Most of the years while digital and audio have been growing, and print publishers, at the same time, shrinking, there has been a sort of “us and them” attitude involved. When “indie” publishing started to be the fad – gurus popping up all over with their savant secrets – this attitude persisted. You must do it this way, or you must go back and bow down to traditional publishing and do it their way. You can’t have it both ways. I’m here to tell you that not only is that not true, it’s harmful.
Over the last year I’ve seen a lot of different combinations of things put into play. Here’s what I believe – from what I’ve learned.
You should always retain your digital and audio rights if you can, but let’s face it – traditional publishers aren’t stupid. A lot of them are now locking in these rights and not letting go. That does not have to kill an established writer – it can work to your benefit.
A: Keep all your books, stories, screenplays, essays, etc. in play. Anything you can keep the rights to publish electronically – do that. Get the work out there in front of people.
B: If your publisher is holding onto the rights on newer works, play off of that. Many of these same publishers are willing to include marketing info for their titles in the back of eBooks published by the author, or even another publisher. EVERYONE makes more money if you cross-promote. If your book is getting front-run promotion from a NYC publisher, use that to market the works that YOU control as well. We have at least one author who received a very good promotional deal through his current traditional publisher, and is now selling like crazy (and making more money) on the works that the same publisher does NOT control.
C: Pay attention to your work, and your rights. Keep copies of the final files of things. Don’t write, publish, forget, and then later on wish you had a document file for your book. If it’s a backlist title, well, you know what I’ll say next. If you are established with a backlist…you should be contacting me, or someone like me. Someone who will scan the book, get you a document copy, not charge you to do that – and help publish your book.
D: If you get a traditional offer, and they are paying you well, take it and use that publicity to move the things you also control.
The playing field is never going to be completely even. Big Traditional Publishers have money. Authors (generally) do not. Authors create and write books, editors edit them, and publishers publish them. Except, these days, a lot of those hats are being shuffled and doubled up. If you can, learn from the marketing strategies – good and bad – of your traditional publisher. If you see something that works, give it a shot…don’t spend your mortgage money trying to follow the footsteps of a guru. If you don’t feel comfortable publishing and marketing your own work, there are alternatives. Crossroad Press is an alternative. There are others.
The key is – be more involved. Keep your apples in one hand, and the oranges close to the vest. Pay attention, track your rights, and keep your work active and viable. Opportunity, regardless of what they say in old cliches, does not come knocking…you have to spot it, recognize it, and act.
Now…go sell a million books and make me proud.