Feb 13, 2014

Rambling Musings on Publishing


Let me preface by reminding readers of this that I’ve self-published three times. I know how difficult and rewarding it can be. I have full respect for those who do it professionally and/or successfully. Although rather less respect for those who inspire unestablished authors to self-publish as a primary path to success, while themselves relying on their established audience and connections from Trade publishing. One is an apple, the other is an elephant. That’s not a dig at any one author, rather a general opinion.

Let me also say, I hate that I have to preface. But I do, because all too often people are attacked on social media in a wasteful ‘them verses us’ war between Trade and Self-publishing with folks both sides desperate to validate their choices by proving the other side is wrong. Personally, I don’t need to prove one is better than the other, both are valid and viable options depending on what the author wants and expect to achieve from each project. I plan to make use of any and all paths available. We are fortunate to have choices.

Do I feel taken advantage of because I have a publisher who earns a percentage from each novel in return for their investment in the process? No, because I chose it. I enjoy it. I didn’t walk into it blindly. I profit from it too. It’s a partnership. I have no way of knowing if I would have had more or less success self-publishing my novels because there is no way to know the road not travelled on any project. If anything, I resent any implication that I’m lazy because I don’t want to do it all myself. Or that I lack confidence in my work because I’m happy for someone else to take the financial risk. Neither is true. 

Do I feel I took an easy route because I self published? Absolutely not. The process is difficult and ultimately lonely because, although I had so much support that I’m eternally grateful for, the buck stops with me on every stage of the process. I also feel the sense of achievement in taking control and appreciate the experience.

A report on author earnings doing the rounds of the social media stratosphere at the moment.

First, I’m not comfortable with a battle cry that will see individuals champion an industry wide lowering of ebook prices or my contracted royalties when their agenda doesn’t blend with mine. Yes, my publisher controls prices but that’s what I agreed to when I signed the contract and entered a business agreement. Likewise with royalties. There was no pressure involved, no coaxing me into signing something I didn’t want to or twirling of waxed villain moustaches. They offered me terms. I reviewed those terms, requested tweaks and signed when I was happy and comfortable. No drama or coercion. I already got what I feel is a fair deal.

Contracts are subject to negotiations. If they are not, the author doesn’t have to sign them. Likewise if the publisher offers unacceptable terms. It bears repeating, no author has to sign a contract if they choose not to. Those that do, bear the responsibility of doing their due diligence on their chosen path to publication.

So, it’s important that we as authors are all responsible in the information we share as fact and truth when it comes to pooling our gained knowledge. What we say at any given time can tip someone’s decision.

Keeping that in mind, I was immediately suspect of the conclusions drawn from the report biased on previously established biases of the folks involved. But, not being a statistician, I reserved judgement. To be clear, I believe the collected data to be sound within context of the method it was collected. It’s the collection and the conclusions that don’t sit easily.

The figures are an extrapolation based on a snapshot that may or may not be accurate. From my very basic working knowledge of statistics, Amazon algorithms(which is about an little as anyones), book sales, and the industry in general, I couldn’t figure how the stats could be conclusive or not misleading.

For a start there was upward of 12 million books on Amazon in 2012 with an estimated 300,000 books published each year and Google estimates 129 million books published in total to 2010(many of which would reasonably be considered out of print). The Author Earning report is looking at data from 7,000 top selling books. A tiny fraction overall.

Secondly, in coming to the conclusion that an author will do better self published, it didn’t seem to account for the fact, it’s not all about the e-sales. In the US(where I’m primarily published), Amazon accounts for a proportion sales, but not all sales, and not even all ebook sales. This is bound to skew the findings in context of the big picture. But like I said, I’m not a statistician. I knew it didn’t sit right but could properly explain. For a better look at the stats, read this informative post, or this from Digital Book World.

Not specially relating to this report, but I’m wary of those who rely on Amazon royalties as a reason to push Self-Publishing long term as the better option. In the present, they are very attractive. However, I’m wary because ultimately books are just another product to Amazon. If and when they gain market share, there is no guarantee those rates will hold in favor of authors over Amazon profit. Will Amazon still(if they ever were) be the author’s friend when the author has no where else to go? I’m not convinced.

It’s worth acknowledging that the more information we have, the easier it is to make informed decisions, so I’m all for the collection of data as long as the collection and conclusions are transparent. I much prefer to see authors supporting each other, rather than tearing down the choice others make.

At the end of the day, publishing isn’t a one size fits all authors. It isn’t even a one size fits all for every project.

For every choice made, there had to be a negation of another choice that could have been. Each choice sees a person as a traveler on a road, unable to return to an earlier point on the journey and decide differently. How, then, could that person learn to live with those decisions, knowing they had destroyed an infinite number of other possibilities?


No one can tell what the other path would have been. If a book tanks, there is no way of knowing it would have sold a million through a Trade press. On the other hand, if it sells a million with the Big Five, that is absolutely no guarantee, that it would have done equally as well self-published and earned the author a higher cut. No of us have crystal balls. All we can do is make a decision we can live with and accept that decision for better or worse.


  1. Well said. It is wonderful that authors have a choice, and no one path is right or wrong---but some are a better fit for each individual author.

    Whenever someone is highly outspoken against a group that's made a different choice, in publishing and elsewhere, it makes me think that they must have giant chips on their shoulders that are cutting off circulation and making them cranky. It's fine for people to speak highly of their choice, but why the need to put down others?

    And yeah, top 7,000 is so far from my personal realm that Huey's stats don't apply.

    1. It's can be worrying when people start thinking twice about speaking out for fear of being shouted down by 'the opposing side'. I don't mean when someone is evangelizing without grounds and someone else corrects misinformation. I mean the people just honestly stating an experience that doesn't tally with what others believe or expect.

      There's room for everyone and every path. It's doesn't have to be one way or another coming out on top.

  2. Thank you for that link, Carol--it made for interesting reading. I'm excited to try self-publishing just to try something different and see what happens. But for now, my writing is a hobby, not a business. :-)