We have run the full spectrum this week. It was just announced that Indie author Amanda Hockings signed a $2 million-plus deal with St. Martin's for a four-book series that will begin in the fall of 2012. Here is the link to the the NYTimes article on this deal. They bring up some excellent points in this article, as did NYT bestselling author Barry Eisler, when he recently walked away from a $500K, two book deal.
So, does this mean that somewhere between $500,000 and $2 million is where indie authors should cut a deal? What is your cut off point? It has been an interesting week.
Making Minnesota proud!
We can add Hocking to the list of things Austin, Minnesota, is known for – the other being where all the SPAM is made. That, and where I almost took a reporter job with the daily paper there.
This just proves again that self-publishing is the new vetting system for the traditional publishing system. The author takes the initial risk with printing, marketing, etc., instead of the publisher. Then if it pays out, the publisher buys in.
On her blog, Hocking cited these three points as the major factors when making her decision:
It boils down to these points:
1. Readers inability to find my books when they want them. I am getting an increasing number of emails from people who go into bookstores to buy my books for themselves or friends or family members, and not only does Barnes & Noble not carry my book, they can't even order it for them. People are requesting my books, and they can't get them.
2. Readers complaints about the editing of my books. I have hired editors. Many, many editors. And I know that I can outsource editing, but I'm clearly doing a really shitty job of picking editors. EDIT: The people hired as editors are great people who worked very hard. Which is the most frustrating thing about the continued complaints of errors in my books. I know that my books are better because of the people I hired. And I don't understand how there can still be errors. So my remark at "shitty" is over my frustration at the situation. Not the actual editors or the work they did.
3. The amount of books I've written and the rate of speed that I write books. If it took me five years to write a book, and I only had one book written, I'd be thinking long and hard about this deal. But right now, I have 19 books currently written. By the time the Watersong series goes to print, I'll still have 19-24 titles at least that I can self-publish.
Amanda has a healthy attitude toward this deal with St.Martin's. It would be understandable to have a publisher oversee the editing, designing, marketing and publicity, while allowing her to focus on writing. And it is smart for her to see how things work out, knowing she most still has an option of going back to self-publishing with her 19+ novels already written.
Now, I've never had the opportunity of working with a traditional publisher, but the common expectation I hear from mid-list authors is that marketing and publicity help is skimpy and bare bones. True, authors get the 'respectability' of having their book on the shelf of brick-and-mortar stores, but getting readers to come in and buy falls more on the writer, not the publisher. If this is more often the case, then I don't see much difference between self-publishing and tradition publishing, except that the writers get a much lower percentage with the latter and a little more help (editing, design, etc). I wonder if traditional publishers--given the changes in today's buying market--can actually reach those readers that have been attracted to the works of Hocking and other successful self-publishers. Can publishers reach those readers who seek a good read for a lot less money than the prices traditional publisher demand. Lastly, I wonder if Amanda's fans, those who have grown accustom to price points of $.99-$2.99, will continue to follow her when those prices triple.
At least she has $2 million to gamble with to see what happens next.
There's a great interview of both Barry Eisler and Amanda Hocking here. Very informative stuff.