I’ve been researching and listening to lots of debate recently with regard to the argument that self publishing would never be the preferred route to go, if given the choice of a traditional publishing deal. It seems the more and more I hear, the curiouser and curiouser the debate becomes.
Let’s face it – if any of us unpublished writers were truly given that choice today, right now, this morning, we would more than likely grab the publishing house, the editor and the future relationship that they bring. We would grab it firmly by the cojones, take it back home, cuddle it under our duvet and never let it out of our sight. We would announce to the world that we are in bed with Harper Collins, Orion, whoever... We would break out the bubbly that's been chilling for years, waiting for our overnight success, and we'd find it hard to wipe the smile from our face. Or would we?
Because it does seem that more and more people are actually making the other choice. Yes, choice. The choice thing has been quite a shocker to me. What? Proper writers really want to do this? I, like many, have always seen the self publishing option as a last resort. The stigma attached to it, I believed, would only ever see me as someone who had to publish their own novel. However, now, having looked into it, discussed it, raped and plundered the world wide web for information, read some really informative books on the subject , I now believe, that just like has happened in the music business with digital downloads, the tide is possibly turning in the publishing industry.
I’ve found several successful writers and by that, I mean writers of good books, who have found success by making the choice to self- publish. I’m not just talking about the John Lockes of this world or the Amanda Hockings - though their experience is uplifting – I mean people who walk and talk in our world, people we know out there in the blogosphere. (Hi Talli, Mel, Catherine)
So why? Why are people choosing the route? And what will happen to the industry if the trend continues? My worry is that the digital world will be overrun with books of questionable writing and this IS a problem. During my own research, I downloaded some books that had never seen a proper edit, had fairly dodgy covers and honestly, I could not read past page three or four. However, I’ve also downloaded some fabulous reads and believe that good writing will win out. Readers are a discerning lot and very capable of finding books that interest them, whether that be via a traditional method by browsing through a bookstore, or choosing an ebook. (Plus, the Amazon ability to ‘try before you buy’ often allows you to download that first few pages, which does stop a few buying errors.)
It’s clear that if you are contemplating self publishing, the worst thing to do is to consider it a last resort, and just upload those old manuscripts you have lying around. Instead, consider yourself an entrepreneur, launching a new business that has to work. You have a product you love and have faith in (your manuscript). You believe that the world should share in it. If so, treat it as you would if you’d invented a new wheel. Make sure the R&D (Research and Development) are thorough (i.e. make sure the ms is the very best it can be). Push it through the highest of standard checks (i.e. hire an editor, proof reader), make sure that the packaging will whet the buyer’s appetite (i.e. make sure the cover is one that someone would want to pick up on the 3 for 2 table in Waterstones.)
What are the downsides? Well, apart from the still existing stigma I mentioned above, there is the lack of an agent (though not always) and a publishing house.Those authors traditionally published claim both are vital. Also, there’s no advance, but the much higher royalty scheme should help compensate. Besides, from what I understand advances are not what they used to be, as industry margins come under increasing pressure. As a self published author, you won’t make it to that 3 for 2 section either. High street stores will not stock self published books. You also have to become your own self publicist and a good one at that, but again, I feel that this has changed in traditional publishing and many authors have to do this anyway.
Upsides? More control over your product (though not necessarily a good thing unless you really know what you’re doing). Instant publication i.e. once you’ve written that very best book it can be, had it edited, designed a cover – it takes hours, a few days at most before its out there in the world. So, little or no lag time... Better royalties, assuming of course you’ve done it right and are making sales.
So, bet you’re dying to know. Have I convinced myself? What I do know is that when I started to think about self publishing as an option for me, I didn’t have a clue what a minefield it is and indeed, how much work would be involved. Part of me was thinking ‘Why not just stick it up on Amazon and see what happens?’ WRONG!
Wrong, wrong, wrong at every level.
Either way? If Harper Collins phone and I head to the duvet smiling, or I decide to use Kindle Direct Publishing as a future route, my own new wheel still has a few kinks in it - I still have some work to do on that manuscript...