Traditional publishing versus self-publishing

Traditional Versus Indie Publishing

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It’s amazing how much spam builds up here when you’re not around for a bit. What the heck are raspberry ketones, and why so keen to spam me up with them? Anyway. Day two of my four day holiday, and my plan is to make a vat of chilli sauce and prune my petunias. I’m having way too much free time to ponder though, so I might just get back to work instead. I’ve been pondering my need to do everything myself all the time. I definitely have control issues. I don’t like being in any situation where someone other than me gets to decide what happens in my life these days. Sometimes these things are unavoidable, but I still don’t like them. That’s probably why I’m an Indie writer, and proud of it. I’ve never sent out a query letter, I never will send out a query letter, and I’ve never been tempted by the couple of offers I’ve had from small print publishers. Unless you get offered a fantastic deal, it doesn’t make sense to me to hand over any control at all.

I know that there are lots of authors around who are very happy to hand over the reins, and satisfied with the portion of revenue from the sales of their books that they get, but I’ve also read loads of horror stories, not only about authors not being paid their royalties at all, but also tales of books being priced so high that they have no sales at all, and editing disasters or books published with awful covers that the author has no ability to fix. Sometimes these authors fight for years, and sometimes they walk away from the book they worked so hard on, that only someone else has the power to edit, price, and sell. They don’t even know how much, if anything, that book has made in sales unless their publisher lets them know.

I remember when I first started writing, I was pretty green when it came to the internet, and I still believed in the fairy dust that would be me sending my manuscript to a top five publisher, getting accepted, being paid millions, and soon to be looking down my nose on red carpets at Kardashians everywhere. As I lurked around the peripheries of the scribbler’s world, I slowly came to realise that that was as likely to happen as J K Rowling popping over for tea and biscuits. I figured that apart from a couple of huge success stories for certain authors, the way publishing has always been is that the vast majority of books printed by publishers large and small never make it to the bestseller lists, languish in bookstores for a while, and then get forgotten. I also figured that the most successful authors – the ones that we know and love, like the oft mentioned Stephen King – did not send their first manuscript to a major publisher, get accepted, make piles of dosh, and – the end. No. They worked for years, and years, writing stories long and short, they accumulated piles of rejections, and then they worked and worked some more, before they made it to where they are today.

With the world of Indie publishing wide open for all to play in, I decided on a different game plan, one where I call all the shots. Obviously it makes no sense to expect your very first published book to be an instant success. In the old days you would have submitted it all over the place with your query letters, and very probably had it rejected all over the place too. Just because you can now publish it on Amazon and around and about without needing anyone’s approval still doesn’t mean that readers are going to love it. A lot of what’s published on Amazon is lurking in the self publishing equivalent of a traditional publishers slush pile, whether they are literary gems that just haven’t found the eyes of adoring fans yet, or whether they really are no good at all. They might lurk there forever, but then again they might not. It’s well known that agents and publishers have squizzes at self-published books, and as an Indie author you get to decide what to do with your book at any time. Self-publishing your book now doesn’t mean that you can’t sell it to a traditional publisher in the future, and the fact that you already have a readership could well be instrumental in you getting a good deal in times to come.

Amazon Indie publishing is the best way for me right now though. It’s huge – it’s the future. In fact on a couple of occasions when hunting down books I really wanted, I’ve not bought them because they weren’t available as ebooks on Amazon. Could that be because the author doesn’t want them there, or because their publishers don’t want them there? The way I see Amazon now is as a place where you get to build your backlist under your own steam. You get to earn your author stripes with every book you publish. Those who want to be gatekeepers for what should be allowed to published there are not likely to win. Amazon is what it is, and I for one love it. You’re allowed to make mistakes, and you will, and then you are allowed to fix them. People will buy your books, and read them, and they will be the equivalent of those readers who work for the traditional publishers, and send you form letters telling you that your book has been rejected. Only they’re so much better, because they didn’t receive it unsolicited in the mail – they bought it, they have no reason to accept or reject it other than whether they liked it or not.

So instead of rushing around yelling “Oy, buy my book!”, my plan has always been simply to write the stories that I write, and publish the stories that I write, zoom around the book worlds of the interweb, and know that as I grow as a writer, and as more eyeballs read my scribbles without hating them, I’m on the right track. It’s all about the love of writing, and the enjoyment or not of readers in the end, no matter whether you’re an Indie control freak like me, or whether you get published by someone else. They will either like your books and want to read more, or they won’t. Time and patience are what you need. Time to learn, grow, and publish more books, and patience to wait for the days when readers seek you out without you needing to hunt them down. I reckon, weave the tales that you like to read, and so will others when the time is right, and if they don’t, then weave another or two, and forget the stress and angst.