The Internet is full of self-publishing success stories nowadays, countering the initial predictions of doom from the established industry, which felt threatened by the rise of independent author. And rightly so.
Of course, the stigma of self-publishing still remains, but largely confined to fellow authors that have gone the traditional route, or bookstores that still refuse to stock books published via CreateSpace.
The reasons for the latter are cited as being financial in nature, since for one thing, CreateSpace doesn’t buy back books that go unsold. It’s all Print On Demand, and once you buy it – retailer or not – you own it.
This makes business sense, but if that’s really the only issue preventing indie bookstores from stocking the works of independent authors - other than consignment deals, which truly is profitless and pointless – why can’t they just raise the cover price to cover their share?
I think it has more to do with the deep-seated animosity booksellers feel towards Amazon, which has virtually cornered the market on overall book sales, while increasingly attracting enterprising indie publishers, whether solo or collective.
This explains why traditional publishers and authors still resent this rude intrusion by these upstarts and, in their view, rank amateurs.
But readers are having the final say. They are circumventing the long-time gatekeepers and declaring themselves the final arbiters of contemporary literary culture.
And as in most industries, the customer is always right. And you can’t argue with numerical evidence. Sales of self-published books now command a growing market share, and the trajectory and trends are moving upward rapidly.
Another evolving aspect of self-publishing is the fact that many authors are getting together and forming their own imprints, to publish not only their own work, but that of other authors left out in the cold by mainstream standards and commercially (and creatively) conservative sensibilities.
One Is the Loneliest Number, But Two's a Crowd...
Consider these stats in a recent report published at EIN News:
The quickest way to go from a manuscript to the marketplace is with an indie publisher. The reason for the rise in indie publishers’ market share is that there is more to publishing these days than just having your book printed. Publishing now requires electronic books to be submitted to over 70 large online resellers, and most of the marketing and promotion are done electronically; moreover, royalty management, websites, and social media are now all part of the process. Indie publishers are helping authors succeed because they do all the hard work, including publishing, distributing, and promoting a book. Moreover, Indie publishers have experience navigating the world of electronic publishing and access to many more resources than most self-publishing authors do. For example, a self-publisher can get a single ISBN number for about $125.00 USD, while a publisher buys them in bulk, paying only a few dollars for each one. A good indie publisher will take an author through the whole process, helping him or her avoid costly mistakes. Those sales figures are just Amazon sales. Many authors are getting sales from Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and other online retailers, and many are still selling in small indie bookstores. Others sell effectively in person, such as at conferences, readings, signings, etc.
Sounds like a bargain, right? And generally speaking, it is. I know this from experience.
But the bottom line is this: a truly independent author can do everything an independent press can do in terms of commissioned cover artwork, outsourced editing, ISBN purchases, social media marketing, etc. – all by themselves, using the same exact digital tools, and in turn keeping all the profits for themselves.
That is why I’ve already explained why the distinction between self-publishing and small press publishing is less significant than ever, at least from a logistical perspective.
Of course, the benefits of going with a small press still exist and should be carefully considered, especially if one expresses interest in your work. They may cut into your profits, but in return they give you “street cred” within the social circles of the literary community, because even if they are utilizing the same publishing tools to which we all have immediate access, you will be considered duly “vetted” and therefore earn respect amongst your peers, as well as some booksellers and even a portion of the fickle reading audience.
I’ve also explained previously why, having gone both routes, I actually now prefer self-publishing over small presses, except when it comes to short story anthologies. I founded my own imprint, Thrillville Press, after a small press that published several of my books suddenly went under.
This is a common story these days, so make sure to always retain all reversion rights to your work when signing any contract. If that option is not available, you need to accept the fact that if that ship goes down, it may take your work with it.
So how am I doing with my declaration of independence? That more subjective and less generalized “update” is next…
PHOTO: WILL VIHARO