The Way Forward

I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that I’m going to be reacquiring the rights to four of my novels, but after a few conversations I’ve had with a few people—offhand chats with persons not involved in publishing who are aware that I also exist as a writer—I came to realize I never discussed why I’m getting those rights back, and what that actually means.Immortal_Cover58

There are a couple of possible why answers. The short one is because I can. The longer is, the publisher is no longer going to be a publisher somewhat shortly, and rather than wait out the life of the contracts (the earliest contract end-date is 2018) I asked for their release, and the request was granted.

Now then: if you aren’t involved in this industry, you may be having a little trouble getting your head around this, because even if you aren’t an author you probably put Getting A Publisher somewhere near the top of the list of requirements for becoming an author. You might also imagine Getting Rid of Your Publisher doesn’t belong on that list at all.

Here’s a better why statement, then, for you non-authors: I have nothing to gain by having these four books with a publisher, and everything to gain by publishing them myself.

That’s probably still pretty vague, so let’s try it with numbers.

If you pick up a copy of Immortal, right now, as an ebook, I’m going to earn $1.25 of the $4.99 you spent to download it.

Let me stop here and look for the boldface function because that is well above industry standard. I mean it: if I published this book with a different company I could expect less than a dollar per sale.

However, if you pick up a copy of the book in another two months (once I’ve re-released it myself) I would get 70% of that $4.99 you spent, or $3.49 per sale.

Hellenic_Immortal20You might imagine that this is a reasonable thing insofar as a self-published author doesn’t have a lot of the things an author with a publisher would expect to have, like marketing, and… well, whatever else they provide. Validation, possibly.

All right, I’m probably not super-qualified to speak on behalf of publishers, because aside from the one I’m currently with, I haven’t had a lot of success dealing with traditional publishing houses. What I do know is it’s nearly impossible these days to wander around the Internet without tripping over another iteration of exactly how bad their contracts are, and exactly how little the majority of their authors make.

(Sources? try very nearly every post on The Passive Voice, everything from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Hugh Howey, or J.A.Konrath.)

So that’s the why, in a nutshell: at this moment, business-wise, I see nothing to gain by having a contractual relationship with a publisher. I can make more per unit sold as a self-published author, and I have no confidence that the number of additional copies I might sell with a publisher would offset the difference between under-a-dollar-per-sale and over-$3.00-per-sale.

The what does this mean part is where you learn I am the least organized person in the world, ever. I mean, probably.

Let’s start with the obvious: it’s not possible to just take the currently-published editions of Immortal, Hellenic Immortal, Immortal at the Edge of the World, and Fixer, and point the royalty stream toward my bank account.Immortal-Edge-of-World-Low-Res-Cover

If this were a real-world thing that could actually be done, it would be awesome, but it can’t. The publisher has a deal with a printer and another deal with a print distributor, and a separate deal with each ebook distributor. Needless to say their name can’t just be crossed out and replaced with mine. On top of that, all of the editions they put out have the publisher’s name all over it. On top of that, they will continue to own the cover art.

What I need to do, instead, is take the original text for the novels, format them appropriately for both ebook distribution and print book distribution, and get new covers for them.

Here’s where the I wish I were better organized but oh well, this is who I am as a person part comes in: I’m not 100% certain which version of any of the multiple versions of these books I have saved away on my computer are the most up-to-date versions.

I absolutely would have received the final proof copy of each book at some point, because the outcome of the editing process would have resulted in my having them. The problem is, I have barely-differentiated files on these books dating back to 2003. I can put my hands on what I think is probably a final copy, but my certitude that I am correct is only running at about 75%, and that isn’t good enough.

But that’s okay, because the publisher has them!

Well, yes, but the versions they have are the versions they went to press with. The same versions with their names plastered all over them, in formats I can’t edit.

When I asked for copies of the various editions, I received three files for each book: a mobi edition (which is what Amazon uses), an epub edition (everyone else), and a pdf (for print). Meanwhile, I use a program for ebook formatting called Vellum—which doesn’t read mobi, epub or pdf files—and for print formatting I use a template provided by Createspace that’s in docx.

Fixer_Hi-Res_CoverHere’s what I’ve been doing with my time for the past, oh, two months or so.  For each book, I converted the pdf file to docx, pasted the text one chapter at a time into Vellum, and then proceeded to read each word of it for transfer errors.

Once I’m done editing, I’ll be copying the text out of Vellum chapter by chapter, pasting it into an empty word doc, copying it again, and pasting it into the Createspace template.

I am sure you think you have a better solution. I promise you, I have tried everything else, from sending the just-converted .docx file to Vellum as a whole to converting an epub doc instead. I’ve nuked word formatting and tried textedit and probably a few other things a lot of good stiff drinks have already eradicated from my memory. This is the only approach that seems to work.

The good news? Since I was going line-by-line anyway, the new editions of the novels are actually New Editions. I grant that the changes I’m making are changes I am perhaps the only one to care about (I am no longer a fan of extensive creative dialogue tags, for instance) but the changes are being made nonetheless.

The other good news? New covers! Yes! I already have them, and I’m not going to show them to you right now because I understand cover reveals are a thing still, so I’ll roll them out another time. But, they’re awesome.

What’s still to come…

As soon as I’m finished with both the ebook and print formatting, I can load them into the various distribution channels, and then I get to have some fun with the vendors.

These books have review histories, and sales rank histories, and while it’s not possible to repoint a revenue stream from the publisher’s bank account to mine, it is possible to point the online information pertaining to their editions to my editions.

I can’t guarantee that this will happen immediately, but I can guarantee that every minute it hasn’t happened yet is another minute in which I slowly turn into a gibbering mess. Also, I can’t even do anything about it until the new editions are published and the old ones are unpublished and that isn’t happening until September first.

And then, maybe, I can get back to writing that fourth Immortal book and that second Fixer book.

I hear people are looking forward to those.

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No Comments

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt on July 2, 2016 at 8:46 am

    I have ONE book out. I’m struggling to put up a couple of short stories while writing the second book in the trilogy, and promoting the first.

    I have the same problem – lots of versions stored on my computer, with names such as ‘final,’ and ‘FINAL,’ and ‘production’ – all of which made sense late last year, and do not, and which I didn’t as much forget to sort out then, as not have time to do that.

    So I can really appreciate what you’re doing, and how much time it’s going to take you to do it, but congratulate you on having your rights back – the most difficult of the tasks. Many writers can’t get those rights back.

    No wisdom to offer, but a lot of sympathy: it won’t be easy to find and sort out what you stored. Fortunately, you – who have the most to gain by the nice clean edited second editions – will be the one getting the work done and the last say. And you care. Good job.

    • A.C.Flory on July 3, 2016 at 7:22 am

      oh god yes…those final files…know them well. 🙁

  2. Tracy-James Jones on July 2, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I have 2 books that I am finally getting the rights back to this year. Still deciding on new covers and updates for at least 3 of my books, and pulling one off the sales self for a complete rewrite. All this while trying to do a dozen other things, but hey, you gotta move forward to keep the dream alive. I’m also pushing my books towards film options, so having full control of the work certainly means more for me.

    And yes, more Adam and Fixer 2 please. You know I’m a super fan of both!

  3. A.C.Flory on July 3, 2016 at 7:28 am

    I haven’t tried Vellum, and I understand that going on a brand new learning curve is not fun, but…at some point you might consider StoryBox [for pc]. You can export out to .rtf which every wordprocessor can work with.
    When I first started using it I imported a 300plus word monstrosity from Word. These days I export to Word for other people, like editors. There is a little prep. work required before you import a file but it’s nothing like the mammoth task you’ve set for yourself now. Oh, and you can also export out to a .mobi file or .epub.
    For now though, just…good luck!

    • Gene Doucette on July 3, 2016 at 7:50 am

      I haven’t heard of StoryBox, but it does sound a lot like what I’m getting from Vellum. The key distinction is PC vs. Mac. I have a Mac, and Vellum is essentially there for Mac users.

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