Friday, January 30, 2009

A New Look at Self-Publishing

The New York Times had an article on self-publishing Tuesday titled "Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab."

For at least the last five years, the conventional wisdom, repeated again and again at writer talks and on writer loops, has been that most self-pubbed writers sell less than one hundred copies of their books. This article actually had a quote from the chief executive of Author Solutions (one of the larger self-publishing operations), estimating that the average number of copies sold by a self-pubbed author at one of their imprints is "just 150."

I was pleased to see such honesty from the profession. I think writers considering self-publication need to have that number nailed to their foreheads.

In addition to the stark reality of that 150 figure, the article points out:
For some authors, the appeal of self-publishing is that they can put their books on the market much faster than through traditional publishers. Of course, authors who take this route also give up a lot. Not only do they receive no advance payments, but they also often must pay out of their own pockets before seeing a dime. They do not have the benefit of the marketing acumen of traditional publishers, and have diminished access to the vast bookstore distribution pipeline that big publishers can provide.
I have said repeatedly on this blog that self-publishing is more likely to be successful for a non-fiction writer than for a fiction writer. The article seems to support that assessment.

I winced at a quote from Robert Young, chief executive of Lulu Enterprises, that: “We have easily published the largest collection of bad poetry in the history of mankind . . .” Ouch!

The article closes:
"Diamonds in the rough, though, remain the outliers. 'For every thousand titles that get self-published, maybe there's two that should have been published,' said Cathy Langer, lead buyer for the Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver, who said she had been inundated by requests from self-published authors to sell their books. 'People think that just because they've written something, there's a market for it. It's not true'."
Go here to read the entire article.


wordtryst said...

'People think that just because they've written something, there's a market for it. It's not true'.

I tried to explain some realities of this business to a friend but he thought I was trying to rain on his parade. All he could see were fat royalty checks with his name on them. He went ahead and spent a lot of money to self-publish. A year and a half later he had sold exactly 3 copies.

nancorbett said...

I'm still shopping my YA book around, looking for an agent. It's amazing how often well-meaning friends suggest to me that I just self-publish. I have an old friend I've recently restored contact with through email after many years, and she suggested that to me last week, and added the additional stinger, can't you do that through Amazon? Thank you for posting this, Maya, because now I have a link I can send her.

Anonymous said...

Self-publishing can be a great option provided the end goals and the method to get there are inline. I know a few people who have gone that route succesfully topping even some e-published authors. I know others who have tried and not succeded at making it to the overnight senstion list. Then there are those who just wanted to put their book out there and don't care how many copies it sales. It's a good tool, but one must think about the end goal before self-publishing. With hopes, they will also think about going through a free publishing site instead of spending hundreds.

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