Much Ado About Self-Publishing
Writing in the indie world is an uphill climb. Many excellent writers, glorious storytellers with magical mysteries flowing onto pages, are never seen. Manuscripts being sent for review with high hopes. The only response received… rejection after rejection. Dashing hopes, and sometimes silencing dreams for good, these struggles plague many authors.
There is quite an argument surrounding those who choose the indie route, claims that they are not real writers or vanity published. The argument goes further to contend that writing is not a real career, except in the rarest of cases. Writing in all forms and more specifically the novelist can indeed, not only a career but a rich and fulfilling one. Self-published is not vanity publishing, on the contrary, it is full of possibly the hardest working authors out there. In vanity publishing you pay someone to publish and distribute your works but an indie must wear many hats. From writer to editor, cover designer to publicist; the indie does it all. Overcoming the stigma of the indie author, and with it offering a view into the real world of the indie artist offers the best way to persuade authors to trust in themselves and not give up. Writers are the hardest ones to persuade on this topic. They have very definite ideas about what an author is, it has been one of the largest misconceptions in the realm of the author, and for some, it seems set in stone. Some say there is a difference between an author and writer. Using the logic that states, a person is a writer until a publisher accepts their work, then and only then can they call themselves an author.
Authors should not discount self-publishing; in it the author retains control of the work and the financial gains, it is a means to showcase otherwise overlooked writers and their works. Often, publishers retain larger parts of the money for not only their profit, but to cover expenses of professionals used in the final publication of the book. Authors struggle to make a profit on their arduous work, averaging only about fifteen percent royalties. Yet, even with professional editors, publishing companies can still have published books with major errors. The resources available to writers that have been traditionally provided by the publisher are not as limited as publishers would like them to believe. Options like editorial services and cover art are available from other indie artists and other non-traditional avenues. Companies like Quiet house editing can edit and format the book, for a fee of course. This fee can cut into the author’s profit margin, as can fees for illustrators and cover art. The difference is that the author chooses who to have edit it and how much. Beta readers come from many places and some will read an author’s book in exchange for a read of theirs. Organizations like Indie Books Be Seen and Association of Independent Publishing Professionals, assist indie authors with these services. These are new and emerging services and ones where groups are banding together. Self-publishing means that the author is paid upwards of seventy percent of the royalties on their works, (amazon, n.d.)
While the average royalty share for the author of a book traditionally published is a mere fifteen percent. This has been the traditional standard based on things like cover design, editors, typesetting and distribution when they were much more laborious. (Anders, 2014) The downfall being with self-published works is that now the author must secure these services. Some might say that self-published books have errors or are not as high of quality (and for some this is true), but lately with publishers using editing software, mistakes are not caught before publication from even the best publishing houses. Here we have a real example of ways the author can increase their earnings and see much more of their royalties.
A company has recently emerged, Angry Eagle Publishing Group. It is one that connects author/editors with others, matches producers with rights owners on audio books where there are options for exchange of services can be an option, as opposed to royalties being chipped away. In this model other authors also showcase their peers in social media and other advertising avenues, offering access to multiple avenues available to them. This highlights the point that they can not only influence but control the creative process, while still maintaining a sizeable amount of their royalties. While Angry Eagle is still a traditional royalty paying publisher for some books, other options remain to best suit the needs of the author and the work. Under this new model they allow authors to choose their publishing options with varied options. Ranging in options offering prepaid packages, traditional royalties models, and ala carte services to fit the needs of each. Even now many traditionally published authors, for many reasons, find themselves seeking to go the self-published route and struggle for the rights to their own work and further show the reasons authors might choose this route.
Some great authors were turned down by publishers and self-publishing is often a means to showcase otherwise overlooked authors and works. Some like Lord Byron, T.S. Eliot, Zane Grey, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, and even Mark Twain were turned down by traditional publishing. While most of these well-known authors are now published traditionally, at some point they too were self-published. One such author Michael Prescott, after being turned down by 25 publishing companies decided to self-publish his thriller Riptide. He now finds himself among one of the fifteen self-published authors who cracked the top 150 on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list in 2011. (Donahue, 2013) The point of which is that “Today, authors such as Prescott can bypass traditional publishers. They can digitally format their own manuscript, set a price and sell it to readers through a variety of online retailers and devices.”(Donahue, 2013) By highlighting the ways other writers, who have blazed the indie trail, have overcome the obstacles, we can now benefit from their efforts. The misconceptions surrounding the publishing industry are arguably many. The goal is to sort out these and argue in favor of the self-published author and provide facts that show how the indie world has progressed.
The criers of the publishing world will tell us that the e-book and self-publishing is the harbinger that threatens the end the paper book. It is said that “within 25 years the digital revolution will bring about the end of paper books.”(Morrison, 2013) Anguishing that e-books will put an end to writing as a profession. It is incredibly short sighted to think that moving into the digital age will equate to an end to books. An excellent example is, “Haven’t future projections been wrong in the past? Didn’t they say Penguin paperbacks would destroy the print industry in 1939? That the printing press would overthrow Catholicism after 1440? That home videos would destroy cinema?”(Morrison, 2013) As we move into a digital age we must compete with video games and Netflix, as writers we too must evolve. Many indie authors have cracked the USA Today’s top 150, and many more make a decent living from their efforts. Admittedly though, it is those who possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit that can pursue such endeavors with the most success.
The world of words is fraught with examples of writers, excellent writers, which went largely undiscovered for lengthy periods because of the haphazard ways of the publishers. There is now a massive network of all forms of indie arts that all work together and have successfully challenged the status quo. The resources outlined, and others show a clear correlation between self-publishing and a change in the publishing world. Highlighting the ways authors can make this work for them is one way to outline the options. Showing the ways authors can benefit both monetarily and with intellectual content helps them make an informed decision. Finally, it becomes an option for the little-known author to expand their readership.
In conclusion, the argument that Indie authors are not real authors is based upon outdated resources and flawed information. In showcasing the differences between both, highlighting the pros and cons of each will provide the writer the relevant information to determine which route is the best choice for them. Authors who ignore self-publishing options suffer because, many who have blazed the trail have had enormous success. By seeking and contributing to the support of other indie authors, they cannot only benefit but contribute to this emerging digital era. There is a clear bias in the world of authors, a bias exhibited by sources such as the NY times best sellers list. The only way to change this is to become better writers and create works that, like Edgar Allan Poe, who had to self-publish his first works, can challenge the status quo.
Resources on the subject
Donahue, Deirdre. “E-books Are Already Creating a Self-Publishing Revolution.” E-books, edited by Debra A. Miller, Greenhaven Press, 2013. Current Controversies. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Self-published Authors Find E-success,” USA Today, 13 Dec. 2011.
Morrison, Ewan. “Digitizing Books Devalues the Work of Professional Writers.” What Is the Impact of Digitizing Books?, edited by Louise I. Gerdes, Greenhaven Press, 2013. At Issue. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?” Guardian, 22 Aug. 2011.