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Why One New Author Chose a Small Press over Self-Publishing

| Posted in Interviews / Success Stories |

19

As you guys know, I’m an independent author, and I tend to post interviews and guest posts by other indie authors, but there are reasons why self-publishing isn’t for everybody, and there are options out there that needn’t involve spending years hunting for an agent. Science-fiction author Liana Brooks is here today to talk about why she chose to publish with Breathless Press instead of going out on her own.

Interview with Liana Brooks

Welcome, Liana! Do you want to tell us a little about Even Villains Fall in Love?

Doctor Charm, the wickedly sexy super villain, retired in shame seven years ago after his last fight with the superhero Zephyr Girl. The fact that the charming Evan Smith – father of four and husband of the too-beautiful-to-be-real Tabitha – bears a resemblance to the defeated Doctor is pure coincidence. And, please, ignore the minions.

Everything is perfect in the Smith household until Tabitha announces her return to work as a superhero. Evan was hoping to keep her distracted until after he rigged the 2012 presidential election, but – genius that he is – Evan has a backup plan. In his basement lab Evan has a machine whose sole purpose is keeping Tabitha hungry for him.

But children and labs don’t mix. The machine is broken, and Tabitha storms out, claiming she no longer knows him. World domination takes a back seat to meeting his daughters’ demands to get Mommy back right now. This time his genius isn’t going to be enough – he’s going to need both his evil alter-ego and the blooming super abilities of his children to save his wife. But even his most charming self might not be enough to save their marriage.

With self-publishing being all the rage right now, what made you decide to look for a publisher?

That’s a very loaded question, especially since I’m visiting your blog and you’ve done so well with self-publishing. This is just my view, and might not be applicable to everyone…

To be a successful self-published author I believe you need three things: seed money, time, and the ability to write and edit quickly.

I’ll be honest, the up-front costs of self-publishing scare me. After talking with several friends who self-published and hearing how much they made on returns (or didn’t in several cases) I was leery of spending the kind of money you need to invest in a good editor and great cover art. There’s always a chance your self-published work will flourish and you could make money hand over fist because of the royalties, but there’s also an excellent chance of crashing and burning.

Big 6 publishing has the danger that you might not earn out. But small press? There isn’t an upfront cost, nor is there a payment of any kind of front. The royalties are lower for the price point than if I self-published with Amazon (40% vs 75% I believe), but I’m not spending anything out of pocket.

Is that horribly selfish and calculating of me? Possibly. But there’s more to life than writing, and I need to be a responsible parent too. I can’t throw my family’s money into a risky investment.

That doesn’t mean self-publishing is off the table. I think chasing down e-zines for pittance pay on a short story is rather ridiculous, and editing for a short story doesn’t carry the same costs that editing for a novel would (most editors I’m familiar with charge by word count). And I may choose to self-publish a novella or novel later on. The publishing industry is in a state of flux, and the only way to be successful is to be flexible.

Were you fairly limited since your story is a novella instead of a novel?

I’m answering this as a separate question because I’ve been asked this more than once. Not-So-Secret-Seceret: E-publishers love novellas! The whole idea of word counts by genre are expectations built by the limitations of print. E-books don’t have the limiting factors of paper and ink costs, so word count is just another way of measuring length for the reader.

I’ve often wondered what a small press can bring to the table (that I, as an indie, can’t do myself). Can you talk a little about your experience with Breathless Press and what they’re doing to help with promotion?

The three major differences that I noticed were the content edits, the fact there was no up-front cost for publishing, and the built in fan base that comes with the publisher. Many e-publishers have readers who check the publisher’s website regularly for new releases. These people may never have heard of me, but they’ll stop by the publisher’s site and pick up a book out of curiosity.

Part of my contract with Breathless Press includes a list of promotional work they’ll do, including sending out review copies. They also provide a list of recommended advertising groups and a list of things the other BP authors have done. It’s all something a self-published author could do, or that any author could research, but for someone new to the field I think the support is invaluable.

Did the press offer a developmental editor for you to work with? If so, how was that experience?

Breathless Press did provide me with an editor. During three rounds of major edits we addressed style and formatting issues, and two rounds of content edits before a final pass was done by the proof-reader.

I loved what the content editor brought to the table. All my beta-readers are people who know me, they’re honest, but they also know how I think. There were things the content editor caught that my beta-readers didn’t because the editor was able to read without any bias.

How much input did you have on things such as cover art and pricing?

I had no input on pricing. The press has a standard price for short stories, novellas, and novels. It’s my understanding that most presses work this way.

For the cover art, I was able to work directly with the artist. I filled out the standard form, sent her pictures of that I thought matched my characters, and emailed her several times to fine tune the cover art. It worked exactly like it would if you hired the cover artist privately. In fact, the cover artist for EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE also did the cover art for the short story I self-published, SEVENTY.

The downside to all of this is that the likelihood of having exclusive art for your book is limited. I’ve seen variations of “my cover” on several other e-books. Mine’s the best, of course, but popular stock images are reused across the spectrum.

We all know how long the Big 6 publishers can take to get a story out. How was BP in that regard?

Big 6 publishers are known for getting books out slowly, although I think that’s changing. I’ve seen several author with Big 6 contracts publish multiple books in a year. Kevin Hearne, who write the Iron Druid Chronicles published by Del Rey, has had four novels printed in the past year. The self-publishing movement has changed the timeline.

For me, I signed the contract with Breathless Press the last week of December and EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE was published the first week in April. We probably could have done a tighter turnaround time, but I took part of February off for maternity leave. Over all, I think three months from contract to debut isn’t bad.

Would you like to tell us about your next project? Is there a sequel to EVFiL planned?

I have a couple of projects in the works. Breathless Press has expressed interest in acquiring more books in the EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE universe. I didn’t originally write it as part of a series, but working through a plot hole during the editing process I started EVERY HERO NEEDS A VILLAIN, which is the courtship of Zephyr Girl and Doctor Charm from her point of view. From there it didn’t take much for me to begin writing the stories for each of their children. Right now, the Heroes and Villains series has seven books written or planned.

I also have a novel in progress, JANE DOE, which is a near-future sci-fi novel dealing with clones and time travel. I’m hoping to query that and try to take it to a Big 6 publisher. It won’t be the end of the world if I can’t find an agent for JANE DOE, and I’d be willing to self-publish it or take it to a small press, but I’d like the Big 6 experience too. That way I can have a full set of publishing venues.

Bio:

Liana Brooks was born in San Diego, California. Years later she was disappointed to learn that The Shire was not some place she could move to, nor was Rider of Rohan an acceptable career choice. Studying marine biology  so she could play with sharks seemed to be the only alternative. After college Liana settled down to work as a full-time author and mother because logical career progression is something that happens to other people. When she grows up, Liana wants to be an Evil Overlord and take over the world.

In the meantime, she writes sci-fi and SFR in between trips to the beach. She can be found wearing colorful socks on the Emerald Coast, or online at www.lianabrooks.com.

You can grab a copy of Even Villains Fall in Love at Amazon.

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Comments (19)

Great interview. Liana, I completely agree with your reasons for going with a small press. Editors and cover designers don’t come cheap. I have some money in my personal “this is Rabia’s money to do as she pleases with” fund to cover some publishing expenses, but definitely not thousands of dollars.

That said, I just self-pubbed a collection of short stories and it has been (mostly) a blast turning a Microsoft Word document into a real (um, virtual) book. :D

I think some self-publishers are approaching publishing the wrong way. Investing several thousand dollars won’t guarantee sales, but some people believe it will. So some people are spending a lot more on the up-front cost of self-publishing than they need to.

It doesn’t need to cost thousands to self-publish, which is why I love Lindsay’s blog. She’s good at point SP authors in the right direction. :o)

Yes. I think self-publishers need to go into this endeavor with the expectation that it’s going to be a slow build. Learn how to get the best-quality products out there on a realistic budget. Much as we’d love to commission original paintings for our books, perhaps it’s better to come up with a pleasing cover using stock images–at least right out of the starting gate.

It seems like it might not be a bad idea to start with a small press at the beginning of your career. It’s easier to self-publish once you have a fan base and are reasonably sure you’ll make back what you spend on getting the book together.

Also if the small presses are giving 40% royalties and not demanding right of first refusal on other projects, they may be a better bet than the big publishing houses for those who are thinking of self-publishing down the road.

And I think we’ll see that in the future. Authors will let the publishers fund the start-up costs, and then use the established fan base to switch to self-publishing later on.

I never considered a small press for my books. To me, it made more sense to go it alone. This interview made me think. Maybe there are other options I hadn’t considered.

You have to do what’s best for the book. I think there are a lot of authors who could benefit from working with a small press.

I see that Even Villains Fall in Love is published at Amazon – is it also available at Barns & Nobles? cause I almost exclusively shop at B&N (and with a Nook, that’s where I go for my e-books) and I find the introduction provided here to be rather interesting :-)

anyways, another great interview you’ve provided, and I’ll take it into consideration if I ever finish writing my own story :-)

EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE will be on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and all the rest, but there’s a lag time between publication and the book showing up on the websites.

I’ve been told to expect a 2-4 week wait to get EVFIL on B&N. I’m not surprised. The lag time is the same for self-published short stories I’ve put up for sale.

You can get all the digital formats from the publishers sale page. http://www.breathlesspress.com/even-villains-fall-love

I can understand where Liana is coming from. The costs that I need to invest in every ssingle book I have plans for are terrifying. That kind of investment can be a huge blow to one’s budget.

Then again, ever since my friend got published with a small press I see how easy it can be. All you do is write, edit and that’s it. You don;t have to worry about not doing enough promotion and not having enough hours in a day to write for all the blogs you want to guest post to… It does make me think and appreciate the small press. I’m still too much of a control freak to just let my book out of my sight for a moment, but I can see why other people might not go the self-published way.

I still do a fair amount of promotion, every author I know does regardless of how they were published. Still, it’s not for everyone.

There are serious cons to small presses, including people dismissing you off as a vanity press writer, or ignoring your book because “it’s not from a real press.” I’ve gotten the whole gamut of reactions when I tell people about my books.

Small presses aren’t vanity presses, I didn’t pay anything to have my work edited or published.

I have a smaller royalty than I would if I’d self-published at the same price range, but I’m don’t need to subtract any cost for editors or cover art from my profit. I think it probably balances out there.

I don’t control the pricing, and after being able to play with price on my short stories I admit, this bugs me. I like giving away my short stories, probably a little too much. I’m not making a profit on them. We’ll see how the novella sells.

I’m happy to keep giving away the short stories as teasers. They make good loss leaders, or would if I could get all my work to show up in one place. I’m waiting for the time lag to expire so SEVENTY and EVFIL start showing up next to REAL LIES.

I’ve been eying small presses for a while, myself. I started out self-publishing because that was the best fit for the two series I’m working on, for a variety of reasons.

I have some other tabled projects that would probably go well with a publisher. When I finish them, I’ll certainly seek publishers for them.

I’m curious to know of Liana had any issues with the editing process. Was she able to keep her book in tone with her vision or did the publisher make changes without her consent?

Editing was interesting.

I’ve worked with a critique group for almost five years now. I’ve had beta-readers of various strengths and weaknesses. But none of that was like working with a content editor. Most of the notes my editors sent (and I did go through two because of a personal emergency with the first editor) were questions.

Did you mean to say this?
Can you rephrase this?
I like this joke, but do you think enough people will get it?

There was never a change made without my consent. The editors offered suggestions for scenes, but didn’t compel me to run with the suggestions if I didn’t think it fit. I wasn’t asked to add scenes or themes I wasn’t comfortable with. I’m grateful for that.

EVFIL is a sweet romance, a closed door romance, and there are probably some editors who would have asked me to keep the door open.

*perks up* Sweet romance?

*adds to wish list*

^_^

Enjoy!

[...] Indie Author Lindsay Buroker has an interesting interview with Author Liana Brooks up on her blog, Why One Author Chose A Small Press over Self-Publishing Check it [...]

I think small presses are a great option. It’s wonderful that we have so many choices. All success to you, Lianna.

Thank you. :o)

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