You get several things with traditional publishers that are difficult to get self-publishing: 1 Professional editing 2 Placement on brick-and-mortar store shelves 3 Marketing 4 An advance 5 Cover design art and copy and layout 6 Stamp of approval. Well, more and more we're being told that publishers don't have time to edit books. We have to self-edit before sending them in. Authors have been taking an increasing role in marketing for years and years—and it's getting worse.
How to Title a Book  - NYT's Bestselling book title creation process
Cover and layout I can take care of if I need to. It won't be as good as a publishing team, but they mess up sometimes, too. I'll at least control the process. I think it's still worth it to go traditional—though having never been through it, I can't say for sure—but it's rapidly becoming a bad deal for authors who are not automatic best-sellers. The amount of work looks the same to me: I have to market my book single-handedly no matter what. I'm trying the traditional route one more time…then will consider Kindle-ing it.
Anon first comment has some good points and identifies how a lot of writers feel. But we must remember, Konrath and Hocking are smart and savvy. Everyone who self publishes doesn't automatically acquire those traits.
They are also lucky to be some of the first to reach the top of the heap but as they both say — it took a lot of work on their part. I think self publishing will appeal to more writers if they don't succeed with traditional publishing. One writer I know is going to back away from trad publishing and try selling on her own for a while. She self-published, then tried print publishing, and is now going back to self-publishing.
Frustrated writers will do what they feel they have to do. Publishers will do what they have to do, but perhaps they should consider giving the NEW writer more priority, while pushing for quality in the writing. Publishing has to cut what's not working, perhaps 'flattening' their organizations like so many other industries which were too 'fat' in personnel, especially in management. Right now, I'm just sitting on the fence, and gathering data. Both will survive IMO, but perhaps in different incarnations.
Loved Sommer Leigh's take on this post. Scrooge McDuck!! And dragged along by their dentures! What a mental picture — thanks for the chuckle.
5 Steps to Choosing Your Book Title
One thing to remember about self-publishing is that a lot of the services that traditional publishers provide can still be purchased by the self-publishing writer. Need a professional-looking cover? You can pay for one. Need an editor? New York pros are out there selling their services. The biggest thing traditional publishing does is print books and push them into bookstores.
At some point down the road, that will be much less important. I don't think big publishing will vanish, but they are going to have to slim down a bit and reduce their infrastructure costs so they can sell ebooks at more affordable prices. The future of publishing? I don't think it's going away even though people like Hocking and Konrath are making money. I read Hocking's book a month ago before the big buzz started. While an interesting read with a creative plot, I wished that a publisher had looked at it, first, because if it had been subject to a strong editor, it would have made for a much better book.
Aside from major typos, inconsistencies at one point in the book, a character suddenly changed from female to male which I account for as an editing snafu rather than an unexplained transgender operation , the characters were not as fully fleshed as a strong editor could make them. I hope that the very first thing Hocking does with this money is to hire a good editor to help her with her subsequent books.
Second, while I understand publishers' reluctance to embrace new technologies, I frankly think that their desire to stick with paper is the same sort of backwards thinking that led Blockbuster to their demise, in favor of operations like Netflix and On Demand.
For example, the most recent book in Robert Jordan's New York Times Bestselling Wheel of Time series came out in November but the publisher wanted to hold out on Kindle sales until November , expecting that people would buy the hardcover and the Kindle version. Instead, many loyal readers including me refused to purchase the hardback book, which led the publisher to cave and release the e-book in January All in all, the publisher looked stupid and the new technology won.
I don't think I have the entrepreneurial nerve to self-publish yet, but it's fascinating to watch these developments. Even if Konrath and Hocking are the tip of the iceberg, they could also be the start of a new model that will have tremendous ramifications on the existing structure.
I've had to set a few people straight lately about the "high" cost of ebooks. The problem is that most people don't see why they should have to pay for art or craft. This is across mediums. I've got friends who are artists, make jewelry, etc. I think some of the same attitude extends to literature. Too many people think they are paying for the paper in a print book, not the time and labor of the author and any editors, agents, design artists, and so on involved in the project. Take away the paper, and they just don't see why they should have to pay. It's ridiculous. For authors, getting our writing into the hands of readers or message out to our audience is the mission behind what we do.
True there are some who just write dribble for cash, or who want to brag about holding a book they wrote. But primarily authors have a story to tell, one they want to own, and one they want others to read. It's not about a book. It's about my collection of words, telling a story, and getting it into the hands of readers. Authors want to be read. The medium is simply the method of distribution. And it's one I can chose without layers. And without losing the copyright to my own work. Great post, Nathan, very thoughtful and very informative.
I also love how you tend to dive into these sort of waters — its brave and far-seeing.
I don't think I have much to add to your post or the comments — alot has been covered here. I just think I want to add two main point. Amanda Hocking just signed with a literary agent. The second is: there has not YET been a mass exodus to self-publishing, but I would just give it some time. Wait until a few more Amanda Hockings come to the forefront, and also for the current culture of publisher loyalty to fade…. I truly believe that the biggest threat facing print publishing today is not the failing of bookstores, the low price point of e-books or the e-book market in general.
It is the pretty much inevitable movement of authors toward more money, more control and more freedom. When this occurs, publishers may begin to offer more competitive packages. Whether that will be enough to stem the tide of attrition — I don't know.
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I tend to think they'll move too slowly and be too late — to be brutally honest, but I could be wrong. It's always good to hear about successes and publishing is the same as everything, for every huge success there will be hundreds or thousands of people who are not huge successes. I think one thing that gets missed in the calculation of cost between print and ebooks — the author takes a long time to get the book into publishable state. It's debatable whether it's cheaper for the big houses to go e-book, but for small houses and individuals, e- is definitely cheaper.
I think that if we look at it as "can we become millionaire bestsellers as self-pubs" then yes, it's a recipe for failure. But I look at it this way: as a traditionally published author, becoming a bestseller or at least escaping midlist is crucial, because I won't keep getting contracts otherwise. If I'm self-publishing and making the same sales I was making as a "failing midlist" author, I can actually not only make a decent living, I'm not waiting on reserves against returns, not waiting for my bi-annual royalty statement that if anything lacks transparency, and I'm not living in a constant state of "will they like my option book?
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Do I have enough audience? Yes, it means more up-front costs and an uphill battle… but we're doing the promotion work anyway, or should be. THe business is hard on either side of the fence. For authors who are more entrepreneurial and who perhaps have a background with traditional, this seems to give more of a chance to control more variables in our income stream. It depends on the level of risk we're comfortable with.
Self-publishing is NOT a new phenomena. John Milton self-published Areopagitica in Some well known authors of classic literature self-published their first work including Benjamin Franklin, Virginia Wolf, Rudyard Kipling, James Joyce and a smattering of others. Looking back over the past 20 years, one can see that every few years an author rises out of the self-publishing world and goes onto commercial success. The ones that immediately come to my mind and that I can point to without looking at Wikipedia or googling for answers are: The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield and Eragon by Christopher Paolini.
Amanda Hocking and J A Konrath are the current names to add to the list. Self-publishing has been an option for almost four hundred years. So far it hasn't toppled traditional publishing. I doubt the ease of e-publishing will kill it either. In fact because it is now so easy to self-publish electronically, the probability that I will take a risk on a self-published author and buy one of their selfpubbed books is diminished.
I know how many writers are out there who think that what they write is absolutely brilliant when in fact it is absolute garbage. Regardless of whether a book is traditionally published or self-published what makes an author rise out of obscurity and onto the bestseller lists is talent. Even if your name is Snooki, your book won't sell if there isn't some talent behind it. Writers feel that being trad published will validate their worth as a writer, but the truth is that most trad published books turn out to be damp squibs only the chosen few are vigorously marketed.
I learned that after being trad published myself. Why waste time looking for an agent or a publisher when you could be selling eBooks?
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