Posted on 2013-Jun-21
Since the ongoing debate about self-publishing and traditional publishing is not going away anytime soon, I feel obligated to investigate what the news agencies are up to. Referring to the heated discussion between GoodEReader’s editor-in-chief and self-publishers, we can see how self-publishers march in unison in revealing how much more work they have to do to be discovered. Apparently, traditional publishers must have felt a lot of pressure from their self-publishing coworkers who are flooding the market they once dominated. Perhaps, they do not need to fret since self-publishers can sometimes switch their route.
Amazing Traditional Publisher’s Offer
Amanda Hocking, self-publishing icon whose books have sold more than 1 million copies, made up her mind to release her next book as she was offered by a traditional publisher, St. Martin’s Press. Although Amanda does not abandon the idea of self-publishing in the future, what is important for her now is to focus on the writing rather than reliving the burdens most indie authors encounter: formatting, marketing, editing, etc. Her new series is expected to be released next year. Her Watersong series were also scooped up by the same traditional publisher since 2011.
Horror Stories of Kristine’s Misery
Kristine Kathryn Rusch, award-winning author, has a sad story to share about her traditionally published experience with the same publisher mentioned above. Back in those days, writing from the perspective of a male black character destroyed her chance of becoming a successful author. Her main obstacles originated from her own publisher who made a final decision how unmarketable her book was. The real problem stemmed from the fact that her gender played a pivotal role in discrediting her story and thus should not see the light of the day. How can a white woman write about a black man? They even thought about hiring a black actress to play her during the book tours. The publisher even tried to categorize her book under African-American “instead of mystery section where they belonged.” Eventually, the publishers halted the book production despite the reader’s demand to buy the books. Kristine was “devastated” when she had done the best she could for her book and readers liked it. Her publisher became a particularly uncontrollable factor to destroy her chance from releasing a potentially marketable book.
With the wave of eBook revolution, she did not have to worry about the mistreatment any longer when she started her own publishing house, WMG Publishing. She knows her audience, market, and the independence to be free from traditional publishers’ limitation. Why would she need the mediator to judge her by her look instead of her skill?
Audacity to Choose the Opposite Direction
Unlike Amanda Hocking’s decision, Polly Courtney chose an opposite direction and went back to her independent roots. Her experience working with HarperCollins left her extremely disappointed. Previously, she was delighted to be signed by one of the Big 6 as if she had won the golden ticket. What happened was her book was wrongly categorized under the typically popular genres “misery lit” and “chick lit” when her subject matter is much deeper. The problems added up when she found out about her editor and the lack of a marketing budget, not to mention the “frivolous” book covers and renamed titles.
Challenges Make Things Better
Courtney traces her steps back into self-publishing and addresses its pros and cons. Its advantages allow her to experiment with design and actually choose the editors by herself. She can be more flexible with pricing. The bad points go to bad quality of editing, design, and promotion as evident in aggressive book promotion hashtags (#buymybooks and the like). Competing against traditionally published colleagues can be formidable since traditional authorities are controlling the award/PR outlets. Also, to reach her targeted readers obviously requires a greater challenge. Against all odds, she loves the challenge.
Treat Your Self-published Books as a Baby or Startup
Coincidentally, I tuned in to watch GoodEReader’s Indie Author Debate via Spreecast on this morning and caught up with the last bit of the discussion. Once the discussion ended, I had to wait for a while to watch the entire video again. Apart from the lively debate between Michael Kozlowski and Mercy Pilkington, Miral Sattar-BiblioCrunch’s founder-thoughtfully compared self-publishing to an author’s baby or a new startup. If authors are not careful enough with raising their child or developing the business, chances are they will not likely produce something sustainable in the industry that is currently going through a major transition.
Michael also shared some good points as he pictures self-publishing as a ‘formative stage’. He raises an interesting question how readers can discover indies-only titles in the saturated market. Still, Mercy emphasizes readers’ responsibility to make a decision which book to stay and we should be more open-minded about this transition. If self-publishers really ruin the literature and flood the market with low-quality books, then why will the mentioned traditional publisher court Amanda Hocking? The simple and quick answer I might offer here is the ironically bestselling profitability. Profitability is where good stories are.
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