Some of the rapid and wide-ranging changes that have surged through the publishing business in the last decade have been devastating for first-time authors. Some have been helpful. My experiences in publishing and marketing my first novel may be useful to others.
My novel The Monk Woman’s Daughter was first published on Amazon, in a Kindle version, as I wrote in My Amazon Adventure, Part 1. Because many readers remain loyal to hard-copy books, I then published it as a paperback, still through Amazon. Then I realized that it was going to be difficult to publicize it through bookstores, who are, after all, Amazon’s competitors. I wrote about that in Published! A Novelist’s Amazon Adventure. I decided to go with a hybrid publisher, Inkwater Press. A few months after Inkwater published my book, I had my first bookstore readings—and copies in the public libraries! I wrote about this part of the journey almost exactly a year ago, in Paperback Writer Rolls On.
Success! And a Great New Chapter?
Since then, the book has enjoyed some success; it was selected as a Favorite in Historical Fiction in the New York City Big Book awards, and was a finalist in the Nancy Pearl contest, in the literary fiction division. For me, these awards were welcome confirmation that it was worth writing and is worth reading. The Nancy Pearl award had the extra dimension for me that the reader-judges are librarians. A few more public libraries have picked it up, and it’s enjoyed modest sales.
So, I thought, maybe it’s time I joined the Historical Novel Society. HNS has been around for more than 20 years, and has members all over the world. Its conferences in the US, UK, and Australia feature best-selling historical fiction authors, and its web site has a comprehensive collection of reviews and helpful articles for writers of historical fiction. I looked into its next conference, to be held in Maryland in June. It looked exciting, and, as a published author, I would be able to have my books offered for sale in the conference bookstore! And have table space to sign some!
Not Quite the Dream
Except, as it turns out, that may not be true. The conference bookstore will be run by Barnes & Noble, which is cool, and authors who are published traditionally just have to make sure their books are available through Ingram, a major distributor in the United States. My book is available through Ingram, so I thought I was set.
Not so fast. My book is available from Ingram on a print-on-demand basis, which means that B&N wouldn’t be able to return any unsold books. The HNS organizers then suggested I use the alternative for self-published authors, IngramSpark. They encouraged me to “register” with IngramSpark.
It’s not quite that simple. My own publisher let me know that IngramSpark is actually a publisher, and that, in order to sign up with them, I would have to withdraw my book from publication at Inkwater, my current publisher, and republish with IngramSpark, with a different ISBN registration (the 10 and 13-digit numbers you see on web pages when you order books online) and a different cover.
I don’t want to do that. I like my publisher. I may have to pull out of a conference that I was really looking forward to, because it sure takes the gloss off when almost everybody else can sell their books and you can’t. It makes me feel like a second-class citizen. My publisher will be talking with Barnes and Noble this week to see if we can work something out.
No Villains Here–But I’d Still Like Some Change
I see no villains in this scenario. The Historical Novel Society is working to have the best possible conference in an orderly fashion, which they can’t do if anybody who wants to just shows up with a box of books to sell. Barnes & Noble has to protect itself from being stuck with books it isn’t likely to sell. Ingram and IngramSpark are doing what well-run companies do, finding the best way to operate profitably in a changing environment. Amazon has its own successful model, and is clear about how it works.
None of this helps me, of course, and it doesn’t help a lot of other authors who have written books they have reason to believe are good ones, books they want to market and publicize. It doesn’t help the authors who want to meet other published authors on a somewhat equal footing, to talk to them about writing and history and historical fiction.
I know there will be changes. Eventually.
Personally, I’d like for some of those changes to happen this week.
What About You?
Are you writing a book, thinking about it, already published, trying to get published? What has your journey been like? Please leave a comment.
The web site of the Historical Novel Society is worth exploring, especially if you’re writing. It invites you to, “Connect with people all round the world who love historical fiction. Find your next great read. Get help with your writing.”
It has seemed to me that Amazon is a better fit for textbook and academic authors than for others, partly because the marketing is so different for such authors. There have apparently been a number of positive developments in the publishing business for such authors in the last year or so.
A good 5-minute read from the Writers Cooperative, although it’s nearly a year old: The Three Biggest Trends in Publishing Right Now.