On Monday, I posted a post about how I believe midlist novels don’t get the attention they probably deserve and rambled about how I’m considering doing some sort of feature devoted to these books. Since that post, things have exploded in the Twitter world.
Stacey Jay decided to take down her illy phrased kick starter and let’s just say all hell broke loose. I really didn’t want to go into all the particulars about the campaign in my blog because I didn’t think there was anything done out of intentional malice from it. But now that things have imploded, I think it might be a good idea to discuss Kickstart and sites like it and how they might have an impact on publishing in the future. And that sort of means I have to talk about the elephant in the room…Jay’s book.
I’ve been looking forward to Princess of Thorns since it was announced in January 2014. I loved Jay’s previous novel Of Beast and Beauty, it was a wonderful adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, and mixed fairytale with futuristic dystopia quite well. So, when I heard she had another fairytale retelling coming out, you can say I was very excited.
Not so much when I read the Kickstarter. While I wouldn’t have mind chipping in for production and editing cost, I didn’t want to be paying for Jay’s living expenses. Maybe this was in part because she was using Kickstarter rather than another crowd sourcing site that focuses more on the creator than the product. While many have held the 7k as being like an advance, it’s not. There’s not a contract between the donators and Jay like there would be with a publisher and Jay becuase there’s no freaking consideration (you know, getting a chunk out of the royalties from future sales like a publisher would). Plus, most self pub authors I know don’t get an advance
I heard arguments about how you can’t write a book while working a job.
Most writers start out and continue writing while working. I know some writers who are working multiple jobs while writing and have a family life. While it’s true that I don’t know Jay and her finances, I just find the whole thing a little annoying.
Especially since I come from a family of artists. For example, my sister is a professional musician. In order to make ends meet she has another full job as a private lesson teacher. She used to sell her reeds commercially as well and still find time to practice. And guess what, no one paid her to practice for her orchestra. Oh, she gets paid for rehearsals and performances, but not for merely practicing.
And then there was the whole I won’t write anymore books in the YA genre if the KS fails line.
That last line left a really bad taste in my mouth.
But again, that’s just my opinion and believe it or not I do see where Jay is coming from. I just don’t think the crowd sourcing site was utilized properly. I do think that crowd sourcing is going to become an important part of the publishing process (especially for midlist authors) in the future.
Publishing is completely different than it was even five years ago. Like it or hate it, Amazon has changed the landscape especially when it comes to authors who don’t get the sort of press like big names.
Marketing is also a different game than it was years ago. Publishing companies often will do little to no marketing. With Princess of Thorns, for example, I only found out about it because I was interested in what else Jay was working on. There wasn’t any fancy cover reveal. I didn’t even realize it was on Netgalley till it was next to impossible to obtain a copy.
I think the lack of marketing is in part to the over hype of what social media is AND isn’t. While social media is a great tool to utilize when on a shoe string budget, it’s not fool proof and to be fully effective traditional marketing has to be employed with it.
Add an author’s already busy schedule and…well, ineffective marketing here we come.
Blogs are often thought to be a source of free marketing. Despite what publishers might think, I don’t (and I know others don’t) have time to market a book like it should be marketed. In Jay’s case, I plugged the book on several features and I saw the book plugged on some of my friend’s blogs as well. And the book still didn’t garner enough attention to be given the green light for a sequel by Jay’s traditional publisher. In part, this might be because blogging really is a niche community.
While there are tons and tons of book blogs, most of the time people will find a few they like and keep to those few. And most of the time…those people you follow read similar things to you.
So, exposing the audience that would not normally read the book…not that likely.
The marketing for midlist titles has to change. Here are some solutions (some are way better than others):
- Publishing Downsizes: As much as I hate to say it, maybe it would be better if larger houses downsized their amount of titles. While this would be less books, more time and resources could be spent on refining the product and marketing it. There would less likely be as many flops as there are in the current market. The downside to this is downsizing would more than likely cost jobs in the short term.
- More Houses: I’d like to see smaller houses or more imprints of larger companies, but more of them incorporating the same concept as solution number one and having more independence from their parent company. I already am a fan of small presses and I would love to see more successful start ups. The problem is that the Big Six have a lot more resources than smaller houses. Publishing is expensive. I think if smaller houses are going to succeed and make a bigger impact in the market, they need to think outside the box in how to manage their resources.
- Third Party Publicists: Sure, some authors have access to a strong publicity team, but not every author can afford a publicist. I think there needs to be a cheaper middle man. Maybe not performing all the services that a publicist does, but performing some of them at a lower cost. Maybe advising in social media usage or promoting the author through a blog tour company or running their crowd funder. Some of the services already exist, but I think it needs to be refined.
- Stop Being Dependent on a Broken System: This one is the biggest one. I really wish there wasn’t such a dependence on using primarily social media from unpaid third parties (aka bloggers) to market books. I like blogging, but it’s a hobby and my focus isn’t on marketing. I feel safe to assume that this is the same for many bloggers. While we might have our favorite books, write reviews for them, and go gaga over covers and ships it’s not the same as actual marketing attention towards a book. Even though I have some favorite midlist titles that I pimp out all the stinking time, I don’t have the resources (time or money) to do an effective marketing campaign. Let alone, know anything really about marketing. While bloggers should be part of the equation, they shouldn’t make up a large part of the equation. And neither should authors.
- Use Crowd Sourcing, but in an Effective Way: It’s been used before. But I think when authors use methods like crowd sourcing, they need to pay close attention to the medium they are using. Honestly, I think they might should have a third party handle the CS site. Having a third party write up the proposal will allow for another perspective and allow discussion before posting a campaign that is less than likely to succeed.
I am sad about losing Jay to the genre. I enjoyed her books and I really wish she would’ve been getting the sales she deserved. I feel the situation has become out of control, and that some people are making it about things it’s not-cough, misogyny and piracy, cough.
The fact is, even though Jay’s Kickstarter ended up being canceled it highlights awareness to the ever changing world of publishing. Rather than deviating into us versus them talks like some authors have, I think the discussion should be focused on looking at solutions for the changing world that is publishing.