Why best selling authors are choosing self-publishing.

I have had a couple of conversations with authors recently who wanted to know if I could help them get an agent and publisher. I am not opposed to publishers; I think there is room for lots of publishing models and self-publishing is not for everyone. Knowledge is the key and I shared some of this info with the authors.

When we started self publishing with Sinclair’s first book – The Reluctant Detective in 2010 – it was still seen by many as the poor man’s publishing option. Sinclair heard statements like, “poor you that’s a shame you had to self publish!” It never felt like that for us – we saw it as an exciting time, of change, taking control and creating new opportunities – fulfilling a dream that Sinclair had to see his book finished and on sale. His dream continues with 7 books self-published and over 100,000 sales.

There is no doubt that the times have changed – with the technology of ebooks and the stores, especially Amazon, open to authors to allow them to reach readers direct many are choosing self-publishing as their first option. Here at Indie Authors World, we are delighted to have helped many authors fulfill their self-publishing dreams, with 3 books launched over the summer months and more in the pipeline.

Although there are still some (mainly the big publishers) who cling on to the old model of the world – many traditionally published authors are now looking at their own situation and going indie. I came across a very interesting article by Karen TravissUK author of military games and comics whose credits include Halo, Gears of War, Batman, G.I. Joe, and Star Wars – that highlights many of the down-sides of traditional publishing.

Karen explained her rationale for pulling her novel, Going Grey, from the publisher was straightforward. After a number of changes in the publisher’s schedule, she was now looking at a 2015 release for a book that she’d already had to rewrite as real-world events kept overtaking it as time dragged on. She needed the book out by summer 2014 the publisher said they couldn’t do it.

Being in control of your own timescales is a big plus for the indie author. Having spent lots of hours, writing, editing and sweating over your book – do you want to wait another year or two to have it on sale? It can be published in weeks not months or years.

For some writers being “published” is validation of your work, it gives a sense of worth. I know the authors we support want to feel validated too, but that sense of worth and respect in the written word must start with you – the writer. If you believe in your work, if you like your story and are proud of it then stand tall, be brave and let the world meet your “baby”.

Karen wrote, “If you’re a musician, an artist, or you work in comics, independent production’s been part of your professional landscape for much longer. Nobody thinks third-party validation is necessary; everybody knows it’s about creator control. I realise some writers want the validation of a publisher. Please take it from someone who’s had it that the only approval that counts is the reader’s.

Does being under the roof of a publishing house guarantee a successful book? No is the short answer. The publisher hopes it will as your book is their route to profits but there are no guarantees. With marketing budgets cut to a minimum your book has a very short time (6 weeks or less) to sell or it is dropped in favour of another.

With self-publishing you are responsible for all your own marketing. It can be daunting but it’s a marathon and not a sprint. You are not going to ditch your book in 6 weeks. There are loads of free ways to market your book and we are exploring how to make marketing easier for our growing community of Indie Authors.

Publishing is packaging and distribution,” says Karen Traviss, “readers rarely care or even know who your publisher is, though. Why should they?”  Whilst I agree, I also know that packaging and distribution are essential to make your book attractive and create routes for people to buy it. Karen already had a lot of knowledge of the industry and no shortage of skills to find her own path. First time self-publishing authors can struggle to get to grips with the cover, book layout and formatting and if you get that wrong then even the best story can be overlooked. Then there’s a lot to learn about how the distribution process works.

We created our Bookcamp training programme to help indie authors fill that gap in knowledge and offer an alternative to being totally on your own or seeking a publisher. Learning to create professional packaging and decide the best way to distribute your book, keeps you in the driving seat.

So what about money? Gone are the days of a six figure advance from a publisher and being treated like a rock star (if they ever existed). If you have dreams of earning big money with your books the reality for most published writers is very different.

In fact, Karen quotes “ how naive I’d been to think Big Publishing would look after my interests because I made money for it. Unless you’re one of a small handful of mega best-selling writers, you’re not the one getting rich off your work.”   Publishers have a lot of people to pay from your book proceeds before you and it seems that somewhere along the line the industry seemed to forget the producer of the work is the heart of the business.

The Author Earnings Report has been tracking sales and earnings for over a year now and in their July 2014 report concluded: “We can now say that self-published authors earn more in royalties than Big 5 authors, combined.”

Another interesting fact about signing up with the big publishers is how long they want your rights for. Karen Traviss’s experience is fairly typical – sign away all your rights for the lifetime of the copyright. As she said “ that’s 70 years after you’re dead – marriage may last as long as ye both shall live, but even death won’t release you when you wed yourself to a publisher. And if they screw up, you can’t normally take your business elsewhere without an expensive lawyer.”

Traditional or self-publishing it’s your choice but make it an informed one. And what of the authors I met up with? I am pleased to report that they have opted for self-publishing and I will be sharing their book info soon.

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