“There was a time when self-publishing was equated with vanity,” explains John Bond, co-founder of Whitefox, one of several new companies helping ‘amateur’ authors publish professionally on platforms like Amazon Kindle, Google Play, Apple’s iBook Store or Kobo.
“Because of the digital revolution, democratisation has happened. It’s almost as if the writer has become his own entrepreneur around the publication process.”
. . . .
“There was an adversarial attitude between mainstream publishing houses and self publishers a few years ago,” says Mr Bond, “but I think that’s changed dramatically.”
He attributes this to traditional publishers’ new-found admiration for the self publishers’ social media skills, which have helped them find new readers without the benefit of expensive marketing campaigns.
Lawyer-turned-author Mark Dawson, for example, uses his website and Facebook page to give out free copies of his thrillers and curates ‘Readers’ Groups’. Online conversations help him establish a closer relationship with his readers encouraging them to come back for subsequent publications.
Another thriller writer Joanna Penn has bolstered her following by helping others to self-publish through her website which explains how to go about self publishing. She also hosts a popular podcast interview series.
So-called “Instapoets” like New Zealander Lang Leav have built up huge followings on Instagram and Tumblr, publishing their work on these platforms, before securing traditional publishing deals.
. . . .
“You have control of what you are doing, but it’s not for everyone,” warns Mr Wight. “It’s a lot of work and a huge learning curve.”
That work includes satisfying all the different formatting requirements of the various e-book outlets, organising cover illustrations and marketing, all while bearing the financial risk of the whole enterprise, explains Mr Wight.
That said, he feels his gamble paid off.
The hardback version has sold more than 3,000 copies and performed better than expected on Kindle.
. . . .
Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, believes the hard work of self-publishing can pay off.
In the past traditional publishers would give the author around 10%, she says, negotiating a tough contract as they were the only route to market, with advances that were getting smaller.
Amazon may be seen in a negative light for its impact on the high street, but for self-publishers its market disruption is largely welcomed, she says.
. . . .
In the US, the most mature market, independent authors are now collectively earning more from e-books than authors handled by the so-called Big Five publishers, according to advocacy website Author Earnings.
However, they also charge roughly half the amount for their e-books, and there are many more of them.
Generous profit margins don’t mean so much if you are selling cheap and struggling to sell at all in a crowded market.
. . . .
Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller magazine, believes it’s a lot harder to make money from self-publishing now that the Kindle-inspired gold rush has petered out.
“Smart, entrepreneurial authors” could use clever marketing on social media to get their e-books into the Top Ten charts, timing it to sell enough books over Christmas to make a tidy profit.
But that trick is harder to pull off when there are so many e-books out there, he argues.
“I do worry that as the market has slowed so the number of sharks willing to take money from authors has grown,” warns Mr Jones.
“Publishing, when it works properly, should be about moving money towards authors.”