I’ve seen a lot of articles recently about the self-publishing, e-publishing, e-pub bubble and indie vs traditional. I’m from Team Trad-pub and believe that traditional publishing has a lot of value.
… There’s the Big Names In Trad Publishing who use that name recognition and their financial gains from said recognition to springboard self-pub projects–and that’s another thing, a professional writer with connections to editing and experience with the publishing process and what makes a quality project is NOT going to have “typical” results. They have experience they have invested in it, and it shows. Results. Not. Typical. Okay?
Muddy, uncritical thinking is not your friend when it comes to writing or business, or the business of writing and publishing. And, frankly, these are the kinds of discussions and numbers I’d love to see more of when it comes to talking about self-pub, instead of the usual round of Internet hateration and shaking pitchforks at mythical “gatekeepers”.
Self Publishing Takeaway Game | Lilith Saintcrow
Lilith provides some wonderful and much needed clarity on the Team Self-pub vs Team Trad-pub debate. I’d even go so far as to point out that there are people who have never made it big in traditional publishing who have contacts and experience, and put out a superior self-pub product (compared to every other indie out there). I won’t link to Joe Konrath because he’s a conceited, egotistical asshat who minimizes the contribution that 26 years in the traditional publishing industry has towards his current self-pub success. He’s a perfect example of someone who provides muddy, uncritical arguments in favor of epublishing. What he provides is anecdotal evidence and calls it science.
- He’s got a lot of stories he’s shopped to traditional publishers over the last 26 years, and after failing to make a success out of them via the traditional publishing route, he decided to self publish.
- He talks about how he’s playing the market (using the opportunities provided by the recent boom in Amazon Kindle sales), and figuring out how to game the system (lowering the price on his book to zero, then selling many copies at zero so that he can return the book to regular price and reap $100k per month).
- His numbers are not typical, and he doesn’t present sound advice on how to replicate his experience. It’s great that he’s having success, but he is by no means the typical experience.
- He’s also got 26 years experience in traditional publishing, networking with editors, artists and readers and he’s spent that 26 years honing his craft. It’s not surprising that his writing would be above-average when compared to the typical self-pub author, or that his covers would be above average– hell that his entire product is above average. But he can hardly claim (with any hope of believability to an unbiased observer) that he’s not where he is now because he went the traditional publishing route.
With that said, I’d have given him the same advice I give to anyone else. If you shop work to all the big name publishers and they don’t take it, but you believe strongly in it (and you do, or you wouldn’t have written it and tried to shop it out), then you should consider self publishing. But, there are reasons why self-publishing isn’t for everyone.
The Big Reasons Indie Authors Aren’t Taken Seriously | Huffington Post
1. Bad editing – Let’s face it, there’s a reason that indie books are stereotyped as trash. Sometimes the indie author won’t murder their darlings, filling their stories with bad puns or cliche. Sometimes they are so caught up in their story they can’t see the continuity errors, they’re simply too close to their own work to self-edit. Sometimes they just write bad prose.
2. Quantity over quality – No author is able to write prose that does not have the occasional mistake. Rapidly written books are going to have errors that need editing. Certainly you may produce fewer errors with more experience, but that’s true in any field. If you’ve spent 10,000 hours on a topic you’re bound to be an expert. Being an expert doesn’t mean you don’t still make mistakes (it just means you get to feel more embarrassed when you do.) This almost (but not quite) is a duplicate of the editing topic– but it extends beyond the topics covered in the Huffington Post article. You also have things like cover art, variety of formats (hardback doesn’t come cheaply or easily to the self-pub.)
3. Lack of gatekeepers – No one credible is reviewing their work. There are places out there to get indie work reviewed, but most people won’t take the time or make the effort. And why should they? Indie authors are frequently temperamental, sensitive and prone to vicious personal attacks when their work is poorly reviewed. Just google search review websites and you’ll see most places have a policy against reviewing self-pubbed work, and they almost always have the same experiences. That’s not to say that all indie authors are the same, but enough are that they spoil the opportunities for mature and respectful indie authors.
4. Crappy Covers – Few indie authors are going to have the artistic connections that a Trad-pub has for generating cover art. Even fewer will consider spending the up-front cost of buying/making good cover art before their book is published and makes enough money. (The goal is, after all, to put money in the author’s pocket, not take money out.)
There’s a theme there, if you didn’t see it. It basically comes down to two factors: words in print, cover on book.
Sometimes starting small is the best strategy.
It’s not always about the money | Rachelle Gardner
There’s a lot of emotional luggage associated with publishing. Just as the genre and literary types are often at each other’s throats, its pretty obvious the self-pub and trad-pub types are at each others throats. There’s a lot of change happening in a short amount of time, and epublishing is currently benefiting from it, and benefiting quite a lot. Take, for instance, Joe Konrath (with his $100k per month paycheck spikes due to recent booms in Kindle ereader sales), or Amanda Hocking (who leveraged her self-pub success in to a traditional contract). They’re not the norm, but successes are definitely out there.
Sometimes starting small is the best strategy, whether it be in self-pub or in trad-pub. Sometimes getting a small contract, and building your career as you write (and hone your craft) is the best thing. Sometimes sacrificing the traditional route and putting yourself out there is the best thing. It’s difficult to say what’s best for any one person, because it depends on what you’re doing and where your skills are. If you take the time to put together a professional product, even if you skimp on some things like cover art, and you learn how to play the Amazon marketing game then you might be a huge success. Whether you stay a success is dependent upon a lot of facts– do you have 26 years worth of stories written that you can continue to feed the consumer? If so, staying self-pub is probably best for you. If not, you might find traditional publishing to be educational enough to be worth the journey.
The one thing that Joe Konrath likes to minimize is his 26 years of experience. While I’ve not read a lot from Amanda Hocking, it’s important to note that she had seventeen novels written before she self-published. Seventeen novels represents a significant investment in developing her skills as a writer. She didn’t self-publish her first novel and become a huge success. She’s also not trying to convince everyone that self-publishing is the future (she
Konrath is a huge believer in the future of epublishing, so much so that he’s attempting to debunk the theory that we’re in the middle of an epublishing bubble:
The self-epublishing bubble | Ewan Morrison
Is epublishing the next bubble industry? | LitReactor
The Ewan Morrison article is lengthy and well worth the read. The second link refers to the first and adds a nice summary, in case you don’t want to take the time to read the whole article. The part that really got me about Ewan Morrison’s take on the self-epublishing bubble was the idea that digital self-publishing is nothing more than a ponzi scheme:
The now ex-self-epublished authors decide not to publish again (it was a strain anyway, and it was made harder by the fact that they weren’t paid for their work and had to work after hours while doing another job – and they realised that self-promoting online would have to be a full-time job.) They come to see self-epublishing as a kind of Ponzi scheme – one created by digital companies to prey on the desires of an expanding mass of consumers who also wanted to be believe they could be “creative”. They also become disillusioned with their ereaders, which are now out of date anyway. And so they return to the mainstream publishers to look for culture. Unfortunately, as a result of the ebook market implosion it is impossible for publishers to push their prices back up to pre-bubble levels (from 99p to £12.99), and so their infrastructure continues to decline. And since they have decided to look for new talent in self-epublishing, they are trapped in the very same bubble that everyone else is trying to get out of.
This is the theorized end result of the bubble, but what’s more telling are the guesstimated numbers presented as anecdotal evidence:
… After a long year of trying to sell self-epublished books, attempting to self-promote on all available networking sites, and realising that they have been in competition with hundreds of thousands of newcomers just like them, the vast majority of the newly self-epublished authors discover that they have sold less than 100 books each. They then discover that this was in fact the business model of Amazon and other epub platforms in the first place: a model called “the long tail”. With five million new self-publishing authors selling 100 books each, Amazon has shifted 500m units. While each author – since they had to cut costs to 99p – has made only £99 after a year’s work. Disillusionment sets in as they realise that they were sold an idea of success which could, by definition, not possibly be extended to all who were willing to take part.
Amazon gets 40% of your ebook price when the price is 99c or less. If those numbers are realistic (and they may not be anything more than hyperbole, but let’s use them anyway), then 500 million units moved represents $200,000,000 for Amazon and $99 for the author simply because Amazon moved the volume and took a slice out of every author’s 99c pie.
Franzen says ebooks are the worst | LitReactor
I’m definitely not one of the Luddites (as the epub crusaders like to accuse the detractors of being): I have a Kindle Fire, and the first thing I did was download over 100 free books (the books that are in the public domain, but available from Amazon for free) and bought a half dozen others. I spend a little bit of time every day with my ereader, and when I next go on vacation, I will have that thing in my carry-on luggage. I’m also not a believer in the idea that the ereader will replace printed books. I still love the printed page, and for my home library (books I love), having a physical copy is still a romantic experience.
More to the point, I see a danger in treating literature (i.e., books) as a commodity that should be price-raced to the bottom. I also see a danger in ebook pricing where book buyers are encouraged to become bargain hunters on literature, only buying when the price of the book becomes free.
Amazon’s practices aren’t going unquestioned, B&N will not stock (printed) titles published by Amazon. I hate B&N and frankly I’m applauding right now. I’m applauding so much I’m rethinking my book buying habits.
Of course, I’m also going on a Books & Chocolate crawl later in February. I’m hoping to buy a few books while I’m burning calories (and consuming them).