Industry guests emphasized that with a traditional publisher a book’s cover is being considered by a team. They said it’s important that everyone be on the same page, and that sometimes it’s better to have ideas from a group of people. Authors pointed out that they didn’t seek only to please themselves and that many work with professional cover artists to design covers that appeal to readers.
The next question to the publishers was whether they foresaw “any changes that will increase the attractiveness of staying with traditional publishing?”
The overall feeling about this from the industry guests seemed to be that things are evolving but they didn’t know how things would change. One house represented was actively pursuing backlists and another guest mentioned that the ability to get a book into readers’ hands faster has increased, using Sylvia Day as an example. This was tempered, though, with the comment that speed depends on the project: if there is an opportunity and if the book is ready. Publishers still need time to sell into accounts like Walmart, Target, and Barnes & Noble.
The guests also pointed out that speed isn’t just dependent on the publishing houses; time has to be allowed for the author to write the book–in the case of a subsequent book.
Another reason offered for the slower pace for publishing houses than an individual indie author was the number of passes a book goes through even after the editing process, described by one guest as being pretty intense: “I see it every pass. Is it overkill? I don’t know.”
Edie then asked if indie publishing had become the new slush pile and if publishers would consider letting authors keep their e-rights or buy only print rights.
Every industry guest said no. (Although we learned in other sessions that Bella Andre had successfully negotiated a seven-figure print-only contract.) The industry guests acknowledged that while they haven’t been discussing print-only rights, it is getting more and more challenging. However, if they just take print, they get all the risks without the profit that comes with e-book rights. One guest admitted that while her house won’t do print-only, it will consider negotiating things like print first, digital later, or digital first, print later.
The next question took us back to an author focus: “Does indie publishing feed the muse in a way traditional publishing doesn’t?”
The authors had mixed responses. They acknowledged that, as an indie author, you are running a business.
One author said she could spend eight hours writing and eight hours on everything else (formatting, covers, promotion, social media) each day, which is an overload of creative and business. However, others mentioned perks like being able to write a book of any length that fits the story rather than a publishing line’s mandates. Another said it was liberating to know that she can write what she wants and indie publish it if traditional publishers won’t buy it. An author who’s gone strictly indie said it was freeing to be done with being rejected. She no longer has to think about what the publishing world wants, only about what her readers want.
This was met with a lot of agreement. Many of the authors said that they’ve put up books they knew traditional publishing didn’t want, but a certain readership did, and mentioned that they listen to readers more now and take their feedback on what to write. “We are not as narrowly defined.”
An author new to indie publishing said she feeds her muse and has hope that the books will find readers.
Another said if she really wants to write a book, she will, but she is in the business of selling books; the balance is writing what she thinks will sell and keeping her muse happy.
Industry guests replied that they also get reader feedback from looking at reviews.
Another author responded that going indie gave her the chance to sell her cozy mysteries in the U.K.
Her agent had said there was no market for them there, but Amazon U.K. now accounts for 40 percent of her income.
Using a traditional print contract to help provide a push and a platform for indie books was also discussed.
For the most part, the authors seemed to agree that this worked. Industry guests emphasized that authors should want to get their books out in every way that they can. One author, however, disagreed with using print books as a promotional opportunity for indie books. She sees the print market as very different from the e-market, with different readers. Another responded to the industry guests’ comments