The following is a response I gave this week to an author who wanted to ‘fold’ when the publisher for his first novel would not accept simultaneous publishing for his second novel – the first edition of a serial:
Dear UK Author,
Thank you for getting back in touch with me. I actually have read your manuscript. You have a commercially-ready manuscript that is brilliant. What can I say? You are absolutely ready to be published.
I am always reluctant to offer an opinion when a manuscript is ‘in play’ as seems to be the case with your current manuscript; but here goes:
That your publisher will not pick up your second manuscript until they see how the first novel does is exactly, precisely playing by Hoyle. Their decision has little to do with the impeccable quality of your writing. No doubt they have put $5000 or $10000 into production, design, (marketing?) costs – why double that risk with no return (yet).
According to Alan Rinzler >95% of the books published do not ‘earn out’ – the publishing business is a poker game. Your first title might not pay out the amount it cost the publisher in editing, print, paper, etc. However, if a publisher is dealt a royal flush from a new, exciting author – “Yippee”, they would exclaim. Especially if an author, whose writing quality is on the level of yours, has the drive to write a series. Then the income from that author ‘covers the house’ – and those authors who do not have the same potential.
All the gambling comparisons aside, when one self-publishes – there are risks. Can you devote yourself to marketing; do you have the $$ reserves to front yourself while still finding time for actually writing the sequels that will give you market bandwidth? You no doubt have a contract with your current publisher, yes? In the States the usual (template) royalty split on a title is 85% to the publishing house and 15% to the author (based on retail). The author pays back the publishing house for the advance, pays his agent 15% of his 15% and ends up with <$3 per book, usually. I'm sure your agent has explained the money trail and the pay-out timing as it pertains to your contract. Or, hopefully you have an attorney advising you. According to Kirsten Nelson - The Nelson Agency – there is a one-month lag after the agency receives payment from the publisher in getting a payment to their client. that is, the check passes from the publisher to the agent, then to the author. One's first royalty check will arrive approximately seven months after publishing – maybe.
Some authors have a 'perpetuity' clause that dis-allows the author from going another publishing route after a manuscript has been shopped by an agent. That is, whatever the author has shared with the agent - belongs to the agent as long as their contract is live. You know the contractual limits with your agent and your publisher, of course. So only you know whether or not you can even pursue self-publishing for your current manuscript.
I would compare your writing as better, or certainly as good as, Boyd Morrison and Bob Dugoni. Here in The States these two authors are wildly successful. Study their profiles and marketing, THAT level of marketing is what you would need to do as a self-published author to gain footing in your genre. Review your contract to see what marketing plan your publisher has agreed to do for you for your upcoming, release. Here in The States most traditional houses are turning the job of marketing back to the author, but they still retain 85% of the royalty. THAT is the burn for most authors right now; they resent the unequal royalty split as they lose ground on publishing house marketing muscle.
All of this showing off on my part aside, remember one thing. I am not a publisher (other than for my own work). I am a publishing coach. I teach people (even over the internet, just like at this moment – and/or on Skype) how to format, upload, and market their work. I do not directly ‘associate’ with any author’s title – I associate myself with an author’s skill to publish their title.
I’ve stayed friends, informal advisor, to all of my clients (eight of them are local – here in Edmonds); several – like yourself -are based in the UK. Most of my clients have gone on to publish their second titles without my technical assistance, because I’ve taught them a skill. I always tell writers that they will only need me for one book – and so far that has been the case.
“All Smart Cookies Can Self Publish” on Amazon is the most up-to-date how-to guide available today. It includes my ‘proclamation’ on publishing and why – when faced with nearly the same decisions you are facing – I decided that self-publishing would work for me.
I’m not going to advise you one way or the other what to do in your current conundrum – that would be presumptuous.
But here are your choices from my perspective:
1. Put your contracts with your agent, and publisher, into ‘real’ terms; walk through the two contracts, pencil them out;
2. Weigh the publishing house ‘entree’ into bookstores versus how much they will help you market after they GET your book into a bookstore. No book is going to call “YooHoo” to bookstore shoppers! Determine, via your contracts, how much your agent is going to help you market each title. Keep in mind the miniscule split that agent may be getting. Granted an agent is banking on ‘volume sales’.
3. The release date of your first title, which has been picked up by a publisher is not that far off – in literary terms. You may be the next hot ticket in publishing – then you would need an agent and publisher to negotiate world rights, translations, etc.
I hope that the foregoing email monologue is of assistance – you have a weighty decision to make. Contact me again if you would like to email chat.