As we move into the months where book sales are traditionally slow, I’ve been hearing self-published writers express the feeling that they feel “lost in a tide of crap” and “it’s so much harder to gain traction now than it was two years ago” and “you might be better off with a traditional publisher”.
Is self-publishing about to come full-circle?
Here are a few of my thoughts about this:
1. It’s right that the early wave of self-publishing had a lot of luck. Ebooks were new, self-publishing was exciting, and a couple of writers had phenomenal success. There weren’t as many books to choose from, and Amazon sweetened the deal with the Select program that helped many writers sell thousands of books. The industry is maturing. It’s not so exciting anymore. Books are again about telling a good story and hooking the reader, and Amazon has whittled away any unintentional advantages gained by giving away massive numbers of books. OK, what’s new? No one said it would be a picnic.
2. The “tide of crap” argument. This makes me uneasy. Yeah, OK, there is stuff out there that probably shouldn’t be, but implied in the “tide of crap” statement is that your books aren’t going to be judged part of that “crap” by someone else. Guess what? So please, spare me the downputting terminology. There are a lot of books out there. Reading is becoming much more diverse. I think this is a good thing. I see people express the feeling that they’re tired of standing in the Amazon stream and shouting to be heard. But I think if you’re trying to do that, you’re not doing it right. People buy because of word of mouth. So let Amazon be and work on creating word of mouth through the three B’s: Be there (on Facebook and Twitter etc), Be interesting (by posting about whatever interests you), Be genuine.
3. Self-publishing is about seeing some money from your work, and traditional publishing is about gaining traction in a different market. I passed a milestone recently. SFWA considers a novel a “pro” sale when you’ve received more than $2000 as advance. Some time this month, I passed that for Fire & Ice. The book still sells every day. The other two volumes are not far behind. Neither is Watcher’s Web. All these books are still selling, and this is what keeps my motivation going.
4. Being published is hard work. Many people will try and give up.
I think that a lot of people who jumped into the self-pub market will drop out because they become discouraged, but the vast majority of those will be lost as writers altogether. That is not that different from how it has always been. Self-publishing has just made this whole process more public.
Nothing has changed except the technology.
Patty writes hard Science Fiction, space opera and fantasy. Her latest book is Trader’s Honour, in the space opera series The Return of the Aghyrians. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date with new releases, remember to sign up for Patty’s new release newsletter. The image in the header of this post is the new header for Patty’s Facebook page, where you are all welcome.
Your last sentence says it all … and I’d add, ‘and what readers expect from that technology’.
I figure self-publishing will settle into a state of equilibrium in a few years, unless some new game-changer comes along (“fiction retroviruses – your registered nurse can administer an injection to encode your DNA with the latest Dan Brown thriller…”)
I know you’ve got the pro sales to qualify for SFWA in any case, but the question just occurred to me: do they consider self-pubbed sales figures for membership purposes?
No, they don’t. They’re still debating, and I don’t see anything change. As such, they’re fast losing relevance, because many people are like me, hybrid authors, and many of the newer authors tend to not bother with sending their novels to publishers or agents anymore.
Mmm, thought as much.
I really like your outlook on this. Honestly I never got why people wanted to take the Amazon shortcuts or belittled indie books in blanket statements. There are books that shouldn’t have ever been published. Fun fact: you could probably name a few in traditional publishing as well. Like you said, it’s all perspective.
Also congrats on the milestone. Now if only SFWA would count self-published authors.
Belittling and talking down is stupid and fails to acknowledge that each side can learn from each other.
I totally agree. Besides, someone (and I forget who at the moment) said all writers are in this together, so why try to attack each other? There are better things to do.
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