Saturday, July 4, 2009

I Won! I Won! What Do You Mean, Who Else Was in the Running?

Okay, so we all know that publishers pay around $10,000 each to have books featured on Amazon's they also pay for shelf space in bookstores, the way food manufacturers pay for prime space in grocery stores?
Hell yes. (It's called co-op.)
And if so, should an author ever bother with a small, award-winning publisher who has very little marketing budget, or is that almost as bad as self publishing, because even with great reviews, the public may not be readily able to find the book?
Depends how small and how award-winning. Some smaller publishers are still well worth your time. Some less so. I would think very hard before publishing with a house that offers less than 10 children's books per season. But if that's likely to be the only house that will take your manuscript (because of very niche topic, etc), then it's still a publication credit, and can help you a bit on your way somewhere else.

It's not the same thing as self-publishing. Anytime you get paid for your work rather than you paying for the privilege of publication means someone besides yourself thought your work had a chance in the marketplace. The difference between real publishing and self-publishing always boils down to competition.

I hear self publishers say (not infrequently), "I'm glad I self-published, because I got to do the book just the way I wanted."
A trophy won for being best in your league (whichever league that is) means at least something. But buying yourself a trophy? Even if it means the trophy looks just the way you wanted it to, that doesn't count.


Jazz said...

The "buying yourself a trophy" line really puts self-publishing in a new perspective for me. It isn't something I have ever wanted to consider, and now I would feel guilty and pathetic about it.

HWPetty said...

I think self-pub is good for certain genres, like how-to, for instance--or even a local-based cookbook.

Writing a sewing or knitting book and self-publishing isn't about buying yourself a trophy. It's about tiny markets and events and building platform, etc. But it's not the kind of thing you can run through a vanity press, either.

(How-to is usually going to involve step-by-step pictures or drawings, and lots of layout and design.)

Ben Dawe said...

mmm... "real" publishing gets it wrong all the time. The Shack ("self-published") sold 7 million. That's a plenty-big trophy even if the Major League didn't approve the stamp. I'm blogging about it this week.

Ben said...

Jazz and Anon, self-publishers can sometimes take home pretty respectable trophies. The Shack is at 7 million copies and rising...

Editorial Anonymous said...

HWPetty-- Agreed: there are some self-publishing scenarios that make sense.

The one that doesn't, though, is the one where people expect publishing professionals to recognize their self-published book as meaning something to future work. Listing self-published books in your cover letter to publishers bespeaks a tremendous lack of perspective.

E.M. Kokie said...

Yes, self-publishing makes a lot of sense for some books - the aforementioned regional books, self-help, inspirational books with a built in platform, etc.

And there will be the exceptions - those self-published books that because of gimmicky marketing, platform, really savvy promotion or (more often, a combination of those with sheer luck), hit the attention of the mainstream buying public.

The Shack is a good example of a book that found a following though self-published. But it had a lot going for it toward that end - a spiritual basis and controversy. Those in combination with a hooky background story and savvy promotion, made it a successful seller, especially among those looking for spiritual fiction. And, again, nothing will sell a book faster than controversy, and screams of "heresy" is sort of the gold-standard of controversy in the spiritual fiction market.

But I tend to think the "buying the trophy" metaphor fits most self-published fiction, published by folks still hoping for a mainstream "breakthrough."

Anonymous said...

(I think we can all agree that self-publishing for regional topics or cookbooks sold to bolster a charity isn't the kind of self-publishing the OP had in mind.)

I know I'm a grouch today, so please feel free to ignore me entirely... BUT every time the subject of self-publishing comes up, someome defends it by listing best-sellers such as The Shack. (I'm not picking on you Emily or Ben, I swear :)) Yes, there are exceptions to every rule. But the odds of having your book be important or making even the slightest dent in the market are a zillion to one even if you are published by a traditional publisher. Being a successfully self-published (earning money) author is a bleak, dark prospect.

Whenever I hear of someone considering self-publishing, I always ask them how many self-published books they read in the last year.

They're answer? None.

So they, as a writer and reader, don't read anything self-published, yet brazenly expect others to want buy and read their overpriced, unedited book?

That kills me. Every time.

E.M. Kokie said...

Anonymous at July 6, 2009 9:28 AM

I actually totally agree with you.

My point was yes, there are the exceptional cases, but they usually have some large bit of hook, luck, platform, etc. that makes them the exceptional case - ie, results not typical for those who choose to self-publish.

I totally agree that "...the odds of having your book be important or making even the slightest dent in the market are a zillion to one even if you are published by a traditional publisher. Being a successfully self-published (earning money) author is a bleak, dark prospect."

Yup. Agreed.


Anonymous said...

I love it when people use phrases like "publishers get it wrong ALL the time" and then give ONE example. Or ten. Or even twenty.

working illustrator said...

This just in: yet another self-published author (this time on Kindle) has scored a two-book deal with S&S:

I know, I know... 'exceptions'. But before we get too smug about the stupidity about the self-published, let's remember that if you win the long shot, it doesn't matter how long it was.

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