Monday, March 19, 2012

From Self-Published to Traditionally Published

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I would have an announcement to make, and I've waited to go public until I signed the contract.

The good news is: I've sold my Montana Sky series to Amazon Montlake. I emailed the documents of the books to Montlake today, feeling like a parent watching a child go off to school for the first time. I waved goodbye and sniffed.

Here's the story:

In January, I received an email from Lindsay Guzzardo, an editor from Amazon Montlake, (the romance line) telling me she'd read Wild Montana Sky and loved it. She wanted to acquire the series. I took some time before I called her and left a message because I wanted to think hard about the decision and do a little research on Montlake.

My first reaction to Lindsay's email was ambivalence. I had my strategy for this series all mapped out. I planned to write a few novellas and self-publish a collection of Christmas stories. I also had three more big books outlined. I'd planned to price one of the novellas at .99 as my "loss leader" and then change Wild Montana Sky's price from .99 to 2.99.

My mind was so firmly set on the plan that I really had a hard time switching to other possibilities. My concerns were losing the control over the books and giving up the monthly income in the time between when I signed the contract and when I received the first royalty payment. This series makes a lot of money, and I've gotten used to the monthly payment from Amazon dropping into my checking account. (This last concern was based on misinformation. The agent of a friend who'd published with Montlake had told her to take down her self-published books once she signed the contract.)

I contacted everyone I knew whose self-published books had been scooped up by Amazon and asked about their experience. I also read several blogs on the subject. Everyone had positive feedback, saying that Amazon was attempting to be more "author friendly" in that authors would have input into their covers and the marketing for their books.

I didn't speak to Lindsay until the next day, and I was grateful for the time to think and formulate my questions and comments. I found speaking to a editor as a successful self-published author was VERY different than as an unknown unpublished author. :)

Right away I liked Lindsay's enthusiasm for my books and for Amazon new publishing program, which she described as cutting edge. (The program, not my books.) I felt reassured to learn that I didn't have to take my books down until the 24 hour turn around, and I get to keep the money in the meantime.

I talked to her about how I love my covers and my titles, which she also loved. She said they'd just polish up the existing covers. I also said I had a very strong vision for the series. It wasn't that I wouldn't take editorial direction, but that I didn't want an editor telling me, "That's not your next book, or that's not your hero." Lindsay said that she would respect my vision. Obviously it's working for the series, and she didn't want to change that.

The tipping point came when Lindsay said, "We know where the historical readers are." So I told her that barring issues with the contract, I was on board.

There are a few more reasons I chose to let Amazon Montlake acquire the series. (These are taken from an email I wrote to someone who asked me about my choice.)
1. My sales are mainly on Amazon.

2. Montlake will able to target the UK market, which I think is an untapped market for me, which I haven't cracked. For example, currently for the month of March, I've sold 19 books in the UK and 1 in the rest of Europe. In America (on Amazon and Barnes & Noble) I've sold 8,686.

3. I'll be able to work closely with the marketing team.

4. Stormy Montana Sky (book #3) is my option book, thus I'll be able to keep it self-published for a while, giving me a chance to see how the program will really work.

5. I'll be able to have print books, without the hassle of doing them myself. Granted, those print books won't be in most places, but with Borders gone, I don't think that not having print books in Barnes & Noble is that big of a deal. I'll still be able to have ebooks there. Apple people can download the Kindle app and buy Amazon books.

6. Montlake only wants my big books, so I will stilll self-publish novellas and short stories set in my series.

7. When they do the switch over of my books to their's, it will be seamless. I'll still keep all my reviews on their site. (Although I wish I could dump a few. :)

I realize I'm taking a risk. I have the belief that the books have already done far more than what I ever dreamed and have made far more than if I'd traditionally published them in the first place. (I'm SO thankful for all the rejections over the years. :) Therefore, going forward, everything I achieve is a bonus and a blessing. If it's less than I'm currently making, so be it.

I have already experienced the rollercoaster of self-publishing sales. After having a steady increase of sales for my first four months to an amazing amount, I had a steady decrease until Christmas. Still great numbers that many would envy, but a third to half of what it had been. Christmas popped me back up, and publishing book three made a HUGE difference. So I know and accept that there will be ups and downs, whether I'm self-published or with Amazon.
Unlike other authors who've chosen to have traditional publishers acquire their books because they think self-publishing is too much work, I have a completely different view point. I like having the responsibility and control over my books. I farm out the hard parts like formatting and cover design (although the covers are made to my specifications.)

I DON'T spend time on promotion beyond writing a few blogs (and guest blogs) from time to time and sending the book out to a few reviewers. I realized I've been very blessed in that readers are managing to find the books in this series without any effort on my part. (I wish they'd find my fantasy romance series as well!) That's not the case for most authors--whether self-published or traditionally published. I'd probably sell more if I did more promotion, but I'd rather put that time into writing. As I said in a previous blog, I think a new book is the best promotion.

The self-publishing journey is unique for every author, and I'm definitely enjoying the experience. I'll blog about my experience with Montlake, so stay tuned.