The Latest Column on the Future of Publishing
I am nothing if not trendy
I have seen a large number of articles recently about The Future of Publishing. This may be because I spend much of my “I’m promoting my book” time hanging out on Twitter with other writers, but that doesn’t mean the question isn’t being put out there a lot.
I have only a a little bit to say on the subject but first, I’d like to clear the air on a couple of things.
- Immortal is not self-published. It is also not being published by a vanity press, nor is it a publishing company I created specifically to publish my book.
- Hamel Integrity Publishing is a very new company. New, as in “it didn’t exist legally until about eight months ago.” The goal from the outset has been to get the first set of books into the marketplace as soon as could reasonably be possible.
- If you have heard of my novel and decided to determine its merits based on a Google search of the publisher, you will find there is currently no web page and precious little else online about them. This is not because they are a scam, or a vanity, or a figment of my imagination. Once again: they are very, very new. That’s all.
I was asked this weekend why I “chose” to go “that route”, meaning why I opted to publish with a new company. This question appears to presuppose that I first turned down offers from Random House and Bantam, or that perhaps I didn’t knock on those doors. This, as you know if you’ve read earlier entries in this blog, is a silly question. The decision was not “small, new publisher or big established publisher.” It was “new publisher, self-publish or shelve.”
Which brings me, finally, to The Future of Publishing.
There was a point, not all that long ago, when I had to decide whether or not to self-publish Immortal. It had already been passed on by all the major publishers, and I wasn’t having any luck finding a new agent to either A: try it again as a rewrite to the same publishers or B: bring it to the smaller ones. At the same time I was too happy with it to want to put it on a shelf, and I thought it had significant “cult success” potential to it, and self-publishing was fairly easy, if not cheap.
So I asked around. The question I asked was, “what are the chances of selling my next novel to a publisher if my last novel was self-published?” From multiple sources the answer came back: “unless you can sell 5,000- 10,000 copies yourself, good luck.”
Self-publishing was a mark against me in the eyes of the entire publishing industry, unless the book became a runaway success.
It seemed as if the industry as a whole was saying, “not only do we not want to publish this, we don’t want you to publish it either.”
The Galileo Effect
While the idea that self-publishing could be inherently detrimental is grossly unfair, I sort of understand it, because of the Galileo Effect. In science, more or less any time someone has a crackpot idea they firmly believe to be true but which is not accepted as such by anyone else, Galileo is invoked: “they didn’t believe Galileo either” is the argument. The problem is, almost without exception the idea really is a crackpot idea that is just flat-out wrong, and the claimant is simply deluded.
(Aside: In science, the last person with an idea that was misjudged as crackpot was probably Alfred Wegener and the theory of continental drift.)
Self-publishing has a lot of Galileos: “My novel is brilliant, and if the establishment doesn’t believe me, I’ll prove it to them!” And ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the novel isn’t brilliant at all.
The hypocrisy section of today’s blog begins now
Of course, Immortal actually IS brilliant. (You don’t believe me? That’s what they said to Galileo, you know!) One of the reasons it sat for six years is that I didn’t want it to go out as a self-published novel with a small following that disappeared after a few years. I wanted to get it out there into stores and in front of as many eyes as possible, because it deserved to be, so I put it away until I could find a publisher– a real publisher– that could promise me those things.
Also, I didn’t have the cash to self-publish.
POD, E-Publishing and the Death of Publishing Houses
And at the same time Immortal is finally getting its day, apparently the publishing industry is near death, killed by any number of poisons.
It’s not true– the business model is evolving certainly, but not dying– but what IS true is that the opportunity for non-traditional publishing has expanded tremendously with the advent of e-books and Print-On-Demand and inexpensive self-publishing.
Despite having been one bad night of drinking away from being a self-published novelist myself, I’m not positive how I feel about this. I mean, the problem with everyone being able to publish is that everyone can now publish. And while there’s no way to say this without sounding unbelievably arrogant, not everyone deserves to be published.
Now, it’s very possible that self-publishing is less stigmatized than it was a few years ago, and it’s also very possible that the books being turned directly into e-books and what-have-you are solid books that deserve your time. And I’m sure some of the writers I’ve met on Twitter have written them.
But there’s a reason I have to qualify my description of Immortal with “it’s not being self-published” so often. I’m not the only one looking at the difference between house-published and self-published: the readers are too.
I like your new website! (I think it’s new, right?)
Interesting post- especially given that you’ve been in this long enough to see the landscape change.
I’m very lucky that in my genre (trashy romance)it’s very common for authors to have books out through small e-book/POD presses before, and even while, publishing books through larger publishing houses. I’m not sure how self-pub is viewed in romance. I’d guess the opinion is similar, or maybe slightly less negative than in other genres.
If I were writing in another genre, I’d be determined to go directly to print.
But I do think the prejudice against people who self-pub is a little silly, particularly for folks who self-published several books. I mean if an author self-pubbed 10 books, that at least means they can get words on paper, right?
Good luck with the release! Got anything else in the works. Maybe Immortal 2- Immortal-er?
Depends on your definition of new. It’s a few months old.
And yes, the second Immortal book is already written, along with another unrelated novel. A third Immortal book is what I’m working on now.
Excellent blog post. I like the clear statement you make – not everyone deserves to be published. Even though I’m absolutely in love with the concept of self-publishing, I completely agree with you!
My reasons for being in love with self-publishing, I should mention, aren’t because of an overwhelming hate for traditional publishing. I might not like some things in traditional publishing, but truth be told self-publishing just sounds cool. I like the idea of working on it all my self, having complete control. I really don’t care about best selling status. Even if my novel is brilliant, and I hope it would be, if only my friends read it I’d be happy. Maybe I shoot low. I think many assume that people go self-pubbing just because they hate the traditional route. There are so many reasons for going one way or the other.
And again, I completely agree with you! The world of publication isn’t dying, it’s just evolve. And thus far, I love the results.
Something i should have mentioned, but didn’t: I actually AM self-published, just not as a novelist. My The Other Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook went out through iUniverse. It may be that one of the reasons I’m averse to it is that I’ve already done it once, and it wasn’t enough for me.
At this point I not only hope to be a best-seller, I’m disappointed to not be one yet.
Another factor in today’s publishing is that many smaller independent houses were gobbled up during the merger-mania years, or could not compete with the newly merged giants, and the BIG houses now want blockbusters. They’d rather pay big money to a non-author with a “name” than pay for content.
One of the things I learned when Immortal was being shopped was how many of what I thought were independent publishing companies were actually imprints of larger corporations.
Before I published my first book, I did a lot of research on all this. Since last summer, quite a bit has changed. What -hasn’t- changed, is:
I have to do the majority of the marketing/promotion for my book, regardless of who publishes it.
To my understanding, unless the book becomes a bestseller, it has a shelf life of about 8-12 weeks before they yank it.
Traditional publishers take something like 90%.
So in my mind, I’m paying the traditional publisher for… prestige. Because I’m doing all the rest of the work. Yes, they (might) give you a snazzy cover, and yes, they’ll edit the dog out of your script. However, that does not guarantee a bestseller. Sometimes, the stories the ‘elite’ put through aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
How do I know this? Because in the past month, I’ve put down 3 books from ‘bestselling’ authors that were horrible. Right down to the editing. Awful.
As a reader, I’ve learned that it doesn’t take one of the Top Five to tell me what’s good, and what isn’t.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.
What -has- changed:
eBook purchases have exploded the past 12 months.
Amazon offers authors 70% on a $2.99 priced ebook. Say what? An author actually making money? Egad.
Traditional publishers are scrambling. Oh yes. There is proof all across the board. One of the ways this is most obvious is how they are attempting to force readers to pay for an ebook that costs more than a mass market print copy. I’ve also seen speculation that an author won’t get a contract unless they sign over their e-rights.
In my humble opinion, an author who gives up any of his ebook rights is not just foolish, but isn’t doing his/her homework.
I’ve read numerous authors publishing their own work who are making quite a decent income just off their ebooks.
No, not everyone can or will have Joe Konrath’s success (see his blog for hard numbers, he’s got them in spades), but the number of independent authors breaking into the top 500 on Amazon’s bestseller list is steadily climbing.
The readers should be the ones deciding what’s good and what isn’t, and with the advent of ‘samples’, people now have the option to try before they buy.
Brilliant. As if that wasn’t enough, Amazon even offers refunds if you just hate the book that much and need to return it.
The risks a year ago didn’t seem worth it to me to query anyone with my manuscript, and I can honestly say that I feel twice as strong about it this summer.
Brick and mortar bookstores have taken a huge hit. It’s not theory, it’s an inescapable fact. Everywhere I look, there’s talk of ‘downsizing’ and ‘cutting back’. Which will make the competition for shelf space absolutely fierce. Do I think B&N etc will disappear off the face of the earth? Probably not.
But I do think the landscape is shifting. How readers buy print books, is shifting. And certainly, the opportunities being offered to authors is definitely shifting.
I’d rather have total control over my work and 70% profit rather than 8%.
Thanks for posting such a great topic!
your entire response is marvelous, but the one comment about a shelf life of 8-12 weeks sent a shiver right through me. Ye gods.
Great post here. I love how you lay it out. I get accused of being self-pubbed all the time because no one has heard of my publisher. I chose small-press mostly because they fit what I had to offer and they were great to work with. I also looked at self-pubbing but decided I didn’t want to go that route. As it is, I get a great cut of the sales of my book and a lot of control plus I have the benefits of having a real publisher.
I’ve posted elsewhere (and got slammed by the self-pubbed authors on the list) that the biggest advantage of having a publisher is you get better editing. Think about it. If you pay the editor yourself, like the self-pubbed authors who bother to hire an editor, are they really going to tell you the honest truth about your manuscript? Nope, because that might mean no paycheck for them. If your publisher hires the editor, they know they can tell the author the truth without jeapordizing their paycheck. My editor made me cry more than once, but my book needed it. I needed to be told that it wasn’t as great as I thought.
So I’m with you on the small-press blues. Self-published books have a bad reputation because they’ve earned one. There are gems, wonderful books, but the vast majority of them are terrible, poorly written, and completely unedited. Wait, that describes a lot of the “best-sellers” on the market…
The number of small press publishers out there is also fairly large. I really looked at self-publishing as “okay, if I REALLY have no other choice left at all, anywhere, ever.”
Thanks for the comments!
Self-pubbing works well for niche non-fiction books. I’ve got friends with some very good success going that route. But for fiction? Not unless I had exhausted every other choice. And then I’d wonder if I really had a book worth selling.
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