Which way should a creator go to publish their work?
By Anthony Feinman
Before and after meeting a fellow creator this past April in Peoria that had their first book funded via Kickstarter, I’ve been continuing to research crowdfunding. What makes it work? Why are more creators releasing their work this way? What are the benefits to publishing this way?
The answers for me are split two ways.
One way is to go the traditional route and submit a proposal to a publishing house. They have the staff and manpower to do the marketing, packaging, and distribution. If you get accepted and sign a contract and get assigned an editor, you get an advance (maybe) to finish your work. Once it’s done, then you submit to your publisher, go through editing, design layout, and time is spent getting the word out that your book is coming to a bookstore and shelf near you! In this scenario it may be a few months/years before your work is available for the general public BUT it will be available, you will have an exact time frame for your fans, and someone else (your publishing house) will take care of all the logistics. You will sit back and reap royalties (if you’re lucky to receive royalties. This perk may need to be written into ones contract.) and be lavished by people across the spectrum. Hire a publicist and go on a book tour. The spotlight is just beginning. Here are some thoughts on the subject by First Second Books.
It can be construed as a little simpler as you sign a contract to produce work, get paid, and promote you work after it’s available. You are basically a work for hire contractor. Most logistics are taken care by your publishing house, publicist, or lawyer (if you’re that special). You will have to deal with your publishing house’s standards, follow their rules and may not have much say in how a book is designed and marketed. Plus you may also have to give up control over some of your content. If you are happy with this, go that route. If you are that good, the sky is the limit. I might try this some day once I have found my niche.
I should also mention that what I just spouted in the previous paragraphs is a BRIEF look at going through a big named publishing house. It could also involve having an agent and negotiating as a first time author amounting in a small salary that may also involve part of your earned funds going to your publishing company to pay for the pagination and printing with their brand. It’s not as simple as I have described it…
The other way is screw the big named guys and reap the rewards yourself by appealing to your fan base directly. This method means more work for you but no middle man! You get the final say on everything. And I mean everything. You get to control every aspect of your project but that also means that you need to take care of ALL the logistics as well i.e. printing, publishing, marketing, correspondence, shipping products, the works!
Traditionally (back in the old days i.e. 20+ years ago, and yes I am more than a few decades old. I try not to think about it…), as a self published author, you would save up the funds and when you had enough, you’d find a printer, do your own pagination, and submit to your printer. Most small press would do their own marketing to spread the word which generally meant that you would locate an upcoming convention(s), reserve or purchase a space and display your wares. It was a cinch to go to where your potential fans are: CONVENTIONS!
Get in the car, pack your lunch and drive to a big name convention like Wizard World (if you’re into comic books like me)! Set up your table and do the hard sell! Grab wandering geeks and place in their grubby little hands your NEW BOOK! Sales galore! (giggle with a smirk)
However, things don’t work the traditional way any more (did they really ever?). No longer do I read about the next Mouse Guard. It’s just not cost effective to do this anymore UNLESS your expenses are extremely low. Even then it’s a challenge. Here is a blog I wrote awhile back on the subject titled Attending Conventions?
Needless to say, I still do SOME comic book conventions or local author evenings at my local library (maybe two or three a year if I’m lucky) BUT they are only ones that are between 45 minutes to an hour away from my current home. Local convention tables are generally priced between $25-35 so I am NOT being robbed in a tender spot that houses my wallet. These days I am lucky to break even after factoring in all my expenses. Sometimes, I don’t break even and lose a little money but nothing like the losses I use to report when doing a large comic book convention (Wizard World). Mainly, I do book signing to help get rid of my current inventory. I want my books in the hands of fans so I can make room for new books. I have been waiting for years to do this. Unfortunately, it’s going to be awhile before we see any new books from moi. 😦
So, is it possible to produce a book/comic book/graphic novel and earn some coin in today’s climate? My answer, in reference to crowdfunding your project, is ….(ta-da) MAYBE.
“Maybe?” you ask? Yes, MAYBE. Here the basic layout for producing your work and asking fans to fund via sites like Indiegogo or Kickstarter. These items might help it become successful. (Successful is a loose word here as what may be considered a success may also lead to your project being a failure even though it gets fully funded. More discussion about this later in a following up blog)
- Generate buzz for your book or project BEFORE even THINKING about getting or asking for funds.
How is anyone going to even know about your project IF NO ONE has ever seen or heard a word about your existence? I recently decided to pledge for a Kickstarter project that I saw posted in the Publishing section. The project was a children’s book and looked awesome! I was an early pledge so it looked like I would have gotten a good deal on the final product. However, the creator never told anyone that they were doing a Kickstarter. Myself and possible one other person wanted to pledge but no one else did on a project that need somewhere between $12,000- $20,000 to see fruition. The project failed and afterwards the creator posted a post called” Oops!” Oops is right. Just because you have a product up and you’ve written a kick-ass presentation (this children’s book definitely looked like a product I should have in my library) doesn’t mean that people will find it and randomly pledge their hard earned coin. I did because I’m that kind of guy. Not everyone is.
Experts state that it could take between 6 months to year before fans start noticing you. Once you have some momentum and people are checking out your work, then it’s probably time to consider putting your project together in a dead tree version. Not before. Why produce something if no one is going to buy it? Most top named business spend at least a year if not more coming up with a marketing strategy before producing a product. It should not be any different for you BUT us little people can use something free called THE INTERNET. Whole point of advertising is to alert the general public that your product will be available.
So, start a blog, vlog, open a social media account or two and post stuff about your project on a regular basis for at least a year. Yes, a year. It doesn’t have to be daily but it should at least once a week, biweekly, or consistent in timing. Meaning, if you post something, pick a specific day that you talk about your current project and stick with a schedule. It all comes down to trust and if you can show that you can stay on a timeline, fans will start to trust you. Trust that you will post new content on a specific date and you are consistent and dedicated. That trust may grow so much that they may even GIVE YOU MONEY sometime in the future. Imagine that?
Now, is your project ready to be produced?
- You need to get your book finished or nearly close to finished. (Like only a few pages left kind of done.)
This can be a challenge if you have a full time job and/or have a family. I do my comic work as a hobby so I have not set a time frame on my projects. I really should as I have started and I’m in the middle of three separate projects. These are projects I work on as time allows. Plus I have been doing research into crowdfunding since the beginning of the year which has been eating up a lot of time of my free time. (I’m big on looking into options before plunging into something. Smart thing to do in my opinion which is probably why you are now reading my thoughts on this subject. Thanks, by the way, for taking the time to read this! YAY!) I will not start a crowdfunded project UNTIL I have a completed project to show my backers and have been updating fans as the work progresses via posting pages or updates on a consistent basis.. Having been and am currently a backer for Kickstarter projects, I have been jonesing for my books from creators, like, right now. I wouldn’t want my fans to wait too long for a completed product.
- Research printing companies that will produce your product that way you want it.
This can be uniquely challenging and is something you should be looking into as you are working on your project. As I have been working on my own projects, I have been looking at a lot of printers. A lot. Some are here in the states while one is in Canada.
Some examples are Print Ninja (based in suburbs of Chi town) RA Direct, KrackenPrint, and Transcontinential Printing (based in Canada). Will I choose these guys? I have no idea but I have been looking into what they offer to give myself some ideas. Print Ninja and Transcontinetial specifically are offset printers and will cost some coin. However the book that they would produce will look super slick and they offer tons of options to make my books look anyway you want. The more elaborate though, the more the price tag will be, of course.
If I want to cheap out and be limited to how your books will look, they you can look at Print on Demand companies like Amazon Createspace (now merged into Amazon’s printing house name), KaBlam, or Lulu. Absolutely nothing wrong with cheaping out. I did two graphic novels via Createspace just to try them out and have some experience with their system. It was easy and these two books are available worldwide, didn’t cost me a dime to print (if you don’t want any copies. Of course I ordered print copies as I sell books in person) and anyone can get them in 1-2 days after ordering them online as an Amazon Prime member. Sweet deal!
Print on Demand is extremely affordable and you don’t have to worry about a minimum quantity ordered required. With an offset printer, you maybe required to get at least minimum 250-2500 copies printed to use their services. Do you have room to house hundreds of books if you plan to sell them yourself? This is definitely something to consider when you choose a printer. Now if you know you will be able to sell hundreds of books, this shouldn’t be an issue. But shipping will be an issue which I will address later.
End of Part Two
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