Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing – Time For the Truth

The self-publishing industry has boomed over the last year—or maybe more accurately has been accepted. And no-one on Twitter and with an interest in the book industry can have missed the deluge of articles hailing the sector—with an added kick at the apparently dead dog of traditional publishing for good measure.

I write this is a fan of self-publishing (we launched a self-publishing company four years ago and a writer platform company two years ago) but there is a danger of failure being grasped from the jaws of opportunity. Too often, many of these articles are driven by vengeance following a sense of rejection; and many contain statements of universal "fact" that are completely incorrect—which is compounded by the traditional industry being too quiet to correct them. 

I believe there is not only room for both sectors but also huge opportunities to work together. However this won’t happen until the untruths get thrown out along with the egos on both sides, and the two parts of the whole talk to each other.

I listed some publishing facts and fiction recently on Twitter and here they are developed below:

Untrue: Traditional publishers will shortly only receive print rights to books while all authors publish their digital versions themselves. No one would buy a car with half an engine and publishers should add specialised value to all editions.

Untrue: Traditional publishers receive 70% from all e-book sales. That is what Kindle pays on KDP accounts on certain price ranges. Publishers who use merchandising accounts with account managers to secure greater promotion receive often 10-40% dependent on size of promotion and promoted price.

True: Traditional publishers now need to show transparency and stronger digital—as well as print, marketing and sales—strategy to their authors. 

Untrue: Success as a self-published author shows how wrong traditional publishers were in their earlier rejection. Self-published success is often a different package of skills, with abilities in self-marketing often being the main success-driver. 

Untrue: All table, window and promotion space in bookshops is reserved for publishers paying extortionate fees. 

True: Bookshops need to show variety and individual selection rather than generic bestsellers in order to survive and thrive. 

Untrue: Traditional publishers would turn down a ground-breaking, fantastic debut novel as it's not written by a celebrity. 

True: Traditional publishers need to be far less conservative in challenging times and focus more on the best new work, not safe bets. 

Untrue: Worldwide distribution means worldwide sales for self-published authors. Unless you are marketing in that territory you are unlikely to see sales. 

True: Licensing is hugely important and becoming more important for publishers. Authors have little understanding of this area and would benefit from learning more and quickly. 

Untrue: Publishers have no value as arbitrators of talent and it is best to get the book out there as soon as completed. Writing is a craft; ground-breaking ability is held by the few and produced by hard work. 

True: Traditional publishers should be looking at new ways to secure great talent first, rather than lazily plucking once huge success has been achieved through self-publishing. 

I could go on, though the point I want to make is that traditional publishers are in a process of evolution and have much to improve, and self-publishing is a fantastic new route for writers and the industry. But hot air will fill a bubble until it bursts.

Honest, loud and productive discussion will lead to something very exciting for writers and publishers alike. 



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