Sunday, October 01, 2006

Q & A 86 Is it that easy to put out a book?

I'm confused about something (happens all the time). I always figured that aside from lack of talent, the reason nobody wants to publish anything I write is because it is a huge commitment by publishers to actually get a book out. It takes money, hard work, and money to do it, and it only happens when there is reason to believe that plenty of readers will buy it.

Now, our 'Deviations' book is presumably going to be bound up and released in record time. I know you rule the industry, but even so, is it that easy to publish a book that won't even be read by that many people? If it's so easy to put something out, shouldn't us unpublished writers feel even more discouraged than we already do?

Also, I've seen some banter about using this book as a publishing credit. Is this a legitimate credit for us minions? Are you minions considering mentioning this book in future query letters?

Thanks for all your help and hard work, Evil!

At a big-time publisher it takes a lot of money to put out a book because they're often printing 30,000 or more copies. Volume may get their costs down to a dollar a copy, but that's still thirty grand up front. It would make no sense for them to put out 300 copies of a book, even if they thought that was the exact number that would sell. They have book and cover designers on staff, as well as artists, editors, etc. And they sell through distributors and wholesalers who snag 55% of the cover price.

Now, here at EE Publications, Evil Editor handles all the design and the editing. Our small volume of books means they'll probably cost three times as much to print and bind (though less to ship), and there are numerous other expenses (not least of which is ISBN numbers, because you can't buy fewer than 10, even if you're putting out only one book), but we're not talking about a fortune. And it's not unreasonable to hope the expenses are equalled by income, especially if we can accurately predict how many will be bought. If expenses are exceeded by income, expect a sequel.

As for whether this is a pub credit, it's true that the openings are awfully brief, and that they don't need to get past a slush reader--but they do need to inspire greatness in continuation authors. The continuations, while they do need to be clever enough to outshine numerous other submissions, are even briefer than the openings. Nonetheless, you've seen the credits authors tack onto their query letters on this site, and most of them are obscure at best. If you're listing places your work has appeared, I wouldn't put a three-sentence continuation at the top of the list, but if your list has only two items, it wouldn't hurt to add a third.

My guess is that if you're involved in this because you feel it's an important step on the road to success, you'll be disappointed. If you're involved because you think Novel Deviations would be a cool book to own, you'll be happy.


judy said...

I wouldn't consider this a credit, but it will be a blast to carry around and talk about when I promote my own book because it's just really funny stuff.

I think of it as a coffee table book, albeit smaller. Or a gift book. This would make a great birthday present. Or Christmas present.

Hey, EE, have you thought of advertising for the holidays?

Writerious said...

I think sometimes we confuse "printing and binding" with "publishing." I know some yet-to-be-published writers that I talk to consider anything bound between two covers to be "published"; thus if they participate in NaNoWriMo and take up Lulu's offer to send them one free bound copy of their novel, the discussions begin about whether this is a publication credit or not. It's not. It's getting your words printed on paper and having the paper bound between two covers. You could do that at your local print shop if you wanted.

Publishing as we usually think of it involves all the things necessary to make a work available for distribution to the general public ("to publish" in its broadest sense is "to make public"). Publishing is a business as well as the processes we associate with it. The processes involve printing (or creating electronic entities, or whatever your publication medium is), layout, editing, etc. The business involves marketing, distribution, rights, and more. Again, you can arrange all that yourself if you choose to self-publish.

It can be quite easy to get "published." Get your book printed and bound, set up a website for selling it, talk some local independent bookstores into carrying it, and voila, you're a publisher -- even if you never make a dime. Or, it can be enormously difficult to get published. Write a great novel, edit it until it shines, query dozens of top publishers, and hope someone likes it -- because if they do, you never know, you might hit the NY Times bestseller list.

Catja (green_knight) said... either offers, or is preparing to offer, single ISBNs.

(I read the notice and it mostly passed me by - I think it's coming in with the switch to 13digits, though)

Anonymous said...

While you're on the subject... would you say this basically covers all very minor anthologies? I had a short essay published in an anthology nobody's ever heard of by a publisher nobody's ever heard of, and I've been debating whether I should add it to my query or not. It's really my only credit, and I think it will look lonely sitting there all by itself, and it's not that impressive anyway.

On a completely different note, despite the fact that I have no Beginnings or Continuations in the first 100 and won't be in the book, I'm definitely looking forward to getting it!

Chumplet said...

I'm pretty sure one of my continuations will appear, and I hope at least one of So don't worry about the isbn.

I'll even put it in a contract.

Evil Editor said...

So don't worry about the isbn.
I'll even put it in a contract.

No idea what you're talking about Chumplet.

McKoala said...

I just think it's fun. I'll be shopping with EE Publications this Christmas/next Christmas - whenever it's out.

Dave said...

This is all ego and vanity for family and friends. It's a cute, fun book with dreadfully serious beginnnings and bizarrely funny and amusing continuations (or plot twists as the POV can be either.

Chumplet said...

EE, my new fancy laptop has a habit of deleting several lines when my thumb hovers over the mousepad. What I meant was: I'll buy ten copies. I'll even put it into a contract.

Writerious said...

Catja, I know the vanity publishers (and I'm still not sure if Lulu is a vanity publisher or what) will sell the author an ISBN. Thing is, though, that the ISBN has been registered in the name of the vanity publisher, not in your own name. They're reselling the number, but they're still associated with it. I'm not a literary lawyer, so take my knowledge with suitable skepticism and the requisite grains of sodium chloride, but from what I understand and from what I've read of lawsuits against vanities, that makes the vanity the publisher of record, not the person who "self-publishes" via a vanity (so it's not really self-publishing by the strictest sense -- it's subsidy publishing, except you're subsidising the whole kit and kaboodle, not just a percentage). If you buy the ISBN directly from Bowker's, then you or your publishing company are the publisher of record.

Evil Editor said...

If you buy the ISBN directly from Bowker's, then you or your publishing company are the publisher of record.

That is correct. In any case, the ISBNs were purchased some time ago, so no need to concern ourselves with it.

Anonymous said...

Will there be reasonable international distribution? I'd hate to go through all this angst and then find out I need to re-mortgage my grandmother in order to get a copy over here.

(Granny says "Hi," by the way.)

Evil Editor said...

My limited experience with shipping single books outside the US is that it costs about $9.00 to Europe, and about $4.00 to Canada.
That's for airmail. Europe by surface is cheaper, but can take a month or two. If Amazon ships overseas, they may have cheaper means than the post office.

Anonymous said...


Bowkers an Lulu struck a deal making it possible for self-publishers at Lulu to buy an ISBN assigned to them (not Lulu) one at a time.

Evil Editor said...

That sounds like a good deal for self-publishers. Doesn't apply to this book, however. Self publishing is when the author(s) pay for the publishing.

December Quinn said...

Personally, I can't wait to see it and show my family and friends. It never occured to me this might be a credit in anything other than the "look at this fun thing I did" kind of way, but I'm immensely proud that a couple of my continuations were chosen, immensely proud that the amazing Kate Thornton wrote such a great continuation for my one beginning, and I'll treasure this proof of my Minion-hood forever.

Kate Thornton said...

I am so looking forward to this book - I don't care about publishing credits, but I am totally lit up at being a Minion and having proof of it.

And December - you are too kind - you guys do all the work; I just have fun with what you have written.

This book is going out to all my friends and a bunch of other people I don't even know yet. Evil Editor - you are the best!

~Nancy said...

For a pub credit? Nah. I looked at this as fun - and I was curious to see what other people thought of my opening.