Please give a warm Magical welcome to my dear friend, Natalie Collins!!!
Natalie R. Collins has eight published books, another one scheduled to come out in July 2012, TIES THAT BIND, and several others in various stages of publishing. She is currently working on her next one… or two… or three. She has dabbled in both dark suspense and cozy mysteries, and is happy to be able to work in both genres. She has written for Penguin Putnam, Thompson Gale, and still currently has a contract with St. Martin’s Press. She spent five years as an editor at the Sundance Film Festival, has worked in journalism, and is currently working to get her degree in graphic design.
First of all, I would like to thank Karin for inviting me to visit Magical Musings. It’s my first time here, and I’m excited to visit.
Who am I? I am a writer. You might laugh, but that is what I tell people when they ask, despite the fact I am an editor, proofreader, cover designer, accountant, marketing specialist and student (I am going to school to get my bachelor’s degree in graphic design). I’m sure there is some more I can add in there, but you probably already have it figured out or would be bored to tears.
I am a rarity in the world of publishing, which is experiencing a huge sea change, as I’m sure you know. I have a contract with St. Martin’s Press, one of the “Big Seven” New York publishers. I am currently in revisions on my fourth book and possibly final book with them. My most recent book just came out in August, and is called Ties That Bind. This book addresses a little known danger to children and teens that is finally getting some press, and it’s called “the choking game” or “passout.” Of course, there is a killer, and many questions and some intense dark suspense and erotic romance. But it is what I am known for.
So, you might think I have four books. Not so. I have 13 and a serial, and a few more in the works. I am also the owner of a small publishing imprint called Sisterhood Publications. I jumped on board the e-book train around the same time that it took off on Amazon, and although I am not known for it, like some bigger names such as Barry Eisler, Lee Goldberg and a few others, I have published some of my own work that didn’t seem to fit in New York. Along with that, I picked up some books that I knew deserved to be published, including Letters to Juniper (a finalist in the Colorado Book Awards for 2012) and PFC Liberty Stryker, by Peggy Tibbetts; Evacuation Plan: A Novel from the Hospice, a multiple-award winning book by Joe O’Connell; and our bestselling book, Fatal Kiss, a true crime novel by Suzanne Barr.
Our numbers are highest in Kindle, so I like Amazon, despite the bad reputation it has among some people who are traditionally published. I listen to people whine and wail, and I have to laugh. Amazon is just doing business, and doing it right. They are developing a business model that traditional publishing would be well-advised to follow. Why on earth would you do a print run of 70,000 when you can put an e-book out first and see how it is going to sell?
Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint is picking up some people, not paying enormous advances, but giving their books excellent promotion and treating their authors pretty darn well. I personally know some of their authors, and they speak very highly of the imprint.
Of course, for the rest of us there is Kindle and Createspace, and Smashwords. Sisterhood publishes an e-version that is available in all electronic formats through both Kindle and Smashwords. My reasoning behind using Smashwords is getting the books in their premium catalog. If they accept it, then your book is for sale on iBooks, Nook, and all the other places where e-books are sold. But the truth is, most of our sales come from Kindle. And after watching a few of our books go through the process, I no longer do a print copy unless a book has sales of 10,000 or more. Of course, I have four authors. If they want to talk to me about it, we will talk.
The biggest thing brought about by this “sea change” in the industry, though, is that anyone can publish a book and do it fast. I have always said this is not advisable. I even started a group on Facebook called Indie Marketplace, so that I could help “indie” authors find good cover artists, formatters, editors and marketers and promoters. Guess what I got for doing this? A big fat pain in the patootie and some nasty emails. Then one of the marketers who joined started his own group, using the same name, and I just let him go. He had told me, at one point, he didn’t do any work that was unpaid. Maybe he makes a living that way, but that isn’t my world. I’m not sure I ever want it to be.
And the truth is, there are HUNDREDS, and I mean hundreds of books that go up daily on both Smashwords and Kindle, and in print through Createspace, that are only fit to line the pages of a birdcage or supply electricity to someone’s television.
New York was always “the moderator.” They held all the cards, and anyone who worked outside the model was “self-published” or “POD.” At one point I had the nickname of the POD poster child because my first novel, Sister Wife, was self-published and then I sold a book to St. Martin’s. That name had a bad taste to it, for the same reasons I have cited above. But that’s all gone now. Sister Wife is still selling several hundred copies a month, 12 years later.
Amazon is in charge, and no one is moderating, at least on the Kindle and Createspace end. It is the same thing with Smashwords, except they keep the crap out of their “premium catalog.”
I actually saw a cover on Amazon the other day that had a penny taped to a finger. It was obviously taken by a camera. I’m still perplexed.
I’ve been yelling to the rooftops at Indie authors to “clean it up.” You can do it yourself, but not if you aren’t willing to hire an editor, a cover designer and a professional formatter. I said this on the Facebook group I started (and closed) and was attacked because I was a New York author. They didn’t seem to understand I am both New York and indie published.
I am also an editor, but I stopped editing for independent authors when I found myself being roasted on a blog, compared to a scam brake salesman who tells you that you must have new brakes! If you don’t you will die! Everyone in your car will die, when in reality your brakes are fine. At least that was what I was, according to this author. That was fun. It was a ten-page test edit, where I pointed out the changes that needed to be made in the text, according to me, of course, and to see whether or not I was a fit for the author. Apparently, I was not a fit. We were all going to die! Everyone!
I laugh about it now, but at the time I was thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe this.” I charge a decent sum to edit, because I am good at it. I don’t deserve to be derided by someone whose girlfriend edited the manuscript and then was offended because I found changes that needed to be made. If you don’t like my suggestions, walk away and find someone else cheaper. That’s why I do a test edit. Or did.
Now I am concentrating solely on my own writing, ghostwriting (don’t ask and I won’t tell) and my little imprint. I say no to a lot of manuscripts with promise, mostly because they need too much work. A few simply don’t fit the Sisterhood imprint which is “edgy fiction and non-fiction.” And some are pure crap. When a book is acquired by Sisterhood (aka me) I am basically giving the author editing, a cover, and formatting, and usually not seeing much in return. But it’s worth it, because the books are good, and they deserve it. Tibbetts’ Letters to Juniper is an example of that. I bawled the first time I read it. It’s just quality, edgy fiction.
So, let’s say you have tried New York, the niche presses, and Thomas & Mercer, and been turned down. Or you simply don’t want to deal with traditional publishing. Why would you go with a small imprint like Sisterhood? Well, if you have a well-edited, properly formatted book with a professionally designed cover, there is no reason, unless you want the cachet. And I can’t really say that Sisterhood has that much cachet just yet. Like I said, I have four authors—five if you count me.
If you can do it yourself, or with a co-op of similar like-minded authors, do it. Just do it right. All books need to be edited, formatted, and have a cover design. It is necessary to do this, and this usually means money. If you can’t afford it, save up until you do. Don’t add to the problem. Don’t put it up on Amazon and pay some guy thousands of dollars to write fake five-star reviews about your book, when you could have used that money to make your book decent.
Amazon reviews are no longer believable. People are paying other people to write them. Or just doing it themselves, and not very well. And no one is fooled. If you think I am joking, try dropping into the Amazon readers’ forums and mentioning that you are an author. I recommend putting your left arm in first, if you are right handed, because it will come out unusable. These readers, the people we are supposed to be marketing to, have been inundated with crap and no longer tolerate anything, even if you have a good book. People have tried everything they know to raise their Amazon ranking, when nobody really knows how they are ranking the books. Sure, sales figure in, but something else does, too. And when the sales are big, both New York and Amazon take notice. There is now a spot on the New York Times list for bestselling e-books. Can “indie” books make it there? Yup. And they do. With a properly edited, formatted, and nicely designed cover.
The entire publishing industry is in flux, and chaos. It will probably stay that way for a while. It’s the biggest change seen since paperbacks. But a good book is a good book, whether it is read on a portable e-reader or in a hardcover book. If booksellers, bookstores and authors don’t follow the trends, they will be left behind.
And by following the trends, I do not mean write the next Twilight. Guess what? Somebody else already did. Now everyone is copying it. Or trying to hit that genre, when that genre will roll itself into a big ball and tumble around for a while and then four or five authors will come out still standing, while the rest are too dizzy to stand. Remember Chicklit? Romantic suspense? Four or five still standing in both.
Write good, quality, fiction, and don’t copy what is happening. If you have an audience in one of those markets, but New York no longer wants to pay, keep writing them and go indie. I hear time and time again of how sad people are when a series ends. Now it doesn’t have to! And if you have a good book that you have produced properly, go indie. Why should someone else earn the majority of the profit from your book? It belongs to you, and the majority of the money should go to you.
Well, I guess that’s more than enough food for thought for one blog post. Thanks for reading, if you stayed with me. And happy reading.