Scribbles and thoughts ...

These are ramblings from J L Wilson, published author of romantic suspense, mystery, and paranormal -time travel fiction....

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Publishing Uproars (long post)

This is a repeat, with some links and some typos fixed

(Parts of this appeared on the Savvy Authors blog. Skip this if you read that (right here:

Two items in the news have the publishing world a-twitter: Barnes & Noble is up for sale and Dorchester is going to follow a small press model of “all books go digital with a select few going to print” (DMP: digital, maybe print). I’ll keep my opinions about B&N to myself. To be honest, I don’t know much about them because I seldom use a bricks-and-morter bookstore any more and I have no idea what their business model is like. I assume something is out of whack and that’s why they’re up for sale.

I can express an opinion about the Dorchester thing, though. I publish with 3 smalll publishers, and 1 of them follows this DMP model. The others all have a “digital then print” model (DTP) for books of a certain length (and mine always qualify). This gives me a chance to reach two distinct audiences: the digital and the print.

First off, allow me to offer sympathy to those Dorchester authors who didn’t expect this news and who signed a contract thinking their books would be on bookstore shelves. I can imagine your disappointment. I wish I could say that the model they’re following (DMP) is one that will offer you lots of success, but I can’t. The 2 publishers I’m with who do the DTP model have far better sales than the other, who follows the ‘maybe print’ model. Keep in mind that I write mainstream romantic suspense, mystery, and paranormal books. If I wrote erotica, the story would be different. Erotica authors almost all do well in the DMP model. But if you write mainstream, I’ve found that it’s important to have that print book because many of our audience has not yet switched to digital.

What will this mean for you, the author or the aspiring author? As anyone who follows publishing knows, the business is in flux now. Joe Konrath claims to be making mega-bucks in self-publishing (and others claim the same). On the other side of the coin are those who refute what he says, and find alternate reasons for why he’s succeeding (no one doubts that he’s succeeding but there are some doubts about why.) Some long-time authors who have had decent sales are being dropped by their houses or are being shifted into other imprints. And many new authors get a one-book deal, not the three-book deal they might have had years ago, when publishers could take a chance on new authors.

For you, the author, much remains the same: write a good book. If you can, write an exceptional book. You’ll find an audience, whether it’s through your own efforts (self-publishing), a small press, or a big one. It may take time, it may take effort, but the readers will find you. And keep writing good books, because they’ll continue to find you. If you have books in a back list, I think giving the self-pubbed model a try is a good idea. Get the rights back and see what you can do with them, either through digital or print.

And for readers? I’m sorry, but your bookstore experience is going to be vastly different in the next few years. I don’t know what it will look like, but it’s not going to over-flowing shelves, lots of new authors, and choice-choice-choice. You’ll be able to find the tried-and-true but it may be short on the new and unusual. For that, you’ll have to go online. But many of you are doing that now (witness B&N’s problems), so perhaps you won’t have a problem with change.

My experience with small publishers has been good. I’ve had better experiences with 2 of my publishers then the third one, but that’s to be expected, I think. I’ve had 17 books release in 3 years, so I have a track record that lets me evaluate what works and what doesn’t work for me. And in terms of plots -- I write in 3 genres and I’ve seen which have better sales and better reviews. It’s given me a chance to evaluate my strengths as an author.

Why did I go with a small publisher? One word. TIME. I’ll be honest: I don’t write deep, mystical, wordy prose. I write light mysteries and romantic suspense (with a stress on the romantic). I’m able to write them relatively quickly because I think I’ve found a voice that works for me. I’m able to write several books a year, which fits in exactly with what I have in my life (more in the next paragraph).

If I wanted to compete in a big publishing house with other authors (and yes, you do compete for slots, etc.) I’d have to change how I write and what I write. Writing would become, well, hard, for me. Right now it isn’t. It’s fun. I enjoy it. I like what I write and how I write. I have a full-time day job that takes me out of the house for 40+ hours a week. I wedge my writing time in where I can. I love writing mysteries with funny and eccentric heroines and Beta males. I love my quirky romantic suspense books with heroes in their 50s and the women who love ‘em. And I love my paranormal series set on another planet, a planet I created because I was so fed up with what we’re doing to our own Mother Earth (hey – that’s a pitch for my latest book! I knew I could work that in somewhere!)

When I realized that—let’s be honest—I didn’t have what Big Publishers were looking for, I turned to small publishers and you know what? They welcomed me with open arms. They gave me multiple publishing slots a year. I have some rockin’ covers. And they support me in a lot of ways. Happy? You bet! Do I wish I was a Big Name Author on Big Seller Lists? Sometimes. But you know and I know that being on a list isn’t always the mark of success. I’ve got 5 books out this year, 5 next year, and I’m prepping 3 for 2012. I’m going to be around for a while. Who knows? Maybe there’ll be a new Big Digital List someday and I’ll hit that chart.

I don’t think anyone can predict where we’ll be 5 years from now. If you had said 5 years ago that Dorchester would be going digital, and B&N would be for sale... So hang on, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride.

Here’s a blurb for that latest book (set on the alternate planet). I have to warn you: Jak Exo is one of the best heroes I’ve ever written, all full of layers, and lies, and complexity (and damn sexy as well). I sort of fell in love with him myself...

Dru Delaney, one of the planetary Leaders of Delmorna, doesn’t quite trust Jak Exo, her co-Leader. Exo is too handsome, too kind, and too intelligent for the strong-willed Dru. When he announces he’s leaving to explore the uncharted Northern continent, Dru decides to go with him to keep a closer eye on the man. But what they find on that continent is more than just a lost civilization: they find passion, duplicity, and a secret that will shake the government and their society. Now Dru has to escape with her life – and her heart – intact …

Check out Living Proof, the second book in my New Human Intercession series. I think you’ll fall in love with Jak, too. It’s available in digital ( and print ( And if you wait a couple of days, it will be on Amazon, Fictionwise, etc., in digital (and print).

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