Why I don’t mind self-publishing – taking the literary temperature

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

I’ve read a number of posts and articles that insist trade publishers are “frightened” or “worried” about the boon in self-publishing because it will dilute our ability to get great books. As one who does this for a living, I couldn’t disagree more. For one thing, there will always be writers who desire trade publishing for the advantages it offers – of which there are many.

Authors, like bellybuttons, are different, and for that reason, there will never be a shortage of excellent books for trade publishers. There are big advantages of trade publishing that few can attain by self-publishing. Conversely, there are big possibilities for the self-publisher, provided they know how to market and promote their heads off.

That said, I’m of a mind that change is good because it gets the blood circulating and the brain firing up ways to remain relevant. And this is where I really appreciate the self publishers because many of them are publishing genres or storylines that trade publishers have avoided due to a perceived (or proven) lack of audience.

There have been plenty times when I loved a story but worried there wasn’t a big enough audience for the subject matter. However, if I saw that particular storyline getting lots of attention, I would have more confidence to to accept those types of stories. I see this as the counterpunch to the complaint we often hear about how publishers keep a thumb on what books are published.

That complaint always struck me as illogical. What’s in it for publishers to keep an artificial lid on what they publish? We’re in this biz to make money, so if the public begins screaming for storylines about margarita-guzzling beagles who sleep on editors’ desks instead of working, then they’ll darn well put their energies into finding those kinds of books.

The problem is that publishing is expensive, so we need to go with what we know sells, and this makes it harder to consider stories outside the norm. But self publishing has solved that problem, and it becomes easier for us to take readers’ literary temperature to see how tastes are changing, which allows us to evolve as well.

If you have a book that falls outside the box of what trade publishers normally accept, maybe DIY is your best bet. However, if you’re gonna do it right (write?), then learn all you need to know about promotion, marketing, finding an audience…and for goodness sake, buy a copy or e-book of The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box.

4 Responses to Why I don’t mind self-publishing – taking the literary temperature

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    Not to mention the fact that if the self publisher is that good it might be worth approaching them…many people self publish THEN sign deals with a publisher so they can spend more time writing and less marketing…

  2. Dan Holloway says:

    I don’t know if you saw but Nicola Morgan wrote an article on why “every writer should self-publish” on her blog on Monday. I’m having decided looking glass feelings 🙂

    I think your point is spot on the money. I’ve talked about this phenomenon on many occasions, the vicious cycle that publishers are locked into owing to the money it costs to put a book out – don’t publish what doesn’t sell, but you don’t know it doesn’t sell because it hasn’t been published. It’s a cycle that means new stuff will never find an audience under the old system – but self-publishing is the perfect market-prover. I don’t think we yet know what’ll come out of it – at the moment the successes have tended to be in fairly regular markets, but I’m guessing what smaller publishers are doing is keeping their eye on things outside the bestsellers – looking for those titles that consistently sell solidly, and those that perform well in some of Amazon’s more esoteric charts aainst their regular-published counterparts, and I guess the real key is when it’s not a case of a successful book, but of one book being followed by another from a different author, and a demonstration of an appetite for a whole new genre. I’d say it’s likely to come later down the line – I get the impression at the moment most self-publishers are still disgruntled people who tried getting regular-published and are unburdening their backlists onto Kindle – the key will be when disgruntled readers turn their hand to writing and realise there’s a way to connect with each other, and that’s going to be one of the more exciting things to watch out for

  3. Why does it cost a publishing house so MUCH more to “put a book out” than it costs an indie author? I know they have overhead in their office … I know they spend more money than we would on advertising contracts … and more time wining and dining whoever it is they wine and dine …

    Educate me ~ I’m new to all this.

  4. You said:
    I know they spend more money than we would on advertising contracts … and more time wining and dining whoever it is they wine and dine …
    You said you’re new to all this, so I’m not sure where you get your information, but publishing is about establishing relationships. So yes, there are times when I may take a magazine editor out to lunch, but I consider the $50 well spent when I see a front page review for one of our books in a magazine that is read by a lot of people.

    I wouldn’t call that wining and dining, but simply smart business.

    The hard costs incurred by trade presses come in the way of the production costs, print runs, distribution, print runs, and the big kahuna – marketing and promotion. When you’ve paid an author an advance, it means you believe the book will sell, and you’ll do everything to see that happen.

    Additionally, trade presses send out a few hundred ARCs to print and TV media and book reviewers. Those are non-returnable costs, but well worth it when you have that same media calling you back to request one of your authors for an interview.

    The different between trade presses and most self-pubbed authors is experience, money, time, and energy, which is why so many self pubbed authors sell very few books. Not saying it can’t be done, but it’s far from easy.

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