People ask why I’m going the self-publishing route instead of the more “legitimate” route of sending Bullet Catch and the rest of the Smoke & Dagger novels through an established publisher. My immediate answer “been there, done that,” isn’t really helpful, so I’ll tell the entire reason that I’m doing it, for now.
Overall, I can’t see what a traditional publisher brings to the table nowadays.
Before the ebook revolution, a publisher was an author’s gatekeeper to the rest of the world. Without a publisher taking a book, editing it, printing it on paper and sending it all over the world, a novel would just be a stack of papers in a box sitting on a shelf in the author’s closet. Because of that, the publisher had all the power, and the Internet is full of stories of how that power was abused.
Some of the horror stories I’ve heard include:
- Draconian contracts that kept a book in limbo decades after they were out of print;
- A series being killed after only the first one was published. The old editor left and the new one wanted to make his own mark and canceled the rest of the trilogy. The writer was stuck with the final two books written and an audience that was waiting for it, but no way to deliver them. No other publisher could or would touch it;
- A larger publisher bought a smaller one and the authors were told that certain important aspects of their contracts — the entire reason they went with the smaller publisher — would now be unilaterally changed by the new owners, and the authors had no recourse.
Then there’s the issue of money. Having previously worked in publishing houses and having seen actual budgets, I was appalled to learn that the guy who put the staples in the book was making more than the guy who wrote it. A typical publishing contract will give you 8 – 12% of the cover price of the book as your royalty. And, unless your name is Stephen King or James Patterson, you have to do your own marketing, so that comes out of your share of the money. Publishing on Amazon’s Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Kobo eReader will get you about 70% royalties on your book, leaving a whole lot more money for marketing, advertising, and you know… paying the rent.
Finally, there’s the fact that bookstores (when you can find one) are deluged by new books. If yours doesn’t sell within a couple of months, it’s taken from the premium shelves and tables where they get exposure, and stacked sideways, where you hope the spine is intriguing enough to grab a potential reader.
The ebook revolution has changed all that, giving the author control over his work, a greater share of the profits, and enough time to nurture a book to market. I put a lot of work into writing this series, and I want it to have the best chance to reach a lot of people.
But all that comes at a price — there is a rocky road to navigate when you go it alone. That’s why I called my company Frontier X Studios.
In my next post, I’ll talk about that rocky road, and the process of being an Indie Publisher.