Idiots? No, books on Amazon. Apparently there’s an idiot born every minute, which unfortunately seems about right, but this blog is about publishing. So with a mountain of new books being published by both Indie authors and traditional publishers every few minutes, how can you get your book noticed?
There’s nothing like typing the words ‘The End’ to get you all hot and bothered about publishers, bestsellers and writing acceptance speeches (*gushes* I really wasn’t expecting this!) As a committed self-publishing author-entrepreneur, I do sometimes fantasize about life with a traditional publishing deal. Would I be better off? Or is it a case of ‘Is glas iad na cnoic, i bhfad uainn’ an old Irish saying meaning ‘faraway hills are green’.
A recent article by Dougal Shaw for BBC News explores the current state of self-publishing and finds that, while it is a hard road, it can be just as successful for the author (if not more so) than getting that holy grail of a traditional publishing deal. It’s true that Indie Authors have to be a lot more creative with their marketing strategy and their use of social media when it comes to peddling their wares, but the fact is that even if you’ve signed up with a publisher, the marketing will largely be left up to you. Publishers tend to budget their marketing spend in such a way that sees them putting their money behind one or two ‘sure things’, gambling that the profit made on those books will pay for the other 99%. At the end of the day, the best person to sell your book is you. You have a much greater vested interest in its success and getting it in front of as many readers as possible. A good example of how author platforms can work for self-publishers is Andy Weir’s book The Martian, which has since been made into an Oscar nominated movie. The story was originally published chapter by chapter on his blog for free. Now that’s a gamble, but a gamble that paid off.
How about earnings? Traditionally published authors can expect to earn an average of 10% royalties on their books. Self-published authors can earn up to 70% royalties, which sounds much more interesting, but there are several factors to take into account. Indie Authors generally charge less for their books, as low as 99p for eBooks. The flip side to this is that people are more willing to take a chance on a cheap eBook, thereby boosting sales. However, you have to consider the cost to the author in producing the book, which brings me onto my next point.
The old belief that traditionally published books are better because they’ve been professionally vetted no longer rings true. Indie authors are hiring professional designers and editors, so really, they are on a level par. The only difference is that self-published authors bear the cost of all this outsourcing, so while traditionally published authors are totting up how much they’ll make on their advance, Indie authors have to make a lot of sales just to break even. Then again, the beauty of self-publishing means you are always in control of your sale price and distribution, so you can run a Kindle Countdown sale for your book to boost sales or even make it available for free for limited periods (which I don’t agree with, but that’s a whole other conversation!) The point is, you have far more control, so even a year or two after the book has been released, you can still drive sales with promotions and giveaways.
So, will I self-publish or start the long and frustrating process of sending out manuscripts? Well, therein lies my next point. Once my book has been edited, a cover designed and a marketing campaign put in place, I am ready to rock if I decide to self-publish. With a traditional publishing deal, I first have to go through the submissions process, which can leave you waiting for anything up to six months for a response. All of that time, your book is sitting on your computer, going nowhere. If it does get accepted, it could be another year before the publisher decides to release it. Now, you could say I should use that time to write my fourth novel (gulp), but it is a long time to wait for your baby to be born into the literary world. I suppose I’ve become quite spoilt in terms of making all of the decisions about my book. Self-publishing is a control freak’s paradise!
Regardless of all these pros and cons, there is still that sense of validation for an author who gets signed by a traditional publishing house. It would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts of getting your book ‘out there’, both options have their merits. For so long the underdog and oftentimes dismissed as vanity publishing, self-publishing is now an equally viable choice when it comes to getting your book to market. And if validation is the cherry on top, consider the validation of readers who decided to pick up your book, regardless of who published it, and leave wonderful reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. Whichever path you choose (or whichever path chooses you!) you’ve got to be willing to learn the business and find a happy compromise between writing and promotion.
9 thoughts on “One Born Every 5 Minutes”
Reblogged this on Words fm.
Absolutely, absolutely, and absolutely!!!
Six months just for a small publishing company, even….If your aim is for trad pub, it’ll take longer than six months – maybe a year to even find a literary agent! Seems we were in the same frame of mind when writing a blog post this week (if you are the Evie who commented on mine, if not, ignore me!!) – I so agree with your comments on validation, too 🙂
Yes it’s me (great minds!) I think every author starts out dreaming of that contract, and I’m not beyond having my head turned (*winks at camera*) only now I’m far more aware of what I would be giving up, so I would really need to be sure of what I was gaining by signing on the dotted line. The tide is definitely turning 😉
Lots of food for thought, Evie. I had my manuscript all done to spec and ready to send off on the trad publishing route and I learned about self-publishing. I had nothing to lose and I was already on the second book so I thought I’d learn as much about being and indie author as I could and then make an informed decision. I chose to self-publish and haven’t regretted it for a second. As you said, it’s a lot of work and really pushed me out of my comfort zone, technically speaking, but I love the control it gives me. 🙂
Hi Jean 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story, I think it’s really good for authors to see that self-publishing is actually a choice and a viable one at that. Like you, learning the ropes seemed like climbing Everest to me at first, but I think self-publishers have a much better appreciation of what goes into producing a book and getting it to market.
I’ve self published and I love the buzz from doing my own marketing and seeing the surge in sales. I know I’d have to market it if trad published too but I wouldn’t see the surges until I get the six monthly royalty checks. However, one thing that is making me think about looking for a traditional publishing deal is to get the books into bookshops abroad (if I can get a publisher in the UK or US). I’ve got them into Irish bookshops and now that I’ve got some press coverage in UK papers, I’m thinking of contacting some indie bookshops in Sept when the third book comes out and seeing if they’d like to stock all 3 in the run up to Xmas – but while I’ll get better royalties than if trad published, I could have the hassle of chasing payments!
Hi Lorna, I think you’ve done fantastic work on your distribution, but your right, traditional publishers are in a much better position to get print books into shops. It’s great having this conversation with other experienced self-publishers, because you realise that getting published is about so much more than getting a book deal. When you’re armed with experience and knowledge, you have a better idea of what you require from a publisher and again, what you would be giving up. Totally agree with you on the royalties! Love that instant gratification 😉
I started out mainstream published (OUP & Usborne) I had a top London Agent: all the things that many writers dream of. I now self -publish under my own imprint. Do the maths! Excellent post.
Thanks Carol, I think it’s really good for people to hear that (writers and readers). At this stage, I feel that the biggest thing publishers could offer me is increased distribution, but the rest I can really handle myself. It would be great if there was some kind of a co-op publishers that evolved out of this new publishing landscape, so authors could still have the rights over their books, a decent royalty cheque along with access to more readers. It would probably be called Utopia!