Writer to Agent: Paths to Publishing


Hi, and welcome to the webinar series
Writer to Agent, created by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs
in affiliation with Folio Literary Management. We very much hope you enjoy our presentation. So today, we’re going to be talking about
the various paths to publishing. All manuscripts aren’t created equal,
and neither are publishers. So, this is going to be a brief overview
of what’s involved and the various players. So, first of all, I guess I should
tell you a little more about me. I’m Jeff Kleinman, and I’m a
founding partner here at Folio, and I’m here with… [Annie:] Annie Hwang. I am a
literary agent here at Folio, and I’m also our digital rights director. Today, we’re gonna start off by
talking a bit about traditional publishing. And this is the established way that a publisher goes about acquiring books from writers just like you. There are lots of different types of traditional publishers, and Jeff is going to tell us a bit about the different types and how to know what might be best for your project. [Jeff:] So, there are a bunch of different categories, and these are sort of rough categories
that I don’t know how… There’s people that’ll drop in between these things, so use this as sort of a rough guideline. The five publishers that we’ve discussed here are
the national trade publishers, regional publishers, smaller publishers, specialty publishers,
and university publishers. So, first of all, we have big, national trade publishers. [Annie:] And what are these, Jeff? [Jeff:] What ARE these, Jeff? At this point, there’s five of them. Back a few years ago,
there were probably 50. The joys of publishing: It just gets
more and more exciting, I guess. At this point, we’re down to Penguin Random House, which a couple years ago was a place called Penguin and another place called Random House and now they’re the biggest publisher. Then we have Simon and Schuster,
Macmillan, Hachette and HarperCollins. The thing to keep in mind when
you’re thinking about big publishers is, is your book something that would go
to a national audience? Is it going to appeal to people in Florida
and Alaska and any place in between? So, that is really kind of
the critical thing to keep in mind. The other critical thing to keep in mind is distribution. It used to be, up to a few years ago, that
the only way anybody would have a book is if you went to a bookstore and purchased it. And the trade publishers were the
ones that had the monopoly on the Barnes & Nobles—and remember Borders? [laughter]— and the independent bookstores,
the other places to purchase books. So, you as an individual couldn’t get to those places, and other people couldn’t find them otherwise, so really the national trade publishers
were the way to go. So, that’s the first kind [of traditional publisher]. The second kind is something
we call regional trade publishers, which are a more specialty group, and they appeal more to
a specific region of the country. So, I had an author several years ago who published books set in the
North Carolina beach community, and you could go to any local—not even bookstore— you go to any local beach place, and there is a copy of his book
at the front of the counter. And every six months he would get a
nice royalty check for those books because the publisher knew how to get
to those very specific mom-and-pop outlets sitting at the beach, where
the Simon & Schusters and Macmillans might not have that kind of area. [Annie:] And why is that, would you say? [Jeff:] I mean think about it.
You’re dealing with a national basis, you’re dealing with a national distribution
as opposed to something much more regional and [with that regional niche market]
you can really, really target it. So, I think it can be a great way of going. If you are doing some book that’s
“Beer-Making in Baltimore,” you know, people in Ohio or Utah might
not care, but people in Baltimore would, and you’d be able to really drill into
each of those craft beer establishments in a way that Simon & Schuster just doesn’t
have the bandwidth to be able to do. [Annie:] That’s really cool. Well, let’s talk a bit
about a different type of category. [Jeff:] Yeah, so I did this book—I’m one
of these crazy horse people— and I did a book a bunch of years ago
called Bombproof Your Horse [by Rick Pelicano]. and everyone snickers when they hear that title [laughter]. But it is a book that teaches you
how to, basically, train your horse so a bomb could go off underneath him,
and he wouldn’t spook, he wouldn’t jump. So, if Simon & Schuster had done that,
they wouldn’t know how to publish that. They wouldn’t know where to go with it, and more importantly horse people don’t buy, necessarily, books through Barnes & Noble. They buy them through tack shops. You go to your local tack shop,
and you find the book. So they go to a specific venue, and the thing about niche publishers
is they know how to get to those people. So this book has been in print forever
and has done incredibly well for this author, and it would be a terrible mistake
if you were at Simon & Schuster. [Annie:] So what would you say, now that we’ve covered both regional presses and specialty presses, are the differences between those two? [Jeff:] Regional presses are going to focus
more on a region of the country, and specialty presses are going to focus
more on a subject matter. [Annie:] Okay. Great. [Annie:] Small presses. [Jeff:] So, small presses are often
run by just a handful of people. They might not have the ability
to get the books well-reviewed. They may not have the connections
to get to the bloggers or to the different marketing or publicity venues, but the nice thing about them is,
it’s a great way of getting your feet wet. You can get some great blurbs;
you can get some traction. The downside, dealing with
smaller presses, is that if you don’t sell a lot of copies of the book, Barnes & Noble or some of the
other book buyers may say, “Hmm. They didn’t sell many copies. I wonder if the next book
they’ll be able to sell more copies.” So it’s just something to be aware of that people are paying attention to the numbers. And totally you can go and say, “Oh, well, you know, it’s a smaller press.
They didn’t have the distribution. They didn’t have the kind of
muscle that a Hachette would have.” But that doesn’t preclude the Hachettes
from trying to buy them. It’s just something to be aware of, though. [Annie:] Great. [Annie:] Let’s talk a bit about university presses. [Jeff:] Yeah, so university presses are
in many ways the best of many worlds. They do very high-quality books. They can get, a lot of times, the kind of national
distribution that a trade press can get. The difference is that they really often
focus on their core specialties. They may have a more elaborate process
for just having the book accepted. They may have to have colleagues read it who have similar credentials
and sign off on what the book is saying. And you may just have to have a PhD. Sometimes they really want that as well. They do keep books in print for a long time, and they can do a great job. So all of these things seem to me to
be very valid depending on your book. So what I would suggest to you
as the writer is really figure out which publisher would be better for you. So, turning the tables on this now,
Annie, it’s time for me to ask you questions. [Jeff:] ePublishing. [Annie:] Great. Digital publishing. I feel like this is a landscape that has grown
and changed and shifted a lot, especially over the past five to ten years, and before, when you would talk about digital publishing, it was most of what we
talked about was self-publishing. But now the digital publishing
aspect has really grown to kind of encompass several things. [Jeff:] So, just really briefly, if you can
run down just what the big topics are, and then we’ll kind of break into each one. [Annie:] Sure. So the first one is just ePublishing, and this is essentially where you
publish something that is digital, and you partner with a traditional
publisher, so to speak, with that. And so there are several different modes. So the first is working with a digital-only
imprint at a trade publisher. So, this would be like
Simon & Schuster or Hachette. Just like they have, you know,
different imprints for trade publications, they also have different digital-only imprints. The model is slightly different in terms
of the advance and the royalties: It’s usually slightly smaller advances,
slightly more generous royalties, and they’re really expecting the author
to come in to be heavily marketable. They really have to be active. [Jeff:] So if it’s a digital-only imprint, that would be comparable to, like,
the mass-market book a few years ago, right? [Annie:] Exactly. That’s a great example. [Jeff:] So it’s usually something that’s genre-focused,
a romance or westerns or mysteries… [Annie:] Exactly. [Jeff:] Okay. So first option is traditional publishing
with a digital-only imprint. What’s next? [Annie:] So the next is with what we call ePublishers. So, these operate on very much the
same model as a trade publisher would with the exception of, you know,
they publish digital stuff only, but they’re an actual publisher. So these are great for eOriginals and things like that, and they typically have the traditional
model of advance and royalties. But the nice thing about both of these things
that we’re talking about right now is you really have a team who’s investing in you, who’s partnering with you to put this
book out in a really professional way, [Jeff:] Okay, so just make sure I’m clear. So option #1 is you get a regular traditional publisher, and they do a digital-only imprint.
[Annie:] Mhmm. [Jeff:] Option #2 is you do a nontraditional publisher that does its own digital-only imprint, basically. [Annie:] Exactly. [Jeff:] Okay, and option #3? [Annie:] Option #3: this one has
kind of been around for a while. It’s, you know, what we in
the industry call vanity presses, where you really do pay to
have your book be published. So you’re paying for the publisher
and their team to work on a book with you and to put this book out in
a really professional way. And obviously, that’s very different because the other two models
that we just talked about— the traditional publishing with the digital-only
imprint or with an ePublisher— [with] both of those models, you aren’t paying
to have the book published. They’re paying you to publish your book. [Jeff:] So, if somebody says to me, “Hey Jeff, I want to publish your book.
Give me $20,000,” that would be a vanity press. [Annie:] Exactly. [Jeff:] Okay. So, what’s next on the list? [Annie:] So, what’s next is what we call
true self-publishing or just self-publishing, and this is publishing your own book
through some sort of distribution platform: Nook Press or iBooks or KDP,
which stands for Kindle Direct Publishing, which is the self-publishing branch of Amazon. And essentially, when you think about
how you’re going to put the book out, you really are building your own team here. You build it, you have to be it
and you just have to pay for, you know, the cover, getting things converted and things like that. So this is the complete opposite of
what we were previously talking about where you have a team behind you. Here, you’re really creating your own team. You have to be your own marketing person. You have to be your own cover designer. You have to find a way to get the book converted, and if you don’t know how to do all
those things, you essentially pay for it. [Jeff:] So wait. So, what’s the difference? If I’m paying for this, is that
the same as vanity publishing? [Annie:] No, so for a vanity publisher,
they take care of all the logistics. So they basically charge you a lump sum,
and they handle everything, and the process is very much like it
would be with a trade or traditional publisher. Whereas this [with self-publishing] you
really have to be the one doing all the groundwork: finding what cover designer you want to use;
figuring out what image you want to use; if you don’t know how to convert your files,
finding a program or hiring someone to do it. Whereas a publisher, even if it’s like a vanity press, they would basically be doing all those things for you, which would be included in that sum. [Jeff:] So, are there certain types of authors you think are better for
self-publishing than traditional publishing? [Annie:] I do, and I think it’s people
who are a little bit more tech-savvy, people who are much more well-versed
in how to market themselves, people who have understood
how to brand themselves and know where their audience is and how to reach them in
a really, really, highly targeted way. [Jeff:] Hmm. Okay. [Annie:] Before we move on to
agent-assisted self-publishing, actually, I wanted to talk quickly about self-publishing. You asked what model would be best
or who would be best for self-publishing. The nice thing about this is
you don’t need an agent to do it. [Jeff:] Got it. Okay. [Annie:] And also you get higher royalties. So again, when we go back to
thinking about the traditional publishers— they’re paying you advance,
they’re paying you royalties— they’re really taking on the risk. They’re really hoping that by paying you this advance the book will do well,
and they’ll recoup the cost. With self-publishing, you yourself
are taking on the risk and the cost. But the nice thing about that
is you get a bigger piece of the pie. [Jeff:] Got it. Okay. So the risk might be worth it. [Annie:] Yep. [Jeff:] So, finally we’re getting to
agent-assisted self-publishing. [Annie:] So, this is a special branch of self-publishing that is really only for authors
who already have representation. So, there are certain perks that come with this: you get to be the publisher, you own the work, but you have a team behind you, which means that you’re not alone. You have an agent and hopefully someone
like me to guide you through the process of picking out what the cover should look like, figuring out what the price point should be, figuring out what the cover copy
should look like, and things like that. There are also certain perks like
Amazon’s White Glove program, which is just for authors
who are already represented by agents. And they offer certain services for free like cover design or file conversion and formatting and sometimes even special
marketing placement on their website. And this is really under the assumption that
there’s a certain quality to the level of writing and that they may be able to build
on an author’s existing brand, hopefully. [Jeff:] Okay. [Annie:] And that kind of leads us to hybrid publishing. [Jeff:] So, Annie, what is hybrid publishing? [Annie:] Hybrid publishing is a hybrid between
self-publishing and traditional publishing, and so it’s for authors whose books are
traditionally published with a trade press like the ones that you mentioned, and these people also have
books that are self-published that they do on their own on the side. And the really nice thing about this is you can have a very symbiotic
relationship amongst all your titles where let’s say—Jeff,
you’ve had experience with this— where you have a client whose book is
coming out from Simon & Schuster, or there’s a promotion going on, and if you let me know, I can basically work with them to make sure that all that attention gets
spread out towards his other titles and that his other titles get
some attention from that as well. So it causes kind of like a halo or
what we call a ripple effect, hopefully. [Jeff:] So, just give me an example
using like BookBub for instance. Just so people understand how that works. [Annie:] Sure. So to talk really quickly about BookBub, BookBub is an email subscription service for readers who are looking for deeply discounted e-books. So this is a service that you can subscribe to. You get a daily or weekly or monthly digest
that’s filled with a list of deeply discounted e-books that you have indicated that you’re interested in. So, you can imagine it’s not just great for readers, it’s also really great for these authors
whose books are being featured on BookBub. So for instance, Jeff, if you have a client
who has a front list title with a trade press and it’s being featured on BookBub, I can
essentially take a look at his back list titles that we’ve self-published, and
I can kind of piggyback off of that. So, if people are looking at his front list title,
and they’re seeing that it’s discounted, it’ll also show up that this other title that’s
also by this author is also discounted. And it’ll really incentivize—we’re already
interested in his books—to buy his other books. [Jeff:] Got it. Okay. [Jeff:] Just to sum things up, with traditional publishing authors
receive more money upfront. ePublishing, they receive less
money upfront or no money upfront. The author has a team behind
them for traditional publishing, whereas with self publishing,
with ePublishing, it will depend, and with self-publishing you have
to kind of build your own team. [Annie:] Exactly. [Jeff:] And the other piece is
that with traditional publishing, you just have a broader range of distribution
channels, both print and electronic, whereas with ePublishing you have electronic, and then you have something called print on demand. So, briefly, how does print on demand work? [Annie:] So, print on demand is pretty self-explanatory. It is as the name indicates in traditional publishing— and Jeff, feel free to jump in at any time— well, first of all, let’s talk about
production time really quickly. It takes usually between signing of
the contract to when the book comes out about eighteen months to two years,
and once the book is actually printed they print a certain number of copies,
and then these are stored in warehouses. [Jeff:] Well, fiction, I mean the contract’s signed,
and then the book usually comes out about a year afterwards,
somewhere between six months to a year. [Annie:] Okay. [Jeff:] But then—obviously then—we
have distribution, etc. [Annie:] Right.
[Jeff:] So go on. [Annie:] Well, the biggest thing is there are costs
associated with having these books being printed and then shipped to the warehouses
and then being stored at the warehouses: They take up space which costs money. The nice thing about print on demand is, unless somebody orders it, it’s not manufactured. So it’s not until somebody clicks the buy button
that this book is physically produced. So you can imagine how much money
you’re saving on the back end. [Jeff:] Got it. [Annie:] And those savings usually
go into the author’s pocket. [Jeff:] So, that’s sort of a brief rundown of
traditional versus ePublishing, and now I thought we’d talk briefly about
the future of publishing, what it will look like. My head starts hurting immediately. [Laughter] [Jeff:] We don’t really know where things are gonna go. It feels like there are a lot of different possibilities. It feels like e-books are gonna
stay around, but so is print. [Annie:] Mmhmm. [Jeff:] It feels like certain trends are
going to taper off right now. In 2017, dark psychological suspense
is one of the big buzz words. It’s one of the things people are looking for. [Annie:] Yeah. [Jeff:] But tomorrow it’ll be
comedy or romance or something. [Annie:] Yeah. And I also
want to say a really big trend that’s really happening right now
is the rise of audiobooks. A lot of people are likening this buzz around audiobooks
to the whole buzz around e-books ten years ago or so, and I think that even the next couple of years the
entire audio industry will start to shift a little bit, and the way that e-books came around because
people started being able to open up their phones or open up reading devices and really read anywhere on the go digitally. Audiobooks really, with the
listening devices that we have now— not just your phone, but these devices like Alexa
or Amazon Echo or Google Home, things like that —audio’s just become so, so popular. What are some other cool trends? [Jeff:] I mean I guess the thing is
that no matter what the trend is, it feels like something new is going to be starting soon, and it just feels like that no matter
what you do that’s where it’s going. But I guess to me the big takeaway is—
I don’t know about you— but I’ve been hearing books are dying
for the last like 300 years. [Laughter] But they keep they keep going on, and I think the reason is because
people want stories, they want a narrative. [Annie:] Absolutely. [Jeff:] They want to make sense of their lives
and the world around them through a story, and I think that’s what we offer them. So, thank you all for your time. Annie, thank you for doing this with me.
[Annie:] Thank you. [Jeff:] And hopefully we’ll catch you soon. Take care. Thank you so much for watching. If you have any questions or comments,
or you want to submit anything to Folio, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] Or if you want to reach out to AWP directly,
they can be contacted at [email protected] Thanks again, and hope we hear from you soon. Take care.

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