It’s a lovely day outside, I’m working on BoG 2, and all’s right with the world.
Until, of course, my Twitter/Facebook feed picks up the latest posting from an avowed self-publishing advocate.
“Screw the publishers! Put your work up on Amazon and make money! I have! You can! Why give those nasty New York people a dime when you can sell directly to the readers! Do it! It’s the future! Only idiots go with traditional publishers!”
First, let me explain that I’m not against self-publishing for certain projects. Poetry, for example, is hard to get into print. Certain non-fiction topics are best served by self-publishing, especially when it’s about a specific area. Your audience isn’t going to be the country at large; it’s likely most if not all of your sales will be from the locals wanting a piece of history for their bookshelves. Grandma’s cookbook is another good self-pub project if you want copies for everyone in your family, a wonderful family heritage to be passed on.
However, that’s about where I draw the line. For a variety of reasons.
Let’s start with the authors being victimized by vanity/POD/”self-pub” houses leaping on their dreams like a hyena on a wounded wilderbeest.
Self-publishing is*not* putting it up on Amazon. Self-publishing is BUYING your own ISBN, paying a cover artist to design your artwork and paying for a hard run with a local printer. Self-publishing is getting a professional editor to go through your work (and no, best friends and old English teachers don’t count) and making it better than it was. And yes, that means that you may have to cut that 120,000 opus down a bit. Self-publishing means you hump those books out of the back of your trunk from store to store, trying to find one that’ll let you stock on consignment, or registering with the big houses as a small press so that you can use Ingrams to distribute your work.
That’s a lot of money. And time. But at least you’re being honest about it.
Self-publishing is *not* giving your book to AuthorHouse/Smashwords/Xlibris/Createspace and letting them do all the work. Amazon takes a huge hunk of money every time an ebook sells – that’s how they make money! Just the same, btw, as real publishing houses. And better yet, they get YOU to do all the advertising for the book in question! Wow! Isn’t that great? All they do is toss up your electronic words on the net and scrape a goodly amount off the top into their coffers. And this is supposed to be BETTER than “traditional” publishing? Really?
“But wait!” You say, “I want full editorial control over my baby! I want to choose the cover art! I want…”
There are few people in the world, in the entire span of the earth’s existence, that have burped words onto a page and not had them edited in some shape or form. English teachers have shuddered and screamed through generations of essays where the grammar and content have been mangled beyond belief.
And yet, YOU think that YOUR manuscript is perfect? Really? Without anyone editing it?
And no, I don’t count your mother. Or a good friend. Or even that “professional editor” you paid $2000 to for a rousing romp. Here’s a hint: YOU paid HIM/HER. Do you really think you’re getting the same quality of editing that a publisher would provide, for free? Really?
“But I want my mother to do the cover art! She’s fantastic!”
I’m sure she is. But maybe, just maybe, a publisher may be able to, I dunno, produce a better work of art to grace your cover. Because, you know, they have people there with actual experience and training in producing covers that sell AND have an idea of what to put ON the cover that’ll appeal to the public. Maybe your mother, sweet woman that she is, may not be the best artist to sell your book. Or your best friend who just picked up the entire series of “How to Draw Manga”.
“The editors will mangle my voice! They’ll destroy my vision!”
Look, despite what some indie supporters want you to believe, editors are YOUR FRIEND. They get paid to produce GOOD work for the publisher. They do NOT get paid for taking a good story and tearing it to bits because they’re having a bad day. And maybe, jut maybe, they may be able to make your story BETTER by finding the little inconsistencies and mistakes that you raced over, despite going through twenty drafts of your epic tome. They’re not going to suggest anything that would pull AWAY from your story, unless it’s a huge honking plot point that would bump the reader out of the story faster than a speed bump on a NASCAR track. Editors are not evil.
“But what can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself?”
Oh, I don’t know… maybe get it up on the major websites like Amazon et al without you busting a gut doing so, contacting various sites for hours trying to get it set up. And paying for it.
Arranging for it to go to print. Getting it into the bookstores. Advertising it. You know, all the stuff that you’d love to do for yourself because you don’t want to actually WRITE now, do you?
“But it’s the way of the future! It’s the death of print books! It’s the death of traditional publishing!”
Really? Says who? The handful of writers making money off of their ebooks. And notice, BTW, that most of them don’t give figures. And those that do, don’t say how much went to Amazon.
The current rate for epublishing is about 40% royalties on net, depending on who you run with. For print, 10-12%. And all you have to do is write the book, go through the process with the editor and let the company do the work.
“But that sucks! I’d make more at Amazon! I’d…”
Oh. Right. You don’t make money until you SELL it. And with all the white noise of everyone racing to put their unedited fanfiction-based works up on Amazon, who’s going to find YOUR great story? 80, 90% of nothing is still…nothing.
Folks, part of writing is rejection. And it sucks. Horribly, painfully and without fail. There’s nothing glorious about getting a rejection on a book you slaved over and put hard work, sweat and tears into.
But don’t tell me that with all the epub houses opening up that you can’t find SOMEONE to publish your book. If it’s good, it’ll find a home.
And if it’s not, well… maybe it’s time to put it in the drawer and start something new.
But, please – for the love of God – don’t fall prey to these snake-oil salesmen hawking Amazon and Createspace as the greatest way to make money and sidestep the process. Publishers aren’t going to go away, despite these advocates screaming that the world is about to change.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I may have not gotten into writing to get rich, but I sure as heck didn’t start writing to get poor. And if you go and self-pub, unless you do it the way I mentioned above, you’re going to get poor.
And, really, wouldn’t you rather be writing?