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  • I Had To Do It. I Hope You'll Understand. (And Stay Tuned.)
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I Had To Do It. I Hope You'll Understand. (And Stay Tuned.)
Written by
Kamy Wicoff
September 2013
Written by
Kamy Wicoff
September 2013

Dear She Writers...

As you know, at the end of July (on July 24th to be exact), I finished a pretty-polished draft, or so I hoped, of my first novel. On August 16th, I shared my anxiety as I waited to hear back from those first, trusted beta readers, fearing the worst but hoping for the best.  Two weeks ago, having finally heard back from several of them, I bared my soul (and my eight-hundred pound gorilla of an inner critic) about how hard it was for me not to privilege, obsess over, and take to heart the critical feedback I received, even in the midst of some very positive responses.  I got so much wonderful support and heard so many great stories from all of you about both of these things--thank you.

Two weeks have gone by since then. And guess what? The last piece of feedback I got was the best. It was from my agent, who loved the book so much she said, "This could be big. I think it's ready to take to publishers."

So yesterday, with my okay, she started making calls. Talk about freaking out a little bit.

I don't know what's going to happen yet.  But I wanted to blog today and share this with you because there is something larger at issue here -- as those of you who have followed Brooke's and my founding of She Writes Press a little over a year ago may recall. My plan was always to publish this novel with the press, something I have said very publicly from the start. At the time I made this pledge my novel was still very much a work in progress, and as a first-time novelist I felt fairly certain that I'd be a lot better off investing in it myself, controlling important decisions like my cover, my title (yes, even that a traditional publisher can ask you to change), and reaping the rewards of my investment not just in the form of larger royalties, but in what I hoped could be a boost to the press as I focused my energies on promoting both it and my book. And I still couldn't believe more strongly in the advantages of working with a partnership publisher like She Writes, particularly now that we are signed with Ingram and can provide that last, most important piece of the puzzle that is successful publishing--traditional distribution--to our authors.


In talking with friends, family, and a few other trusted advisors, one thing became clear: it is really dumb to make a decision about the single most important thing in your career without thoroughly exploring ALL the options. I have no idea what's going to happen now. It's very likely I will have an experience a lot like the one I had with my first book.  First round of submissions: nothing.  Second round: zip.  Third round: no, no, no, no, no...and then, finally, yes. One yes. (I got that yes when my older son was exactly four days old.) But one editor's yes was all I needed, and I am still so grateful to her for it because it truly changed my life.  

Once I delivered the book, however, I quickly discovered the disadvantages to being one of hundreds of small bets publishers make every year in the hopes that one or two will hit big.  Because mine wasn't that "one"--the one out of ten that earns out its advance and keeps the business afloat.  It was one of the other ones.  And reality soon hit: I was going to be an entrepreneur whether I wanted to be or not.  There was no huge team of people helping me. Instead there was one well-meaning but overworked publicist with a list half a mile long. I ended up doing most of the legwork and plenty of investing--in my website, my "tour," which consisted of begging friends to come to events I booked and using miles to get there, and in a freelance publicist--myself.  Most of my advance went to these costs, and to the unstated but substantial cost of not writing anything else while I practiced the painful art of promotion.

Again, I am still grateful.  Publishing a book gave me the legitimacy to teach, and the courage to start She Writes with Deborah Siegel four years ago. Doing that book with a traditional publisher taught me worlds of things it pays to know now, particularly in starting SWP.  But if I had to do it over again with that deal...I don't think I would.  Partly because in the six years since it came out, the world of publishing has changed more than any of us could have imagined. (Some context: it was 2006, the year Facebook opened its doors to the world beyond universities.) Partly because if I'm going to do all the work anyway, with pretty minimal money up front and pretty minimal support when I publish, I'd rather own it than feel owned.  

So what would I say yes to? What would cause me to go with a traditional publisher rather than doing it with She Writes Press?  Brooke asked me that just this morning. And the truth is I don't know yet, because I don't know what my options are. But money will be part of it. The editor will be part of it. Control will be part of it. And the opportunity to promote She Writes and our press on a stage bigger than any--I must humbly admit--that I can build for myself will be part of it too.

Either way, I hope you'll continue on this journey with me wherever it leads. Because whatever happens, I will always bring what I learn, what I know, and all that I can give, back here.  That I know for sure.

Let's be friends

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  • camille cole

    Dear Kamy:  Publishing with a small press, or any press for that matter, for the first, second, or even third time, gives you more than anything else, a chance to learn, and often learn through painful experience. I loved your post and your honesty. So many of us are on this journey and thanks to social media, we can do it together and share our 'lessons.' Thanks for sharing your insights. Here's a more lighthearted take of my own as a recent guest blogger on Mindbuck Media: http://mindbuckmedia.com/blog/2013/10/22/tuck-and-roll/

  • Carol Graham

    Informative and appreciated comments!  Thank you

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    I am with you (always!), sister. I feel in the same boat and am watching, as you know, with excitement to watch your next book publishing path unfold (and mine as well!). Whatever it will be, it will be for the good. And you being you, whichever way it goes, it will end up being for the good of all.

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Wow, what a great discussion.  I am so lucky to be part of this community!  And thanks for sharing your stories.  I also read the article Brooke links to below and it is really excellent -- I encourage all of you to check it out.

  • Mary L. Holden

    In publishing now, the success of one book&author is the success of all books&authors. This is not facetious. I mean that every book is as individual as its author. Every book takes its own path--whether it is published on an Espresso (brilliant--books and coffee in one breath), given away for free in installments on a blog or by an agent through an editor and a publisher. YOU WROTE A BOOK. OR TWO! Congratulations and keep discovering your individuality and the book's creative way of allowing you to get it into the hands and eyes of appreciative readers!

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    This is a long but worthwhile post for anyone interested in the "why" questions surrounding traditional vs. indie: http://kriswrites.com/2013/09/18/the-business-rusch-aint-nothing-perfect/

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    @Gwyn, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention here that SWP does have traditional distribution now, and a sales force. You're going to be undercut by Amazon no matter what path you choose here, so that's a frustration. I think there are things about this hybrid version of publishing that are in fact much better than the traditional houses, but Amazon is doing all authors a disservice by devaluing intellectual property. All the more reason I suppose to try to sell through alternate channels, and yet they make it so enticing it's hard! I also love Michael Hyatt's book!

  • Wendi Nitschmann

    It's never easy, is it? Best of luck!

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Best of luck with your decision, and your book, Kamy!

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    This blog and the discussion that follows is very informative. Thank you for posting about your decision-making process and for opening the platform for responses. It is very important to weigh one's options so as to earn the best returns from one's hard work.

    Right now I am in between promoting my first how-to book that was published by a small publisher in Florida (2010) and developing/polishing a work-in-progress MS for a children's picture book...and have notes about a novel I want to write. I can relate to the feeling of loss when working on a new piece is put on hold in order to promote an already-published book because its my own work, as the author who does the selling, to piece together an income from all of the hours of blood, sweat, and tears poured into that baby.

    Though Borders Books and Music had its issues, one manager at a local branch did order 3 copies of my published book directly from the publisher, via a distributor's discount, to keep on its shelves. Because of the corporation's demise, I'll never know if all of the books sold, and the publisher would not give me a royalty for my role in getting my book the book store's shelves, since they feared that the book would be returned to them if it didn't sell. Borders may have returned it, or sold them all at a steep discount, but I'll never know. I suppose i could ask. I may do that. At the same time, I earned some fees for recruiting people to write reviews of my book on Amazon, and a whopping $4.99 commission for selling the book as a publisher's associate before the publisher ended their associate program. Now the only way to earn money on it is linking to an Amazon associate's product link of my book from my web site's home page. I am happy about that, but I wonder if that will generate an income for me. Perhaps it will for a while.  I'll do all that I can for as long as I can, then turn to my next project so that I can carry that to fruition with a traditional publisher.  When the book was first published, I ordered 30 copies at 55% off ~ sold 22 and gave away 8. This time I ordered 25 at the same 55% discount, and hope to sell a higher percentage of them than the last time....usually at craft fairs and to supportive friends and family. I have a Facebook fan page, a Goodreads Author page, and an Amazon Author page (but won't earn anything from that link because I set up the Author's page before the Associate program and cannot change the link on that page to include my associate's code).

    So....the best I can hope for is to learn all the ways I can treat my next book better. The first book was commissioned by the publisher through Craigslist. The next one comes from me, idea and all....and I plan to find the support of an editor (and possibly agent?) so that it will shine as brightly as it can when it is finally released to the world. ~:0)

  • Karyne Corum

    Kamy, I don't fault you for your decision. I don't think anything in this new world of publishing is less easy to decide than exactly what path in the forest you should take. Or if you should whip out a chainsaw and make your own. Each path is fraught with perils, rewards and ultimately, another new path. What you have done here with She Writes, along with your amazing co-founders, is create a one of a kind "pond' where even the littlest fish counts. That is a gift and a act of paying it forward that matters most of all. I hope you achieve the success and ultimately the payout, both financially AND career wise that you dream of. I will be cheering you on every step of the way!

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    Kamy: I absolutely love what you say: "I'd rather own it than feel owned." That's precisely why I chose to publish Chocolatour. I've been traditionally published 3x and didn't make any $$ from any of the books. Nor, could I choose the cover, illustrations, or marketing strategy for any of the books. It was like giving my baby up for adoption and hoping it would fare well in the world. with self-publishing my chocolate travel book, I was able to choose the cover, what photos would be included inside the book, and how I would market it. It's definitely not easy or for the faint of heart, but I do feel it's worth the effort if you really feel a strong maternal attachment to your "baby." I wish you well, regardless of what path you will follow with your book.    

  • Jessica Vealitzek

    Hi Laura -- I'm publishing with SWP next spring and here's why: after a lot of research and thought, I had chosen to self-publish for philosophical reasons (control of my own work being the big one, profits being another, and yet another part of me simply wanted to be a part of the future of publishing). I went with SWP once I realized the benefit of the partnership in terms of the workload, and to give my book a better chance, in terms of distribution. And I still retain control. To me, the cost is worth it because I am paying for services I want. You do, in a way, pay to publish traditionally, because you give them most of your profits.

  • Laura Nicole Diamond

    You have to do what's best for the book. All support to you.

    I am considering submitting my first novel to SheWritesPress, and my only hesitation is the fee to have it published, should it make it to Track 1. I gather that what you are saying is that the $3,900 fee is for services that I would likely have to pay for anyway, should a traditional publisher say "yes"? Or that, should I do what it takes to promote it, I will make that money back and more, compared with earning something through a publisher? It feels wrong to pay to publish it. Can you help me see why it's not?

    With thanks for all you do for writers,


  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    @Amber, @LeeAnne, and @Julie, thanks so much for your support.  It is hard sometimes doing this "in public", especially when I face tough decisions or things change, but at the same time having this warm generous community to share it all with means so much.

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    @Cindy, thank you so much for your kind response.  And one thing is for sure -- whatever I do to promote this book, and wherever I go to spread the word about it, I will be looking to do events with SWP authors and find ways to work together to lift the She Writes Press boat high! @Sharon, Brooke is right, I had an agent already from my first book, which was traditionally published.  She's a good friend and has been a wonderful member of this community. (Her name is Erin Hosier.) I do think one of the upsides of publishing with a partnership publisher like SWP or self-publishing is that you don't need the "middle-man" (or middle-woman, in this case), and, as Brooke points out, you don't have to part with the 15% fee.  On the other hand most agents are truly passionate advocates of their authors, and lovers of good writing in general, so Brooke and I have been brainstorming the best ways to work with the collaboratively.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    @Cindy, well said. @Sharon, I'm pretty sure Kamy's agent is her original agent from her last book. She'll weigh in. But we do have authors on our list who are agented. Five actually. The agent has to be on board, and they don't have much to gain because they won't make money unless you cut them into your profits. We're trying to get to a place where agents will recommend us as a viable alternative, but of course this model doesn't make sense for agents, for the most part, since they only earn their money off of advances and royalties. Our contracts are directly with the authors, so any agent "fees" would be negotiated between the author and the agent. Again, this is working in a couple select cases, but the agents have to be pretty open-minded, and very committed to their authors.

  • Julie Luek

    First and foremost, congratulations on the success of your book-- sounds like the product of a lot of love and hard work. Thank you for sharing your process with us and agreeing to take us along your decision path. I'm sure there is a lot to learn and a lot revealed as you walk this journey. 

  • lee anne gibbs


  • lee anne gibbs

    Life is interesting as you know. I hope that your internal dilemma will change into a knowing of your life path and direction.

    Love & Light


  • Sharon Lippincott

    Congratulations on the super positive response, especially from your agent. Your joyful excitement oozes through every word, infecting us all right along with you. Now, I'm curious about why you have an agent if you had committed to publishing with She Writes Press. Most likely your agent is "left over" from that initial book, but most of us don't have such a relationship. Do you advise everyone who plans to self-publish, whether with SWP or elsewhere to find an agent "just in case"? 

  • Amber Medina West

    So excited to hear how things pan out, no matter what route you take!

  • My first reaction to this news was also disappointment, but it was quickly replaced by admiration and a silent, "you go, girl!" as you take this path.Obviously, Brooke said it best so I won't repeat everything she said, but I feel very much the same way. Your success is our success and our success is your success. We are a writing community and communities support all of their members. If you have the encouragement and advice of trusted colleagues and friends and your gut tells you to take this step, then good for you! I suspect that we (and I'm including myself in this community) will all be enthusiastic supporters of your journey. I wish you the best and admire you for trusting us with your intentions and experience. Thank you!

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    @Brooke, I am so lucky to have you as a partner and an advisor on this journey.  And @Travis thank you so much for your kind words, and your encouragement too!  Now all I can do is sit around and wait to see what happens.  I feel very lucky, however, to *truly* have options, which is the thing that She Writes Press makes possible for so many of us.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    I know how much this community admires your transparency, Kamy. Many authors who've submitted to SWP, especially those who've qualified as Track 3 authors (meaning we advise coaching and developmental editing), have asked the question: Am I committed to publish with SWP after I'm done. The answer is no. They're not. We want authors to go and test the waters, to figure out what's out there and to know all their options. There have been at least five authors who have gotten their assessments from SWP, done the work to improve their manuscripts, and then come back---each time much more convinced that they were doing the right thing, because they'd weighed their options.

    Writing a book is one journey, filled with emotional ups and downs and so much dedication. The publishing journey is yet another, filled with ups and downs as well, but it also requires an even-keeled energy and listening to good advice and following your heart. We have said all along that SWP is one option, an alternative to traditional and self-publishing. I call myself an equal advocate for traditional and self-publishing. And now I rest at SWP solidly in the center, somewhere truly between the two.

    Kamy, I would be lying to anyone who asks if I said I wasn't disappointed that you're shopping your book, but that comes from wanting you for SWP. AND as your friend and supporter, I'm cheering you along and I hope you get everything you wish for. And if you don't, we'll be here. It's a promise I'm happy to extend to all the authors who approach us. I'm totally happy for SWP to be aspiring authors' back-up plan. Everybody needs that!

    Good Luck!!!!!