Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is Anyone Else Scared? Self-Publishing


I don't know how many of you heard about this, but on Monday, NYT Bestseller Barry Eisler turned down a $500K offer from his publisher and announced he is going to self-publish. I read this article which has a link and summary to a conversation that Eisler had with JA Konrath about self-publishing and why they recommend it. Konrath posted on his blog about why all the rumors out there about self-publishing aren't true.

Here is another post by author Roxane Gay on reasons that self-publishing might not be the right route for a lot of people. While I don't agree with the assumption that all self-published authors tried traditional publishing and just couldn't cut it... I do agree that some of it is simply abysmal--then again, I can say the same thing of the occasional traditionally published book.

All the arguments are sound and after reading all of this I have a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach. It's confusing and there really is no definite, right answer. Everything they say makes sense, but as an aspiring author who has spent the last few years honing my craft and learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry by heart--it's more than a little terrifying to consider what may happen to this industry in the next couple of years.

Don't get me wrong. I think change is good and it's clear that the publishing industry follows an older, established regimen. Just like the MP3 changed the music industry, the ebook and digital media are changing publishing--whether we like it or not. I think it's a good thing and while I know that publishers are going to have to continue to adapt, I don't know if anyone knows how that will work out.

Does this mean that everything I've learned about the way the industry works is useless? No. I don't think so. No matter what happens, knowing the way marketing, cover-art, editing, product placement, etc. affect the sales of a book is going to help me. Understanding how to be professional and how to adapt to a virtual marketplace are key to success no matter what happens.

Still, these kinds of sweeping changes are intimidating. With many talented writers now choosing the self-publishing route. One thing is for certain--we, as an industry, can't afford the stigma that has been placed on authors who choose to bypass the traditional route and publish on their own. The industry is changing, and we must change with it. Are there terrible ones, yes. Should we assume they all are? No.

Does this mean that I'm going to go that route? I'm not sure. Not right now. I'm watching and waiting--learning about this new avenue just as I did the old one. But, if I do... I will still use everything I learned from the traditional publishing model. I'll hire a professional cover-artist and editor. I will do everything I can to make sure that my finished product has every chance of being successful--just as publishers have done for us in the past.

What do you think of the changes and different options that digital media brings? Does it make you nervous or excited?

20 comments:

  1. And then work your butt off, right? Because when you're self published, you are your own marketing department. So as we consider our options and hone our skills, we'd better be getting some training in marketing. Anna del C at LTUE made a good point in saying she several books written and ready for publication before self publishing. She's so busy now marketing her works, she doesn't have time to write. Something to think about.

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  2. Excellent point, Donna. So true. You are your own everything department. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I agree with Donna. I barely have time to write now, with my kids so little. If I self-published I'd be using that precious time to market my book, and I don't think I could do it. It would be to time consuming for me, and I need that precious time to write. And take care of my family. :) If it works for some people though, that's great! I just know right now it wouldn't work for me.

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  4. I'm totally with you, Jenn--I want to say "Wait! I'm not ready yet, hold on a little while." The word "Intimidating" is a perfect one. I still think it will be a couple of years before we can say that the few who have been successful are blazing a new trail, but in the meantime we're all having to learn the possibilities. Yuck!

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  5. One last thought--I already feel like I spend too much time marketing, and that's with a publisher that does an awful lot of marketing. I can't imagine doing more...and coordinating the other parts of professional production. Overwhelming.

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  6. This whole controversy made me think about a couple things. but first, I fully enjoyed Amanda Hoeking's first book in the Trylle trilogy. Miles above many self published.

    I walked through Borders the other day - and it's one that stayed open. Most of the books I wanted to buy they didn't carry. So I think whether our books gets into a chain bookstore is going to be of less importance. Which made me realize that social media and getting ourselves out there is going to be super important whether we self publish or traditionally publish.


    Overall, I'm a bit scared too.

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  7. I get irritated that I work for over ayear, pay for everything to make it perfect...then they take 75%...I dont wanna deal.

    You can make it 2.99, then everyone gets to enjoy it and you still make more money!

    i am excitted about it!

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  8. I'm sure it's helpful if your first foray into self-publishing is as a NYT bestselling author. But for those of us who don't have that kind of platform to leap from, it is a scary prospect to do it yourself and all alone at that.

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  9. Lose10lbs--James Dashner made the point on an about-agents panel at LTUE that 85% of $200,000 is larger than 100% of $100,000. Similarly, if I spend all my time marketing, I'm still going to be hard-pressed to sell 1000 copies of my $2.99 book--and will make less than $3000--because the distributer will still take a bite of that.

    If, however, I get a publisher, who pays an editor who helps me improve my book, and also pays a marketing department to help sell my book and all those people working together (with their professional contacts at bookstores, etc) manage to sell 300,000 copies (which isn't much)of my book at $10 each (which is still low), and I get 15% of the sale price (no idea what a typical contract is)... I still get $45,000. Which is more than $3000. Also, I might have been lucky enough to sign a contract with an advance even bigger than that--and I'll keep the advance, even if my book doesn't sell well.

    I think the odds and the math show that you should try traditional first. If that doesn't work-or if you get tired of having that many people on your team--self-publishing is a fine second option.

    Of course, that could just be my fear talking. I'm scared to death of self-publishing. :)

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  10. I'm with Chantele in that it's a time issue. I just don't have the time to be all the departments and still write. Which is the most important thing to me.

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  11. Yeah, the truth is, self-publishing isn't for everyone. It's a very personal choice, and one I did not make lightly. For me, I discovered that it's too much work for where I'm at right now. I'll support you any way you choose to go. I'm certainly not scared of self-publishing. In fact, self-publishing cleared my fear of all publishing. :)

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  12. I'm quietly watching, too. I think so much is changing right now that I'm just being wary of it all. For me, for now, I'm just going to work the best I can on my book, keep my options open, and hope for the best.

    But like Michelle said, wherever you go, I'm right behind you.

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  13. I don't mind if people self-publish. I'm not going to buy their book either way. Besides, my TBR list/pile is already grand enough from the traditional publishers offerings that there's no room for something that hasn't gone through the scrutiny of the traditional route.

    I can't see myself self-publishing because I'm afraid I'll end up publishing a book that shouldn't have been. Plus I write YA, so the situation is different than for a writer of adult fiction. Teens still aren't the big buyers of ebooks--yet.

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  14. There are definitely a lot of books out there to read through traditional publishing, but I disagree with the concept that something that is self-published is always lesser quality. I think Amanda Hocking is proof of that. I've seen many editors and agents say that her work is fabulous. It's just knowing what to look for, I think. And the prices aren't half bad, either. ;-)

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  15. Everyone I've talked to who has self published says it's a ton of work on the marketing side. Leigh Moore had a great post on this, comparing some of these big time authors who are self publishing to the actors in the olden days (Charlie Chaplin) who started United Artists. They could because they were already famous.

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  16. I'm just as confused and exhausted by it all as you!

    I'm lucky to be published by a nice small press, and if I weren't would I go the self-pub route? I don't know - I like it that someone else takes care of some of the load a writer has - if I had to do my cover art and editing and setting up and distribution and ... oh dear!


    It'll be interesting to see where it all goes. THe worst part of it is all the back-biting and fighting and rumors and people shouting at each other - *sigh* that's exhausting to hear/witness.

    All we can do is use our best instincts, do our research, and stay above the fray of negativity!

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  17. I started the journey determined to find me an agent. My dream is still the same. If not- maybe I will s/p just to hold my book, but am not 100% sure I want that route.

    I have noticed with interest, that some publishers are putting books out for Kindle first, then launching paperback. The changes in the industry are interesting to watch.

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  18. First off, I love the picture. Secondly, I'm not really afraid of self-publishing and all the e-stuff. Nathan Bransford had a great post one day on why conventional writers (not that any writer is "conventional." Bah! We're all individuals...) shouldn't fear e-books and self-publishing. There's still a big market for regular books, that's where most book sales come from, and studies show, that most people still prefer the old-fashioned way of reading. Hope that assuages some peoples' fears.

    <3 Gina Blechman

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  19. Jenn, Couldn't resist chiming in. In the 1980s, I started self-publishing non-fiction. During my research phases, I was continually astonished at the frequent shlock I encountered in public libraries, near all of it from conventional publishers. I still remember thinking to myself, "If this dreck can get published, I know I can top this!" The plain truth is, there's no guarantee of quality, and never has been, whether a work is self- or traditionally published.

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