Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Blog

Okay, I've been writing this blog in my head for about a month or so, and I was trying to decide how I would break the news to everyone. But by the time I got to say things, everybody had already heard.

And if you haven't, here it is: I've got a deal with St. Martin's Press to publish a four book young adult paranormal romance series called the Watersong series. I think they're shooting for a fall 2012 release. The Wake book I've mentioned a few times, that's the first book in the series.

Here's the article from the NY Times about the deal: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/self-publisher-signs-four-book-deal-with-macmillan/

There's also going to be many articles in the future about it. So many, that I'm sure you'll be sick of hearing about me, if you aren't already.

But the big question on everybody's lips isn't what the deal is but why? If I've sold over a million books and made close to $2 million dollars on my own, why oh why would I possibly want to give up rights? How could they possibly offer me more then what I'm getting myself?

Is it because I feel I need validation? (Somebody misunderstood my post of my saying "I want to be a writer" to mean that I didn't feel as I already am one, when in fact I meant, "I only want to be a writer. I do not want be a publisher.") Also, after selling a million books, making the USA Today Bestseller list, and getting the amount of support from my readers that I get, I feel pretty validated as an author.

Is it because I think publishers will take over marketing over me? No. I enjoy marketing. I am hoping that since I'll have their publicist on hand, the process will become more streamlined. I know I will have to continue doing interviews, and I'll always blog and tweet because I enjoy that.

Is it because I'm so hung up on the idea of seeing my books on shelves in bookstores that I'm willing to give up huge portions of my profit for it? No. That's just silly. I'll be honest, it is pretty cool to think about having a book in stores. Having large distribution is part of the reason why I wanted a deal, and part of that is having books in stores. But just the thrill of seeing my book at Barnes & Noble in no way affected my decision. It's just an added bonus.

Here are the two considerations I made in my decision: what's best for my career, and what's best for my reader. (Notice I didn't say what was best for my wallet).

It boils down to these points:

1. Readers inability to find my books when they want them. I am getting an increasing number of emails from people who go into bookstores to buy my books for themselves or friends or family members, and not only does Barnes & Noble not carry my book, they can't even order it for them. People are requesting my books, and they can't get them.

2. Readers complaints about the editing of my books. I have hired editors. Many, many editors. And I know that I can outsource editing, but I'm clearly doing a really shitty job of picking editors. EDIT: The people hired as editors are great people who worked very hard. Which is the most frustrating thing about the continued complaints of errors in my books. I know that my books are better because of the people I hired. And I don't understand how there can still be errors. So my remark at "shitty" is over my frustration at the situation. Not the actual editors or the work they did.

3. The amount of books I've written and the rate of speed that I write books. If it took me five years to write a book, and I only had one book written, I'd be thinking long and hard about this deal. But right now, I have 19 books currently written. By the time the Watersong series goes to print, I'll still have 19-24 titles at least that I can self-publish.

The reason I took this deal wasn't for the money. At least not the upfront money. Also, let's be honest - if I self-published the Watersong series on my own, I could probably make $2 million within a year or two. Five years tops. I am fully aware that I stand a chance of losing money on this deal compared to what I could make self-publishing.

I honestly didn't do this for money. But let's not forget that as much money as I've made, James Patterson made $70 million between June 2010 and July 2010. Legacy houses (is that what we're calling them now?) have made a lot of authors very rich.

So what do I actually want out of this deal? What do I hope to gain?

Career stability. As an author, I'll never really have one. Each book I come out with could bomb and could be the one that turns readers off me forever. Any day, my books could just stop selling. And I know that going with a house isn't going to change that. Any author can stop making money any day.

James Patterson has a book out now that has incredibly low reviews, some of the lowest I've seen for any book, and that book is still selling like crazy, and I can find it Target and Walmart. Even the sequel to the book, which the reviews say is even twice as awful as the original, is selling like crazy. Why? Because James Patterson wrote it. (Or more accurately, because his name is on the cover).

I want that. Not the writing bad books thing. I'll always strive to write a product that people enjoy. But I want to be a household name. I want to be the impulse buy that people make when they're waiting in an airport because they know my name.

That, I think, is as close to career stability as I can get. And that's why I took the deal.

Does this mean I'll stop self-publishing? No, absolutely not. I have a few titles lined up this year yet to put out via the self-publishing. And I'll have more in the future.


Did my agent push me into this? Nope. This exactly how the conversation went: Steve (my agent): "Have you thought at all about going the traditional route?" Me: "Yeah, I have. And I have a series that I'm ready to pitch." Steve: "Great. Send it to me when you're ready."

Did you sign the contract without reading it? I haven't actually signed anything. But on top of my agent, I have a lawyer, an accountant, a financial adviser, and a personal assistant. I like my agent. I trust my agent. But that doesn't mean I'm so excited about this that I'm going to ignore logic and forget to make sure everything is in order the way I think it is. Not only will I look over it, but I'll have other people who understand contracts better than me read it.

Aren't you going back on everything you said? Nope. I've made a number of blog posts in the past, and I haven't changed my opinion on anything. I always said if the deal was right, I would take it. Part of the reason I'm taking it now is because I have made enough of my name for myself that I had the leverage to get the kind of deal I wanted.

What happens if they screw you over in a contract, steal all your money, and keep your erights forever?
Then they do. I like the books St. Martin's bought. And I believe in them. But if I lose money on them, I lose money on them. That's the risk I'm taking. And I do know this is a risk. But it's a calculated risk, and if it works out, the payoff could be enormous. But I'm making enough money on my other books - and I will continue to make enough on my self-published books - that I can afford to take this risk.

With all that said, I am very excited about this. The folks I've talked to at St. Martin's have been very kind, and they're pretty jazzed up to have me. They even sent me flowers and chocolates today.

But it is crazy that we live in a time that I have to justify taking a seven-figure a publishing deal with St. Martin's. Ten years ago, nobody would question this. Now everybody is.

Which is really silly, you guys. If there's one thing I've proven in the past year is that I'm pretty business savvy. I'm practical and level-headed. I've thought this through and talked it over with a lot of different people.

And now, I'm watching Scream 2 with Eric. It's his 25th birthday today, and I'm going back to celebrating that with him.