Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Self-published authors - Please Quit Picking Fights!

I was talking to one of my clients this weekend and she was saying how her chapter had a guest speaker who was once again preaching the line, "Fire your agents and fire your editors! Do it yourself!" I have to say, since RWA this year I am getting pretty irritated at this mantra we are hearing from authors out there.

Look, there is room for everyone. If you have this desire to self-publish then go for it! No one is stopping you!

I think what a lot of these authors are missing in their argument is that not everyone wants to take this approach. Not everyone has the knowledge of the business. Not everyone has an already built in following from their careers in traditional publishing. And yes, when we talk money, not everyone has the cash to pay for: an outside editor, a cover artist, a marketing manager... and so forth.

When I talked to my author about this, it was interesting to hear a few facts that might have been missed by those in the audience:

  • The speaker WAS previously published and already had a following.
  • The author was spending a lot of her own money to take care of things normally covered by a publisher.
  • The author was spending close to 100 hours a week on the career just to keep it afloat.
When this first idea came out, there was indeed a huge fight (or maybe just a verbal war) between those who wanted to go on their own and those that wanted the traditional approach. But in recent years, that war has seemed to shift to a more one sided approach. The editors and the agents on the traditional side have pretty much stopped. No, this is not because, what I do believe some would think, "they realized they were wrong." Instead, they realized there was a place for everyone.

For myself, I have always thought of this like those people who decide to sell their home on their own vs. those who want to use a real estate company. If you have the time and the resources, and you understand property law and finances, then go for it. Sell your own house. But you know, there are still people out there who would prefer to leave the selling of their home to those in the business.

Now, does this mean if you sell your home one way or the other you make more money? Absolutely not! Everything is on a case by case basis. Sometimes a person selling a home on their own can indeed make a bigger profit. Sometimes they won't. The issue here is that it all depends on a lot of different variables.

I don't want anyone to think that right now, I am doing everything I can to "save my job as an agent." Nope, that is far from the case. My authors are doing really well!

What I am saying is that if you are a person who wants an agent. If you are a person who wants to take the traditional publishing approach, please don't let those other authors discourage you from taking the approach that works for you. Just remember to really listen to the variables the author is using when they talk of their successes taking that self-pub approach:

  • Are they selling their back lists from traditional publishers?
  • Are the using this as a supplement to an already existing writing career?
  • Are they still bringing in royalties from those traditional publishers?
  • How many outside resources are they having to pay (editors, cover artists, etc.) are they having to pay.
I think the only thing I want to leave you with today during this slight rant is:

...There is room for everyone. You have the permission to take whatever route you want to take with publishing. And just because someone isn't taking YOUR approach, it doesn't make them wrong!

P.S. And Romance Writers of American and other larger publishing groups - Please remember to continue to support those who don't just want to self-pub!


  1. Self-publishers would be more tolerant if people like you in the trad community would stop lying.

    No, you do not need to have built your career in the Trad world in order to be a successful self-publisher. That was disproved ages ago. As for firing editors, I have yet to hear any self-publisher say that. 100 hours a week? Say what? That is simply nonsense.

    It sounds like you have your feelings seriously hurt because a lot of authors no longer need your services. Sorry about that.

  2. Oh, I don't think there's any fear that RWA, at least, will stop supporting those who don't want to self-pub. Their history alone mandates they will lean--at least for the immediate future--toward the trade publishing contract as the pinnacle that a writer must reach in order to claim success. I'm gratified that RWA has opened up to more of the permutations--small press publishing, e-books, and self-pub--in recent years, and the dialogues are more inclusive than ever.

  3. There's absolutely room for everyone. But I don't think promoting the joys of indie authorship should be construed as an attack on anyone. It's merely presenting a viable and potentially moneymaking alternative for authors.

    Not one size fits all. And pointing that out doesn't mean we're picking a fight.

  4. I'm an indie author--initially because people like you (and maybe you specifically) rejected my first manuscript. Anyway, what started out as something I did because I didn't have a choice has become something I do in spite of having choices now. (turned down a publishing contract last year for my whole series). The reason I stick with self-publishing is because I don't think I could give up control to someone who doesn't care nearly as much as I do. I couldn't stand to wait around for other people to do things on their time table. I love that I can change my prices in minutes, run a promotion without having to beg a publisher to promote, write what I want and finish writing it without a deadline hanging over my head. And the fact that I get to do all of these things and make more per sale is also pretty sweet.

    If you see these things as attacks on traditional publishing, I'm sorry. Other people may love the idea of landing an agent and a publisher and that's fine for them. I don't take their excitement as an attack on self-publishing, so why should my excitement be seen as anything other than enthusiasm for doing what I love?

  5. Andrew Wylie is a very visible spokesperson for traditional publishing, and he just stated that, "Amazon (is) “the equivalent of ISIS,... and self-publishing (is) “the aesthetic equivalent of telling everyone who sings in the shower they deserve to be in La Scala.”

    I know you do not control the words of other agents, but since you have so publicly asked self-published authors to "Please quit picking fights", will you now ask the same thing of Andrew Wylie?

  6. I agree that there is room for everyone. Although I haven't noticed indie authors picking fights with traditionally published authors. I'm sure it must be happening somewhere but I haven't seen it. I have noticed many attacks on indie authors. In fact, I read a rant against indie authors, just the other day from a writer that couldn't be classified as anything other than bitter. And the week before that I read a column by a book reviewer entitled: No, I don't want to read your self published book.

    As a writer and a voracious reader I'm glad that we have more options for authors to publish. Sure, there are bad indie books out there, just as there are bad traditionally published books out there. What comes to mind here, especially, are those books ghostwritten for famous celebrities and politicians who get huge advances only to sell 500 books. So, traditional publishing is no guarantee that the book being produced is great, just as indie publishing is no guarantee the book is going to be bad.

    Some writers feel more secure publishing with a traditional publisher and are willing to give up a huge chunk of rights and revenue for that security. Great. Go for it. Other writers like being able to call their own shots, have creative control and keep their rights and a much bigger share of revenue. Great too.

    Is either side right or wrong? I guess it depends on the individual authors and situations. I don't condone attacks on others because they are doing something different than the accuser. However, I feel the premise of this post a bit of a stretch because based on my experience I see most of the attacks coming toward the indie author rather than from her.

  7. Perhaps your next blog post should be under the title "Egregious Contract Terms and What We Agents Are Doing About Them." Such a post, full of valuable information, would be a much better service to the whole writing community than telling any segment of that community to play nice with another.