Best selling authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath discuss this very question in an interview. Eisler explains why he turned down a half-million advance in favor of self-publishing. It makes sense to me. Warning – contains some colorful language: Here’s a link that weighed heavily in my decision.
- It’s as hard to get an agent as it is to get a publisher.
- If I do get an agent, there’s no guarantee the agent can sell the manuscript since publishers are acquiring fewer and fewer titles.
- Some agents are publishing their clients’ works, which some people consider a conflict of interest. It’s stirring up quite a controversy. There are a lot of other strange things happening where authors are being slighted by publishers, agents, and others, so I just don’t know who to trust!
- I’ve known several authors whose book deals fell through. Talk about disappointment.
- Bookstores are carrying less books in lieu of promoting toys and specialty items.
- Publishers expect authors to promote themselves. Debut authors aren’t sent on book tours or given much help with marketing, plus most publishers expect writers to have a good following and a strong social media platform before even considering taking us on.
- Once published, our books are given a three- to four-month window to do well. After that, they’re pulled from the shelves, if they even get a coveted spot on a shelf in the first place. They could end up in a bin at a dollar store! Yikes! After all that hard work.
- Publishers are still charging high rates for eBooks. With little overhead, they pocket most of the profit, while the author gets 25% royalties or less.
Here are some reasons I’m choosing to self-publish:
- I can control the price of my books and offer them at an affordable rate in this sluggish economy.
- My books won’t go out of print. Ever.
- I’ve already tested the waters with an eBook of three short stories, “Trio of Haunting Tales,” so I know what I’m in for. Formatting for the Kindle was a nightmare. Since then, I found a formatter whose prices are affordable and she does a professional job. She formatted the first two books in the Monster Moon series (see below).
- I know better than to expect instant results, realizing it will likely take years of hard work before bringing in a decent income. I’m in it for the long haul. (Thanks to Bob Mayer’s blog posts for making me aware of this common sense strategy. See his links below.)
- With each new title I publish, the odds in my favor will increase (realizing the books I publish must be well written and professional). Right now, there are more Monster Moon books in the works, and I plan to publish a chapter book (ages 7 to 10) in 2012. I’m excited to have more titles to share with kids when I do author visits.
- Publishers are having a hard time collecting from some of the major wholesalers, which is one reason we’re not publishing future Monster Moon books through Stargazer Publishing. If the publisher doesn’t get paid, then the authors don’t get paid.
I’m off to a good start with a picture book and two middle grade novels (ages 8 – 12) under my belt, plus the short eBook mentioned above:
- MERRY AS A CRICKET, 2002, a picture book by WhipperSnapper Books, a small press. They were wonderful to work with. They did all the marketing and supported me in any promoting I did on my own. Unfortunately, a second title I wrote on assignment with author Janet Reyes never came to fruition because they closed their doors. Again, problems with collections contributed to their closing down.
- Two books in the Monster Moon series for ages 8 to 12, by Stargazer Publishing: CURSE AT ZALA MANOR and SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG, co-authored by Kathryn Sant, Maria Toth, and myself under the pseudonym BBH McChiller. (Links are in the sidebar.) Stargazer is a small, independent press that sells to schools and libraries.
Stephanie has a wild card in her favor – a raving review by Publishers Weekly when her young adult novel qualified as a semi-finalist in Amazon’s contest. She didn’t win, but that review is like gold. If Stephanie wasn’t recovering from a serious illness, she would be participating in this blogfest.
“My thinking is, with the economy in a serious decline and bookstores closing, the publishers are taking less and less, they are accepting even fewer debut works. Add to that the reality that the royalties are getting less, the support for marketing is nearly nonexistent, and writers have little to no input in covers and illustrations (even when it changes the direction of the story). Do I want a contract? If I can develop a product that is of equal/or better quality, what do I need them for?
Another writer friend, Susan Kaye Quinn, wrote an insightful post on 10/5/11, Investing in Your Writing Career, or Why I Decided to Self-Publish Open Minds (click here). She draws an analogy how publishing with a large publisher is like investing in high-flying individual stocks:
“This is no shock to anyone who has examined the odds of making it through the big pub gauntlet, which is really an all-or-nothing deal: either you win the lotto or you trunk your novel. The return is potentially large (or not – most traditionally pubbed authors don’t outsell their advances), but there is a risk of losing years of time waiting to win (at least in writing you only lose your time, not your money).
“My writing investment portfolio has a novel and an anthology with a small pub company, paying small monthly dividends (like bonds). I also have several unpublished novels in various states of ‘completeness,’ including a middle grade SF, middle grade fantasy, Open Minds (young adult paranormal/SF), and another project not listed on my WiP page (that will be going through the big pub route).”
Here are some helpful posts from best-selling author Bob Mayer’s blog, Write It Forward:
The Perfect Storm is Looming in Publishing – 9/27/11
The myth of backlist and a dramatic change in publishing – 8/13/11
The real gatekeepers in publishing now? Authors – 9/14/11, “99.5% of indie/self-published authors will be gone in two years. Other will take their place. And be gone in two years.”
“Should your agent self-publish you? Can your agent self-publish you? 7/26/11
eBooks as the new mass market paperback and don’t be Buridan’s Ass – 7/19/11
Publish your book or play the lottery? 6/6/11
There is Gold in self-publishing – 6/2/11, “Is there gold for the unpublished author who self-publishes? Yes. But the odds are roughly the same as getting an agent, who can sell to an editor, who gets the publisher to put the book out, and readers find the book, and read it, and recommend it, etc. etc.”
From Agent Kristin Nelson’s blog, Pub Rants, her post dated 5/18/11 – 21st Century Evolution Of Agent’s Role