By Cari Schaeffer Conversations with Cari
Self Publishing – that term causes a lot of confusion, angst, and strong emotions in The Industry. I doubt my two cents – worth half a penny when adjusted for inflation – will cause a cataclysmic shift, but I hope to give you some food for thought.
I want to clear up what Self Publishing is and what it is not. Currently, there are three ways for an author to get their work into the hands of readers:
• Traditional Publishing
• Self Publishing 1 – Vanity or Subsidy
• Self Publishing 2 – Indie
Note that Vanity/Subsidy and Indie Publishing are separated under the umbrella term Self Publishing. I want to be very clear – they are not one and the same. Bundling those terms has unfortunately caused a stigma to arise against Self Publishing in any form.
The definition of Self Publishing, per Wikipedia, is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. The author is responsible and in control of the entire process including the design of the cover and interior, formats, price, distribution, marketing and public relations.
That is where the similarity between Vanity/Subsidy and Indie Publishing end. The key distinguishing characteristic that defines true Self Publishing is that the author has decided to publish his or her work independent of a publishing house, whether Vanity or Traditional; thus the term Indie.
A number of years ago, in order to publish one’s work apart from a traditional publishing house, authors had to spend considerable amounts of money to do so. Vanity Publishers are those that will accept any work, no matter the quality, and publish it for thousands of dollars. They also require the author to purchase hundreds of copies of their own books to sell first before they see any return for their investment.
Current technology allows authors to publish, market, and sell directly to readers without requiring middlemen of any kind. The biggest leap forward for Indie authors is the availability of Print on Demand (POD); no longer is it necessary to print hundreds of copies of one book in order to make it available. Now, as one book is ordered, one book is printed. As for e-books – well, that is an amazing technological wonder all on its own. Readers can download books to any electronic device they want to, no publishing house required. The Indie Publishing revolution grows more each year.
Arguments against Self Publishing
One of the primary arguments against Self Publishing is that an author’s work isn’t considered legitimate by The Industry if it is Self Published. Well, as a consumer, is your food or clothing less legitimate if you purchase them from a wholesaler or a retailer? No. The end product is either quality, or it isn’t. Let the market decide. It’s also often more economical to go wholesale because middlemen require payment. Indie authors make a whole lot more in royalties per unit sold than Traditionally Published authors do and infinitely more than Vanity Published authors.
Another common argument is the lack of marketing afforded to Self Published authors. The myth is if an author is picked up by a traditional publisher, that publishing house will spend money to market their work for them. When I was exhaustively researching my publishing options, I saw the trend in all of the traditional publishing houses to require every inquiring author to have an established marketing plan and social media promotional platform. As a debut author, they are unwilling to invest in marketing my work. That is, should they ever decide to pick it up at all. I would have to do that myself. If that’s the case, then why not choose to do it all myself and keep the royalties, too?
A third common argument against Self Publishing is the work isn’t polished or professionally edited. It is true that there has been a lack of polish and professional editing in some books that have been Self Published. Please refer back to Vanity Publishing. However, there are also a number of books that have gone through traditional publishing houses that have also lacked polish even with professional editing. There are typos and errors found in best selling works from traditional houses. As an author and an avid reader, I can attest to that fact. I haven’t read one single book that is one hundred percent error free. Editors are people and will make mistakes regardless of who signs their paycheck – the author or a traditional publishing house. One cannot blanket judge any genre or publishing method based on one bad work, or even several bad works. A science fiction book that is filled with typos and has a poorly developed plot would not cause a judgment to be rendered against every science fiction book. That’s ludicrous. A blanket judgment against Self Publishing should not be rendered by this method, either.
Did you know that in 2008, for the first time in history, more books were Self Published than were Traditionally Published? In 2009, 76% of all books released were Self Published, while traditional publishing houses as a whole reduced the number of books they produced. Their funnel is getting ever narrower. That was six years ago. I find that to be both amazing and exhilarating. I am so grateful to be a ripple producing minnow in the publishing sea that is creating a tidal wave to change the landscape of literature.
Currently, I have one work Indie Published (with five more works in progress) and available for sale in the marketplace. Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate was released in May, 2014. With the royalties I have made and already been paid, I was able to replace my husband’s wedding ring which was recently stolen. That tragedy was turned into triumph because God has blessed my Indie Publishing efforts and I thank Him for it. Onward and upward!