Jo-Ann’s Monologues

The Publishing Landscape BSW019 190101

Today’s episode airs on New Years Day, 2019.

I’ll be talking about the publishing world, as I see it, as we enter a new year.

I realize for many of you this information is not new, but for others it is, so bear with me.

The publishing world functions as a big monopoly game. The writer leaves home with her freshly polished manuscript under her arm—her head and heart filled with hope. As she meanders through the streets, she discovers many publishing options, but the roll of the dice is not always kind.

The object of the game is connecting her story with an audience that will appreciate it, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. There are more opportunities out there than ever before, but the question is, which one is best for her stories.

Forget Monopoly. It’s a crap shoot.

There are three main publishing choices:

  • Traditional Publishing
  • Small Presses
  • And/or Self-Publishing

Each option has advantages and disadvantages.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional Publishing, sometimes called Legacy Publishing, is dominated by “The Big Five.”. That’s right, just five.

  • Penguin Random House
  • Simon Schuster
  • Harper Collins
  • MacMillan
  • Hachette

Once upon a time, there were more publishers, but the bigger ones ate the little ones until we are left with the “Big Five.” Each of them owns many imprints. If you check in my show notes, you will find a link to a fascinating diagram that details which imprints are held by each of them.

To get a contract for your book with one of “the five,” you need an agent who will “shop” your book around the editors that represent the big publishers.

When you get a contract, your story will go through several edits and be given a cover. The process can take a year and a half or longer. These books are featured in brick and mortar bookstores.

What are the advantages of being published by one of the Big Five?

  • You get an advance when you sign your contract.
  • You don’t have to pay for your editing or cover design.
  • You can proudly say that you are published by one of the big guys.

What are the disadvantages?

  • You only make between 5 to 15 % on gross royalties and 25% on ebooks.
  • You have little say over the title or cover of your book, and its distribution.
  • It takes a long time to get your book to the market.

Small Presses

The definition of a small press is a publisher with annual sales below a certain level. In the U.S. that level is fifty million dollars.

The advantage of a small press is they have more flexible contract terms, and the author can negotiate a higher percentage of the royalties.

…the disadvantages? The editors and cover designers are assigned by the press.

Self-Publishing or Indie Publishing

There are many ways to self-publish. I prefer to call it “Indie Publishing,” by the way, because it’s all about independence. The writer is the author, publisher, and entrepreneur.

The advantages of “going Indie” are:

  • You retain all your publishing rights.
  • On ebooks, you make 70 % of the royalties unless you price your book below $2.99.
  • You have control over how much you make on print books by adjusting the price.
  • You have full control over the title, editing, cover design, marketing, and distribution.


The disadvantage: All parts of the writing and publishing of your book rests on your shoulders.

The Changing Landscape

As 2018 comes to a close, the world of publishing is changing at breath-taking speed. I’ve noticed five pivotal changes of late:

  1. Imprints which belong to the Big Five are folding into each other, as publishers fight to survive.
  2. Amazon nixed also-boughts, forcing writers to pay for exposure on their sales pages, a model which is called, “pay to play.” Facebook went to this model two years ago.
  3. Amazon appears to be moving towards a more geo-centric model, where books are managed more within countries. It makes sense regarding taxes, but the US market continues to be the strongest, so it’s rather confusing at the moment.
  4. As it becomes easier and easier to publish, a growing tsunami of books is flooding the market, creating a situation where there is more supply than demand, and it is increasingly difficult to get a book noticed.
  5. Audiobooks and podcast serials are becoming more popular, taking some of the market away from print.

The Good News

No matter how much the publishing landscape changes there is one absolute constant: We need good stories. It’s part of our cultural DNA. From the time of the caveman, stories have been handed down. Storytelling will never disappear. The world needs more storytellers. The world needs you.

Will Things Slow Down?

No. That’s not the way things work when you’re in the middle of a technological revolution. Change is the constant. I’ll borrow from Joanna Penn’s (from her Dec. 3rd podcast) timeline:


2007 – Kindle books opened in the U.S.

2009 – KDP launched internationally

Kobo and Nook started up

2010 – Apple launched iBooks

2013 – ACX launched, which allowed writers to create their own audiobooks

2014 – Patreon began, which allows creators to get paid by their patrons

2015 – Facebook went to a Pay to Play model, so that all of us who had spent hours and cash developing a massive list of followers could no longer reach them unless we paid FB money

2018 – Amazon rocks the world with changes, which are somewhat unclear at this point. It appears they have gone to a Pay to Play model and are developing a more geo-centric model.

All of these changes have made it difficult for mid-list writers to make a living by indie publishing alone. The terms, “content marketing” and “multiple streams of income” have become buzzwords.

Each of these events I listed monumentally changed our lives as authors and readers.

At the end of November, Mark Dawson said, “There has been more change in the book industry in the last six weeks, that there was in the last six years.” (Webinar)

We need to embrace change.

Who am I to give advice? No one. I’m like you, a writer in the trenches watching it all happen.  What I can do is tell you my plan for 2019, even though we all know where plans sometimes lead.

My 3 goals for 2019 are to keep:

  • informed about the events that affect the industry,
  • learning to improve my writing craft and marketing skills
  • talking with my fellow writers, because I believe that when we share our ideas and experiences, we all grow stronger

Getting more specific: I plan to launch my book, Podcasting for Authors, in February and the first two stories in Cassi Black Mysteries, my new paranormal cozy mystery series, in the spring. I also plan to build my podcast.

What are your goals? I’d love to hear from you.


The Big Five Link:

Joanna Penn (The Creative Penn Podcast, Dec. 3, 2018)

Navigating the Digital Revolution BSW001_180904

The digital revolution is changing all aspects of our lives. We’re in the middle of a seismic change for mankind, unlike any that has come before.  What does that mean for writers?

We write differently, publish differently and even think differently.


“Writing is my passion, my super-power and my nemesis. If you write, you know what I mean. Like a truly wicked lover, my projects inspire and consume me. I can’t not write. It is part of who I am, an essential part.

But the market. Ahh the market today is a beast. While my writing is steadily improving, my sales are not. My stories are sinking in an ocean of new books … and that … hurts …

You’ve all seen photos of Earnest Hemingway sitting on a porch with his manual typewriter, tropical sunlight streaming down upon his genius. You’ve seen pictures of him on his beloved fish boat, Pilar, pulling in a big marlin.

‘Ah the life of an author. That’s for me,’ you might have said. I did at any rate. I think it was the big shish that sold it.

But alas that was yesterday…”

Show Highlights

  • the pace of the world is kicking up
  • writers more concerned with quantity than quality
  • social media distractions and author branding
  • the digital revolution is the third seismic shift in technology that changed the world
  • ‘We’ve created a Frankenstein we can’t control.”
  • the upside of change
  • looking ahead


“There is nothing permanent except change.” (Heraclitus)

“I can’t change the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” (Jimmy Dean)

Episode BSW 0001

Hi, from Vancouver Island, Canada.

It’s Tuesday September 4th, 2018 and this is episode one.

Writing is my passion, my super-power and my nemesis. If you write, you know what I mean. Like a truly wicked lover, my projects inspire and consume me. I can’t not write. It is part of who I am, an essential part.

But the market. Ahh the market today is a beast. While my writing is steadily improving, my sales are not. My stories are sinking in an ocean of new books … and that … hurts.

I’ve looked around for answers. They used to say, write another story, but now that’s not enough. Now they say do that, but also advertise. Advertise, advertise, advertise. Everyone is flocking to buy Amazon ads and courses about how to create them. The truth is creating ads is a complicated gig involving hours of strategy and money … I don’t have.

Plus, I’m reluctant to follow the crowd on this one. I’ll talk more about that another day.

Let’s get back to the central problem.

Just a few years ago, the rise of ebooks was exciting for writers like me. Our hopes and dreams grew with the opportunities to get our work out there. And now our hopes are dying.

How did we get to this point and what can we do about it?

That’s the subject of my first full episode.

Navigating the Digital Revolution


The Story of a Virgin at an Orgy and a Really Big Fish

You’ve all seen photos of Earnest Hemingway sitting on a porch with his manual typewriter, tropical sunlight streaming down upon his genius. You’ve seen picture of him on his beloved fish boat, Pilar, pulling in a big marlin.

“Ah, the life of an author. That’s for me,” you might have said. I did at any rate. I think it was the big fish that sold it.

But alas, that was yesterday.

The pace of the world has kicked up. Most of us write on computers and many publish every three months to feed the voracious appetite of algorithms on publishing platforms. We’re trapped in a brutal race of words. We’d like to write better, but we’re preoccupied with writing faster. There’s no time to tango with our muse. We need to create content as quickly as possible or drown in the rising tsunami of new books.

I can see you nodding your heads. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We are more concerned with the quantity than quality, because it’s one sure way to get noticed.

On top of that we’re a distracted lot. We’re obsessed with connecting with readers and other writers on as many social media platforms as possible. We strive to create an interesting brand for ourselves. Why? Because that’s another way to sell books.

I’ve tried imagining how I would explain “the branding part” to my mother, who died many years ago. She would have laughed her head off. “Why on Gods’ green earth would you want to brand yourself? You’re not a bull.”

How did we get to such an insane place? What happened to the art of writing? And where the heck is the big fish? I so want the big fish …

Become a patron of this podcast on Patreon.

Next Week

Next week’s podcast is an interview with Stephanie Spicer, a voice actor, talking about Audiobooks.


Photo Sources

Feature Picture – Pixabay

Feature Image – Canva

Hemingway Photo – Ken Burns site



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All About Jo-Ann Carson BSW000_180904

Hi, from Vancouver Island, Canada.

My name is Jo-Ann Carson. I’m a fiction and non-fiction writer, blogger and podcaster. In this episode I’m going to take you behind the microphone, introduce myself, explain why I’ve created my podcast Blood, Sweat and Words and tell you what it can do for you.

Blood, Sweat and Words!

Let’s start with the BLOODpart.

Earnest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

I smile every time I hear that quote. It’s too true.

I’ve been writing stories full-time for seven years and loving every second of it. It has always been a dream of mine to write and now I get to live that dream. I have a wee bit of talent, I study craft a lot and I have a growing audience who likes my stories.

Here’s where the SWEAT part comes in.

Writers have never had as many opportunities to publish as they do now, but it’s not easy.

The writing world is spinning faster and faster all the time and it’s hard to keep up. Physically, psychologically and emotionally. I’m sure you know what I mean. The market is constantly changing, difficult to understand and … fickle.

So … can WORDS save us?

Yes, I think so. Blood, Sweat and Words is a podcast about writing today. Its purpose is to empower writers through a sharing of experience and information. Let’s talk it to the bone.

I hope you’ll become a part of our community. The power lies in our working together. Episodes run 10 to 30 minutes and are published on Tuesdays. Current. Relevant. And Above all Honest, they aim to answer your questions about what’s happening out there. The podcast is available through Apple, Stitcher, Google … and all the major outlets, as well as from this website.

Want to connect?

I’d love to hear from you. My podcast website is

My author website is, don’t forget the hyphen. All my social media links are available on both sites and in the show notes of this episode.

In addition, you can subscribe to my weekly podcast newsletter and get writing tips and updates about the episodes coming up.

Before I close …

Who am I to run a podcast for writers? First of all, I am a writer, in the trenches. I know what it’s like out there. Second, I have a B.A. in English, a Masters in Education and years of teaching experience. In short, I know how hard it is to be a writer and I know how to talk about it.

I hope you join our growing community of creatives.

Remember: No one needs to face the cold wind of change alone. Join me. Join us. We’ll figure things out together.

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