Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Self-Publishing Argument

At my writer's group on Saturday, we had a new member.  A young gentleman who was not yet published, but looking into it.  He had decided, after extensive study, to go the self-publishing route because he had developed a very low opinion of ALL publishers, e-pubs included.  To him, why pay a publisher to put out your book when you could do it yourself and keep all the money?

I know I personally am keeping a watchful eye on what happens with the "traditional" pubs, especially the Big Six, in this day and time.  With all the hoopla going on regarding industry standards and changes.  And I will also admit that my first two books were with Publish America - a decision I don't honestly regret except for the length of contract.  (Hey, my mindset was that I was a crappy writer after being told this countless times.  And PA didn't charge me to pub, so...)

Anyway, back to the argument at hand: 

He was touting iUniverse, and explaining that for $600 he could get (insert list of options I really didn't pay attention to.)  His take on traditional was so condescending, I stepped in and told him how I was with two e-pubs, who also provided POD, and it didn't cost me a penny to become published.  In fact, they pay me.

He proceeded to ask what my royalty percentages were.  I honestly told him around 35%.  To which he replied, "In that case, you ARE 'paying them' to be published."

My reply was that my publishers not only provide my book in many different formats, but they also place my books in other third party venues such as Amazon, B&N, etc.  He said he could do the same thing with his books, but it would cost him $.

"It doesn't cost me to be placed in Amazon, etc.," I told him.

"Yes, it does," he said.  "You pay your publisher 65% of your royalties to do it.  Same thing."

"But a publisher already has a built-in readership," I explained.  "It drives people to their website, which allows me the chance to hook a reader into buying my book.  Not to mention I get a great cover and edits."

"I can also make a cover and have someone check for grammar," he continued.

In short, I felt like I was in the middle of a no-win situation.  No matter how hard I tried to justify being a publisher, he had at least two more reasons why self-pubbing was better.  I've mulled over it for two days now, and that's why I'm mentioning it here.

We meet again next month, and I'm wondering if this will come up again.  If so, what can I say to him further?  I know of at least three authors who have left their pubs and gone independent, creating their own 'publishing houses' and putting their books out on ARe/OmniLit and Fictionwise.

Pros? Cons?  Ideas?

1 comment:

Diana Castilleja said...

In all honesty, let him go the route he wishes. He has a line and has no wish to cross it. i.e. allowing a pub to garnish more of his profit than what he is willing to pay up front.

The largest problem is as a new author, he will most likely never be paid back that initial investment, and won't for several books. I've had over 10 books published (Not to brag, to make a point) and I'm just now seeing a return. That's five years of hard work, publishing, editing and promoting.

He likely will sell, but friends and family will not earn him the investment.

Ask him how he plans to market the book. Amazon's listing is millions of books deep. How does he plan to pull himself out of the shadow, at least in his area? In his genre?

Is he aware no franchise store and very few mom and pop stores will purchase to stock self-pubbed books? Online, that's a no risk situation. Stores are cutting back on NY purchases, self-pubbed isn't even in their budget realm.

He's looking at spending the $600 for the initial set up, and hopefully the cost to have the book professionally editted and proofed, which will increase his investment. So that's close to a $1000 for that first book, and not uncommon with self publishing.

Is he already working on the next book? Readers grow in loyalty book by book, not because a book is created. That might be something he needs to know. Might even know it already.

I wonder who he's talked to about small press that he's gotten such a bad image of them. There are some really good ones there.

I believe his largest misconception is that he will make back his investment and wallow in the money, so he sees the self-pub route to be the most lucrative.

I'd say send him to absolute write, where the tales of sef-pubbers average sales being 10 books over the lifetime of the book might be enlightening.

You've delivered valid points.

You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. And in the end, you've done all you could by trying to educate him.