Sunday, 20 May 2012

Self-Publishing: A Last Resort For The Desperate?

A dwindling number of writers today still consider self-publishing an avenue of last resort. They equate it with vanity publishing and believe it's a sign of failure if fellow authors are forced to take this route. Not so long ago I held the same opinion and thought that even publishing through a small epress was preferable to doing it on my own. I've since changed my mind, and although I still plan to submit full-length novels to trade publishers, I'm more than happy to publish shorter pieces myself.

The main reason for this is exposure. It means very little if you manage to secure a contract with a publisher but no one buys your book. My romantic suspense Shadows of Yesterday is currently languishing in the 700,000s in Amazon, and will slip over a million very soon. My publisher was great to work with and they have many successful authors on their books, but my novel has not taken off. On the other hand, my self-published novella Prude & Prejudice is currently selling between 5-10 copies a day on Amazon. Which would you prefer?

Unfortunately this relative success has not equated into sales for my other books, but I do understand that this is a waiting game and the more books you have, the more chance you will develop a reputation that leads to more sales. Another reason I've chosen to self-publish is because I love the fact that I have complete creative control over what I have written. It's so much fun choosing a cover and making all the decisions about how your book will be presented.

Whether people like it or not, self-publishing is here to stay, and more and more books on the bestseller lists are going to come from authors who have chosen to do it on their own. I believe self-published authors will be forced to make use of freelance editors and cover designers and the quality of self-published books will improve over time. At the moment it's a bit of a free-for-all out there, but this is unchatered territory, and sooner or later readers are going to start demanding that certain standards are met.

 It's great to see the publishing power structure being shaken up a bit because publishing houses are notoriously conservative and reluctant to take chances on books they don't think will be commerically successful. Hopefully more original and ground-breaking books are on the horizon that challenge genre conventions and reshape the world of fiction. We live in exciting times for publishing, and I'm very curious to see how this pans out over the next few years.

In terms of my own self-publishing adventures, my novella Desire of the Flesh has been free for 48 hours and has been dowloaded 400 times. This is pretty reasonable considering it isn't even showing up in the free search for US Amazon (not sure what's going on here but will have to get onto Amazon about it), so I'm guessing most of these are from the UK where it reached 17 on the free list for Fantasy/Futuristic & Ghost. Hopefully this promotion will lead to at least a few sales of the other novellas in this series. I also have another romantic suspense that's ready to go as soon as I get the official rejection from Carina. Obviously I would love to be published by Carina, but I don't think it's going to happen with this one. Keep you eyes open for Fire Mountain, coming soon!

Here's an article from the Huffington Post about the rise of self-publishing. The general consensus on the writer's forum where I posted this article is that the animosity between self-published and trade-published authors is greatly exaggerated, and this is journalistic shit-stirring at its worst.

What do you think?


  1. I do think self-publishing is here to stay. I actually just wrote a blog post about the animosity between traditionally published authors and self-published authors. There is a bit of an internal fight going on, but I do think the article is exaggerating. Self-published authors need to get better at what they do. The handful of really great works out there are being overshadowed by the not so great ones that are flooding the market. When the quality improves, I think people will change their attitude.

  2. Great post! In my experience, and I have a lot of writing friends who are traditionally published and a lot of writing friends who are self-published, there really isn't any hostility. It's hard to be a writer, and we're all happy to cheer each other on.

  3. Nice post. I just read a blog post yesterday about the difference between an indie author and traditionally published author. This particular indie author had a temper tantrum which the media apparently chalked up to another typical indie rant. However I believe that it's unfair to categorize indies in a bad light because of a few bad apples. My hope is that over time, indies will be taken more seriously. I love being in control of the content of my book as well as the cover. I couldn't imagine someone telling me what to do with my creativity.