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Discussion Starter #1
I'm a traditionally-published SF author. I branched out recently and wrote a novella of 35,000 words. My agent sent it around. We got an offer of $4,000 and 30% royalties. Obviously, they'll handle editing, marketing, design, production and audio production, etc.

I'm tempted, because money is money, and also because the First Rule of Self-Publishing Club seems to be 'work your ass off' and I'm kind of a lazy slacker. So I'm not sure I can trust myself to invest enough effort to give this a real shot.

On the other hand, I have a few fans from my existing books, and blurbs from well-known authors I can re-use for this. And the novella is damn good. And I've heard that SF is a pretty strong genre. So I'm considering taking the leap. (Also $4k seems low enough that's it's maybe attainable, even after I shell out for all the services I'll need?)

I have about 10 other stories I want to tell in this SF world. However,  it takes me two or three months to write a novella. So I'm not as productive as most writers here, but I'm definitely considering a rather long series.

I know the upside potential is much higher if I self-publish, but the great likelihood is that I'd sell a couple hundred copies and make a couple hundred bucks. Is that right?

So! Advice?
 

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With your currently published books, what was the return on each? $4000 up-front and then a 30% royalty could be a decent payday if your publisher expects at least modest sales. If you self-publish, not only will you not get the advance, but you'll have to pay out of pocket for all those things you mentioned that the publisher will handle. Can you get the same quality of freelance work they get from in-house and their own network? Do you believe in your fans enough (who have thus far found you through the publisher) to believe that you'll not only make that investment back, but plus the $4000, plus royalties afterwards, in a decent amount of time?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Well, the current stuff has paid between $25,000 and $40,000 in advances, and they haven't earned out (yet!). So for me the cost has been time (but no money) and the return has been exactly the advances, plus not a single dollar (yet!) in royalties. There's almost no way I'll get the same quality of work as the publisher would provide. (From what I've seen, super-high-quality work is available, I'm kinda blown away by what's out there, but finding that stuff and being willing to invest in it aren't strengths of mind.)

I believe in maybe ... a couple dozen of my fans. So that's like $100 in sales, locked in!

Thanks, Emberkent. That's clarifying.
 

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This is very interesting from the ciphering standpoint. I admit to knowing little about it other than the slim portion covered by being the 5th best proofreader / copy editor available. So the offer is +$4000 (advance), -$0 (expenses), +$0.3X(Y), X being the sales price and Y how many sold. Or do it yourself for +$0(advance), -$Z (costs), +$X(Y). I have no idea what the total expenses would be. 100% of X definitely beats 30% of X but selling price and projected sales are the big variables I guess. Anyway, it's fun to look at the ciphering on stuff like this. Good luck with your decision.
 

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A short story in one of my current worlds will generally earn me about $10k in a year. I have a decent readership. (I'm one of those 6 figure earning indies but I started out in trad publishing.)
 

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Niles said:
I'm a traditionally-published SF author. I branched out recently and wrote a novella of 35,000 words. My agent sent it around. We got an offer of $4,000 and 30% royalties. Obviously, they'll handle editing, marketing, design, production and audio production, etc.

I'm tempted, because money is money, and also because the First Rule of Self-Publishing Club seems to be 'work your ass off' and I'm kind of a lazy slacker. So I'm not sure I can trust myself to invest enough effort to give this a real shot.

On the other hand, I have a few fans from my existing books, and blurbs from well-known authors I can re-use for this. And the novella is damn good. And I've heard that SF is a pretty strong genre. So I'm considering taking the leap. (Also $4k seems low enough that's it's maybe attainable, even after I shell out for all the services I'll need?)

I have about 10 other stories I want to tell in this SF world. However, it takes me two or three months to write a novella. So I'm not as productive as most writers here, but I'm definitely considering a rather long series.

I know the upside potential is much higher if I self-publish, but the great likelihood is that I'd sell a couple hundred copies and make a couple hundred bucks. Is that right?

So! Advice?
The real question is probably whether you want to work harder as a self-pub author and potentially make a lot more money going forward for years to come. Novellas are tough to sell in the self-pub world, except probably erotica, so you're not likely to get a good result in terms of sales. To test the waters in self-pub, instead of focusing on one novella, I'd suggest thinking about writing a series of at least three novels. That will give you a much better sense of how you'd do by making the leap from trad publishing and assuming the upfront costs inherent in self-pub. Also, it would likely help a lot to be able to use your already established author name. Some publishers will let you, and some won't. Best of luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
$10,000 in a year!

And I thought, for some reason, that novellas were easier sales, not tougher. Huh. Glad I asked. At think point, I think we're going to try to get a bigger bite of the money, and if they say no I'll probably write a handful more and then release 'em all at once? (If that happen, I will be back with 1001 questions ...)

I'll be able to write more novellas in this world ... but they'll always (probably) have the rights to the first one.

Thanks so much. This is always such a generous and informed community.
 

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If you don't want to work -- which you don't seem to -- then take the money and call it a day. Could you make more self-publishing? Likely. You have to do the work, though.
 

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I agree with Arches. Going indie is a lot of work. It's not worth it for a single title. Do it only if you want to publish indie in the future.
 

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Going indie is probably 10x the workload you think it is right now. One novella probably isn't going to do much for you either, but it could be a start. If you're okay with looking at it as an investment in a future career where you'll have to work harder than you imagine you will right now, then it could be good. If not, take the cash.
 

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Your problem lies only in your motivation to do a bit of work and to front the cover/editing/marketing cost against a quick $4k and 30% royalties.

If your work is as good as you say, then the breakdown is:

Front $1,000 for a cover and editing and another $1,000 for your first year's advertising. You won't get the $4k upfront, so in a sense you'll be in the hole $6,000 the first year.

You'll need 2142 Kindle sales at $3.99 to break even (earning $2.80 per book), so that's 179 per month. After a year, you'll continue getting 70% royalties instead of 30%. If you spend 10% of your royalties on ads and continue selling 179 copies a month, you'll make exactly 100% more every month thereafter than if you had gone with the publisher's offer. If you stay at 179 per month, that's about $214 more each month - multiply that by your ten novellas and you'd make $2140 MORE per month - forever. For $25,000 a year you might want to do the extra work. Or not. Your sales could be worse - or you, as a wonderful author, might make more.
 

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Take the money. If you don't have a readership that you can contact, you don't have a series that they can buy afterwards, you're very unlikely to earn more. You just end up doing more work for far less return.

Novellas are hard to sell. Slightly less hard for SF, but still not easy.

I am a nobody and don't have huge sales on Amazon. I have a hard SF novella series. There are four novellas in it, varying from 20-35k. The fifth is on preorder. Over the last two years, I've made $4300 on it. Because it's a series, because I have a decent mailing list, because they're wide, because they're also available in audio (and wide in audio). The novellas themselves are re-purposed stories that I wrote for other reasons, like one for an anthology, one I sold to a magazine which subsequently never published it. It didn't cost me much extra time to publish them like this and then to advertise them to my list. If you have to start from scratch, and hate doing work, then publishing a standalone novella is likely to do precisely... zippo.
 

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Niles said:
I'm a traditionally-published SF author. I branched out recently and wrote a novella of 35,000 words. My agent sent it around. We got an offer of $4,000 and 30% royalties. Obviously, they'll handle editing, marketing, design, production and audio production, etc.

I'm tempted, because money is money, and also because the First Rule of Self-Publishing Club seems to be 'work your ass off' and I'm kind of a lazy slacker. So I'm not sure I can trust myself to invest enough effort to give this a real shot.

On the other hand, I have a few fans from my existing books, and blurbs from well-known authors I can re-use for this. And the novella is damn good. And I've heard that SF is a pretty strong genre. So I'm considering taking the leap. (Also $4k seems low enough that's it's maybe attainable, even after I shell out for all the services I'll need?)

I have about 10 other stories I want to tell in this SF world. However, it takes me two or three months to write a novella. So I'm not as productive as most writers here, but I'm definitely considering a rather long series.

I know the upside potential is much higher if I self-publish, but the great likelihood is that I'd sell a couple hundred copies and make a couple hundred bucks. Is that right?

So! Advice?
indie readers want length

take the 4K in the hand for the novella

i don't believe there's any universe where you're netting $4K as an indie with this book in this situation
 

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If you truly intend to write several more novellas in a series, then you need to consider a couple of things. First of all, you may be able to use that as leverage for negotiating a bigger deal. If you can give the publisher a reasonable expectation of when the subsequent books might be available (say one every six months), then they may be able to work a marketing plan around the series. It may be better/easier for them to promote your novella as Book 1 in the Whatever series, knowing there are more to come, than it would be to try to go back and change the marketing for the first book if they later decide to add others. Of course, that all depends on how much they like the first book and how well it sells, but it's a possibility. Also, if you tell them there will be a specific number of books in the series, they may be able to plan ahead for a boxed set. The downside of all this is that with traditional publishing, you will probably be looking at a minimum of four years to roll out a ten or twelve book series, but probably longer.

The second thing you should consider is finding out how they would feel about you self-publishing subsequent books in the series. Some publishers might feel like you are using them to gain traction for launching the series, and they may not take too kindly to that. Make sure that before signing away the rights to the first novella, you have a clear and documented understanding on what you may or may not do with any additional novellas in a series. Otherwise you might run into some unexpected and unwelcome issues down the road. Another possible concern with self-publishing any subsequent books is that you may have a problem with continuity in the covers. You should be able to hire an artist to create something unique based on the first one, but that is an important consideration if you choose to do any other books on your own.

Personally, if you truly do intend to create multiple novellas in this series, then I would suggest writing at least the next two before taking any action on the first. You could then try to negotiate a contract for all three, with consideration for more. If you want to self-publish, you could release the first one, then offer it as a freebie to draw people in for the next two as they are released. Use that to keep your momentum going and you may find that you'll ultimately do much better through self-publishing, especially if you ultimately end up offering one or more collections of books in the series.

 

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Take the money.
 

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Novellas don't tend to do as well as novels in self-publishing. If you've got a guaranteed $4000 coming your way for it, take the money.
 

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Niles said:
And I thought, for some reason, that novellas were easier sales, not tougher. Huh. Glad I asked. At think point, I think we're going to try to get a bigger bite of the money, and if they say no I'll probably write a handful more and then release 'em all at once? (If that happen, I will be back with 1001 questions ...)
Nope, definitely not easier. Readers tend to want novels rather than shorter works.
 

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There's a lot of sound knowledge here with great advice, so just going to throw this as an aside... and this is only my own speculations simply because I don't write in this genre, but: I believe the average reader, if picking up a novella, have the expectation of a faster release. At least, I find that to be the case in romance. Perhaps it differs in sci-fi.

Either way, best of luck on the choice you make!
 
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