Sunday, 8 June 2014

Self-publishng v Traditional Publishing - Lynne Garner

I've been asked a few times why I've self-published some of my books and the answer is simple - money. I'm what I would describe as a 'jobbing' writer. At one point I managed (just) to make a living from writing, however that changed when the economy took a nose dive. So I had to look at ways of bringing in extra income. Self-publishing seemed an obvious route to take. I knew the arguments against self publishing including:
  • Perceived lack of quality
  • Authors only self publish for vanity reasons
  • You have to be everything: accountant, designer, marketing department etc.
But I also knew that not all published books are a high quality (so as long as I had my books professionally edited they could compete against traditionally published books). Also many of the other jobs linked to book publishing I was already doing e.g. my accounts, marketing (publishers expect you to market your books). So I figured it wasn't really that much difference. However I've discoverer one big difference since publishing my first book (Anansi The Trickster Spider, volume one) just over two years ago. That difference being my earnings.

I know typically people don't talk about their earnings but I'm going to here, just in general terms. If you're a published author you know that twice a year your royalty statements turn up and you discover how many books you have or haven't sold. Over the last month or so those royalty statements have been turning up. Now here is the difference between my traditionally published books and my self-published eBooks. For one of my publishers my royalty income for the last 6 months was half that of one month's royalty income for my eBooks.

This has left me wondering what benefits are there for a 'jobbing' writer to go the traditional published route?

Lynne Garner    

13 comments:

madwippitt said...

It's certainly depressing when you look at statements from publishers showing how many titles they have sold and how much money they are paying you in royalties - and then look at the figure showing how much money they are making. Yes, I know they have overheads and stuff, but so do self-pubbers ...
Although sometimes going the traditional route can work better in terms of getting out there. I helped a friend self-pub a book about football. I explained that he'd have to do a bit of marketing and publicity, but he didn't really have the time for it beyond sending out a few flyers with an invitation to try it for free plus a two-day freebie. He sold around a dozen, (half of those being freebies) Two years later he managed to get a contract with a small specialist trad. publisher, and in the first three weeks alone has sold 76 copies. Ummmm ....

Chris Longmuir said...

Great post, and having published both ways, I may not be making a fortune but my self-published books have earned me far more than my trad published ones.

Lee said...

Most of the AE posts about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing are concerned, for obvious reasons, about what it means for a writer. I'd like to see a bit more engagement with what it also can/should mean for readers. Over at The Guardian, mostly thanks to Dan, the topic is occasionally discussed. Can someone consider doing a post (preferably provocative!) about this?

Jenny Alexander said...

I think one reason traditionally-published authors are embracing self-publishing is precisely because we have the benefit of knowing how little we can earn even with healthy sales with the big five, where less experienced authors assume it must be possible to live on your writing if you can find a big publisher to take you on. Nice post - and very encouraging for this author, about to start self-publishing!

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I earn a lot more from self publishing than I ever have from traditional publishing and glad you do too, Lynne. I could see circumstances in which that might change, and I'm also traditionally published, although as the contracts from the Big Five become ever more restrictive in what they want (a lifetime's indentured servitude in many cases) I'd be very wary of signing any such contract - it would have to be for a truly HUGE amount of cash and that isn't likely to happen! That is an interesting point about readers, Lee, and it's one that traditional publishers talk about a lot with their 'tsunami of crap' remarks and observations that nobody can find good books any more. I actually engage with readers a lot - (I spent most of yesterday with a whole group of them and very nice it was too!) - I find that they simply don't care who has published a book. Nine times out of ten they don't even notice. They used to, I think, when there were individual brands and publishers with a good 'name'. Well, there are a few of those left still - of course there are - but the Big Boys have amalgamated into such a vast corporate mass that nobody cares any more. And only the other day, somebody said to me that she buys and reads a lot more books. She finds them on Amazon, by word of mouth, bookshops, reviews - a mixture of all of the above, but mostly from Amazon 'also boughts' and from word of mouth from friends. Interestingly she also said that where she used to browse charity shops for second hand copies, and still does to some extent, she will now buy a lot more eBooks, as long as they cost under £5.

Debbie Bennett said...

I work 4 days a week in the "day job", leaving me Fridays for other pursuits (and housework....)

Discounting the evenings I write and the networking I do all the time on Facebook and wherever, last month was the first month I earned more from my self-pubbing "business" (per hour of a working day) than I did at my day job.

Yes, you can argue nett v gross, the fact that I write at weekends etc - but I'm not presenting accounts. I'm just saying I think I'm earning more self-pubbing than I ever would have with a traditional contract. It's just paid for my daughter's first car!

JO said...

The only real benefit that I can see is having someone edit your work and not have to pay for it! And then having a marketing department who might give you ideas about who to contact to get a place at festivals (if festivals are your thing.)

Susan Price said...

A fair point about readers and ebooks, Lee - anybody fancy doing a whole blog about it?

Lydia Bennet said...

I've heard from people with 'big' publishers that they only choose a few of their releases to actively market, and the rest are more or less left to sink or swim, unless the writer does it, so in that case you're on a much lower royalty than ebooks and still doing your own marketing! I'm a 'hybrid' myself and like it that way. All systems have their good and bad points, it's about what works for you. In the 'old' days (not that long ago) novelists could sit at home writing and leave the rest to others, now it's expected you leave the garret and get out on the road and on Twitter etc.

Lynne Garner said...

Madwippit - fab to hear your friend landed a publishing deal. As with most things in life you only get out of it what you put into it. And to be honest you don't have to spend hours and hours marketing. I don't but sales still continue to slowly grow.

Lee - as you pointed out as writers we tend to look at it from our perspective. In my view the one real thing it means to readers is they get a wider choice. All my self-published work would never have been published by a main stream publisher (no market) but I knew there was and the sales reflect that.

Debbie - great to hear your writing has just paid for your daughters first car.

Susan - I may just put my readers head on and write next months blog from that perspective.

Lydia - all my publishers expect me to market my books and do the job of their marketing department often with little or no support and defiantly without being paid to do the job.

Lynne Garner said...

Madwippit - fab to hear your friend landed a publishing deal. As with most things in life you only get out of it what you put into it. And to be honest you don't have to spend hours and hours marketing. I don't but sales still continue to slowly grow.

Lee - as you pointed out as writers we tend to look at it from our perspective. In my view the one real thing it means to readers is they get a wider choice. All my self-published work would never have been published by a main stream publisher (no market) but I knew there was and the sales reflect that.

Debbie - great to hear your writing has just paid for your daughters first car.

Susan - I may just put my readers head on and write next months blog from that perspective.

Lydia - all my publishers expect me to market my books and do the job of their marketing department often with little or no support and defiantly without being paid to do the job.

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee said...

That would be terrific, Lynne. There are those (hi, Dan!) who argue that self-publishing best serves readers when it offers innovative work no conventional publisher will touch, since there's already plenty of traditional work, and good traditional work at that, available to readers from legacy sources. I see this as too constrictive a view of self-publishing and therefore would welcome discussion here.

(Dan, if I misunderstand your viewpoint, apologies - and do correct me!)