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Why Self-Published Authors Know Best

19 February 2012

A blog post from regular visitor M. Louisa Locke that PG missed:

3. Self-published authors have up-to-date information about sales data, and they can and do share that information.

The turning point for me in making the decision to self-publishing came when I read Joe Konrath’s initial blog postings listing his ebook sales. I finally had the concrete numbers to determine what kind of sales I would need to pay for my capital outlay, and what kind of income I could make, compared to the advance I could expect going the traditional route.

Agents, publishers, even traditionally published authors, are very unwilling to ever talk about numbers, unless, of course, they are talking about a New York Times bestseller. The whole convoluted publishing industry accounting system, the lag in recording royalties (which go through the agent-I mean, what is up with that??), the fear that weak numbers are going to be the kiss of death for achieving the next contract, all work to keep a veil of secrecy. If you are an author this means you may never really understand how many books you sold, when and where you sold them, which covers worked, which price points worked, and which method of delivery got you the most profit.

Self-published authors working through such methods of delivery as CreateSpace for print or KDP or ePubit for ebooks not only have ready access to this sort of information, which is so crucial for designing effective market strategies, but we have no reason not to share this information. I can write that my sales have been lower this summer than in the winter, and not worry that this will hurt the chances that my next book will be published, or marketed aggressively, or reviewed positively. And I can learn from other authors if they are experiencing a similar pattern, and if so, what they are doing about it. This is one of the reasons we knew that ebook readership was going up, that certain price points worked better than others, that the Nook was beginning to claim a significant share of the market, before most of the traditional pundits did.

. . . .

6.  Self-published authors are going to continue to be the innovators in publishing, no matter what the future holds, and therefore the best source of information.

We have to be innovators, because we don’t rely on anyone else-not agent or editor-to ensure our books are out there and being read. Two years ago, when I researched self-publishing, Amazon’s Kindle and Smashwords, were the two major ways open to me to independently upload my book. Since then Barnes and Noble’s ePubit, Google Editions, Kobo and many other companies have made it possible for independent authors to publish on their sites. In addition, while the iPad’s ibook store has been slow to expand, more and more people are downloading books, often using the Kindle or other aps, not only to the iPad, but more often than not to the iPhone or other similar devices. Traditional publishers are forced to deal with each of these changes slowly, often with protracted negotiations, which slows their authors’ access to these venues.  Self-published authors were able to respond immediately to these changes, as they will be able to do with what ever new twist the ebook or print on demand aspects of the industry takes.

Self-authors are intrinsically less conservative than people who work within the legacy publishing industry, where risks can ruin a career. An agent who takes on too many cutting edge writers and can’t sell their books, an editor whose choices don’t make back the authors advances, the author whose sales don’t pan out, all risk losing their business, their jobs, and their next contract. The motivation, therefore, is to choose authors and books that either fit this year’s trend (no matter that by the time the book comes out the trend may have peaked), or fit squarely into a niche market, and aren’t too long, or too short. Self-published authors have the choice to take risks, because they answer to no one but themselves and their readers.

Link to the rest at M. Louisa Locke


5 Comments to “Why Self-Published Authors Know Best”

  1. Number 3 is absolutely critical and easy to overlook. Self-published authors can take advantage of an optimized observe-orient-decide-act loop(Col. Boyd’s OODA loop). Just look at Konrath’s blog as he continually experiments with various strategies to push the sales of his books. He started with a very firm idea of what he wanted (orientation). With no big publishing bureaucracy to slow him down, he could decide to self-publish. With the almost immediate feedback of the sales data from Amazon and other retailers, he is able to adjust and learn in ways that traditional authors and publishers will never match.

  2. Thanks to M. Louisa Locke for saying THIS! I LOVE having the ability to tweak my stories, covers, descriptions, prices, etc. if necessary.

  3. I love being able to go in and fix reader-spotted issues (one typo and one continuity problem to date).

    Also, changing a cover and seeing an immediate uptick in sales. Fiddling with a description based on reader feedback, so that I target the right audience. Running a one-week sale and then readjusting the price — all that.

    And that’s not stuff that the trad publishers do. Once the work is published, it’s impermeable. (Unless you get lucky and they let you change a few small typos if you go to subsequent printings – which almost never happens. Usually the author finds out after the fact that they’ve gone back to print. Changes cost…)

  4. After going through the traditional publishing route for my non-fiction work, I was extremely disappointed with the bureaucratic and disorganized nature of the publisher I was working with. I felt like I was losing my voice in all the shuffle. For my fiction, I have firmly committed to go all indie. I recently posted my own declaration of self-reliance on my blog (linked above) if anyone is interested. I’d love to read more about these kinds of decisions from other authors, especially those who have experienced the traditional route. Thanks for sharing!

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