Ten Reasons Why I am Self-Publishing (Part 2) by Jordan Dane

Author Jordan Dane

I hope you saved room for a nice juicy steak. Part two of my post will cover the meaty reasons why I am self-publishing and building my virtual shelf. Point #6 deals with publishing industry contractual terms—something I didn’t know before I sold, but am dealing with now years later. Don’t get me started on Rights Reversion language. Oh, wait. That’s exactly where we’ll start. (If you missed Part One, you can read it here.)

6.) Control of Your Book Rights –Subsidiary Rights, Foreign Rights, and Reversion Rights. Retaining control of your digital rights (for e-books) and not have them tied up for years after your book is released is a HUGE benefit. The current contract language for e-books is lumped in with print book definitions. Makes no sense that digital books would have ANYTHING to do with print books, but most publishing contracts have these definitions lumped together in one clause or another (ie. “out of print” definitions and rights reversion language). Some of you may not know this or realize the impact until you try and get your backlist rights back, only to realize your house can keep rolling their rights to your work for years. This can be a nightmare. This is a HUGE reason for an author to self-publish, or at the very least, push to define e-books separately and not link the contractual terms to that of print book definitions. Why can’t e-book rights be limited to 2-3 years and stop? Why must an author ask for permission for rights that should automatically revert back to them and undergo a lengthy process over another 12-18 months where their digital rights are tied to royalty statements and definitions of books in print? Foreign rights can be lucrative too if your agent works this angle and shops them aggressively. Who knows? Maybe you both can shop those foreign rights on your next trip to France. Road trip!

7.) More Attainable Sales Figures – Digital sales are faster to get and reporting is more immediate. This was mentioned in the cash flow section, but because you have management decisions to make on pricing and other strategies, it can’t hurt to get sales figures faster. Does “the Donald” have to wait…for anything? I think not.

8.) Books Always Available Online – There is no limit to “shelf space” online and no inventory costs. Plus printed books are made “on demand” and don’t have to sit around in warehouses for them to be shipped, distributed and then sent back when they can’t sell in 1-2 months. I know that I’m over-simplifying this process, but not by much.

9.) Manageable Production Cost on Book –You can format the book, do your own cover, and control your cost as you see fit. I personally want to spend the money to have my books professionally edited. Building a relationship with an editor takes time, but I think I’ve found someone. (Be still my heart.) I don’t have to rely on my house to assign my book to someone. I can work with an editor on my own from project to project. For some books, I may choose to do a simple cover design by buying images off iStock for a front cover (on a digital only book, for example). Covers can range from $150-400 on digital only books, or can go up from there for a Print-on-Demand (POD) book that requires spine and back cover design, for example.

10.) Promotion Budget Control – I’m new to this process of publishing my own books, but I do know that any money I spend to promote my books is completely under my control. If I want to “try” advertising, I can do it without a committee. I can also see the effects of that money more immediately in my website hits or digital sales. And if I want a new pair of shoes—OOPS! There goes the ad money.

For the aspiring author, self-publishing can be an interesting way to get noticed if your book or your writer’s voice develops a readership. Publishers pay attention to who is selling in this new digital world. Your efforts can showcase your writing while it earns you money. Even a moderately successful book will have sales associated with it that can be shown to a new publisher so they don’t feel they are sticking their neck out on a new author with no track record or readership. Writing a good book can be parlayed into a more lucrative deal in the future.

As a warm up for my first novel length self-pubbed book—BLOOD SCORE—the project that I turned down an offer on, I’ve released other indie books to gain experience. ONE AUTHOR’S AHA MOMENTS is a non-fiction author craft book with a focus on writing for the Young Adult market. This craft book is now available in ebook with POD coming through CreateSpace. I also have my first anthology of ebook short stories (SEX, DEATH and MOIST TOWELETTES) with a teaser short (DARK KISS) offered from that as a standalone on Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.

After going through these first projects, I’ve gained good experience and see how I must rethink how I promote and spend money. For example, the cost that I would normally spend on promo (from travel, bookmarks, mailings, and book signings) might be reallocated toward book cost production instead. The cost of a book might run $500-2000, depending upon how much you spend on editing, cover art, and formatting. But when you compare this cost to traveling to one conference, you see that your ability to reach new readers is better achieved through a new book that stays available online. But all bets are off if you go to conferences to “network” in the bar with buddies—a favorite author pastime.

There are pros and cons for any direction we take in this new digital arena, but isn’t it nice to have options?

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HarperCollins launched Jordan Dane’s suspense novels back to back in 2008 after the 3-book series sold in auction. Ripped from the headlines, Jordan’s gritty plots weave a tapestry of vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense thrillers to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag. This national best selling, critically acclaimed author’s debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM was named Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2008. Her adult thriller, RECKONING FOR THE DEAD, is book #4 in the Sweet Justice series for HarperCollins. Dane’s first Young Adult book is IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS (Harlequin Teen) with ON A DARK WING released January 2012. Her next YA books with Harlequin Teen will be a series – THE HUNTED, release slated for fall 2012 through 2013. Formerly an energy sales manager, she now writes full time. Jordan and her husband share their Texas residence with two cats of highborn lineage and two very lucky rescue dogs. You can learn more about Jordan at her website, her Amazon.com author’s page and her Barnes & Noble author’s page.

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30 thoughts on “Ten Reasons Why I am Self-Publishing (Part 2) by Jordan Dane”

  1. Hey DV–Every author will have to make up their own mind about which way makes sense for them, but it's great to have options. Authors Guild is pressing for greater recognition for indie authors. It's coming.

    JD

  2. Very well written article. I'd been looking forward to Part 2.

    I am an Indie author as well, and am glad that I went that way.

    Your point about contractual stuff is well taken. There should be a separate section covering e-books, AND a renewal should be based on the assent of BOTH parties, and not the publisher having the one-sided "option" to renew the agreement at their discretion.

    That seems to be another issue I've read about.

    1. Exactly, Anna Rose. You have to be careful because contract language can include digital references to determine "out of print." That makes no sense to me. Digital/ebook language should be separate from print terms and it should not be onerous for an author to reclaim their rights after a reasonable amount of time, ie 2-3 yrs for ebooks. Many times there are clauses that state an author must request their rights back in writing and then they have to wait 18 months or more, all while they are waiting to see if the publisher plans on reissuing a book in some fashion. You can burn in contract hell for a long time, waiting. Scary stuff.

      1. And I won't even get into the publishers who make you BUY your rights back. May the fleas of a thousand yeti infest their knickers.

  3. There's some very valuable, useful and important information in both parts of your post. Many thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Jorden.

  4. Jordan, well-thought out post. I love that we have options too. So much of publishing seems out of our control, I like having some control back.

    1. Traditional publishing houses are taking notice of the succcess some self-published authors are getting, but their response (much like a kitten with its head in a bag = if they can't see you, you can't see it) is to look the other way and try to pretend that it's all business as usual.

      It's a reflection of the whole contract. The classic traditional publisher contract is often a poorly written document in modern times, and I imagine someone just threw the word "e-book" into a convenient place in the contract in the original version of the rights section. However, an ebook is NOT "in print". It's an electronic document and should be addressed as such.

      Print infers ink (or some other medium) being used to create designs on paper (or whatever other physical substance).

      It's an ELECTRONIC book. Not a "print" book.

      I do know that there are authors out there who are signing up with traditional publishers, but who are demanind to keep the rights to the e-book editions of their work.

      Can't say I blame them.

      At least as I see things. Your mileage may vary.

      1. Anna Rose–I came from the energy industry and worked plenty of contracts. You are very right about the antiquated terms of the contracts–very one-sided. Author beware, for sure.

    2. Definitely. Control is a good thing. I've even changed how I submit new proposals. I consider writing the whole MS first so I can self-pub if I don't get a response worth considering. Even if they're offering an advance, it may not be enough to tie up my rights.

  5. Knowing what not to do as an indie is often every bit as important as knowing how to promote your work in terms of marketing etc. Many thanks. These posts have been invaluable.

  6. My internet has been down all week, amazing how cut off you feel; especially as an Indie. Glad I got back on line for part 2. Excellent post, Jordan.

  7. Not so many who write about this mention rights.

    It's worth thinking about, though. I am editing an anthology this week have been trying to get rights to run something out of four books from a small press gobbled up by Random House.

    Three of the books are out of print. The other is going nowhere.

    Everybody involved wants this to happen for the promotion boost it would give the existing book.

    But Random House–who didn't publish it in the first place, don't know the author, and who have no plans to bring the out of print books back into print–denied reprint rights unless I would specify a number of copies in the print run. I explained that POD and ebooks don't have print runs and was refused, because they can't grant "blanket permission". To use work from OUT OF PRINT books to promote the one that's still in print.

    The author and his agent can do nothing about this. The small press that published them originally can do nothing. It's all in the hands of a corporate robot who doesn't even know the books' titles or author.

    1. What a nightmare, Lin. Get a lawyer or join Authors Guild & get their legal review for free. There could also be "class action" potential with the other authors from that same small press in the same boat.

      It would seem logical to me that even if your agreement got bought or assigned, the terms of that agreement for "out of print" definitions & reversion language would have to apply. If there is no mention of print runs for rights reversion, then how can RH apply it? Publishers often try to use print book definitions for digital rights when it suits their position, but they can't have it both ways.

    2. I'm thinking it could be funny too, Lin, for you to apply for membership to every writers group that previously might have denied you because you were indie or with a small press they didnt recognize. Use your Random House status to do that.

      Once you're in, you stay & reap the membership benefits. Orgs like Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers (which is still free), Romance Writers of Amer–many of these orgs have resource & promotion benefits that may help you down the road.

  8. Jordan,

    I read Part One with relish and enjoyed the valuable information in Part Two. One thing I didn't see mentioned: as you self-publish, is your agent still an involved entity? And do you find that agents are now re-evaluating the indie presses since the Big Six seem so abjectly against matching their contracts to the reality of the current publishing industry? (ie: welcome to the digital age, fellas)

    1. Good questions, Samantha. I love my agent, Meredith Bernstein. We ate feeling our way through all these changes. I appreciate all her work past & present, so I want her efforts to be rewarded. I do proposals for her to pitch. She handles my YA book deals. Even if I self-pubbed a novel, she can work foreign & subrights & film, but I'm not far enough along to have much experience.

      Some agents also have their own self-publishing dept, but I think that has too much potential for conflict of interest. Author beware. So many agents fear their role might be diminished going forward, but a good agent gets an author through doors with more opportunities. My agent jumpstarted my career & she's hanging tough through all these changes. She's very important to me.

      I'm definitely asking my agent to broaden her experiences with smaller boutique publishers. Egmont, Amulet Books & others put out top notch books with more promo.

      An agent might have to think of deals as ala carte & not bundled. I'm waiting for ebook terms to be negotiated separately or self-pubbed books with solid sales could be reissued through a publisher, like Amanda Hocking & John Locke did.

      Thanks, Samantha.

    2. Samantha, if I may, we've also got a great post from John Barlow coming up about just this subject at 5 a.m. Pacific time on the 24th of this month.

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