This past year has seen a huge shift in the publishing industry. The introduction and wide acceptance of eBooks has meant authors no longer needs to jump through the hoops of agents and publishers in order to get their work in front of the people who matter the most—the readers. Where, previously, being self-published meant you’d taken that leap because you couldn’t find a publisher who wanted your work, now authors are turning down publishing contracts in order to put out their work themselves.
I am one of those people. I was first published in 2009 by a small press. I had two novels and numerous short stories published, by a number of small publishers, but it wasn’t until I first decided to put out my own collection myself in February 2011, did I actually start to make any money. Now, a year on, I am writing full time and earning a living from what I love.
Here are the reasons behind making my decision to go it alone:
I’m a fairly prolific writer. If I were going through the traditional process of publishing, I’d have to submit my novel, wait three months to be told ‘no’ because it’s not quite what they’re looking for, submit again to somewhere else, get told ‘no’ because it’s not quite what they’re looking for… Anyway, you can see a pattern forming! Then finally comes the letter or email or phone call, ‘yes’, they want to see a full. So, you send it in, wait another month or two, and hurrah, they want to publish the novel! Possibly six months down the line (and maybe eighteen months after you first started submitting) your novel is finally out there for people to buy. Of course, the publishers may only pay once every three months (though there are some exceptions out there that pay monthly) so it may be almost two years before you actually see any money from your book.
Now compare the self-publishing option. On average it takes me three months to write a full length novel. I then leave the book for a month to let it ‘settle’. I then start rewrites and edits, sending work to my own editor. As soon as the work is polished and beautifully shiny, I simply format, upload and press ‘publish’. Ta da, six months of work is now out there to buy and earning me money.
While we’re on the Topic of Money
This is an obvious one and perhaps the main reason many people opt for the self-publishing route. It was certainly one of my deciding factors, but wasn’t the main one. However, there is no getting away from the higher royalty rates you’ll make if you self-publish. Selling directly through Amazon will make you 70% on prices higher than $2.99, and 35% on anything below. Going with a traditional publisher will always make you less as they’re going to want (understandably) to take their cut.
How many times have you done a blog post, or promo on facebook, or twitter campaign only to wonder if it’s actually had any effect on sales? When you can log into your own accounts and see sales happening in real time, you know straight away what works and what doesn’t. And I’ll tell you what, coming down in the morning and adding up all those sales that have occurred overnight is one of the best feelings. I’m literally making money while I sleep.
One of the things I found most frustrating about being published by small presses was the inability to control my own work. I wanted to try out different things if books weren’t selling—new pricing strategies, new cover, heck, even new editing—but very rarely was I actually listened to. A publisher doesn’t just have your book to think about; they’re dealing with numerous authors. Chances are they’re more concerned about getting the next book out than worrying about how many copies your individual title is selling. After all, a publisher can spread their bets, but you’ve only got yourself. If your book isn’t selling, the publisher can just move onto the next author, but where does that leave you?
Of course not all publishers are bad; some do look after their authors, promote their authors, listen to their authors. And self-publishing is never going to be for everyone. You need to be a pretty self-sufficient personality as you won’t have anyone holding your hand, telling you how wonderful and talented you are, and reassuring you when things don’t quite go to plan. When you self-publish, you need to become your own business and learn every aspect.
But if you think self-publishing might be something you’d like to try, why not come along to the Eroticon conference and have a chat and find out what’s worked for me? So far this month, I’ve sold almost two thousand books. Perhaps this time next year you could be saying the same.