Speaking at the Dundas Public Library

On June 21, I had the real privilege of speaking at the Dundas Public Library about how to self-publish.

It’s a presentation I hope to give with a colleague at various libraries in the fall. My appearance in Dundas, my hometown, was the first run at it.

Dundas Public Library

Dundas Public Library

You can imagine my thoughts on the way there. No one will show. Copies of The Case for Killing will stay untouched. I’m going to forget what I want to say. The last problem didn’t bother me too much, though. I reasoned that, if no one showed, it didn’t matter that I was stuck alone at the front of the room, red-faced and searching for words.

Well, I arrived, and to my relief and great pleasure, fifteen people had registered. Most showed and a few more came impromptu. I gave away ten copies of my book and signed the front pages. I got through the presentation more or less unscathed.

However, what stood out for me was how welcoming and engaging the attendees were. They were interested in my book, struck up conversation, and listened with interest to my presentation and asked questions. When the presentation was done, there was great one-on-one conversation about fascinating projects, blogging, and the struggles of writing, including, yes, self-doubt.

Self-doubt seems to be the necessary evil companion of writing. For me, it’s a little voice in the back of my head that says as I write, “No one’s going to like this”. Public speaking also has an evil companion – fear of ridicule. Thanks once again to everyone who came out to DPL. You quieted both evil companions.

Copyright © Peter Fritze 2014

Earning a Living Wage Writing

Blog12 ImageIf an author wants financial success from writing, should she choose legacy (traditional) publishing or self-publishing?

Much of the evidence one way or another is anecdotal.

However, in The Tenured vs. Debut Author Report, Hugh Howey and a colleague have attempted to provide data-driven answers to two closely related questions. First, what are an author’s chances of being able to earn a living from writing? And which publishing path gives the author the best shot at eventually being able to do so?

Every time I look at this report, it impresses me. I highly recommend a thorough reading of it since it addresses many other interesting questions.

What the report concludes is that from 2010 to 2013, more debut indie authors earned a living wage from their writing than debut authors signed with one of the big five publishing houses. They arrive at this conclusion by estimating that:

  • 637 big-five debut authors from 2010 to 2013 earned more than $20,000 (US) annually, an amount the report’s authors doubt is a living wage, while
  • over 700 debut indie authors earned more than $25,000 (US) annually in the same years from Kindle eBook sales alone. These earnings, plus earnings from other platforms and print on demand, are considered a living wage.

I do think these conclusions support the idea that debut writers must seriously consider self-publishing. But I would add some perspective.

First, among many thousands of writers, only a small number make a living wage. The report’s authors acknowledge this, too.

Second, if the 700 Indie authors earned, say, 30% more from platforms other than Kindle and print on demand, their annual earnings are more than $32,500 (US). From the report, some earn more than $100,000 from Kindle eBooks sales alone, but for those earning closer to $32,500, bills will be tough to pay.

Third, some authors may be very ambitious and want to become rich from writing. I’m not aware of statistics on the best-earning authors, but I suspect many, though not all, are signed to those rare publishing house contracts with meaningful advances and/or access to non-domestic markets.

Many thanks to the great crowd that showed yesterday for my presentation at the Dundas Public Library.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze

Self-Publishing Reality Check

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of self-publishing, I thought it was time for a reality check.

Last fall, before the shortlist for the 2013 Giller Prize was announced, the three jury members gathered to answer questions about their process of whittling down entries.

In a context I no longer remember, Margaret Atwood, one of the jury members, discussed the inherently optimistic nature of writing for traditional publication. The writer spends months believing she can complete a manuscript, find an agent, sign with a publishing house and engage some readers with large risks of failure at every stage.

An indie author, though ignoring agents and traditional publishers, engages in a similar exercise of optimism. The odds of significant sales and royalties are long, yet scores jump into the fray.

Now, the odds of significant sales and royalties for indies may be improving. In a brilliant piece of work entitled The Tenured vs. Debut Author Report, Hugh Howey and a colleague estimate that authors can be in the top 2000 to 3000 of writers to earn a living, a large improvement that’s come about from eBooks and self-publishing. They also estimate that 700 indie-published authors who debuted in the years 2010-2013 earned more than $25,000 (US) from their Kindle eBooks alone.

Nonetheless, the reality remains that thousands upon thousands of self-published authors’ books languish without any meaningful sales. How does an indie author sustain her optimism to publish and promote her book given these tough, though improving, odds? Here are some thoughts.

Enjoy the act of writing. If you don’t, you might be in the wrong pursuit.

Completing each step of a project is its own success as I blogged about here. Celebrate them all.

For any chance of success, you need to self-promote. This can seem daunting to an introverted author, but the truth is, it can be fun, especially for the new people you meet.

And, as self-publishing reaches full acceptance and self-promotion possibilities improve, even more indies should be able to enjoy significant sales.

I’ll be speaking at the Dundas Public Library Saturday, June 21 at 2:00 p.m. on how to self-publish. Love to see you there. Also, PBS did an excellent piece on the changing book business you can find here.

Copyright ©2014 Peter Fritze

Rosedale

For The Case for Killing, I imagined the protagonist, Peter Bradley, purchasing a very expensive house to coddle his beautiful wife, Amy.

While Bradley had several Toronto neighbourhoods to choose from, he picked Rosedale for his purchase.

RosedaleRosedale is just north of downtown Toronto. Its ravines, trees, large houses and parkland make it feel like a protected enclave. As shown in the map, it is bounded by Canadian Pacific rail tracks to the north, Yonge Street to the west, Bloor Street to the south, and Bayview Avenue to the east. It is divided into South and North Rosedale, with the division being Park Drive ravine.

According to a neighbourhood guide, Rosedale was first settled by Sherriff William Botsford Jarvis and his wife Mary with the purchase of 110 acres in 1824. Mary named the estate “Rosedale” for the many wild roses along its hillsides. The Jarvis family sold the Rosedale homestead in 1864, which led to the subdivision and development of South Rosedale.

North Rosedale’s development began in 1909 when the Glen Road bridge was built over Park Drive ravine. Before its residential development, North Rosedale was the original home of St. Andrews College and the Rosedale Golf Club. It also was the site of the former lacrosse grounds where the Canadian Football League’s first Grey Cup game was played.

Rightly or wrongly, for me, Rosedale connotes “old money”, so I’m not sure how welcome Bradley would have been when he bought in. Also, given Toronto’s stratospheric home prices, especially in high-end neighbourhoods, I wondered if Bradley would have had the means to get into Rosedale in the mid-2000s. In the end, I imagined that he’d had the good fortune to ride the rise in Toronto real estate prices beginning in the early 1990s, and to work his way into better neighbourhoods as his income increased. With that, he could have satisfied his perception of what his wife craved, and made his purchase in Rosedale.

Copyright © Peter Fritze 2014

How to Measure Success Writing a Book

This week, I’m continuing with my blog stream about debut writers choosing between legacy (traditional) publishing and self-publishing. So I’m imagining a writer with a completed manuscript burning a hole in the top drawer of her desk, wondering what to do with it.

It would be natural to answer, “I’m going to choose the path that gives my book the highest chance of success.” And what is often meant by this, is the chance for sales and/or financial success.

However, writing fiction, while a great hobby for those with the passion, is an awfully tough business. Many authors won’t experience significant sales, whatever they do with their books. Does that mean their books aren’t successes?

FDR

Franklin D. Roosevelt, America’ s 32nd President, said aptly, “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” There are many achievements in creating a book that generate joy and therefore deserve to be recognized as successes of the author. The author’s book might not be a success measured in sales, but her journey is.

Here are some examples of author achievements that can rank as successes (ok, a few are tongue-in-cheek).

 

 

  • She finishes her manuscript.
  • She finishes the tenth draft of the manuscript.
  • After ten drafts, her writing skills have improved immeasurably.
  • Her mother wants to read the book.
  • Folks other than direct blood relatives want to read the book.
  • Some readers (other than direct blood relatives) say they enjoyed their book – this one is big.
  • The author pays for professional editing and even the editor says he liked the book.
  • An agent agrees to represent her.
  • A publishing house agrees to sign her to an onerous contract.
  • She has building readership.
  • Her book wins an award.

The point is, there are lots of “successes” along the way. And all but getting a commitment from an agent and/or publishing house are available whether you choose legacy publishing or self-publishing.

But if an author does measure success by book sales, is it better to try legacy or self-publishing? Next blog in this stream, I’ll discuss the direction suggested by an amazing recent authors’ earnings report.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze