The Upper Peninsula Authors and Publishers Conference in Marquette each spring is a rare opportunity for writers around the region to come together. This year’s sessions included everything from word games to a practical talk on how to make a living freelance writing. For me the tone felt distinctly indie, with self-publishing favored over the traditional route, which was dismissed as more difficult and less profitable.
The audience has a lot to do with the success of such events. Even an off-hand suggestion can make a project better, as WLUC TV-6 weatherman Karl Bohnak explained https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYUoHapQePU to the group. His book title was changed from So Cold a Sky: Upper Peninsula Storm History to So Cold a Sky: Upper Peninsula Storm Stories when someone at a book-writing seminar noted that “stories” is more appealing than “history.” http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Upper-Michigan-Weather-Stories/dp/097781890X
Bohnak, on the “Working with a Traditional Publisher vs. Self-Publishing” panel, also had less-than-ideal experiences with an academic-traditional publisher combo. He says that if you’re looking for image quality and complete control, it’s best to work with a reputable publisher and pay to have everything done properly. He never considered any other route for “Storm Stories.” http://www.pulicereport.com/2010/02/interview-ron-jolly-and-karl-bohnak-coauthors-of-michigans-upper-peninsula-almanac.html
The choice between a lousy publisher and doing an excellent job publishing your book on your own is clear.
You go with the excellence.
But in real life I don’t think all publishers are slip-shod any more than I believe Amazon is the Antichrist.
I think it’s not one or the other.
I think your perfect publishing model, like mine, could be unique to your situation. It could be a hybrid.
Know this: It is NOT impossible to land a publishing contract. It’s not a one-in-10-million shot. It happens all the time.
Know this, too: Vanity press shysters abound. Waves of alarm rippled through the audience when a fellow scribe said he’s mentoring a writer who went against his indie-publishing recommendation and chose a “top” publisher who asked for thousands up front. If you’re asked to pay any amount of money to have your book published then you’re not dealing with a top publisher. You’re being ripped off. The crème de la crème do not ever ask you to pay.
And also, know there are some services you shouldn’t do yourself: You must have your book edited. Before you submit it anywhere. Or before you self-publish. It’s not debatable. All three panelists chose self-publishing because they wanted quality. Quality means your work is edited. Not by you. Not by your cousin’s daughter’s boyfriend who is really good at English. By a professional.
A good editor will run at least $1,000 per book. Perhaps you can swap out services or figure out another way to trade for in-kind services. A couple of names came up at the conference. Message me or inquire in the reply section and I’ll pass them along. There are others. Always ask for recommendations before you hire an unknown. In most cases you should also pay for cover design and formatting, unless you have a lot of experience in either discipline. And even then, objectivity and another pair of eyes are vital.
I’m happy with my publishing contract for More Than You Think You Know. http://www.beatingwindward.com/books.html The traditional path with the twist of a small press is for me a dream come true. I have faith in this quirky press with a young, talented publisher and bold ideas. We’ve meshed well so far, worked out a fair deal and are in sync with our desire to create a can’t-put-it-down experience for readers. “The book is very good, but with a directed rewrite I think it can be incredible,” my publisher wrote in his acceptance letter. He continually reminds me that changes are optional, that suggestions are just that and that everything is up for discussion. So dire conference talk about losing control of your book doesn’t ring true for me. And as an editor as well as a writer who’s so accustomed to working independently for me it’s a joyful feeling to put myself in the hands of editors who know what they’re doing and can teach me new, fun techniques.
So maybe – probably – you won’t land a six-figure publishing contract with a huge house that hands over hefty advances and sells the Hollywood script rights for a jillion dollars. So what? I didn’t hear anyone at the conference say they’re earning a six-figure income by self-publishing either. If you’re writing books to get rich, well, good luck with that. As UPPAA president Tyler Tichelaar https://tylerrtichelaar.wordpress.com/ says, he writes his novels because he has to and for him that has been so since he was a teen-ager.
Next year I’d like to see more on traditional publishing. I’d like to hear from a literary agent. I’d also like nitty-gritty tips from book-selling veterans of the dog-and-pony show circuit. How many book copies do you take, what tents are best, et al. And also maybe something on how to give a book talk as an author. Do you have ideas for conference topics next year or want to find more about membership? Contact the group through its blog http://uppaa.org/