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Making the Decision to Self-Publish Your Series

04 Dec

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Guest Blog by William Stadler

Writing a trilogy can be daunting. But deciding whether or not to sell your series to an agent can be overwhelming. I have considered this idea a lot, and really I don’t think that I would ever sell one of my series to an agent unless I was guaranteed a lot of bells and whistles on the contract…Here are the reasons.
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Publishers, as great as they are in some regards, really do writers a disservice, especially when it comes to a series. If I would have decided to publish Extracted, book one of The Pioneers Series) with a trade publisher, here’s what could have happened.  Bear in mind that I have already written books two and three of this trilogy. I would send in Extracted to the publisher (or the agent, depending on how you wanted to query). The publisher would read it over. If they liked it, I would sign a contract.
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Having a Publishing Contract 
Being under contract means that I cannot sell my book on my own, and I have just relinquished all of my rights (except for the copyright) to the publisher.  I now have lost all creative input into the book. The cover is out of my hands. The distribution channel selection is out of my hands.  And, I’m going to have to wait six to eight months before I ever see my book on the shelf. That’s after the first four to six months for them to review the work.

The-Girl-With-The-ScarSo let’s be conservative and say that this entire process took only twelve months. Finally, my book is on the shelf and it can be bought from any major book distributor in the USA. That’s great!

But here’s the thing about books: they only stay on the shelves for maybe three months if they’re not selling, which is usually the case for debut authors and those who don’t have a strong fan base.
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That’s not so bad. I mean, we gave traditional publishing a shot, so now we can just take our book and mosey on back to our desks and work on it some more – perhaps self-publish it pretty soon. Wrong!
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Publishers Own the Rights
The publisher owns the rights to that book. And since it’s a series, they not only own the rights to that book, but to all books within that series. Say I wanted to make a spin-off, using my main character from Dark Connection (since I’ve lost all my rights to the series). I can’t do that either. Why? Because Genevieve Solace, the lead character in this work, belongs to the publisher as well. So there will be no spin-offs, nothing. I have to start from the ground up.
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Author-Publishing is the Way to Go
I believe that a series should hit the market as a self-published work (unless you are able to keep your rights)  

  • You have so much more flexibility.
  • You can change your cover if you feel that’s the reason sales are down.
  • You can change the interior design.

Heck, you can change the entire story! But if you submit your series to a publisher, then you have lost all rights.

And let’s say you are as lucky as JK Rowling with her Harry Potter series.  Keep in mind that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was her first book, so her royalties were probably only around 7-10% per sale. With her second book, she might have made more per sale, but the publisher does not have to grant her a higher rate. Why?

What’s in it for Publishers?
They know you’re going to write more of the series. And they know that you can’t sell that series through anyone else but them. So there’s no benefit. And here’s the thing: Even if by her seventh book they increased her royalties to 25% (which is right around the highest for authors at her level), she could have made loads more if she had self-published – right around the 70% royalty range for Amazon, with the lowest being around 30% starting out.
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Money, Time and Rights
So a series is best if self-published in my opinion. Traditional publishers don’t spend thousands of dollars to market their new authors. You are going to have to market for yourself anyway. Why lose money and time and rights in the process?
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William Stadler is a freelance writer who ventured into novel writing with the passion to see stories and characters come to life. He typically enjoys writing fantasy, where he believes creativity and imagination meet. You can visit his blog at http://www.wstadler.com

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