Monday, 5 December 2016

Three Reasons to Self-Publish





With publication of the fourth Victorian Stride & Cully detective novel (Rack & Ruin), I have now firmly moved into the entirely self-published category. And I been asked once again by several people why I decided not to go with a commercial publisher. 

Here are my reasons: 

1. Control: As a self-published author, I  have a lot of autonomy. I can do whatever I like, publicity-wise, and if you follow me on Twitter (@carolJhedges) you will know that I do. I had very little autonomy with Usborne and OUP and I gather that some big publishing houses like to keep a close eye on their writers so they don't run amok on social media, which could rebound back on them. Also I gather that many houses prefer writers to promote other writers on their list (possibly why I rarely get promoted by Choc Lit writers, lovely though they are).

2. Choice: I  chose the covers of my books, which remind me of contemporary newspaper headings, or theatrical posters. They are designed by a local graphic artist, who is also a friend. I have been told they are reminiscent of very early Penguin covers. They are certainly quirky and different ... just like the stories .. and, dare I say it, like the author of the stories herself! I can also choose and change the key words that help readers locate my books, and I can fiddle around with Amazon's book categories, if I want to. As I am an inveterate fiddler, I do.

3. Cash:  As a commercially published writer of adult fiction I was getting 40% of all ebook sales, less on printed books. As a published children's writer that dropped to 12% of all book sales. As an Indie, I can command 70% of sales. The difference in my monthly figures has been remarkable.

Ok, I know it is all too easy nowadays to write a book, cobble together a cover and upload the finished product to Amazon (actually, it damn well isn't, as you can read here:). Advances in technology have opened up enormous opportunities for self-publishing that were never there when I started writing books, and that is a good thing.

I also acknowledge that inevitably, there is a lot of dross out there and it lets the side down. Poorly written and produced books with typos, badly designed covers, sold at rock bottom prices or given away for free, which is not the way I want to go.

Despite the many ''Hey, I produced a book for virtually nothing'' blogs, the writers of the best self-published books have usually used beta readers, then payed out for professional editing, proofreading and cover designing. It is hard work and not easy and having done it five times now, I can attest to the pain.

But in a world where celebs are sneaking all the good publishing deals, and agents are less and less able to place books (and take 10% of your meagre earnings when they do), I still think that going solo, if you can, is the best and most lucrative way of presenting your work to the reading public. 

So what's your publishing experience? And as a reader, do you ''prefer'' a book that has a 'proper publisher' behind it? Do share ....




12 comments:

  1. I don't care who publishes a book - my criteria are the quality of the writing and editing. I struggle with too many typos or plot holes - so agree completely in the need for beta readers and copy editors (at least) - and the writer in me is rubbish at marketing - but I think the view that conventionally published books are somehow 'better' (whatever that means) is, at last, dissolving.

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    1. I agree ..it was frustrating for writers who were/are excellent to see some of the dross being flaunted by BIG PUBLISHERS ..especially when they then discover the writer 1. Didn't actually write it or 2. Had contacts in the trade.

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  2. I agree with Jo. I've reviewed self-published books for Troubador magazine and most have been excellent. I've read some published by the Big Five and found all manner of disappointments.
    Carol, you are convincing me. How many levels of editorial do you pay for?

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    1. I am fortunate in that my husband ( a systems analyst) does the first edit. Then my son-in-law a pernickety reader, does the second. Pace family, I'd pay for 2 edits, or 1 edit and a proofread (not the same thing) There are lots of good people on Twitter who can help.

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  3. I've looked at this from three sides. My daughter has a kickass agent who generated enough interest in her first book to sell at auction to highest-bidder Random House, and then go on to sell film rights. It's sold well, and the TV series is coming out from Shonda Land on ABC next month. Obviously, as the Mom, I believe that success is 90% due to my daughter's brilliant writing, but there is no denying that her agent has really made things happen.

    I've published my fantasy series with a boutique publisher, and I was absolutely delighted to have them take on all the editing, formatting, cover, release, etc. To me, they've clearly more than earned their 60%.

    Then last year I put some blogs together with new material and released a humor/travel memoir myself. It's been on Amazon, done amazingly well, and my 70% royalty sends me lovely banking statements.

    So which is best? The answer seems to me that every writer and each of their books is different, and so each has a different "best" solution. But the thing that really excites and amazes me is that those various solutions are so accessible. (Well, I'll probably never sell a series to a major producer, but I can dream!)

    I know there a lot of people out there shaking their heads over the future of books and publishing, but as far as I can tell, it's a GREAT future. More people are writing, and most of them are also readers. Very young people are just as committed to writing as old farts like me. And while JK Rowling doesn't have to worry about competition from me, the fact is that along with the crap, an astonishing amount of really good stuff is out there.

    Just look at your books for a perfect example!

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  4. Good post, Carol. The thing I enjoy most about self-publishing is having control over my own destiny. I'm the conductor of the orchestra (me the writer, the graphic artist who does my covers, the editor who makes my writing better). If I fail, it just means I have to work harder. If I was published by someone else and my books failed, there might not to anything I could do about it.

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    1. There would be little..indeed....and if you did not 'sell' enough books, you would be dropped. Happened to me with Usborne. Publishers are greedy they don't want mid-listers, only those who will make them a fast buck. AND it can take years for your book to come out as they have a schedule. I can bring put a new Vicfic every year..when I want to.

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  5. Everything you've said here and all the comments too are nails on heads, CarolStar. Let's not forget big publishers are also not perfect these days.I rarely read a book that has absolutely noediting errors, even from the big guys, so Self-Publishing should not be singled out for poor editing and proofreading either.

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  6. From Anne Mackle: I don't care who publishes the books I read either. I have read some really poor books published by big companies most jumping on the bandwagon of stories of sweet shops,bakeries, coffee shops or bookshops,they drive me mad. More
    power to you Carol for standing out from the crowd.

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  7. It's the freedom that I like the most. That means everything to me; I would hate to have to write to the formula specified by some publishers, however much I earned from it. I actually don't think I could do it. I write because I want to, and if I want to follow a psych thriller with a post apocalyptic series then back to a family drama, that's what I'll do.

    In the late 70s and 80s the music business became totally big business, too, like the publishing industry is now. That was when the 'indie' scene started. Alas, there seems to be a greater market for 'indie' rubbish in books than there was for music; all the rubbish was and still is put out by the large recording companies. But I imagine that one day in the future (quite a long way off), most of the amateurs will fall away and try some other way of making money, and self-pub will gain the better image that it's just beginning to find now.

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    1. Hope so. I have to say that many of the 'small so-called' Indie publishers seem to be putting out badly edited books...also larger ones. Husband of the above, now EDITOR & PROOFREADER is continually spotting typos, repetitions etc in commercially published fiction.

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