This is the hand-out I didn't hand out (mostly because links work better online, right?). Keep in mind that I come from a romance writing/publishing background. I often talk to people who write other genres--I checked in with a few before I put together the presentation--but even those people concentrate on commercial fiction. 

Sites I mentioned in the talk:

Brenda Hiatt's show me the money. This is all about the romance genre. These are the writers who make money. Most people don't make a lot of money, not even multi-published, award-winning romance writers.*

If you go with big or small publishers, you'll want to find out if people are happy with the agent or publisher you're interested in, and there are sites that will help you avoid trouble. Keep in mind these sites are often a bunch of individuals weighing in with personal experiences and some of them are cranks or don't know how the system works**. Also remember: happy people tend not to to look for online places to vent their pleasure.
absolute write forum
editors and preditors

Visit these sites or ones like them, before you sign the contract.

You want to find out about issues--like your soon-to-be publisher has stopped paying royalties--before you sign. A publisher can still look good in the real world, be putting out books, presenting a happy face, and be in big trouble. Just look up Dorchester Publishing and you'll see what I mean. (Oh, look at that. Even their website is gone now.)

For people who want to publish with New York:
Huh. This book is set in NYC
-Lots of venues for your print book.
-they'll get you some foreign rights! Yay! (sometimes that's an agent's job. it'll be spelled out in your contracts)
-Movie rights! (your agent deals with them) 
-They do your cover your back-cover copy etc. Less work!
-They do a lot of promo for you. (Not all of it, so be prepared to work on promo)
-It's NYC! You feel like a real writer author now!

-After you get the advance, you'll only get royalties paid 2x a year
-They do your cover, your back-cover copy etc which means you don't get a lot of input (unless you're a big name)
-They're running scared in this brave new world so they will dump lots of authors. If your sell-through numbers aren't great, they will dump you rather than try to build your career.  Do not take it personally.
-Fewer editors doing more work + real fear + fewer venues = it's even more difficult to get contracts than it used to be.  That's hardly news to anyone buying books.
-In the past, their ebook rights were pretty meh--low percentage to the author. I think that's improving.

Other resources: If you want to go the NYC publishing route, you'll probably want an agent. (Visit your dream publisher online and see if they require an agent.) Find an agent that will fit your genre using
query tracker 
They now list publishers too. Great site!
god, I loved foreign rights

An article I wrote years ago about promo for paper books. It's old and obsolete, of course....but I did a lot of research and maybe some of it is still true?

For people who want to go with smaller presses:

-Some of them are starting to do more foreign rights sales.
-You don't need an agent to submit.
-They should keep track of the industry and buy ads in publications/sites and maybe will even feature your book.
-You're more likely to get reviews from review sites than you would as a self-publisher.
-You don't need to find an editor/proofreader/copy artist.  You don't have to mess around with loading your book at various sites. They do it for you!
-They might have some loyal followers who love their books. (This is particularly true for romance genre. People go to a publisher's site every week and pick up that week's reading from that site.) 
-Turn around from contract to finished book can be faster than NYC publishers (although that depends on the publisher)
-Most of them pay monthly.

-You rarely get an advance (and if you do, it's in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars)
-You get to keep more of the money if you self publish.

-You get final say on the cover and cover copy if you self publish

-In self-publishing, you can do things like make paper copies or audio copies available, which you probably can't do on your own if you go with a publisher....depending on your contract. 
-Their paper book distribution isn't nearly as amazing as the NYC publishers. (It used to be better. I don't see EC and Samhain in the bookstores the way I used to. Sigh.) Most of the smaller presses I know make their money with ebooks, even if they offer print copies.They do print on demand rather than mass market. (A whole talk on its own. I tried to touch on it, but wow, there's so much

NOTE! If they charge you to publish your book, they are not really a publisher. They might be a book packager, and that's fine, see below (but dammit, they shouldn't call themselves "publisher"). Legit publishers and agents eventually get money from you, but only in the form of royalties. They do not charge you money upfront. 

No matter which method you use, look them up before you sign anything! Ebook publishers come and go faster than you'd believe. Also see the note about who gets the money. You do, from them. You don't give them money. 

For people who want to self publish: 
-It's easy.
-You get full control of every decision about your book.
-A self-publisher is nimble enough to jump on new trends and opportunities that other publishers have to study and hold committee meetings for months to address. (NYC in particular)

 -It's easy--which means you're going to be competing with millions and millions and millions of other books. Most ebooks vanish without a trace into the sea of ebooks.
-there is a learning curve for the actual process of publishing and (ugh) for the promo. You might be faced with words like metadata and flux and, no, I'm not sure what they mean either and I've taken full-day workshops.
-Unless you are good good friends with a graphic designer and an editor, you probably will have to shell out some money if you want to be a success.You want to present a professional image which means you'll need to pay professionals.
-You have to keep track of the trends and opportunities and spend your own money on those ads.

Some important resources, places to actually do your publishing:
kdp at amazon, kindle direct publishing--this is the power-house's self publishing site, which is easy to use, do it yourself. It is NOT the same as the publishing imprints now run by Amazon--for example Montlake for romance.
 Barnes and Noble's new format for publishing (replacing pubit). Still some bugs in this one (like it's impossible to edit a book once it's published--you'll end up with a brand-new book and unable to delete the old version.) 
Smashwords -- which is a venue, like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, but more important, it is a book converter and distributor. When you load a book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, the book will only be for sale at Amazon or B&N. Smashwords will distribute to other retailers (like Apple and KOBO) for you.

another resource: Mark Coker's article about formatting. You'll run into this article/book if you use Smashwords, but it's good for other self publishing venues. It's easy to read and it has good advice about stripping all the pesky formatting put in by Word and other programs.

 BTW Smashwords will convert your books into all the formats you'll want and they will do it for free. NO COST. Wait, that's not true. You do pay them eventually, but they are a venue, a distribution point, an online bookstore for your book. You will pay a percentage of your royalties to the places that carry your ebooks, but you do not pay those people up front.

If you go with Smashwords, I advise opting out of the Barnes and Noble and the Amazon and KOBO options and load your books at those places yourself, just because those sites are easy to use and if you do it yourself, you can make changes etc fast and easy. Sorry, Mark.

Look for other online venues! For romance, you can sell your book at places like All Romance Ebooks.

Do not shell out cash up front unless you know and trust the services they provide. DO YOUR RESEARCH. ASK OTHER SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS. JOIN LOOPS on Yahoo like this one.

Read webpages by people like John Scalzi and other successful self published people, keeping in mind that their experience will not be yours. The path to success is different for everyone--and it changes every week or so.

What will you pay for if you self publish?
Lots of stuff. 
If you don't want to mess with conversion, Format Fairies and others can do it for you.
Do the research and find a cover artist you like. Find an editor and proofreader you like. Pay them once and get the job done. That's it. No royalties to them.

Yo! This is fun and relatively new: Your book can end up as an audiobook (My exception about paying royalties is paying the narrators at ACX, but that's because I've done some research about audiobooks and man, oh man those things are work! And the good ones are $200-400 an hour which I won't pay.) Check out ACX's stipend program for your books. They were supposed to cancel it in March, but I think it's still running.

If you really really want print copies of your books, check out Createspace. This is Amazon's self publishing for print books. There are other places like lulu, but I haven't dealt with them in years. Anyone know if they're still competitive?

Let me say this once more: IN POP FICTION***, THE MONEY FLOWS ONE WAY AND THAT IS TOWARD THE WRITER. But this is a brave new world and maybe you're not a commercial writer....

More and more there are book-packaging people who do everything a publisher does, except you pay them. That feels like vanity press to me, but some writers are happy with them. Just do your research, okay? make sure they are really not ripping you off.

Once upon a time I would have said do not try one-stop shopping. But some people have told me I'm talking through my hat. All right, maybe vanity press can work for you, but I also think that a book packager should call themselves that, rather than "publisher" because see that statement about the money flow? How it goes TO YOU the author? But okay, so you want one stop shopping. Fine. Go for it. But listen:
If a book packager promises you that you will get sales, watch out.
If a book packager won't break down what you're paying for, hmmm. Avoid them.
If a book packager doesn't let you see other books they've done, say no thanks. 
If a book packager takes a huge chunk of your royalties ON TOP OF MAKING YOU PAY for

ALSO....Steven Leibo at the talk mentioned subvention and it's a real option for academic writers.

Additional notes about what do you self-pub types pay for? Self-published author Patrice Fitzgerald agrees with the "pay for a professional cover" comment. However she manages to get skilled friends to do her editing/proofing so she saves her money there.

She does pay for formatting at and especially if your books has fun symbols and fonts, go with them. Patrice also recommends 

UPDATE from comments: Here's the blog post in which Patrice talked about 5 Tips for Self-Publishing Success.

There are always some hot new advertising opportunities. I mentioned BookBub at the talk and at this moment in time, it seems to be working really well for a lot of people I know. Keep in mind, though, that these things help sell books for a while and then then they stop working. Who knows why they stop working? Who knows when they'll stop? Answer: No one. NO ONE KNOWS.

Okay this is turning into a huge unwieldy thing, rather like the talk. Add your own basic info you've learned about publishing -- or ask questions. I'll answer them or, if I don't know the answer, I will bug one of my many Professional Friends to give you an honest (perhaps anonymous) answer.


* like me. 

**the system usually involves a lot of Rejection and Heartbreak. Please keep that in mind. You are not the only one to be trampled and/or ignored. If you end up happy without experiencing any R&H at any point in your career, yay! Good! But the fact is, immediately happy, continuously successful people, you are the exception. 
 If you want to be an author and do not like being a writer, give it up now, while you still enjoy books. The writing might be the only nourishing part of your career, she says, only slightly subjectively. Others can confirm this.   

*** commercial, popular, genre . . . lots of names for the fiction that I guess doesn't qualify as literary or experimental. But the labels are dumb, really.  


  1. I added the illustrations so I could pin this to pinterest.

    The pictures really have nothing to do with the story. (But I do love those dang foreign covers.)

  2. Thanks for putting this all together, Kate, and talking to us today. An awesome amount of information to cover, because this is a wide field, and things keep changing!

    Here's the blog post in which I talked about 5 Tips for Self-Publishing Success, which are up-to-the-minute ways to increase your likelihood of selling books and making money.

    Thanks for mentioning me!

  3. Great blog, but I gotta admit, I read through because I thought it said "listened to meat at Mark Twain".
    I thought perhaps you were giving away recipes, Kate.

    Good, sound insight into the world of publishing.

    Meat...heh heh.

  4. meat works for me. MEAT AT MARK'S HOUSE is a way better title.

    waving to Irene. Hi,Irene.

  5. Thanks for all the links.


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