For months now, I have been hearing contradictory information about publishing, self-publishing, Amazon, CreateSpace, and other terms. As a writer, I thought that I understood the various terms. Nope!
For example, I thought I knew what the term “self-published” meant. The author must write the work, arrange and pay to create the cover, produce the work, publicize and market the work, and then take money or arrange for the billing/payment side of the transaction. By that definition, I am not self-published because I have a publisher and am not involved in the production/sales side.
When bookstores kept asking me if I was self-published and I kept saying “no,” they would not take “no” for an answer. Bookstore staff asked me if I paid my publisher to publish my work, if my publisher was a vanity press, and other similar questions. One exceptionally kind bookstore manager took me aside and spent an hour with me and the bookstore buyer to explain the bookstore point of view.
Here are two sides of the publishing coin that have come my way. I would be most grateful to hear opinions from people, especially writers,on these two points of view.
Publishing according to bookstores:
The Big Six publishing houses (or is it now the Big Five?) serve as a validation stamp for any book. We bookstores don’t have time to read the thousands of books that come out every year. We rely on the Big Five-or-Six to vet the authors, put up some front money to produce the book, and most importantly, go through Baker & Taylor or Ingram to deliver the books to us. We want to stock books and then, after a reasonable period of time, return them if they don’t sell. Consignment selling is too much trouble. If your book is print-on-demand, you are self-published as far as we’re concerned.
It’s Big Five-or-Six or nothing. If the author is good, one of those publishers will publish his/her work.
Publishing according to Self-Published Authors:
The publishing industry is collapsing and everyone knows it but them. They are slow to respond and even if one of them publishes your work, they only actively market 20% of the books they publish. Odds are, your book won’t be in that hallowed 20%. Further, they take more money from you than you’ll ever be able to track. Unless you are already a big name, you’ll have to spend at least $3000 including travel to market your book and you’ll be lucky to break even.
Writers can spend that same effort on Amazon which can do everything the publisher does and faster. Your percentage will be much greater. True, bookstores won’t stock your book or invite you to signings, but who goes to bookstores any more, anyway?
Amazon vs. Established Publishers
There is a war going on between Amazon and the established publishers. I recently contacted a mid-range publisher with whom I shared a contact about a book of mine. The first question he asked was, “Is it out on Amazon? That could be a problem.”
The following link will direct those interested to articles on the feud between Amazon and the French publisher Hachette: