Friday, February 19, 2016

How Do I Publish My Novel?

Lately, I've been fielding more than my fair share of phone calls, emails, texts, and barroom queries over how precisely one goes about getting one's book to the marketplace. The kinds of people asking me these questions might be varied in age, gender, occupation, and relationship to the author (that's me), but they all have one thing in common: not only the desire to publish a book or books, but also to make money from it.

What I find most interesting is that they come to me in the first place. As if I know a secret formula no one else knows and all it will take is my snapping a photo of said formula with my smartphone and forwarding it along the digital transom. Within a day or two, a new novel would be available for sale on the global marketplace. But what's even more interesting is the way these people perceive me as a writer.

"You have a lot of luck publishing eBooks."

"You publish real books."

"You publish with a big publisher."

"You work with an Amazon Publishing imprint."

"You work with an independent publisher."

"You write pulp fiction."

"You write stand-alone suspense thrillers."

"You write PI series." 

It goes on and on. The truth is that I am all of the above and more than all of the above. I am a hybrid author who at one time or another in his career, was a slave to the old system of write a novel, submit novel to agent, wait to hear from agent, finally hear from agent, rewrite novel, submit once more to agent, wait while they submit to publishers, wait some more, collect rejections until maybe...just field an offer. Then wait some more. Just like magic, however, your book appears in the bookstores where it will live a  shelf life of perhaps six weeks, if you are lucky. That entire process can eat up two to three years of one's life.

But now, with the advent of eBooks, Kindle Direct Publishing, and a new breed of author/reader friendly major publishers like Amazon Publishing (in particular, the Thomas & Mercer imprint), I am able to publish many books per year, in several different genres, in multiple formats, and enjoy infinite shelf life. Since some of these books are published under my own imprint, I make a far greater profit per unit sold than I would under that aforementioned "12 Years a Slave" publishing process of yesteryear.

So when it comes to answering the queries from those interested in getting their new opus in print, my answer is not always simple. There are simply too many options available to authors these days. From going strictly indie to pursuing a traditional deal. I do stress the importance however, of keeping one's options open and not sticking strictly to one method of publishing. I published with Amazon Publishing because, hands down, they are the best at what they do. The marketing department operates like they invented book marketing. Because of their efforts, I'm closing in on my first million sold. In terms of the traditional deal in a no longer so traditional world, I can't imagine being anywhere else.

But then, AP and independent bookstores don't always see eye to eye, and that means the paperback versions of my novels aren't often found inside those hallowed brick and mortar walls. Which means I need to also publish traditionally with a publisher who will produce a hardcover book and distribute it to all the bookstores. Enter my friends at Polis Books who recently published my newest stand alone noir novel, Orchard Grove.

And yet, there's the third method of publishing for the hybrid author and that's self-publishing. Back when I was in writing school, if you even breathed the words "self publishing" you might have been banished from campus (I was banished anyway, but for other reasons I won't get into here). Now however, self or "indie" publishing, is all the rage. And while I avoided it for far longer than I should have, I now make significant profits from my own imprint, Bear Media. My son, Harrison, who will release his first supernatural YA novel, Howard, in April, can't imagine going any other way than indie. "Why would you want to give away your rights, dad?" he says. You gotta love the millennials.

But what KDP also allows me is speed. I'm a fast writer and I work everyday, six and a half days per week, as if I were working for a big company like Miramax, for instance, who might expect me to put out a script per week. "But don't you ever get writer's block, Mr. Zandri?" the would-be writer asks on occasion. I always answer them the same way, "My dad worked construction for sixty years before he died. Never once in all his working life did he experience construction block."

So back to the basic premise of this essay which is first-time authors asking me how to go about publishing their first novel. It's totally up to you. Do your research. Google the term "traditional publishing." And do the same for "hybrid publishing" and "self/indie publishing." Determine which method suits you best, your goals, and the effort you're willing to put into it.

One thing is for sure. There's no fast track to riches and fame in the writing business. Sure, there's the occasional first time breakout that takes the globe by storm, but you have a better chance of being struck by lightning while cashing in your winning Power Ball ticket than you do becoming a mega bestseller right out of the starting gate. There's only one sure fire way to succeed as a writer, and that's to write, publish, stretch, repeat. If you possess talent, and you're willing to put in the work, you will enjoy a degree of success. Perhaps even major success.  So stop reading this and get to work.