Before I begin, a bit of disclosure: While the following has
been written in an attempt to be professionally and personally non-biased I am
an Associate Publisher for Renaissance E Books.
Now, with that out of the way…
So, should you stay with the traditional model of working
with a publisher or go the self-publishing route?
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking – a lot — about
this. The arguments for stepping
out on your own are certainly alluring, to put it mildly: being able to keep
every dime you make – instead of being paid a royalty – and having total and
complete control of your work being the big two.
But after putting on my thinking cap – ponder, ponder, ponder — I’ve come to a few conclusions that are
going to keep me and my work with publishers for quite some time.
As always, take what I’m going to say there with a hefty
dose of sodium chloride: what works for
me … well, works for me and maybe not you.
Being on both sides
of the publishing fence – as a writer, editor, and now publisher (even as a
Associate Publisher) — has given me a pretty unique view of the world of not
just writing books, working to get them out into the world, but also a pretty good
glimpse at the clockwork mechanisms than run the whole shebang.
For example, there’s been a long tradition of writers if not
actively hating then loudly grumbling about their publishers. You name it and writers will bitch
about it: the covers, the publicity (or lack of), royalties … ad
infinitum. Okay, I have to admit
more than a few grouches have been mine but with (and I really hate to say
this) age has come a change in my perspective. No, I don’t think publishers should be
given carte blanch to do with as they
please and, absolutely, I think that writers should always have the freedom to
speak up if things are not to their liking, but that also doesn’t mean that
publisher’s are hand-wringing villains cackling at taking advantage of poor,
It took finding a good publisher to change my mind … that
and seeing the business from the other side. While there are a lot of things that separate a good
publisher from a poor one the most important one is that a good – and maybe
even great – publisher understands the business.
Case in point: authors love to bitch about their covers –
but a publisher that takes the time to look at what is selling, what isn’t
selling, what distributors will and won’t accept, and creates a cover
accordingly is actually doing the author a service. Yes, the cover may not be an accurate scene from the book,
but it – if it works — should tease and tantalize enough to get people to buy
it. By the way, since this is
supposed to be about publisher versus self-publishing keep in mind that you
would not know what sells and what doesn’t – by the way, the amazon best
sellers list is not a good indication – and so will be operating pretty much in
Authors often work from ego – and there is nothing wrong
with that – but far too often what they want, and what will actually sell, are
polar opposites. They want to see
their work like books they admire … but they also may be completely ignorant
of the fact that while those books look nice they simply don’t leap off the
Being in the trenches of publishing, looking at the numbers
myself, is very sobering. Just
take social networking. For people
in self-publishing it’s the end-all, be-all — you can’t succeed, they say,
without it. But while exposure is
important, many of your FaceBook friends will not buy your book. The people who will buy your book are
looking for erotica they will enjoy – and if your cover, your marketing, your whatever,
doesn’t speak their language then they simply won’t cough up the bucks. It’s a sobering though that many
bestselling erotica books are written by authors who don’t play the social
networking game … at all.
Yes, when you self publish you have complete and total
control – but that also means you have no access to a publisher’s experience:
you will have to do everything from scratch, from learning how to get your book
on amazon, iTunes, etc. to dealing with cover art specs and ebook
formatting. Sure, when you
self-publish you keep every dime – but you could very well spend it and more in
time doing what a publisher does.
And marketing … I totally agree that publishers should do
more of it, but publishers have never been good at that, even before the ebook
revolution. But even a little
publicity from a publisher can work wonders: many authors are discovered not
via advertising or marketing but because their book was put out by a publisher whose
catalog had a best seller in it.
If you self-publish then you are a single voice yelling as
loud as you can – and these days there are a lot of single voices yelling as
loud as they can – and against this din a lot of readers, and reviewers, are
turning a bit deaf. It may be hard
to hear but being with a publisher still carries a lot of weight when it comes
to getting noticed.
Sure, if you’re a huge author then going the
self-publishing route may make a lot of sense, but think of it this way: huge
or not, with a publisher your mailing list, fans, and miscellaneous contacts will
not be the only way people will hear about you and your book – and the cost of
getting more would probably be the same as the bucks a publisher would take.
In the end, though, the decision is yours. If I could leave you with anything,
though, is that while there are many publishers out there worthy of scorn there
actually are many that not only know what they are doing – though experience
and observation – and who can do a lot for you. Often their advice may be hard to take, but if you trust
them they can be a great help – and perhaps the difference between writing a
book that doesn’t sell … and one that does.