professionals handle things. After all, that's why they're the professionals, and like you mentioned in your post, with the crazy schedule of my day job, I don't know where I'd find the time and energy to devote to designing every aspect about a book. Getting the words inside as close to perfect as possible is challenging enough!

Livia said...

About your point on time. J.A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Barry Eisler, all multipublished traditional authors who have gone to self publishing, have said that self publishing actually takes less of a writer's time than traditional publishing. It's counterintuitive and I don't quite understand it -- I think it has to do with all the back and forth and the general inefficiencies introduced when adding more people to the book production and marketing process, but enough people are saying so that it's worth investigating.

Jill Engledow said...

I decided to seek a publisher after 10 years of (very part-time) work on a regional nonfiction book; was advised by a NYC agent to find a regional publisher. Got a nibble, but they pay 4% royalties. So if my book retails for $25 (about right for a coffee-table book with lots of text and pix), I get a dollar. Wow. I wanted a publisher because I've done two self-published books and know the costs, in time and money, and the risk, and I'd appreciate the team effort--but 4%???? Back to Plan A. Self publish. Question: Can diacritical marks and picture books work on eReaders?

February Grace said...

Given what Victoria Mixon wrote recently about who actually owns the big houses, the publisher you went with is the only one of them I'd want to put something out there with my name on it...so that pretty much means if I'm ever going to be published it's going to likely be me doing it! Even if I did manage to attract an agent I doubt they'd take kindly to my saying "But only if Penguin wants it!"

Thanks for this series of posts- and congratulations on the third Wonderbar installment!

~bru

Thomas Sharkey said...

I think it is most generous of you to devote your time helping people with writing problems and showing them that self-publishing is not the last resort.

Thomas.

Thomas Sharkey said...

I have been sending, for the past year, all my sci-fi fantasy books to Baen e-book publishing. The response time is 12-18 months. My editing was not as polished as it is now and I wonder what their reaction will be. Should I ask them to delete my recent admissions and send them anew? Which means waiting another 18 months for a response.

Sara Ohlin said...

Nathan,

Great series of posts, thank you so much. Forgive me if I've missed this, but is your editor Kate with Penguin or did you hire her before you sold your book? I'm just wondering about the editing process before you even get to the agent and publisher stages. Thanks again!

Nathan Bransford said...

Sara-

Yeah, Kate is with Penguin. I didn't hire an editor before I pursued publication.

Todd said...

Great insight. I find it interesting that people often do not delineate between self-pubbing and ebooks. And I agree, from everything I can see, publishers can add tons of value for all the tasks that take up so much time. Thank you for confirming my suspicions...some additional thoughts about this on my site for anyone interested: http://bit.ly/dUpunL

Todd Lombardo
ToddWords.com

Julia said...

I'm not sure self-publishing is any less work than sending out letter after letter, to agents and publishing houses. Like you, I have a full-time job and I'm planning on going the self-publishing route with my first book, a fantasy novel aimed at teens and adults.

I do appreciate your blog and your advice, though.

Hunter F. Goss said...

@ Livia—

You almost have it right about why people like Konrath, Smith and KKR say that self/indie publishing takes less time than ‘legacy’ publishing.

The back and forth and general inefficiencies you mention are due to the layers (some call them barriers) that traditional publishing places between a writer and the actual production of the book. Removing those layers speeds up the process dramatically, even for indie writers who vet their manuscripts through an editor (that they’ve hired and paid for) and so any time invested by the writer is well spent.

An important side benefit to the self/indie model is that barriers usually found between the writer and his or her audience are also removed. It’s all about market access on both sides of the equation.

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