Monday, May 24, 2010

Indie -vs- Traditional Publishing #1

Well, as most of you may know (or perhaps some of you don't know), I accepted a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster recently. So, I'm an indie publisher no more, but I will still maintain my blog and share all of my tips until I have no more tips to share.

Of course, I am very excited about the prospects. But a lot of people have had questions about how it happened and why I accepted the deal. So, I thought I would do an initial post on the issue, but as I get further into the process, since I will have the experience of working both sides of publishing (indie and traditional), I will periodically post about the drawbacks and advantages that I see in both processes.

So, what happened?

To this day, I don't know how she found me, but an editor from Kensington send me an email and said that she was interested in talking about my book. Needless to say I was over the moon. I played it cool and sent her a rather official sounding email indicating that I appreciated her interest and that I'd contact her during business hours. lol What a bonehead (ME not her). (I didn't get the email until late that evening)

So, the next day, I stared at the phone until about 11:00 am. I figured by 11:00 am, she'd be done catching up on her early emails and phone calls and she wouldn't have left for lunch. Turned out to be perfect timing. And she answered on the second or third ring.

We spoke for about 45 minutes or so. The details are foggy now. I just thought it was surreal to be talking to her. She has a number of African-American NY Times Bestsellers on her list (Carl Weber, Mary B. Morrison, Mary Monroe). I knew exactly who she was and I knew the publisher well. As a matter of fact, I had sent a partial to her but never heard from her. (For those of you not aware, you can query Kensington editors directly. You don't need an agent.)

So, she asked me about how I got into writing, how I went about publishing my book, what kind of marketing plan I did, etc. etc. In one of the funnier moments in the conversation, she asked me if I'd queried any agents or editors. I said, "Well, as a matter of fact I sent my partial to you." She got quiet and I heard her fish around her desk. She had my query sitting in an envelope right in her overhead. Ha! How's that for coincident. Of course, she was mortified. I told her not to feel bad. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. There was a reason that she didn't read it back then. So, she suggested she'd be making me an offer and we let it go. She asked me for a copy of my manuscript and to see my two works in progress. So, I sent them to her.

I asked an editor and an agent who I'd been in touch with at a writer's conference (I was the coordinator that booked them and she was very gracious) advice on what I should do next. They said get an agent. I sent a note to the editor who called me and asked her if she'd have a problem with me getting an agent. She said no. As a matter of fact, she referred an agent to me. At that point, I knew she was serious.

Anyway, so I queried a few agents, including the one she recommended for me. I went on Publisher's lunch and found agents who worked with author in similar genres. I wanted someone with experience in selling African American (AA) fiction. Within a few days I had a few that were very interested. I ended up picking the agent who represented two female AA best-selling authors who write in different genres. He had great credentials (a former editor for big houses) and he knew how to sell AA fiction. I couldn't go wrong.

He asked me to make a few edits to the manuscript. Admittedly, I was reticent only because my book was already out there. But it came down to the fact that, even though I'd sold a couple thousand copies (ebook and paperback), I hadn't sold enough to the point where changes to the manuscript would impact millions of readers. So, I got over myself and my few measly sales and I made the changes he suggested, and he put it on submission. He submitted it just as he would an unpublished manuscript but in the accompanying letter, we let them know that it had been self published, received great reviews, was building word of mouth, yadda yadda yadda.

So, two weeks go by and the rejections start rolling in. After about 4 or 5 I asked if I should get depressed and he said we had a long way to go. Finally, an editor from S&S said she liked it and was passing it around. The original editor who expressed interest from Kensington was still interested and waiting on her boss to return from vacation. Then another editor from Grand Central (Hachette) expressed interest. After all the offers and counteroffers, we finally accepted the one with Pocket.

Of course part of me felt really really bad because if it hadn't been for the original editor reaching out to me, I might not have even had the opportunity. But she indicated she wasn't able to match S&S offer, so she gave me her best wishes for my career. I felt much better.

That's pretty much the story.

To answer some of the questions I received, no one ever asked about my sales numbers until after the offers were made. I did not query anyone after I published the book. I queried before I published but not after. So, I can't really say whether trying to query an agent or publisher after you've self-published will work for you. I didn't have to query. How do I think she found me. Well, my book had been reviewed on several sites where her authors book were also reviewed. Mine was one of the few self published books to get a 5-star rating, "favorite," or "top read" status. My book also stayed in the Top 100 African American fiction list on Amazon. I went through the list at the time, and I was the only book on the list that didn't have a publisher. I'd also been reaching out to book clubs and stuff like that. So, there are a lot of ways she could've found out.

I was also asked why if an author, such as myself, was doing well in distributing my book and getting good reviews, why would I relinquish control and sell my rights to a publisher?

Ummmmm . . . because it was Simon & Schuster and I'm not crazy??? LOL Just kidding. The thing is, without a whole whole whole lot of work, there is no way I could reach the audience that S&S or another major publisher could reach. That was a fact of life. Nobody knows K.L. Brady; a heck of a lot of people know Simon & Schuster. This is a great opportunity to build my own brand using someone else's brand and expand my audience. It was not about the advance for me. It was about the opportunity this deal offered to build my author brand and I plan to take advantage of every perk the brand and affiliation with a house comes with to market and sell more books. As a new/first-time novelist, I also wanted the chance to work with an editor so that I can improve my craft.

This was truly a business decision for me...and I think it was a good one.

So, that's scoop and the poop.

If you've got questions...let it roll.

And NO...I will not be divulging the amount of my advance. I will say it was enough for me. :)


  1. What an incredible journey, Karla! Best wishes as it continues. And thanks so much for sharing all that you've learned along the way.

  2. Way to inspire others, Karla. I hope to get where you are. I am a first-time self-published author. I have learned much about the industry while having fun doing so. My book, "Earn It: Empower Yourself for Love" is having its book launch party on June 18, 2010. It uniquely addresses romantic relationships using basic business principles and terminology so that men can understand romance. OK, bums still won't, but good men will. I've been told that the book should have good commercial appeal, so I will be following your blog to learn from your experiences. Thank you for sharing your successes and concerns.
    Bob Quinlan
    Author, "Earn It: Empower Yourself for Love"

  3. Wow, Good for you!! This is such exciting news and I wish you all the best for your writing career. Please keep us up to date with the in and outs as you travel along this new path.

    My 1st question is, did they ask you to pull your SP'd version "off the shelves" immediately or is it still out there. You never know, if you become really famous they may be worth a pretty penny one day :-)

  4. Wow, Good for you!! This is exciting news and I wish you all the best in your writing career. Please keep us up to date on the ins and outs as you journey down this new path.

    My 1st question is, did they ask you to pull your SP'd version "off the shelves" immediately or is it still out there?

  5. Thank you everyone for your well wishes. I so appreciate. I will definitely keep you updated on the goings on as I figure out my way in the traditional publishing world.

    @Alison, no, it's still out there for now. They've not yet indicated when I need to pull it. So, if you want to get trade paperback or cheap kindle version, get it while you can. I believe they plan to lead out with mass market paperback to expand the audience and release the trade paperback shortly thereafter. I think.

  6. Karla,
    this incredible journey of yours just gets more and more brilliant! Talk about a great story to tell the grandkids! I'm glad you'll keep the blog going, thank you so much!