Is Self-Publishing Cool?

1015_steve-mcqueen-dead-celebs_485x340I was reading an article last week in the Huff Post that stated that Self-Publishers were the new generation of cool kids. (Click here to read it) This interested me because firstly it’s nice to be cool and secondly it’s nice to be called a kid. I read on and the article actually raises a few observations about the way that the industry has changed, even since I started writing this blog six months ago.

A year ago when I started to believe it was possible to self-publish, the industry was very much in a state of change already. I wrote this post on why I trusted the self-publishing route. Momentum was with the indie author and traditional publishers were looking particularly peaky. It seemed to me at the time that self-publishing was the way to go, and I still have no reason to change my mind.

The Slush Pile

A year ago I was at a literature festival and a traditional publisher was asked, ‘if you found an author that had previously been self-published, would you still sign them up?’ The answer was no. This played on my mind for quite a while afterwards. I was uncertain whether I was shooting myself in the foot by going down this road.

However, in the past year things have moved on again. Not only are traditional publishers willing to sign up self-published authors now, but they actually use the self-published charts as the new ‘Slush Pile’. What better way of signing up an author than to see how commercially popular they are before taking a risk on them? There has already been a number of high-profile self-published authors that have moved over to the dark side for six/seven figure deals.

So, by self-publishing you are actually increasing your chances to be recognised by the traditional industry. But this then leads to another interesting development…

To sign or not to sign?

The power is now with the author. If you are commercially successful on your own with eBooks and paperbacks online, earning a 70% royalty, then what’s attractive about a publishing deal worth about 10% in royalties?

Unless it’s a really big deal that you’ve signed, I’m not too sure how tempting that is. The kudos and status of having a publisher does little for the bank balance. The trend is now moving to a different kind of deal being offered. The author can now expect to maintain the eBook rights on their own and only sell the print copy rights to the publisher. This is the best of both worlds then. You get your book in physical shops and you still make 70% online. Authors win.

Are Indies cool?

Well, to be a successful indie writer you must have discipline, be an entrepreneur, be dynamic, be able to sell yourself and your work, have the confidence to put it out there. It’s quick, but you have to maintain quality and be aware of design. It’s not a walk in the park, it’s a job, but all of these things are pretty cool. Especially when you compare it to the equivalent, a traditionally published author that can expect a book to come out a year after they’ve written it.

At the end of the day it’s not about cool, it’s about what’s happening. The simple fact is that it’s easier to be recognised if you are a new author by self-publishing rather than querying agents and publishers. This is all you need to know.

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5 responses to “Is Self-Publishing Cool?

  1. Good article. Some interesting points, many of which I agree with. How I see them now –

    Self Publishing – constant hard work as you need to output on a regular basis to avoid being lost, no “professional” support (editing etc), retain control over work, very little feedback until you put something out there, probably need alternative form of income…
    Trad Publishing – need luck, hard work (but can be focused on one project or so at a time), lots of professional support and feedback to get a polished product

    When I first started writing (and yes it was with a commercial angle because I want to do something for a living I enjoy (side note: looking forward to your book as I think I’m going to see a lot of me in it!!)) I assumed I would be a small time self publishing kind of writer to start with as I built, not only writing experience, but some commercial saviness about how the industry worked, and go from there. The more I’ve seen/read, the more I believe the market has absolutely no consistency about it with regard to the best route. Admittedly you only seem to see the extremes (“I wouldn’t touch self publishing with a barge pole”, or “no way I’m giving up control of my art to big greedy companies”), but there seem to be success and failure stories in all camps.

    What does seem to be consistent is that:

    * Good stories get read
    * A good persona (online and real world) helps as it does in all walks of life – who you know is just as important as (but not a replacement for) what you know
    * Watch, listen and observe the market – don’t try and imitate latest trends just to get ahead, but knowledge, and the analysis and contemplation of what it means to you, can only help YOU

    Personally, the challenge of being in control (for better or worse), to be self-reliant, to utilise my wider skills as well as my writing skills, to learn from experience. All of that massively attracts me to the self-publishing side of things. But if someone offered me a huge deal to go trad publishing…well, the dark side always has better toys and uniforms.

  2. Pingback: Is Self-Publishing Cool? | Not a natural writer...

  3. I agree it’s all about what’s happening these days. You have to roll with the changes. That’s not only true for writers, I guess. We’re all challenged in many fields to be re-inventing ourselves so that we can meet future challenges. That’s hard work, but it gets you somewhere. It’s the people who are eager to pick up the changes, set them in motion, try new stuff, that I think are – if you want to use the word – “cool”. And that makes sense, because if you’re not into change you’re basically part of the old system that resist shifting the power to a new group (authors, or “the next generation” and so forth) and there’s something very negative about that. It’s the openness and the embracing of change that make it “cool”. But in the end it’s just another word.

  4. Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #31 — The Book Designer

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