"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

SOLSTICE and Indie Publishing: 1 Month Retrospective

So it’s been one month since the release of my YA ebook, SOLSTICE. Yay! I’ve been overwhelmed by all the positive feedback I’ve received. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read SOLSTICE, expressed interest, or in some way supported it. SOLSTICE and I really appreciate it :)

Since the release of SOLSTICE was announced, I’ve had lots of authors (traditionally pubbed, self-pubbed, pre-pubbed) contact me to ask about my decision to publish independently and to ask how my agency is involved, so I thought it would be worthwhile to take a few minutes and share how my last month has been. And let me preface by saying SOLSTICE is not my first book. I have a middle-grade fantasy trilogy out from a small publisher. So, though small, I have gone the traditional route, too.

First the pros. What good has come out of the independent release of SOLSTICE?

1) Foremost, SOLSTICE is out in the world and people are reading it. With the huge upswing in mythology books, I have to admit that a small part of me died each time I saw a new deal announced or a new book coming out on YA mythology. I came achingly close to selling an earlier version of SOLSTICE a year ago, and when it fell through, it crushed me. But I revised and made SOLSTICE so much better. But it's time was now. Comparable titles for SOLSTICE are ABANDON, STARCROSSED, and THE GODDESS TEST, all of which are releases within the last month—not a year and a half from now. As authors we all know the pain of pouring our soul into something only to see a deal in Publisher’s Weekly for something so close to our story it hurts. I no longer have to suffer that pain with SOLSTICE. If I had waited, I'd risk having that mythology craze diminish and having SOLSTICE be an afterthought. Not what I wanted for something I've worked so hard on.

2) With the market shifting digitally so quickly, I’ve had the huge advantage of learning about this new ebook market. And it’s fun. And exciting.

3) The low price of the SOLSTICE ebook makes it accessible to so many teens and readers. Teens hear about SOLSTICE and they are pumped. And when I mention the price point, they get even more excited. I’ve gone from selling middle grade hardcovers from a small press for $16.95 each to selling a YA ebook for $2.99. Price matters.

4) SOLSTICE is currently an ebook. But since I am working with my agency, I have the opportunity for foreign sales and rights. Not to mention it will be coming out in paper very soon.

5) New speaking opportunities have opened up as a result of taking the ebook route. For example, I’ll be featured at our Austin SCBWI Digital ePublishing Symposium this fall, and I’ll also be on two panels at this weekends Writer’s League of Texas conference.

6) My agent makes me feel like a rock star. Seriously, she has been beyond supportive and excited about the entire process. I love that.

7) I have been blessed with friends who have given me and SOLSTICE amazing support. Like over the top. It seriously makes me tear up when I see how supporting people can be. I love you all!

Okay, with pros, there are always cons. Have there been cons with bringing SOLSTICE out independently as an ebook? Sure.

1) Out with it first…There is a huge stigma associated with self publishing. People may claim they don’t have this bias or may come up with reasons for their bias, but many readers allow the traditional publishing industry to tell them what to read and never venture outside of that circle. In my one-month experience, I’ve seen bias in the form of email responses (and non-responses), condescension, and reluctance to blurb. Am I cool with this? Totally. The stigma exists. But it is changing, and in the future, it will go away.

2) Hitting the library and bookstore market with an ebook is not quite in place yet. Does this mean that library conferences are not useful? No way. Librarians are still amazing advocates and love to read. So I’ll continue to do what I can in this market.

3) People who don’t read ebooks are reluctant to give ebooks a chance. They claim they love the feel of books in their hands, and I respect this. I used to be this person. I’m not now, and more and more I want to shift to ebooks. Ebooks are convenient to buy. Reading on an ereader is way more comfortable. I’m saving the environment. Sure, I still love owning “real” books, but I think, for me, this is more materialism than anything else.

4) A self-published ebook is not eligible for many awards, state lists, and reviews. There are strict rules in place for this much of the time. So what’s a girl to do? Look for other marketing avenues and research what awards and reviews are a possibility. And write the next book.

Also, I want to state something I do not see as a con. In my current arrangement for SOLSTICE, Andrea Brown Literary Agency receives 15% of the royalties. Have they earned this? Heck, yes. SOLSTICE has been edited numerous times and not just by me. I’ve had the benefit of having some amazing pairs of eyes on it, and they have really helped shape it into a story I am so proud of. Not to mention they’ve taken care of all the effort of making SOLSTICE a real book. I absolutely could have learned this on my own, but I didn’t have to. And I don’t regret that one bit.

Based on emails and Twitter DMs and Facebook messages and what I’ve read on the Verla Kay Blueboards, there are many authors considering this ebook route. There are many that have already done so. Am I happy to be a pioneer in the movement? Absolutely!

Questions? Ask away!


Eva said...

Thank you for sharing your story. You are helping other writers to make more informed decisions, and I'm one of them!

By the way, I just finished Solstice and loved it. It is very clever and absolutely nothing like Starcrossed and some of the others you mentioned. The dystopian angle adds another twist to the Greek mythology, and it was lovely to see how they are tied together! Way to go!

PJ Hoover said...

Hi Eva, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. And thank you for reading SOLSTICE! I am so happy you loved it! I adore the dystopian angle, too, and am glad it worked for you. See you this weekend at WLT, right?

beth said...

Oh, this is so interesting!

I'm the first to admit that I used to decry ebooks. But now? I love them. I never thought I'd say that, but I do. I absolutely adore the idea of ebooks and using my ereader.

PJ Hoover said...

I was the same way, Beth, and now I have the whole family hooked. But so many people are still reluctant...

Jessica Lee Anderson said...

This is such an insightful post! SOLSTICE is an amazing book, and reading it again has been such a treat!

PJ Hoover said...

Thank you, Jessica, for all your awesome support! And thank you for reading it again :)

Kai said...

P.J. Thanks for sharing this with us. You know I've been hanging on your every word through this experience. I've been a fan of ebooks since ereaders came out. I never expected the self publishing boom though. Interesting twist. LOVE the portability of my Kindle and btw, Solstice is on it, waiting for me to read it! Can't wait. Congrats to you & your agent on having the courage to take the chance. I tip my hat to you. (Well, if I wore one I would)

Kelly said...

Congrats again on Solstice, Tricia! Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I appreciate your honesty and feedback on it!!

Anonymous said...

P.J., virtual fist bump for going this route! I think it's hard to get full support from some others because you are rocking their world order, and that's scary. I know, I've experienced some of this myself as I get ready to release my own indie pubbed ebook and p.o.d. YA novel, the sequel to my Random House book.

Just a thought about libraries: don't they order ebooks through OVERDRIVE? Any reason why you can't load your ebook onto that site and sell it to libraries through them? I was looking into this, and it seemed doable.

Best of luck,

PJ Hoover said...

Kai, I NEVER would have seen this self-publishing thing coming either, but in hindsight, it makes a ton of sense. Thank you for all your support!

You are so welcome, Kelly! I'm happy to be able to get my huge jumble of thoughts out into something coherent.

Marie, virtual fist-bump right back! Kudos to you! I see this as a great opportunity for authors without giving up anything.
And as for overdrive, I think many public libraries have the system in place, but in school libraries, some of the feedback I've received is that it is a costly program to put in place, and with budgets being cut, it may not be in the immediate cards. We shall see. Please let me know what you find out with your book!
And thank you for stopping by!

Jim Danielson said...

I'm the person who a year ago would have said self publishing isn't really being published. E-books are quickly changing my view. Sure, I can "abuse" the right to self publish by by sending version 1.0.0 of the first novel I wrote into the world (won't be doing that!). The thing is a lot of great writers like yourself are taking this route and in the process will give self publishing the respect it is growing to deserve. It's a new world. I'm actually having an SCBWI coffee shop meeting with two Illinois authors that have gone over to the "E" side this August. Writers want to know. Thanks for sharing!! (And to bad Austin's so far or I'd try to entice you to add your input to the evening.)

PJ Hoover said...

Oh I wish I could be there, Jim! How fun. I mean, coffee makes everything better, and ebooks certainly add the interesting conversation needed to make the discussion fun. Thanks!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing all the pros and cons. Since you've done both routes, you have a great perspective. And I think since you're published already, you have a better sense of what it take to polish a manuscript than some of us who haven't been published. Thanks for being a pioneer.

PJ Hoover said...

Thank you, Natalie! I have to admit, I am thrilled I had professional editing. I feel like I benefit hugely from this :)

Shana Norris said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I'm a traditionally published YA author but I'm about to release my first self-published ebook next month. A year ago I would never have considered self-publishing an ebook, but now I love ebooks and have been enjoying a lot of self-published books since getting my ereader. The market is definitely changing quickly. The stigma is still there, but like you, I'm sure that in the future it will go away as the market continues to evolve.

SOLSTICE is on my to-read list and I hope to get to it very soon. It sounds amazing and I love stories based on mythology. Congratulations on your success with it and I hope it continues to bring you good things!

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Shana, Thank you so much for dropping by! It does sound like we have a ton in common! Best of luck with your book, and please let me know when it's available. I'd love to help get the word out!

Miriam Forster said...

Hang in there, P.J! You are definitely a pioneer in this field and I can't wait to see what you do next. :)

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Miriam! I can't wait either! :)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

This is all very interesting. You are a pioneer :) It sounds like what you're doing is kind of the best of both worlds - you get the independence of self-publishing along with the assistance of a top-notch literary agency. I anything can help dispel the stigma of self-publishing, this should be it. I can't imagine ABLA would represent anything that wasn't very high quality. Best of luck with your sales and experience. I'm going to check out Solstice right now :)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

SOLSTICE is downloading to my ipad as we speak :) Can't wait to read it!

PJ Hoover said...

Hi Susanna! Thank you for stopping by! I was thrilled to be able to work with ABLA in this way. The digital age gets me really excited.
And thank you for your support and for buying SOLSTICE! I appreciate it!
Take care :)

T C Mckee said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. This is something that weighs heavy on mind a lot. As writers we have more options than we used to, but the stigma that surrounds self publishing is very frustrating and scary. You are a "Rock Star" for doing this:)

PJ Hoover said...

Thank you, T C, for visiting! It's a fun but different path to take, but I *love* how every day there is new news about it. It makes me feel like anything is possible!