Over the last couple of years, I’ve listened to a lot of traditionally published authors say negative things about those ‘other’ authors who are going the route of self-publishing.
I guess what really bothers me the most is that they think because they have a contract with one of the BIG publishing houses it somehow makes them superior—or that they worked harder than the self-pub author. I don’t think so. And besides, the last time I checked we were all in this together. Bashing one another because you don’t agree with their choice doesn’t make you better—it tells the world what kind of person you are.
I’ve heard the argument that some of these books are poorly written, and given the current state of affairs in the industry everyone thinks they can throw some words on the paper and head to Amazon to publish it. Well, that may be true in some cases, but not all. The other side of that argument is this: there are a lot of books that have been published by those BIG houses that aren’t so good either, and the only reason the publisher released them was because of the author’s so-called status. The second fact is it doesn’t take our readers long to make the distinction between good and bad. Our readers are smart people—they can spot a scam when they see it.
Every time this subject comes up on one of my writing loops, I’m reminded of some of the college graduates in my class in culinary school. They’d enrolled because they couldn’t find jobs in their given fields so here they were all pomp and circumstance. Each time we’d take a quiz, they’d walk around the class to find out how the other students scored on their test and then brag about their grades, until one day, I’d had decided to give them a lesson in reality that I was certain they’d never considered. The fact is, when you’re hired by the owner of a restaurant, he doesn’t care about your test scores, all he wants to know is if you can cook and know the procedures. And so it goes with traditional publishing. Do you think readers actually care who the publisher is for their favorite author? I highly doubt it! I know I don’t. It’s my opinion readers care more about whether the author writes a good story.
Here’s a story you may have heard before, but I think it deserves repeating for you to share with the naysayers who haven’t heard about her experience. A writing friend of mine had a contract with a publisher when she decided to self-publish her first contemporary. She’d been writing for a long time and had written several books all of which were rejected from every publisher she’d submitted to. She never finaled in any contests and actually received some pretty negative reviews each time she entered. Fortunately, she didn’t toss those files out, nor did she lose sight of her dream. As she puts it, she was a nobody, her new contracted books had not been released yet, so she took the dive into self-publishing in the interim even though she was scared to death she’d find out others hated her work just as much. And learn she did.
On that one book, the one that hit the skids early on, from November to August of this year, this nobody made $31,000 on her self-published book. So when I hear other authors put down the self-pub industry, I chuckle to myself and am happy she’s laughing all the way to the bank. She now has 15 books self-pubbed and is making money hand over fist. She was recently offered a contract from a traditional publisher who’d heard about her success and she turned it down because she was doing so well. Her response was, why should I accept 15% royalties when I can make 70% from self-publishing. And I totally agree with her.
Sure traditional publishing is great—I’m thrilled to be on both sides of that coin. Avalon has been wonderful to me and I’ll stay with them for as long as they’ll have me. I’m even more excited our books will finally be available in eBook format as well, regardless of how much money I make. To me, it’s like free advertising –getting my name out there so that when I do self-pub, people recognize my name. Let’s face it, none of us is ever going to make a bundle of money from Avalon, but for me, it’s not about the money, it’s about being published. And yes, I do like money. :-)
So self-publishing may not be for everyone, and that’s okay too. But here’s the thing: just because you have a contract with a big fancy publisher doesn’t mean anything if you’re not bringing in the bacon. It’s a well-known fact that publishing contracts are written in favor of the publisher, so if you’re not pulling your weight, your contract can bite the dust as quickly as you can.
My first self-published book goes live on Monday and while I hope I make a lot of money, even making $20 is still better than having the file sit on my hard drive. My writing friends have already told me I’m the guinea pig for them, and I say, that’s fine. I hope I’m laughing all the way to bank too, but if not, at least I tried.
In today’s environment, my motto is To Thine Own Self Be True. And while I have no illusions about success, I can’t deny the huge opportunities we’re being given in the publishing industry today, so check your ego at the door and give yourself the opportunity of a lifetime. Why not take a bite of the apple—it’s not poison, it can be called sweet success!