Monday, July 30, 2012

Self-pub vs Traditional Pub series #2: KALLYPSO MASTERS' opinions and Advice

**note from Bianca Sommerland: Some of you know that I considered self-publishing for a long time before actually doing it. I was afraid I didn't have what it took to make it alone. Kallypso Masters gave me wonderful advice and support. She has given me permission to share her words on the subject from a recent conversation. I'm adding her links and such myself because if you haven't read her books, you should! <g>**

Kallypso Masters:

Free from Amazon and other distributors

No disrespect to anyone who wants a publisher or is just starting to write, because there are things they can teach you that you need to know. But I spent 20 years learning those things in RWA and classes. I'm still learning, of course, with each new editor and beta reader I work with, but I've said before, I'm very Domme about my books and my career. I'd have probably been urged to conform with the publisher's rules so i didn't do anything risky or too terribly different.

I also needed to make a living FAST. Remember, I quit my job and THEN started writing Masters at Arms. I don't do things normally. So, I had one year to make it. I didn't have time to wait for validation. I knew I'd learned the craft and was ready to see what readers thought. So I hired a content editor and had a graphic artist friend do my professional covers.

Best decision FOR ME. If I'd sold with a publishing house as well as I did on my own, I estimate I'd have lost 70-80% of my income and would have been job hunting now, not writing full-time.

Please mention in your blog that 40% royalties on ebooks does not mean 40% of list price. The publisher gets 60-70% of list and THEN calculates your 40% from that. Many also take out fees for services and I've heard from authors that have since gone indie that they wound up with 11-19% of list price.

That's obscene and my big beef with publishers. They tout how they take care of all those big bad details like editing and covers, but then you have to keep paying for those one-time services thru the nose as long as they continue to sell your book. As I said above, some even deduct charges for those from your royalties!

For my first three books, granted with some discounts, I paid $2000 for the editor and $200 for the covers. With book 4, I'll pay $1700 for those two team members alone and $60 more for the formatter who will help take care of that detail I hate.

So to date, a publisher would have gotten at least $80000 of my proceeds, and more as time went on. If I had just sat back and let them take charge, I know I would not have sold 65000 books in 11 months, because I'd probably still be waiting for my first or second royalty check because of how long it takes them to accept and release a book.

I don't see that they would have promoted me nearly as well as I've promoted myself. ALL authors nowadays have to promote themselves. Even the Big 6 NY publishers have gotten lame in that area, unless you're a megastar like Nora Roberts or something.

Again, writers had better make sure they are ready first and not skip over all the years it takes to prepare themselves and learn this craft. It is too easy to publish your own work, without even getting it edited professionally.

I also know there are talented authors who prefer continuing on with a publisher because the thought of handling those few, but mega important, details is more bother than they want. Perhaps they still have day jobs and just want to focus on their writing. (Of course, they are losing so much of their income to the publisher and could possibly ditch the day job if they also ditched the publisher and went indie.) maybe they think the publisher is going to promote them and they don't want to do that themselves. (Talk about shooting themselves in the foot!)

Your suggestion of going with multiple publishers with or without going indie is also a good thing. Not all publishers are created equal. Ask their authors what they think before you sign. Don't focus on their stars, tho. Ask the ones whose books aren't at the top of the best seller lists, because that's where most writers start out.

Bottom line, it's a personal decision each author needs to make. I'm glad it has worked out for you, Bianca! You're a talented writer and you engage really well with readers (you big tease!) so I knew you'd do well as an indie. It's the ones who do nothing but promote themselves who turn readers off, but it is probably those who come across as real people and who put themselves out there on social media every day who do best at winning the hearts and minds of readers. Just my opinion, of course.

But indies also have to publish better books than those put out by publishers. You have to be different and suck readers in so they don't want to leave the world you've created. I write very emotional stories that aren't for everyone, but those who want to laugh, cry, and scream as they read will keep coming back for more, because I'm a big tease too! And they get addicted to the Masters at Arms Doms really quickly. My job is to keep providing a fix--and I'm late with the latest!

Gawd, I can't believe I typed this on my iPhone! But I'm very passionate about this! :)

I agree, self-publishing is NOT for everyone. New writers or those still learning the craft of writing should join writers groups, network, and find critique partners, because if you can't write a good story, even the publishers aren't going to take the time to nurture you along. I did this for about 20 years, off and on. (Possibly five years of dedicated RWA membership, meetings, conferences, etc., back in the 1990s.) I have eight manuscripts in various states of completion that I practiced on over those 20 years. You will NOT see me upload crap like that for readers to see, much less buy. I don't know many authors whose first attempts at writing novels were great reads. THAT's the problem with the ease of self-publishing. Too many writers see figures like those I shared and think that's going to happen to them. Heck, when I was trying to decide whether to self-pub, I was seeing what Bella Andre was making. Wow! I wanna be her when I grow up! And I know at least a handful of writers doing self-pubbing in this group who are making much more with their self-pubs than their publishers, even if they aren't as vocal as I am. But it's hard to determine if the publishers at least helped them find an audience.

I respectfully disagree with advice about going traditional first for those who DO know the business already, as I did. I had done my homework and I knew what I needed to do to succeed. I also had a RWA chapter mate who presented on going indie just when I needed to make the decision whether I submit to Samhain again and wait around (time I didn't have), or take the risk and go indie. I'm a risk taker AND I had a retirement nest egg that was supposed to be left untouched until I was at least 65 that I convinced my hubby to "invest" in me. So, I had 7 months to do nothing but write and get three books published. Three is the magic number for success, it seems.

(Names removed) and others are absolutely right if their assessment of themselves and their circumstances told them to go with a publisher for the support net and taking care of expenses they couldn't afford to cover at the time. Indies have to create their own support network. I am part of the Kentucky Independent Writers group (with lots of former and current RWA members tired of being second-class citizens in that organization), the online Indie Romance Ink group on Yahoo Groups, and I read blogs and network with other indie authors online. Of course, being with a publisher offers no guarantees either. Figuring out what readers want is a full-time job in and of itself.

So sometimes the publishers do have to eat the costs of the books that don't sell well and hope someone else in their house will help make ends meet. But I'm with Bianca Sommerland--it's all about the money. First off, getting $28 out of $70 made kinda sucks, but what IF the author's book made $5,000 from distributors in one month. I wouldn't want to be the author having to subsidize the others in the house who weren't selling as well. (Maybe that's selfish. I know publishers where everyone works together to promote each other's books and it just makes me tired to think of doing all the reading, reviewing, and pimping necessary to keep up. I'd never get any writing done. So, it's a control thing.)

Of course, I know a lot of indies AND writers with publishers who won't make $5000 in a year, much less a month. Whether it's because of the quality of the writing, the genre they in, the marketing they do or don't do (remember, all authors have to market themselves without appearing to be self-promoting all the time, because then they turn people off). Maybe it was a great book that just didn't catch on. If the publisher sticks with them through their third book (or the indie keeps writing and publishes a third book), chances are things will improve. If all I had done in that first year was publish Masters at Arms, I wouldn't be making a living at writing. It wasn't until Nobody's Hero (#3) came out that my sales went into 5-digit royalties the following month.

Here's Kristen Lamb's blog about five mistakes self-pubs make. I don't agree on all the points, but overall she has some excellent points.

I'm glad to hear there are some publishers who do right by their writers and that there are authors happy with their publishers. Too often over the last 20 years, though, I've heard the horror stories with publishers, which probably is part of what made it easier for me to go indie with no regrets.

I'd like to thank Kallypso Masters for sharing her experiences with us. For more about her journey, or info about her books--along with some seriously hot teasing, please visit: Ahh, Kallypso . . . the stories you tell. 

For #1 in the Self-Pub vs Traditional Pub series, please visit: Self-pub vs Traditional Pub series #1

Collection of Links to Information about Current Noble Romance Publishing Situation

I've created a new post just for the links which will be updated regularly. If you find links that are not on this list, please let me know. Thanks! 

Erastes: Jill Noble Quits Noble Publishing 
Erastes: Latest News from Noble Publishing

Friday, July 27, 2012

Self-Pub VS Traditional Pub Series#1: Free Fall into the Trash Bin and NOBLE ROMANCE PUBLISHING

So you want to publish a book? After dealing with a situation that made me feel powerless, I've decided to create a series of posts which will include warnings and advice for aspiring authors, as well as information for my beloved readers who need to know what's going on. Please check the bottom of the post for links to other Noble authors for more information.


This is a wonderful time for authors! There are so many options out there to bring your work to your readers. Literally hundreds of ebook and traditional publishers (which will both be lumped into trad pub in these posts just to simplify) are looking for authors, going through thousands of emails every day, and they are not just looking for the next EL James, Stephenie Meyer, or Amanda Hocking (yes, the last is self-pubbed, but I'm making a point! :^P ). Publishers know there are many wonderful authors out there that won't sell bazillions, but whom readers will love.

To top it off, if you're the type who likes to go it alone, who wants complete control of your work and has the confidence to step into the big bad publishing world bare ass to the breeze, then you have the power to do so! And it's never been easier! As long as you have the money for an editor, a quality cover artist, a formatter, and some to spare for promo, you're good to go. It's hard work, and it could take years before you make back your investment, but if you're good at networking and have some experience under your belt, you might get lucky and make it back within a few months. Kallypso Masters proved it can be done. I stopped being afraid, took her advice, and managed to do the same. I'm not as big as she is, but I've made back my investment and am now making as much money as my SO who gets paid 20$ an hour (and does LOTS of overtime).

**note** MAKING not getting. I'll be getting that money in September, but I'm doing decently for myself right now. Just had to add that for full disclosure.

Now, let's start with the warnings. Why? Because there are things you need to know before you take your first steps. I will give a few warnings about self-publishing before I bring up traditional  publishing because that will tie in with the situation with Noble Romance.

Self-publishing seems easy. With next to no effort, you can publish a document of almost any length with any picture--maybe even one you took yourself. You just need to upload it. There you go, you've got your own ebook. But who cares? You are one unknown amongst thousands of authors and you probably don't have the first clue as to how to get noticed. And if you didn't spend a whole lot of time learning your craft and polishing up that book, the few people who do pick up the book probably won't be impressed. Which ruins any chance you have at getting a jump start from the word of mouth train. This is one of the reasons I suggest most authors publish at least one book with a publisher before trying to go it alone.

There are exceptions, and you may be one of those who have the life experience to make a go of it so I won't say don't go directly to self-pub, but you must make sure you know what you're getting into.

Okay, so you want to go with a publisher. Now I need to give you a great BIG warning-and yes, I'm about to get to the part most of you have been skimming over everything else for <g>

DO NOT send out a single submission until you know everything you can possibly learn about a publisher. I say this because once you send out those emails, you will be so excited to hear back from anybody that you might just take the first offer. You may get rejected so many times that you think no one wants you and then OMG! Someone does!

I am with 2 publishers right now. Total Ebound and Noble Romance Publishing. Total Ebound is a publisher that I can personally recommend. Their covers are beautiful. Their editing process is excellent. Their royalty reports are detailed. I have had very good experiences with them.

As for Noble Romance Publishing, I could have made this entire post about my experiences with them, but I've given them enough of my time and will no doubt be forced to give them more as the situation continues to deteriorate. I would, however, like to take a moment to lay out the facts.

-Royalties are now a week late. Cover artists and Editors have not been paid. In the letter we received which has now been made public, this is the explanation for the delay:

The royalty payments which usually are sent out around the 20th to 25th of the month have not yet been sent out this month ONLY due to the fact that Jill did not provide the necessary royalty reports prior to her resignation.

This will mean that these royalty reports, unfortunately, will have to be compiled by others who do not have the same experience doing them and it will take until possibly the end of next week to have them completed properly, particularly with Sara's vacation schedule.


-Communication has been an issue for a very long time. Emails were consistently ignored. 

-The author's loop where the authors should have been free to discuss their concerns was closed.

There is more, but I am avoiding bringing up anything that may be speculation or hearsay. These are the things I know. These are the things you need to know before submitting to a publisher.

Some publishers may be very new and it may be difficult to find any information on them. However, there are a few ways you can inform yourself. Connect with other authors. Ask questions. I would even suggest bringing your contract to a lawyer who has experience in the business before you sign it. 

Most importantly, find out who the owner is. A majority of publishing houses are run by people with experience in the business. If they've been involved in a publishing company with issues in the past, find out how they handled it.

I am sharing my experiences for that very reason. To make sure aspiring authors are given the tools needed to make informed decisions. I do not know what will happen with Noble Romance Publishing in the long run, but several red flags have gone up that authors in the submission process, now and down the road, need to be aware of.

I will let one public comment made on Facebook speak for itself:

I know some may think it unwise to share this, but my silence in the past has cost myself, and others, enough.

For more information about the situation with Noble, please visit Collection of links to information about Current Noble Romance Publishing Situation

Moving on.

For the next week or so, I will be putting up posts with information and links that you may find helpful in starting--or expanding--your career. I will be opening up the blog to guest posts for anyone who has information they'd like to pass on. This will include positive experiences authors have with their publishers and posts from self-pubbed authors. If you'd like to be included, please email me biancasommerland AT gmail DOT com. 

To finish this off on a positive note, I will be giving away a book on each post to commenters. I think comments are very important because we all have different experiences that may be invaluable to someone. This series is mostly about passing on information, but a little incentive never hurts ;)

**NOTE** The image in this post is from Morguefile

morgueFile free photo:You are allowed to copy, distribute, transmit the work and to adapt the work. Attribution is not required. You are prohibited from using this work in a stand alone manner.

Quoted with permission:

**Although the term has come into the mainstream now, it originally was designed by PublishAmerica to differentiate themselves from standard New York publishers. Of course, it's also tough to come up with a different term, because there are so many models out there. If you're contrasting electronic publishing with self-publishing, you may wish to be a bit more specific than "traditional". With publishers moving into new outlets (such as Harlequin's vanity press), who is to say what's "traditional" anymore?


A better word may be 'standard' or 'commercial' publishing. I used the term familiar to me, but I thought I'd clarify. ;)

**edit** I have been informed that there was an issue because the screenshot contained pictures of people not involved. I have edited the image to removed those pictures. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


**NOTE** A scheduling mishap on my part made it so my blog is in 2 hops at the same time. The only way I could think to fix this is by doubling up the prizes! The First Blog hop ends July 17th, so I will announce the first winners then. Thanks for your understanding :) 

This is so the perfect Blog Hop for the Dartmouth Cobras! What makes it even more fitting is that these particular Cobras develop a very different relationship through the course of the 3rd book in the series, BREAKAWAY. I could tell you more, but I think I'll let the excerpt speak for itself! ;)  
Check out the bottom of the post for prizes and don't forget to comment for your chance to win! 

Rubbing his lips as he shook his head, he moved towards a bookshelf and picked up the first familiar book, Strangers by Dean Koontz. On another shelf he found a bottle of Jamaican rum and a tumbler which he filled before bringing the book and the glass to the chair. Not like he'd be able to sleep anyway.

"I have sports books."

Luke arched a brow as Seb slipped into the room and gave him a dry smile. "No picture books? With real big words?"

"I'm afraid not." Seb came to stand in front of him and lifted the book to see the cover. "I wouldn't have taken you for a fan of Koontz. This isn't one of his best."

"It's my favorite. All those people trying to piece together the weird shit that's happening to them. Lots of suspense. Couldn't put it down once I picked it up. Shocked my mom and read it in just three days."

"So you haven't read it recently?"

"Naw, when I was thirteen." Luke took a sip of rum, then gestured to Seb with the glass. "I hope you don't mind that I helped myself?"

"Not at all. I'd tell you to make yourself comfortable, but you've done that already."

"Yeah, sorry, bad habit." He grinned. "Bunnies hate it when they bring me home and find me checking out their Vagisil and shit in the bathroom. I figure, once I've had my tongue up your ass, 'privacy' is kinda a mute point."

Seb's eyes widened. Then he chuckled. "Well, since I haven't had that pleasure, should I assume you won't invade my privacy?"

Choking on a mouthful of rum, Luke stared at him. "You had your hand on my balls—aaannnd, umm, yeah, let's not talk about that. Want to talk about the playoffs? Think Mason's knee is solid enough?"

"I never discuss the playoffs until twenty-four hours before the game. It's superstitious nonsense, like—" He grazed Luke's scruffy cheek with his knuckles. "Not shaving during the playoffs. I noticed you started early."

"Yeah, well I shaved twice as often before, hoping it would help my beard grow faster once I stopped." He swallowed, unable to help leaning into Seb's touch. "You think it will work?"

"It's hard to tell." Seb crouched to eye level and traced Luke's jaw with his fingers in a way that made him shiver. His thumb brushed his bottom lip. "The growth is pretty even, no patchy spots that I can see. I doubt you'll make the rankings for worst playoff beards."


"So, why was your mother so shocked that you finished the book quickly?" Seb straightened and leaned a muscular forearm on the back of the chair. "She must have seen you read like that before?"

Luke grinned and shook his head. "Nope, not unless it was for school, and I grabbed the movie for reports every chance I got. My grades were sucky and my mom threatened not to let me play hockey anymore if I didn't get them up. My English marks were the worse, so I made her a deal. I would write an extra report, and if I got an A, she'd let me play. My English teacher agreed, under one condition. I had to choose a book over four hundred pages."

"You took that as a challenge?"

"Damn straight I did. And I got my A. My mom was so happy, she nagged my dad until he got me two new sticks. And not the cheap ones." He thumbed the pages of the book and smiled, recalling how every single one of Koontz's books had sat in a box beside the sticks on the kitchen table. "You see, my dad played hockey most his life—only made it to the minors though. He didn't finish school and had no other plans. So when he got injured, he couldn't get a good job. My mom was scared I'd do the same thing. She cried when I graduated high school, and cried some more when I got a scholarship to the University of Minnesota. Made her happy that she didn't raise a dumb jock."

"And your father?"

Finishing off his rum, Luke shrugged. "He didn't care whether or not I was dumb, so long as I played good. He showed up when I was drafted—five years after filing for divorce to chase some young tail, walking out on my mom and me—telling me he was so proud. I wanted to deck him. My mom worked her ass off as an orderly in a local hospital to pay for all my shit. Me making it had nothing to do with him."

"But you had your mother's support. Which is all that matters." Seb squeezed his shoulder. "Would you like another drink?"

Lips pressed together, Luke handed over his glass. "You gonna get me drunk so you can take advantage of me?"

Seb laughed. "I will never take advantage of you when you are drunk, semental. Whatever we do, you will have to face sober."

"Remind me to keep a flask on me at all times."

The dark look Seb gave him stilled his heart. He inched back into the chair as Seb returned, glass in hand, and loomed over him. "You may drink tonight. And tomorrow night. After that, you will be sober, niƱo. At all times. To be otherwise will disappoint both me and the team and you are better than that."

Yeah, I am. But I don't need you telling me what to do. Luke took a long, burning gulp of rum and scowled. "Are you under the impression that I give a fuck what you think?"

Placing his hand over the glass, Seb leaned over him, lips close enough to kiss. His accent thickened his tone as he spoke. "I know you care what I think, Luke. And I know you are fighting, very hard, not to. When you're done fighting it, let me know."

A brief, hot brush of lips and Seb moved away, leaving the room without looking back. Luke pressed his fingers to his lips and ground his teeth.

I. Don't. Care.

It took an insane amount of effort to choke down what would no doubt be one of his last drinks for awhile.

But that doesn't mean I care. Just means he's right.

 * * * *

Now for the prizes! Those who comment about the excerpt with their email in the comment will be entered for one of 4 chances to win a copy of their choice of one book from my backlist OR a copy of BREAKAWAY in the format of their choice the day of its release. Out of these 4 winners the 2  best comments will win Puck Bunny t-shirts. 

For even more awesome chances to win, click on the badges below. And GOOD LUCK!