Thursday, April 14, 2011

Self Publishing: Why I Changed My Mind

AKA, "Is she nuts or what?" ;)

I'll admit it. 

I used to think "self publishing" was a dirty phrase.  It conjured up images of people who got suckered into buying a few thousand dollars worth of books from a vanity "publisher" and then ended up trying to sell them out of the trunk of their cars.  I did not want to be one of those people.

Money should flow toward the author, not away from it, and I'd never heard of anyone making money with a vanity press except the presses themselves.

Recently, I learned that self publishing is not what I thought it was.  True self, or Indie Publishing, has recently been made possible by the explosion of products like the Nook, Kindle, and Sony e-readers.  Hell, even by the iphone!  Authors can upload their books and sell them directly, often receiving 70% royalties with no up front costs.


Why did I not know about this?  How did I not get that the e-book explosion has officially changed the power dynamic for authors?

Honestly, while I was writing and editing and learning all about the publishing industry, the publishing industry was changing around me.

Today is a brand new day, and the world of publishing is a brand new world :).  E-sales are dominating in a way they never have before, and I'm helping them by downloading fistfulls of books to my iphone, even though I swore I'd never enjoy digital as much as print.

Hell, I bought a Nook this winter.  And I *love* it.

Before making my decision to have a go as an Indie Publisher, I did some research, and it was hearing from these authors and bloggers that really made me do my 180. 

Author J.A. Konrath is a huge advocate of indie publishing, and has basically made a total killing off it, as opposed to going with a traditional/legacy publisher.  Check out this amazing, in-depth conversation he had on his blog with author Barry Eisler about Barry's decision to turn down $500,000 to self publish.  It's a lengthy read, but FULL of incredible information.  Worth it, for sure.

They both give straight talking sales numbers, and even answer commenter questions in this second blog discussion.  There are even graphs...... I love graphs!

Then I thought "Pfffffft, maybe this is only a viable option for fancy, luckypants writers.  I wonder if there are any folks in the comments section who are regular Joe Authors with similar experiences." 

Turns out, there were!  There were plenty.

For example, Sarra Cannon decided to self publish her YA series a mere five months ago and has already sold 13,000 copies and counting.  13,000.  If she's selling her books at $2.99 for the Kindle, she gets a 70% royalty.  Logically, this means she could have made $27,209 in five months.  All on her own.  As a newbie author.  (Disclaimer--I have no idea about the money she's made, I just know she published 5 months ago and sold that many books.  I am just making a point that a total newb has already sold more books than many a debut author could dream of selling.) 

Publicist and wife of successful author Michael J. Sullivan, Robin Sullivan has a blog post comparing two mid-list genre authors, one who was published by a legacy publisher, and one who chose to self publish.  There are charts there, too.  Sweet, sweet charts.

In a nutshell, she discovered that the traditionally published author with several books out wasn't quite making a living wage, while the self published author quickly went from $800/mo to $12,000/mo with sales holding steady.  They both have comparable books and backlists, yet one is living the writer's dream.  He got to quit his day job.

I don't plan on striking it rich, and I definitely don't want to be famous.  All I've ever wanted out of my writing career is to be able to stay at home and be a Full Time Writer.  Oh, and not starve while doing so ;).

It seems to me that indie publishing my work is the most practical way to accomplish that goal.  And how cool is that?  Now, I can rely on my own hard work for my success, which is something I'm very comfortable with.

I'm gambling on myself... and it feels great.


Jacob said...

Let me know when and where to buy!

Rebecca Knight said...

Thanks, Jacob! :) Will do.

Rebecca said...


Steena Holmes said...

I think there is a world out there that will shock us when we take the steps into the unknown. You can do it! I know I'll buy ;)

Simon Kewin said...

Yes, it's an exciting world and there are possibilities. Problems too, of course : in my experience you need to put quite a bit of effort into the publicity side. But then, I suppose 'twas ever thus.

Rebecca Knight said...

Rebecca: I think so, too!

Steena: Thanks so much :). I think you're right--once you step outside of what you think you "know" there are a lot of opportunities.

Simon: I bet I'm going to encounter new and unique problems I never thought about along the way. You know what, though? Good blogging material ;). Hehehe.

Tere Kirkland said...

This is so informative. I'm very excited for you!

Can't wait to hear more about your journey.

Rebecca Knight said...

Cool, I'm glad my links were helpful :). I know this was one long winded post!

Coolkayaker1 said...

Anyone ever hear of Kathryn Stockett? Debut novel The Help, 2008. Sold over one million copies each year, two years running. Excellent book, by the way. So, if she made one dollar per book (likely made more), she has made over 2 million dollars off the one book so far. But's still selling. It's not over's still a bestseller. But wait again, it's not over even yet: it's being made into a movie. Yes, Hollywood wants's hotter than cast iron poker. So, debut novelist, 2008 release, is going to sell warehouses more of her book when the movie tie-in edition comes to play.

There are so many more examples it's mind-boggling. Matterhorn, war book, being optioned for film now, already a bestseller (and high praise), debut author.

Of course, Steig Larssen continues to rack up the sales, with nearly 1.9 million Hornets Nest books sold in 2010 ALONE for the one book of his trilogy ALONE. If only he were a love to see the freshly minted trucks backing up to his door.

To imply that all traditional publishers give an author is formatting and cover art is patently foolish. They give superb authors access to interviews (see Stockett's website for her interviews with everyone from Time magazine to Katie Couric) and print and video ads and Hollywood.

Will every new author be like these? No. Will every new self-published author be like Konrath? NO!

Here's the March 2011 website with some 2010 numbers. That ought to inspire new authors not yet backlisted by the traditional publishers to give it a whirl.

It's all here, ladies and gentleman. Publisher's Weekly.

Don't sell yourself short, Rebecca. Joe has played his traditional hand--he will not be the next Stephanie Meyer. You might be.

Rebecca Knight said...

Thanks for this post, Coolkayaker1 :). I love that we're having an open discussion about this.

I totally agree that newbies strike it big in both arenas--just look at Amanda Hocking, right?

However, the data that matters most to me is the data saying that most midlist authors who self pub are making more money than their traditionally published counterparts.

My goal was never to be a superstar or the next Stephanie Meyer--I write genre fiction, for one--my goal is to be a happy mid list author who can make a modest career out of it.

Right now, although both arenas have their lucky lottery-winner superstars, only one has consistently happy mid listers quitting their day jobs :).

I want to be part of group b!

Steph said...

"Honestly, while I was writing and editing and learning all about the publishing industry, the publishing industry was changing around me."

^^This^^ is exactly how I feel right now!! You nailed this post! Well done!