What defines success of a first time author?
For Jeff Mudgett, author of BLOODSTAINS, his first published work, success comes in various forms; book sales, recognition, and cold hard cash! His foray into publishing his first book took many turns, including turning down an offer by a traditional publisher. To self-publish was his decision, it was good for him, and for his book, which is currently being developed as a major Hollywood movie, the dream come true for most authors.
Taking his words from the page to Hollywood, Mudgett has a lot to share and teach, and is willing to do it so other new authors will be able to duplicate his successes, and avoid his pitfalls and mistakes. He speaks to writer’s groups, classes and conferences, not only about the information contained in BLOODSTAINS, but his process in becoming a successful, self-published author.
Anyone who seeks to make a living as an author knows it’s a long stretch to reach a form of success for your first book, especially with the competition which is now engaged, and the ease of online self-publishing in any form.
With the ever-changing publishing industry, most established writers have opinions on what’s the best way to become published, but, there have never been more opportunities available for well known, lessor known, and even unknown authors to be compensated for their work, as well as options utilizing a mix of both traditional and self-publishing practices.
Consider the following while deciding which is the best option for your next book:
Distribution and exposure
Traditional publishers have the edge into the literary distribution channels for their books, and therefore will be able to offer much more exposure to book sellers and libraries. They also employ staff members who take care of seeing their books are in the proper channels according to author, genre, and fan base. They have the experience to quickly put the author’s (and book’s) foot in the door in order to saturate the market with a new offering.
Self-publishers have a harder time getting into important book distributors and catalogs because book stores are hesitant to carry self-published books and unknown authors. They want books they know will sell, those with a proven track record and equitable return policy. Self-published authors don’t have this advantage although there are ways to push through. A 2009 article on Self-Publishing Review explains how this can be done. While it’s a lot of extra work for authors, it better levels the playing field when trying to get a new book exposure to book sellers and distributors.
Traditional publishers hold certain control of a book when a contract is signed, often all rights included for a set amount of time. Often through a collaborative effort with the author, they will decide how words are to be written and formatted through the editing process. They have the final decision including cover art, using their skills and experience with what sells from the shelf. Ask yourself how much of your own vision is important to you and how much are you willing to put into the hands of others, albeit professionals. Costs are absorbed by the publisher, but, remember the author ultimately is still paying for it. This is an area where a good agent can help by negotiating a contract to reflect the things that are important to the author.
Self-publishers, on the other hand, have total control of every process, and retain rights to the book and future deals. They can choose which process to outsource to professionals, like editing and cover design, and have the final say on what’s acceptable to them. Expect to pay extra for each action required to publish, but, consider how much is invested in the vision, and how important is it to retain control. Also remember that authors likely are not experienced in these processes and may not have the skills to create a product as a professional.
Traditional publishers have the power of marketing, but in recent years have decreased their marketing only to include established, often best-selling authors. A new author with their first book will find very little assistance in marketing efforts by publishers. J.A. Konrath says, “So the current publishing model is to do the bare minimum, and see if magic happens on its own. And magic happens often enough to keep everyone in the game, trying to figure out how to reproduce it.” The days of publisher sponsored book tours are long over, however they still wield the power of placement in catalogs, distributors, and book stores.
Self-publishers often don’t know where to start when it comes time to market their book, however, many print on demand companies offer marketing packages and a new author may wish to take advantage of one that fills the gaps in what they are able to do for themselves. Indie authors continuously carve out their own niche marketing sites which feature books, author interviews, and excerpts from self-published books. It’s wise for self-published authors to become known through these channels as well as participating in social media platforms, contests, and apply for book awards. These tasks take the author’s time and effort, as well as presenting another learning process, and take away from the time devoted to write. Marketing a new book is a must, although often a confusing endeavor for a first time author seeking to breakthrough to readers.
Royalties and Profit margins
Traditional publishing takes the author through several layers, all which expect a piece of the pie, starting with a good literary agent who has contacts with the industry. A new book needs to be polished, presented, and pitched to the right publishing company that will fully represent it and the author. Once a contract is signed, there may be an advance paid to the author to cover some of the expenses of writing, but, most likely, there will be no advance for a new author. The thing to remember here is the author will not receive any royalty payments until book sales pay back that advanced amount. So, what is the expected payment and when? It’s the luck of the draw which depends on how well the book is marketed, promoted, advertised, and sold. The bottom line is one never knows when they will hit the lottery, the first ticket bought, or the 50th, and the same holds true with publishing, it’s luck (and a good book!). Royalty amounts can be expected to be between 6-25% from most publishers, normally paid twice a year.
Self-publishers control their own profit margin by setting their own sales price. This is where a good sense of business and the marketplace comes in handy and a clear understanding of costs, markups, and profit structure. Successful self-published authors are seeing a difference, a real paycheck, paid monthly, a monetary indicator of how well their book has been received. Simply put, in terms of the cold, hard cash, self-publishers have the opportunity to write their own paycheck, provided they are willing to do the work!
Time to the Marketplace
Traditional publishing, because of it’s process, will take on average of 6-18 months to launch; from the idea to print, approximately 2 years. Remember the layers of the process; queries to literary agents, contracts, editing, cover art, advance marketing, all done by different people involved in the project. In an age of instant gratification, authors must recognize that publishing takes time as each step in the cycle will be completed by different people.
Self-publishing, although able to be done at the push of a button, also requires time. To create and produce a quality book it still needs to be edited, it still needs to have a winning cover, and it still needs advance marketing. Writers are left with all of these tasks to either do themselves, or to outsource to other professionals, at extra cost. The advantage is that if there are future changes, authors, or their representative, can make them with relative ease. The time it takes to get a self-published book from idea to market may be less, but completed steps in the process done well will determine a successful launch date.
Jeff Mudgett and self-publishing BLOODSTAINS
Was Jeff Mudgett’s achievement with BLOODSTAINS quick and painless? No, but by creating a quality product he was able to offer readers a book written with a message that only he could convey, packaged within a cover of his choice that draws readers into it, and offer it to a wide fan base cultivated by appearances and social media.
Mudgett’s success as a self-published author is a testament to perseverance and professionalism, not cutting important procedures and costs to get a book to the masses. Many thousands of copies later, BLOODSTAINS continues to find its way into new markets every day.
With the next chapter in Mudgett’s story unfolding as he assists in the development of a Hollywood film, he is available to teach and talk to others who may be wondering how to step into a new literary world of self-publishing.
To schedule Jeff Mudgett to speak at your next event, class, seminar, or conference please contact:
ImaginePublicity tel: 843-808-0859 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A New Literary World: Success of Self-Publishing, BLOODSTAINS and Jeff Mudgett