Should I Give Up on Traditional Publishing?Dec 09, 2020
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- The Caveat: I'm Biased Against Traditional Publishing
- How Much Does It Matter to You?
- You Can Publish Your Book Yourself
- The Rules with Novels Are Different
- I Couldn't Make a Living Until I Could Answer the Question: What Do I Want This Book to do For Me?
- You Have to Get Realistic
- You Don't Need Them
- If Your Goal is to Have a Writing Career...
Today I'm going to dispel some publishing myths and maybe discourage you a little bit, all in the name of showing you how you can launch a book that will build your brand and your business. But first we have to dispel myths. And so today I am answering a question that came to me from a listener, @michaelcringering is his Instagram handle.
Here's the question: “I started submitting to agents in March because I'm hoping to secure someone interested in my novel. I submitted to 153 agents in my genre but heard back from less than 25 percent. With that said and the pandemic raging, should I continue to wait or go ahead and self publish?”
The Caveat: I'm Biased Against Traditional Publishing
My bias comes from the fact that I come from traditional publishing.
HarperCollins published six of my books, Simon and Schuster published one. It was a New York Times bestseller and I am still massively opposed to traditional publishing because I was disillusioned every single time.
If you want more information about this, my God, go listen to old episodes, but I'm going to give you the definitive answer to what I think. I'm not great with numbers, but I'm going to say something. 153 agents is a lot. A lot. A lot. A lot.
And we're recording this in November so March was a long time ago.
How Much Does It Matter to You?
I really think it's about weighing how much does it mean to you to have a traditional publisher's name on your spine so you can hang on and keep on following up?
But even just getting the agent, it's just the tiniest little step up the hill, roughly.
This is the most depressing thing I will say but the rough statistic is that two out of every 10,000 book proposals sell. Even if you get the agent, then there is this submission process, which can also be endless. So I believe it comes down to goals.
You Can Publish Your Book Yourself
You could put it on KDP. That's the back end of Amazon. They will give you an ISBN that will give you a barcode and you can design your cover and they'll do the layout. You can do that.
You can also use companies like Launch Pad—we're booked right now, so put this in your back pocket. There are other companies like ours where we will design the cover, do the layout and do a launch where it goes into bookstores and is a number one bestseller on Amazon and has all these reviews and all of those things.
You could also do it on your own, not just the KDP Amazon back end, but you can get layout software like Vellum for $250, and for the rest of your life, it will lay out books for you. (Scroll down for a link.)
Now you could figure this out. I know people who do. You could figure out keywords and categories. You could use Publishers Rocket software. (Scroll down for that link, too.) It tells you everything you need to know about keywords and categories and all of that stuff. You could write your own book description. You could write your own author bio. You can do all of these things.
The Rules with Novels Are Different
First of all, with novels you finish the entire book before trying to get an agent or a publisher, as opposed to a non-fiction book where you would have to write a proposal—with very few exceptions.
As a former novelist, let me say that you need to have a goal. I didn't have a goal. I just thought, "Oh, I'm going to write these novels and I'm going to be hugely successful, they'll probably make a reality show about me. These books will definitely be made into movies and be New York Times bestsellers and all of those things." I actually got close on those things. HarperCollins did want to develop a reality show about me. The movie rights have been optioned over and over again, but it didn't happen.
And it happens to .01 percent of people. I got paid 50,000 dollars for my first book. By the end of my traditional publishing book career, I was being paid 2000 dollars. I was not making enough money to live on. So maybe we're all great artists and we want to just put out our work because it's important and we want to help people. But we also need to pay our rents and our mortgages.
I Couldn't Make a Living Until I Could Answer the Question: What Do I Want This Book to do For Me?
We all have to ask: What is my goal? What do I define as success? Because if you are going to rely on a publisher or anybody else for success, it's probably not going to happen. I mean, it happens one in a million times. If you are going to say, "OK, from this book, I want to get clients, I want to get people to sign up for my coaching," whatever it is, then you can the book will be successful because you will design it to get you what you want.
For instance, I released a book in July, Make Your Mess Your Memoir. I got on Good Morning America. I sold I don't know the exact number, but let's say safely under five thousand books.
However, that book brought in so much new business that my company is now booked for the next year—hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of that book, none of it from book sales.
Now, I'm a very practical person. One time my mom took me shopping and she said, "I'll buy you anything you want as long as it's whimsical and it has no purpose." And I literally couldn't do it.
You Have to Get Realistic
If you are going to do a novel, get really clear about what your goal is going to be, because chances are no one's going to hire you as a coach based on a novel and it's not going to bring in business. So get really, really clear about your goals and know this: Your publisher isn't going to help you.
I told you I was negative about publishing. The average book that's published traditionally sells 300 copies. The publishers are putting their efforts into the books that were the authors were paid million-dollar advances because they want to earn their money back. So everything you do, you're going to have to do, whether it's traditionally published or self-published.
You Don't Need Them
You can get on media and in bookstores without traditional publishers. As I said, I was on Good Morning America for this book I published. I wasn't on that show for any of the books Harper published. I've talked about this in previous episodes, but Harper would tell me that bookstores didn't want my books. And I've been able to get Make Your Mess your Memoir in tons of bookstores just on my own.
So my point is this. You don't need them unless publishing a book through Random House or Simon Schuster or Harper Collins is on your bucket list.
If Your Goal is to Have a Writing Career...
Have a career that's going to back up the writing. Or you can be independently wealthy and a true artist. I hope this wasn't too discouraging and I hope that Michael, you get signed and you are one of those authors that is given a million-dollar advance. But just in case, take my cynical, negative, yet experienced wisdom to heart.
By the way, if you want me to answer your question on this show, just message me on Instagram @annabdavid.
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QUOTE OF THE POD:
"The average book that's published traditionally sells 300 copies. The publishers are putting their efforts into the books for the authors who were paid million-dollar advances because they want to earn their money back. So everything you do to promote your book, you're going to have to do, whether it's traditionally published or self-published."
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