There are more and more stories around of mid-list authors jumping ship from their traditional publisher to self-publish their books, as well as tales of the rising stars in SP quietly and confidently finding their own audience and creating their own author platform. By the time SPs prove they’ve enough of a readership to warrant a TP contract, they’re usually doing so well that you’d forgive them for wondering what a publisher would bring to the table at that point.
When Hugh Howey, after releasing a number of eBooks and print books as a self-publishing author, saw one of his books, Wool, suddenly take off, he found himself in an enviable position.
Unsurprisingly, and also because Hugh was topping best
seller lists, he came under the radar of traditional publishers who wanted a piece of the action. They didn’t just want to produce a Wool paperback or fit into Hugh’s marketing strategy, however – they wanted digital rights and control. As his self-success meant he didn’t need their offers, Hugh walked away.
He wasn’t intending to ‘hold out’ for a better deal necessarily, as he didn’t imagine they’d make special allowances, but his lack of enthusiasm to agree to their terms caused Simon & Schuster to offer him the first ever print-only deal AND six-figure advance.
Hugh’s story is certainly not typical of every self-publishing author, but there are an increasing number who have found going it alone to be a better proposition than the alternative. Final editorial decisions, the book’s aesthetics, the publishing process, elements of the marketing and promotion of their book, reduced royalties….all things a successful self-publisher would have little control over if they went traditional.
On the flipside, however, despite certain SP authors’ successes, a traditional publisher still brings positives. For instance, they have much wider distribution than an individual, more resources, and a larger budget when it comes to promotion. They also offer one thing that seems to forever be covetable by an author of any kind: credibility. That they’ve chosen your book over the millions they’ll have no doubt been sent, and that they like it enough to throw their own time and money at it, is enough of a draw for most authors – to be able to say you’re a published author is something the majority of writers strive for.
Yet being a successful self-published author doesn’t seem to hold the same clout, even if sales exceed those of authors on the Big 5’s books. It’s as if a multitude of readers aren’t qualified to be judges; the gate-keepers’ opinions seem to be the only ones that matter. Liken it to BGT, or X-Factor: though Cowell’s snidey put downs are more cutting and far less forgiving than those of the other judges, entrants are desperate for his feedback above that from all others. His praise, when received, carries more clout – the perfect analogy for what I’ve described.
Because of this, I doubt we’ll ever see the end of traditional publishing houses. It could (and should) be argued that the public are the real gate-keepers, being the ones who decide whether a book is a success regardless of the basis it’s published under – and they’re in prime position to judge, because authors no longer need the TPs to get to them. However, until self-published authors receive the same credibility as one from a TP stable, traditional publishing won’t be rocked, threatened or affected by the rise of the self-published author.
Developmental editor and publishing consultant Diane Hall is the author of three books; she has also ghost-written books for others and created a plethora of content, on more subjects than you could care to imagine, for numerous clients since the beginning of her career. She is proud to have fundamentally shaped series of books and more than a hundred individual titles over the last decade with various authors, nationally and internationally.
Among her editing qualifications, she holds a linguistics diploma, which involves the study of language and speech. Diane employs this knowledge in the forensic linguistic work she sometimes undertakes.
Diane has seen the introduction and subsequent rise of self-publishing, and passionately keeps abreast of its disruption of the publishing industry. She is a thought leader when it comes to the future of book marketing, fuelled by the poor results authors see when employing traditional techniques.