We are very pleased to have for Our Little Books Guest Post Wednesday, a post from author John Barlow. John published both traditionally and as an indie author, so he has seen both sides of the publishing picture. In this post, John reflects on both platforms and then comes to the conclusion that, despite the curent publishing turmoil, there has never been a better time to write! Enjoy.
There’s never been a better time to be a writer! Does that sound *suspiciously* positive, as if I’m about to sell you something? Well, in a sense I am. Writing a book is horribly difficult, time-consuming, and potentially soul-destroying. Then there’s the energy-sapping hunt for an agent, for a publisher, for sales... However, the current independent publishing revolution has turned the book business on its head, and new opportunities are opening up for writers. Suddenly, some of the pain has gone.
Independent digital publishing is not a literary Nirvana, but there’s some cause for optimism. My previous books have been published by big ‘traditional’ publishers, but for my latest book I’ve gone ‘indie’. It’s early days, but I’m pretty happy with the move. Here are some things I’ve learned from the experience so far.
I’m mid-list writer. I’ve always had to do other things to make a living, such as food journalism and ghost-writing. As time goes on, it’s getting more and more difficult to stay afloat in trad publishing. Even if your aim is simply to ‘get the book published’, you might find the process far harder than it used to be. And it was always a ball-breaker.
Self-publishing allows you to get your book out as an ebook and a POD paperback quickly and efficiently. Also, the stigma of ‘vanity’ pubbing has now vanished (or is rapidly doing so), with best-selling authors increasingly making the change. Have you read Lawrence Block’s latest? He’s doing it himself. Ditto a whole bunch of writers with solid careers in trad publishing.
The future of publishing is uncertain. Publishers are still reacting to the ebook revolution. They’re dragging their heels on ebook royalties (still very low) and there’ll probably be fewer opportunities for new/unpublished writers from hereon in. So if you’re busy writing your first book, why not start sniffing around to see what you think of indie publishing as a serious alternative to the trad route?
There are countless websites and blogs out there helping to show you the way. Writers like David Gaughran and Joe Konrath are good sources. Also, if you register with Kindle Boards, the place where indie writers go to compare notes and swap tips, you’ll pick up a sense of what serious indie publishing is all about. There’s a lot more to it than just finishing that damn book.
One particularly difficult area for many indie writers is doing publicity for their book. There are thousands of other indie writers now competing for visibility in an increasingly crowded market. Then again, if you really believe in your book, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to have to stand up and shout about it. And remember, the traditional route has ts own issues here. There’s nothing worse than having a book out with a trad publisher and watching as, after a month or so, the publicity push fizzles out and your book dies. Doing it yourself means you can persevere; many successful indie ebook take between six months and year to gather momentum and start selling in large numbers. And who knows? You might find that you’ve got a talent for self-promotion! I’m only been an indie for a few weeks, but I’ve really enjoyed doing interviews, guest posts on book blogs, and generally trying to get people to notice my new novel.
Here’s the downside. Before you get to that stage you’ll have to take on some extra responsibilities... One huge advantage of big publishing houses is there is a bank of experts there to help get your book published. As an indie you either have to become your own editor, proof editor, cover artist, book designer and publicist, or pay people with those specific skills to help you. Increasingly, successful indie writers are paying good money for such services. A total of around $1000 for a book is not uncommon.
Shelling out a grand to get into print? The great thing for someone writing their first book is that, whatever you decide to do once it’s finished, these opportunities will all be there. In fact, there are new ones opening up all the time. Fiction streaming, Wattpad, enhanced books, Amazon Prime, a million forms of interactivity... The book world is changing at an incredible speed, and you can decide where you fit into it.
Convinced? If not, don’t worry. Trad publishing is not going to vanish, and who knows what opportunities might open up for new writers in trad publishing. Whatever, you’ll always have a fall-back position, because the ebook/indie sector is not going to go away any time soon.
John Barlow has published fiction and non-fiction with HarperCollins and FSG in the US and Canada, and has been translated into six languages. Contact John here: