Everybody else is doing it.


I read a lot of blogs. I read those from writers who decry self-publishing. They say the low-cost, self-published e-book is vanity publishing, trash, not a real book. They say authors only self-publish because their work is so bad, a traditional publishing house won’t touch it. Some of these writers have spent hundreds of hours sending query letters, samples and synopsis to literary agents and sweat as they await a reply, if they’re lucky enough to get one, because they want to be a real author with a real book in a real bookstore.

I’ve read blogs by Indie authors who roll their eyes at writers who go the traditional route. They rant at Big Publishing and say it’s going down. Some say they won’t take a publishing deal if it’s offered them, yet they are ecstatic that agents and publishing houses have approached and signed contracts with some of their number. Hey, they say, those dudes finally admit we can write! Not quite. While agents are wising up to the possibilities presented by Indie work, Big Publishing is not trolling Amazon, buying and reading books they think are marketable. They are zeroing in only on Indie work which has already sold tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of books in a relatively short time, authors who already have a large, established readership. Publishing houses don’t spare a glance for anything less.

Blogs tells me the paper book is a dinosaur doomed to extinction. Blogs tell me the e-reader is a fad and an e-book does not compare to holding a cardboard and paper book in one’s hand.

What to do, what to do? Traditionally publish or self-publish? Paperback or electronic file?

Go with trad publishing and you get the backing of the publishing house. You get an experienced editor, a professionally created cover, professional copy editing. Your book will be in bookstores and online stores in paperback and electronic format. Your publisher will market your books and look after your interests. Right? Well, not always. Publishers don’t give a big push to every author they sign. They are cutting costs and only offer all those wonderful services to what they think are sure-fire hits. If a mid-list author’s book does not bring the publisher a profit of $250,000 in the first six months, it’s gone. A series can be put on hold for the duration of the contract. Some mid-list books appear and disappear from the shelves almost overnight.

Indie? Those who opt to go Indie can make significant royalties from self-publishing in electronic format, even if they price them low, and their book doesn’t sit with the publisher for 18 months to two years till publication either. Self-published authors can now reach audiences which traditionally published authors cannot, and their book is out there forever, or as long as they want it to be. Sure, they don’t get the big advance, but remember that advance is a loan. An author won’t earn a penny in royalties until the publisher has recouped that loan. But you do it all yourself. Everything. Editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing. If you have the cash you’d be wise to hire a good editor and cover designer; if you don’t, join a critique group, use Beta readers, ask the opinion and help of fellow Indie authors. You can release your book on Amazon as paperback and Kindle, on Barnes and Noble as Nook, or use Smashwords to convert your electronic file to a number of different formats which go out to Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Diesel, Kobo, Scrollmotion and Sony. But you won’t reach all those readers who shop their local bookstore.

What is the future of publishing? Heck, I don’t know. Right now established, traditionally published authors are self-publishing their backlist books and projects their publisher rejected, and making a bundle doing so. Indie’s are signing with Big Publishing for a specific series, and continue to write/self-publish other books and/or series. That sounds good to me.

I would like to see publishing houses concentrate on getting paper books into stores and letting authors self-publish the electronic version. But because I don’t see that happening, it would be nice if publishing houses put out e-books at a reasonable price, NOT higher than the paperback version, and gave authors better royalties on e-books.

And pigs might fly. . . .

7 responses to “Everybody else is doing it.

  1. I would love to see a common sense solution, but I agree that pigs will be soaring about long before that ever happens. I do like that there seems to be a fading of the division. Each project should be evaluated for the type that it is and the publishing path may be different based on the project. Not everything will be a blockbuster, but that doesn’t mean it should be out and available for people to read, but by the same token I understand from a business perspective why there is a reluctance for big publishing to take it on.

    Can’t wait to see what lies ahead. Oh look…. there goes a pig taking flight now.

    • I think the pigs will fly, but very slowly, with teensy little flaps of their wings. Looming large in the news, Mark Edwards and Louise Voss recently signed a six-figure, four book deal with Harper Collins, who may be one of the publishers who rejected them for years and discouraged them to the point they gave up writing, until they Indie published. They were approached because they became #1 bestsellers on Amazon UK. But the little difference with this deal is HC is letting them keep their e-books up on Amazon. This is (I think) a first as when a contract is signed, everything usually comes down until the trad publishing house republishes the work.

      Baby piglet flaps. . . .

  2. I can’t tell about the Big Houses, but I can tell about my publisher. I get a reasonable share of the sales price of my English e-books. That price is significantly lower than a comparably-sized mass-market paperback. Still I get editing, cover design, marketing from my house. (I know what that’s worth, as I’m doing my German books all on my own.)

    I don’t see the mentioned split happen either, and in fact I think that’s fair. Once you have a book in print with a traditional publisher, you’ve already received your editing, the book got a cover, and there’s at least some marketing exposure. That’s an investment in wait for a return, and the e-book sales contribute to that return. If an author would want to do the _subsequent_ e-publishing on his own, he or she should pay for the services received.

    There’s another reason it won’t happen – if there’s a sloppy self-made e-book edition in parallel with the print, it may be credited to the print publisher, too. So in order to maintain its reputation, the print pub needs control over the e-book quality.

  3. As a bookseller, I can see both sides of the argument. I love printed books, but I’m not ashamed to admit I also own a Kindle. I do think the marketing tools the publishing houses can bring to bear are great (just look what Random House did for Dan Brown with The DaVinci Code – up until then, most of his books were mass market). Then again, they don’t choose to use those tools very often. Ebooks CAN be much less expensive, but finding a new author via ebook can be frustrating, since you’re never sure what you’re going to get. I hope there is room for both formats, I like your idea about division of labor, but I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

    I would like for publishing houses who publish books in both formats to author readers who purchase a hardcover a deep discount if they also wanted the same book in ebook format, because sometimes, you know, you’d like to have that option. I know it’s not going to happen (to difficult to police and too much chance of someone giving the hard cover away after reading – negating another sale), but it would be nice.

    • Karen, I would still be reading paper books if I had the space to store them. As it is, the shelves in my library are triple-stacked! I do still get a paperback every now and then, and if I started a series in hardback I continue to buy hardback for that series. If nothing else, I like having the choice.

      If publishing houses ever go with your idea, let me know. I’ll have to shoot down those flying pigs. ;-=)

  4. I agree about the big pub houses letting the author handle the ebook side of the deals. That would work out best for the authors, so like you said….when pigs fly.

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