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Monday, June 21, 2010

Patricia Rice on Self Publishing with Author Co-ops


Linda Banche here. Today we are delighted to host romance superstar Patricia Rice. Ms. Rice has written in many romance genres, including historicals, paranormals, and contemporaries. Her latest book, THE WICKED WYCKERLY, a Regency, will be available in July (and which I’m buying as soon as it hits the shelves).

She has chosen to offer her backlist to new readers via self-publishing. While most self-published authors go it alone, Ms. Rice has joined two author co-ops, A Writer's Work, and Book View Café. Here she shares with us her experiences self-publishing with a group.

Thank you for inviting me here to share my experiences with an audience who may even be more e-experienced than I am! I think I’ll just explain a little bit about what I’m doing and open the floor for questions and discussions.

I’m Patricia Rice. I sold my first book in 1982 and the current opus, THE WICKED WYCKERLY, out in July, will be my 47th full length print novel. I’ve probably sold millions of print books over the years, not counting anthologies.

1. You're a USA Today and NY Times bestselling author. Why did you enter self-pub/epub?
I like to consider myself market savvy, although I’m not certain anyone can really predict the book market. My husband is a techie who tells me about innovations in the e-reader industry, so I’ve been watching the e-book market for years. Friends of mine established their own publishing companies during our last slump, and while they aren’t competing with the big guys yet, they’re making a comfortable living. Some of them started with e-publications. Others started with print and are branching out. Several of them wanted my backlist, so I was more or less handed easy access. And because of my early interest, I believed I saw opportunity on the horizon when I finally jumped in last year with www.regencyreads.com

I had very little to do with any of those first books except proof and edit scans of my old Regencies. Old category Regencies have a steady niche market and they immediately produced a small stream of income, so I began turning some of my recent paranormal historicals over to their paranormal division and looking around to see how else I could get in on the ground floor of this opportunity.

What I really want to do is establish an e-book audience because I believe that’s the future.


2. You're part of Book View Cafe and A Writer's Work, both author co-ops. Why did you decide on a co-op for your books? Why not go to Smashwords?

I began wondering why authors couldn’t publish themselves and claim the lion’s share of the profits. Smashwords, fictionwise, et al, take a huge percentage for simply listing our work on their website. Why couldn’t we have our own websites and keep that percentage? We were already doing all the rest of the work—writing, creating covers, marketing. So I began experimenting with www.awriterswork.com and www.bookviewcafe.com. Both are essentially author co-ops but with different operating methods.

Essentially, we are establishing our own publishing houses where we’re in control. We hope they’ll be a ground base for distribution in the future, eliminating the middleman—something print publishers have failed to do.

Once we establish a book on our author-owned website, we expand to Smashwords, Kindle, et al, just as a regular publisher does. But if we can enlarge our operations to equal that of the larger distributors, we can remove our books from the distributors at any time. We’re in complete control of our rights and where we sell.

3. You’ve been involved with Book View Cafe and A Writer's Work for a while now. What are your impressions of self-pub so far? What do you like? What do you dislike?

Since I still spend most of my time on my print books, which are my bread and butter, I don’t have a great deal of time for working on the e-books. I’ve hired people to scan backlist and create covers for me. I am not technology-oriented, so websites and formatting for different readers, etc, are all a mystery to me. I can’t say I dislike them so much as not understand what’s done. What I’m loving is the freedom. I’m adding back pages that have been edited out for word count. I can decide when I want a book produced. I can choose my book cover. I can decide whether or not to sell to Kindle and what cover price I want.

The jury is still out on sales and marketing. I’ve put roughly twelve books and an anthology out in a year. Because I’m not tech-savvy, I’m probably breaking even with income from the books paying for covers, website and formatting costs. I’ve learned to do Twitter and Facebook but that’s about all the marketing I’ve done. But after this year, it’s all gravy on those first dozen books. If the e-market continues to grow, my sales and income should grow proportionally, knock wood. And conversely, as sales grow, the more I can reduce prices. It’s a fascinating balance.

4. Book View Cafe and A Writer's Work both feature e-pub. Why not also POD?

POD technology is not e-technology. The people who produce the books have their own systems and requirements. I don’t claim to understand it, but BVC has their toes in the water and their more tech-oriented people are exploring. It will come.

5. How much of the work of the co-op does each author do? For example, do you format your books yourself? Pick your own cover photos? (I love the cover of LOST LOVE. LOST LOVE is sitting on my electronic TBR pile. I just bought a SONY eReader. *grins*)

Thank you! I’m loving my Nook. *G* The LOST LOVE cover was my first experiment in choosing my own cover. My Belgrave House books (www.regencyreads.com and www.belgravehouse.com) were all designed by the publisher. For A Writers Work and Book View Cafe, I’ve been working with another author who knows how to create cover magic. I choose the design and she whips it up for me.

Each co-op works differently.

Pat McLaughlin owns the website at A Writers Work and is handling all the organizational duties that most writers resist. She receives a small percentage of sales until she recoups her costs. Authors put together their own books (backlist or original), create their own covers, and pay the web designer directly for setting up their web pages and formatting. We’re hoping to establish a large collective of multi-published authors that will draw an audience simply for the convenience and discount of buying directly from authors without the middleman.

Book View Café began several years ago and is totally a co-op, with each member doing what they do best, sharing services, with no upfront costs involved. If I had time and was willing to learn, I could do it all for free with the guidance of more experienced authors, but I’m cheating and paying someone to set the books on the site for me. BVC has reached a point where it can produce its own original books—writing, editing, and marketing them. Again, they’re all experienced, multi-published authors who know the business inside and out. Some have been editors with NYC houses, so we have a strong editorial staff.

I’m learning a great deal from both places, and we learn from each other. The best part is that we’re small and far more adaptable to the winds of change than major houses. We may not retire on millions, but our goals are to sustain our writing careers, make reading affordable, and provide readers easy to access to a wide variety of original fiction. And we’ve achieved that. So we’re already successful to that extent. World domination isn’t on our horizon. Yet. *G*

Visit Patricia Rice at her website, http://www.patriciarice.com

Some of her earlier works are available in e-format at the co-ops
Book View Café: http://www.bookviewcafe.com
A Writer's Work: http://www.awriterswork.com

And also at the e-bookstores
RegencyReads: http://www.regencyreads.com
Belgrave House: http://www.belgravehouse.com

15 comments:

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thank you so much, Patricia, for sharing all this useful and fascinating information. I wish you great success with your co-operative venture.

I agree that ebooks and epublishing are the coming trends and I think it's a very exciting time to be a writer and also a reader - the choice will be amazing for everyone.

Linda Banche said...

Gushing fan here. Pat, I LOVE your books! I loved the MYSTIC series, and I'm dying to get THE WICKED WYCKERLY as soon as it's out. Did I say I love your books? I love your books!

Now that I have that out of my system, I want to say that I'm glad you've gone into self-pub for your backlist. When books go out of print, the only thing we poor readers can do is buy used copies, if we can find them at all. Then we may have to pay an arm and a leg for the book, and the author receives nothing in royalties.

But, If you put them up online, I can find your books and you make some money in royalties. A win-win situation, good for everyone.

Thanks for coming over.

Patricia Rice said...

Happy to be here, Linda. (and shall I refrain from mentioning that we're giving away a copy of WYCKERLY over at www.wordwenches.com today?)

Trying to decide prices on backlist is tricky with places like Amazon demanding big discounts, but I'd love to see backlist costs come down when all this shakes out.

Sigh, Blogger doesn't like me this morning. Let's see how many tries it takes before it recognizes me...

Kathleen O said...

Pat I am a fan of your work and I have read some of your historicals, but I must say it was your contempory books I started with first. I hope you will write more of them Like Home in Carolina.. I think this was one of the first ones I read and then found your historicals. I am looking foward to reading this new book..
Good luck with your publishing endevour.. I for now will still buy in book format. Basically becasue I do not have an e-reader yet.. Still like hold that book in my hands.. Something satisisfing for me.. It's always like having an old friend around.
Great interview...

Patricia Rice said...

Thanks, Kathleen! Contemporary romance isn't strong right now, so putting backlist into e-book (it can be read on a computer without any fancy gadgets) is the best way of keeping them out there until the new Sourcebooks contemp comes out.

And looking at the sales coming in--ebooks are also a great way of reaching international readers! No shipping.

Celia Yeary said...

PATRICIA--greetings and welcome to HEA. I'm thrilled such a highly recognized, established author has visited us. And I thank Linda for making the effort to send the invitation. I've read some of your books in years past, but with so many books swirling in my head, I cannot recall the titles. Certainly, I recognize your name and photo.The explanation of your journey into eBooks is not new to me, for I have a dear friend who is doing this with her out-of-print Kensington novels. She keeps me informed on her progress, and I admit, I have less courage than she does. Thank you for your thoughts and information--Celia

Cait London said...

Don't kid yourself, Patricia. You're a real marketing mogul and a forefront model for the rest of us to follow. :)

I'm new to self e-publishing and also at AWW, and enjoying some freedom, plus revisiting my early books. I'm doing them myself and it's slow, but fulfilling work.

Your information is great as I'm still learning.

Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, you've expressed it beautifully. Thanks for sharing your insights and that side of e-publishing.
The freedom to publish what I choose, when and and where, and how, is one reason I'll probably never submit to a major house.
It is a changing market, and a small book house, is more nimble, and able to meet their readers needs and wants.
Cooperation is also a key factor, and what the Aquarian Age is all about.

Savanna Kougar said...

Apologies, I should have called you, Patricia.

I have an author friend named, Pat.

Patricia Rice said...

I go by Pat everywhere except on the front of my books.
Thank everyone for the kind comments, but I'm all doing is expressing my Uranian nature by exploring new worlds. "G" Either that, or satisfying my attention deficit. I'm enjoying the freedom of new directions, but I'll have to admit, I much prefer getting paid by the big publishers! So I'll keep all the doors open.

Ginger Chambers said...

I absolutely love the name of your blog--Happily Ever After. That's the way all true love stories should end, or rather begin, isn't it?

I'm another of the A Writer's Work authors who is so thrilled to be a part of this endeavor. I've had the rights back on some of my Out of Print earlier works for years (1 Dell Candlelight Romance, 3 Candlelight Ecstasy Romances and 4 Candlelight Ecstasy Supremes)and all they've been doing is sitting in a drawer. Now, because of AWW, these books will have a new life as e-books.

It's been quite a learning experience, and it's taking me longer than I thought to transition the books myself, but I'm hanging in there. Many thanks to our two Pats, McLaughlin & Rice, for making it possible.

Ginger

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Ginger, and best of luck with re-issuing your books.

Bekki Lynn said...

Wonderful insight, Patricia.

Thanks for coming by and sharing with us. I love the very idea of the co-op.

If the door hadn't opened for you to join forces, do you think you would have taken the step when you did?

It's scary stepping out into a new world. And I'm glad you and the ladies have become the forerunner for the rest of us. Does knowing we're all watching give you insentive or make you second guess decisions?

Patricia Rice said...

Bekki, interesting questions. I think a lot of what we've accomplished has been done because the people in the co-ops are all communicators and the kind of people who continually analyze, watch, and act on what they see. It's no coincidence that I happened to be in the right place at the right time for both of these ventures. We all know each other and have talked about e-books for a long time. Publishing is a very small world.

I am hoping we are on the brink of providing authors a better deal than we had in the past. I think that just the fact we're doing it opens minds. So no matter what happens, I won't see what we've done as failure. New frontiers tend to be trial and error!

MarthaE said...

Hi Lindsay and Patricia - I stopped by earlier in the week but my computer was glitching and I couldn't leave a comment. I love Patricia's books and have found a few backlist to collect so will be glad to get more of them.
As a new publisher I was surprised to learn how much the middle distributors take from the cuts! I don't blame authors for seeking alternate means of publishing. It still is going to come down to the promotion for sales I think. Not so easy. Best wishes to you, Patricia, on your cooperative effort - it sounds like a win-win project.