Home » Amazon, Non-US, Self-Publishing » A mix of self-publishing and the Amazon model seems perfect to me for now

A mix of self-publishing and the Amazon model seems perfect to me for now

26 June 2011

Lengthy interviews in The Guardian with a British and American self-publishing star.

Excerpts from an interview with David Moody:

When I’d finished my first novel in 1995, I immediately went down the usual route of trying to find a publisher. I signed with a very small press. The book was published and it did absolutely nothing. I’d naively thought that once I’d signed the contract I could sit back and wait for the cash to start rolling in but, of course, that didn’t happen (in fact, I still have the remains of the microscopic first print run sitting in boxes in my attic!). A few things got in the way – work, having a family etc – and it wasn’t until 2000 that I finished my second book, Autumn. Now slightly more savvy, I realised I had two options – did I get back on the submission/rejection merry-go-round again, or did I try and do something with the book myself? I reassessed my priorities – what was more important, making money or getting the book out to people? An author’s at a bit of a loose end without any readers, so I decided to give the book away for free from my website to try and build a readership. The effect of that move, although slow at first, was dramatic. Within a few months I was getting 2,000-plus downloads a month (not so impressive now, but we’re talking 10 years ago). I’d always had it in mind to write sequels to Autumn. When the second book in the series was ready, I released it as a paid-for ebook and, to my amazement, people were soon buying it in decent numbers.

. . . .

I was made redundant in early 2005, and that gave me a great opportunity to look at the business I’d developed and to try and take it to the next level. I started to work with a print-on-demand publisher to produce physical copies of my novels. It was surprisingly easy: I just had to produce print quality text and covers, and they turned them into a book which, to all intents and purposes, was indistinguishable from many of the books on the shelves of bookstores. I bought a batch of ISBNs, and that enabled me to use the distribution services of the printer’s parent company (Ingrams), making my books available pretty much worldwide via Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc. In order to avoid the self-published ‘stigma’, I set up my own publishing company and hid behind the name ‘Infected Books’. Incredibly, it cost less than £250 to get everything up and running. [And] within 12 months of launching Infected Books, I had seven titles published and was selling several hundred books every month.

Part of me wishes I was self-publishing now, because I’d make a fortune! Back then, the ebook market was a fraction of what it is today – no Kindle, no iBooks, very few dedicated e-readers … I sold ebooks very cheaply, primarily because they were virtually 100% profit and I figured a potential reader would be happy to take a chance on spending a couple of quid . . . .

. . . .

As it happened, it wasn’t a publisher I caught the eye of; rather it was two different groups of film-makers. I was approached by a small Canadian production company for the film rights to the first Autumn book (they produced a very low budget movie in 2009 starring Dexter Fletcher and the late David Carradine). The same week I was approached by a production company in Los Angeles for the film rights to Hater – a novel I’d published just a couple of months earlier. Initially I thought it was a scam – one of my mates winding me up! – but after a few weeks of negotiations I sold the film rights to Mark Johnson (producer of Rain Man and the Chronicles of Narnia movies among others). Johnson subsequently brought Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy I and II, Pan’s Labyrinth) on board, and the movie is currently in development. As a result of this deal, I sold the rights to Hater and its two sequels (Dog Blood was released last year, Them or Us is out at the end of 2011), to Thomas Dunne Books in the US. They went on to sell the rights to the books to a number of different territories, including Gollancz in the UK.

Excerpts from an interview with Barry Eisler:

Financially I think it makes sense to take the long term into account, and I’m confident I can do better financially over the long term on my own than I could with a legacy partner. If I don’t need the advance today, why take it if I believe it’ll cost me money tomorrow?

But it’s not just the destination that matters to me; it’s also important that I enjoy the trip. And ceding creative control over packaging, not to mention control over key decisions like pricing and timing, has never been comfortable for me. It might be OK if I thought my publishers were making all the right decisions, but when your publisher is doing something you think is stupid and that’s costing you money – something like, say, saddling your book with a close-up of an olive-green garage door, or writing a bio that treats your date and place of birth as a key selling point, or misunderstanding the concepts of automatic resonance and acquired resonance, or otherwise blowing the book’s packaging – it can be pretty maddening (at least it can be for me). I’ll be happier making these decisions myself.

Ask yourself this. If someone offered you a half-million dollars today as a one-time payment, or $50,000 a year for the rest of your life, which would you take? Assuming you weren’t in the middle of a financial emergency and expected to live longer than a decade, you’d be better off with the annuity. And that’s the difference between legacy publishing and indie.

. . . .

Here’s what I wanted out of self-publishing: 1) a much more equitable digital royalty split. 2) Full creative control (packaging, pricing, timing). 3) Immediate digital release, followed by paper release when the paper is ready (no more slaving the digital release to the paper release).

As it happens, all these terms are available to a self-published author, so I decided to self-publish. What some people might be missing in that simple statement, though, is that it’s the terms that are important to me, not the means by which I achieve them. If these terms are a destination, self-publishing is undeniably an excellent vehicle for getting there. But it isn’t the only vehicle. And if another vehicle comes along that offers all these terms, plus a substantial advance, plus a retail wing that can reach millions of customers in my demographic … then, as a non-ideological businessman, I’m going to change rides.

. . . .

One thing I think is important to understand: we’re not living in an either/or universe. I now have four low-priced, self-published digital works, and if Amazon blows out the marketing for The Detachment, those other works (and the ones to come that I plan on self-publishing) will benefit enormously. As I’ve said many times, publishing is a business for me, not an ideology. And self-publishing is a means, not an end. The end is fortune–the financial kind and the happiness kind both. For that, a mix of self-publishing and the Amazon model seems perfect to me for now.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Amazon, Non-US, Self-Publishing

2 Comments to “A mix of self-publishing and the Amazon model seems perfect to me for now”

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but so far it seems that genre writers such as Eisler and Konrath are going the indie route. When, if ever, do you think literary writers such as Michael Chabon and Zadie Smith will go the indie route, if ever?

    • Rich – I think it’s really more of an individual author decision than a genre-related decision. Some genres like romance and fantasy are selling very well via ebooks, so it looks like a less-risky move for authors in those genres, but it’s really a personal author-by-author decision.

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