I wrote this two weeks ago but new computer woes kept me from finishing it. Even though the day I sent the manuscript off is now two weeks behind us, I decided to leave it as it was:
I had been planning to write a post inspired by the comments from last week’s article on the Virtue of Angst (or perhaps I should call it: Angst, Uh, What Is It Good For?). But something significant happened today. I figured it was worthy of a post.
Today, I sent my latest novel off the publisher!
The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin went off to Dark Quest Books this morning just before noon.
So I thought I might talk a bit about why Rachel Griffin went off to Dark Quest and not to a Big House publisher.
The first question might be: Was this book rejected by the Big New York Publishing Houses?
The answer is: No. I never submitted it.
I decided I wanted to publish it as an ebook, for a series of reasons. I will list some of them below. Then, Dark Quest Books, a small publishing house, expressed interest. I spoke with them and discovered that their royalty rates were not much less than if I did it myself—about the same as if I had an agent. But they would do the work of posting the ebook in various places. They would also provide a print copy. This sounded pretty good.
If I think of it as going from Tor to Dark Quest, it seems like a step backwards, but if I think of it as going from ebook to ebook with help, it seems like a step forward!
So…why did I chose ebook?
With the Big Houses, an author gets 6% of the cover price. This includes ebooks, where we get 6%. Independent ebooks pay 60% to 70%, depending on venue, cover price, and other issues. That’s a big difference per book.
Recently, I bought four books by a friend. The purchase came to $25. He got about $18 of that. If you went out and bought a hardcover by John or I, it would cost about $25. We would get about $1.50.
Ebooks cost between .99 to $4.99. At $4.99, I would make $2.50.
I have to sell a lot less books to make the same money.
2) Ebook Potential.
I spoke with friends who are selling ebooks, including Jonathan Moeller, who is doing very well with his ebook sales. I determined from speaking to them that this series was a good candidate to do well as an ebook. I don’t expect it to sell much at first, but the series is addictive, like potato chips. That kind of model…where if you can sell the first one, people who like it at all will probably want more…seems a good candidate for ebook…where one of the sales techniques is to give away the first book for free if you have later books. (Dark Quest may chose not to do this, but it’s an option.)
3) Square Peg in a Round Bookstore.
Right now, traditional publishing has rather narrow ideas of what a book in a certain category should be like. A YA should be a certain length. It should have characters of a certain age. Etc. My book does not fit this model. My main character starts out twelve (she’ll get older), younger than a YA character should be. The book is a bit short of 110,000 words. Too long for a YA.
If I publish it as an ebook, it can find its audience without anyone worrying abou these artificial constraints.
4) Editing Freedom.
This project had a lot of things I worried about, both from the point of view of whether my publisher would dislike certain things as the series went on, but more from the point of view that I did not want to embarrass them. This story started as a fan-fic style roleplaying game. I think I have a pretty good grasp on the law and how much I have to change so as not to be stepping on anyone’s toes. But satisfying the law and satisfying the reader are two different things.
So far, readers have really liked the Roanoke Academy background, and when they have recognized who a character originally was—I left a few details in as homages to the original authors—they were amused. But who knows what the general public will think. I was worried about having to go over with my editor exactly what I had borrowed and changed. Now, I won’t have to worry about that.
Though there are a lot of books out there that seem mighty close to other books…so maybe they would not have cared. Still, it is delightful to have editorial freedom and not worry that someone will object to anything I might be writing.
5) No end date.
My physical books got into the books store, when they did at all, for a short time. Then they disappear again. My publisher has complete control over how many to print and whether to bother printing them again.
An ebook just goes out there…and stays. When a later volume comes out, the first volume will still be as available as ever for someone to download and read.
This means that the book does not need to do well right away, like a print book does. It can sit there and gently build up steam over time. True, it may never do so. But, considering that I think the later books in this series will be better than the first one—not because there is anything wrong with the first one, but just that the story becomes more interesting as it builds—at least this model will give it the opportunity to find its way, should that be what Providence has in mind for it.
6) And, finally, Prayer.
I prayed about it a great deal. And then quietly did what came to me. What I think is interesting is that my Big House sale was a fight every step of the way. Nothing happened easily. Each step had to be prayed through and fought through to get to the next step.
This project, on the other hand, has come about very graciously–each piece unfolding just as it was needed. The result has been a great deal of fun. I got to pick my own cover artist. I talked to quite a few artists and finally found one I’m quite hopeful about. I even get to include some drawings done by John!
And the best thing of all is how many friends are included in the project. When I was little, I belonged to a group called the Ward Pound Ridge Wood Elves. In our early days, we threw parties and kidnapped people (to make them attend the party.) Then, with time, we would meet and read Tolkien aloud. Finally, with time, we morphed into a literary group, with poets, writers, actors, and musicians each performing their original material.
I was quite young and used to wish so much that we could all do some project together, that we would all grow up to be successful in our fields. That sense—of wishing I could see a group of friends succeed together—has stayed with me.
So, I am so delighted that so many steps of this project—from the conception to the publishing—has involved the participation of friends.
Good luck, Rachel Griffin. May you prosper and soar!