English indie author Christopher Joyce, who writes the successful “Creatures of Chichester” series of children's novels, recently put out a call on the ALLi members' Facebook forum for six key facts about self-publishing that could be used whenever one is asked to explain the concept. As ever, ALLi members were quick to respond, and I've divided their answers into two sets below, depending on whether you're talking to readers or writers.
Many were also quick to point out the one crucial point that should be stressed to both audiences is that the self-published author should always be applying all the processes to their own work that a trade publisher would – copy editing, proofreading, cover design, etc. Too many indie authors still don't do that, and publish sub-standard work simply because they can. For some possible answers on that score, read my opinion piece, The Elephant in the Self-Publishing Room.
6 Key Facts about Self-publishing for Readers
- Orna Ross advises “According to Jon Fine at the London Book Fair in April 2014, 30% of the top 100 books on Amazon are self-published, that percentage is still rising.”
- Many books that are now classics were originally self-published – Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, etc. “There are many self-published books who blow traditional books out of the water in terms of quality and story, so never judge a book by its publisher,” advises US novelist Samantha Warren. It may be that the classics for the next generation are those that are being self-published today. British indie author Chris Budd expands on that idea here.
- Self-publishing is not a 21st century phenomenon – it's as old as Caxton, it's just the technology that's changed. In particular, the simultaneous advent of financially viable digital printing, ebooks and online book retailing have fostered self-publishing in its current form – a perfect storm, you might say (but I mean that in a good way!)
- The fact that Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, was named by The Bookseller magazine last year as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Publishing, demonstrates how important self-publishing is deemed to be by the entire publishing industry.
- “An often overlooked advantage of reading indie books is that you can read the kinds of things traditional publishing won't publish,” advises Californian indie author Catherine Wilson. “That includes books for niche audiences (gay people for instance) and books with controversial themes. Indie authors can write what they want. We can cross genres. We can completely disregard genres. So let's urge readers to be adventurous. They'll find things in indie books they won't find anywhere else.”
- Many trade-published authors are self-publishing their back catalogue of books that have been dropped by their trade publisher – and are finding they're making much more money from their indie books than their supposedly commercial ones. Authors who do both are known as “hybrid authors”.
6 Key Facts about Self-publishing for Authors
- Indie publishing allows authors much greater earning potential than the traditional route, in terms of the percentage they earn of the retail price of any book. Typical in the trade is 5p in the £/5c in the $. An indie publishing an ebook on Amazon in the most popular price grosses 70% of the selling price. Yes, they have to cover their own production costs e.g. cover design, editing and proofreading, but this should still leave them with a much great margin per book, once they've covered their costs. Given that the vast majority of trade press authors do not earn a living by their writing – even bestsellers often make the bulk of their income via other means such as public speaking and merchandising – the indie route offers authors greater potential to live off their income from writing – provided of course that they are writing great books.
- US thriller writer C J Booth points out some practical advantages that traditional publishing companies are unable to match: “For the indie author, the revenue stream starts from day one, the author has complete control (I changed my cover three times to reflect awards), and you can publish immediately.”
- Self-published books never go out of print, unlike trade books – commercial publishers will usually give a new book a maximum of a year to start making a profit before they give up on it and delist it from their catalogue. By contrast, the indie author can keep marketing their books for ever.
- “Not only has traditional publishing has become a difficult nut to crack for new authors, but also they are not geared up to publish more than one book a year from a writer,” says British novelist David Penny. “Because of this, going indie makes sense on a number of levels. You can publish as often as you are want. For the writer this means being able to work to their own schedule, for the reader it means not having to wait a year between books by a favourite author.”
- The previous divide between trade publishing and self-publishing is melting away like early morning mist, with a growing number of writing organisations now accepting indie authors as full members, after years of discrimination. As I wrote in Opening Up To Indie Authors, I'm looking forward to the day when we'll all just call ourselves authors: that day will come.
- You can write what you like, unchanged by publishers. Many indie authors who have formerly been published by big companies report on the bliss of being liberated from their publisher's dictates. Last – and eloquent – words here are from English author Pelham Macmahon: “As my life is being shortened day by day and I struggle to see what i am doing, self publishing is giving me wings to fly and a comfortable feeling that when I am gone my work can live on, no matter what others may think of it. My voice will be heard.” What author could wish for more?
- For more thoughts and advice on gaining greater acceptance and understanding of the self-publishing sector, read Opening Up To Indie Authors – hugely helpful in building mutual understanding and partnership between all those involved in the world of books – authors, publishing companies, libraries, literary festivals and booksellers. NEW! Now available in paperback.
- To show your support for the indie publishing movement, sign our petition: Open Up to Indie Authors
OVER TO YOU What's your favourite dinner-party line on self-publishing? Do share it, via the comments box!