By Sara Easterly
Nearly 50 PAL (published and listed) members attended the second quarterly Published Pro Think Tank, held Monday, July 11, 2011. Gauging by the incredible interest, the topic, eBooks and Self-Publishing for Traditionally Published Authors, was timely and resonated.
Today’s publishing landscape is changing quickly, and the stigma that once loomed over e-books and self-publishing is being lifted. In fact, many authors who’ve already hit the big time with traditional book publishers are turning to self-publishing.
Earlier this year, for instance, New York Times best-selling thriller author Barry Eisler turned down a $500,000 publishing deal from a mainstream publisher in order to self-publish his next book. Last fall, acclaimed writer Seth Godin, author of about a dozen books including PURPLE COW, told the Wall Street Journal that he “now has so many direct customer relationships, largely via his blog, that he no longer needs a traditional publisher.”
Janet Wong, Kevin Emerson, Chris Eboch, and P.J. Hoover are a few of the pioneers following suit in the children’s book industry. Together with Milos Vasic (Vasic Books) and Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown Literary Agency), they joined the Think Tank from four U.S. time zones—in person or via Skype—to share their personal paths into ebooks or self-publishing. They dished about things like doing the math to make profits work… the logistics of selling e-books through online bookstores… when it makes sense to self-publish and when it doesn’t… and how and when to talk about it with your agent.
Janet Wong has published 21 books through traditional publishers, appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and spoken at the White House, but says her proudest accomplishments are two ebooks that she published herself this year: ONCE UPON A TIGER and POETRY TAG TIME. Her move into the ebook arena was driven by a desire to respond to teacher requests for more affordable poetry books—definitely possible when priced as an ebook at $0.99 or $2.99.
Janet was joined by Milos Vasic, her book designer, who shared details about the technical side of things, such as which programs to use and how to upload .mobi files for the Kindle store or .epub files for the Nook store.
Kevin Emerson has published seven novels for middle grade readers: CARLOS IS GONNA GET IT with Arthur A. Levine Books, and six books in the OLIVER NOCTURNE SERIES, the first five published by Scholastic. Kevin recently self-published the final book in his OLIVER NOCTURNE series after Scholastic changed editors—and course—on him, wanting to meet his fans’ desire to see the series to completion. With the help of his author friends in town, Kevin produced a final novel— written, designed, and printed entirely in Seattle, the place he and his supernatural universe call home. The result is the final Oliver book, THE TRIAD OF FINITY. Kevin said he sometimes feels nervous and apologetic when talking about his foray into self-publishing, but has found the experience liberating and fun.
Author Chris Eboch began her children’s writing career with successes such as THE WELL OF SACRIFICE (still in print from 1999) and writing for the Nancy Drew series. But after her editor was fired, she decided to self-publish the last book of her HAUNTED series as well as a middle-grade manuscript set in Egypt. Chris’s agent thought it was a wise idea and was very supportive, and continues to pitch other manuscripts to traditional publishers. As it turns out, the HAUNTED book may be published traditionally after all, but Chris has EYES OF THE PHAROAH and an adult romance in the self-published market now.
Middle-grade author P.J. Hoover decided to self-publish her first YA, SOLSTICE, after her agent, Laura Rennert with Andrea Brown Literary Agency, suggested it and out of a sheer desire to get the book into the hands of readers. After all, she reasoned, she’d worked on the book for three years and felt it would be a shame to let it sit in a drawer when there are so many other options these days. In addition, the topic and themes of SOLSTICE were so timely they were afraid that, after some early attempts at traditional publishing didn’t result in a deal, the traditional timeframe would be too long and she’d miss the market.
P.J.’s agent, Laura Rennert, discussed her agency’s experimental role in helping to bring an ebook or self-published book to market, which she sees as just another way the agency can help authors bring books to readers. Laura is heading up her agency’s digital and independent publishing initiative. Following the model used with P.J.’s book, the agency would likely handle everything from positioning and packaging, editorial and copyediting, formatting and conversion, cover design and jacket copy, photography, proofreading, and uploading to all retailers and distributors—with standard agency commissions, as with books printed traditionally, to ensure there’s no conflict of interest. Laura talked about segments where ebooks have penetrated farther than paper books and some of the advantages and disadvantages of publishing options.
All panelists echoed Laura’s belief that this is a great time for authors, with more opportunities than ever before. Attendees were energized and chatty after the event ended, lingering to network, gab, and discuss their possible interest in ebooks and self-publishing. “It was very informative and really worth attending,” said Elizabeth Blake.