Thursday, October 4, 2012

Some Day My Print Will Come

This question’s for all the writers out there. What version do you want your book, your baby, to wind up in, electronic or print?

Hint: it’s okay to answer “both.” For a lot of writers, publication is the ultimate goal, with the medium secondary. My first full-length novel (over 50,000 words) was released as an ebook. And yeah, I did the happy dance and ate chocolate and called all my friends. I’d been published before with stories in magazines, but this was a freakin’ BOOK. A lifelong goal finally struck off the bucket list.

Happy as I was, though, I still missed the thrill of finally, after years of subs and rejections, holding a finished, physical book in my hands. Somehow, even though I had my ARCs and I could see the sales mounting up in my author’s account, without a print-and-paper book to hold it didn’t seem quite real.

I love books. I like to sit up in bed with a book in my hand and read until I’m tired enough to sleep. I keep reading material next to the couch for those hideously long commercial breaks that are the bane of cable TV. I love to wander through a bookstore and check out the covers and flip through the pages. Barnes and Noble (and Borders, in its day) were even nice enough to put chairs out so I could skim whole novels before deciding whether or not to buy them. Try doing that on Amazon.

I’ve already blogged about the downside of that in my “Clutter” posts. I’ve got books stacked all over the house. Some people compulsively buy shoes and handbags. I go in for paperbacks. Back when I had disposable income I thought nothing of dropping $30-$50 a shot at the Waldenbooks in the mall. They’re all crammed into the book room, waiting for me to get back to them for the third or fourth or fifth time.

Electronic may be nice. It would certainly cut out the clutter, and you can’t beat a file for portability. I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort and heavy lifting during my last move if I’d had my library on Kindle.

I wouldn’t know. I don’t own a Kindle or Nook, and I’m in no hurry to get one. Maybe it’s because I grew up in one of the last non-electronic generations, but I still look for the physical comfort of a book in my hands when I want to read. If I ever move again I might change my mind, but I don’t think so. (I can always hire hunky young guys to lift the boxes for me.)

Besides, I’ve heard Amazon can delete files from your Kindle, even if they’ve been bought and paid for. What the hell? I paid for it! It’s mine now! Try taking one of my paperbacks away and see if you make it to the door. Not to mention I’ve lived through a computer crash. Paper doesn’t crash, and Amazon can’t delete it behind your back. Granted, computer files don’t go up in a house fire. I’ll just have to take precautions.

And what’s more impressive—a library with floor-to-ceiling shelves of books stretching back to your childhood, or a Kindle on a coffee table? I don’t think anyone’s ever looked at a Kindle and exclaimed, “Wow, you’ve read all those?”

What brought this on was Harper Voyager’s open call for manuscripts, no agents needed. I had a book I hope matches what they’re looking for, and if I get off my butt before October 14 I might just have another. Here’s the drawback, though: the deal ebook only. There may be a chance of print further down the line, but Harper’s not making any guarantees.

I don’t know if that’s good enough. I happen to like the book I sent, and the book I may also send, if not to Harper then to somewhere else. Both are lengthy enough to justify print, even if it’s just POD. I want my print copies. I want that tangible proof that I’m writer enough that somebody paid me in order to read my stuff.

So what do I do if Harper makes an offer? I’m already thinking that over. I still harbor dreams of seeing my books on the shelf in a bookstore, before bookstores go down the tubes. If Harper can’t promise me print to go with the electronic, or doesn’t want to let me keep my print rights so I can commission my own, I might have to turn them down. I can always go the self-publishing route.

That first book? Eventually it did go to print, and you betcha dupa I got a copy. I’m building a library in a shelf in my bedroom of my scanty output in print. Every now and then I pick one up, riffle through it, and grin like an idiot. Somehow a file on the laptop just doesn’t have the same impact.

Though ask me again if I ever have to pack up 40-odd years worth of book collecting and move them from one location to another. As long as I can get paper backup, I might give Kindle a chance.


Savanna Kougar said...

So, with Harper what kind of royalties are they offering? And, are they honest? Authors with BIG BOY PUBLISHERS are getting gypped out of ebook royalties at times. Really, who do you trust?

I think it would be a deal breaker for me if they didn't offer print or didn't ONLY want ebook rights. ONLY!

I mean they can only trade on their BIG status for so long.

I don't know if Harper is honest or not in paying royalties, or if they pay in any kind of timely manner. Some of the biggies don't.

Yeah, I would have liked to walk into a bookstore and seen my books on the shelves. But that dream is gone. I just can't go with the current mafia-like distribution system. Because OVERALL that means, it's not the best books out there by the top authors. It's not what people are choosing to read. It's a rigged system. So, to me, it means nothing.

Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't fabulous books and fabulous authors. It simply means the playing field is so tilted, so unfair, I refuse to support it, or throw my book pearls before the corp swine.

To add, I have no clue if I would be published by the biggies, if it was a fair playing field. ~shug?~


Pat C. said...

These concerns and more are heatedly being debated on the AW forums right now. That "ebook only, with a possibility of print" is what set a lot of people off, and now has me entertaining second thoughts. They didn't mention the royalty amounts either, and I couldn't find any stats on Harper's regular submissions page.

Of course, we're all getting ahead of ourselves. This will all be covered in the contract, should any of us land one. Contracts can be negotiated or, in the extreme, walked away from. I may be writing a follow-up blog in January.

In a semi-related topic: wasn't Harper Collins the publisher that dumped all its midlist writers back in the '90s or thereabouts?

Pat C. said...

And here's another thing that ticks me off. Publishers don't want simultaneous submissions. At the same time, more and more are telling us "due to the volume of submissions, we'll only respond if we're interested." Yeah? How long am I supposed to wait? Three months? Six months? A year? I'm getting up there. I may not have that long.

Harper was nice enough to tell us we've got a three-month wait. If we haven't heard by then, we're not going to. As for simultaneous subs, here's my finger. I sent the same book out to Amazon's new SF imprint back in July. They also won't call unless they're interested, but they don't even give a time frame. Be interesting to see what happens.

Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah, I don't remember about midlist dumping by Harper Collins. Although, I have heard of Harlequin pulling that one on a small scale... but then, their midlist authors don't make that much... at least, they didn't... it was always the lure of making it to the top.

That's it. Who the hell cares about them if they're going to take forever, and then not respond. Because even if you don't make the big figures by Indie publishing, at least, it's something.

I mean, why bother unless you do have a time frame? They aren't the gods of publishing, or of picking top authors. It's all been basically hype. Wish I'd known that way back when. It's basically a racket, with a few bright spots -- that is, good books found, fought for, and published despite the current trends.

Pat C. said...

By the way, Siren's minimum for print now is 35K words. I found out when Lena sent me an email letting me know Temptation and Tights was getting a print version and I went wha? Isn't it too short for print? Guess not. It pretty much tanked in sales, but I know Amazon's going to sell at least one print copy ...

Savanna Kougar said...

Oh, that is interesting. Maybe the cost of producing for print has lessened, or there's more of a demand. Or, perhaps, Siren is becoming more competitive.

Pat, I'm surprised. I would have thought TEMPTATION AND TIGHTS would be perfect for para-manlove readers.

My superhero menage seems to have garnered more notice lately on Amazon, and including a share site that I had to tell to take it down. I just figured it was because there was more interest in this subgenre.

Could be Amazon readers and other venues will be your ticket.