Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Bad News, Good News, and a Publishing Manifesto

Now that I'm back to being more or less moderately coherent, it's time to get back to normal business mode, and that means I have something to announce, both good news and bad news.

First, the bad news: the publisher doesn't want another Rebel Mechanics book.

The good news: you'll get one anyway. I'll just go ahead and publish it myself. The good news about that is that instead of having to wait a year or two, it will probably be coming this summer, soon after the paperback release of Rebel Mechanics. The down side is that it likely won't be a pretty hardcover and won't be in bookstores. You'll have to get the e-book or order a book online. I don't yet know about an audiobook.

I will admit that I was disappointed about this. I was rather unhappy about the degree of support the publisher gave this book. They did such a wonderful job of producing a beautiful book, but they did no publicity. Every guest blog post or interview I did, every event I did, was something I set up or that came to me rather than through the publisher's publicist. The publisher presented me with a publicity plan of what they said they were going to do, but none of it got done, and I didn't know they weren't doing it until it was too late to do anything about it. That meant it didn't show up on any of the genre news sites where I've seen authors of other books like this interviewed. Even on social media, they made one tweet and didn't use any of their other in-house vehicles for promoting books. The book was generally well-reviewed and well-received, and librarians loved it. But too few people knew about it, so they didn't think it sold well enough to warrant a sequel, and they were uninterested in trying to support the paperback to see if it took off.

They were interested in looking at something else from me, but I figured why tie myself to them for another year or two (or more), only to get the same old thing? So I said this book was the only thing on the table, and if they didn't want it, that meant they'd passed on the option and I was no longer contractually linked to them.

That led me to make another career decision: I won't deal with another publisher unless I'm coming to them with enough clout to get them to support my book with a full promotional campaign. Otherwise, why should I bother with a publisher? Promotion and distribution are what they bring to the table that I can't do as well for myself. I'll admit that I have mixed feelings about independent publishing. It's saved my career. Without it, I'd have had to get another day job years ago. It's wonderful to have the option. But I really don't like doing it. I just want to write. I don't like having to make all the decisions and deal with vendors and artists and do all the marketing. But right now, I don't have a lot of faith in publishers. They make very poor business choices based on outdated models. I'm sick of having books that readers love but that no one knows about, and yet the publisher acts like the problem is with the book when it doesn't perform up to their hopes. They throw a lot of things against the wall and see what sticks while applying lots of glue to some things and nothing to others, but they still judge everything equally, as though it's all had glue. So, until and unless I have a book that's up for auction with competition between publishers, so that I can make promotional support part of the bid and get it in the contract (so that I'm the one who gets the glue), or until I'm so successful that they come begging to me (or both), I don't intend to deal with a publisher.

The trick will be to get to that point. I'm not sure that writing better is the answer, though I always try to do better. I don't think the quality of my books has been an issue. They've been favorably reviewed, and the people who read them really seem to love them. They may not quite have the same mass appeal or don't hit the right market niche, but that may not be something I can fix because I'm not exactly a mass appeal kind of person. A lot of it has to do with luck -- the right book hitting in the right way at the right time with the right people. There were bestselling books at the time the first Enchanted, Inc. book was published that have already been remaindered and that probably sold fewer total copies than Enchanted, Inc. has, but they got the push and sold those copies quickly and got the bestseller status that led to more support, while my series got dropped, only to keep plugging away.

But what I can do is dig in and deal with the things I can control, which means this is going to be the Year of My Career. I'm going to really focus on writing and getting a number of books in the pipeline because the more books there are, the greater the chance that something will hit, and publication frequency is also good for momentum, and I'm going to force myself to step out of my comfort zone and try to promote myself more, whether directly to readers or by networking more with peers. I've identified some trends of behaviors I see in the authors in my field who at least have the outward measures of success (I can't look into their bank accounts) and will see about applying those things to my own career.

So, look for news about when the next Rebel Mechanics book will be coming, as well as other books that will soon be in the works.


Abigail Goben said...

Well ... drat. I know I'm out of touch with YA Publishing these days but , yes you should have gotten glue.

I'm glad you're making a decision that sounds like a better choice for you and that independent publishing has been a viable option for you thus far. I'll keep following along!! :)

Anonymous said...

I just finished Rebel Mechanics and I loved it! In fact, the reason I came over was to ask about a sequel. I'm a librarian, and I recommend your Enchanted series all of the time. I added Rebel Mechanics to our 3M site last week, and I promoted it on our FB site - it's currently checked out, and I couldn't wait, so I purchased it through Amazon. Anyway, I'm sorry for the hassle with the publisher - they obviously don't know a jewel when they have it in hand.

Jen said...

My daughter and I both loved Rebel Mechanics. And we also love to support authors, so please let us know if you do patreon,kickstarter, self-publish, or whatever. We want that next book.

Lisa Ayers said...

That's truly a stupid move on the part of the publisher now that Rebel Mechanics is on the Lone Star List for 2016 and is being pushed for the MS book fairs. I have students who have read it and are clamoring for the sequel as it ended on a cliffhanger. Now they'll have to buy it on their own as we don't circulate many e-books for this age group. Not cool!

Shanna Swendson said...

The sequel will also be available in paper form, probably paperback, and will be available through the Ingram catalog, so libraries should be able to get copies.

I will refrain from making public comments about the intelligence of the publisher. But yeah, they do look a little silly, huh?