Monday, June 6, 2011

The Winds Of Change: Self-Publishing

Isn’t amazing how things change, isn’t it?

In 2008, the new technology, Print On Demand, was becoming more readily available to not only small independent publishers but also individuals. There were those authors who had gone the self-publishing route, and may I add, with the prevailing attitude from their peers of lips curled. I knew many who had decided to publish their books as e-books. Attitudes were better but there were still those who sniffed and declared these authors weren’t “real” authors—as borne out by some writing associations and review sites.

On the sidelines, a close eye was kept on these bold and daring authors and small independent publishers and their failures and successes.

In 2009, e-books were on the rise and by early 2010 print books were fighting for equal footing in sales, as traditional publishers scrambled to make the new technology work for them.

Around this time some of the traditional publishers were starting to put out trade paperbacks of some of their authors and not just mass paperbacks. Business wise this makes perfect sense with digital printing, especially with exorbitant cost of returns. Trade paperbacks became more acceptable (which is funny when you consider trade paperbacks are the norm in other countries). While e-books had grown to a thriving business, and were beginning to level the playing field, trade paperbacks published with traditional publishers still had national exposure that self-published and some smaller independents didn’t.

What the traditional publishers had to their advantage—and still do—is distribution on a national level, in-house editors, cover artist, and active PR departments. Oh, and let’s not forget carrying the cost of the all-important, ISBN numbers and distribution through companies such as Ingrams (not cheap).

The latter part of 2010, we started to see the winds of change. Traditionally published authors opting to go the self-publishing route for many reasons; not the least is the ability to publish stories they know will be read even if their publishers initially shot down these books as too risky or not marketable. Another reason was allowing the authors greater profits on the e-books, longer shelf life, and basically, greater control over their work.

Having said that, these established authors have something debut authors don’t have, a name and a healthy readerbase. That’s not to say a debut author can’t build that, but for a debut author to think they can achieve the same results initially is comparing apples to oranges. Everyone has to start out on the ground level and build their business. Building a readerbase is no different.

Another thing to keep in mind is quality editing still has to be done, ditto on good cover art, because regardless if the book is electronic or paperback, we’re drawn to well designed covers. This means hiring an good people, epecially a good fiction editor as a new author, to assist so quality work is put out. Authors have to count the cost both in time and in outlay of money when considering self-publishing.

As authors, is POD technology (e-books and trade paperbacks) the way of the future? Of course. I said it back in the latter part of 2008 and it’s even more apparent now. How we get there is still being defined and refined. And it’s exciting to see. I admire those daring serious authors and independent publishers who were ahead of the pack. I have nothing but respect for those who are now forging ahead and breaking new ground.

  • What about you? Have considered it?
  • Or have you done it already? Be interesting to hear your opinions. 
  • What do you see as the pros and cons with regard to your work?


Louis Shalako said...

My plan was to print up 100 paperbacks and get them into local bookstores. This plan had no real chance of success. With e-books, I now have three novels, a collection of short stories and a couple of shorts out. It was done with a lot of labour, virtually cost-free. The big disadvantage of doing everything yourself is that no one is good at everything. Right now I don't want to publish anything without a really good marketing image, (free) and so I wait.

Anonymous said...

It's true that established authors who go the epublishing route have an advantage over other self-published authors, though some strictly self-published authors manage to do well. But then, there have always been a few writers who won the publishing lottery no matter what the format. For the rest of us, whether indepently published or self-published, it's a matter of playing the waiting game. I wish literary success were more a matter of pluck than luck, but as with so many phases of publishing, luck does seem to deal the cards.

~Sia McKye~ said...

That's a good point, Louis. No one is good at everything. Being aware of that, is the first step. Helps an author decide on when they need to bring in professional assistance.

Building a reader base is the same for authors regardless of how they're published. It's getting your name known in cyberspace. It takes a plan, persistence, and time to achieve.

As you say, it's free. If we want an image, we have to make it.

Anonymous said...

I recently left iUniverse as they were the only ones making any money of Breakthrough. I am refining the setup with Amazon's CreateSpace. I can offer Breakthrough for forty percent less and make more than twice the profits.

And thanks for stopping by and saying hello!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Stephen, I appreciate your thoughts. I knew you would have some thoughts on it.

I've heard Create Space was the way to go. More versatile.

Let me know how it goes. I'm cheering you on!

Other Lisa said...

I'm super-happy with my publisher and hope to keep going on the traditional path—but I do have some things that don't fit that "brand" that I may choose to self-pub in the future. I think a lot of authors will be doing some variation of that.

Jowake said...

I think it takes a lot of courage to self publish, but at the same time it must be very frustrating when you cannot find a publisher and you feel your book is worth being published.

I am having problems commenting on your website for some reason Sia. So now I am anonymous. Jo

~Sia McKye~ said...

Pat, some authors do indeed do well regardless of the format. Luck and being in the right place at the right time also seems to plays a big part.

I've always been a proponent of learning your craft and knowing the market and putting out the best product you can.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Lisa, I think there will be many authors, as you say, willing to self publish those stories that don't currently fit their brand. I happen to think that a smart choice.

Personally, I think authors who are willing to try new things keep their writing fresh.

The main thing I'm seeing here is a change of attitude towards publishing formats. It can't help but give greater versatility to both authors and publishers. That's not a bad thing.

aries18 said...

Hi Sia,

Great topic and very timely. For myself, of course, I'm not published and that is a goal for me, whether it turns out to be traditional or otherwise. I agree with Louis, in that no one is an expert in everything. My biggest concern is editing. I've read some self-pubbed work that sorely needed a 'real' editor and it showed! The subject of cover art is important as well and needs to be in the hands of a professional if at all possible.

For me? I'm still struggling with getting the words down on the page (screen) and in the right order. I aspire to have the problems of finding a publisher whether it's a tradtional one or myself doing it.

Helen Ginger said...

With more and more of the work shifting to the writer, and more authors taking on the responsibility and doing their own publishing, it's getting more difficult to get noticed and bought. Thus marketing becomes a huge factor and another weight on the writer's shoulders. It can be so much work that some writers fall down on writing the next book.

Marilyn Brant said...

Sia, I'm so glad you wrote about this today -- it's very timely for many of us! I just released my first eBook, which I've been working on polishing and prepping for months (e-publishing definitely takes A LOT of work!), even though I'm traditionally published and have another print book coming out later this year.

There were a number of reasons why I wanted to do it, though. To have control over the timing of a release was one of them. It's 14 months between my Kensington novels, so I liked the idea of having a release midway between them. Plus, On Any Given Sundae (my eBook), is very much a light, summertime story. I wanted it released in June or July. If I sold it to a traditional publisher, I'd have no say whatsoever in when it came out.

Also, the traditional publishing imprints that used to focus on short romantic comedies in the 55-60K word range don't really exist anymore. I remember Harlequin's "Flipside" line fondly...but after it was discontinued six years ago, there hasn't really been a new one created to take its place, so I had nowhere I could even submit this book.

And, finally, because it's a romantic comedy not my usual women's fiction, it's a sidestep away from my primary genre. Not a huge step -- I still write contemporary stories and still try to use a lot of humor in both -- but, on a bookstore's bookshelf, the novels would be in different sections...

So far, I've got to say, I really love it! It's *wonderful* to have options like this as authors. IMO, great stories are great stories regardless of format. ;)

Tonya Kappes said...

Oh, Sia! I love this post. It has been a very fun and learning process. When I started writing, I never thought I'd go Indie, but when some things happened, I did. And don't regret it at all. Will I continue, yes. Will I accept a BIG OLE offer from a publisher, yes-BUT it better be a good one or I won't.

I wanted a book as close to a big six publisher as I could get. I did invest in an editor, please have a couple beta readers, and paid for my covers. Luckily, my DH is very techy, so he's my guy for all uploads.

I do have Createspace to print my books and not Lightening Source. There are reasons why I went with Createspace, and you can see my reasons on my grog The Writer's Guide to E Publishing.
In three weeks, I sold eighty print books and over one-hundred and fifty ebooks.
I'm excited to see what happens when I publish The Ladybug Jinx in a couple weeks. I hope it boosts sells even more. I love hearing from readers.

Although anyone can self-publish, you have to have a great book, great cover, and really watch those edits or you will not have the following.

Karen Walker said...

Hi Sia,
This is such a touch issue for authors. I tried to get an agent for 1 1/2 years and had no luck. I wanted my memoir to be read because I thought it might help others dealing with similar issues, so I self-published. I spent a lot to hire editors, cover design, etc. so it would be professional, and it is. But because I am a debut author with no name recognition, sales are minimal. My book came out in 2009 and I am still thinking about whether it makes sense to turn it into an ebook.

Gayle Carline said...

I went with an independent publisher for my debut novel (a mystery). I will always be grateful for the experience, but ultimately, it was not quite what I had in mind. While I was writing the second book, I had a book of humor essays (I write a weekly column for my local newspaper) looking for a home. I decided to try out Createspace, Kindle, and Smashwords. It was a positive experience, so when I couldn't find an agent/publisher for the second mystery, I decided to try the self-pub route again.

With both books, I hired professionals to make certain they were as good as they could get.

One of my much-more-successful writer friends gave me the best advice ever about the self-publishing business: It's a marathon, not a sprint. The days of a book having a shelf life are over. My books will be out there for new readers to discover for a long time.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I do appreciate the honest feedback here.

Karen, in my opinion, you should make your memoir available in e format. You're right, a lot lessons to be learned in your story.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Tonya, thanks for the honesty. I do think Creatspace is the more versatile of the two.

I appreciate feedback from authors who have chosen this route, especially debut authors. We know the authors with a following already will do fine, but hearing from newer authors give a more accurate picture.

I loved Carpe Bead 'Em. The work you put into telling a great story, the format, editing, and cover art,was very professional.

I'm really looking forward to THE LADYBUG JINX and the whole series.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Gayle, what great bit of advice! "It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Great analogy because preparing for a marathon takes a lot of prep work to get in the best shape you can be. Writers have to do the same. While you might tell a good story the first time in print, everything we write is practice for a long run career. We get better with each story we tell.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Marilyn, it makes perfect sense to me. I think there will be more authors doing what you are. You seem to have the best of both worlds.

Hilary said...

Hi Sia .. it is interesting isn't .. it sounds like you need to start with a drop in your local sea, and watch the ripples spread out .. ie get your marketing to start locally and then get picked up 'further out' through almost word of mouth, or sister publications etc .. and keep adding new drops ... to spread the word ..

I watch with fascination and learn .. cheers Hilary

PS re Jo's comment above .. if you could unembed the comment box then Jowake who commented above would be able to get their gravatar back up - me too .. as I have to type in my name, and then my URL to be able to post.

Blogger changed their template coding .. and it's messed things up for some of us .. others have done it and it's helped hugely .. cheers Hilary