Many authors today who self-publish are not doing so because they can’t land a traditional publisher but because they do NOT WANT a traditional publisher.
What? Why would any author not want a traditional publishing deal? Followers of this blog know that we strongly advocate self-publishing and that we have pointed out that many (most?) do not have their authors’ best interests in mind. For one thing, their contract terms prove it. Any contract that ties up the authors’ rights for more than a few years and without a clear rights reversion clause is not an author-friendly one. Let’s not forget that many contracts want the rights for the term of the copyright (author’s life plus 30 years).
I won’t go into this further because we’ve talked about it at length in past blogs. You can find these for reading in the TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING category on the left of the website.
We’re not against traditional publishing because, for some authors, it may be the best choice, but do not for one minute believe that it guarantees you’ll do better financially. Traditional publishers (I’m talking about the major ones, here) rarely offer much over 10% in royalties on paperback books, and they currently typically offer 25% of NET on e-books. If a book does sell well, the royalties will usually increase on a sliding scale, and only the larger publishers will offer an advance (and not much of one these days), certainly not life-changing money.
This is old stuff to some of you. If it’s not, PLEASE do careful research and understand what you’re signing BEFORE you sign any publishing contract.
The problem with most traditional publishers is that they live for the immediate future, not for the long term. They prefer to make money fast, not wait years to see a return on their investments, and if they don’t see this potential, they will not offer you a contract in the first place. And should your book not sell up to expectations, they won’t offer you another contract. Ever.
Until about 8 years ago, authors had two options: traditional publishers or subsidiary publishing (often called vanity presses). Scott will be doing a couple of blogs about vanity presses. I know, we’ve talked about these before, but the problem is that too many authors are STILL getting sucked in by these “self-publishing” companies.
But the purpose of this post is to talk about why more and more authors (yes, major ones who had or still have traditional publishing contracts) today are going the self-pub route. First, I’m going to insert another of Kris Rusch’s wonderful blog links here.
The takeaway from this article is that authors who wish to remain true to themselves enjoy the freedom to write what they want to write without Big Brother telling them what they should or should not write. In some cases publishing contracts prevent the authors from publishing on their own without their publisher’s permission. These authors want to bring back their early novels that their traditional publishers have decided aren’t worth selling any longer, yet their fans are more than willing to purchase and read them.
Very few traditional publishers will let you do things your way. They always think they know better, including what’s best for the cover and book pricing. Maybe they do in some cases, but the point is that you will have little or no say in the matter.
Here’s a personal example. When the original version of my first novel was released, the cover designer used a fancy font for the title. Here’s a link to the cover on Amazon.com:
Look carefully at the last word in the title. Does the “C” look and “E” to you? It did to a number of customers when I went out on book signings (which I had to arrange myself; the publisher didn’t do it). When my wife and I saw the cover proof, we pointed out to the publisher that the title was difficult to read (and misread), particularly on the spine. They said the design was a done deal—in other words they were showing us the cover as a courtesy, not because they wanted our approval—and would not change it.
Such things represent ONE reason authors may choose to do it all themselves. Another is that they want the freedom to succeed (or fail) on their own because this is what artists do (as Kris Rusch points out). They assume the risks themselves, but they also believe in themselves and get the full credit for a success. They also have time to achieve that success, whereas traditional publishers don’t give you very long to succeed. As we’ve pointed out in the past, you have months, maybe a couple of years to make it. After that, they consider you a failure. And, by the way, it’s never the publisher’s fault if a book fails. It’s always blamed on the author, even if it was really the publisher’s stupidity that caused it the failure.
Here’s an article on the initial rejections suffered by subsequent bestsellers.
Very few people realize just how many of what are now considered classics were rejected and how many times they were rejected, in some cases by rather scathing rejections.
These authors persisted, but one can only wonder how many of these authors, if writing today, would have simply self-published after a time. Whether they would have been as successful we can’t say, but I suspect that many would have been. If a novel like Fifty Shades of Grey (originally self-published) can make it, then why would Lolita not have been a success if self-published?
What I can say with conviction is that traditionally published books today do not stand a significantly better chance of selling well than do self-published books (as long as the self-pubbed book is properly edited).
Granted, we live in a different world from the one that spawned some of these bestseller successes, but the point is that PUBLISHERS rejected them, claiming that readers wouldn’t buy them (or that they were horrible books), yet when someone finally decided to take a chance on them, it was READERS who spoke up and made them a success.
Self-publishing lets you keep total control our your work (why would you want to let someone else touch it?). It bypasses those opinionated gatekeepers who think they know best, yet time and again they have been proven wrong. More and more new authors are choosing to go independent because they’re tired of being told that their work is no good, and established authors are tired of being told “just keep writing what you’re writing and don’t deviate.” More and more established authors are taking back their older books from their publishers and re-releasing them themselves because they’re finding that there is good money to be made from what publishers believed no longer had viability.
Do not let the presumed prestige of being published by a “real” publisher blind you. You can do it just as well as they can—maybe better—if you put your mind to it.