Friday, February 18, 2011

The Call of The Writer

This weekend I am teaching at The Southern California Writer's Conference. I have done this for the past several years and it's always fun and educational. As traditional publishing is looking at change with the massive growth of e-books and various self-publishing options, this year should be an especially interesting one.

I know that many of you here follow the blog for the horse stories so some of this may bore you a bit, but if you do write, or are considering writing a book then this may be of interest to you.

When my first book was published back in 2005 (Murder Uncorked), I was bright eyed and in many ways naive. I was so excited to have finally signed a publishing deal. It was for the first 3 books in the Nikki Sands' Mysteries. I had a lot to learn. Nine months later I signed another contract for my Michaela Bancroft series (aka--The Horse Lovers' Mysteries). Both series did well, but my Nikki Sands' Books took off and that was where the publishers' focus went to. I did sell through (which means I earned back my advances) on all of the Michaela Bancroft Mysteries but "word on the NY Street) was that it's hard to sell horse stories unless it is to kids. I say, "Bull pucky," (well, if you know me,then you know I'd use another word)anyway, the series was pulled. At the time I was sad, but I had more mysteries under contract with the Nikki Sands books, so I had the writing still moving forward. However, writing Michaela and about her friends (both human and horses) was something I really wanted to continue doing. I kept it on the back burner and about the time my rights were reverted back to me, the publishing world was on the cusp of drastic changes. This was a good thing.

What this has meant for so many mid-list authors (myself included) is a great deal if you know how to capitalize on it. Once I got my rights back, I made some slight changes in the manuscripts where I had screwed up. You see when I started writing Michaela I knew very little about reining and working cow horse--and readers pointed out where I had made mistakes. readers will do that. Frankly, I still don't know enough. I like to jump! But my dad convinced me that I should explore those diciplines for my character. Dad is an old cowboy and his idea of jumping comes from going out in the woods and flying over logs. I took his suggestion and it worked. However, I still want to see Michaela out on the cross-country course. (I will get back to this). Okay--so--once I had the rights back on these books I decided to reprint them myself. Amazon has a great program called Createspace. There is no out of money cost and it is pretty easy to use. You get your art work or you can use their templates for a cover, format the book to their requirements and upload. The royalty scale is much better than what I was getting from Penguin. Not to mention--I get paid monthly versus every six months. I also took the books and uploaded them on to Kindle (you can do this and have a book up in 48 hours). This is where I am really seeing a difference. I am selling 150 books a minimum a day right now on the Kindle! And--I also get paid monthly on this. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I am sure there are some of you, like me, who agree that there is not enough adult equestrian fiction out there. We want to read it! I am also sure that some of you have a good book inside of you. You might be asking, well why would I want to share in that? "Oh please, I say--there is plenty to go around." We can all share readers. The caveat here is a couple of things--you still have to have a good book and have it edited. If the book and editing are not decent then no one will pick up the next book. A lot of traditonalists say that the market will become flooded from people who really haven't honed the craft. Maybe at first, but as with anything--the cream will rise to the top. Readers are smart and they will find what they like and keep reading. What do you have to lose?

Now back to where Michaela is headed. I am working on book 4 as I mentioned, and yes--she is going to be headed out on to the cross country course. I am super excited to write this twist into her life and how it comes about and where she will go with it. Besides I don't know if any of you saw this link today--Eventing meets Reining, so I think my timing with Michaela's switch in diciplines might be just right: Pretty Cool.

If you have any questions about my publishing experiences, etc--feel free to ask away. I am pretty open when it comes to this stuff. I want to see writers and riders succeed!

Right now you can find all 3 Michaela Bancroft Mysteries on Kindle for 99 Cents.



Linda Benson said...

Michele - this is an interesting post. I admire how you've taken your career into your own hands, especially if you are making money at it. Although I'm on the computer more than I like and do a lot of reading there, I have yet to read an actual book on any kind of e-reader - kindle or another type. There does seem to be a growing readership for electronic books, however, and it will probably increase as people become more familiar with them (and as the price goes down.)

As for me, I'm a bit of a traditionalist, and especially since I write for young people, I want to publish actual books that they can hold in their hands and read. But you've provided a lot of food for thought to anyone who desires to publish. There are many new arenas to conquer (no pun intended) so thank you for sharing some of the various ways you are tackling the ever-changing publishing industry.

wilsonc said...

Got a new Kindle the first of the year. Love it. Just bought all 3 of your books.

Alison said...

Michele, great post. I also have the rights to a book and my agent didn't support my interest in putting it in an e-book. She said the problem is getting the people to the book (that age old publicity problem) But since like you I have a body of books, I would think interested readers might be able to find it and buy it.
I'm curious about the 99c per e-book. Most traditional publishers' prices of e-books are much higher. Why the difference? And how can you make a profit for that price? Very curious!

Jami Davenport said...

I make all of my money off of my ebooks. While my royalty income is still modest (4 figures every 3 months), it is steadily growing, and I can see it hitting 5 figures every three months in the next few years. That is as good as a lot of mid-list authors in traditional presses.

The key to ebooks is to be prolific and get a lot of them out there. It helps to have an already established reputation.

Ebooks are a great place for niche writers. For example, my latest book is a sports hero romance. The big pubs claim sports hero romances don't sell any better than adult equestrian romances so they aren't interested. NY pubs are not willing to take chances right now on books that don't appeal to mass market buyers.

I'd also suggest looking into a good small publisher (who fills a niche similar to yours) if you're new to this, rather than self-publishing so you can establish your name. I blogged at length about all this at my Jami Davenport blog several months ago.

One other note, a best-selling romance author recently self-published a sports hero romance via Amazon and hit the Amazon top 100 within a week because of her Kindle sales.

Dreaming said...

I could never be a writer, but my sister longs to be published. Therefore, posts like this are intriguing to me.
I bought a Kindle just after Christmas and love it. I miss the pretty covers and the smell of books, but I love the convenience of reading this way. Also, my hands are getting arthritic (boo..hiss) and the Kindle is easier to hold. I guess that eBook sales are outstripping hardbacks... and maybe even paper backs, so it is a Brave New World! Things, they are a changing!

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing, Michele. I know I'm pursuing all three avenues rights now. NY, small press, and on my own. The trick as one of the other commenters said is being prolific (and good). What I find most interesting is those who are NY and/or small press published and are also releasing their back list on their own - their sales go up whenever a new book is released in all forms (generally speaking). So releasing a back list title can boost the sales of a traditionally published book and the other way around. Great marketing tool without having to do anything but write.

Leslie said...

Appreciated reading about your publishing experiences Michele as well as the others who posted with their experiences.

While I'm working on a couple of projects (aren't we all?) I'm trying to pick up how it all works after the projects are ready to be rolled out. Sometimes, it seems very daunting, more than even the writing. But, one step at a time I guess.

I can't quiet get into the e-books or Kindles yet. I like having a book in my hands.Guess I'll have to be more open about those other options.It's really great there are other options at this point in time.