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Why I’m Risking My New Book by Self-Publishing Even Though I’m a Bestselling Author

10 September 2013

From author Frank Schaeffer via The Huffington Post:

I’m self-publishing my new novel And God Said, “Billy!” Where’s my advance? What will I live on? The New York Times won’t review a self-published book! Libraries won’t know about it! I’m screwed! This is my funniest, darkest and most spiritually reaffirming book. Have I wasted the 17 years I worked on it? If so, then why am I so happy with my insane plunge into the unknown? Why do I feel so bloody liberated in equal measure with my look-over-a-cliff panic?

. . . .

Up until now I’ve been published by mainstream publishers. I’ve had many starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus and Library Journal. Wonderful writers including Jane Smiley, have reviewed my books in places like the Washington Post. Writing in the LA Times Richard Eder launched my writing career with a glowing review of my first novel Portofino. The New York Times published a profile about me calling me a “traitorous wayward prince.” Oprah and Terri Gross have interviewed me. I was one of the first bloggers on the Huffington Post and my writing there has made me a regular on MSNBC, CNN and now on Huffington LIVE.

So why on earth would I self-publish? Here’s why.

First, too many of my editors got bought, sold and moved with each grab by the 4 or 5 remaining publishing giants who gobbled up the imprints that used to publish me– from Macmillan to Avalon. My books no longer live in the homes where I took them. I don’t know the people there. Who do you call?

Second, publishers haven’t a clue how to use the new media. Marketing for the traditional publishers comes down to sending a few review copies to cronies at the dwindling newspapers, then sending out a few more to the media. Then they sit back and count on author ego to do the rest. Since books are writer’s babies we tend to try and save them from death-by-indifference. Publishers know we’ll finance our own tours and beg for attention… mostly at our expense. Since I’m doing the work anyway, why pay them a cut?

Third, even though my books are still in print, the publishers seem to have joined the print-on-demand craze too. They hold onto books as “in print” (entitling them to their big cut), but these days this only means that they’ll print a back list copy on demand, stock no books and still only send me a few cents on the dollar. I can do that for myself.

Fourth, Amazon is the only real game in town. Yes, I love going to small bookstores and talking to 15 to 50 or so wonderful readers who have most kindly come out to hear me read and answer questions. (NOTE to Indy Bookstores and libraries: Please stock And God Said, “Billy!” I’ll do anything to help you introduce it including paying you a visit free of course.)

Fifth, there’s the snail mail pace of old school publishing. Self-publishing I dictate the pace.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Self-Publishing

42 Comments to “Why I’m Risking My New Book by Self-Publishing Even Though I’m a Bestselling Author”

  1. One of us! One of us!

  2. The self-publishing group I chose to help me — Outskirts Press — has worked out well, so far… they’re setting up the online platforms (like Kindle) for a onetime fee, then directing all income direct to me from Amazon, iBook and Nook. They pay my share of the income from the print edition of the book quarterly.

    Did I read that right? “Directing the income directly to” him? Does the money go through them or are they providing the different platforms his bank account info for direct deposit. I’m not clear on how they are helping but good for him! I hope he does very well.

  3. I was about to post an OUTSKIRTS PRESS alert, but I see that Zhane beat me to it. Outskirts Press is one of the worst vanity pubs out there, second only to Publish America.

  4. Oh yeah. Outskirts has a reputation, I used to be on a self-publishing list with that guy. You see it’s past tense.
    Risking your new book, huh?

  5. Good to see our own JR Tomlin posted a warning in the comments section about Outskirts. So sad!

    And this author will walk away wondering why people think you can make money self-publishing. Judging from the comments, his ‘publisher’ doesn’t even have an e-book version out yet. Bummer, because that’s a few lost sales after having a HuffPo interview…

  6. I went to the Huff Post article because something was missing in his list, and it felt odd: he didn’t mention better royalties, one of the MOST important reasons for indies.

    And then I see that he is probably not going to get any more money for a long time – sheesh, what a way to NOT self-publish.

    Here, let’s change prisons. This one has a nice window. Yes, we still use shackles – but they’re pink.

  7. I wonder if in a few months, we’ll see an article from this same author saying, “Why no one should bother self-publishing” or something similar.

    • We could start a pool. I’ll go for seven months from now, he’s d-mning all self-publishing as a fraud. And I’ll put another dollar on his taking a swipe at Amazon too, just because.

  8. He should have seen this link about how much fantasy authors make:


    Traditionally published fantasy author Paul S. Kemp: “I’ve been doing this twelve years now. … My best year has been roughly $70K and an average year these days runs between $35-45K.”

    Self-published fantasy author Michael J. Sullivan: “In October 2010 I released my 5th book and my sales really took off. I had 4 months of sales in excess of 10,000 units each and incomes on the order of $45,000 – $55,000 a month. By the end of the year I signed a six-figure contract to resell that series to Orbit.”

  9. I added my $.02 to it as well, not that it will do any good.

  10. It’s sad because he had some good points and coming from him, he could have made some authors who are set on traditionally publishing take a second look. But then he goes with a press that seems to have a bad reputation. (I’ve never heard of them, personally, but I trust you guys!)

    • Outskirt often has an ad on the back cover of Writer magazine and a number of internal spots hawking their short print run services and, now, ebook services. They are a vanity press.

  11. Warnings found at Writer Beware




    Outskirts Press is “Strongly not recommended” on Preditors and Editors. http://pred-ed.com/pebo.htm

    Finding the above took only a few minutes of my time. Thre are many more out there on private blogs and forums.

    Good grief. Did the man do any research about the company first? Somehow, I doubt a literary lawyer was involved in any way.

    • /sigh

    • “Somehow, I doubt a literary lawyer was involved in any way.”

      I bet the Outskirts consultants we’re more than happy to cover that area and answer all his questions. Most likely for a fee.

      And seriously, are they just f&@king with writer’s with their company names?

      Outskirts…used in a sentence: they operated on the outskirts of ethics, honesty and fairness.

      And I thought Hydra was bad.

    • In my brief exposure to Frank Schaeffer in other circles (I don’t know him personally, never laid eyes on him), somehow, this lack of discernment comes as no surprise.

    • I’ll freely admit that I’m not experienced enough to know how established writers initiate deals with editors they have work relationships with — but my gut tells me the same guy who feels it’s impossible to deal with editors switching houses is not prone to a whole lot of research.

      Can’t you just, you know, pick up a phone? Send an email?

      Unless he neglected to mention that he tried that course and no one wanted to pick up the book. ?

  12. What this really points out is how utterly trained authors are to ignore all the things any other professional would automatically do. He seems like he approached self-publishing with a good, reasonable attitude. But clearly he did very little research. It just seems second nature to me that anyone considering self-publishing, especially and experienced author, would quickly study up and get a good feel for how it works…not get taken by some sleazy outfit.

    It shows how much the traditional publishing industry relies on ignorance on the part of writers…an ignorance it has worked hard to instill.

  13. And I was cheering this guy on throughout the entire article. And then…

    $399 for some type of blog hop

    $3779 for a “full service” fiction title.

    HEY, It includes a SINGLE copyedit plus “consulting”!!!

    $11,939 for a screenplay adaptation.


  14. Money goes from the publisher to the writer.
    Money goes from the writer to the scammer.

  15. What a shame. I’ve heard of a few writers getting excited about Outskirts Press. I feel bad for all the writers associated with them. This is why the phrase ‘caveat emptor’ exists. People really need to do better research.

  16. Generally I can’t read content for blogs and forums, on the other hand want to claim that this specific write-up quite required me to think about and also do this! Your way of writing has become stunned us. Many thanks, incredibly terrific submit.

  17. Amen. I’ve been considering pitching my successful indie-published novels to traditional publishers and find myself asking “but what can they do for me that I’m not doing myself?”

    • Exactly, Devorah. At this point, I think I would probably turn down any trad pub who came knocking on my door. (Would never have said that two years ago!)

  18. He’s not actually “self”-publishing. It’s like he still wants a traditional model where he can hand things over to someone else. This time he’ll get screwed in a different way. He’d have been better off sticking with the trad game.

    I know a guy who has written a couple of not-all-that-good middle grade books. He went with Tate (vanity ripoff press). His books rank in the 5 millions on Amazon in sales, which means probably his mom bought a copy and no one else. He’s working on a third book, which he’ll again go through Tate with. I subtly suggested KDP, but he wasn’t interested. Sometimes people just don’t want to open their eyes and learn anything.

    You can’t help someone who thinks they know better, even when they clearly don’t.

  19. I’m starting to think he may have done his research, and he just doesn’t care. From the look of it, the subject matter of his book is loaded with potential problems. Handled insensitively, it could be very offensive, since it includes a nexus of sex, race, and religion — but that’s just my HO. Does it play a factor in his ability to self-pub?

    from the article, the book summary: “a young fundamentalist Christian who feels “called” to go to Hollywood to make “God’s Movie.” But everything goes off the rails when he accepts a job to direct a soft-porn slasher/exploitation film in apartheid-era South Africa.”

    I used to work in a video store, I’ve seen this movie before, but with Mormons. For your compare and contrast amusement: Orgazmo (1997) – IMDb

    • After reading that summary my head hurts from trying to imagine the intended readers.

      Is he trying to appeal to Christians/Slasher porn fans/ Equal rights activists? Or Athiests/Hedonists/Supremacists? All of the above?

      Are there any numbers on the size of niche fan-bases? Are there any studies on overlaps?

      Oh, nevermind. The author paid not to worry over such things.

    • Hah – yes! I was halfway through reading your quote of his blurb when I thought, “Hey, that sounds like Orgazmo…”.

  20. Sigh, the Salon/Huffington Post echo chamber continues – its sole purpose is to discourage authors from any truly independent pathway. They allowed Hugh Howey to tell his story accurately, but since then have clamped down on the true indie success stories.

  21. In the rare event that Frank finds and reads these comments:


    You are not self-publishing. You are vanity pressing. To learn the difference, check out my blog post on the difference between traditional publishers, self-publishing, profit-sharing publishers, and vanity publishers:


    I only hope you sell enough to make that money back, but chances are, you have lost a lot of money, not made it.

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