SELF-PUBLISHING VERSUS TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING
Full disclosure: I’ve looked into self-publishing. As someone who works in the publishing industry and keeps a close eye on developments, the whole thing has an intriguing prospect. Cut out the middle men! Gain more dineros for your hard work!
I’ve read countless articles, from authors and industry professionals, pointing out the merits of self-publishing (higher royalties; more creative control; instant publishing; direct access to readers). I’ve read just as many pointing out the risks (er, the royalties are less than you think; you pay for everything, including proofreading and cover creation; you have to constantly self-promote and bear the financial risks; you’ve just lost the entire print market for your book, which is still huge).
The conclusion I eventually came to is thus.
I’d have to do this as a self-pubbed author:-
• Convert or pay someone to convert my word document into at least three or four different digital formats, after reading through each formats’ extensive manuals and making sure each version of my word document conforms
• Pay a proofreader – ignore at your peril, even if you produce the cleanest manuscripts in the world (which no-one does)
• Create or pay for someone to create a book cover
• Create or pay for someone to create a website for me, and update it frequently
• Create, manage and build social networks
• Self-promote a hundred different ways in as many channels as I can find, DAILY. This does not stop once published. This never ends.
You know what?
I STILL have to do most of this as a traditionally published author.
With a publishing house behind me, I at least (!) have the added benefits of:
• an advance
• someone else taking financial risks
• someone else converting my manuscript into several different formats
• someone else proofreading, copy-editing and typesetting my work, with my input, to a standard generally considered to be three tramillion times better than most self-published works (warning! Generalisation just occurred!)
• someone else creating a book cover with my input
• someone else promoting and selling the book alongside me, into channels I will never reach by myself
• the print market
I certainly haven’t ruled self-publishing out forever (hear my agent weep into his beer). But it won’t be happening until all those added benefits from traditional publishing go away. Do you think they’ll be going away any time soon?
Not to mention the teeny, tiny fact that if all that monumental amount of work is shared, I can devote more time to writing more books, hence increasing my long-term revenue prospects.
A final note on self-publishing v. traditional publishing: I work hard. Effectively, I have two jobs - one as a full-time bod in publishing (it is hard and it is busy), and one as a writer.
Somehow, between all this, I still manage to have a life that doesn't include books.
My two jobs already take up enough of my time, and I desperately need time outside of all that to enjoy the life that I have. Anything that makes my job easier and gives me more time to have a life, I will go after with grabby hands.
DIGITAL PIRACY AND EBOOK PRICING
Articles I’ve read over the past two years range from ‘what do you expect if you don’t offer digital formats much more cheaply and make them easily obtainable?’ and ‘bloody money grabbing publishers and their ridiculously priced ebooks’ to ‘all digital pirates are complete bastards and get what they deserve’ , ‘ebooks are actually just as expensive to produce, idiots’ not to mention ‘Amazon is brilliant for authors’ or ‘Amazon is murdering the publishing industry and the entire company should be impaled on sticks’.
Some of it is true and some of it is hyperbole.
Some of it is too complicated and too fresh and too fluid right now to tell whether it’s true or not.
No, a hundreds year old industry cannot snap its fingers and change its business practices from the ground up, all the way up, just like that.
Yes, changes need to happen. And yes – there are people in the industry shouting about it. I am one of them. I’m a peon when it comes to the ranks, but I’m trying to make a difference and other far more influential people are already effecting change.
Things are happening. Tor has gone DRM free. Lots of publishers offer free extra content on their digital versions at the same price as the print format. People are innovating and experimenting. I think it looks both scary and exceedingly interesting for the World of the Word.
And a final note on digital piracy:-
I have spent months writing this book.
I have spent more months getting it ready to a point where I hoped that an agent wouldn’t take one look at it and cry at how bad it is.
Ditto for the editor and publishing house we sold it to.
I spend a good portion of my day, every day, on social networks, talking to people because it’s incredible amounts of fun and very informative, but also, full disclosure, for the long-term goal of promoting myself and building an audience.
I will continue to do this throughout my entire career, as long as it is a viable channel. And will take on new promotion channels if and when they become viable.
I will go to events to get my name known. I will not get paid for going to these events. I will pay for them. Maybe, one day, I’ll be in the enviable position of being paid for events.
I will write answers to interview questions, articles, blog posts, status updates and tweets, and even free short stories, all in the name of promoting the book.
My publisher has laid down money on this book, taking a financial risk.
They will edit it. This costs money.
They will copy-edit it. This costs money.
They will typeset it. This costs money.
They will create a cover for it. This costs money.
They will convert it to different formats – be it hardback, paperback or ebook. This costs money.
They will pay storing and distribution costs.
They will spend time, effort and money on marketing, promoting, and selling the book.
This is all for one book.
People who use piracy to download books for free often have good reasons for doing so, and I absolutely don’t blame them for these reasons. DRM, country, device, and format restrictions are a stupid minefield, and I don’t see it suddenly getting better any time very soon. I get it, I sympathise, I rationalise for you. I look at the music industry and worry that we seem to be going the same way.
Yes, I do understand the argument that ebooks should cost a little bit less than printed books. I would also point out there are costs to ebooks that are not immediately transparent.
Also, if you want the same thing in a different format, you pay. I don’t expect to buy a DVD and then receive the blu-ray version for free. I don’t expect to download a music album and then receive the CD version free in the post. Bundling is an option – less overall price for more formats offered together. Yes, and yes. These are all valid points and constantly up for discussion as publishers and retailers experiment to find out what exactly the consumer wants.
But piracy and self-publishing are creating an expected atmosphere where some consumers think that the end product of an artist’s work should be free. In fact, they demand it.
When I see people stating that they download books, music, films etc. illegally for free because they think they should be free, I would like to refer them above to the extensive list of time, work, money and effort that I have put into this book, this book you would like for free… before it even gets into the hands of my publisher. And then all the time, work, money and effort they will expend on it to produce, distribute, market and make as available as possible the product that you would like for free.
Then I would like to say a big fat Fuck You.