Self-Publishing’s Golden Goose

If you pay attention to the publishing world at all, then you have heard the name Amanda Hocking. You likely have also heard the name J. A. Konrath. They are currently the greatest self-publishing success stories circulating cyberspace, but others are not far behind.

Amanda Hocking is 26-years-old and lives in Minnesota. She has already written and published nine books. She started self-publishing them via Amazon’s Kindle last year, and she has sold over 900,000 copies of those nine books, hitting the USA today bestseller list. Seriously.

Last week, New York was knocking on her door. Quite loudly, it seemed. The Big Boys fought a week-long bidding war for the rights of her books. The bid went, as reported by The Times last week, was into the millions. On Thursday, she signed a four-book deal with St. Martins for over two million dollars. Nice.

Amanda talks about her decision on her blog.Very interesting read.

On the flip side, J. A. Konrath started publishing the traditional way with a NY Big Boy. But, as he had piles of manuscripts that NY didn’t want and as the rights of his published books were slowly reverting back to him after having gone out of print, he decided to self-publish via Amazon’s Kindle, too.

Now he makes a healthy six-figures a year as well. And he is not quiet about it or his growing aversion to traditional publishing. He trumpets his success and some of his colleagues’ successes on his blog: A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. In fact, he has written so much about the topic, including how and why he did it himself, that he now has a Kindle book out by the same name. 350,000 words from his blog on how he turned orphaned manuscripts into a fine living…and had more time to write.

Sounds like every writer’s dream: to make a good living through your craft and have enough time to keep writing.

Authors across Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of cyberspace are seeing dollar signs. They want a piece of this action, and who can blame them? But as independent authors, you must take the time (and the money) to create a quality product. This means to *hire* someone to make your book cover. Don’t even attempt to do it yourself unless you are a professional graphic designer. Seriously. This means to *hire* someone to edit and proofread your book. You cannot effectively edit your own work.

Even if you do all this, will every self-published author see numbers like these? Unlikely. Just as there are rock stars in traditional publishing, there are rock stars in self-publishing. But I think writers can learn a lot from these models. There are more ways to get your work published than ever before, and self-publishing is becoming more and more viable (and socially acceptable) every day.

New York doesn’t know what to do. Out of one side of their mouth they say they won’t touch it because it’s been self-published. Through the other side they’re offering millions to a self-published author. But this is par for New York Publishing. They change their mind as often as a stoned frat boy changes channels.

No doubt, however, that with the growing popularity of eBooks, self-published and independent authors have a better chance than ever to be seen and to find a readership. With some luck and marketing, they might even be able to scrape a living together. Then if they attract a New York Big Boy in the mean time, they have options and they can get a decent contract on their own terms.

The time of the author is returning.

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Do you think that self-publishing is losing its long-held stigma? Why or why not?

10 Comments Add yours

  1. M. Howalt says:

    Interesting reading. Thank you!
    I think perhaps the choice between self-publishing and traditional publishing should sometimes depend on the goals/the intended market of the books.

    1. christinerose says:

      Exactly! In my forthcoming book “Publishing and Marketing Realities for the Emerging Author,” this is exactly what I focus on: individual goals. It most certainly depends upon an authors goals, budget, and timeline to decide which publishing avenue is best for them.

  2. ethanro says:

    Most writers do what they do because they love to write. New York publishers do what they do to make money. Access between the two is now controlled by agents looking for that big sale. Most self publishing services and small presses make money off of the authors, not by selling books. Too many of these are less than honest.

    Just like in the movie industry, the best avenue for quality products with any sort of uniqueness, new ideas or that do not fit into the mold of variations on what has been selling, is the indie presses.

    These are the small companies who recognize a good literary product when they see it, and have the knowledge and flexibility to get it in front of the reading public. These are also people who do what they do because they love literature. They are the ones pioneering the new publishing frontiers like the e-book phenomenon while the New York houses just try to adapt their 19th century publishing model.

    1. christinerose says:

      Nicely said, my love. xo

  3. The control an author has over their own work not only benefits the author, it also benefits the reader. Too often is an author told their book doesn’t fit a certain mould and is forced to rewrite to make the book more commercial in order to make the publishing houses more money. Now an author can write the story as it was supposed to be told and not feel pressurised to fit into a certain category. This has only got to be good for both authors and readers.
    One thing I definitely agree with is that authors need to pay professionals to edit for them. Unfortunately it’s the self pubbed authors who haven’t done this that will give the rest of us a bad name.

    1. christinerose says:

      Agreed. We must be professional in this and invest in the quality as one would for any business. If one doesn’t have $300 for an editor, wait and save up until you do. Same goes for a cover artist. Put out a quality product, because once it’s out there, it’s out there.

  4. Simon Haynes says:

    I wouldn’t recommend self-pub unless you have a great book, marketing and business know-how, and a network of industry contacts. (Bloggers, reviewers, social networking friends, etc)
    A track record of sales to professional paying markets wouldn’t go astray either … either short stories or novels, it doesn’t matter which as long as someone, somewhere, thought your work was worth paying for.
    Obviously there are exceptions, but it boils down to this: You need write a book good enough to succeed DESPITE being self-published, not con yourself into believing it will succeed BECAUSE it was self-pubbed.

    1. christinerose says:

      Agreed. The quality of writing and storytelling must be there regardless of the publishing path chosen. So must the networks. Whether and author chooses self, NY, or indie, marketing is primarily (if not solely) up to them. Build your networks now, even before your book is released. Even before your book is written! It’s never too early to build your author platform. Don’t wait until your book is out. Or if it’s already out, don’t wait another minute!

  5. I think getting around the stigma takes the right audience or the right know-how as well as having a highly readable novel. I have to admit, I’ve been really picky about the self-pubbed e-books I’ve bought because I was wary of self-published books. The thought has always been there that if they’re not ‘good enough’ to get picked up by a publishing house, then I probably wouldn’t want to read them.

    The preview chapter on the ebook has helped to change my mind about that in some respects. Now I can check and see if the book is terrible (and a lot are) before parting with my money and downloading the whole thing. I’m picky enough to do that (I even do it with traditionally published authors). I have picked up a couple of gems that way but there are an awful lot of badly-written, badly edited e-books out there.

    1. christinerose says:

      There are that. No doubt.
      But self-published books aren’t always not good enough. Sometimes they’re not marketable enough. Sometimes they’re not even shopped around. Sometimes the author doesn’t even search for an agent. There are so many publishing avenues now. And, yes, the sample chapter on the Kindle is awesome. I think it helps for self-pubbed as well as NY pubbed books.

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