National, Regional, and E-publishing


A guest post by Dene Low discussing her experiences with different kinds of publishing.

copy-header02Being 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.

5103srgyKiLNational 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.

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in verse #50 : In voiceless text

Matt Miller, in his study Collage of myself : Walt Whitman and the making of Leaves of Grass, makes a convincing case that “…the poems of the 1855 Leaves appear in a boiling rush, the size and suddenness of which continue to beg for explanation.”[i]  He makes his case primarily through a careful examination of the notebooks and manuscript materials Whitman used in the years leading up to the publication of that first edition, arguing his point through 250 pages of text and illustrations, the latter mostly of manuscript pages.  What I find most fascinating, because of my interest in Joseph Smith’s writings, is Whitman’s uncertainty as to the genre of what he was planning. Continue reading

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“Dean Millman, Artist”

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Few things give me as much instant delight as running across a stack of old church magazines. Something about the printing and production and images chosen makes me so happy. (I feel this way about all old magazines, but, say, a New Era from the early 70s is particularly exciting because it’s utterly foreign from my personal experience yet so close to what I know. So close, yet . . . that’s not my life. Bumping into a letter to the editor from a missionary named Orson Scott Card? That experience for me is not the experience of a 15-year-old who first read it walking up from the mailbox forty years ago.

Anyway, reading the magazines online is nowhere near as cool. Besides the lack of anything to touch or smell, the older magazines have no images—it’s just reformatted text. (I’m referring here to the post-correlation magazines. If you go back further and look elsewhere, you can find that visual experience.

But I do occasionally look at old magazines online anyway. One nice recent find useful to AMLers might be this article regarding amateurism and Hugh Nibley. Or this one about a kid named Dean Millman. Continue reading

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2014 Mormon Literature Year in Review–Part 2, Mormon and Independent Markets

See also Part 1, National Market.

This section looks at literary books published by LDS publishers, independent publishers, and self-publishing. There was a slight decrease in books produced by the largest Mormon publishers, and that decline looks like it will continue at least next year. On the other hand, there was a spike in books from boutique publishers like Mirror, Trifecta, and Xchyler. As a result, the total number of Mormon-authored literary works produced by publishers increased substantially. Meanwhile, self-publishing continues to surge.

Generally book sales in the United States were up in 2014, after several years of decline. Although ebook sales leveled off after several years of growth, audio books had a significant spike in popularity, reflecting the widespread use of smart phones.

It appears that sales have not yet rebounded for the major Mormon publishers. They especially feel squeezed by the heavily competitive practices of Amazon, which limits the profits that individual publishers can make. Besides their power as a bookseller, Amazon has also recently invested heavily in their own publishing imprints. YA authors Charlie Holmberg and Jessie Humphries are two LDS authors being published by Amazon imprints.

Continue reading

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In Tents #50 This Jesus Whom Ye Slew and Other Texts That Don’t Behave Part II

Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose I told you there were thousands of errors in the first edition of the Book of Mormon–not necessarily in every copy, but in the first edition as a whole–or more precisely that there are nearly 4000 changes between the first edition and the 1981 edition. Would that shake your testimony? Should it?

Suppose I said it differently, “The Book of Mormon, the most correct book on earth, has 3,913 corrections.” (Read that with a sneer. Those or similar words begin Jerald and Sandra Tanners’ classic 3,913 Changes in The Book of Mormon.) Would my words shake your testimony? Should they?

My guess is that the answer to either question would be “No.” No, the fact of changes, corrections and errors in the Book of Mormon don’t upset or unsettle you, and no, you don’t see any reason why it should. And that lack of seeing doesn’t indicate some willful blindness on your part, some desire to avoid unpleasant facts, some lack of serious thought about the implications changes in sacred texts. Indeed, if I pushed you on it you would probably quote the first section of the Doctrine & Covenants,

“These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.”
–D&C 1:24

You might say something about the scriptures not being dictation, that prophets write in response to a command to write the vision,

And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
–Habakkuk 2:2 

or even invoke Moroni’s comment about the imperfection of prophets,

Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.
–Mormon 9:31 

Continue reading

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The Business Side of Writing: “Making It”

I’m watching a very interesting discussion on social media right now. I won’t reveal identities or titles, but suffice it to say it begins with an author outlining a New York publishing deal she rejected and while the community by and large has been very supportive of her decision not to take the deal, there is some lamenting that they don’t feel like they’ve “made it” without a traditional publisher and bookstore distribution. Many if not most of them, incidentally, make a living from their indie publishing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those indie authors who is anti-trad. Most of my close friends are traditionally published and making a living this way. I have seen the system work and work very well. I’ve had indie friends and acquaintances switch over to traditional publishing and benefit from having money up front and better distribution upon release.

What intrigues me about this conversation is that anyone who makes their living from writing would consider themselves somehow lesser than people who sign truly awful traditional publishing deals that do not enable them to make ends meet. One could say this is evidence of an indelible stigma against self-publishing, but I actually think something else is at work.

Writing, whether you self publish or go with a publisher, requires you to work for yourself. You create your projects, set your deadlines, and you might hire subcontractors to negotiate deals or edit your work, but at the end of the day, you are your boss. This means that there is no one else to promote you, to declare you a “real writer.” There is only you. Now, there are a lot of reasons that people use to justify denying themselves this promotion, so let’s go through some: Continue reading

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