On the self-publishing horizon

This is an announcement about Book 3 of the Turner series–Smite’s book. A lot of people have been asking me when it will come out. Read to the end, and you’ll get your answer–and the new title!

Before we get there, though, I have to subject you to some really boring numbers. Please bear with me, as they are marginally relevant.

HQN, my publisher for Unveiled and Unclaimed, only gives its authors 8% of the cover price for electronic sales. This is below the 25% of net (which comes out to 12-16% of the cover price, depending on who you talk to) that other publishers give. It’s well below the 70% that you can get going to Amazon directly (for books above $2.99).

In a world where more than 30% of sales are digital and print sales are falling, an 8% digital royalty rate just didn’t make business sense to me.

In February, Harlequin offered to buy my next two books. They actually offered more money upfront than I was expecting–it was a very nice deal (in publisher’s marketplace terminology). But the royalty rate was stuck at 8%. I talked it over with my agent, the brilliant and supportive Kristin Nelson. We said, “no, thank you.”

Harlequin is not going to be publishing the third book in this series.

You may notice that I walked away from this deal in February. It is almost June now, and I haven’t said anything. I planned to self-publish the third book in the series, but before I publicly announced my intention to do so, I wanted to make sure I could do it right.

And so I worked on a test-case: a novella for a minor character in my first book. I had to learn about covers, about hiring freelancers to take care of all aspects of editing, about formatting, about distribution.

It was a lot of work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It was also a lot of fun.

Unlocked was my proof of concept–to see if I could produce something of traditionally-published quality in a self-published setting. If I concluded that I couldn’t, I would have found another way to get my readers the third book. I refuse to compromise on the quality of the work I produce, no matter what my personal business objections may be.

But I’m really proud of the result, and I hope that my readers will like it, too. You can get Unlocked for 99 cents.

So where does that leave us with the third book in the Turner series?

  • It will be available in both print and digital.
  • The print version will be orderable through Ingram’s. If you’re an Indie bookstore who wants to carry the book, contact me. I’d love to talk about what I can do to make it work for you.
  • The digital version will be available everywhere I can make it available–both in terms of geographical vendors and in terms of vendors.
  • It will be available soon. My goal is to have it up November of 2011–a month after Unclaimed releases–but I won’t give a firm date yet, because the book isn’t done. If I need to take more time to make it the best book I can, I will.
  • It will be available at a reasonable price.
  • It’s going to be called Unraveled.
  • And–I don’t want to jinx the writing–but so far, it’s my favorite book that I’ve ever written. And I promise that I will do the story justice.

This isn’t the flashiest announcement ever made. I’m not flouncing from the room. I’m not proclaiming that I will never again work with the modern-day Babylon that is New York. I happen to like the editors I’ve met, so I would rather not draw mustaches on them in effigy. I don’t like their royalty rates, and I really don’t like those royalty rates coupled with “in print” clauses that will keep rights to the book in the publisher’s hands for the rest of my life. But those are business objections, and like all business objections, they can be alleviated.

I hope that reality proves as boring as this announcement: that no matter what the processes are that take my books to market, I continue to produce the best books that I can, and my readers continue to enjoy them.

45 thoughts on “On the self-publishing horizon

  1. Brava! I finished Unlocked last night. LOVED it. If this is any indication of the quality we can expect from Smite’s story, then you can bet I’ll be downloading it on its release date.

    Congratulations and good luck!

  2. Good luck to you, Courtney! I can see you taking the self-publishing world like storm, just like you did in “traditional” publishing. I will be there to buy your books either way.

  3. If Unlocked was the test case, you’ve definitely proved your point! I loved it and will definitely order the other books in the series.

  4. I can’t say that I blame you a bit. I am all for the authors that I love making more off of the books that they write, and if that means that they self publish them than I say go for it!

    My only general concern is that the quality of the work is the same (if not better) than if it was traditionally published. I am confident that the books that you publish yourself will be of the highest quality, unfortunately that hasn’t always been my experience…and I’m not talking newbie self-published authors either, but NY pubbed authors.

    Do you know if self published titles are made available to libraries who carry digital books? I bought Unlocked yesterday and can’t wait to read it!

  5. Thanks for the announcement Courtney, and well done for having the guts to go it alone – and the humility to get the best help you can. I hope the book is very successful.

  6. Booklover1335–Yes, not all self-published work is going to be at the same quality. But I do think that one of the things we’ll start seeing is the creation of a “best practices” list for self-published authors–things like, how to publish with minimal typos, best practices for covers, and so forth. Hopefully this will help raise the quality.

    As for libraries: I don’t want to announce anything that I can’t bring to fruition, but Overdrive (who helps run the engine for most library lending) is on my to-do list. I care about libraries. I care about them a lot.

  7. Courtney, when you’re ready, I would love to see a post about what you’d suggest as best practices for the self-publishing author in the digital age. This is something, as a librarian, I’d love to put in a number of persons hands.

  8. I find all the recent talk about self-publishing fascinating. I’ve gone the traditional publishing route with my debut UF, and have loved the experience so far. I realize the numbers don’t add up in my favor, and that having the freedom to publish what you want to when you want to is pretty much priceless, but traditional publishing was my goal when I decided I wanted to be an author, and I still think it’s the right route for someone like me who is a complete unknown. We’ll see how the future changes that.

    Anyway, if you decide to answer questions on self-publishing (I think there are a lot of us interested in your experience with it), I’d like to know what role, if any, your agent plays in this.

    Thanks Courtney, and congrats on your new release! It’s already getting fabulous reviews from the blog–o-sphere.

  9. Thanks, Katharine!

    Sandy, I’ll be talking more about the role my agent plays in the future–in part because we’re still discussing her role. All I know is that she will definitely be playing one.

  10. Courtney, I’m so glad you’re finding a way to bring Smite’s story to your fans. 🙂 Best of luck with the self-publishing process! UNLOCKED is beautiful in its production as well as sigh-arrific story.

  11. Kristin is so sneaky, she told me some of this stuff but did not mention your name!

    I am super excited for Smite’s story, because he SPEAKS to me. If you know what I mean. (And I think you do.)

  12. Not a published author yet; still finishing my draft. I would love to see you provide links to the freelancers you use – cover designs, editorial services, etc. I’ve pretty much decided that I will go indie with my books from the outset, but I want to make them the best I can and I’m collecting recommendations of professionals who can help me do that.

    From some of the reading I’ve been doing, 8% of cover price could be much better than any percent of net, but it’s still insultingly low. And it also sounds like more and more contracts from traditional publishers are turning into nightmares for the authors producing the content.

    there’s a part of me that’s really glad I’ll be entering publishing in this time of change, where the author appears to have more choice and more control if he/she is willing to take the bull by the horns and invest the time and effort into learning the ropes. It’s kind of scary, but it’s very cool.

  13. Wow Courtney! You are so clearly doing it right, as your rapid rise to the TOP of Amazon’s Historical Romance list attests. I’m in awe, and can hardly wait to see (and read!) where you go with this bold career move. Amazing places, no doubt. Thanks for leading the way so superbly~

  14. Courtney I love your writing and stories and I support your decisions. It’s just sinful that the publishing houses don’t give more to the “talent”. I wish all authors would follow your lead. You should be paid fairly for your work. I won’t stop reading or buying your written. xoxo

  15. You go girl. This is a huge decision to transition into and I’m very proud of you. Your writing is what brings readers to you, not how you publish it and clearly you already know that. I think that’s something publishers are going to have to respect more by giving writers more. I’m downloading Unlocked as we speak and cheering you on every step of the way.

  16. Well, this just proves to me what I had already suspected by hanging out with you at RT…

    You are the shiznit! And are full of awesomesauce

  17. Well done you!
    Already downloaded and read the novella this morning! Brava! As usual I loved it, and as usual you’re blazing a trail I am quite sure many authors will be following!
    All the best I’m this new endeavor!
    Cheers, EE

  18. Sandy, I just realized I skipped over your comment. Congratulations on your upcoming release, and you know what? Do what you want to do, and don’t let anybody tell you no. There isn’t One True Way. Don’t let anyone push you into doing something you don’t want to do “for your own good.”

    Seriously. You have no reason to be anything but proud and happy about what’s ahead for you.

  19. Whatever or however you get your books out, it doesn’t matter because I will read you no matter what. I’m excited for you on this new venture and I know you’ll be successful.

  20. I think the big question we are all asking is: Will you be making a fake and hilarious cover for our ebook?

  21. If it will get me things like virgin heroes and backstairs romances (especially the latter!) let me add my voice encouraging your experiment in self-publishing! I know it’s not easy (I’ve just been doing some layout for a family friend who’s self-publishing a book, both in paper and electronically), but if it makes for a wider range of available tropes, those of us who love the neglected ones will love you.

  22. Good luck with this, Courtney. I’ve always admired the quality of your work and your professionalism. I’m sure this new venture will demonstrate more of that.

  23. Congratulations and all the best with your new endeavor, Courtney! I already bought UNLOCKED and I can’t wait to read it and the rest of your books, including UNRAVELED. I LOVE this series! :0)

    I was wondering. . . by going this self-publishing route, do you still have someone functioning as an editor? I’m wondering what the options are for people who want to self-publish but also maintain the quality associated with traditional publishing.

    Kudos to you and best of luck!

  24. I once saw Julia Roberts stand in for David Letterman when he was ill. I found her to be refreshing, funny, engaging…and real. I had a deeper appreciation for her as a person, not merely an actress. I found myself watching more of her movies and following her career.

    Courtney, after reading your site and the lucid, logical and candid manner in which you handled this matter, I will say I am going to read my first romance novel. I am an eclectic reader and watched my mother read hundreds of Harlequin’s when I was growing up. I never picked one up–I am very male. I am over that now because your writing and your character have changed my perception of your market. Thank you.

  25. I posted over on Goodreads but will say it here too! I believe in you and your books are fab and so appreciate all you do to get your books out to us readers! I’ve followed many that publish both with NY and Indie as well as only pub Indie (and discovered so much more I love to read) so I’m there no matter where its published and LOVE most of the Indie prices! Thanks for all you doing!

  26. This is wonderful news. I’m so excited for you and wish you the very best with all of this! I can’t wait to read Unraveled. Am on my way to buy Unlocked.

  27. I just read your interview with SB Sarah on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website, and all my questions above have been answered. :0)


  28. Congrats, Courtney! I like that you’re striking out on your own (and getting more of the monetary credit for your work in the process), and I’m sure many fans will be following you wherever you go.

  29. This is very surprising news, but I’ll be following your progress with interest. 🙂 (The novella I found handily in my kindle without realizing it was published in any particular fashion, so I’d say it’s working so far in that respect).

    Do you still pay your agent 15% of your author’s percentage? Or are you handling it completely on your own?


  30. Just downloaded Unlocked.

    Congratulations on taking the first step on the path to a brave new world. And it’s a crazy world at the moment isn’t it? Can I say how much I appreciate your take on what’s happening. Your ideas are full of common sense and I also appreciate your use of language to describe aspects of the industry too.

    Anything that helps cross-functional communication in the industry can only be to the good.

    As an (as yet) unpublished author, your committment to quality to your reader and the reader’s experience has got to be the number one priority and I congratulate on achieving just that.

    I found you via Dear Author and hope you continue to share your future experiences with a wider audience.

    Things are changing at a rapid rate and I would hope that a publisher will ‘see the light’ and offer you a deal which is as equal to the one that Thomas & Mercer, Amazon imprint, have offered Barry Eisler. It’s not going to stop him self-pubbing, but it is giving the reader a service and a choice. Of course nothing is perfect with that either since it’s exclusive to Kindle. But I bet that narrow-minded thinking will change soon too.

    I’m sending you a high five. Good Luck.

  31. Everyone, thanks so much for the support.

    Christine, like I said on the Smart Bitches site, I won’t accept a deal that has e-exclusivity, period, and I suspect that Amazon will hold on to that for a good bit longer.

  32. I’m sure you’ll find you’re able to produce a quality piece…and you’ve probably already discovered the logistics of self-pubbing are pretty easy to handle. Good luck!

  33. I’ve only recently found your books and have “Proof by Seduction” on my print TBR pile. How very cool to hear another competent author is going with indie publishing and pricing their books reasonably!

    When I bought my Kindle in March of 2010, I paid $6 for the first few books of the In Death series; last I checked, they’re all $7.99 now. That’s a crazy increase for a series first published in 1995! I hope more established authors continue to independently publish (using professional editors) and that e-book prices will drop a bit from the craziness we’ve been seeing since the price fixing when the publishers negotiated new pricing with Apple when the i-Pad was released.

    I’m happy to see an author who supports libraries and e-copies of their books through Overdrive!

    Good Fortune with your new business model and I’m off to d/l Unlocked!

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