Mark Coker of Smashwords, a man I hold in the highest esteem, whom I’ve listened to at conferences, read word for word in emails, and have followed the advice of, recently posed this question: why would any author want to traditionally publish for 25% when there’s so much more to be made by self publishing and reaping a 70% or more royalty per sale?
I can tell him why–because I’m finding the percentage of readers and reviewers who are writing about my first Kensington Brava book that they’d never read me before staggering. And we’re only at the Advanced Reader Copy stage right now.
I have about 3 dozen titles for sale, most through one of the larger small presses, and some through self-pub. My top sellers at digital first publisher Samhain have sold over 20,000 copies each and have topped category bestseller lists at all the big outlets. These reviews from new readers are coming from people I see on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and even live and in person at conventions, but still they never read me until I signed with a NY publisher and they picked up an ARC of that NY book.
Don’t get me wrong, it was for this exact reason that I signed with Kensington, knowing I would take a big hit in income, but also knowing in exchange I’d gain new readers by hitting a market who are print and NY publisher loyal.
For once I’m not happy to be right. I guess deep down I’d assumed that by doing a job and doing it well, those people I already had access to, who I see and who see me and my promotions, already read me. But, for these readers, I was just shouting in the wind–until I signed with NY. I wanted to believe “if you build it they will come”, but apparently, you can’t build it in a cornfield like Kevin Costner or at a small press. It has to be built in a high rise in Manhattan in the offices of a staid old publisher. The EL Jameses of the world are one in a million. The rest of us have to go it the old fashioned way. For me, that’s simultaneously juggling new releases from NY for legitimacy, small press for monthly steady income, and self-publishing for flexibility.
So, Mark, my answer to your question is this… I have back list, I promote and market and blog and tweet and all that other stuff. I think outside the box and hit outside the romance market, I’ve had my website and tagline on everything from a bull rider’s riding shirt and his skin in a tattoo, to a Oklahoma restaurant who promotes me right along with their menu items, but until I had that NY seal of approval I wasn’t going to be read by a large segment of the market. That’s the cold hard truth–for now, because if I’ve learned anything at all being in this business it’s that everything changes, fast and often. Adapt and overcome. Roll with the punches. Any and every cliche applies because we are in the wild west of the new world of publishing and anything can happen.