Alternate Reality: Where Would You Be?

Good morning, all! One more week until Christmas! I hope that thought doesn’t strike panic into your soul the same way it does mine.

Over the past week, the WG2E team has been taking stock of their past year and making predictions for 2013. It’s been wonderful reading through the highs — and valuable learning about the lows.

My past year has been a rewarding one: I hit 100,000 ebook sales, had two books in the top 100 on (one’s currently in the top 35 – yay!), had two books in the top 200 on, and secured a foreign rights agent. On the downside, a KDP promotional experiment led to very disappointing results, and I realised sustaining three novels a year is, for me, a very lofty goal indeed.

But none of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for ebooks, Amazon’s KDP, and the rise of self-publishing. In an world without any of that, I’d still be earning meagre print royalties from my publisher, paying rather humiliating visits to high-street branches of the nation’s biggest bookseller to convince them to stock me, and querying agents and publishers with my next novel. Yikes. The very vision makes me shudder!

It was possible to be successful in ‘the old days’, but anyone who has read JA Konrath’s story of selling books from his trunk and criss-crossing the country on endless book tours knows just how difficult it was. Ebooks, global distribution platforms, and social media have all made it possible for authors with little-to-no-budgets to have worldwide distribution and to reach readers like never before.

It’s a whole new world, and as we’ve said plenty of times here, there’s never been a better time to be an author.

But I’m curious: if none of this had happened and the publishing world remained status quo, where do you think you’d be?

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  1. D.J.Kirkby says:

    Your success has been a wonderful and inspiring thing to watch from the sidelines! I certainly have appreciated all the tips you have shared here in the past year including your candour about what hard work it is to work as a full-time author. I have taken all of your advice on board this year and moved away from my publisher to self publish two books this year – one non-fiction and one pre-teen fiction book. It was hard work (and expensive) but I gained a lot of satisfaction from knowing that my books have perfect covers and are professionally edited. The sales are minimal but I think (hope) that is because I still have a lot to learn about marketing, and I am hoping that as the reviews start to come in the sales will pick up.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Thank you so much, DJ! Nothing in this industry seems to happen overnight (well, apart from the lucky few!). I really think persevering and hard work in the key, and I happen to know you’re not afraid of either!

  2. That’s easy: Without a publisher, since both of them dumped me!

  3. Sibel Hodge says:

    Well-deserved success, Talli! I’ve come such a long way since my writing began, and it’s led me to lots of other places (professionally, personally, and spiritually) that I never thought I’d get to, so I’m super grateful for the opportunity for my ongoing journey :)

    • Talli Roland says:

      What a wonderful journey you’ve had, Sibel. I remember seeing your name when I first published on Kindle and being so impressed with how well you were doing – and you’ve sustained (and grown) that success!

  4. Haha! As a writer of alternate history thrillers, I was immediately struck by the title of your post, Talli.

    I couldn’t agree more with Denyse. Your tips and advice and, of course, your example have been inspiring. It shows that with hard work and a savvy approach to marketing, you can be very successful.

    I’ve spent a great deal of time in the past two years submitting the traditional way to agents and some mainstream publishers. I learned at lot about the publishing and the book trade and it pushed me to improve my work significantly. But armed with a ten times better book and external validation of my writing, I’m self-publishing. I’m using some professional help and I am 100% pleased with it. No, 150%, actually.

    I think 2013 will be the year that publishing will no longer be a straight split between mainstream and self-publishing. We’ll see every kind of mixture and the book industry and readers will be better off for it.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Thank you, Alison, and I can’t wait to celebrate with you when your book is released! I think you’re right – more and more authors will SP backlists and different projects their traditional publishers may have turned down for various reasons. It’ll be interesting to see what happens!

      • I think the other thing that many SP/assisted published authors have discovered and new ones will discover is control. The author is in the driving seat.

        Now, we all know about how fierce the competition is and how many the additional obstacles looming in front of SP authors are. But we are the ones to drive our own fate forward.

  5. Julie Day says:

    Still querying publishers and agents with my middle grade novels. Wondering what to do with my YA fantasy stories I have now self-epublished. Be in despair at not getting published.

  6. LM Preston says:

    Well I was part of that ‘before’ amazon/ebook boom publishing. And yes it was hard, but there were many more successes than people realize, and it didn’t come from selling out of trunks. Many of the independent publishers I’ve worked with used distributors that got them into equal playing ground on pricing and distribution. Others found niche markets and fed to those markets (some small independent presses still do that). There was a whole underground world of self publishing before the ebook and those that pulled it off did so with lots of hard work – just as much hard work as many do today.

    • Talli Roland says:

      LM, thank you for sharing your experience — perhaps I was over-simplifying the situation. I reckon that whatever the medium, hard work is key (apart from having a quality product). Do you find it easier now, or much the same?

  7. Angela Brown says:

    It ‘s wonderful reading of your success and seeing the results that patience, lots of writing and hard work can produce. I’m not sure where I’d be if certain advances weren’t made. My first attempt at self-publishing happened at a poorly timed moment in my life so I can’t go by that experience to determine anything. This go round has been a bit better, though I’m still in the infant stages with one novel published and several ideas that need to be turned into professional publications sooner than later to build upon the slow momentum I hope is happening lol!. But, we shall see :-)

    • Talli Roland says:

      Angela, I do think the more novels you have out there and the more momentum, the easier (in a way) it becomes – at least in terms of marketing. But you’re doing the right thing: releasing more novels and continuing to build your virtual bookshelf. Good luck!

  8. D.D. Scott says:

    Congrats, Talli, on your superfab success!!! I’m over the moon thrilled for you and just luuuvvv partnering with you!!! :-)

    And wow what a question, my friend! I honestly don’t know where I’d be. I supposed I’d still be in that endless, frustrating loop of re-writing my debut novel Bootscootin’ Blahniks. I rewrote it 5 times, using different lengths and sub-genres per my agent’s instructions. Then, we’d re-submit, and wait till we were told “it really needs to be more this…so can you make it more that way?”

    I’m definitely not a Quitter, but I can tell you when all that was happening about three years ago, I’d been trying the TradiPub Route for almost 10 years at that point, and had been re-writing for my agent for two years. I was wore out and really beginning to ask myself how much longer I could do this.

    Thankfully, I never stopped believing in myself and my writing, and I began considering what I could do to just take back the reins and do this on my own and in my way. And the universe answered at RT10 in Ohio when I met Joe Konrath again and sat through his workshop on Indie Epublishing. I watched the agents on the panel with him roll their eyes and make fun of everything he said (I mean out loud make fun of him…and these were Top Agents…the very Top). I also watched him shrug his shoulders and remark that they could laugh all they wanted but that he and his bank account were increasingly happy. :-) I called my husband on the way out of that room and said that’s it…we’re doing this the Indie Way!!! Then, I went to the bar and said “F-this! I’m goin’ Indie!!!” :-)

    • Talli Roland says:

      Love hearing what prompted you to go indie, DD, and I’m so pleased to have met you along the way! As I said above in some of my comments, it’s wonderful having options – not having to rely on agents or publishers but simply on readers who ‘get’ us.

      And others can make fun all they want (and unfortunately, some of that attitude still exists on this side of the ocean, although it’s rapidly changing), but if we’re happy, our readers are happy, and our bank account are happy… it’s all good!

    • Tigre says:

      HELP! I am completely new to epublishing and don’t know where to start. I submitted my manuscript to a very major publisher who responded that it was compelling, well-written, etc. but major publishers are not taking chances on first-time novelists. Then he suggested that I go the epub route. But how? Any advice would be most appreciated! Thank you. Tigre

  9. Ruth Harris says:

    Talli, Super congratulations to you! Your books are wonderful—entertaining, witty, intelligent, eminently readable— & you’ve done a great job presenting them to readers.

    Where I’d be is SOL. My books have sold millions of copies in the US & around the world, been NYT bestsellers, got incredible reviews (no, I didn’t write them myself), yet my publishers told me my books didn’t sell “enough.” Puh-leeze, don’t even start me!

    I worked in publishing for a long time & knew from the inside how dysfunctional the business was. Returns at 50%+. No way to run a business but, back then, there was no alternative. I totally get where DD’s coming from when she recounts Joe Konrath’s reception & her own reaction.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Ruth – they mean a lot.

      Wow, when I read that you had all that and still didn’t sell enough… it makes me so glad that there are alternatives now. Thank goodness!

  10. Congratulations on 100,000 sales, Talli! If e-publishing had never happened, I like to think that my thriller series would have sold. If not, I would still be writing books and sending queries.

    I hope you have a fabulous 2013 with lots of fabulous sales!

  11. Where would I be?

    Still trying to write the perfect query letter to catch an agent’s eye. Rewriting my novel one more time to make it more acceptable to traditional publishing. Having as my goal (and this really was the goal of a writer I know) to get a contract to write work-for-hire mysteries where I had to use the publisher’s pen name, characters, plot for the first novel and would have no rights to any of it or, should I be so lucky, subsequent books in the series.

    Instead, I was able to write the book of my heart without the constraints imposed by traditional publishing. I decide when the cover looks right, whether to accept the changes of my editor or not, and what the next step in my career is. Instead of being discouraged over rejections, I’m excited at the prospect of indie-publishing my first book by the end of the year. It’s a great place to be!

    • Talli Roland says:

      What a wonderful way of contrasting the two experiences, Elise! It certainly is a great place to be. There’s nothing better than being able to write the book you want and to be in control of the experience.

  12. Christina says:

    I would still be saying “someday” and never getting around to it, thinking it was a pipe dream that would never come true. Or I’d get halfway through the book and quit – again – like I’d done before. I’m thankful for so many choices and alternatives.

  13. Jill James says:

    I think I’d still be perfecting the perfect query letter, hoping I struck the right note to have an agent want me and my book. Although, I do have to say, that learning to write a good query letter does help to write those product descriptions at the vendors. :-)

    • Talli Roland says:

      That’s a good point, Jill – many of the skills I learned in trying to become traditionally published and then finally being traditionally published definitely helped when it came time to go out on my own. So there is *some* benefit!

  14. I think I would still be working full time at some advertising agency while I query agents. This of course makes me wonder if I had done that and gotten no response for my book, would I have written another book or just gone back to my comfortable life in advertising?

    Writing books came at a time when I was questioning my career. I was a little bored and lost some of the passion that had kept me in the ad biz for 22 years. Writing books reinvigorated that spark I had lost. I’d like to think I would have kept on trying to publish.

    • Talli Roland says:

      There’s something so satisfying in being creative – writing books came at a similar time, career-wise, for me, too. Like you, I think I would have kept on writing.

  15. I feel so blessed to be in this business right now. I, for better or worse, never had the experiences and frustrations of trying to go the traditional route. As a new author, I viewed the broad spectrum of options available today and realized that, without a doubt, indie publishing was for me.
    I love the fact that when my novel debuts on 1/3/13, I am ultimately in control of whether I find success, and just exactly what I do to get there.
    So glad to hear about your 100K book milestone. How exciting!!

  16. Fab post, Talli! And congrats on the success of you wonderful books. Much deserved!

  17. deniz says:

    I’d still be at the same stage – querying agents. No, wait! That’s not true! I never would have found the Compuserve Books and Writers Community and developed my craft. And I never would have started blogging and met so many other wonderful authors!