Friday, March 11, 2011

Does Traditional Publishing Really Mean Anything Anymore?

Hey, all! Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by Ju Dimello's blog to catch my interview and giveaway. Just so you know it's still going on until Sunday. :)

**Now back to our regularly scheduled program**

Years ago if someone announced they had self-published a book, writers would cock an eyebrow and look down their noses. Maybe the self-published author would even get laughed at.

Not anymore.

Self-publishing is on the rise (if not already at a peak) and the only people laughing are the self-published authors. And they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

Case in point is author Amanda Hocking who has been in the news a lot. Amanda Hocking is only 26 years old, yet she has 9 self-published books to her name, and sells 100,000+ copies of those ebooks per month. She has never been traditionally published.

Based on an article in the Noveler, you don’t have to be traditionally published to sell a lot of ebooks. You don’t have to be A-List famous, either. Take this monthly sales list of top Kindle indie authors, for instance:

Now those, of course, are the success stories.

We like to point them out because they’re what dreams are made of. Based on those authors, it gives hope as well as an option to writers.

I mean, do readers really care how a book is published if it’s a good book?
Do readers really buy books because of the publisher?

No. Not unless you're drawn to Harlequin category books. Most readers probably buy more according to the author, or the book’s reviews, and/or word of mouth. At least, I do.
More and more traditionally published authors are seeing that too--as well as the advantage of going independent.

Why are more authors choosing to self-publish?

*To have more control over their career

. It’s their book. They can call the shots. Thus, they're responsible if a book is edited and marketed succesfully. Some even hire professional editors. But they're also responsible if it's edited and marketed unsuccessfully. But if they have an established platform, they already do a bulk of their own marketing anyway.

*To increase their sales of their already traditionally published novels—and thus, make more $$$. They can offer their self-published ebooks at a cheaper price than the traditional publishers and those sales can help their traditionally published books.
HOW? If you own an ereader, aren’t you more likely to TRY a new author for 99 cents VS $9.99? Then if you like an author, you’re more likely to buy their other books, even if they’re a higher price.

*To provide a home for books that didn’t quite “fit” into that publisher/editor’s mold or tastes.
I hear more and more stories like this: a traditionally published author writes another book. Assistant editor LOVES it, and talks it over with senior editor. Author goes out and buys champagne in anticipation of sale. Then gets the bad news. Old editor has stepped down. New editor does NOT love book like other editor. No sale.
So…does that mean that book is automatically bad now? Does that deem the book not publishable? I don’t think so.
And now the author has an option.

The huge growth of digital readers and books (as well as social marketing) has made this avenue available for a lot of writers.
Don’t be fooled, though, self-publishing is a lot of work!
(Which is one of the reasons I haven’t considered it.)

However, for some authors willing to put in time and work hard at their craft, it can be a very good career move. And thanks to the amount of success smart writers are having, the line between traditional and self-publishing has blurred. The gateways to publishing aren’t as restrictive.

And whether you embrace or shun it, it’s here to stay.

But if an author is willing to work hard, write a good book and market it smartly, does it really matter in the end HOW it gets published? It shouldn't. A good read is a good read no matter how the book gets into your hands. :)

What about you? Have you thought about self-publishing for yourself?
Do you see a difference anymore between traditional and self-publishing?
Do you think it matters anymore what route a writer decides to take?


Anne Gallagher said...

I know a few authors who went the self-publishing route to moderate success. I know I could never do it. It's too technical for me and by the time I learned how to do that, I'd never have time to write.

I don't think it matters anymore b/c even with traditional pubs they put you out on e-services anyway, either before or after you get the real book out.

In today's world and economy, I think e-readers will be the place to shop for books. It's a hit and miss to what's really out there that's read worthy however.

And you never know, the next J.K. or Stephen might be out there.

Julie Jarnagin said...

I think it's awesome that some people have had success. However, after going through the editing process with a publisher, I wouldn't self publish. I don't think I could recreate the process my book goes through to make it the best it can be.

Chicki said...

I decided to go the self-pub electronic route for all of the reasons you mentioned above, but the main one was financial. I can't see giving a publisher 80% of the profit when I did all of the work to write the book then still have to do marketing and promotion. With Amazon & Kindle I make 35-70% depending on the list price.

After being vetted by two agents who loved my work but still couldn't get me a deal, electronic publishing was a no-brainer.

True, it is a lot of work, but it's definitely worth it!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I want an agent. I don't like math and I want them to do all the math for me. :D

I jest in part, but in fact I believe that is the route for me.
~ Wendy

Debora Dennis said...

What a great post, Jennifer. I do think the self-pubbing has lost a lot of its stigma for all the reasons you've mentioned.

I don't think NY is the be-all, end-all it used to be.

I agree there is room for all types of publishing and all types of authors. It is a lot of work, but for some it's the best move.

I'm still on the fence if I'll jump into that pond or not, but it probably wouldn't take much to push me over the edge.

Joanne said...

I haven't considered self-publishing, but am enjoying reading how it is just thriving, and of how many authors are finding success with it. I mean, when you hear of published authors leaving their publishing houses to self-pub, it definitely draws attention! I love the sense of possibility it gives writers.

Diane said...

I just want to stomp my feet.... I want to hold my book in my hands.... I want to.

That being said, would I explore other avenues, yes. :O)

Linda Kage said...

I think I'm too poor to pay for a nice eye-catching cover or pay for a thorough editor to go over my story with a fine-tooth comb. But honeslty I have actually thought about it. It's become impossible (okay, not totally impossible but very difficult) to find someone who publishes the type of story I just finished.

Liza said...

I think in the next several years an industry will develop to support the efforts of non-technical writers who want to "self-publish." They'll help the author get the book published, take a cut of what the author sells (less than traditional publishers) but given the growing market, it will become a lucrative business to the extent that the traditional pubs will step in to get a piece of it because otherwise they are going to lose too much business.

Cherie Hill said...

This is a FANTASTIC post . . . and an encouragement to those who feel God has led them to write and have difficulty getting into a traditional publisher. I had an opportunity to be "traditionally" published and turned it down for ALL the reasons you listed. What I found is that even traditional publishers want YOU to market . . . it's ALL about networking in order to sell your book. I have absolutely LOVED Amazon's self publishing program CreateSpace. Thank you for such a great post!

Bossy Betty said...

Hummmm....I am torn about this. I have a friend who self-published and I have to tell you I was a little snobbish about it. He has a lot of money so he paid to have his book published. There are great writers out there who can't do that and can't catch a publishers eye either.

Going to continue to mull this over....

Maria Zannini said...

I think it's a lot more work than people realize.

As long as it's a good book, it no longer matters to me how it's published.

Erin Kern said...

I self-pubbed mine several months ago. i had the same problem with one editor loving it and another editor not sure what to do with it ( at the same house). the waiting game sucks! some don't even bother responding to you. Why would I put myself through that when I can do it myself? True, i'm not making a ton of money, but the book is selling and that's better than it sitting on my hard drive.

Nancy said...

A very encouraging post. I would definitely think of self-publishing if my work didn't fly on the regular track.

Dawn said...

I've never really understood why self-publishing has been so frowned on in the past. If I were a musician and produced my own CD to get my work out there, no one would think anything about it. So why not writers too?

I have a writing friend who has been self-publishing for a while, and has been very successful. Now, she does do a tremendous amount of marketing also.

PatriciaW said...

Self-publishing used to mean either using a vanity publisher to the tune of thousands or literally starting up your own imprint. Epublishing was traditional publishing but with a digital-only publisher.

Today, the lines between self-publishing and ebpublishing have blurred because of the availability of technology. I wonder how the "traditional" epublishers are going to fare. The old self-publishing will still be around but much fewer authors will go that way, I suspect.

I might self-publish, but only if I'm sure I'm ready and can be proud of what I release, the whole package, from story to editing to artwork.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I think, at this point, it's still a lot of work to get a better quality book out of self-publishing than out of traditional publishing unless you either have a lot of money or have an amazing internal editor.

But, like you pointed out, there are success stories. And people who are ambitious enough to get their work out there, make it quality, and promote it well, good for them! I haven't thought about going that route and I don't know if I would in the near future but it's nice to know hard work pays off.

Katie Ganshert said...

For every venture, there are success stories and flop stories. The truth is - people soar and flop in self-publishing. And people soar and flop in traditional publishing. The publishing world is definitely changing. Exciting times, Jennifer!

And yes - a good book is a good book is a good book....

Tamika: said...

As a writer, I understand my strengths and weaknesses in respect to the publishing business, and I would benefit more from traditional publishing.

At the end of the day, I just want to place a quality book in readers hands:)

Lydia K said...

Hocking's success definitely got me daydreaming, but for the time being, I'll still try the traditional route. Great post!

Cheryl Klarich said...

So many changes! I kind of like it when things get shaken up a little. More possibilities, more options... It's rather exciting, I think!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm still a traditional published girl (not that I'm published). There're so many awesome YA books coming out through the traditional route, that I barely can keep up with them as it is. Add more alternatives, and I'm drowning.

I'm still nervous about buying a book that has been self-published. Where's the quality control? How do I know it's going to be well written? I don't. I'm more likely to buy a book by an epub (as long as it wasn't created by the author) than a self-published book.

Elle Strauss said...

I'm really happy to see self-publishing become a viable option for writers--as long as they don't skip the edit/editor ad nausium step. That's the biggest danger I see for self-publishers, putting a book out before it's really ready.

Lacey Devlin said...

Great post Jen! It's amazing what technology can do :-)

thepondhopper said...

Love this discussion! It's so great that we as writers now have that much more control in our hands. Trad publish or Self publish? I agree with you; the manner in which we broadcast our message matters not. More choices for readers = more opportunities for writers. Good post, Jennifer!

Heather said...

I loved Amanda's story. There are fabulous self-published books out there, more every day. However, getting one's novel to the level it should be at for any kind of publishing isn't easy. Not just any editor will do. Which is why there are a lot of subpar self-published novels. Like you said, it's HARD work, both on the novel and on the marketing. But as long as the author is willing to put in that work, I say go for it!

cleemckenzie said...

For me, considering self-publishing might be about time. While I've published two YA's the traditional route, I have some MG's that I'd like to have out there. My current publisher is only interested in YA,so if I have to find another publisher who <B's my MG writing, it's going to take away the time I want to write.

Self-publishing is losing it's stigma and it's doing so more quickly than I thought it would.

Rainy said...

I think both self-publishing and traditional publishing have their uses. But, because so few self-publishing routes have any sort of editing requirements, I would be more likely to buy a traditionally published book based on a blurb or review, than a self-published one.

Somehow, even that rule is starting to bend a little when traditional publishers print works like The Road.

Still, I think self-published authors do themselves a great disservice if they don't offer a free sample chapter.

Best luck!


Stephanie Faris said...

The sad thing is, it's turning as I said it would back in the early 90s. The publishing houses are figuring out that everyone wants to read books electronically, so they're taking over the electronic bookshelves. I think with e-books, though, it's easier for self-pubbed authors to push their way in among the books by major publishers, so it does equalize the playing field a bit. I just had always heard from the e-pubbed authors I knew that they weren't making very much. Times must have changed!

Lauren F. Boyd said...

I want to hold a book in my hands that I wrote - and I don't mind waiting to have that happen. Life is so busy in the meantime while I wait to hear from agents/editors that the wait is not that agonizing!

Lauren F. Boyd said...

And BTW: Thanks for stopping by my blog, Jennifer!