Here’s the thing.
There are many reasons why people decide to publish their own books. Some people get frustrated with traditional publishing. Some prefer the creative control that self-publishing brings. Others see it as a better long-term business choice to control their intellectual property for the life of the copyright. Some people want to publish their Uncle Alvin’s memoirs and hand it to him at Christmas because it was good old Uncle Alvin’s life-long dream. It could be none of these reasons. It could be all of them or a combination of any.
Whatever the reason you decided to self-publish, there you are. You’ve done it.
Now please own it.
Amid all the handwringing about subscription services and how writers are getting paid (I don’t want to go over it, so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just read David Gaughran’s post HERE) writers seem to be forgetting one very important fact. It’s really important. In fact, some might say IT’S THE ENTIRE FREAKING POINT.
You are the one who controls your books.
You’re it. You’re the boss of your work. You.
So please stop bitching and just take the reins.
“Ahhhhh! But now everything is going to be paid by the page and this messes everything up and we are all DOOMED.”
No. Stop. If you don’t like subscription services, then don’t enroll your books. No one is demanding you be part of KDP Select. If you don’t like the program, OPT OUT. There. Done. Problem solved.
“But discovery is impossible because there are so many books!”
Listen, no one is making you publish your book. But clearly, you thought it was a story worth telling and worth publishing. The barriers to the marketplace have fallen and you took the initiative and stepped through the gate. I like your chances of finding your audience a lot more today than I did fifteen years ago when finding an agent and publisher was a roll of the dice. You think it’s hard now? Talk to someone who had to query agents for five years before anyone would read their manuscript. Now that’s a discovery problem.
“Everyone is giving away books and no one can make a living on free and .99 cent books and this whole business is impossible because books are being devalued! So much devaluation!!!”
Did you miss the part about how you’re the publisher and you have control of your books? YOU ARE THE ONE SETTING THE PRICE. That part is completely under your control. Don’t want to give away your book? Don’t. Don’t want to have sales? Don’t. Will you sell more if you sell cheap? Probably, because people like cheap stuff. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t also willing to pay more for stuff they really like.
You’re running a business. Look at numbers and analyze the data that distributors make available to you. Understand terms like “loss leader” and “perceived value” and use those ideas to set prices. Reevaluate when you need to. Change price points. Learn from your mistakes.
“BUT EVERYONE IS GIVING AWAY EVERYTHING AND—”
Seriously, do I need to have that conversation with you again about your friends and jumping off bridges that your mom had with you when you were six? You’re (hopefully) an adult. You should understand how to combat peer pressure by now.
“But we’re still battling stigma about how crappy self-published books are! We will never be taken seriously and it’s not fair!”
Again, you are the one who decided to self-publish your book. Is there still a stigma in some circles? Yeah, but it’s a lot less than it used to be. When I first published, I was basically told that I might make money, but I was killing any serious career and would never be taken seriously or be respected by my peers. That was 2011.
Then last month, I sat in the audience and watched my friend Grace Draven accept the RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best Fantasy Romance for her self-published book, Entreat Me. Not best self-published fantasy romance. Not best small press fantasy romance. Best Fantasy Romance. The very first time I went to the RT Convention in 2013, I was handed a name tag that said “Published Author.” Not self-published author. Not wannabe author. Published author.
If you don’t think things are changing, you’re not paying attention. (And full credit to RT Magazine for being on the forefront of that change.)
“But tsunamis of crap!”
Hire an editor. If you’re serious about being a writer/publisher, hire an editor. The quality of your finished product is entirely under your control. That was the point, right? Having control of your work? Having control means taking responsibility. You want to charge a higher price for your books and make a living off your work? Then be a professional and hire the same people that publishers do. Editors. Proofreaders. Cover designers. Do NOT complain about stigma if you’re not willing to have your books held up to the same standard as traditionally published material.
At the end of the day, I keep coming back to the concept of choice. Writers have more choices now than ever before. We can chart our own path. With all those choices comes a lot of confusion. Some people want a road map for how this is done. And the fact of the matter is, in this new publishing landscape there is no road map. We’re all stumbling along. But it’s not nearly as complicated as the hand-wringers want you to believe.
- Write a good book.
- Present it in a professional way.
- Find places to sell it. (There are lots.)
- Charge whatever price you want.
You are in control. You don’t like how a retailer is treating you? Don’t sell there. You don’t like the idea of subscription services and how they pay? Then don’t enroll your books. You don’t like giving books away to readers? Don’t.
Do you realize what an amazing world we live in? None of this was possible even ten years ago. We live in extraordinary times.
Own it. Take the reins. Enjoy the ride.