Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Two-Cent Tuesday: The Brave New World of Publishing

The subtitle of this entry could be:  Or What I Learned About Publishing in the Last Year.  (Also perhaps:  Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Bomb.)  Basically what I learned can be summarized this way:  in this new digital world anyone can be a publisher.

And I don't mean just that anyone can chuck their book on Amazon these days.  What I mean is you can start a publishing company in like two hours for about $10.  How do I know?  Because I did it already!

If you click the link you can go to the site for my imprint Planet 99 Publishing.  The "Planet" part comes from my novel "Where You Belong" where my main character Frost Devereaux writes a series of books for a little publisher called Planet X Publishing, which in itself was based off the professor's company in Futurama, Planet Express.  But there was already a Planet X Publishing, or something similar, so instead it's Planet 99 because all the books were 99 cents.  Clever!

It really didn't take long to put the whole thing together.  The most time-consuming part was to create the books and covers.  A lot of small publishers go to stock photo sites, buy a couple of images, and splice them together in PhotoShop to come up with something like this:
Half-ass cover

You can do it even cheaper if you go to MS Office's free online clipart gallery, which I did for most of mine.  A couple I did buy because there weren't suitable ones for free.  Incidentally those are the most popular titles, so I guess it was a good investment.  Still it was only an investment of like $13.  Because when you're just selling online you don't need to worry that the image is very big or very high-res because it's essentially just an icon on Amazon.

But to actually go and create the website itself only took an hour or so.  And to get the domain name cost just $9.99 from 1and1 Internet.  The hardest part was figuring out how their FTP thing works to upload the files.  I had to Email the help desk to find out how I could load the files for the Planet 99 site so they weren't in the same directory as my little-seen Where You Belong site.

Whole-ass cover
The upshot of all this is that if you have a few hours, some old stories lying around, and about $20 you too can be a publisher.  I learned this by observing the business model of S------ Publishing, the people who published A Hero's Journey.  It became readily apparent that everything they were doing I could do myself.  I mean, I can half-ass design a cover (though of course it takes a real expert like Rusty Carl to create a whole-ass cover).  I can "edit" the manuscript without reading more than five pages of it--and do it in under 3 months.  I can toss the thing up on Smashwords.  I can even put it on CreateSpace for a print version if I so desire.  I knew that because I had already done that with my two self-published books.  The only difference between my self-publishing and S------ Publishing is they had a website claiming to be a publisher and I didn't.  Well, that problem can be solved easily enough.

See the other thing is "publishers" like S------ don't really do much more for you than that.  They haven't done jack shit as far as promoting my book goes.  Sure there are a lot of pie-in-the-sky promises about book trailers and audio books and whatnot.  I'll believe that when it happens, which probably won't be for a year or more, if then.  I don't think they've even sent a goddamned Tweet about my book.  So again part of my thinking is, well hell if I'm doing all the marketing anyway, then what precisely are you bringing to the party?  The answer was, not a hell of a lot.

On top of that they've had 2 changes of ownership in six months.  Essentially some new people came in, and then decided to cut and run and now the original people are back in charge.  Back in November they announced they weren't going to accept any new submissions until fall of this year.  They might make an exception for series that are already underway. Still, what am I supposed to do the next time they change ownership?  And in the end, what do I get?  A link on their website.  Whoopee.

So I decided to take control of my own destiny again and publish the rest of the series through my Planet 99 imprint.  You can call that "self-publishing" if you want but really by that definition the first one was pretty much self-publishing.  I wrote the book, Michael Offutt helped me edit it, and Rusty Carl did the cover for it.  The "real" publisher did nothing except badger me into changing a lot of -ing verbs to -ed verbs, as if anyone gives a shit about that.

I've been giving some thought to expanding Planet 99's operations as well because my experience last year showed how easy this can be.  If you're a self-published author, you can join Planet 99 Publishing for FREE.  I won't take a cut of your profits or anything like that.  I'll just give you a link on my site and if I'm feeling generous I'll even give you a Tweet or two.  That's about as much as S------ did for me, well, and take a big chunk of the profits so I'm doing you one better.  In return you can list Planet 99 as your publisher and everyone will think you've got a "real" publisher.  (Unless they see this post or someone reports me to Preditors and Editors or Writer Beware or something like that.)

Of course if you want, you can start your own publisher too.  I mean in this digital world it's incredibly easy.  Just use this post as your tutorial.  It ain't hard.

Tomorrow is a super-easy Superhero Trivia Question!


  1. Congrats on your new company, PT, and good luck with it!

    BTW, would you be interested in participating in a Blog Ring of Power interview? It would be a five-part interview spread over five blogs. E-mail me at sandraATsandraulbrichDOTcom for details.

  2. That is so cool that you can do that. I don't write well enough or interesting enough for anyone to pay to read it, but still, it's nice to know the option is there. Thanks for the info. ;)


  3. I loved today's post! Quite the entrapenauer. I've thought about starting a publishing house but I caught myself because I remembered that I can't edit worth crap and the only reason to go to a publisher for me would be A) the cache and B) the pro editors.

    Anyone who gives me their work would see it ruined after I got done with it.

  4. I don't write science fiction but I've been thinking about publishing my memoir "The Kid in the Kaleidoscope" or even "The Best of Chubby Chatterbox," but so far I haven't gotten up the nerve or energy to do it. You, my friend, are an inspiration.

  5. I plan on publishing a book through your Planet 99 this year. I just want to add though (and I think you should put this into your post because you are an accountant) do not sign with a small publisher that actually wants to pay you royalties and own your work UNLESS they are incorporated. If they have a small proprietorship and declare bankruptcy, you are screwed. The bank will own your manuscripts and will take the profits from your book. So yeah...always check to see if the small pub is incorporated.

    The thing that appeals to me about your imprint is I just borrow the name but don't sign any papers.

  6. Michael: Sounds like you have personal experience? The incorporation part isn't the big thing. It's the solvency part. A solvent, experience sole proprietor is less likely to go under than an undercapitalized fly-by-night corporation or LLC. Plus the bank/bankruptcy court can't take profits you as the author are entitled to. You'd need to put in a claim in the bankruptcy, etc. If you (or anyone) has been subjected to a bankruptcy (or any legal matter) call a lawyer. If it's not a complicated legal problem, it won't cost you much. If it is a complicated legal problem, well, it might cost you but don't you want a lawyer's help for a complicated legal problem?

    Anyway, enough about my soapbox. Except that I make lots and lots of money from people who thought "I don't need to consult a lawyer" and then later on realized "OH CRAP YEAH I DO" only it's a lot harder (i.e. "more expensive") by the time they call me.

    And also: don't get a lawyer from phone books, internet, etc. ASK SOMEONE YOU KNOW WHO THEY WOULD RECOMMEND.


    YOU are Planet 99? I had no idea. I thought they were a legit outfit. I mean... er... anyway: Congratulations. This is great. I think we should all make a pact to use your imprint for all our future books, and grow it. The thing publishers can do is use their muscle to get your books not just on the 'net, but into Target, and into merchandising, and the like. We can do (some of) that, on our own, but the more books are under the Planet 99 label, the better off anyone under that label will be.

    I was thinking a while back that someone should do a kickstarter to start an actual indie publishing company that would hire a rep, etc., to get books out there. I'd have done it but I've got other things I want to do more. You're halfway there already.

    GO PLANET 99 PUBLISHING! (You need t-shirts. If you want to sell stuff to me, I've got to get a t-shirt out of it.)

    1. If I ever need a lawyer I want you, and I hope you do it cheap cuz we're buddies.

  7. SO I just went and looked. It looks legit. Seriously very well done. Where'd you get all your authors?

  8. I suspected that about Planet 99 from the start. You are like pro wrestling's Mick Foley, Pat. (Anyone who doesn't get that reference needn't know any more about it.)

  9. I've actually thought about doing something similar, but my wife dissuaded me. Honestly, I don't have the time, right now, to try and set something like that up, and I don't have the expertise to do any kind of website anything.

    But, yeah, you're totally right about these small publishers. I met this guy at this book event last year that, basically, started a publishing company so that he could publish his friends book and take part of the money. He actually said that to me.

  10. To be honest (and no offense), I like the "half ass" cover better than the real one.



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