Since mentioning yesterday that I’m discussing a three-novel contract for my proposed Western series with a prospective publisher, I’ve received several questions (both in blog comments and via e-mail) asking why I don’t just self-publish them, and why I’d want to go with a publisher when it means less money than I can make by doing it all myself. There are a number of reasons, and for the benefit of those who are writers or considering entering the field, I thought I’d go into a little more detail.
First and foremost, yes, under current financial arrangements one can make quite a lot more money by self-publishing than by going through a typical publisher. Please note the emphasis in that sentence. Amazon.com offers exceptionally good terms to authors who are prepared to ‘go exclusive’ with the company, including a 70% share of the sales price of one’s book(s) within a certain price range, the opportunity to enroll them in the company’s Kindle Unlimited subscription lending library, and so on. All my existing books are sold in that way, and I’ll happily continue to release books through Amazon.com as an independent author/publisher.
Nevertheless, there’s always the risk that Amazon might change the terms of its service. It’s done so before, and can do so again as it pleases. It’s their playground, and they make the rules. The rest of us play there on sufferance. I don’t think Amazon has any plans to drastically change its terms of service at this time, but who knows what tomorrow may bring? For that reason, I think it’s not a bad idea at all to diversify, and offer one’s books on other platforms or through other channels as well.
The publisher with whom I’m talking at present is a relatively small operation, geared towards e-books with a secondary interest in print books, just as I presently operate on Amazon.com. They pay very generous royalties by the standards of traditional publishing houses. Sure, it’s a lower percentage payout than I’d get through self-publishing, but on the other hand I’d gain access to their customer base (which is not insignificant) and receive their assistance in marketing my book to readers who might otherwise never hear of it. If I can sell 5,000 books on my own at a 70% return, but double that quantity through a publisher whilst still earning better than half that rate of return, I’ll make more money overall. That’s a trade-off I’m willing to try on for size.
There’s also the reality that one good thing may lead to another. There’s another project in the works at present, about which I’m not yet at liberty to speak. If it works out, I’ll gain a small toehold in yet another publishing house, this one much better known and with much greater influence. With luck and hard work, I might be able to expand that toehold into another meaningful outlet for my work in due course. If I end up with three, or four, or five different ways to market and publish my books, I can tailor each one to the outlet where it’s most likely to succeed, and benefit accordingly.
I certainly don’t plan to stop self-publishing. Maxwell Volume 5 and Laredo Volume 3 are both in preparation, and will (God willing) be published through Amazon.com’s KDP Select program later this year. I have no plans to transfer either series to another publisher. However, I have more books and more series in mind. Where might they take me? We’ll see . . .
As noted on Mad Genius Club, the best average income for writers is where they do both self-publishing and 'traditional' publishing. Welcome to the big time, Peter Grant!
@tweell: Not the big time yet . . . but here's hoping!
Thanks for the insight.
Do you use a paid editor and, if so, any recommendations on finding one?
@Ed Skinner: No, I don't use one, but there are plenty out there. Try this search:
Makes sense on the decision if the promised support happens. Great way to enter a new genre.
Contracts seem to be a huge issue with publishers… There was a recent article on both mad genius and passive voice on this linking to a great blog post. Unbelievable dime of the requirements.
I have yet to read a story of yours that I did not enjoy. I am very happy to hear that your writing career is moving up. Wishing nothing but good things for you and your continued hard work!!
One of the things to be aware of with small publishers is that there's often just one person doing the work. If they have issues, everything grinds to a halt. Things I've seen are deaths in the family, depression, health problems, and addictions ("where'd my money go?"). Any of these can gum up payments, tax info, and feedback on edits.
True for any small business…
Positive is you can get a lot more personal attention from somebody who knows which way is up.