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Creative Control, Ease of Publishing and Money Pushing Authors to Self-Publish

30 May 2013

From Digital Book World:

Hybrid authors who self-published their last book did so because of the amount of creative control they retained, the ease of the publishing process and the amount of money they can make, according to a new report from Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest about the habits and preferences of hybrid authors. This early data from the report was presented by Phil Sexton, Writer’s Digest community leader, at the IDPF Digital Book 2013 conference in New York.

When hybrid authors who chose to self-publish their last book were asked why they chose to do so, nearly two-thirds said one of their reasons was that self-publishing helped them exert more creative control on the final product. Some 40% said one of their reasons was because the ease of the self-publishing process, and nearly 40% said it was because they could make more money self-publishing.

Hybrid authors who published their last book with a traditional publisher said they did so for completely different reasons: amount of help received along the way (half); total reach of distribution (nearly half); and the prestige of working with a large publisher and seeing their books on major bookstore shelves (about a third).

. . . .

For authors who would prefer to self-publish their next book, the top three reasons why are:

1. Amount of creative control retained (three-quarters)2. Amount of money that can be made (nearly 60%)
3. Ease with which the publishing process is completed (about a third)

Link to the rest at Digital Book World


18 Comments to “Creative Control, Ease of Publishing and Money Pushing Authors to Self-Publish”

  1. Why do I hear Homer Simpson saying, “D’oh!”

  2. It’s particularly interesting that this is a survey of *hybrid* authors – ie. authors who have been through the process of traditional publishing – either with a big NY house or a smaller press.

    In particular, note that the overwhelming majority response is not ease of publishing (31%), or the money (56.9%), but Creative Control (77.6%).

    Most authors who have been through the traditional publishing process are given little to no input on what happens with their book – from title and cover decisions all the way through marketing and distribution, and beyond. An author friend of mine, for example, recently found out that her publisher (one of the Big 5) had forgotten to inform her of nearly a year’s worth of various foreign rights sales. She found out about one of the books via a comment from an international reader on Twitter…

    Nobody is going to care as much about your book as you will, and it can be a rude awakening for many authors to see how tradpub treats their work. And I don’t mean ‘their precious babies,’ I mean their WORK. (And yes, I was one of those authors, as well as one of those surveyed by DBW.)

    I’d be curious to see what kind of response indie-published-only authors make. They’d pick similar reasons, I’d think, although having never experienced the utter lack of control many authors find in tradpub, I’d bet the percentage citing Creative Control as a major reason to self-publish would be lower. 🙂

    • I expect you are right it would be lower, but if you took the subset of self-pub first who have been looking at the industry through a long-term, business-like lens, it would be comparable. That remains probably the biggest reason for me to prefer to self-publish first. I understand what I am writing, who I am writing it for, and how I want it presented. I cannot imagine selling my work to someone to present however they like or think is best. The notion that some marketing major knows a genre better than someone who reads and writes it is just stupid. It results in readers like me ignoring probably awesome books bc the title and cover treatment scream “this years trend in historical” rather than…anything i actually want to read. No thanks. If i really am the only person in the world who wants my particular style, hey, at least i can be an Original. 🙂

    • “An author friend of mine, for example, recently found out that her publisher (one of the Big 5) had forgotten to inform her of nearly a year’s worth of various foreign rights sales. She found out about one of the books via a comment from an international reader on Twitter…”


      How does a professional business ‘forget’ it’s earning money and actually manage to survive?

      • Because they’re so big and with such a lack of communication that the right hand has no idea what the left is doing.

        Plus general lack of consideration for authors. Sure, the publishing house knew they had foreign sales, but why bother to inform the author? Usually the only people who talk to authors about this stuff are their editors – who are increasingly overworked. When you have the time to either work on the book currently in production OR e-mail an author about their foreign sales, guess what comes first?

        • suburbanbanshee

          Well, in a normal business, they’d just have a corps of clerks and computers churning out little reports and invoices and checks to all the clients on the particular day they’re supposed to be made. Nobody would have to “remember.” It would just get done.

          Presumably agents do get this sort of thing, so it would be pretty easy to send copies to authors of their earnings. But they don’t, because the publishing company wants to be more like a black market money laundry than a real business.

  3. I’m surprised that retaining the full rights to their work does not feature.

    • It wasn’t a specific question, actually – but it should have been! Although you can read that into the ‘control’ aspect, too.

    • ‘Time’ or ‘Speed’ isn’t on here either. Trad pub is so slow. Slow to say yes or no, slow to publish. Two years, or two weeks?

      Digital Book World must have asked their respondents to choose between only those three things. If writers had been able to answer freely, the results would have a lot more than three reasons for indie publishing.

  4. In other news, water is wet.

  5. “It’s particularly interesting that this is a survey of *hybrid* authors.”

    When we talk about the increase in hyrbids, meaning the folks with a traditional print history who dip a toe in the water with a self-pub title, it will be interesting to see what other landscape shifts occur.

    Namely, how will Trad writers feel when they compare sales (if they even can with their legacy royalty reports)and see more income from their indie titles against a comparable (or even greater) amount of print sales.

    Just sayin’.

  6. I’m a hybrid author and one of the side-effects of self-publishing is that I know much more about how publishing works. As as result, I’m asking my traditional publisher questions I never thought of asking before. (What BISAC codes are you planning to use? Which categories will it be listed in on Amazon?) As more and more authors do what I’m doing, I imagine publishers will have to deal with more and more questions like that.

  7. The biggest learning curve I had about how publishing works has not been my self-publishing venture, but rather via a traditional publishing experience where my editor was so incompetent and unreliable (as well as routinely impossible to find for weeks at a time) that I had to become my own managing editor for that process–get the MS into the release schedule, get it into copy editing, make sure a cover artist was scheduled, get copy copy put on the book, get production errors on the book jacket corrected, get the MS into production, get errors in the page proofs corrected and the file reflowed, find out why the book wasn’t shipped when it should of been and whether it would indeed get shipped, etc., etc.

    It was a NIGHTMARE (especially since no one at that house wanted to deal directly with me, the mere AUTHOR, and treated me like I was exposing my genitals in public, or something, because I was trying to get my dormant delivered-manuscript published)–but it ensured that a number of tasks were familiar to me when I started self-publishing my backlist.

  8. I’m a hybrid author, too, with a history of 25 years of writing for traditional publishers.

    I am currently VERY happy in publisher relationship (DAW Books), where I have creative control (I get edited, but this is a cooperative process, and my editor is always very clear that I have final say because it’s -my- book) and where–unusually for so many publishers–I am typically included in most decisions about the packaging and release of my work. (In particular, I am very closely involved in the whole packaging process.)

    My consistently positive expriences with DAW, as well as all of the other options available to me now thanks to the changes in technology and distribution that make self-publishing affordable and effective, ensure that I will always, from now on, be very particular about which publishers I’ll work with and what circumstances I’ll work in (and what contractual terms I’ll accept).

    Realistically, choosiness was not an option for me before, as a full-time self-supporting midlist writer. I typically just took work where I could get it, gritted my teeth, and put up with lots and lots of bad treatment, bad business practices, bad terms, incompetent publishing, and–here and there–some stunningly rude and/or incomptent industry professionals.

    I will never tolerate any of that again, because the self-publishing revolution has ensured that I no longer HAVE to put up with that–even as a mere midlister–in order to make a living as a writer and reach readers.

    And if I were currently in any of my former publishing relationships, I would turn to self-publishing for my frontlist, too, in favor of remaining in those business relationships, because they were all so detrimental (and really, really needlessly stressful and demoralizing).

    It’s an ironic (albeit very HAPPY) circumtance that, now that self-publishing is such a viable choice for career writers, I’m not very involved in it at that time (I’m just self-publishing backlist so far) because I am, for the first time ever, in a REALLY good publishing realtionship with a publisher were I do indeed have creative control, substantial involvement in production and packaging decisions, and very satisfying remuneration.

    But based on the places I spent my entire career before working with this house, I totally understand why a hybrid author would turn to self-publishing IN FAVOR OF their traditional publisher.

    I’m certainly not with the only good publisher out tehre. There are others. But they remain, alas, a minority in the publishing industry.

    • P.S. Also happy to say that I have control of my entire backlist. The only books under contract to a publisher now are my recent books at my current house. -I- am in control of all the titles I wrote over the years in all those unhappy publishing relationships. Whew!

      • suburbanbanshee

        Yup, I’ve heard before that DAW is doing a fair job. Glad their rep is justified. (DAW stands for Donald A. Wollheim, for the non sf/f fans out there. He predated Baen in doing his own thing in sf/f publishing.)

  9. I’m a happy hybrid author who is working with two publishers (Harlequin and Berkley) while happily self-publishing, too. I’m finding that the better my self-published books do, the more collaborative my relationships are with my publishers. I like to think that’s because I’ve proven that I know how to sell books. But I also like to think that publishers are learning that authors MUST be a partner in the overall process and not just a “content provider.” God, I hate those two words when used disdainfully together. I’m hoping things are changing for the better for authors and remain optimistic about both relationships. But I’m also realistic. If they don’t work, I can walk away and continue my series on my own. It sure is nice to have options.

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