Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I'm working on this cover for When Night Falls, a suspense set in a sleepy town, saturated with secrets. This is for a backlist book which I'll be lifting up soon. Need to add USA Today Bestselling Author somewhere.
Speaking of author's backlist books...
Currently, authors are encouraged to retrieve any/all publishing rights they may have to books, generally out of print. Alan Rinzler has a supergreat article on the importance of backlists. Please read. Also read his sidebar info. Super good.
Speaking generally (because there's always someone with a unique experience): Until epublishing came along, most of those backlist books molded on the shelf and no one really cared about their rights--because there was no place to take them.
Epublishing and self-publishing changed that. Now authors are scrambling to get their rights, and publishers are sometimes (rem: there's always those unique instances) are trying to retain them, too. This calls for amendments in some cases (keeping that qualifier going), which had darn well better be thought out by the author. In any contract, epublishing rights should be qualified, that is: 1.) by limits of time and 2 years is the norm; 2.) amount of sales per unit, or per $ amount. That's just for starters.
Cannot tell you what a dance it is to retrieve and retain rights.
If you want to get a good look at what is happening with authors with backlist, those with agents and wanting to self-publish, those without agents who decided to self-publishing on their own, look at these major NYTs bestsellers, Neal Pollack and Barry Eisler, who are putting their NEW material into self-publishing. This upheaval makes the agent role interesting.
New opportunites are springing up in agent roles, i.e. With backlists and self-publishers on the rise, a clearing/marketing agent for overseas sales and movies, handled on a per item charge would be great. I've recently found this may be almost a non-existant (now) beast. The reason this agent-type would be helpful is all those backlist books with professional editing, ready for a new audience. That's what I've found anyway, my early books in late 80s and early 90s+ have a new readership.
I've been working on getting my backlist rights back and learning how to epublish for about 1 1/2 years now, no easy task either one. Meanwhile, I wrote new material, one complete women's fiction along the lines of Sarah Addison Allen and several proposals for psychological romantic suspense.
The IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER while reading below is that a backlist is heavily edited by professionals. I would have any new material professionally edited. Some writers use professional editors prior to submission to their publishers now. Why? Because editors are really busy with management tasks and do not have the time they used to. So it behooves the writer, in some cases, to get a professional editing job prior to submission anywhere.
Big Note: A good/professional editing job might not be a friend or family member, rather a "cold eye" who specializes in whatever. Very few writers have friends and/or family who are qualified to be editors. In fact, some people who label themselves as editors, may not have qualifying experience, either.
Remember: Professional Editing pays. There is a big movement to cut poor writing from self-publishers, or even mid-size online and POD publishers, so really take that future of self and mid-size publishers into consideration when considering any form of publishing. You can ruin sales and futures by poor editorial work. It's the best-foot-forward deal and first-impression counts.
Freelance editors and cover designers are plentiful now. But it's important to get the right ones to suit your work. As an artist, I thought cover design would be easy. It isn't. I'm wading through this now in my 12th-13th self-pub backlist book.
Keep in mind that when rights are reverted, that doesn't mean grants of cover, translation, format, etc. can be used. The writer/self-publisher must do new ones. Enter formatting services. I'm doing this myself, but the learning curve is steep as there must be 1000 ways to do it per ereader format, i.e. Mobi for Kindle, etc. I've helped a few people with this, but when I began back when that 1.5 years ago, help in the wilderness was scarce. Thank you, Barbara Freethy. Thank you, Kathy Carmichael for cluing me into much needed PR stuff. (BTW, Barbara Freethy is doing super with her back and front lists. She's just topped the charts book at BN's NookBooks.)
Self-publishing your own stuff, formatting, covers, etc. is only a tiny part. Then comes Facebook, Twitter, Kindle and Nook Boards, etc. I love my TweetDeck and tweets, BTW. If you get a chance, read Amanda Hocking's articles in which she says she basically worked like a dog to get her YA series up and running, when publishers wouldn't buy it. They missed out, beaucoup. On her and Konrath, who is sort of a granddaddy of Kindle, etc. epublishing how-tos. Both Amanda and Eisler, etc. talk of using editors. (Amanda has signed with St. Martin's now.)
Many agents are editorial-acting, prior to presenting works for sale.
With publishers cutting crews of every kind, good editorial should be easier to find. Going rates can be anything, but generally divided into two parts, line edit and overall. I just saw one editor's price of overall, $2/page. Another basically acts as a writing mentor, plus editing, several thousand per book. Her clientelle says she's worth it.
If you have services to offer and you are headed toward self-publishing, try to barter your services for what you need, i.e. formatting, covers, editorial. Bartering is age-old and serves us well today when cash is low.
Critique groups do not qualify as editors. Recently, I visited a critique group to see how they were doing. Some basic info was right, and some critical stuff dead wrong. To pass a critique group is not on the level of a good professional editing job. UNLESS you have professionals within that group. I'm not dismissing the value of a critique group, but recommending one step more, an editor.
How Important is Editing to Self-Published? Take a look at Amazon's Kindle forces who are checking punctuation, etc. Look at how online publishers plan to keep their quality high, and thus sales. Raising quality with be the new yardstick now.
It's all really about Sales. Poor Editing results in no comebacks for more sales. With more writers placing their backlist titles into e or self-publishing, this stiffens the competition for Indy writers who do not have that track record. Quality is the key for these Indy writers and that comes from good formatting and excellent editorial.
With these backlist authors, who also have front list and built promotion stepping into the Indy publishing ring, competition for sales is fierce now, with ads and reviews, tags, etc. It's a big ballgame with a lot of choices for those with ereaders. The best advantage for an Indy publisher, other than a great story, great cover and good formatting, is good editorial.