My friends have all been asking me to write a book but I don’t want to self-publish. I bought a self-published book that was awful and I don’t want people to think my book is awful, too, just because I don’t have a contract from a publisher that doesn’t charge authors. But, I really want to write and publish a book. What if I can’t get a “real” contract? What are your thoughts?
I certainly understand your hesitation. I felt the same way at the beginning of my writing career. But, self-publishing no longer carries the same stigma that it did several years ago. Some successful self-published authors earn far more than their traditionally published midlist counterparts. One of my books (co-authored with M.J. Rose) was published by one of the large NYC publishers several years ago and I’ll never go that route again. We landed the contract after self-publishing it, and after proving it was selling well.
They mucked up the editing so bad that we heard one editor lost her job over it. The process took foreeeeeeeever as compared to self-publishing. Think about it. You can get your self-published book to market in just a month at BookLocker.com, but it takes 1-3 years for a traditionally published book to go a book up for sale. If you’d self-published, you’d already have almost 1-3 years of sales under your belt.
And, contrary to popular author assumptions, self-publishing no longer hurts your chances of landing a traditional contract. In fact, if you can prove impressive sales of your self-published book, your chances of landing a traditional contract are greatly increased. Fifty Shades of Grey is one example. It was a successful self-published book and look what happened after a traditional publisher discovered it!
Unfortunately, my traditionally published book was treated like most midlist titles are by traditional publishers. It took too long for them to publish it and, in that time, we lost a ton of sales because their contract stipulated that we had to take it off the market while they worked on the “new edition.” It was a book about publishing online and, by the time their version hit the market, some of the info was obsolete. If we were still self-publishing the book, we could have updated the links and info. continuously but they’d already printed and warehoused thousands of copies.
After it was published, they did almost no promotion, instead relying on us to promote the book (and relying on us to PAY for that promotion). They sent out only a handful of review copies at their expense. They tried to take control over the website we’d created just to promote the book but we refused to let them have it. By that point, we knew we were far better equipped to handle running that website.
Worst of all, the book was about online book publishing and promotion but they never released an ebook edition! Our previous ebook edition was what had been so popular because people could simply click on the links! It was a huge mess and, as I said, I’ll NEVER do that again! I’ve made far more money publishing and selling my own books than I did though traditional publishing.
With regards to promotion, traditional publishers throw almost all their marketing money at their celebrity authors’ books. Profits from midlist titles fund the celebrities’ books. If you’re an unknown author and your book is traditionally published, don’t expect them to put any marketing money behind it just because it sells a thousand copies or so.
Another incorrect assumption by many authors is that, if your book is traditionally published, it’ll be on those tables near the door of every bookstore. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you’ll be extremely lucky to get any bookstores at all to stock your title. Why? With more than a million books hitting the market each year now (most of those are self-published), and with the millions of titles already on the market, there simply isn’t enough shelf space at bookstores anymore. Getting into all the bookstores, and getting premium placement at those stores, is like winning a lottery, except your chance of winning a scratch-off ticket worth a few hundred bucks or more is better than your chances of getting stocked in all or most bookstores.
If your traditionally published book doesn’t sell very well and very fast, your publisher is going to assume it never will and they will no longer be interested in discussing book promotion or placement with you. In fact, you’ll be lucky if you can get them to return your calls. You’ll be all alone, just like you’d be if you self-published. Except, if you’d self-published, you’d still have control over your book, your marketing and, most importantly, your profit potential.
I, personally, would rather have 19 books on the market that I control (that’s how many I’ve written and published) than have 1 controlled by a traditional publisher. But, I have always had a problem with delegation… 😉
Finally, if you choose a good P.O.D. publisher (a publishing services provider), your royalties per book will be higher, much higher, than a traditionally published book. If a copy of your book sells to the public through BookLocker.com‘s website, you’ll earn 35% of the list price on that sale. If it sells through Amazon, you’ll earn 15% of the list price. Both of those are far higher than the paltry 8% you might earn through a traditional publisher.
Many authors dream of having a traditional contract. I would never try to prevent an author from seeking a traditional contract. But, if you don’t land one, you should self-publish. If your self-published book is successful, it’ll then be much easier to land a traditional contract later. If you’re truly too embarrassed to “self-publish,” I recommend writing under a pseudonym.
Should I Self-Publish or Hold Out for a Traditional Contract?
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“I Just Landed a Traditional Contract…Or Did I?”
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Insightful article and comments. Thank you!
It is quite normal for anyone with any degree of ego to be embarrassed to self-publish. However, with so much dreadful writing and sloppy editing around today one could justifiably become equally embarrassed to be known as a writer or editor. I got over that hump by registering a publishing company as a division of my entertainment corporation. Once I did that, I started thinking like a publisher. I now have six e-books of my own out plus my first genuinely published book by a wonderful writer who started writing late in life and unfortunately died just after we agreed on the publishing arrangement. I tracked down her daughter half way around the world and the contract is now with her. Primarily I’m a film producer but now I’ve decided to link each film project with a book – in some cases it will be a book adaptation of the screenplay, in others it will be a matter of developing books that will make good films. In one case, it may lead to mining an endless number of real stories one of which will be somewhat fictionalized for a film that will lead to launching the series.
A very ‘to the point’ and truthful article. I like to see article like this. They debunk the myth of the grand and glorious Big Five (soon to continue shrink to the Big Two).
Now, that being said, there are some great contracts issued and some grand opportunities in that ever shrinking arena. The chances of any one person getting there is as good as winning the lottery (just pick one to win — they are all the same). It does happen — but your chances are VERY slim.
So yes — if you feel it is your calling — go for the top of the heap in the publishing game. It never hurts to shoot for the stars. But don’t forget that sometimes, if you take time to build a good rocket first, you may get a later chance to shoot for that star — after you have ‘test fired’ it once.
Well said. I’m embarrassed by the one book I did with a publishing contract! The publisher (Mansion Grove House) never paid the third installment of my advance, never paid any royalties, and had books printed overseas cheaply with discolored and smeared covers!
With self-publishing, I have control and know I will receive money for my books.A