So I had an offer on Death by Cliché. That might seem like a slam dunk. Here’s the thing, though: I wasn’t sure that it was the smartest business move.
If Curiosity Quills had been one of the Big Five, It would have been an easier decision (but still not a slam dunk). You see, I have access to a rather large audience. I am a part of a podcast network that tops out at more listeners than our local ABC news affiliate. On top of that, I’m friends with multiple authors with blogs that gathered more than 50,000 visitors a day. If everyone I knew got the word out, It would probably exceed any marketing push Curiosity Quills is likely to rally. Heck, Orbit Books just asked one of these people if he’d like more review copies after seeing the bump in sales on a book he blogged. This doesn’t mean that these people will all buy, but to get as many interested eyes on the book, Curiosity Quills would need one hell of a marketing push.
For those who didn’t follow why that made self-publishing appealing, let me explain. It comes down to the royalty split. Say for the ease of discussion that I get 25% of the cover price of a book. All things being equal, that reduces the money I make off the readers I bring to the table by 75%. The publisher would need to bring three times as many new readers to my book to earn their split. If I get 50%, they have to bring an equal number. If I make 75%, they have to bring a third. You see how that works.
On the other hand, I don’t know these people are going to blog about the book. Most of them only mention books they really believe in and their are spectacular books they never actually blog. They are too tactful to commit to anything. I’m too tactful to push matters. So while my potential marketing reach is huge for a new writer, there’s no guarantee that my practical marketing reach will come anywhere near that.
There’s another, less tangible benefit to going to Curiosity Quills. There is a credibility that comes from a third party thinking that your book is worth buying. There are many very successful self-published authors, but when you say you’re self published, there’s always that moment where the person you’re talking to thinks, “Oh. Well, a five-year-old can technically self publish.” Again, nothing against that option, obviously I was seriously looking at it myself, but if you’re traditionally published the book shows someone else believes in it merely by the fact it exists.
And then there are a dozen other little perks. Having someone else deal with your cover. Having an editor and a proofreader go over the book without having to hire them seperately. Marketers. Publisher’s Marker subscriptions. Facebook groups filled with other authors from the same publisher. These add up. I couldn’t decide.
So I did what any good writer would do. I stalled.
I had just submitted a manuscript partial to an agent, so that was a good excuse. I told James I’d get back to him when I heard back, but I didn’t want to make any big decisions with a book she might want to represent. A few months later, she responded and passed on that partial, but asked for another (I always mention what I’m working on in my queries so the agent knows I have more than the one book in me). She rejected that one as well, but I never received the rejection. It was about nine months before I confirmed that with a follow-up query.
I don’t recommend leaving a publisher hanging like this. I think part of me was hoping that he’d have to withdraw the offer and I wouldn’t have to choose. I had the book entirely page-made when he’d asked to buy it. With one evening of work, I could have pulled the trigger on self publishing. I will point out I run an indie RPG press. I have the tools to self publish. I agonized over the right thing to do.
I kept him hanging for over a year.
I put out tentative feelers to my blogging friends, but at least one of them seemed to come back as a very polite refusal to blog about the book . This later turned out to be a miscommunication, but it cast doubt that anyone would be willing to blog a review. I would almost certainly have the podcast network for an ad, but I just couldn’t count on the others.
But while all of that brought me closer to the decision, none of it really made up my mind.
My mind was made up by the Comic Cons in 2014. During that time, I felt an increasing resentment among the writers I respected toward the self-published crowd. A lot of them were borish on panels. There were instances of cash transactions happening during the panels themselves (not before or after). It was a few bad apples causing this shift, but the shift was there. Self publishing proliferated through the cons. I’ve spent years building up networks with these people. I didn’t want to categorize myself with an annoying element.
And there was that implied credibility. For every Michaelbrent Collings out there, there are dozens of self published writers with almost no sales. When I’m buying a book, unless it’s from someone like Michaelbrent, my first question is to try to verify if other people found the book worthy. This might be done through reviews and recommendations, but the easiest first question is, “Did someone else find this book worth publishing?”
So I finally decided that having another person invested in my career was worth it, even if the royalty split meant less money. It showed the consumer that I wasn’t the only one to think the work had value and it meant someone else out there cared about whether I succeeded or failed.
In spring on 2015, I told James I’d accept his offer. Luckily, it was still valid.