Since the beginning of this century, the publishing industry has undergone many changes at a very rapid pace due to the rise of digital technology and ebooks and the resulting swell of independent authors which has reshaped the way the industry operates. Traditional publishing houses have had a difficult time in adapting to these changes, which are transforming the playing field from being favorable to publishers into one more fair to authors. Trad. publishers are slow to adapt and their numbers are dwindling as they hang on to traditional practices that make little sense in this day and age. Just in the past five years we’ve seen the big 5 become the big 4, and in 2021 they merged into the big 3.
Many authors struggle with the decision of whether to self-publish or try for a traditional publishing deal, which could turn into an endeavor spanning years and your book may still not be published. Traditional publishing offers status and esteem when you can get it, but the road to a traditional publishing deal has many pitfalls and often ends in wrong turns and dead ends. It’s not easy to land a trad. publishing deal and there are no guarantees. This is nothing new. It has never been easy, but I think it’s harder than it used to be
When you take a good hard look at today’s publishing industry, you may find a few things which surprise you. I know I did.
Did you know…
- Advances offered by traditional publishing must be paid back before the author sees any of their royalties? That’s right. An advance is just that – payment of royalties in advance. And the royalty percentage offered by trad. publishers is considerably less than what indie authors receive, so it may take a very long time to pay out that advance, and if s book does not sell well, it may never pay out. Many self-published authors have opted for smaller royalty payments over the long haul, rather than one big chunk of money in the beginning that may never pay out any more than that initial advance payment.
- While a traditional publishing deal may still carry an advance with it, it seems the advance amounts have gotten smaller, as traditional publishers grow more unsure of your book’s ability to sell? While book publishers have always taken risks when signing a new author, with the rise of independent authors and publishers, there’s a lot more competition and publishers may be less confident of a book’s success, so they aren’t as willing as they once were to cough up the cash before the book has been proven. What’s more, they aren’t as willing to provide as much effort for promotion. In fact, trad. publishers today are looking at the reader platform, or fan base, that an author brings with them as well as their social media platforms, etc…, and they may expect authors to perform much of the marketing and promotion for their book. A small independent publisher which published my western novel, Delilah, but they did very little as far as marketing goes, and of course, there was no advance. I felt I could do better with it myself, which is why I chose not to renew my contract and will be re-publishing the book myself as part of the Women of the West adventure series.
- Traditional publishing created a return policy for bookstores and retailers that allows them to return print books at the publishers expense, which still applies today, effectively preventing independent publishers and authors from having their print books carried in brick and mortar bookstores? While print-on-demand has revolutionized the publishing industry, making it no longer be necessary for authors to create large or small print runs and stockpile books I’m their basement or garage, it is still a challenge for independent authors to get their books into bookstores due to the ridiculous return policy trad. publishers created for bookstores. Today, bookstores have played by these rules for so long that they have no desire to change the rules even though they should. You can read about the options when you publish through Ingram Spark here. There may be a work around if you can find an independent local bookstore willing to take your books on consignment, but for the most part, indie authors are limited to selling their print books online because of an outdated policy that never made sense in the first place. I mean, what other industry allows to retailers to return unsold products after a number of years for a full refund, potentially devastating the maker when the charge blindsides them unexpectedly?
- The time that you must wait for your book to go through the traditional publishing process could be two to three years or more from the time of signing, if you do manage to land a traditional publishing deal? Even after you have a contract, that doesn’t guarantee that your book will actually be published, and the publishing process is so long and tedious that your book could potentially be in limbo for years. Of course, that is not what happens most of the time, but it has happened. Children’s books take even longer to go through the publishing process. They can take up to five years or more. Imagine the disappointment of not being published after waiting years to get a trad. deal, and waiting even more years to go through the publishing process. This may be even more of a possibility with the instability of the traditional publishing industry today.
- Traditional publishers often ask for rights they never intend to use, and if you give them to them, you can no longer do anything with them? Traditional publishing contracts are not traditionally author friendly, often asking authors to throw in many rights that are unnecessary for the author to give up. For example, many publishing contracts ask for audio rights, even when they have no intention of publishing your book on audio. If these rights are maintained by the author, they can be licensed separately or used to produce their own audiobook through one of the many audiobook platforms available to authors today, but if they are included on your contract, the publisher can sit on them and the author will make nothing from them. That’s money left on the table that the author can’t touch. It is very important that authors know what they are signing and don’t sign away rights that they don’t need to.
Authors today have choices which authors of the past did not. We no longer have to go through the submission-rejection-resubmission grind for months or years to find someone else who likes your writing and might want to publish it. Today we can publish our works ourselves because we like it, and hopefully find others who like it too and will become fans and loyal readers. There are many authors today who choose to try the best of both worlds in some sort of hybrid combination that fits their needs.
I can’t see trying to beat a dead horse, and for me, I think that is what traditional publishing would be. Although making money from my books is always a goal, as I pointed out above, there are no guarantees that I would ever find someone who wanted to publish my book and, even then, there are no guarantees that it would actually happen, or that it would sell. I want people to read my books and that will never happen unless they are published. That’s why, for me, independent publishing will be the course that I choose. Which course is right for you?
Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you.
She has short stories featured in the following anthologies: The Collapsar Directive (“If You’re Happy and You Know It”); Relationship Add Vice (“The Devil Made Her Do It”); Nightmareland (“The Haunting in Carol’s Woods”); Whispers of the Past (“The Woman in the Water”); and Spirits of the West (“Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”). Her western, Delilah, her paranormal mystery novella and her short story collection, Last Call, are all available in both digital and print editions.
In her spare time, she keeps up her author’s blog, Writing to be Read, where she posts reflections on her own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. She’s also the founder of WordCrafter. In addition to creating her own imprint in WordCrafter Press, she offers quality author services, such as editing, social media & book promotion, and online writing courses through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. When not writing or editing, she is bird watching, or hiking, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.
Sign up for the Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Newsletter for and book event news for WordCrafter Press books, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of Kaye Lynne Booth’s paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, just for subscribing.
Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 9): Interview with Curiosity Quills PressPosted: December 12, 2016
This series has looked at three models of publishing from every angle. We’ve heard from independent authors Jeff Bowels, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, and traditionally published authors Stacia Deutsch and Mark Shaw, independently published author Jordan Elizabeth, and an author who has published under all three models, Nancy Oswald. We’ve also heard from Caleb Seeling, the owner of the independent publishing house, Conundrum Press.
This week, we hear from a small independent hybrid publisher that specializes in genre fiction of the highest quality. I have been privileged to review two Curiosity Quills anthologies, Chronology and Under a Brass Moon. I have also reviewed several books by Curiosity Quills author Jordan Elizabeth, who we heard from in Part 7, and Keepers of the Forest by James McNally.
Founded in 2011 by Eugene Teplitsky and Alisa Gus, Curiosity Quills was created as a resource portal to help writers, such as themselves survive the publishing industry, and quickly morphed into a publishing press which today, has solidified it’s share in the market. They work with major retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Audible, and publish six new titles every month. Curiosity Quills Press offers the some of the advantages of a traditional publisher and offers their authors a chance to participate in the publishing process.
Kaye: How did Curiosity Quills Press come about?
CQ: Back in early 2011, Alisa and Eugene were an aspiring author couple working on a little MG project called Gatecrashers. In an effort to build up our socials and gain a following prior to release, they created a blog called Curiosity Quills (which was nearly called Curiosity Kills… dodged a bullet there!). Throughout that year, many guest authors and industry pros were hosted on the CQ blog to share their stories, wisdom, and experiences with the world. Before they knew it, a sizeable community formed around the CQ blog – and A&E had the brilliant idea of being more hands on about helping the authors hanging out on the site. It wasn’t long before Michael Shean and Rod Kierkegaard, Jr. became the first published authors of Curiosity Quills Press. Unfortunately, this was also the death knell for Gatecrashers or any other further writing project for Alisa and Eugene – turns out running a traditional publishing house is a HUGE time-suck!
Kaye: What are the publishing goals of Curiosity Quills?
CQ: We have a number of goals at CQ, and these can be broken down into the following points:
- To bring the highest quality genre fiction to the masses, at affordable prices.
- To spotlight genre fiction that some traditional publishers might find too unconventional; instead of following genre trends and the mainstream in what is popular, we try to stay ahead of that, anticipating gaps in the market.
- To diversify genre fiction, by publishing stories featuring characters of all race, sexuality, gender identity, social standing etc. While we want to stay ahead of the mainstream, we also want to be inclusive and representative of the ever growing, expanding world we live in.
Kaye: What do you see as the advantages of independent publishing over traditional or self-publishing for today’s authors?
CQ: Independent publishing offers the best aspects of both traditional and self-publishing. On the one hand, we’re able to offer the highest standards of cover designers, editors, proofreaders etc. on par with any traditional press.
We also offer authors access to a wide rage of services, such as NetGalley and features on sale subscription sites like Book Bub. And, as with traditional publishers, we are always focusing our efforts to get our titles into chain bookstores, like Barnes & Noble, as well as selling the rights for our titles to audiobook publishers, and film companies.
But, unlike traditional publishers, we offer a closer, more family-like community for our authors, and try to involve them in the publishing process as much as possible, getting their input on cover design, marketing campaigns etc.
Because of our close-knit community, there are always over authors – at various stages in their careers – on hand to answer questions, help promote each other’s works, and collaborate with.
Kaye: How has the increasing trends in self-publishing affected the role of independent presses?
CQ: Authors want to be much more involved in the process, and on the whole, we’re more than happy to accommodate this. We view publishing as a partnership, where both the publisher and the author bring different things to the table.
As mentioned above, the close-knit community leads to a family of authors all striving together to make CQ the best it can be, which is something you don’t always find with self-published authors. While there is still a level of camaraderie there, all self-published authors are competing against each other, in ways authors of independent presses aren’t.
Kaye: What do you see as the future role of independent publishing houses within the changing publishing industry?
CQ: Independent publishing houses will continue to bring readers what they want, know and love, while also broadening their horizons and opening them up to a wealth of new stories that might get overlooked by the mainstream.
At the same time, independent publishing houses will strive to bring authors an experience they won’t get anywhere else in the publishing industry, with all the benefits of traditional and self-publishing, but less of the drawbacks.
I want to thank Clare Dugmore and Curiosity Quills for sharing with us here on Writing to be Read. I know they are busy people and I appreciate them taking the time to answer my interview questions. Next week I will follow up with conclusions on the series in Part 10 of Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing.
Like this post? Subscribe to email and get notification to your inbox each time a new post is published.