Legacy, Self-Publishing, and the Indie Author

If you follow the podcasting world then you’ve likely heard the term “New Media” once or twice by now. New Media is a term that describes, essentially, internet video and audio. Television and radio are Old Media now, titans of a day gone by. That’s not to say that, like the Titans of old, they’ll be cut down by their children and be replaced and essentially forgottenĀ (besides, that doesn’t work in this case because Old and New Media aren’t related in such a way). Much like Old Media, for now, is here to stay, New Media isn’t going away any time soon.

So what do Old and New Media have to do with publishing? It’s the exact same thing that’s happening now with legacy publishing and self-publishing that you’re seeing on the Kindle, nook, iOS devices, and a variety of other, smaller, dedicated ereaders and similar devices.

It used to be that self-publishing was something that was almost entirely reserved for those who fell into a few categories:

  • Those who didn’t have the chops to make it in the traditional print publishing world; or
  • Those who were met with endless rejections and wouldn’t take no for an answer; or
  • Those who wanted to see their name on a book (often times quality be damned), or some combination thereof.

There are other reasons, of course, that may not fall into that very narrow list, but the majority used to fall nicely into one of those categories. For those who opted for the self-publishing route (vanity press aside), it was almost a guaranteed loss. There are very few people who have gone the self-published print route and made it.

However, all of that is changing now because, thanks to technology, print isn’t the only available option. For new authors who are sick of rejection letters, or for those who are truly living on the bleeding edge and completely bypassing legacy publishers without so much as a passing glance, self-publishing has changed the rules dramatically.

No longer are writers left with the hope of signing on with a print publisher only to get reamed when it comes to rights, royalties, and control. Now, with self-publishing, not only do writers get to retain rights, they get better royalties and they also get to control everything. While I can only speak for myself, I have a feeling that there are other writers out there who are slight control freaks. While having complete control over your intellectual child can be a great thing, it is a double-edged sword — but more on that in a minute because everyone wants to talk about the money first.

Everyone looks at the better royalties cut (35%/70% compared to roughly 15-20% with legacy publishers) and thinks, “Great! I can make a ton of money!” Well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s almost the same story as legacy publishing: Not everyone is King or Patterson. Sure, there’s been a few writers who have made a lot of money and seen great success with self-publishing now, but for every Amanda Hocking or John Locke, there’s countless more writers slumming it with limited success.

The good news is that even though you may not make millions, you can still make a living if others’ numbers are to be believed. Joanna Penn and Derek J. Canyon have made points of sharing their income and it’s enlightening if not encouraging. If you are a writer and figure you may as well try to make something on your stories, the good news is that it’s possible for you to make a living wage as a writer thanks to ebooks.

Of course, there’s still something to be said for the prestige that comes with nabbing a big contract with a print publisher, but for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have one (or perhaps are lucky enough not to have one), it’s off to self-publishing.

I’m currently in the process of editing a manuscript, and possibly a second one, with the intention of following in the footsteps of Penn and Canyon and so many who have opted to self-publish.

There used to be a time when I looked at almost all self-publishing as vanity press (harsh, and wrong, but it’s how I used to feel), but I think that time has passed. Ebooks aren’t a fad; ebooks are the future, or perhaps more correctly, the present and the future.

For the indie author, the future is looking promising. But if there’s going to be one thing that separates the successful indie author from the unsuccessful one (among numerous possibilities), it’s quality.

One can spend endless time and money doing marketing, but if your book is the literary equivalent of the Microsoft Kin, it’s doomed to failure.

That’s why it’s important for the indie author seeking self-publishing to make sure they do everything they can to compete, and that means giving up some of that control that we cherish so much. Giving up control isn’t something that comes naturally to people, let alone writers, so this is a concept that is often met with anything from scoffs to outright anger. However, relinquishing some control is a good thing and can only help you, both in the short term and in the long term. At the very least, you should look to have professionals to do some of the work that, let’s face it, most of us can’t (or shouldn’t) do.

There’s a reason there are people who make a living by drawing, designing book covers, by doing layouts, by editing, and other assorted things. That doesn’t mean that you must or even should pay for someone (or multiple people) to do these things, but you’re a writer, writing is what you do best and what you should focus on the most.

The successful indie author is going to be the one writing quickly and publishing often, all while maintaining quality. It can be difficult to keep quality control high when one is trying to work quickly, but if you want to succeed, it’s looking more important now that ever to be able to write quickly to satisfy your readers. Gone are the days of legacy publishing and not producing more than book a year. That’s the past; the future is all about quantity and quality. Both — not one or the other. And to do this, it means giving up some control.

There’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to self-publishing, and while I’m only scratching the surface, I’ll talk some more about the challenges awaiting the indie author in the future as well as where I am in my editing and publishing process. There’s lots left to do, and thanks again to those who came before me, I feel like I have an inkling of an idea of where to go and what to do.

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