Sunday, June 17, 2012

Has the Indie Author's Time Truly Come?

I came across an interesting blog by novelist Jon F. Merz this week, where he wrote (and apparently has written) a lot about the changing tide in publishing. You’ve heard it before: traditional publishers are losing their stronghold on publishing and many still refuse to accept that self-publishing is working well for a number of authors. He believes publishers are still spewing a load of BS about the importance of traditional publishing because of better editing and marketing, etc. Merz wrote that of his first four books published by Kensington, only one was edited. He also wrote that the national TV, radio, and print campaign he understood would be forthcoming never happened. Needless to say, he’s now a champion of self-publishing, stating that complete control over one’s publishing career is better, as are the royalties (70% vs. 17.5% his publisher paid). Merz believes this is truly the time of what he calls the Authorpreneur.

An Authorpreneur, he says, is someone who embraces technology that puts them in charge of their own destiny. They study the industry and position themselves to take advantage. They work continuously at their craft and adopt many hats, including editing and formatting, hiring cover designers, and marketing, etc. Merz ends the piece by saying it’s the time of the Authorpreneur and it’s about time, too.

Well, maybe, but maybe not. Not all traditional publishers drop the ball as badly as his did. My publisher edited both of my books. They sent out many advanced review copies, which resulted in reviews I could never hope to gain as a self-publisher. They also have my books distributed through the Chapters chain, something self-publishers cannot do thanks to chain's policies.

Secondly, many of the authors who’ve left traditional publishing to celebrate the control self-publishing offers had already developed a readership, largely due to better distribution and access to reviews self-publishers would kill for. Would people like Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith be selling as many copies today if they were just releasing their first titles now, as self-publishers?

Third, and here’s my main point: a lot of self-published authors don’t want to be Authorpreneurs, aren’t keeping abreast of industry changes, and don’t view writing and publishing as a business. I don’t want to speculate on the percentage of self-published authors who have no interest in working that hard, but I’m guessing that it’s pretty high. Despite technology, ease of publishing, and access to potential readers, it’s not that much easier to sell a book, especially in large numbers, as a self-publisher than as a traditionally published author. Just ask the authors (indie and traditionally published) on Kindleboards who share their stats, good and bad.

The bottom line is that, sure, for many lucky, excellent, or marketing savvy authors, self-publishing’s time has come, but there are plenty of others who are watching from the sidelines, their single copy in hand, wondering how they managed to miss the boat, and whether they should really care. After all, there’s always another book to write, another chance at fame and fortune.


Alison E. Bruce said...

I don`t think it matters whether you are self-published, published by an independent company or with one of the big six, authors have to go in knowing that they will be expected to self-market. Many publishers won`t consider signing a contract with an author who hasn`t already got a social media platform in place.

Writing is a business as well as an art form.

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Alison!