Planning ahead

by Suw on March 14, 2009

I know that this might seem like jumping the gun a little bit, but I’m thinking about what to do with The Revenge of the Books of Hay when it’s done. From the reading I’ve been doing, novellas aren’t a popular format with agents and publishers, and given I don’t exactly have anything else ready to show them, it seems a bit premature to try the traditional route. But it does strike me as an interesting opportunity to do a little bit of experimentation.

I’ve always planned to release the story electronically under a Creative Commons license, but I’m thinking too that it might be fun to release via a print-on-demand too. I’ve started looking at the options, and I’d love to hear what people’s experiences have been with the different services. I’d do it pretty cheap – say a quid or two over their base cost – to see if people would then be willing to take a chance on it.

Assuming that it would top out at 100 pages, the different services looks like this:

Paperback, B&W, perfect bound, 6″ x 9″, one off: £2.98, tax not mentioned, (shipping ~£3.75 to UK, according to a friend)

Paperback, B&W, 5″ x 8″, one off: £3.50 + tax, (shipping £3.66 to UK)

Createspace (Amazon)
B&W, 6″ x 9″, one off: roughly £2.69 depending on exchange rate, tax not mentioned, (shipping has various options)

Paperback, B&W, perfect bound, 5″ x 8″, one off: roughly £7.16 + tax, (various shipping options)

WordClay, Authors Online, BookSurge all also have offerings, but none of them very simple or attractive.

To be honest, Lulu or Blurb certainly seems like the way to go. Their models are simple and their prices attractive. I like the idea of specialist software to design my book, rather than just fiddling about in a PDF and hoping for the best, but Blurb’s BookSmart really seems struggles to cope with my novella even at just 23,000 words. I hate to think what it would do with a full length novel.

Anyway, I’ve love to hear your experiences with PoD, so me me with ’em in the comments!

Noirin Shirley March 14, 2009 at 8:14 pm

I’ve bought other people’s stuff from Lulu in the past, and the quality was excellent.

I printed a (photo) book with Blurb, and it came out fine, but it was just such a pain to put together. It seemed a bit more expensive than some of the other photo-book options, but I thought the BookSmart thing was going to make life easier, and would therefore be worth it. I wouldn’t do that again 🙂

Cheryl March 14, 2009 at 10:35 pm

The marketability of novellas depends very much on what you have written. There are still quite a lot of novellas being published in science fiction and fantasy. However, the market is fiercely competitive and getting more so with the deteriorating economy.

Suw March 15, 2009 at 10:16 am

Noirin, a friend of mine used Lulu to get a draft of his book printed so I could read it, and the quality was lovely. Equally, I’ve seen Blurb books too, and they were very nice. Like you, though, I have struggled with BookSmart, but I’m not sure that it would be any easier doing it in Word! Maybe it’s time for me to dust off my InDesign skills.

Cheryl, good to hear that the novella is alive and well in science fiction and fantasty. I’m not sure yet what genre my story falls into. Maybe I should just start a new “ailuromagical” category. 😉 But the competitive nature of publishing is a good reason to go it alone for the first few novellas – it’s no skin off my nose if I don’t sell many copies, but if I do, then it creates a market for my work. If I do two or three novellas like this, I hope it would make me more attractive as an author, because I’ll be able to prove (I hope!) that I’m saleable.

Cheryl March 16, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Careful about that. Claiming to be a successful self-published author is a very fast way into the trash bin when looking for an agent or publisher. That’s not your fault, it is just that so many people claim to be “successful” self-published authors that no one takes the claim seriously. What will sell your writing is the quality of your writing and your ideas. Practice will make both of those better, but unless you seriously hit the big time self-published sales won’t impress people.

Suw March 16, 2009 at 9:57 pm

I think there’s a difference between “claiming one is successful” as a self-published author and thus expecting to automatically get an agent/publisher, and demonstrating saleability. I could turn round today and claim to be a “successful author” and it would be an easily-debunked fiction – only a fool would say that without having the proof to back it up. Equally, only a fool would claim to be a successful self-published author unless they actually were, and can prove it.

If I self-publish and do as I am often wont, which is engage in a bit of radical transparency, then anyone will be able to see how many downloads I have, how many sales. Then people, publishers and agents alike, can make up their own mind not just about whether or not they think I’m successful, but whether or not they like my work because that will be online, free for all to read at will. That’s not claiming anything – it’s experimenting with new tools and seeing what happens.

The way I see it, publishing is a business, and if a publisher has a choice between two authors, equally as good, where one has an established fan-base and has demonstrated saleability and the other has not, I suspect that the one who has done the market development work on their own would have the edge. Just like the music industry now expects bands to have figured out their own image, have developed a fan base through gigging, have a web presence, etc., so I suspect publishers are going to start looking the entire packages. Authors have to be willing to do all the promotional and marketing work that goes alongside writing, and self-publishing can give an person a lot of insight and practice at that.

Any publisher who dismissed an author because they have self-published, rather than because of the quality of their work, is not the kind of publisher I’d want to work with. Indeed, any publisher worth my time is going to be supportive of Creative Commons and of experimentation, so they’re going to see this sort of a venture as a plus, not a minus. (And I know these people exist, because they publish friends of mine.)

Of course, I may never find a traditional publisher who likes my style. That’s more than possible, and it makes self-publishing now even more important. In five years’ time, what will I regret not doing?

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