PBS’ MediaShift (which just launched an ebook line) has a great post up called “The Real Costs of Self-Publishing a Book.” Breaking down the process from developmental editing (the most pricey) to marketing and PR, writer Miral Sattar estimates it will run an author between $4,160 (low end) and $26,599 (high end) to self-publish a book of about 70,000 words (or, approximately 280 pages). As you might imagine, editing, cover design and marketing/PR carry the biggest price tags. Check out the full breakdown here and read the comments. Some insist you can self-publish for even less than the “low-end” price.
The transition from print to digital has claimed yet more jobs. Media Bistro’s Galleycat reports Pearson has notified 19 employees their services will be terminated at the end of the month. The company statement explained: “Pearson’s businesses continue to shift from traditional print models to digital products and services. As our business needs have shifted, we’ve had to make difficult but necessary decisions about staffing.” Publishing isn’t the only industry that has been hit. Over the last few weeks, the New York Post, New York Daily News, and Say Media either announced voluntary buyouts or let staffers go. The two top editors at the Village Voice resigned rather than follow the directive from upper management to trim five from their already slim 20-member staff.
Amazon Publishing has launched “Kindle Love Stories” via its romance imprint Montlake Romance. PaidContent.org reports the love story hub “will feature author interviews, reviews and trends in romance books, and is accompanied by a book discussion group on Goodreads.” (Amazon acquired Goodreads six weeks ago.) Paid Content adds, KLS will “primarily [focus] on titles published by Amazon, all of those titles should be available free to Kindle owners through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.”
PBS has released two new ebooks via their digital media initiative MediaShift, PaidContent.org reports, with a plan to release 10 to 20 more over the course of the year. “This is a test for us and PBS,” said Mark Glaser, MediaShift’s Executive Editor, of the first two titles How to Self-Publish Your Book and Your Guide to Cutting the Cord to Cable TV. “[W]e will learn as we go and adjust prices, length, subject matter and more.”
I don’t know what’s more demoralizing. Getting a rejection from an agent, publisher, or residency/fellowship. But as writers, rejections are part of the job description as even established and successful authors compete for dwindling funding and hyper-competitive grants. That’s why Tayari Jones‘ recent post “Pep Talk For A Young Writer” is required reading.
In the piece, Jones, who wrote the acclaimed novel Silver Sparrow, admits, “I sometimes read [rejection letters] as– Dear Ms. Jones, we don’t like you and or your work,” but adds “after serving on a number of committees that award fellowships/residencies/admissions/whatever, I can tell you from the inside… I have never sat on a grant panel where there haven’t been very good applications that had to be turned down.”
Jones says the culprit is money, or the lack thereof.
“[A]rtists who used to make enough money from doing art–because they are accomplished and well known–are now applying for more grants and contests to get by, to get published. It’s really shocking, how I see pretty big names on press releases for grants, etc that used to be unofficially earmarked for emerging writers.”
She closes with a reminder to keep the rejection in perspective. “[Y]ou are still growing and learning and creating,” Jones writes, “Keep at it. Try again next year. It’s just a matter of time. I promise.”
Digital industry newsletter Publishers Lunch has released a free ebook called Buzz Books 2013 featuring excerpts of new works from some of the most successful writers in the business. Joy Luck Club author Amy Tan, She’s Come Undone scribe Wally Lamb, and Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame are among the starry names. Actor and writer James Franco is also debuting new fiction in the ebook. BostonHerald.com reports Buzz Books 2013 is now available for download on Kindle, Nook, and other digital devices. Two weeks ago, a site called Obooko.com launched announcing it would offer new and emerging writers’ work for free download.
Last week, the Authors Guild and Google went back to court to argue in favor of (Authors Guild) and against (Google) a ruling that gives writers the right to class action status. Last May, Judge Denny Chin granted the Authors Guild a class certification, thereby enabling them to file a class action suit against Google. To further complicate things, last October “[Judge Harold] Baer ruled that the [Google] scan program was a clear fair use under the copyright law.”
To back up, Google has been surfacing snippets of books in search results, arguing that it is fair use of the work since the results don’t show the full book. Authors Guild President Scott Turow laid out the rebuttal in a recent New York Times‘ op-ed, writing:
Google says this is a “fair use” of the works, an exception to copyright, because it shows only snippets of the books in response to each search. Of course, over the course of thousands of searches, Google is using the whole book and selling ads each time, while sharing none of the revenue with the author or publisher.
Litigation has been ongoing.
If Judge Chin’s order is reversed, Publishers Weekly muses, “[it] would be a serious blow to the AG’s case, and would certainly serve as a catalyst to settle.”
To go back to Scott Turow’s point, my question is: shouldn’t writers be getting a cut of Google’s ad revenue related to the searches that surface their book results? Whether the Guild wins or loses this battle, we need to know the answer.
For many writers, the path to publication is fraught with rejection and interminable periods waiting for a response or decision. Not so for Chinelo Okparanta who was named one of Granta Magazine’s six New Voices for 2012.
Her upcoming story collection Happiness, Like Water, which she wrote while attending the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, was sold, she says, “in a very non-dramatic, almost underwhelming sort of way.” Instead, the Amazon description of her book suggests all the excitement is reserved for the stories in her book. “In Happiness, Like Water Chinelo Okparanta offers a portrait of Nigeria that is surprising, shocking, heartrending, loving,” the abstract reads.
Coming August 13, 2013, Okparanta points to “Wahala!” and “Story, Story!” for the surprises promised in the synopsis, adding, “All the stories are quite a bit heartrending, but ‘Runs Girl’, ‘Grace’, ‘Tumors and Butterflies’ and ‘Shelter’ stick out to me as the most heartrending.”
Pre-order a copy here.
What sparked you to write Happiness, Like Water?
I wrote many, if not all, of the stories during my second year at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Each story had its own separate trigger–an incident, a memory, an emotion, a problem. Whatever the trigger, I made it a point to sit down and write, and to my surprise, the stories gushed out.
What was your process for writing Happiness, Like Water?
I wrote HLW while completing my MFA at Iowa… I’ve never set for myself a strict writing schedule, but I do find that my head is much clearer in the mornings than later in the day, and so I’ve gotten into the habit of writing as soon as I wake up. Of course, it’s not every morning that one sets out to write that one succeeds in getting any writing done.
What’s the short story of how Happiness, Like Water got published?
HLW was lucky. I was lucky. Editors and agents frequently visit the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and I was lucky to be signed by one of these visiting agents. Shortly after, I was lucky to have two stories picked up by a visiting editor. The timing was right. Eventually the book was sold–in a very non-dramatic, almost underwhelming sort of way.
Being from Nigeria, I’m sure you’ve been called an “African writer” at least once in your career. How do you feel about the term?
I’ve been called an African writer, yes. The term does not bother me insofar as I am in fact African and proud of my African-ness. But I am also aware that the term “African Writer”, like many other racial labels, can be limiting, constricting. In a sense, claustrophobic. This is the nature of categorization in general. Categories have a way of boxing us up, of creating divisions, of constructing walls that seem to say, “You belong there, but I here.” I understand that categories are also essential for acknowledging the existence of differences. They can be affirming, and so I appreciate them. In recent history, they have even been essential in the fight for equal rights of underrepresented groups. They have led to quite a bit of progress where that is concerned. However, I believe that it will be a sign of even more progress when we arrive at a point in which we no longer have to rely so heavily on them, not even as a marketing ploy.
What are you working on next?
A novel and a second collection of stories.
More writers share their thoughts, process, & publishing paths:
People also more than “like” Facebook COO turned author Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.
Lean In has topped the New York Times Best Sellers for Hardcover Non-Fiction for the past eight weeks; and according to Publishers Weekly, the advice tome aimed at women in the workplace sold nearly 74,000 copies in its first week, making it “the hottest selling new non-fiction book so far this year.”
Barnes and Noble is opening a new store in Indianapolis. Amidst all the news of store closings and poor Nook sales, the nearly 150 year old book seller keeps swinging. Publishers Weekly reports the new location “will have a NOOK Boutique along with an expanded children’s department and educational toys and games. The store will carry over 60,000 books and will hold NOOK Nights on Wednesday evenings and training classes on Saturday mornings.”
In other book store news, the former CFO of Borders Books Edward Wilhelm has been nominated to serve on the board of Books-A-Million.