Passive Guy pointed me to a conversation among five New York published authors who have gone indie, and I highly recommend it. Not one of these authors bad-mouthed traditional publishing, though they all cautioned authors to be vigilant when signing contracts and understand what rights we’re signing away.
So much of the current conversation about self-publishing is one sided. What I liked about this conversation is that it gives the reader five viewpoints on the subject of self-publishing, and covers many of the common questions surrounding it. Here are some highlights:
How does self-publishing compare for you to your traditional publishing experience?
Beth Orsoff: I’ve had much more success self-publishing than I did as a traditionally published author. I’ve sold many more books, earned ten times as much money, and I’m able to write what I want instead of what an agent or editor thinks will sell.
Julie Ortolon: No comparision. I love everything about self-publishing. The freedom, the lack of stress, the control. That said, writing under contract for major print publishers was a great training ground. Succeeding at self publishing without that experience would probably be harder for me.
Do you feel your success in self-publishing is due to your “name” created by your traditional publishing history?
Kathryn Shay: Yes, I do. I had fans who were waiting for a new Kathryn Shay book and many of them got my sales started.
Beth Orsoff: Definitely not since I’m quite sure no one knew my name from traditional publishing.
Julie Ortolon: I think my name recognition from my print career helped a little, but no, I don’t think that’s why I’m succeeding so well self-publishing my backlist (with new stories on the way). Fans of my print books already own them, so they’re not the ones buying those same titles as ebooks. The ebooks are bringing me a whole new audience. From the fan mail I’m getting, these readers never heard my name before they tried one of my e-titles. Then they went out and bought the rest. It’s the writing, not the name, that helps an author win with ebooks.
What do you think is the biggest “myth” about traditional publishing?
Kathryn Shay: That once you sell a book you’ve “made it.”
Patricia Ryan: I think the biggest myth is that publishers will promote your books. Publishers do little or nothing to promote the books of midlist authors. They encourage those authors to self-promote, which takes time and costs money.
What about self-publishing? What is the biggest myth there?
Beth Orsoff: That self-publishing is some type of get rich quick scheme where you’re going to upload your book and instantly be earning a six-figure salary. It’s just as hard to be successful as a self-published author as it is as a traditionally published author. The difference is, if you’re successful self-publishing you might actually be able to make a living at it.
Patricia Ryan: I’ll go back to the subject of promotion. Some people think if you self-publish, you’re going to have to spend more time promoting your work than if a traditional publisher puts out your book. As I said before, publishers don’t promote midlist books, so unless you’re a major lead author, you’ll be spending the same time, energy, and money on promotion either way.
Julie Ortolon: That the only reason an author would “choose to” (aka “be lowered to”) self-publish a manuscript is because it wasn’t “good enough” to sell to a print publisher. SO not true! . . . a print publisher’s #1 question when considering a manuscript isn’t the quality of the writing, It’s the broadness of the audience. Brilliantly written stories get rejected all the time because the major print publishers don’t perceive them as having blockbuster potential. That has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Those same stories can be hugely successful and profitable for the author if put out as an ebook. The big winner in all of this isn’t just the authors, it’s the readers. Ebooks equal variety.
What advice would you give someone considering signing with an agent or a publishing house?
Doranna Durgin: Understand enough about both facets of the industry–and about your own personal needs and goals–so you can do what everyone else here has said and weigh the pros and cons in complete context of what’s best for you.