Thursday, April 03, 2014

Navigating the Stormy Seas of Publishing

Calcaterra '99
By Garrett Calcaterra '99

Last month I wrote a guest blog post for Diversion Books, the publisher of my debut fantasy novel, Dreamwielder, and I remarked on the odd publication path my book took: an initial launch in e-book format only, then audiobook format through a few months later, and finally in trade paperback format almost a year after the initial release. 

It’s a big departure from the traditional book release process, but this is the reality of the book publishing world now. There is no tried and true route to publication success, and if you want to make it as an author, you have to navigate your own path.

The modern publishing world is a double-edged sword. On one hand, there are more opportunities than ever to reach readers directly thanks to e-books, self-publishing platforms like KDP and Smashwords, and Print-on-Demand services like CreateSpace and Lulu. On the other hand, these opportunities will do nothing for you if you fail to write quality books or if you don’t understand the business side of publishing. And the fact of the matter is, unless you already have a large following, publishers still offer you the best shot of getting your book in front of readers.

Sure, I could have self-published Dreamwielder, but I never would have procured a Barnes & Noble Nook First Look selection on my own. never would have turned it into an audiobook. And before all that, Dreamwielder never would have gotten the great editorial attention it received with Diversion Books if I self-published. That’s something a lot of newbies to the writing world neglect to consider: publishers ensure that they only release a high-quality, polished product.

For me, what’s worked so far is handling each writing project on a case-by-case scenario, and I don’t do it alone. I am in regular contact with my literary agent, Elizabeth Kracht, and together we game plan what to do with each book project I have. For Dreamwielder we went with Diversion Books. Diversion Books turned me on to Wattapad, an e-book app and community that houses 40 million free e-books. 

There on Wattpad, I self-released a prequel story to Dreamwielder, and also an unrelated fantasy novelette, The Knight’s Dog, which got picked up as a featured Wattpad story. As the time of writing this blog post, the novelette has racked up almost 17 thousand reads in little over a week! That’s how volatile and crazy the e-book market is.

On the self-publishing front, I’ve self-released The Knight’s Dog as an 99 cent e-book for the Kindle and Nook, and I’ve also self-released two quirky humor titles, knowing traditional publisher wouldn’t be willing to take a risk on them. 

I also experimented with selling my previously published short stories as DRM-free e-book singles directly from my website. That was a complete and utter failure! Still, I’m glad I tried it. I learned a lot about self-publishing and the e-book marketplace with the experience, and that knowledge is invaluable.

In the meantime, I’m working on the sequel to Dreamwielder, which is already contracted with Diversion Books, and I’m keeping my eyes open for new opportunities. I know writing novels is how I’m going to turn my writing into a sustainable career. I need to have a new book every year, which my agent and I will find the best possible market for, and I’ll continue to try out homes for my shorter work. 

Those 17 thousand downloads on Wattpad don’t earn me a dime directly, but now 17 thousand new people have seen my name, and the next time they see it on front of a book online or in their bookstore, hopefully they’ll deem it worthy to spend their money on.

Calcaterra ’99 was an applied science major with a minor in creative writing at Pacific University. He teaches writing at Chapman University and the Orange County School of the Arts. His new novel, Dreamwielder, is available in e-book format at all major retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

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