Monday, 21 June 2010

Patricia Rice on Self Publishing with Author Co-ops


Linda Banche here. Today we are delighted to host romance superstar Patricia Rice. Ms. Rice has written in many romance genres, including historicals, paranormals, and contemporaries. Her latest book, THE WICKED WYCKERLY, a Regency, will be available in July (and which I’m buying as soon as it hits the shelves).

She has chosen to offer her backlist to new readers via self-publishing. While most self-published authors go it alone, Ms. Rice has joined two author co-ops, A Writer's Work, and Book View Café. Here she shares with us her experiences self-publishing with a group.

Thank you for inviting me here to share my experiences with an audience who may even be more e-experienced than I am! I think I’ll just explain a little bit about what I’m doing and open the floor for questions and discussions.

I’m Patricia Rice. I sold my first book in 1982 and the current opus, THE WICKED WYCKERLY, out in July, will be my 47th full length print novel. I’ve probably sold millions of print books over the years, not counting anthologies.

1. You're a USA Today and NY Times bestselling author. Why did you enter self-pub/epub?
I like to consider myself market savvy, although I’m not certain anyone can really predict the book market. My husband is a techie who tells me about innovations in the e-reader industry, so I’ve been watching the e-book market for years. Friends of mine established their own publishing companies during our last slump, and while they aren’t competing with the big guys yet, they’re making a comfortable living. Some of them started with e-publications. Others started with print and are branching out. Several of them wanted my backlist, so I was more or less handed easy access. And because of my early interest, I believed I saw opportunity on the horizon when I finally jumped in last year with www.regencyreads.com

I had very little to do with any of those first books except proof and edit scans of my old Regencies. Old category Regencies have a steady niche market and they immediately produced a small stream of income, so I began turning some of my recent paranormal historicals over to their paranormal division and looking around to see how else I could get in on the ground floor of this opportunity.

What I really want to do is establish an e-book audience because I believe that’s the future.


2. You're part of Book View Cafe and A Writer's Work, both author co-ops. Why did you decide on a co-op for your books? Why not go to Smashwords?

I began wondering why authors couldn’t publish themselves and claim the lion’s share of the profits. Smashwords, fictionwise, et al, take a huge percentage for simply listing our work on their website. Why couldn’t we have our own websites and keep that percentage? We were already doing all the rest of the work—writing, creating covers, marketing. So I began experimenting with www.awriterswork.com and www.bookviewcafe.com. Both are essentially author co-ops but with different operating methods.

Essentially, we are establishing our own publishing houses where we’re in control. We hope they’ll be a ground base for distribution in the future, eliminating the middleman—something print publishers have failed to do.

Once we establish a book on our author-owned website, we expand to Smashwords, Kindle, et al, just as a regular publisher does. But if we can enlarge our operations to equal that of the larger distributors, we can remove our books from the distributors at any time. We’re in complete control of our rights and where we sell.

3. You’ve been involved with Book View Cafe and A Writer's Work for a while now. What are your impressions of self-pub so far? What do you like? What do you dislike?

Since I still spend most of my time on my print books, which are my bread and butter, I don’t have a great deal of time for working on the e-books. I’ve hired people to scan backlist and create covers for me. I am not technology-oriented, so websites and formatting for different readers, etc, are all a mystery to me. I can’t say I dislike them so much as not understand what’s done. What I’m loving is the freedom. I’m adding back pages that have been edited out for word count. I can decide when I want a book produced. I can choose my book cover. I can decide whether or not to sell to Kindle and what cover price I want.

The jury is still out on sales and marketing. I’ve put roughly twelve books and an anthology out in a year. Because I’m not tech-savvy, I’m probably breaking even with income from the books paying for covers, website and formatting costs. I’ve learned to do Twitter and Facebook but that’s about all the marketing I’ve done. But after this year, it’s all gravy on those first dozen books. If the e-market continues to grow, my sales and income should grow proportionally, knock wood. And conversely, as sales grow, the more I can reduce prices. It’s a fascinating balance.

4. Book View Cafe and A Writer's Work both feature e-pub. Why not also POD?

POD technology is not e-technology. The people who produce the books have their own systems and requirements. I don’t claim to understand it, but BVC has their toes in the water and their more tech-oriented people are exploring. It will come.

5. How much of the work of the co-op does each author do? For example, do you format your books yourself? Pick your own cover photos? (I love the cover of LOST LOVE. LOST LOVE is sitting on my electronic TBR pile. I just bought a SONY eReader. *grins*)

Thank you! I’m loving my Nook. *G* The LOST LOVE cover was my first experiment in choosing my own cover. My Belgrave House books (www.regencyreads.com and www.belgravehouse.com) were all designed by the publisher. For A Writers Work and Book View Cafe, I’ve been working with another author who knows how to create cover magic. I choose the design and she whips it up for me.

Each co-op works differently.

Pat McLaughlin owns the website at A Writers Work and is handling all the organizational duties that most writers resist. She receives a small percentage of sales until she recoups her costs. Authors put together their own books (backlist or original), create their own covers, and pay the web designer directly for setting up their web pages and formatting. We’re hoping to establish a large collective of multi-published authors that will draw an audience simply for the convenience and discount of buying directly from authors without the middleman.

Book View Café began several years ago and is totally a co-op, with each member doing what they do best, sharing services, with no upfront costs involved. If I had time and was willing to learn, I could do it all for free with the guidance of more experienced authors, but I’m cheating and paying someone to set the books on the site for me. BVC has reached a point where it can produce its own original books—writing, editing, and marketing them. Again, they’re all experienced, multi-published authors who know the business inside and out. Some have been editors with NYC houses, so we have a strong editorial staff.

I’m learning a great deal from both places, and we learn from each other. The best part is that we’re small and far more adaptable to the winds of change than major houses. We may not retire on millions, but our goals are to sustain our writing careers, make reading affordable, and provide readers easy to access to a wide variety of original fiction. And we’ve achieved that. So we’re already successful to that extent. World domination isn’t on our horizon. Yet. *G*

Visit Patricia Rice at her website, http://www.patriciarice.com

Some of her earlier works are available in e-format at the co-ops
Book View Café: http://www.bookviewcafe.com
A Writer's Work: http://www.awriterswork.com

And also at the e-bookstores
RegencyReads: http://www.regencyreads.com
Belgrave House: http://www.belgravehouse.com

15 comments:

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thank you so much, Patricia, for sharing all this useful and fascinating information. I wish you great success with your co-operative venture.

I agree that ebooks and epublishing are the coming trends and I think it's a very exciting time to be a writer and also a reader - the choice will be amazing for everyone.

Linda Banche said...

Here's Linda, the gushing fan. I am so glad you took the plunge into e-pub. The more authors that go into self-pub/e-pub, the more this segment of publishing will grow, and I think everyone, both authors and readers, will benefit. Thanks for coming over.

Kaye Manro said...

Thanks to Linda for inviting Patricia here with her very helpful advice! And thanks to Patricia for joining us here on the Pink blog and sharing such fantastic knowledge.

I agree with you Lindsay and Linda! It is a great time to be a writer. The doors are open on many levels.

Patricia Rice said...

It's a great time to be an author, an even better time if you know how to market what you write! We all need to take courses in selling...

Linda Acaster said...

Hi Pat. Thanks for coming over. Ebooking my own short backlist, it was fascinating to read your experience with a co-op. It's great of you to pave the way, and I hope it works well for you - and all of us!

LK Hunsaker said...

Hi Patricia and Linda! I've been looking forward to this, since I'm in the process of getting a much smaller scale co-op started with my own company.

Selling from your own site means formatting to all the different ebook pubs, a nice feat for the truly tech savvy! Actually, Smashwords has a pretty small cut considering what they do for the author in terms of generating all the different pubs and doing the distribution to all of the big markets. I have to be happy with that, unless I grab a truly tech savvy partner. I could learn, but that's too much lost writing time. I completely understand why you'd pay for those services! ;-)

Congrats on going the ebook route with your backlist. It's a wonderful thing to get those out of print books back in circulation. I think that, in itself, will help spread the popularity of ebooks.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Pat, it's so nice to see you here and catch up with you again. Last time we talked was when I was living in Hull. I'm in KY at the moment and still think of your when I pass through Mayfield. A very informative blog today. I learned a lot but I'm not brave enough to jump into this arena just yet. I used all my courage launching into cyberspace. I wish you continued success with your books. Linda

Cait London said...

Lindsey, first, I love your apple blossoms on the header. Or I think that's what they are.

I'm on AWW with Patricia who is just super to share info with a beginner in epub, allowing me to lift up my early books. Very informative person, our Patricia.

Thank you, Patricia.

Savanna Kougar said...

Patricia, I forgot to mention over on the HEA blog how much I love your cover designs.

And, thanks again, for sharing. I think the more of us authors take advantage of e-opportunities, the better off we'll all be.

StephB said...

Lindsay and Patricia, great interview. I do think with the inovations to epublishing, and with ebook readers like the Nook and Kindle, and now iPad, the ebook market will continue to grow and gain crediablity.

Smiles
Steph

Patricia Rice said...

Linda Swift, how great to "see" you around! We must catch up sometime...

Cait is the tortoise to my hare. She studies everything and works her way through until it makes sense, while I'm busy hopping about picking daisies. "G"

Electronic books are very definitely our future. I wish I could predict the manner in which they'll be sold or formatted, but I can't. As long as we keep the rights to our material, then selling it however we can makes sense to me right now.

Patricia McLinn said...

Popping in as the www.AWritersWork.com instigator to let folks know that in addition to ePub every work is also offered in PDF. For those who prefer paper in hand, you can print out the PDF and read it that way.

You can read the 1st chapter of any book before buying.

Oh, and come sign up for our newsletter and be automatically entered in drawings for free books. You'll also be entered if you've friended us on Facebook - http://tinyurl.com/awritersworkfb -
or following us on Twitter - http://twitter.com/AWritersWork

And we love feedback from our readers -- one of the joys of offering our works directly to you.

Danielle Thorne said...

Wonderful, help information. Thanks so much for the interview!

KBWalker said...

Thanks for an informative blog, Patricia. I'm standing on the edge of the pool myself with my memoir, a Life Less Lost, so the timing is perfect. Just waiting for my techie daughter-in-law to get it into the right format. Like LK, I don't think Smashwords's cut is excessive and am such a novice I want the security of a biggish player. But I'm grateful to the cooperatives that are helping to whip up larger audiences and people like you, willing to share your experiences.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks again, Linda and Patricia!

Thanks, Cait, for your kind comments re the blog. It's all home grown - my hubby took the photos of the apple tree blossom and the azalea flowers and then designed the blog for me. (He's a keen photographer!)