Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Unpublished writers and e-books

Before you even read this, it's worth checking out Nathan Bransford's post on the new species of writer that has sprung up since the start of the move to e-books - the Self-Published E-Book Millionaire.

Lots of people are making lots of money on the Kindle. Some are traditionally published and branching out. But increasingly, young authors (Amanda Hocking is my age - ahem - or at least she is what my age was until it treacherously altered itself last month) are choosing to skip the whole query-cold-sweat-panic-disappointment-repeat cycle altogether, and are going straight to the consumer with their stories.

I'm not even ready to query, so why am I thinking about this?

Because unpublished writers, especially since the world of publishing decided to start blogs and tell us everything, feel we have to think about these things. No one wants to stumble blindly on to the wrong publication path. Elle has a post about choosing to turn away from a publishing house to pursue a career agented by someone who shared her vision for her book as it is, and that post should be required reading for every unpublished writer. She has chosen to pursue what she calls 'the book my heart was really in.'

We have to strive for the career we really want, not settle for second best.

I want to be traditionally published. I grew up with paper books, I love them, I venerate them as cultural objects (I feel sure I stole that phrase from the Guardian. . .). I also want the endorsement that comes from an organisation saying 'Yes, we will invest money in this person.' Mostly, though, I want editorial input from someone experienced.

If I can't have those things, I'm happy to look into other options. There is nothing wrong with being successful through self-publishing. I'll be very happy if that is what happens for me. But I am going after my first choice first.

I can see why self-publishing would be someone's first choice. There is so much more control, creatively and financially, and it has proven very lucrative for lots of authors. It just isn't my first choice, but it's a close second these days.

How do you guys feel about self-publishing? Is it your first choice or your last resort?


  1. Self-publishing would be a last resort for me. I know it's a relatively intelligent gamble, but I'd still prefer the security of a publisher and the knowledge that there will be a book in a store somewhere with my words in it.

  2. That is a good point - if your promotion goes badly and you're self-published, there's fewer people you can ask for help, and no one who is as invested as you are.

  3. I think Amanda Hocking made a good point on her blog about self-publishing ebooks: a lot of work goes in to it, especially on the marketing side - so much so it eats into her writing time.

    There is also the point of 'self published ebook' does not automatically equal loads of money. Much like regular publishing there are the very few multi-million bestsellers then there is a large bulk of midlist. I think sometimes people forget that not everyone will make tonnes of money from it, in fact most will make very little.

    Self-publishing will no doubt work very well for some people and I'm happy for them but I'm still on the pro-publishing side.

    Side not: I might be a bit bias what with working in publishing and all.

  4. Potential bias noted :)

    Yeah, the average number of copies (or e-copies) sold for a self-published author is still very low. That said, if I couldn't sell a book any other way, I would still consider it as a better-than-stashing-it-under-my-bed option. I don't think traditional publishing is going anywhere though.

  5. I think the most important thing is to go for the goal you want--you said it best:

    "We have to strive for the career we really want, not settle for second best."

    We also have to recognize what we want to do with our words for the long term. Sometimes walking away from one opportunity, even a good one, is a good idea if you know in your heart it isn't the writing you want to continue. This courage, this self-knowledge, can lead to the RIGHT opportunity coming your way. One where you will write the books you were born to write and have them published.

    Self, E, Print--it's personal. I have a dream to be a category romance writer. I loved the books when I was a teen, and I love them now. They are what I was born to write.

    Go for the brass ring!

  6. I agree with you entirely Ellen. I really am looking forward to being published traditionally. I love the feel and smell of a good paper novel..I actually have an e-reader, and I have used it to read 3 or 4 books.Do you know where it is now? Its battery is dead and its sitting in my closet.
    I have to charge the battery to read it. I have to get a wi-fi signal to buy a book...
    A paperback novel never gives me these problems.
    When I read I want to escape life.
    Not struggle with it's dead battery and glared screen.

  7. Christine, even as I wrote that line I was thinking 'I bet Christine will agree with this one. . . !' :)

    'We also have to recognize what we want to do with our words for the long term.'
    Definitely. Long term, I want mine out there. Yes, professionally edited and in print would be the ideal for me but if that doesn't work, I want them out there. But every writer has to make that decision for themselves as you said.

    OfficeGirl, I have to say I love my ereader - but then one charge lasts for a month and the screen doesn't have any glare, which definitely helps! But that being said, I am very careful with it because if I drop it, I'll damage it, which is only a problem with a paper book if you read in the bath. I have a friend who is a computer scientist and he reckons the book has never been bettered as a sytem of user interaction, and when you think about it, he's right. It's small, comparatively cheap to produce, easy to ship, easy to use, doesn't strain the eyes or the wrists, and totally intuitive. Much as I love my Kindle, I don't see books going anywhere :)

  8. Thank you for a really interesting post - lots of food for thought there. I'm listening to opinions from all sides right now as I'm still a newbie writer.

  9. Glad you found it helpful, Margo. I recommend reading that post of Nathan Bransford's. There are quite a few self-published ebook millionaires now, but the majority of books are still sold in shops.

    Also - I am a superficial cow and freely admit this - someday I want to be able to tell people I got a book deal. 'I uploaded my novel this morning, hopefully it will sell. . . ' just doesn't have the same ring. Although I suppose 'a million people bought my self-published book and I am the newest blogosphere celebrity' might do it :)

  10. I think it definitely is a very personal thing. Myself, I don't know enough about marketing to consider self-publishing as a primary choice. I certainly don't have the time or contacts to carry out all my own marketing with much ease.

    And of course, no amount of Kindle sales would feel the same as looking down at an actual book in your hands with your name on it. :-)

  11. Yeah, I definitely think self-publishing would be out with a baby on the way and a full-time job :) The amount of self-marketing required is huge.

    And yep - the name on the cover is very important!

  12. Thanks for the post...I'll definitely read Nathan's article...I'm currently working on a novel and have been trying to decide how best to market it when it's done(if it's ever done)!


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