Thursday, January 16, 2014

Don't Let Anyone Tell You Not To Self-Publish

Today I am going to go off on a little bit of a tangent. I like to keep my blog about my books and me for the most part, but I also know and am approached by a lot of writers. I am always happy to help and I believe in being really transparent about my experiences with publishing. You see this is a business. It isn’t a business that I feel like I am in competition with any other writer, but one where we can all learn from other people’s experiences. Because of this I like to read and pay attention to industry articles. I would also like to say, I don't buy into this who indie vs. traditional mentality. We are all just trying to do what we love and it doesn't matter what roads we take to get there. 

When I first started self-publishing the trend was for most industry articles to 1. Ignore self-publishers or 2. Ridicule us. I never let it deter me because I have never sought anyone’s approval in my life, why would I start now. After indies could no longer ignored, the trend moved to villainizing us.  We were single-handedly destroying the publishing industry by not following the rules the traditional houses had laid forth. We had the nerve to publish books in genres they had deemed to be dead and make money doing it. Now, I find that it has shifted once again. This time they like to report incorrect information. I read things like 1.8% of self-publishers make over $100,000 (Digital Book World). What are they basing this information on? No one knows, but speaking to my own personal experience I am willing to say they are not basing it on the facts.

Here’s the deal (bear with me, I am a writer. Math really isn’t my strong suit). Let’s say there are 4,000,000 books on Amazon (I am sure the number is higher now this was just a number I heard a couple years ago that made me feel better about my first book being ranked 25,000). In an article by the Guardian ( Amazon says that 25% of their top 100 books are self-published. Let’s say that the percentage holds true to all books (though I imagine there are far more indies out there than 25%). That means that 1,000,000 of the books on Amazon are self-published. That would mean that 18,000 indie authors have made over $100,000 in a year (I am assuming that they are talking yearly and not over the course of a career). That would mean that two indie authors in every 100 are making a living (remember that they are probably more indies than this so this number is probably even less according to Digital Book World’s survey.)

Personally it feels like I know a lot of indie authors, but honestly probably not more than 100 who are actively publishing and not just working toward publishing. Not counting myself (though I fit into this 1.8%) I know 18 other authors who are making six figures or over self-publishing.  That is at least 18% of the people I know who are making a living at writing (and I don’t know how much everyone makes. It could still be higher.) When I was at the RWA conference in Atlanta last year I was at one of the self-publishing panels and the question was posed to the room about how many of us were supporting ourselves with just writing and about 10-15% of the room held up their hands. No this isn’t a scientific measurement, but it’s real life. I know author who aren’t making a living and I know authors who are. I bet the same goes for traditional writers.  

So what is my point in all of this? The point is if you want to publish then publish. If you have your heart set on being traditional then chase it. If you want to be an indie then do it. Don’t let anyone discourage you from living your dream. . I believe that there is a group of people out there who feel threatened by what we do and are trying to dissuade more from joining us. The fact is we aren’t writing to impress editors, agents, or publishers. We are writing for our readers and ourselves. We don’t need anyone’s approval. Write what you want to write, be professional, hire editors, and make your own dreams come true. Writing is the only art form that does not support its indie talent. Musicians aren’t threatened by indie musicians, mainstream actors do independent films, but publish your own book and the world is ending.  Don’t let any websites, articles, or publishers convince you that you are not good enough because you don’t fit their mold. There is lots of room for success in this industry.

Prove them wrong with every breath you take and take what you read with a grain of salt 



Shannon Esposito said...

Amen & well said. Although I'm older than you *cough* and so it took me time to change my thinking and let go of that traditional dream, once I did I've never looked back. I am supporting myself on my writing and writing what I love. It is a great time to be a writer!

Liz Schulte's Blog said...

Yay, Shannon! That is fantastic. You are right. It is a fantastic time to be a writer. For the first time in a very long time the writer's once again have control over their own destiny.

Elena Aitken said...

Great post!
I was in that session at RWA. And was able to raise my hand.
I absolutely agree with you. Stop listening to these 'facts' and blogs and do what you feel is best for your career.

K.B. Owen said...

Hi, Liz, thanks for the encouragement!

I typed up another comment, but it got blown away (apologies if it shows up twice). I just started self-pubbing last year. I have two books out. I've experienced the same put-downs of not being a "real" writer. I had an agent who loved my first novel and shopped it around, but couldn't sell it because it wasn't a big money-making genre (I write cozy historical mysteries).

Sometimes self-pubbing can make you feel like a second-class citizen. At Malice Domestic conventions (for cozy mystery writers and readers), it's all about the trad pubbed writers: the awards, the book sales, the signings. I stopped going because I felt as if I was looking in from the outside.

Maybe I'll feel better when I start making money at it, but I'm not there yet. I think I met my expenses this year, with maybe a nice lunch thrown in, LOL.

Does it get better? I hope so! I'll keep writing books no matter what, but sometimes it's tough feeling as if hardly anyone's reading your stories.

Thanks again,

Jessi Arias-Cooper said...

I love this. It's so inspiring! Thanks, Liz.

Kassandra Lamb said...

Since I finally got serious about writing fiction at age 58, I decided I didn't have time to wait for trad publishing's blessing. I wanted to see my books in print before I was too senile to enjoy the experience! I'm not quite "making a living" at it yet but I'm retired so I can afford to wait for the money. In the meantime, e-mails from readers and great reviews are feeding my soul!!

Liz Schulte's Blog said...

Self-publishing has a fantastic community. Try some conferences that focus on self-publishing and keep writing. More, well-written books are your best marketing tool.

DMS said...

Self publishing is a wonderful way for people to get their writing out there! I agree with you that if someone wants to write and publish their books, they should! I also think it is important that most people don't make enough to make a living off of writing books, but that certainly some do. Great post! :)

Unknown said...

Even though I haven't published anything yet, I really do appreciate the information you shared and all your encouragement Liz! It truly is amazing how supportive the writing community is. Like you said, I feel no competition. But wow, have I learned a lot from you and others kind enough to post this information. Thank you! :)

Jerry Byrum said...

Saw you referenced in RWR Feb 2014 issue. My first time reading you, Liz. Your post is "bat crazy" excellent; the most direct and genuine post I've read in a long time. And you're right; the world is big enough for all Indie writers following their dream. Thanks and congratulations!

Liz Schulte's Blog said...

Thank you DMS, Karen and Jerry. I believe community is a vital part of writing. We are stronger when we all stick together.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Liz. It's always good to hear from authors that want to help people follow their dreams.

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