Monday, January 3, 2011

Two Sides to the Self-Publishing Coin

This morning, my dear friend Allison Pang sent me an interesting link to a post by blogger/author Joe Konrath.

Konrath, a successful self-published thriller writer, responds to an article by Richard Curtis regarding whether or not "authors make good publishers." Konrath says, "Yay." Curtis says, "Nay."

Let's take a look at what they each think about the matter:


Do authors make good publishers? The answer is No. But it’s fascinating to watch them try.

Years ago as the e-book revolution dawned, we said that in order to keep pace with the new digital culture, authors would have to become more like publishers. “As electronic technology hurtles too fast for even futurists to keep up with,” we wrote, “a generation of readers is emerging that will not accept text unless it is interactively married to other media.” (See Author? What’s an Author?)

Unfortunately, in order to master publishing skills, authors face the prospect of abandoning commitment to their muse. Digital technology has given writers the key to the funhouse, and few have been able to resist the allure of all those glittering tools empowering them to steal fire from Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Random House.

In the past year a number of prominent authors have accepted the challenge with varying degrees of success. We’re thinking in particular of Cory Doctorow, Seth Godin and J. A. Konrath. Whether their move to the other side (as publishers ourselves we’re in no position to call it the dark side) proves detrimental to their writing careers is a question that will play out in time. But because their experiments are being watched and emulated by other writers, these adventures are worth noting.


For authors, the lesson to be learned from these examples is that you must distinguish between writing and publishing your writing and weigh the goals and satisfactions of those two vastly different processes. In this age of instant gratification and entitlement the idea of long, uncompensated apprenticeships seems to be a relic of another age, But the rigors of artistic achievement are no different from those of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance or the Age of Enlightenment. Talent and hard work will out, but they must be leavened over time.

Publishers too have a lot to learn from the efforts of these authors, particularly from Cory Doctorow who has more and fresher ideas than an army of old-line publishers. A review of his Publishers Weekly articles detailing his innovations will generously reward every editor young or old.

Read the rest of the post (and see cited examples) HERE


Yesterday, respected agent Richard Curtis posted an article he wrote called Do Authors Make Good Publishers?

His conclusion is: No.

He cited me as one of his examples, and quoted my website. I wish he'd contacted me personally, because the quote he took is out of date.

It's my fault for not updating my website regularly, but I've since had a 180 degree change of stance on self publishing.

Authors should self-publish.

As ebooks continue to gain ground, and print continues to lose ground, and publishers and bookstores continue to report losses, this industry isn't nearly as stable as it once was. In fact, I'm not sure the industry will survive.

In an ebook-dominated world, are publishers even needed?

I can't think of a single, compelling reason to allow publishers to keep 52.5% of ebook royalties and give authors just 17.5%--especially when any writer can make 70% by uploading to Kindle themselves.


If you browse the Kindle genre bestseller lists, between 20% and 90% of the authors listed there are self-published authors. In some cases, because of the higher royalties Amazon offers, these writers are making more money than traditionally pubbed authors. I earn $2.09 on a $2.99 ebook. I only earn 82 cents on a $4.79 ebook published by my print publisher.

Read the entire post HERE

I remain Switzerland on this one. Both parties make some merited arguments, but in my opinion, there's no real answer to this question. I think it all depends on the author himself/herself, what they're willing to do, what networking connections they have, etc. It doesn't work or not work--it varies tremendously.

Of course, traditional publishing certainly offers a great deal of opportunities that self-publishing does not--editing, ad/promo, marketing, larger distribution channels, etc.--but with some elbow-grease and talent, self-pub can still gain an author acclaim and value, as Konrath and others have shown. But that author needs to be open-minded and dedicated to his/her pub and ready to work hard and learn the industry ropes. If not, traditional publishing is the only way to go.

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