• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Self Publishing: Interested?

Malik

Auror
As some of the old folks on this board know, I had a runaway hit on my hands as an indie back in 2017.

While things were getting insane, I had a no-sh*tter conversation with an acquiring editor at the fantasy imprint of a Big 5. He told me I'd have to be nuts to sign with his company. He said 5000 sales of a debut, for them, was a breakout hit. Most first-time authors on a Big 5 don't sell one-tenth of that. I'd already sold twice that. He couldn't promise me better sales than I was already getting, and he noted--correctly--that I'd take a serious blow to my receipts.

I found an agent who specializes in working with successful indies, primarily negotiating rights deals. She got me some very nice advances and a distribution deal, and is now shopping the first book of my next series to Big 5's, because she thought it was saleable. (Between you and me, she's right.)

I finished the manuscript in 2021, and one major publisher has now had it for TWO YEARS, "under consideration." Wonderful reply emails gushing about the writing, the characterization, the suspension of disbelief, the cross-genre potential. Two more publishers have had it for over a year, also gushing. So much gushing.

All this time, it could have been money in the bank. I say this because the last time a major held a manuscript of mine this long, I self-published it and it's now sold 20,000 copies, the last few thousand at $9.99 a pop for ebooks and I'm keeping 75% . Find me a Big 5 who'll pay you $7.50 on every ebook sale. I'll wait.

The only reason we're still pulling at the majors' sleeves is that indies, at least in SF/F, don't get considered for awards. This is super big-headed and gauche of me, I know. However, my second novel ended up 23rd on a Goodreads list for the Hugo Award the year it came out. As an indie, it never made the official longlist--it couldn't, because as I understand it, the award shows were (are still?) funded in large part by big publishers.

I don't expect the book we're shopping right now to win, and I'm not saying it will; I want just one shot at the title.

That said, this is the only point in my life where I've said to myself, "You know? It'd be okay to have less money." I'll willingly take a bath on this book if it means I get my shot, and I'll go back to being an indie after this, because I really like money. Realistically, I'm probably self-publishing it this year, though, in which case, screw 'em.

Well, it just got intriguing over here at Forward Operating Base Malik. I have to be vague, but an A-list VFX producer has expressed interest in a film option for the new manuscript. There's no formal deal, but we shook hands on it last week. He's getting a team together and talking to my agent.

It'll be interesting to see what effect this has on the publishers who are holding it when my agent reaches out to them with the news and starts naming names. Should they pass on the manuscript and we ink the film option, this guy's studio is big enough that the deal would be in the trades, and to quote Jayne Cobb, "Well, that'll be an interesting day." An option deal would generate the capital I'd need to self-publish it at a level I'm comfortable with, and please, come make me an offer when I'm already holding 75 points on the back end. Just know you're flying my agent out and buying the Scotch and the oysters.

There is work to be done, now: my next project is to cut the synopsis and outline down from a 460-page novel to fit into a 90-page screenplay. He's hiring a screenwriter as part of his team (assuming the strike ever ends); rewriting the synopsis and outline is for my own sanity handing my baby over to a stranger, and probably also so that I don't show up in his front yard with a flamethrower five years from now screaming "SUBTEXT, MOTHER****ER! SU-U-U-U-B TE-E-E-E-EXXXXXXXXT!"

Realistically, this doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Five thousand books a year get picked up for film options; a thousand of them by people working at his level. Maybe ten make it to film or series. Another dozen become Hallmark Movies of the Week or whatever. Also, he could fail to find people interested, it could languish for ten years and never get greenlit, the industry could change again--or collapse--there are any number of ways it could die on the vine. I'm still excited, but after a couple of dinner meetings, I already know too much about the process to be optimistic. Still, a pretty good week.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Well, it just got intriguing over here at Forward Operating Base Malik. I have to be vague, but an A-list VFX producer has expressed interest in a film option for the new manuscript. There's no formal deal, but we shook hands on it last week. He's getting a team together and talking to my agent.

It'll be interesting to see what effect this has on the publishers who are holding it when my agent reaches out to them with the news and starts naming names. Should they pass on the manuscript and we ink the film option, this guy's studio is big enough that the deal would be in the trades, and to quote Jayne Cobb, "Well, that'll be an interesting day." An option deal would generate the capital I'd need to self-publish it at a level I'm comfortable with, and please, come make me an offer when I'm already holding 75 points on the back end. Just know you're flying my agent out and buying the Scotch and the oysters.

There is work to be done, now: my next project is to cut the synopsis and outline down from a 460-page novel to fit into a 90-page screenplay. He's hiring a screenwriter as part of his team (assuming the strike ever ends); rewriting the synopsis and outline is for my own sanity handing my baby over to a stranger, and probably also so that I don't show up in his front yard with a flamethrower five years from now screaming "SUBTEXT, MOTHER****ER! SU-U-U-U-B TE-E-E-E-EXXXXXXXXT!"

Realistically, this doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Five thousand books a year get picked up for film options; a thousand of them by people working at his level. Maybe ten make it to film or series. Another dozen become Hallmark Movies of the Week or whatever. Also, he could fail to find people interested, it could languish for ten years and never get greenlit, the industry could change again--or collapse--there are any number of ways it could die on the vine. I'm still excited, but after a couple of dinner meetings, I already know too much about the process to be optimistic. Still, a pretty good week.

Yet somehow a bunch of truly horrible fantasy movies do get made...
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Well, it just got intriguing over here at Forward Operating Base Malik. I have to be vague, but an A-list VFX producer has expressed interest in a film option for the new manuscript. There's no formal deal, but we shook hands on it last week. He's getting a team together and talking to my agent.

It'll be interesting to see what effect this has on the publishers who are holding it when my agent reaches out to them with the news and starts naming names. Should they pass on the manuscript and we ink the film option, this guy's studio is big enough that the deal would be in the trades, and to quote Jayne Cobb, "Well, that'll be an interesting day." An option deal would generate the capital I'd need to self-publish it at a level I'm comfortable with, and please, come make me an offer when I'm already holding 75 points on the back end. Just know you're flying my agent out and buying the Scotch and the oysters.

There is work to be done, now: my next project is to cut the synopsis and outline down from a 460-page novel to fit into a 90-page screenplay. He's hiring a screenwriter as part of his team (assuming the strike ever ends); rewriting the synopsis and outline is for my own sanity handing my baby over to a stranger, and probably also so that I don't show up in his front yard with a flamethrower five years from now screaming "SUBTEXT, MOTHER****ER! SU-U-U-U-B TE-E-E-E-EXXXXXXXXT!"

Realistically, this doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Five thousand books a year get picked up for film options; a thousand of them by people working at his level. Maybe ten make it to film or series. Another dozen become Hallmark Movies of the Week or whatever. Also, he could fail to find people interested, it could languish for ten years and never get greenlit, the industry could change again--or collapse--there are any number of ways it could die on the vine. I'm still excited, but after a couple of dinner meetings, I already know too much about the process to be optimistic. Still, a pretty good week.
Best genre bar none to break molds and show that we can change worlds.
You Kick Ass Girl.jpg
 

Malik

Auror
Yet somehow a bunch of truly horrible fantasy movies do get made...

If you want to see how that happens, read Harlan Ellison's short story I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore about the making of "The Starlost." If you think the publishing industry is antiquated, hang on to your socks. "The Starlost" happened almost fifty years ago but very little has fundamentally changed, to hear my friends who stayed in Hollywood--and even the guy I'm working with right now--tell it.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
Very exciting for you Malik. If it happens, I hope you keep enough creative control that its still your story they go with.
 

L.L. Maurizi

Troubadour
Grats on your first draft of the rest of your life! That first The End is the best. But you know what the reward is for a job well done? Another job. Tuck that draft away for a few weeks, keep any and all notes you make about it while it percolates, and start the next book.

This is the Way.

All three of us gravitated towards Speculative Fiction (Fantasy, Horror, SciFi) very early, and my wife and I (KV and JV) have been collaborating for over thirty years. That being said, I would never, for an instant, tell anyone this genre is easy. "But it's Fantasy! You don't have to do any research." I have a good friend who references anatomical models of Pegisae (I haven't had Latin in 20 years. This is why I'm married.) My team writes Urban Fantasy. It's a lot like saying, "I just want to do homework until I die."

Don't get me started on dragons. Or my personal fav, Paladins. :D
Thank you!

Funny you mention writing the next one, cause I did start writing a sequel for my fiorst book. It may be ambitious but the whole idea was born to be a saga of three books, so I wanna see it to the end.

Yeah I agree that fantasy is challenging in a different way. For me it's about creating things that are obviously not real, but make them realistic, within the frame of the world I create. On top of that I feel it take a lot of work to create something for people to easily relate to, despite having had zero first-hand experience with (like a whole imaginary continent).

Thank you for sharing your background!
 

Malik

Auror
Very exciting for you Malik. If it happens, I hope you keep enough creative control that its still your story they go with.
Thank you.

Doing a little digging, it turns out John Scalzi has a magnificent take on this: his advice is to wash your hands of the whole thing as soon as you option it. Let the movie or series be someone else's creative vision, and sit back and cash the checks.

If the movie gets made, great. If it doesn't, great. If it sucks, great; it was out of your hands, so it isn't your fault. If it's awesome, super great; buy a yacht.

It's a very Zen take, and I think I might just roll with it and keep working on what I was working on in the first place. I dunno right now; I'm pretty drunk.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
I understand just accepting the money. I dont think I want that for my story. I'd not trust Hollywood to preserve what's important about it. Course, no one is knocking on my door asking for it either. Guess we'll see if we get there. Personally, I'd like to have a graphic novel, but I am far away from that.

Just working on getting it all written.

This one they are pursuing is the Dragon's Trail story?
 

Malik

Auror
This one they are pursuing is the Dragon's Trail story?
It's not. This is the first book in the second series, in which a modern-day Special Operations team explores the world in Dragon's Trail and The New Magic.
 
Congrats Malik ! Even if nothing comes of it, it sounds like you got a few dinners out of it...

I understand just accepting the money. I dont think I want that for my story. I'd not trust Hollywood to preserve what's important about it.
I don't know. Writing for a movie is a very different beast from a novel. While being able to deliver input is nice, if you're too involved without knowing what you're doing you might do more harm than good.

The main thing I would be thinking about is that if the first one is good, then the chances of getting a second one made are exponentially higher than if the first one flops. Though at this point I'd probably accept any sack of money if I'm honest...
 

BJ Swabb

Sage
From what I've seen most people here on these forums are self-published. I am not, I have a traditional publishing contract. Bear in mind that I am in Sweden, so the process here isn't the same as it would be in the UK or US.

Personally I appreciate the support I get from my publisher. They arrange all the editing, all the typesetting and printing, the cover, all the marketing, getting the book into the stores and onto the shelves (a neccessity in my view if you want visibility) - and they take care of any piracy that might occur. They sort out book signings, interviews etc. For this they take 70% of the wholesale price of the printed book (for e-books they take 45%). I get the rest in royalties - and I get an advance equivalent to the royalties I would get for sales of 50% of the first print run of a new book. For a print run of 1000 copies that isn't much, but once you're established and the first print run of a new book is 4000 or 5000 copies you're starting to talk about some real cash.

The real advantage for me is continuity, I have the same editor for all my books, the same cover designer. It keeps the style and image the same across the books and it makes the editing process very much easier. That's important for me because I am very severely dyslexic.

What a traditional publishing contract does not take away is the need to be visible - you as the author still have to do your bit, so you have to be available for interviews, book signings and talks. And when you do these things you do take a box or two of books along to sell to the audience.

One other advantage of a traditional publishing contract is that you don't have to find the cash for the editing, formatting, marketing etc. The publisher coughs up. The costs mount up fast, and my editor says publishing is really a form of venture capitalism, because the publisher is betting quite a lot of cash that your book will sell enough copies to cover all those costs. Which is why publsihers are so very selective about what books they choose to publish.

Yes, self-publishing means you have almost complete control - and it also means you are taking the full financial risk.
Who do you go through from publishing?
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I agree with Scalzi on this. I have no problem with someone taking one of my stories and running in a different direction. All works of art (even commercial art) are, well, work. Movies and other performances are a huge amount of work by many people. The odds of the finished product being both successful and something the author of the story are happy with are nearly zero. So why sweat it? If it's all that important, then just don't sell the thing in the first place.
 
I got out of screenwriting because of Hellywood, heh heh, but if you can cash checks and separate yourself from the finished product, it's the right attitude to go in with. Cash the checks, write more books.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
I got out of screenwriting because of Hellywood, heh heh, but if you can cash checks and separate yourself from the finished product, it's the right attitude to go in with. Cash the checks, write more books.
Now there's a pay structure I can get behind. ;)

And hopefully in the next few years we'll be doing just that. Our next series is a low-fantasy trilogy that we're planning on shopping traditionally. I think hybrid will be a good look on us. Right now there are just a handful of characters taking form, one of them being an autistic military strategist and another this huge, full-grown sow who acts as the strategist's guardian and translator of the world around them. Yes, the pig talks. No, I don't know if anyone but the strategist can hear her, but yes, the pig has deep, dangerous secrets.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Who do you go through from publishing?
I'd like to help answer this question, but I'm having a hard time parsing it. Are you talking to someone specific, or is it a general question? What style of publication are you thinking about? Are you looking for advice or just information?
 
Now there's a pay structure I can get behind. ;)

And hopefully in the next few years we'll be doing just that. Our next series is a low-fantasy trilogy that we're planning on shopping traditionally. I think hybrid will be a good look on us. Right now there are just a handful of characters taking form, one of them being an autistic military strategist and another this huge, full-grown sow who acts as the strategist's guardian and translator of the world around them. Yes, the pig talks. No, I don't know if anyone but the strategist can hear her, but yes, the pig has deep, dangerous secrets.
I am getting low level Animal Farm vibes from this one 🐖

A military strategist with ASD would be interesting.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
I am getting low level Animal Farm vibes from this one 🐖

A military strategist with ASD would be interesting.
The research is already proving deeply compelling, and I have the advantage of actually being on the spectrum, myself. We're all a little different, so just because one person has a symptom or a comorbidity doesn't mean the next person will present the same way. It's going to be a fascinating challenge.
 

BJ Swabb

Sage
I'd like to help answer this question, but I'm having a hard time parsing it. Are you talking to someone specific, or is it a general question? What style of publication are you thinking about? Are you looking for advice or just informat
I was asking Mad Swede who he went through for publishing. But if you have someone in mind for publishing A.E. Lowan I wouldn't mind seeing what they have to offer. I am looking for a reasonable publisher to help with getting my series finished and published and placed on the shelves. I don't have the time or patience to do what actual publishers do. I appreciate any help or advice you can give me.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
Mad Swede has said before his publisher is not an English one, and is mostly just in Sweden.

I think you are trying to take a shortcut, and asking questions like that is an avenue for scammers to get their hooks in you.

Here is my two cents.

You want a partner, but you want them to be the writer. My perspective--why do I need you? I can write without you and not share the rewards.

I dont want a partner, I have my own stuff to write.

If I wanted to do this, you would have to bring something to the table that was just so spectacular that it would be worthwhile to accept. Partnerships do work out for some, but I am kind of a loner.

If you want to be a writer, you are going to have to write and learn the craft. No way around it.

If you dont want to be a writer, but still want it written, a ghost writer is a surer way to go. They will cost you $$$. But they wont cut you out of the picture.

What you are asking for, and saying 'I have the ideas', is not enough for me. I can get my own ideas. Many others will feel the same. So you have an up hill battle with that.

Lamenting that you dont have the skill is lazy. Put in the work and you will. Its all just what do you want most?
 
Top