A guest post by Dene Low discussing her experiences with different kinds of publishing.
Being published is an exhilarating and stressful time, with so many options and concerns that the whole business can be overwhelming as we try to decide how to present our beloved projects to the public. As we authors consider these facets of publishing, we need to take into consideration things like editing, marketing, distribution, contracts, and a host of other things.
Over the years I have tried various options from national publication (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), regional publication (Covenant, Familius), and e-publishing (Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, etc.) and I have some opinions based on my experiences. I admit that my experiences are not what everyone has experienced, but they are real and happened to me.
National publishers: Ideally, if you want to make money, reach a wide audience, and win awards, go with the national publishers if possible. Notice, I said “ideally.” That said, there are levels and levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with this option. A national publisher has avenues open for publicity, awards, and marketing that exceed many others, but international publication options such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble level the playing field somewhat as far as distribution goes. I’ve noticed that some of the national awards most often go to books published by the bigger national publishers, as well. Awards are wonderful, however sometimes with a national publisher your work will be a little fish in a big pond. Much of the marketing money will be focused on the blockbuster, not the little fish. A lot of the marketing effort must be made by the author.
Getting your work into a national publisher can be difficult. Usually an agent is required since more and more publishers aren’t willing to accept just any submission, although my first novel was picked up off the slush pile. My editor with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was lovely. She was excellent to work with and made some very good decisions for my book, including doing some very deep editing. I felt like the whole process was very professional.
Contracts are complex. There are all kinds of pitfalls and authors need to be aware of things like advances and payouts, foreign rights, rights of first refusal, how many copies will be printed in a first printing, and how royalties are scheduled. For the novice, it can be daunting. An agent can really help, which I didn’t have. I got a fairly standard contract, but it resulted in problems with foreign rights that I did not foresee.
Regional publishers: Regional publishers can provide gorgeous covers and some good, even awesome marketing. For a non-blockbuster novel, they can even earn as much as national publishers and for a blockbuster novel, they can equal what a national publisher can, if they want to (or have the budget to) go to the effort. Authors need to be ready to help with the marketing, just as they do with any other publisher. Regional publisher have many of the same distribution avenues open to them, plus local options that national publishers might not be aware of. My editors with Covenant and Familius were also lovely and easy to work with. I really appreciate them. The Covenant team even sent me a copy of my book signed by everyone who had worked on it. I did wish for a little more editing, but I understand that the editing budget is not as great as for a national publisher. Having an agent is not as necessary, however (and this is a big deal), some of the contracts I have seen for smaller publishers are not always as good for the authors as they could be. It is for the author to be aware of what should be in a good contract and to be willing to negotiate for a better one.
E-publishing: With enough effort, e-publishing can be very rewarding. Notice the caveat about effort. To be successful with e-publishing, an author has to be willing to manage marketing, and editing, as well as writing. To be successful takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, and savvy. I had some success, but I really missed the editing and marketing teams.
Dene Low is the pen name of Laura Card. She holds a Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition from the University of Utah. She has taught at Utah Valley University, Brigham Young University (currently teaches a couple of classes), and is currently at Western Governors University in the Composition Department. Her novels include:
Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone: The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival (Houghton Mifflin, 2009)
Crimson Blues (Laurel Wreath, 2013)
Petronella Saves Several More: The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival (Laurel Wreath, 2014)
Cookies to Die For (Covenant, 2014), and others.
She also has a non-fiction book out titled: Grandparenting the Blended Family (Familius, 2013), and short stories in the FRIEND magazine and CRICKET. For more information, please see www.denelow.com.