Sunday, March 4, 2012

Inspiration in Orlando and the Issue of Small Publishers versus Epublishing

Early Spring in Mickey's Home 

Mickey Inspires and I Respond

Okay, so now all of you who have read my blog know how I adore cows, but I want to confess another love.  I’m crazy about Mickey Mouse.  My husband has bought me two watches in the fifteen plus years we’ve been together.  One was a Mickey watch, the other Minnie.  As many years as we’ve been wintering in Florida, it was only five years ago I finally got to go to Disney for my birthday.  We were in the Magic Kingdom for the afternoon parade, and I think I was as thrilled by the characters as the kids there were.

That was then and this is now.  We just returned from the Mystery Writers of America Conference sponsored by MWA FL Chapter.  It was held in Orlando at the Royal Plaza.  There is no place one can go in Orlando without being exposed to the Disney brand.  It’s kitschy, I know, but I love it.

There’s no way hubby will repeat our visit to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot or to any of the parks (too bad Harry Potter), but we did go to downtown Disney several nights while at the conference, and I got my Disney fix.  It didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect all the days we were there with the exception of Sunday when a cold front blew in.  I could have walked around the Marketplace and Pleasure Island for hours.  I’m usually crowd-avoidant, but the throngs of people only added to my excitement.

Along with the ideal weather and fun setting, the conference continues through the six years we have attended to be a source of information and inspiration.  Theirs is nothing as inspiring as being around other writers, some still struggling, some highly successful.  I moderated a panel on the virtues of a small publisher.  Throughout the three days preceding my panel, I heard about traditional publishing, the big six, editors and agents.  At the other end of the evolution of the publishing process were numerous discussions on panels and in the bar about self-publishing, the e-book market.

I expected the attendance at my panel to be small, and coming as it did at the very last slot of the slot of the panels late Saturday afternoon, it was.  If I thought the attendees would be sleepy, they weren’t.  A discussion ensued about small publishers and e-publishing.  It was a heated encounter, one I decided to let spin itself out with advocates on both sides of the controversy over why publish with a small publisher when a writer can take everything by self-publishing.  Maybe I’m stretching a point, but I think our panel became a hot topic, one I hope the conference can address directly next year. 

Pair my childish pleasure at the fun venue with my favorite writing conference and the time in Orlando was near perfect, perfect enough that I recommitted myself to writing the really quirky, not the merely funny.  What would that be?  The answer is waiting for me on my computer, and I can’t wait to get to it.  I’ll keep you posted.


  1. Good points on both sides, I guess. If you get a small publisher that does not edit, does not restrict what they publish, does not offer anything but a name and a bar code, then say "No thank you," and publish it yourself. You'll make more per book.

    On the other hand, many small publishers are very selective, edit stringently, and demand a high level of writing. These are worth the money they take (as a percentage of sales - never pay anybody to publish). They will help on cover art, and publicity. And they provide an imprimatur for your work. This is good for you, and good for sales.

    So, if you have the right small publisher, I think that's better than self-publishing. But, if you don't have the right one, you may be better off self-publishing. Is that enough of a hedge?

  2. I love both my small publishers. They do all the things you expect from a publisher. I don't have to worry about the covers--though I do give input and final approval and the formatting is not up to me. I barely have time to write and promote--I don't want to do the rest of it. And by the way, I'm on a similar panel at Left Coast Crime.

  3. Well, I guess you all know what side of the coin I fall on.

    One of the things that authors don't consider is distribution. The outfit Oak Tree Press uses won't take on authors not associated with a publishing house. Also, unless you have marketing down pat, e-books alone are hard to find a readership.

    It's strength in numbers. At Left Coast Crime, Oak Tree will be represented by the publisher, the acquisitions editor and quite of few of our new authors and soon-to-authors. So much easier to promote with others in the house than going at it alone.

  4. I would love to hear how audience members responded, Lesley. Sounds like a great conference--and I'm glad you got your Disney fix!

  5. As a member of the panel, I commend Lesley as our moderator. She did a great job and is absolutely correct, our panel WAS a HOT topic. I never dreamed we'd get so much audience participation let alone the heated debates.

    Cindy Cromer

  6. Leslie - I wish I could have been there to hear the discussion. I'd love to see an online debate to hear from both sides. One thing I discovered as one who recently entered the ranks of the self-published is that if you have written a long book, i.e. lots of pages and therefore lots of paper, you will not be able to compete in paper. CreateSpace wanted a minimum price of $18.85 for my 550 page book in their Premium catalogue. I couldn't do it, so I've had to forego getting it onto any other outlets. That was tough giving up print distribution and I wonder how it would have been different if I'd gone with the small publisher who made me an offer.

  7. I think there's plenty to say on both sides of this one. With respect to your long book, Chris, you probably found in exploring small publishers that many of them want short books, often not over 70,000 words-it has to do with how much they charge for the book. If you're going trade paperback, once you're up around 18.95, then the book is difficult to sell. There are small publishers and there are small publishers, so different from one another as to waht they provide the author.

    We thought we were going to be a quiet little panel, but the topic exploded. Like you, I think this merits more discussion.

    There are those of us who are hedging our bets by taking advantage of all the opportunities this new world of publishing provides-agents, small pubs, and ebooks.

    I'm giving some consideration to contining this discussion next week.

  8. It is important to be selective when considering small publishers. I'm not sure I would choose a plumber or an electrician from just the yellow pages. A good small publisher reduces the incredible amount of work need to produce a book and another set of educated eyes is always helpful

  9. Lesley, I will keep following your blog but I would love to continue in this discussion next week. As you know from the panel, I had a strong opinion which I believe I clearly and concisely shared, to point where I feared I offended one of our fellow panelists.

    Regarding word count, my manuscript for submission and contract offer was 93,000 words but after edits ended up around 89,000 for publication. 402 pages for the e-book and 424 on print(acutal plot pages).

  10. Well, to me it goes farther than this. There are small publishers, vanity publishers, self-publishers and ebook publishers. I don't put ebook publishers in the same category as self-publishers because some of them are very traditional. It reminds of of the controversy over POD publishing. Just because it's POD doesn't mean it's self-pubbing. We're entering a new age of books, and things are changing rapidly. Stay tuned. Great topic, Lesley.

  11. Because some are inerested in continuing this topic next week, I think I'll try to split the topic into smaller segments or issues and post one of them next Sunday for input. My comments will be brief, just enough to get everyone going. Thanks for posting, y'all.

  12. I'm tickled pink to be with Oak Tree Press. I've heard tales of writers with the "big six" who have their book titles changes (not for the better), bad cover art and series ended because of "low sales" (whatever that is). OTP provides ample author input and keeps books in print. Although OTP is small, it's selective. OTP took care of getting my cover art done, processing the e-book version and handling royalties. Self-published books are also not eligible for major awards. A small press handles many of the business details that frees up the author for writing and marketing.
    Sally Carpenter

  13. Great topic, Lesley, and my colleagues debate it constantly. Thank you for sharing this, and I'll be glad to read your comments next week.