Monday, July 16, 2012

Traditional vs. Self Publishing

Carolyn J. Rose has a new book out, Through a Yellow Wood.  It is the sequel to the traditionally published Hemlock Lake, but now she is self publishing, and much happier.   Her book launch is at Cover to Cover Books this Saturday from 4 to 6 PM.  Without further chatter from me, may I present Carolyn, talking about traditional vs. self publishing.

GUEST BLOG:    Then and Now.
BY:  Carolyn J. Rose

Two years and four books ago I was a basket case. If you looked up “stressed out” in the dictionary, you would have seen a picture of me or even a short video clip.

Two years ago I was tugging at my hair, chewing on my fingernails, making lists, writing guest blogs, updating my website, querying reviewers, addressing postcards, mailing out advance copies of Hemlock Lake, and hoping to win enough readers to convince my publisher to offer me a contract for a second book. I was buying goodies for book launch events, color-coordinating plates and napkins with the book cover, and ordering way too much cake.

I was thrilled about having a book released as a hardcover, but I was concerned because that hardcover was priced at $25.95. Economic experts weren’t telling the public to get out there and buy books to boost the nation out of the recession and I had less name recognition than an obscure subspecies of garden slug.

I was also concerned because my publisher catered mostly to the library trade. It would be up to me to wedge Hemlock Lake onto shelves at bookstores. And the window of opportunity was tiny—the book would be “fresh” for only a few weeks.

As it turned out, despite a lot of effort, I was able to line up very few bookstore events. And, despite all those guest blogs and hours logged on social media, Hemlock Lake didn’t sell enough copies to make the publisher ask, “What else do you have for us?”

Stress turned into distress which led to self-doubt. Self-doubt threatened to morph into depression.

But then the e-version of Hemlock Lake (which I retained the rights to because e-versions weren’t included in the contract I signed on the cusp of the e-publishing revolution) picked up steam. Over the course of a year, it went from selling just a few copies a month to selling more than a hundred, then more than two hundred.

Distress morphed into delight and I got to work on manuscripts languishing in my computer waiting for a publisher to want them.

I published the next book—An Uncertain Refuge—on my own in May of 2011. Four months later I published another—A Place of Forgetting. In December I released No Substitute for Murder. A few days ago, Through a Yellow Wood, the sequel to Hemlock Lake, went up on Kindle and Nook.      

I’m having a launch party for it at Cover to Cover Books in Vancouver on Saturday, July 21st. I’m buying goodies, trying to color-coordinate plates and napkins, and I’ll probably order way too much cake. That part hasn’t changed.

And I still make lists—hey, I’m a Virgo and I love the feeling of checking off what I’ve accomplished—but the lists are much shorter.

But the big difference is that I’m not stressed out.

Because most of my sales come from e-books, I have a long-game strategy now. E-books stay on the virtual shelves where I put them. They aren’t remaindered and aren’t shuttled to the back room. My promotional window of opportunity doesn’t slam shut after a few weeks.

I still guest blog, but I space out those posts instead of cramming them all within a few days of the publication date. And, instead of blogging about my latest book, I write about other topics, like the dogs I’ve owned, the difficulty of finding clothes I like that also fit, and whether books with creepy characters should have a separate rating system.

Query Reviewers
I still query reviewers, but I space those queries out as well. I don’t know if it helps sales, but it feels good to see a new review pop up every few weeks.

I no longer worry about my books being priced too high because I have control over that. I can raise or lower prices whenever I want. Three of my books are just 99 cents in e-form. Two of them will probably stay that way for years.

I no longer worry about selling enough to make the publisher want another title because I’m the publisher. When it comes to questions about whether I should publish a book or eat more jumbo salted cashews, my comment to myself will be, “Go for it!”

Carolyn J. Rose
Sure, some titles have sold better than others—No Substitute for Murder, a light cozy, sold about 20,000 e-books in its first six months while An Uncertain Refuge, a more serious suspense novel, sold 14,000 in 13 months. But I won’t reject my next manuscript or rush to write a sequel based on those numbers.

The bottom line is that two years down the road from a traditionally published book, I’m much more relaxed. When we cut into that cake on July 21st, my stomach won’t be tied in knots. Heck, I might even be able to swallow a few bites, especially if Melanie cuts me a corner piece with lots of icing.

Carolyn is giving away a copy of her book, either paperback or e-form (no overseas mailings, please), leave a charming comment for Carolyn, say which format you would prefer, give an email address or your twitter name so we can let the lucky winner know.  

You can click here to go to Amazon to purchase her books.


  1. I'll be there! I'd be there even if you didn't have cake...that's how much I like this book.


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