Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Self-Publishing: Improving the Publishing Industry or Killing it?

I'm sorry for our more loyal readers, this blog will not be as fun loving or upbeat as some of my other posts. Just a warning, for any readers that might be faint of heart, this post might not be for you. This rant gets down and dirty about some of the unpleasant aspects of the publishing industry.

This past week some of you might have heard of Samhain Publishing's announcement that they will be winding down their business by the end of the year. This was devastating news to many, including myself, even though I have never published with them. Samhain had always been the publisher I dreamed of being published by and that I wanted to work with so badly. They have one of the best reputations in the industry, professional, dependable and they treat their authors great. Their covers were always amazing. Their stories were always fantastic (I'm not sure I ever read one of their books and hated it, and more than once I loved them so much I literally cried while I was reading it). And their stable of authors where among what I considered the best. I submitted to them several times over the years but unfortunately nothing I submitted suited their needs at that time. I'd planned to submit again this year but unfortunately I'm too late.

While there are probably many factors that created this turn of events, there's no denying one of them is the increase in self-publishing. The easy availability to publish your own work has many authors cutting out the publisher entirely. While that may seem appealing to to some authors--and if you can make money doing that god bless, I don't happen to be among that lucky few-I'm not a huge fan of self publishing.

Full disclosure, I do have two self published works and neither is yet to make enough to break even with the cost of cover art and editing, which does give me another reason to dislike self-publishing industry. But my dislike of the industry extends beyond my own endeavors.

I've always said, I'm a reader first and a writer second. And self-publishing is another time when the reader in me wins out. Self-publishing has crowded the market, making it much harder for me to not only find new authors I like but to find books from my favorite authors when they are published. It used to be when I wanted a good book, I just had to go to my favorite publisher and look around for a bit and I'd find another great book I want to read or an author I love. With the publishers I love shutting down, that is becoming harder and harder to do.

Not to mention I don't like the time that favorite authors have to spend editing, formatting, uploading and cover art shopping to get a work self-published. That's time they could spend writing more books for me to read :)

For my own reading pleasure I buy very few self-published works and those that I do buy 99% are from authors I've come to love through their work at publishers (mostly from Ellora's Cave and Samhain-who unfortunately are both having issues-though for very different reason). I don't see this changing in the future. As long as there are publishers out there producing good quality books, I'll probably always lean towards buying from them.

But more than my own reading preferences, this increase in self-publishing to me is a symptom of a much bigger problem in our society. The lack of appreciation for art. While people won't think twice about dropping $600 on a new phone every year or $1000 on a pair of shoes because they have a fancy name on them, for some reason people expect to get art for next to nothing, or often nothing at all. Now a days it seems there are many people that wouldn't think twice about stealing movies, music or books, regardless of the heart and soul the artist put into that work. Leaving authors and artist with nothing.

While I would hardly say that many authors or artist entered into the industry to become rich, but it only seems far to compensate them for their time and energy. If you went to your job and the boss said they wouldn't pay you, no matter how much you love your job, I have a feeling you'd be heading home that day. This is time the artist took away from their life, from the family, to entertain you and make you happy. The least anyone can do, is give them recognition and compensation owed.

To me, self-publishing seems to be an offshoot of that same problem in our culture. Self-publishing fulfills the desire many readers have for less expensive or free works to be easily available for them. A prime example of that to me is the recent surge in $0.99 anthologies. Selling a work on my own for so low a price nets me next to nothing, but combined with several other authors you'd be lucky to walk away with a few dollars once all the book costs are paid for. While most authors consider these promotion for other works, to find new readers, and that isn't completely untrue, it worries me to see authors devaluing their own work and time.

And this flood of inexpensive or even free works, is cutting into all authors sales, leaving many of us to wonder is it even worth to publish at all. While I love writing, more than anything, there are many parts of the publishing process that I don't care for. Over the last year. I didn't submit anything to a publisher. Between some things going into my personal life, and the lack of sales for my last two published books, I couldn't find the motivation to push past those painful parts to complete a work. And with each progressive book going down in sales the motivation is getting harder and harder to find.

Now I don't mean this blog to be a censure of readers. I know most of you are good upstanding citizens that love your authors, characters and books. But the industry is changing and you ultimately have the power to do something about it. Like most things in life, where you put your money is where the industry will grow, or vice versa.

While I'm sure the publishing industry isn't going anywhere. And that there is another great revolution on the forefront, just like ebooks were only a few years ago. In the meantime I want to encourage all you readers out there to do what you can to motivate and encourage the authors and publishers you love. Buy books, review books, tell your friends about books you love. Don't steal books. Or good authors, good publisher and good books might just go the way of the dodo.

So I'm curious, what do you all think? Is self-publishing hurting or helping the publishing industry? Do you like the direct connection to authors? Or are you like me and you get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books out there? Feel free to tell me I'm wrong. I'll be happy to hear any other opinions and sides.

And to thank you all for reading through my whole rant. Here is a yummy picture of Gerald Butler, showing a little skin, for you all to enjoy!


Tina Donahue said...

Self-pubbing is a two-edged sword. Really great authors who get ignored by publishers (that like cookie-cutter plots/characters) have a platform to get noticed. Then there are the others who figure they'll get rich if they slap anything together (or steal it from another author) and put it up on Amazon.

I'm hoping the cream reaches the top and the dreck goes away.

In any event, I believe self pubbing is the wave of the future. I can't see it going away.

Fiona McGier said...

I don't have the time to self-pub, since I work multiple jobs and long hours. Plus I can't justify spending my own money for an editor, a cover, etc. So I prefer to work with small publishers, though that means you still don't get any help with promotions, since most don't have that kind of budget built into their businesses.

I agree that there is a whole lotta crap being published. Some of it is stolen, like that author who got caught stealing M/M romances, then changing them slightly to M/F romance, and had quite a few books out and had made some big money before an alert reader told the author whose books she was stealing about it. Others simply slap their names on your book and hawk it for cheap, figuring they'll make some money before they get caught...if ever.

And some are really just no damn good, but just like the "entertainers" on various reality shows, they have an over-inflated view of their abilities, and they think misspellings and grammatical errors are negligible, when in fact they render the book unreadable. But then, with the average American not having read an entire book in the past year, if you never read, you have no idea what quality looks like--hence the popularity of FSOG and others of that ilk. Sigh.

I try to be optimistic, like Tina. I guess the only thing we can do is trust our readers. For me, that's about all 5 of them!

jean hart stewart said...

I distrust any self-pubbed book. The spelling and grammar defects usually make me loose interest PDQ. Just my admittedly prejudiced opinion.

Willa Edwards said...

Tina, I agree with you, I don't think self-publishing is going anywhere. And I do like some aspects of it. Like authors being able to publish their old back list easily. So I'm not completely against it. But I also don't think its the white hope of the publishing industry. I hope its more of a fade, or an addition to the industry, and never the main bulk of sales.

Willa Edwards said...

Fiona, I'm with you. I like to write. If I wanted to be a cover artist or a editor, I would become those things. And if I wanted to do all of them I would work for a publishing company. But I want to be a writer. Which means I want to spend my time writing, not doing all these other things.

I also don't publish to lose money. If that ever becomes the case, due to having to put money out for publishing, I will just give it away for free. I may not make a lot of money, but I definitely don't plan on losing a lot. In fact, I said I wouldn't self publish anything else until I broke even on the books I've already done. And at this rate, that maybe some time.

I too, will be sticking with publishers, big or small, for the majority of my releases. Not only because it gives me the freedom to do those other things I like to do. But because I really think it results in my best books. The relationship with an outside impartial party is invaluable to me.

Willa Edwards said...

I definitely agree with you Jean. FSOG is one of the strongest examples to me. But there are many more out there.

Jami Gray said...

Willa, I'm right there with you. I currently have two series with smaller publishers out and am hoping to put a third series in front of an agent this summer, but when I dare pop my head up to look around, it's hard to keep my hopeful flicker of light from being snuffed out by the tsunami of head shaking happenings.

I agree with everyone here to some degree. Tina's right, there are some fantastic self-dubbed authors out there who I'd never get a chance to discover if they hadn't dared wade out into the ocean of publishing on their own. But much like Fiona, I work full time and manage a family w/teenagers, and what time I can carve out, I want to devote to my writing. For a short period of time last year, I was between jobs and I did self-pub a collection of short stories for one of my series. I have to agree, I like having a house that provides editors/formatters/cover artists/support, because navigating those tricky tides is a disaster waiting to happen. As an avid reader, I understand Jean's concerns. Many times I've picked up a book only to carefully set it aside so I didn't damage a wall, and once the red haze cleared, would notice 9 times out of 10 it was self pubbed.

This conversation has come up often with my crit partners, and they only support I can offer is: keep writing, keep going, hold on to your creative faith, self-publishing won't disappear, but the basic nature of change is that there comes a time when it self levels, and I think we're starting to see the leading edge of that leveling effort now.

Best of luck!

Hilly said...

I am a reader and I think there are way too many eBooks being published that have NO substance! Be they self published or not. Too many so called authors are "writing" novellas and charging 0.99 cents for "garbage".

I also agree with Jean Hart Stewart about the atrocities when it comes to spelling and grammar. The one thing I hate more than anything is spelling and grammar mistakes in a book. Once I encounter that I lose immediate interest.

I also find too many spelling mistakes in authors' blogs and newsletters.

Please take the time to reread your newsletters and blogs for typos.