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Show me the money...traditional verses self publihing

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by MichaelSullivan, Jul 14, 2012.

  1. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

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    Exactly.



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  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes, I think this is true in general. You can point to exceptions, but the exceptions don't hold true for the vast majority. I'm doing the self-pub thing, but you have to remain realistic. I don't doubt that an established author with an established fan base can make more self-publishing, but keep in mind that an established author moving from traditional to self-publishing became established through traditional publishing first.
     
  3. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    There are also many authors who built their platform and made significant sales self publishing first and then took deals from traditional publishers. You might say these people are the exception, but I'd say that any author who can make a full time living with their writing is the exception, regardless of who is doing the publishing.

    I do not think that trad publishing offers any significant advantage for the new author. You can get a good cover and editing for relatively cheap, and the fact that you're gaining those expenses and losing the advance can be offset by the quicker publishing timeline and the higher royalty rates.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I suspect that is you take out the 'exceptional' cases in both traditional publishing and self-publishing, and then just look at the average financial gain, you'd find that traditional authors are doing better. The sheer number of self-publishers who aren't doing anything in terms of sales will weigh down that side of things. From what I've been able to ascertain, the majority of self-published authors do not sell very many books. Of course, it is still a net gain for them because the majority of those aren't producing writing that is good enough for traditional publishing.
     
  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I think that the point that Michael made at the beginning is important: most of the people self publishing should not be published at all. Any discussion of average money made is difficult because, frankly, there's a lot of trash out there that's not worth the e-ink.
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yes, this is right. And, as a consequence, I know quite a few people who won't buy anything self-published, which is unfortunate. As a self-published author you have a large task before you in separating yourself from the vast amounts of very bad work.
     
  7. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Thanks glad you found it useful.
     
  8. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    So that 200 figure comes from iUniverse and related to people who do print on demand through them. Most people who are "professionally" self-publishing go direct and get most of their sales from ebooks. Remember the cavets I put on this at the beginning. I'm not saying "any" self-published book - I'm saying one of quality such that it "could" be published traditionally and a book of that level will, unless the author screws up the cover design and marketing copy terribly, sell thousands.

    To be honest I don't care about that "lower" end where they make a few bucks and that is more than "zero" those people are not "serious" about what they are producing and so it is little more than a hobby for them.

    I don't know of any big-six traditional publisher that is not releasing ebooks and print books. There was a time that when they used to do print first then ebook, but I've not seen that for a long time. Keep in mind that I'm only watching fantasy/science fiction titles but outside of the very unusual announcement of Stephen King who recently said they are doing a paper only version of an upcoming title, I always see both. If you could provide some examples that would be helpful.

    There are many reasons for an author to choose traditional, so I'll not dispute your reasons - but I do want to point out you can hire editing and cover design (and should) but of course you have to juggle that verses ROI (return on investment). Getting books into print is super simple - CreateSpace is not difficult at all - but not worth you spending time investigating if you want traditional. As to marketing -- If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times...both self-publishers and traditionally published authors need to approach marketing the same way. I didn't "market" any differently, or any less, between my self-published and traditional published releases.
     
  9. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    I've seen some fantastic covers by self-published authors for $150 - $500. That isn't that much money. Editing...I've gotten that for as low as $150 and as high as $600. All in all you can get what you want done for $500 - $1,000.
     
  10. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Go back to the original post - and the cavets I put on this analysis. The "hobbyist" who are at that income rate is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about someone who approaches writing as a profession and produce at a quality that COULD be traditionally published.

    Also in that same Taleist survey it showed 10% of the 1,000 people responding are able to live off their income from writing. Now I don't claim that that is representative across the board, but it does show that there are a good number of self-publihsed authors that earn well.
     
  11. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    The legal actions aren't having any effect on the number of traditional books on the list. The ratios have been similar even before the lawsuit, and 3 of the 5 have already settled.

    Yes the indies are, by in large, getting on the list because of their pricing. Most traditional books on the list sell for $7.99 - $14.99 while the indies are selling for $0.99 - $4.99. But keep in mind that even at those reduced rates they are getting more per book than the traditional authors.

    If all they have is US sales, no they will earn less. If they have SUBSTANTIAL overseas contracts then that subsidiary income will make up for the difference.
     
  12. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Then how to you explain people like myself that started self-publishing, moved to traditional, but made more when self-publishing?
     
  13. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    You can't compare the "whole universe" of self-published authors against "the small percentage" that are published via traditional. But consider this: If you look at the "whole universe" of self-published against the "whole universe" of those submitting queries THEN you'll see some similarities. The % of those that make a living will be essentially the same. The % that make "some" money but not enough to live on will also be the same. The % that make little to no money...also will be about the same.
     
  14. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Thank you...People seem to be ignoring the cavet that we are discussing a book that has the freedom of being able to do either.
     
  15. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    It would be interesting to know the comparative numbers of fiction books published via each method in, say, 2011. That information, if it can be collected, might provide insights into this discussion.
     
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I think that a lot of people who go on forums like to argue. In fact, I raise my hand as being guilty of it.

    You are someone who has been there, done that, and are gracious enough to share your experience with those of us who are just starting out. I'm not saying that no one should ever question you, but it seems like some of the comments have been a bit off base - as you said, ignoring your caveat.

    Thanks for sharing this information.
     
  17. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    It's good to meet another person whose "sick" of saying this. All the pros and cons of either side aside, to sell books you must do your marketing. In the age of eMarketing the professional vs. amateur conflict doesn't count nearly as much. So the big six have more money to put into it, good for them, but not having that money to throw around isn't the same as not reaching people. You can do it. You'll have to be crafty with the tools to deal with the monetary difference, but it's not impossible.

    As for whose better off financially? While self-published authors have the potential for higher returns (eg, doing better in royalities, etc.) that advance you get from the traditional route... that to me is security. 10k upfront (if that's the right number), while not something you'd like to be paid for a normal job in a year, is better for paying bills than waiting for each sale to trickle through to you as profit. Though that'll be why most people have regular jobs along side writing.

    The thing is that for me it doesn't come down to money. Increasingly I'm hearing about the rigors of the traditional publishing time table. Considering the time it takes to get something to the stores in the traditional route I'm seriously wondering whether it would be "better for business" so to speak to be able to control your own schedual.

    Of the blogs I've read, I've read a few from traditionally published authors who are starting to self-publish. As far as I can see most do it to over come the waiting game you have to play with publishers. They want more control, or a little something between traditional releases, or simply the opportunity to do something different, something unexpected but equally worth it. The same battle happens in the music industry. A lot of artists won't to produce a work that reflects where they are in life, how they've progressed, but a lot of industry type would rather enter into a contract with them under the caveat that they produce three or four albums worth of similar material.

    All in all, trad vs self. They both have they're pros and cons but I personally think it should come down to what you need to get out of the experience. What can you afford?
     
  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think your case is exceptional. These stories are very well done and you have produced a bona fide "hit." I see what you mean regarding framing the two samples properly and not looking at the whole universe of people in either group. I think the biggest hurdle for those self-publishing is standing out in the sea of self-published works, many of which are poorly done. Going the traditional route at least accomplishes that for you, assuming you find a publisher.

    Is it fair to say that someone who doesn't have the time/energy/skill for marketing is better off going the traditional route? Not because they're going to do a ton of marketing for you, but because you'll be on the shelf next to a relatively small number of other traditionally-published works rather than one of thousands on Amazon.
     
  19. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    Steerpike, here is my view on the subject. I'd say that if you have a hard time with marketing you are actually better off with self publishing. There are a few reasons I feel this way. First, you can set a lower price for your book than the publishers, which by itself might be enough to give the boost it needs to take off. It's not likely, but I think it's better than hoping it will sell in bookstores, where it will probably only be on the shelves for a few weeks.

    Second, you can set your books to free. This can help you get exposure to a larger audience and can boost your book in the algos. This is something the trad publishers definitely won't do for you.

    Third, you can get books to market quicker without suffering a loss in quality. It's been said that the best marketing is to release the next book. This is especially powerful when you have a series. You can combine this with making the first book in the series free, which can really help boost sales for the rest of the series or your other books if you don't have a series.

    Sometimes, these three things are enough. In fact, quite often you will hear authors who say not to do any marketing at all other than these things and releasing more books (with good covers and blurbs).
     
  20. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    You are welcome.

    I don't mind people questioning or challenging the points put forth...or even veering off topic...such ask talking about "average incomes." I just want to remind people that there were very narrowly focused requirements, and those are essential to the conclusions, and you can't discard them.
     
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