The interviews in the Independent Writing series here at Smiling Tree are usually with authors who have self-published their work. Though today’s guest did not self publish she is most certainly independent! Erika Napoletano is the Chief Redhead at Redhead Writing, and has written a business book is titled The Power of Unpopular, and co-authored a book on egg donation called The Insider’s Guide to Egg Donation.
Authors have more options than ever before when deciding how to take their work to the market. It is fascinating to learn about the decision making process behind individual writers’ choices. Erika was kind enough to answer some questions, despite an insanely busy schedule. Take a look at her web site, her Facebook page, her Twitter stream, and her YouTube channel to learn more from this successful, funny, entertaining business-owner and writer! (Note: if profanity offends you, be forewarned – Erika cusses better than most sailors!)
One of the things that fascinates me about watching the changing world of publishing is the number of choices that authors now have. Would you talk about how you arrived at the decision to go with a traditional model?
I’ve always had the dream of being an author and I wouldn’t have done my first book any other way than through a traditional publisher. Call me old fashioned, but I love the model — a pitch, a team, a project, a shared goal. Both of my nonfiction books followed a pretty traditional path. I sent a query letter to a shortlist of 6 agents, my preferred one replied with a request for the proposal in under 6 hours, and she ultimately became the agent for both my writing partner on the egg donation book and me for my business book.
Your two books are on wildly different topics. Do you find that you need to use wildly different tactics to sell them?
Well, actually selling the books is your agent’s job. They match book proposals up with publishers/editors they know and that’s how a book gets sold. I’ve always seen my responsibility as a writer to give my agent the best possible tool to sell my book: a well-crafted proposal. That, in turn, gives an acquiring editor ammunition when they go into a quarterly sales meeting. See, this is where they compete against all of the other acquiring editors at their publishing house, each of whom is fighting to get their titles into a slot for the upcoming publication calendar. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for traditional publication — you want to make your book a must-have on the company’s slate and give your now-unknown acquiring editor a powerful tool to pitch your book by. That’s a GREAT proposal.
Very often, writers who choose to take a more traditional route to publication do so because they feel that they gain more credibility. Did that play into it at all for you?
Honestly, I never thought about the credibility piece. I don’t know much about self-publishing, but can tell you that — by and large — the overall quality of self-published pieces I’ve read are much lower than a traditionally-published book. Why? Editing, formatting, copyediting, developmental editing, cover design — all of those things that you’d get with a traditional publisher become budget line items when you go the self publishing route and many people skip them. Kicking those things to the curb is what kills your credibility — not respecting your audience and readers enough to give them a well-edited and formatted read. And y’know, most books that hit the shelf have a typo or two in them. It’s the truth. But the key to credibility is not wasting your audience’s time and delivering a coherent, useful read that does exactly what you say it’s going to.
If you decide to write another book, do you think you’ll do things much differently, or maybe much the same? I don’t mean JUST the method by which you publish, but the entire process.
I’m having a quandary with my desire to traditionally publish in the future with the resources I’ve been given from my publishers on these first two books. We’re working to improve these relationships, but let’s face it: I’m a publisher’s worst nightmare. I’m a marketing and PR professional for a living and want to know my publisher is holding up their end of the bargain on getting my book (and me) out there. The bottom line is that no one will ever be a bigger advocate for your book than you will, so if you have a platform and are willing to invest in publishing your own book, you might find (as I might) that the self-publication route might serve you better. Lord knows, it will likely be more profitable when you consider the average royalties on a hardback are in the 10-15% of sale price range. And that’s not cover price. It’s the price the book sold for.