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.