Thursday, April 3, 2014
Welcome back to the discussion of what to do with a finished manuscript. We talked about last time the traditional method of publishing, using an agent and going through a large or small publishing house. Now we move on the relatively new world of self-publishing, or what is being called “indie” publishing. I will be talking about this fascinating industry for the next three or four posts, so settle in for a long ride. On this particular post, I want to cover an overview, looking at things from 35, 000 feet as it were. I also want to give a little perspective and history from my point of view as well.
First off, let me address the comment from Anonymous. After my last post, he or she had some very nice comments that I want to set straight. I am in no way, nor do I claim to be an expert in this field. I am simply an inexperienced writer about to self-publish his first novel. I have done a ton of research. Because of having the platform of this blog, I want to share the information I have learned. Hopefully I can save a lot of you time and grief.
Okay, onward. Not long ago, and possibly in some circles still today on some college campuses, self-publishing was laughed at. Faculty was taught this because, quite frankly, for a lot of them to get a good quality position, they themselves had to be published. And for them to be published, the university would surely NEVER stoop so low as to accept a self-published piece of work, even if that piece of work sold 100,000 copies. I wonder if that thought process will ever change.
Because that mindset is held by the administration, the faculty trickles it down to the students. The students, therefore, in the past, were taught to think self-publishing was a bad thing, a less than noble thing. Let me give you one example from many I know of that prove that wrong. John Grisham. Grisham was a working lawyer, writing his first novel, A Time to Kill, on legal pads during the day. His wife would transcribe them on to a computer at night because there were no laptops in those days. Grisham tried and tried to get an agent and go the traditional route with no success. He ended up self-publishing A Time to Kill and then selling the copies out of the trunk of his car any way he could to get to the magic total of 10, 000 copies. That is the total on which agents and houses notice you to come sign you.
When Grisham reached 10, 000 copies on his own, agents came running to him, the same agents that turned him down earlier. He ended up signing with one of them. The agent asked if he had another book in his head and Grisham said yes. The agent said start writing. Grisham did. That second book was The Firm, which became an international best seller and launched his career. What happened to A Time to Kill? The agent made a deal with a publishing house and released the book. It did fairly well in sales UNTIL The Firm came out and went nuts, then that book’s sales went crazy too and became a movie as well. 10,000 still seems to be a magic number. If you can hit that number in copies, people come running to sign you.
The success stories of today from people like you and me, which are happening in amazing numbers, goes something like this. Author Joan self-publishes her first novel in 2012. It has moderate sales, meaning it sells a couple thousand books the first year. She puts out another book within a year. She sells 4,000 books of her second book and 4,000 of her first book. Putting out a second book always drives sales of the first one. She then puts out another book faster, maybe six months later. She has a loyal fan base now and word is spreading. She sold, 6,000 copies of the first book, 5,000 of the second, and 5,000 of the first. Guess what just happened? She just hit the magical 10,000 on more than one front. Here is the interesting part of what is going on today. When the agents come running, the new self-published authors of today are saying no to those signing deals. Why?
They are saying no because when you are a self-published author, YOU control everything. You have the rights to your book, you control the royalties you receive, you control foreign country rights, movie rights, everything. If you sign away to a publishing house like the old days, you lose it and get a smaller royalty. Next time we will dive into some of this more.