A Publishing Revolution!
When you think of a self-published book, be honest, what are the first thoughts that spring to mind?
Inspired decision or traditional publishing reject?
Not so long ago and perhaps you’d be *almost* forgiven for conjuring up images of the latter; a sad and sorry tableau of wannabe authors who can’t spell for toffee, let alone come up with a credible story arc or a convincing cover. But fast forward to the year that is 2019 and indie publishing (as I prefer to refer to it), is not so much shaking up the industry, as grabbing it by the scruff of its neck and spinning it around with centrifugal force.
And it’s about bloody time.
Because something truly does have to give: The mainstream publishing industry is in meltdown. And I say this not just as a thrice traditionally published author, but as someone whose career has always been about books – since age 22 when I bagged my first, and rather jammy, position as European Sales Manager for a West Country-based children’s novelty book publisher.
I’ll say it again… the industry is a shambles!
Because publishing houses large, medium and small deem it acceptable to engage in the following:
1: Curtailing authors’ rights to the extent that contracts need to be combed through extensively – and then some…
2: Cherry-picking one or two lucky writers on their books… whose own books they will throw 99% of the marketing budget at (think London underground posters and swanky coverage adorning red double-decker buses), and leaving the rest of their authors to fend for themselves while the chosen few get the perks and the glory.
3: Engaging in approximately 1% marketing – mainly on launch day – on behalf of their authors.
4: Paying meager royalties, taking the lion’s share of the profit after various online platforms have had their fill, leaving sweet FA for the storytellers – without whom there wouldn’t be a book!
5: Pricing e-books (in particular) so ridiculously low that not only are the majority of their own authors unable to make writing their full-time career, but indie authors have little choice but to follow suit when they launch their own titles.
All of which severely cheapens the art of writing.
This is a real bug bare of mine having also worked in the print industry, knowing just how much it costs to print a book, versus, for example, a greetings card. And yet, because we have let the book become such a throwaway commodity, we will happily pay upwards of £3.00 for a birthday card that gets binned after a few days! Meanwhile, we’ll wrinkle our noses at a £1.99 Kindle title because the industry is constantly churning out a glut of commercial fiction at 99p (I’ve even seen the jaw-dropping sum of 75p being bandied about!) and surely, eventually, that brand new release we have our eye on will also have a quid knocked off.
It’s so wrong on so many levels.
6: Don’t even get me started on the supposed ‘financial benefits’ of authors whose books weave their way into the remainder shops and supermarkets. Recently, I eavesdropped in on a conversation where a well-established author claimed to receive just 5% of the takings (after the shop, publisher and their agent had taken their cuts)!
7: Thinking on behalf of their readers… who are actually a hell of a lot more intelligent than they are given credit for, and would LOVE a bit more variety and a whole lot less subjectivity ref. their bookshelves. If it (the manuscript) cannot be neatly pigeonholed for marketing purposes (ie. a safe as houses return of investment) the author can forget it… no matter how all-singing-and-dancing their story; no matter how unique their voice; no matter how much their potential readers deserve multi-platform accessibility to their work.
8: Last but by no means least we have the corporate giants buying out the little guys.
And there are a hundred other gripes besides which haven’t made my list, but we’d be here all day and night, and I think by now you get the picture.
I’d also like to emphasize that the above points aren’t so much based on my experiences as those of a number of author friends and secret online writing groups.
It paints a desperate picture.
Small wonder then that as authors, in all of our guises, we aren’t just seeing debut authors choose the indie route; a path which allows them creative control and higher financial rewards… but well-established (ie. medium to high profile authors) turning their back on lucrative contracts with publishers to do it themselves. And why not? Why should the street-wise author miss out on all the indie fun? Once they’ve established a following via a large or medium traditional publishing house, it makes perfect business sense to shake hands, thank them for their time and waltz off into the sunset to replicate their success on a grander scale. That’s exactly what the independent route offers.
It’s a publishing revolution!
Of course, we are never truly alone when we work independently. We are surrounded by a quite wonderful book tribe of the following family members:
And I could go on… the number of professionals who help birth an indie book and make it a success story is truly formidable.
In many ways nowadays, the fact that our indie books need to stand up against the traditionally published means that they are often produced to a far higher standard. As a reader of both kinds of books, I am sometimes (increasingly often!) stunned and baffled at the poor quality of writing that manages to bag itself a traditional publishing deal.
Which brings us full circle back to most of the points on my list, and the disappointing fact that when it comes to the traditional publishing industry, the Dollar/Pound/Euro/Yen comes first, the story an unacceptable, pathetic and paltry second…
So, what can we bookworms realistically do to take the industry on, to add to this mighty indie (and hybrid) force that has been unleashed and is growing day by day?
“..mix the spending power of your pound. It’s too easy to get swayed by the ‘mark of approval’ of a prestigious publishing house, to seek out the Top 100 titles, to follow the crowd.”
Well, I’m certainly not asking you to turn your back on the Top Five and their imprints or cousins, nor any one of the digital publishers with their grandiose claims of ‘being a breath of fresh air’.
But most of them SO aren’t!
All joking to one side though, it’s clear there are some fabulous authors out there in the mainstream; authors with a huge amount of talent who are very deserving of the opportunities surrounding them. They’ve worked hard and many have faced rejection after rejection to get to where they are today.
No… Shunning the commercially successful author is honestly NOT what this article is about at all.
But what I am asking is for you, the consumer to mix the spending power of your pound. It’s too easy to get swayed by the ‘mark of approval’ of a prestigious publishing house, to seek out the Top 100 titles, to follow the crowd.
It’s smarter to remember where the true magic of storytelling lies: everything in moderation. True publishing variety is the spice of a happy reading life!