Again I started a reply to a comment
and got long-winded.
The question is, are you looking for a job or starting a business?
If you're looking for a job, where writing (and the occasional public appearance) is your only responsibility, the agent/publisher route is
the only one for you. It's true that they generally don't respect POD/self-published books, and when you look at the majority of those books, it's obvious why. There's still a lot of stereotyping going on, because vanity press is not
synonymous with POD/self-publishing, though they do overlap in places. To use a mathematical explanation, the set of books which are self-published contains a set of books which are POD as well as a set of books which are vanity press. The set of books which are POD intersects the set of books which are vanity press. Just because I could, I made a diagram:
Actually, it might be more accurate to have the POD set extending out of the set of Self-Published Books, because there are
publishers that do POD - they're just not very big.
And of course, 90% of everything is crud.
I doubt it would even be considered, any more than an original novel posted on fictionpress.net would be considered, as "published"
Ironically, some magazines will consider website posting (including blogs) as published if it disqualifies your work from their "we require first rights" clause. Just figures that they'll have double-standards as long as it works in their favor.
Still, no, I'm not advocating putting a self-published book on your resumé when querying an agent or publisher, but the downsides to the "getting a job" route are:
1 - It's hard to get in.
2 - Even if you get in, it's not likely to be enough to live on
3 - Publicity is still largely left up to the author
4 - The industry really is in a state of flux
and hasn't quite figured out what to do about it
5 - You could get stuck
with a contract problem
6 - Business is about sales, and publishers seem to focus their selling efforts on the retailers more than the book readers. See again Miss Snark's comments on PR campaigns when people state their primary reason for reading a book is a recommendation from a friend
Starting a business, on the other hand, means you make plans and get things to happen, whether you do it all yourself or hire people to do parts of it for you. That's what I had in mind when I said POD was a good way to get started. I haven't finished a book yet, but I have been selling snarky T-Shirts and other stuff on CafePress
for a couple of years now, and that's as good an example as any. Pretend the T-shirts are POD books (CP will do
books, if you only want B&W inside), and the whole system works the same way. (For that matter, the whole thing will work with music and film/video now, too, which is part of my point in the first place.)
I joined CP Jan 1, 2004. It was largely a whim, because, 'hey, cool, I can upload my pictures and they'll make stuff and sell it.' (I think I found out about them because a LOTR fanfic writer I liked was using them and mentioned her elf-related shirts.) I determined that within the limitations of their free shops I could create a broad range of items and so I generated maybe a dozen or so images. Each image got a shop of its own and I added almost every product available in the free shop, then started resizing images and naming products and changing prices. It got tedious and I walked away from it.
In the year and a half that I ignored the CP account, it sold two or three items and left me all of $2 in my account. Also in that year and a half, CP improved the automation of their site and enabled me to finish a lot of the products I'd left dangling before with much less effort (ie - mass naming and pricing, as opposed to having to edit the name and price of every product individually). The new tools were encouraging, and I pruned the existing product list, deleting images that (in hindsight) were pretty dumb and adding new products. I also started linking it in places I frequented online and in my email signature.
I started making more sales. In the little-more-than-a-year since I started paying real attention to it, I've gotten two checks from them and used the other proceeds from the shop to buy a premium shop which expands my product availability and display options. If the sales growth continues as it has been, I may start making enough money to be significant in the next year. (By significant, I mean enough that the IRS will require it to be listed as a source of income, though not likely to replace my current job just yet - but eventually.) I still have to tend to it somewhat, to update designs and so forth, but it's largely hands-off, in that the credit card processing and order fulfillment is handled by CP, and with no up-front cash outlay on my part.
This is what I meant for authors. CP and Lulu will let you do this with books and CDs. (CinemaNow will let you do this with movie downloads, though they're not quite as open as CP - you do have to convince them your film is worth uploading and selling through their site.) Yes, the per-unit price will be higher than a mass-printed book, but since you're not paying for a print run, you're saving in the initial startup. Better the other way? If it's your business, it's your choice. Either way, the decisions are yours, the control is yours, and the rights are still yours. Advertising and marketing (no, they're not synonymous, though they are related) are up to you, and if you know where to look, you can get decent advice on different approaches to both.
I found this interesting link
on Google while I was searching for articles on book publicity.
But it's very hard to get your books into stores without any sort of reference, and online stores like Amazon.com and Barnes@Noble.com, as huge as they are, just don't cut it (I speak from personal experience).
When you say this, you make me very curious. Is your work still available on Amazon and B&N? How have you tried marketing it? While I realize that there are still a lot of people who don't go online to find books, Amazon is my primary resource, and I know a lot of people who are the same way. I'd be very interested in seeing if your book's sales could improve with a few targeted marketing efforts.
It's difficult to spend so much time and energy attempting to sell and promote your book when one works 48 hours a week and has bills out the wazoo to pay that, unfortunately, must come first.
I can identify. Boy, can I identify. On the other hand, there is a very good reason for the phrase "work smarter, not harder," however clichéd it is. There are simple ways to promote and there are hard ways to promote. Not knowing what you tried, I can't offer judgment on how you were going, but it's possible there are easier ways.
Posting chapters online for people to preview doesn't even seem to help, because people just aren't interested in reading original novels that aren't in book format. They all seem to prefer fanfiction.
Posting chapters online only helps if people already have a reason to check them out. If you have a fanfic following, then links to the original chapters on your fanfic pages might help. You may also be facing the I-won't-read-a-WIP factor: "If I read the samples, I'm going to get hooked on a story that isn't finished here, and then I'll have to wonder about it
until I can save up enough money for the rest of the book." Try to get some reviews in blogs with a high readership in the genre/subject/topic you write and see if that changes anything.
Plus, I do like the fact that through a traditional publisher, I'd be getting paid to publish my work, not the other way around.
Again, this is getting-a-job vs. starting-a-business talk. It's very common on writing sites, largely because they're trying to warn people away from the scam sites that will say anything about your writing to get you to pay them, but consider reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad
for another voice in the "if you want to make money, start a business" camp. Don't pay a scammer, but think seriously about promotion. Good advice can be worth millions.
I have come across countless "gurus" touting their ebooks (or "information packages" - sometimes huge DVD or CD kits with bound books and electronic templates) on How to Make Money Online, and most of them are really not very good writers. One in particular was rather offensive toward suggestions that he spellcheck (or hire a proofreader for) his writing before he finalized his ebook. Nevertheless, many of these people are making decent money online. Why? Because it's about the selling more than the writing. They network with other online marketers (most often by offering a small percentage to the referring marketer - Clickbank is a favored method of doing this), create opt-in email lists to advertise their products, give away freebies to generate interest, and intensify demand by making it a short-term offering. Some of them use pay-per-click advertising or search engine optimization to bring in traffic. Most of them use the exact same format on their websites; a long, excitable sales letter full of testimonials and "limited supply!" Many of them make more than enough to live on, just from their internet business.
Should you buy all of those How-To packages? No. There's only one I'm prepared to recommend at the moment, and that's Rosalind Gardner
, because she's more balanced and less inclined to senseless hype than many of the others. I subscribed to her email list for several months to see what kind of information she was offering before I was willing to spend money on her book. Too many people offer useless tidbits in their "newsletters" and expect you to shell out big bucks for their special package, but Rosalind had some valuable tips in her emails, and she repeatedly emphasizes the need to use a variety of income methods, so that you're not caught and ruined when Google changes their search engine algorithm.
How does this apply to writers/filmmakers/singers/songwriters? You still have to create the product (book, movie, CD/MP3) and you have to make it with quality, but then you can promote it online the same way these "gurus" promote their "get rich online" plans: email newsletters, blogs, YouTube/MySpace postings, T-Shirts/mugs/magnets/etc, online samples, reviews at high-traffic blogs or news sites, collaboration with other netizens, free (or nearly free) trinkety-type-things with your URL on it, and so forth. Sell it. People keep trying to make sales this huge complicated deal, and it's not - it's very simple. Figure out who your audience is (Who will want this? Hint - the answer isn't "Everyone!") and then find out where they tend to congregate. Where do they hang out and who do they ask for advice? Then go there and give them a reason to check out your work. I guarantee that if you manage to attract attention from Oprah, the only reason the publishers will care that it's self-published is the fact that they might still have a chance to buy the rights from you and get in on the profits.
I've been wanting to say all that for a while. I feel a bit better now;)