Home » Self-Publishing » Making books better – Self-published Bestsellers Sign with a Publisher

Making books better – Self-published Bestsellers Sign with a Publisher

14 March 2012

From author Mark Edwards on Future eBook:

Last summer, Louise Voss and I were, as far as I know, the first of the British self-published authors to be ‘snapped up’ by a publisher after hitting the No.1 and 2 spots on Amazon with our thrillers Catch Your Death and Killing Cupid.  The first of these has since been published by HarperCollins in paperback and ebook, so we now know what life is like on both sides of the fence.

I can’t remember if, when we first put our books online, we did so with the hope of ultimately finding a publisher.  But as soon as we got some success, we had no hesitation in trying to find a publisher – well, maybe a moment, during which we wondered if we could do better on our own.  However, we knew how hard it would be to maintain that success, especially when promotion had become so time-consuming and neither of us had written a word since we’d published Killing Cupid.  What we really wanted to do was get on with the important stuff: writing books.

And we haven’t looked back.  For Louise and I, being with our publisher is far preferable to being on our own, even though we lost all of our Amazon rankings and have effectively had to start all over again.  Even though we are both a couple of worriers who want to be in control of everything and have had to learn to let go to a great extent.  We can’t tweak our blurb every hour or check our sales figures minute by minute.  We can’t add cheeky sub-titles to our books any more… So why do we feel happier on this side of the fence?

The first reason is that we believe that being with a publisher will help us reach a bigger audience. Ebooks might be rapidly in the ascendant but they still account for the minority of sales, and we want our books to be real, in shops, on shelves.  Looking at your own ebook is a pathetic experience compared to holding your own book in your hand – for an author, even if it’s becoming less important to readers, the paper book is still a potent object.  Our potential audience is now everybody who enjoys thrillers, not just those who own a Kindle.

. . . .

The second reason is, perhaps, a contentious one.  It doesn’t how much success we had as self-publishers, we get more respect now we have a publishing deal.  We are seen as ‘proper’ writers. When you’re self-published, even when you’re No.1, you carry a faint whiff about you; you are the person who gets ignored at dinner parties. Of course, this is hugely unfair, and it will probably change. But once you have a deal, everybody, from other writers to bloggers to friends to taxi drivers, looks at you differently.  That’s just the way it is at the moment.  It also makes you see yourself as a ‘proper’ writer.  Someone else has given you that nod of approval – and it does wonders for your confidence.

The final reason is the big one; the most important one. Quality. Publishers make books better. Having an enthusiastic editor, who can help you shape your work, is hugely important and Catch Your Death is a far better book in its HarperCollins version than in the original self-published version, despite the enormous amount of editing and re-writing Louise and I did originally.  I wish I could go to the 50,000 people who bought the self-published ebook and swap their copy for the new one.

Link to the rest at Future eBook


64 Comments to “Making books better – Self-published Bestsellers Sign with a Publisher”

  1. I’m amazed that the need for “respectability” was one of their drivers for signing away the rights to their product.

    • The drive for respect is a potent psychological force. For me, the hardest part of self-publishing has been convincing myself that the “respect” conveyed by a publishing imprint isn’t worth what I think it is.

      • I understand that, but this is a business. It’s best to approach it with a clear head and not allow emotional components to overshadow one’s decisionmaking. For me, there’s just no way in hell I’d allow a publisher to acquire anything BUT print rights, and now that I’ve finally gone through the whole “print yer own book through Lightning Source” gauntlet, I won’t even give that up in the future.

      • John said:
        “For me, the hardest part of self-publishing has been convincing myself that the “respect” conveyed by a publishing imprint isn’t worth what I think it is.”

        I hear you. The “respect” thing shouldn’t matter to me, but sometimes it still does.

  2. To each their own, of course, and I wish them the best of luck. There are, however, 2 items on this op-ed that strike me as a little odd.

    1. Published book can reach a wider audience (assuming that geographic restrictions don’t limit sales moreso than having a paper copy availble on shelves will increase them.) However, how many more paper copies do you have to sell to make up the difference in revenue for the author? That was never mentioned.

    2. I think the importance of a good editor is almost a concensus. Surely you can find one who doesn’t require you forfeit the lion’s share of the book’s proffit perpetually.

  3. “Taxi drivers look at you differently.” — from the original article, which does not contain the words “money” or “royalties.”

    Sometimes I shake my head until it rattles.

    • If you’re worried about what taxi drivers think of you, you’re seriously into mind-reading.

      • Really? I rather think that they are simply not successful and/or business savvy enough to afford a Chauffeur.

        After all, why why would you worry about getting respect if you can simply buy it? 😉

  4. “Looking at your own ebook is a pathetic experience compared to holding your own book in your hand”

    Sorry, no.

    I’ll tell you what’s a great experience. That’s to watch a show you wrote appear on network television and know 4 million other people just watched the four words Written By Barbara Morgenroth scroll by in the credits. Day after day after day.

    I published 15 books traditionally. I have paper all around the house. But being on television is really super. That’s reaching an audience.

    • Actually, you CAN have both an e-book and a print copy of your self-published work – I’m surprised the authors didn’t know about or explore this option. Personally, I’m very happy with the POD (through CreateSpace) copies of my novel, and so are the people who have chosen to purchase the print version.

      Ditto on the editing – great editing can be had for a fraction of the cost.

      But you know, that stuff takes *work* and it’s so much easier to just sign away your rights and most of your profits and lose your Amazon rankings… because the publisher will take care of you. Don’t you fret your pretty little heads over it.

      I’d love to see what song these guys are singing in 3-5 years…

  5. I don’t care how I smell at parties as long as that smell is MONEY.

    That may be a cynical view, but isn’t the point to be making a living at your writing? Respect can take a flying leap if my kids are fed and clothed and my mortgage is paid!

  6. It would be interesting to hear a year from now how much they like their publisher, and what level of success they’ve found actually selling books. His reasons strike me as a bit superficial or at least secondary; status with being a gatekeeper-approved author, a (in my opinion, somewhat specious) declaration that publishers are synonymous with quality, and the desire to turn some of the responsibility for their career to an outside party with the “we just want to write” argument. Everyone’s free to make their own choices, and if this is what works for them, more power to them. But I’d like to see whether the sales and money filtering to the author going forward keeps all their stated reasons for loving their publisher at the forefront in the long run.

  7. I am not oing to knock someone’s chosen path to success and I can see signing a pulishing deal to build a name/brand. I think this is especially true when it comes to a self pubbed book that has already been successful. The wider market reached is just icing on their cake now.

    I would take issue with some of the other remarks in there…like good editing only being done by traditional publishers.

    The stigma thing is very real. I do not particularly care on my own personal level what others might think, but implied credibility is a very real thing in business.


  8. I cheerfully confess to wanting validation–from my readers. Since I write science fiction and fantasy the literati stick me in the ghetto anyway, regardless of publisher, so their approval is a foregone conclusion. My readers, on the other hand, expound at length on how they want more which gives me all the warm fuzzies of validation I need. Oh, and the pay is good too.

    • I’m with you. All the validation I need is readers buying and then telling me, “MOAR, please.”

      Or “Frickin’ hurry up with the next book!”

      That works as validation too. 😉

    • Amen, sister! The 4 and 5-star reviews from total strangers and the fan letters (um, e-mails, FB comments, et al) are the validation I need. But to each, his/her own.

  9. “What we really wanted to do was get on with the important stuff: writing books.”

    This is the one point that I agree with. If ever I was successful enough to negotiate a good contract with a traditional publisher that would free up more time for writing, I would consider it.

    Of course, the self-published writer can contract for everything a publisher does for a flat fee (or free), and often can do a better job. But it takes time and energy. If some of these tasks could be handled by a publisher to allow a writer more time to write, I think that’s a good thing.

    • IF you are in a position where you need more writing time to further your career AND you are already successful there is also another option, hire an assistant. Writing excuses did a podcast about this topic.

    • Here’s what you do to get more time to write:

      Stop worrying about your rankings and promotions and just write the next book.

      That’s what my intentions are, anyway.

  10. I am always happy for authors who achieve happiness. I fear it may be short-lived, but at least they can get that not-a-real-author burr out from under their saddle and move forward in a more sensible way after they have a little more experience with that side of the fence. Their naivety shows through in the comment about quality. HarperCollins is that same merry band of perfectionists that allowed chapter-sized errors to persist for months in poor Raymond Feist’s book:


    It *is* great that they found a good editor who helped improve the story, and the experience of working with him/her may help them going forward. But now they can be thrilled with their 17% royalties for the next few months or year until it drops to 17% of zero when nobody at HC cares about promoting that book anymore. Then the ride is probably over since they do not get their rights back unless I am very much mistaken, and I wouldn’t hold my breath for HC to do anything sensible like trying to earn money on their backlist.

    Without HC, they could have cut down on their own promo efforts to focus on writing, and they would have a 70% share of a possibly smaller (or quite possibly larger) amount year after year after year into the sunset. Writers now have a shot at not just a living, but a largely *passive* living if they keep a focus on writing instead of cranking out one book and spending their writing time promoting it to death. One of the wisest things Konrath has said (and probably others, but I think he shouted loudest) is that the next book is the best promo for your others. With books that were able to hit the very top like that, they could have had a decent start on a passive income for years to come.

    But they sound happy, so I hope they do get from it what they wanted. There is more to life than money and the pursuit of a life of financial ease. I hope they learn something useful and grow from wearing the “published author” label pin for a while. I see a lot of those pins for sale on eBay once the novelty wears off. But if they never have the pin, they will always wonder what it would have felt like. Probably no amount of talking from those who went before them can totally convince them that they don’t need one. And it is true that many people, when learning that you are an author, follow up immediately with, “Are you published?” Some people really hate saying no to that. I think that question is dying out, though.

    I was equally puzzled watching Michael and Robin Sullivan entertain publishing contracts despite great success going it alone. They did get a much better deal than most, and I hope that they look back on it as a wise choice. I assume that they do. They are smart people and seemed to go into it with eyes and minds open, so I think I must conclude that we don’t all want the same things.

    • Well said.

    • And it is true that many people, when learning that you are an author, follow up immediately with, “Are you published?” Some people really hate saying no to that.

      But they were published. Self-publishing is published. If you can buy a finished book, it’s a published book. Heck, if you can download a finished book for free it’s still published.

      • Well, *I* agree with you 100%. But we all know the intent of the question and that the next question is invariably “Who is your publisher?” So *if* you care what they think, you then have a long conversation ahead about how you didn’t pay thousand upfront to have someone publish a book that only your mother will read and that, no really, now self-publishing is the smart and lucrative way to go. I would actually argue that now the Big6 have themselves become the reviled “vanity press” in the literal sense that you give up serious income for the same ego stroking that got the old vanity presses their name. You can talk your way through it, but it gets really tiresome somewhere around the 400th time. I am just tired of that conversation. It can go either way. Either people think you’re an awesome go-getter for doing it all yourself, or they think youre a loser. If the latter, you’re probably better off not becoming their close friends anyway, but most things do get tiresome after a few hundred times just the same.

        But you can be thick skinned like a Konrath or an Eisler and just really not care what they think as you drive to the bank with your wheelbarrow of cash. That usually helps authors feel better. Even a trickle of cash and a good review or piece of fanmail goes along way.

        • I would actually argue that now the Big6 have themselves become the reviled “vanity press” in the literal sense that you give up serious income for the same ego stroking that got the old vanity presses their name.

          Heh, I like that. 🙂

    • So Robin Sullivan has been off the blogosphere lately, due to family issues, I think. But last time I checked, she and Michael were very happy with the Orbit launch.

      “I’ve found myself in the unique position of defending traditional publishing lately. Mainly because of the absolutely wonderful job that Orbit has done rolling out my husband’s Riyria Revelations books. I’ll admit I expected the worst (too many war-weary veterans whispered in my ear to tell me to “be afraid…be very very afraid”), but my pleasure is not just a matter of them jumping over a low expectation bar. They are smart, savvy, hardworking and I’m such a perfectionist that I’m usually very critical so if I say they are doing “things right” they are exceptional.”

      from her Nov post

      My memory’s a bit rusty, but I believe they signed w/ a traditional publisher to increase their distribution — taking advantage of Orbit’s bigger marketing reach. I believe that’s also the reason Kristine Rusch continues to publish books with traditional publishers as well.

      • Good point. That’s true. Now that you say it, KKR did talk about wanting a certain fraction (1/4 or something?) legacy published to help her reach fans there who might then migrate to her self-pubbed (or small press pub’d?) works. Something similar may apply for Ridan and/or Michael.

        Glad Robin is happy. Orbit did seem one of the more clueful publishers out there. I felt sorry for Robin having to answer the same objections over and over in the blogosphere. But despite all the skepticism, they really did get a deal that addressed most if not all of the concerns raised on Konrath’s blog and elsewhere. As far as I know, it was a unique contract.

        • Both Robin and Kris had to negotiate down the noncompetes to something reasonable. Tricky things…

        • It should be noted though that KKR obviously looks at publishing some of her work traditionally as taking a loss for the sake of increasing her fanbase for her more profitable self-published works.

          If you don’t have any other works… Are you really reaching more people?

          • “If you don’t have any other works… Are you really reaching more people?”

            I’m guessing the question you meant to ask was “Are you really going to make more money?” Nobody here is arguing that you’ll for sure make more money or reach a larger audience. That would, of course, depend on many things, including the terms of the deal, the publisher’s marketing muscle, the author’s current platform, other works, existing fanbase, and future business plan.

      • And if you take a traditional contract mainly because you want the respectability that comes with being traditionally published, Michael Sullivan is actually a cautionary example.

        Because when the Orbit editions of his books came out, they were reviewed by the sort of review sites that don’t take self-published books and consider themselves the ultimate arbiters of taste besides. The first book in the trilogy got a scathing review from a particularly snooty site and of course, the review mentioned that the books had been originally self-published and that one couldn’t expect the same standards of quality from self-published work, but one could expect better from Orbit. Then we got self-proclaimed genre specialists in reviews wondering how Orbit could have picked up such a bad book at all and then it completely degenerated into namecalling and worse.

        In short, the sort of people who do have issues with self-published books (and there’s still plenty of them) are not necessarily impressed when you land a traditional publisher.

        • Which brings up the related point that self publishers who sign a traditional deal move into a higher price bracket, which is a different population of readers who might have different expectations/preferences.

  11. @Scott M

    Of course, the self-published writer can contract for everything a publisher does for a flat fee (or free), and often can do a better job. But it takes time and energy. If some of these tasks could be handled by a publisher to allow a writer more time to write, I think that’s a good thing.

    In my experience, this is backward. Dealing with the Big6 takes more time. I think Konrath estimated it as six times more time consuming (I could be wrong about the exact number–didn’t bother to find the quote.) There is always that email you need to consider how to respond to, that cover that isn’t what you wanted, but you don’t want to be hard to work with, so you agonize over whether to make noise about it. those copyedits that introduce more errors than were in the original while still somehow not managing to correct the mistakes that you marked on the last batch of galleys. That copyeditor who wants to argue historical facts with you and is ultimately wrong but still wastes your time with defending your research. The contract dept that cannot handle the simplest of changes without totally messing up agreed upon terms. Repeatedly. In their favor each time. So you need to go over it all with a fine tooth comb every time. Plus they make you wait a month each time for their latest masterpiece with half the agreed upon terms reverted to the standard oh-so-fair contract. The publicist who finds you 30 blogs that want you to guest post (great!) but have 4 followers each (not great) and they are the same four at each blog (still less great). Even better are the blogs that got popular and then were effectively purchased by the publisher. And the readers, not being stupid, know this and leave, but the publishers paid money for that blog’s page rank, darn it, so you can spend your time doing guest posts for chirping crickets instead of your writing, or you can agonize over whether it is a bad idea to decline and risk alienating the publicist and/or someone else at the publisher. This list goes on. I am really not exaggerating. Every little thing that ought to take 15 minutes doesn’t. It takes a day. If you are lucky.

    • Thanks for insight. Having never worked with a publisher, I have no experience from which to draw. I recently got my book back from my editor (really a friend but a good editor too) and I’m frustrated at the time it takes to go through the ms and make corrections/changes (or not). It takes time away from writing. I’m 2/3 through my next book and trying to find time to review edits and finish the next book is difficult.

      I hope for a time when I make enough from writing to write full time. And everything I’ve learned tells me I have the best chance of that by self-publishing. But until that glorious time, I struggle with time to do everything I want/need to do.

      • Scott – Making editing corrections/changes is an intrinsic part of writing.

        Working with a publisher, typically the first (and maybe subsequent) rounds of edits are instructions to the author like – “I don’t like Phoebe and don’t think she adds anything to the story. Take her out.” or “Shorten this by 10,000 words.” or “The sequence in New York isn’t working for me. It needs more tension and a faster pace.”

        Most editors, particularly these days, don’t go through and do the work. That part almost all falls on the author.

    • Absolutely. And don’t forget that trad publishing expects authors to do their own promo (with the exception of setting up those oh-so-helpful blog tours you mentioned). Oh, and design and pay for your own promo materials, too. Not to mention that *not* doing those things is not an option, in their eyes…

      Here’s what authors are expected to deal with on the promotional front.

      Website. Blogs. Guest blogs. Getting reviews from all but the top review sites. Entering published book into contests. Facebook. Twitter. Designing and paying for: business cards, bookmarks, postcards, any other promotional items. Setting up in-person signing with local bookstores if you want a book launch. Maintaining Author Central presence at Amazon. Etc, etc.

      To recap — ALL authors, trad-pubbed or self-published — have the onus of promotion on their own shoulders. With the added bonus of the expectation (and ire) of your publishing house falling upon you should you choose to not do those things. Yes, I’ve seen it happen.

      And then the revisions, the copyedits, the galley proofs, the bugging of the agent to get sales figures from the editor, the stressing out about communication styles… yeah.

      What was that about “just give me time to write”?

      • Thanks to all. I am now thoroughly convinced that traditional publishing does not equate to more time for writing. In fact, from what others say, it may actually mean less time. A lesson I’m glad I learned now (instead of the hard way later).

        • For a select few authors, traditional publishing is a great path. The problem is, you don’t know until you’ve closed the door behind you whether you’re in the room with a sweet kitty or a lion ready to devour you…

          Here’s wishing many kitties for Mark and Louise (and hope they brought their lion-beating sticks along anyway).

          And I do miss hard-and-fast deadlines, in a kind of misty, wistful way. OTOH, there’s nothing better than readers clamoring for the next book to light a fire under a writer. 🙂

      • Well, to be fair, in addition to the blog tour, they *did* send an ARC to Harriet Klausner. Seriously, though, we got great support from the publisher when it came to mailing review copies. It was nice to have some poor intern do it rather than making trips to the post office and paying all that postage. And in their defense it was not clear at first that blog tours were pointless. Konrath did them. He pretty much outdid any other blog tours that I am aware of. Now by about 2010 they got pretty much no results, along with many other things that had worked great a few years earlier. Whatever is perceived to work right now will be what the Big6 are expecting their remaining authors to do in 2015 whether it makes sense or not. It isn’t that they are stupid. THese things may once have been good ideas, but the Big6 are venerable corporations with serious inertia so they lag reality by a few years.

        (But for anyone who was swayed toward trad pub by that pocket of competence in the mailroom, I would point out though that ebooks are pretty darned cheap to mail yourself these days. Just saying.)

  12. Instead of worrying over whether they did the right or wrong thing by taking the deal… I’m thinking that they did the inevitable thing, considering how they started.

    This is a lesson, I think. If you actually want a publishing deal, then the standard established practice among indies to write one book and flog the heck out of it to get on a best seller list is one way to go.

    But if you go that way, you almost have to succeed at it. Because you don’t have the back up for the first book. These people, by marketing and not writing, put themselves in a situation where they pretty much had to take the deal.

    If you really want to build a success in self-publishing, then don’t kill yourself flogging until you have the books to sustain the career.

    That’s all that I took out of this.

    • Camille,

      You are absolutely right. It’s what Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have been saying. “The best promotion is the next book.”


    • This is what struck me the most. Camille nailed it. They spent all day checking their ratings? I agree that everyone needs to find the road that makes them happy, but really? They stopped writing and did nothing but promo and fiddle with their blurbs?
      I just…I mean. Really?
      I should think the second most authors’ books hit the presses (most likely before) they are writing the next book, right? Step one: write. Step two: write more.

      Anyway, I agree that we’ll see how happy they really are in a year or two. If they are still thrilled, great.

      • Just two points:

        1.) My point wasn’t that they did wrong — sure my own prejudices show in that I would not want what they got. My point was that what they did was right for the end result they got. We don’t know, can’t know, what’s best for them.

        But we can look at what happened and judge how their strategy would work for what we want. I’m just saying it’s a bad strategy if you want to be an indie.

        2.) Given that they did get what they want at the moment, I think it will take much longer than a year or two. Sure it might be less if they signed a really horrible contract with draconian non-compete clauses and such. But for the most part, the thing that will make someone most sorry is the exit clause. It’s ten years down the line when they will know whether they made a mistake or not.

      • This is a good example of what Dean Wesley Smith calls the difference between Authors and Writers.

  13. I know Mark Edwards somewhat – he was one of the contributors to Let’s Get Digital, and we’ve gone back-and-forth on a couple of topics.

    When I read his article this morning, I knew there would be some pushback.

    However, you must understand that not everyone either views the world the same way, or has the same goals and dreams.

    I know that, for Mark, getting his books into physical bookstores was extremely important to him on a personal level, and he never hid that the whole time he was self-publishing. And it’s one area where self-publishers – no matter how successful – can really struggle.

    Signing this trad deal (and it was a big deal) allowed Mark to achieve that goal and I’m very happy for him.

    • So long as they got what they wanted, then that’s great. They don’t specify details of the deal, but if they gave up all the usual rights, then I’m sure at one point in the future, they’ll have some regrets.

      Or…maybe not. Different folks, different strokes and all that.

    • Thanks for the perspective, David.

  14. At the very least, I respect the fact that Edwards and Voss are up front about their reasons for signing with a big publisher. I just wonder if they’ve thought about the possibility of calling up the office, only to find that their enthusiastic editor has just been downsized.

    No matter how high the quality of the product may be, the fundamental publishing business model is doomed to fail in the current economy. That, and the loss of my rights to my own IP, would be my greatest worries.

    Nonetheless, I wish them the best of luck. I’ll never disparage a hard-working writer going for the cash.

  15. I agree with Konrath et al, but I’m concerned that for certain genres traditional might still be the way to go.

    I’m working toward releasing a sci-fi novel soon and plan to go it alone, but I have several other projects in the works that are middle grade and young adult. I don’t know very many kids and teens that are buying ebooks on their Kindles yet, and I’m thinking I may need a publishing house to help me get copies in front of the younger audience and their gatekeepers.

    • YA is a hot genre in ebooks, Scott. Well, especially paranormal romancey YA.

      Middle Grade is slowly picking up. I know some of the commenters here have had decent success with their MG works in the digital arena. 🙂

    • I know a successful middle grade author, Scott, and his success has largely been the result of doing a million presentations at different schools.

      • It’s true that many adults are reading YA fiction these days (I’m one of them). But there’s no way I’m writing paranormal romance, and regardless, adults with ereaders still aren’t the main target demographic for YA.

        I guess it all comes down to how much you’re willing to get out there and sell your own work to schools, local stores, etc. I’m wondering what marketing strategies for an indie YA author would pay off the best. Thanks for the comments.

      • Savage?

    • Not all book purchasers for YA fiction are teens. YA fiction, especially if there is a romance plot or strong subplot are becoming increasingly popular with female readers of all ages.

      Also, with regard to accepting a traditional publisher– I read somewhere, I think it was Kris Rusch’s blog, that Amanda Hocking hasn’t made a bestseller list since being picked up by SMP. I did a quick check on her Amazon offerings and there’s one that is in the top 300 free and her February release through SMP is at #903 paid. The paperback is at #1826. Nothing to be sneezed at but still not the star seller she was before. Of course paperback and ebook are same price at $8.99 now.

      • The real test for these authors that got picked up is if they release anything new is how it sells. Although these authors have had their old works reissued, I don’t think Hocking or these guys have any new titles yet.

      • Can’t speak for the Amazon list, I’ve seen Hocking’s Trylle trilogy on the USA Today bestseller list since it came out with her publisher. So it’s selling well through mainstream channels, which is what she wanted when she signed with a traditional publisher — to reach a broader audience.

  16. I suspect that one of the reasons why eBooks have been so enthusiastically embraced by older mid-list authors, often previously published, like myself and many colleagues, is that we have an inventory: reverted backlist, and new books which we can revise and get out there in a reasonable time. Or at least that’s the position here in the UK. I was giving a workshop on the Short Story at a big writers’ conference last weekend and the inevitable enquiries about eBooks came up. The first question was, ‘But how do you manage without all that support and promotion the publisher gives you.’ I had to stifle the laugh – I’ve been conventionally published by publishers big and small, and in every case, the ‘support and promotion’ was minimal. As was the advance. Even with an agent. I don’t think I’d ever be in a hurry to relinquish control again – although I would certainly buy in whatever expertise I needed at the time. Like everything else to do with writing, time management is the key! I wish them well and sympathise with them, but from the mature end of a long and complicated writing career, I can’t help feeling that the ‘respect’ issue is a mirage.

  17. The sad part about this, for me, is that these authors invested the time and very hard work of mastering the self-publishing learning curve – and THEN quit.
    They assume that the next book will be as time-consuming as the first, that they will have to do as much work.
    Instead, they have shot themselves in the foot: they now have to put in the time and the very hard work to master the traditional-publishing learning curve.
    And while they do that, the self-pub world will continue changing – and if they every need to or want to go back to self-publishing, they will have to master THAT learning curve again.
    It seems a guaranteed recipe for losing even more time from writing.
    And giving up all their Amazon reviews (unless they actually wanted to do that – I can imagine there might be reasons such as too many bad reviews) to start over, with essentially the same book – another huge loss. Even a lot of bad reviews requiring a new start could be overcome by taking the book down, making the required changes, and putting it up with a new name and ISBN would be better, if that were the reason.
    I wish them well. I hope the reward is worth it, especially now that anyone wanting to buy their book is going to have to shell out a LOT more cash. But they were SO close to a good place – and left their spot in line to go stand at the end of another long line.
    Only my opinion, of course.

    • Forgot to say: most of the people who write about this process (publicizing the first book), also mention how much they have learned and how much easier the second time around is.

    • Yes! This is a very good point. Knowledge and expertise (aside from the writing craft itself) now have a short halflife. This favors those who have multiple books out and can learn it all once and do it for all their books rather than learning it once and doing it just once before the game completely changes.

      This is also why it is so important that those big time NYC houses can zip along from verbal agreement to book on shelf in as little as 12 to 18 months. That is so blazingly fast that the industry can only turn inside out and upside down two or three times at most during the process.

  18. Oh, boy. Respectability, like applause and validation, is a difficult and sometimes fleeting goal to achieve.

    I suppose, yes, they feel like they have more in other’s eyes since signing. But of course, like all things, the levels that can be achieved go anywhere from a grain of sand to a boulder to mountains.

    Just go to a conference and try it.

    You: “Hey! Did you hear? My self-published book was a best-seller! And then I signed this great publishing deal. It’s so exciting.” Whispers, “And, to be honest, for the first time ever, I really feel like people are respecting my work.”

    Fellow Author: “Oh. You published with x? Only a one book deal? Well, I’m w xx. I never HAD to go that self-publishing route, you know. Would never take that route. Anyway. My agent, oh, you know him, everyone knows him, he’s the best, will do major deals only, well, he got me a three book deal w xx. You know, the last book they pubbed won xxx. Huge bestsellers. Signed for seven figures. But, hey, I’m happy for you. Really.” Huge pause. “Seriously. Good for you.”

    Because that’s the problem, even it’s an exaggeration. Someone will always do more, have more, accomplished more, and someone will always be unimpressed by what you did.

    So, it’s a slippery goal. But if they’re happy with their decision, than they’re happy.

    It’s just something I had to learn to let go off a long time ago. All that mattered was if I respected myself.

  19. Someone who says “For Louise and I” calls himself a writer?

    Seriously, I hope you have a real editor. If I see an error like that in a book, self-pubbed or no, it goes straight into the garbage.

    If you’re a writer, respect the language you write in.

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