Monday, September 6, 2010

Self Publishing is...IN?

A lot has changed in the year since I self published my debut novel, The Bum Magnet in October 2009. And I do mean a lot. When I first considered putting my book out myself, just after the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards Contest had dashed my hopes for an “easy” road to a publishing contract, self published authors were still the scourge of the publishing world. You could hardly speak the word “self-publish” without watching someone’s face curl in disgust. Why in the world could you possibly want to put your book out there yourself when there’s all these publishing houses and big advances to be had in the traditional route? Or…if you can’t find a traditional house, then your work must really suck, so why would you want to embarrass yourself. Or…self published authors, on average, only sell 50-100 books (a few more if you have a larger social network), so why waste your time?

As a matter of fact, the only segments of the publishing industry who didn’t shun self published authors were the authors themselves or the range author support business who wanted to exploit them for the thousands of dollars many were willing to invest to get their masterpieces in book form.

My, my, my how times change. One year later and now even reputable major news papers like the New York Times are touting self publishing as a viable option. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself here, here, here, and here. It’s amazing to me how quickly perceptions about self publishing are shifting. Amazing. As more authors come into the fray and find success, industry perceptions shift. Self publishing isn’t a dirty word anymore. As a matter of fact, some authors like J.A. Konrath are making a good living from his titles listed on Amazon’s Kindle book store.

In a time not too long ago, literary agents and industry experts would tell authors that if they self-publish their book, they would NEVER be considered by traditional publishers. Such advice was prevalent…all the way up until traditional publishers started plucking authors from the ranks of the self published, like Lisa Genova, Boyd Morrison Zane, Mary B. Morrison, E. Lynn Harris, and the list goes on and on, giving them advances and turning some into instant best sellers. I know of several deals in the last year where self published authors with Kindle e-book best sellers were offered book deals by big six publishers. Now? Publishers, like Louise Burke at my own pocket books, say that they trawl the Internet looking for self published books that are generating great buzz and reviews so they can snap them up. It’s a win-win situation for them so why not? Self published authors are coming to houses big and small with market-tested material, minimizing the financial gamble that publishers have to take, particularly in today’s sluggish economic climate. As time goes on, I believe self publishing could become the new slush pile.

What’s more? Publishers Weekly, which used to fall in stark opposition to self published authors within industry debates, has recently changed its tune. Not only do they say self publishing is “getting respect,” they are launching a service geared toward self published authors, including a supplement to their magazine that features self published works and a slim chance at getting a their book reviewed…for a “small” fee of course. While many argue that their service should be free to authors, the point is that even PW had to face the hard truth—self publishing not only isn’t going away, it is growing and becoming more legitimate in the eyes of the general public everyday.

So, what’s my point you ask?

My point is simply this…if the so-called stigma of self publishing is one of the reasons (excuses) you’ve used not to put your book out there yourself, scratch that one off the list. If cost is an issue, you’re on the cheap indie author’s blog—use the vast information I’ve provided to help you publish on the cheap. Don’t let your work collect dust in a drawer. Dig it out, polish it up, and publish it.


  1. Great article. It is very funny how things can change in a year. I think the success of the e-book industry, where there's not huge divide between what is POD or traditionally published, had helped the rep. People are just looking for good stories. I'm still trying to acquire an agent first, but I'm no longer as squeamish about self-publishing if I have to go that route.

  2. >>literary agents and industry experts would tell authors that if they self-publish their book, they would NEVER be considered by traditional publishers.<<

    Many self-pubbers don't view self-publishing as a means to get a contract from a traditional publisher.

    I’ve been writing professionally for over 40 years. I’ve had books published by big-name traditional publishers and small specialty publishers. One thing all these companies had in common was that they greatly disappointed me.

    I didn’t like the books and I didn’t like my earnings.

    In 2008, I decided to form my own publishing company and planned to publish one book. I've done ten, and more are on the way.

    I won't say I'd refuse a million-dollar advance from one of the Big Six, but as of now I prefer the control, quality, speed and income I get from self-publishing.

    >>While many argue that their service should be free to authors, the point is that even PW had to face the hard truth<<

    Some would argue that the new owner of PW realized that he needed to find additional ways to increase revenue, and one way is to grab money from starry-eyed independent publishers.

    Michael N. Marcus
    -- "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don't be a Victim of a Vanity Press,"
    -- "Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company: Make a better deal. Make a better book,"
    -- "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults),"

  3. @Michael. You're correct that many don't look at self publishing as a means to get attention from big six publishers, but many do. I think I balanced it by adding the J.A. Konrath bit who makes his living off of his titles. What I will say is that in my estimation, at least in terms of fiction titles, the authors most successful at making a living from their self pubbed works are ones who at one time or another built their brand while published under a big six or major indie publisher.

    I accepted a big six deal because I recognized the limitation of distribution for self pubbed writers...specifically fiction writers. It's very hard to have a breakout as a self pubbed fiction author unless you had a large platform to begin with, a major endorsement from a celebrity or popular author, or some other major stroke of luck. For fiction writers, the task is much more difficult.

    I would agree with you on the PW bit. Obviously they saw it as a market they could tap into, but I think if perceptions had not been changing with regard to self publishing, they wouldn't have seen it as a viable option. It would have degraded their "brand."