Current Climate in Publishing: The Sky Didn’t Fall, So Now What?

After the recent Colorado Gold Conference, I found myself wondering about indie/self-publishing and traditional happy-b-day-picpublishing. When I joined my first Gold Conference back in 2008, I/S publishing was the DEVIL. No, really, like the actual end of the world four to five horsemen. (I first typed horsemint, which is, according to word, any various coarse mints. Thought you might enjoy my overeagerness about just how bad it once was to I/S publish, that or my fat fingered typing ability).

This past conference, the vibe was MUCH different, and in fact, most of the I/S pub workshops were filled (I should know, our Rejection Panel went up against Nathan Lowell’s Amazon workshop Saturday morning. Thank you to the five people who joined us). Also, for the first time, iPAL the independently published version of PAL, was awarded a Writer of the Year (Lisa Manifold, who deserved it greatly for a) successfully writing and marketing great books, but more so b) being a leader in our community).

So my question to you, dear readers, and for once, comment dang it!, how do you feel about publishing these days? When you think of your current WIP, is it slated for traditional route or a more indie one? Have you come to the dark or maybe light side (depending on who you ask) of publishing?

Right now I publish with both. I see good things and bad for each. Nothing is ever going to be simple or perfect in publishing. Yet this is the first time I see I/S publishing tipping in favor to traditional. Or maybe just with my tribe. So let’s hear it. Good and bad. Beautiful and ugly. What say you about today’s publishing format climate?

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer is a writer living in Denver, CO. Books include The Junkie Tales, The Body Dwellers, CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope. Sick. Love. SHANK, Froggy Style, The Assassin's Heart, The Fairyland Murders & The Lady in Pink - Deadly Ever After Mysteries.

30 thoughts on “Current Climate in Publishing: The Sky Didn’t Fall, So Now What?

  1. I admire those who have the time, energy, talent and money to self-publish. I’ve stuck with traditional publishing so far because I’d rather have someone else do all the work and front the costs, even if it takes an extra year or more to get a book into print. Those who indie publish have a business and need to be far more productive than I am (or want to be). It’s a wonderful option, though, for those who want to follow that path. Hybrid authors like Julie have the best of both worlds, I think. But it’s still a lot of hard work to put those books out there on your own, Perhaps I’m just too lazy…

  2. This is one of those “religion” questions. Let me start by saying very loudly:


    Everybody needs to find the path that works for them. If your path works for you, I’m just as happy for your success as I am for mine. This is Just My Opinion.

    I’m also going to smile and nod when asked “Are you published or did you do it yourself?”

    — moving on —

    Self-publishing is my day job. It’s not that I’m against the trad path. I just can’t afford to take any of the contracts I’ve been offered. (Yes, I’ve been offered contracts from the Bigs.)

    I’m not really that much of a control freak. I’d be happy to have them deal with the editing, changing the story so they can sell it, whatever. But I have to be able to pay my bills.

    It’s not just the advance – although that’s part of it.

    It’s the questionable business practices. I’ve yet to see a publisher that is trying to maximize the author’s revenue.

    The recent War of Hachette Aggression proved that when publishers rattle sabers, authors get it in the neck.

    The Bigs are engaged in a protectionist strategy to safeguard their investments in paper. They regularly report that their ebook sales are consistently lower than paper so it’s working. Yay for the publisher but boo for the author.

    They’re reporting higher profits while offering lower advances. Their contracts are more and more draconian and they seem to have started the practice of making sure that books don’t go out of print (and revert back to the author) by using the $1.99 BookBub promo to hold onto books for a while longer.

    Those are the main points.

    Speaking ONLY for myself, it’s not the control issue. It’s the trust issue. They’ve proven to be poor business partners over and over.

    As a self publisher, I really don’t do that much more work than I hear from my trad-pub brothers and sisters. We do about the same amount of work. It’s just that the work we do is different.

    Yes, I do have to hire cover artists and editors. Yes, I do have a production budget. Yes, I have to wear the author AND the publisher hat. I do have to deal with the mechanics of publishing and marketing and all the scary stuff. Mostly it’s like skiing. The view from the bottom of the hill looking back isn’t as daunting as the view from the top looking down.

    I don’t have to deal with tracking queries, shopping titles, contract negotiations, rejection letters, or any of the slings and arrows traditional flesh is heir to.

    But the bottom line is the bottom line. I pay my bills by publishing my writing. I never have to worry about whether or not my publisher will accept the next book. I never have to wait to publish a book for the next quarterly catalog. I don’t have to wonder if the royalty statement has been jiggered and I get paid every month.

    So far, I haven’t had to take a day job to support my publishing habit and see no reason to change that.

    JMO. YMMV.

    • Nathan, I am thrilled with your success. Truly a self-publisher to look up to. Many of us don’t make a living off our writing, either trad or indie. It’s good to have options. It opens up the world for all of us, and that’s in part to self pubbers like yourself. So hats off, and may you have continued success, which I hope isn’t like saying break a leg to an actor :).

      • Thanks, Julie.

        Few people do make a living at it — I’m undoubtedly VERY lucky — but I think more people *could*. They could at least make a nice second income from it. Of course I’m looking back over almost ten years of experience with self-publishing and that’s a *really* long time in a market that’s not been truly viable for more than five.

        Marketing seems to be the big GobStopper that gets everybody stuck down. Figuring out which advice is good (very little of it) and which advice is bad (almost all of it) is a challenge.

        Just sorting out the myths about Amazon reviews would be a good start.

        Maybe I should write a blog post … 😀

  3. I have mainly done independent publishing. I have found it difficult in terms of marketing. A full time job combined with this can drive a person crazy. On the same note, with self publishing you can go at your own pace.

    I’ve taken both routes. So far I like the freedom (and chains!) that come with self publishing.

  4. I’m in the Pat Stoltey corner. I’m in awe of those who self publish well — such as Lisa Manifold and Nathan and a score of other RMFWers. But I don’t want to make the decisions about cover art, a copy editor, distribution, etc. I would like to make money, of course, but am willing to fork over a chunk of earnings to a publisher who is ensuring I get into all the bookstores — and even end up on some of those New Fiction tables at the front of the store. There are indies making a solid living publishing, something I’m probably not going to do. But I do get a kick out of being published by a big publisher. I still have to work hard on the marketing end, but their clout gives me a big boost. It’s true I have very little control–for instance, I’ve turned in book 2 of the series and am now out of contract. If book 1 rises to expectations, I’ll probably get another contract, if not…. So many of my friends tell me indie pubbing is not as hard as I fear, and if I get productive and inspired enough to write more books, I might drag my scared, reluctant butt into it. How can the failure in that arena be any greater than the years of rejection I’ve endured so far?

  5. I am such a control freak that I lean toward self-publishing for most things these days. I’ve used traditional publishing for more mainstream books (let’s just say I write a lot of controversial material), and as a successful marketing tool for my indie stuff on the non-fiction end of things. The thing I’m amazed at most is just how much more I make from my indie work. It also tends to sell better than my traditionally published stuff. But that’s just my experience.

    I do have a neat cozy mystery idea that might do really well in the mainstream (i.e. traditional), but part of me doesn’t want to give it up and wants to go indie with it. I guess we’ll see.

    I really am more of an indie kinda gal. I love the control, I love the extra work, and I love the process.

  6. I was published by a small imprint that then was purchased by Kensington (but, alas, my contract got stuck in e-mail hell and I never got to sign with them) so I self-published that book. I paid for a beeoootiful cover (much better than the original) and did the uploading, etc. myself. I have yet to make back my investment (counting the publisher’s sales and my own!). After talking to Lisa Manifold, I’m seriously considering trying to self-pub my 3 romance manuscripts, but I have to weigh the upfront cost of the covers and my already-stretched-thin time to market, upload, get/keep my website/facebook/twitter up to date, etc. The enormity of all that just scares the crap out of me. But I am thinking about it. Seriously. Almost as much as I’m seriously thinking there has to be an agent/editor out there who will love me as much as you do!

    • Either way you’re going to have to do all that icky stuff like being on social media. I know it sucks, and is often disheartening, but I love you and your writing, so I know you’re worth the investment, even if you can’t see it clearly.

    • Yeah. The problem is that *first* book. One isn’t enough to actually get anything going. Sometimes you grab the brass ring on the first time around but the most common is “book five” (in a series). Actually, getting hit by lightning feels great on book 1, but then you get to book 2 and … yeah.

      Not saying it *can’t* happen, it’s just where most people go “What the –?” and walk away.

  7. Ok, *flexes fingers* This is a great post, Julie. I am an unabashed indie,and I’ll tell you why. Because I AM a control freak, and I have to own that in order to have any sort of success. I like to be where the buck stops. Sometimes, that means that buck’s deadline gets stretched longer than I would like. But – it’s all on ME. I have control of whether or not I get off my tookus and make things happen.

    And I’m no expert, although the kind remarks in the threads and comments are really humbling. I am learning, every week, something new that I should look into, or a better way to do things, or an improvement to streamline a process I’m using. That’s the beautiful thing about being indie – you can change, and learn as you need to, for better use of time/dollars/effort. I’m in that process now for 2017, figuring out better ways to make myself have a better chance at the success I want – defined in my terms of success (looking at you, Ms. Alice K – there is a Mrs. Darcy outfit in my future!!! LOL!).

    I also believe in what Nathan had to say. I don’t see the way that traditional publishers are dealing with authors as something I like or completely trust. Is that to say I would never publish through a trad house? No. But the terms need to be something I can live with. I have one, and if I can do it, although that’s not looking great with my self-imposed schedule, two ideas that I plan to pursue publishing methods that are not indie based. Hybrid is a better way to describe it. For me, the money has to be decent, and the ability to get one’s rights back before my kids die is important. I read something Stephanie (who chimed in above) said one time – she said she wouldn’t sign with anyone who kept her rights more than five years. Five years is a good time frame to see if you and the publisher can make some money and create a platform together.

    For me, outside my own control issues, I love the idea that we have CHOICES. When I first considered publishing, in 2012, I didn’t know any way but the one that so many have walked before me. It’s why I have probably close to one hundred rejection form letters to my credit.

    But now, I can say, for my work, I want to be the Buck, both where it starts and stops. I am okay that sometimes the Buck will make mistakes. As an indie, I am not tied to anything other than schedules and limits I place on myself. So if I need to pivot, I can. It’s one of the things that continuously leaves me in awe of my fellow indies who are kicking ass at the moment. The pub world shifts, they take a little time, and they shift too. I love the idea that I don’t have to be trapped by anything other than what I want to be.

    That also means I have to work harder – but to my eyes, and those who know differently, feel free to correct me – I think a lot of what I do, those with trad publishers have to do also. As Julie mentioned, you have to create, manage and grow your own platform.

    While for me, being primarily indie is my choice and best choice for where I want to be, I can see where being hybrid would have positives. As an extension of platform, for example, if you’re not well-known. It’s something to consider.

    So that is where I am at. Still 99% indie, but not adverse to a project that would accomplish something in my overall goals. It just has to be a contract and terms I can accept. I know what my time and effort is worth, and I’m in this for life.

    My advice would be to look at your goals for the next year, and see what will work best, and be the best use of your time. In our world, no matter how your book is out there, time is money.

    My overall goal? To be Nathan when I grow up. Looking back on 10 years, and going, Yep. This is the right thing for me. I’m only about 1.5 years in. I keep telling myself that when the To Do list is seemingly endless.

    • Need I say anything more than YES. It’s all about your goals. Some of us are lazy, some of us are ready to breakout, some of want control of our careers. No right way and definitely no wrong way if it works for your MS.

      • But I also think it’s okay to look at what works for each MS. For example, I write series. Everything I have planned for the next however long is series-based.

        Except. I have this ONE BOOK, and I really want to write it/am already working on it.. It’s a stand-alone. I’ve eyeballed it repeatedly, and there is no way to really make this a series. Trust me, I’ve tried. So it’s a stand alone. And I am looking at different ways to market this, because it’s not going to be anything else.

        But as indie/self-publishing has changed the publishing landscape, I am seeing various players within it changing the way they do things. To me, that’s worth exploring.

        Do your homework, kids!

  8. I think in order go indie, you have to be able to say “no” a lot harder and a lot more often than you do with traditional. I’m working on that ability, and GOOD GRIEF. It’s like giving myself a raise.

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