Self-Publishing is gaining momentum and respect. Ahhh, it’s a good time to be indie!

This is a Guest Post by Terri Giuliano Long

If you know me, you probably know that I self-published my debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, not out of a burning desire to be an indie author, but in the hope of attracting a “real” publisher for my novel-in-progress. In 2010, traditional publishers held all the cards. The kings and queens of the literary world, de facto industry gatekeepers, the publishing execs anointed their favored authors; they decided which books had literary merit, and, through vast marketing and distribution efforts, determined which books graced readers’ shelves.

An elitist, a university lecturer with an MFA in creative writing, I bought into that model, lock, stock and clichéd barrel. To me, legacy publishing—preferably with one of the Big 6—was the only way to publish legitimately. I was like the Velveteen Rabbit—pathetic, I know: I wanted to be “real.” Seeing acceptance by a legacy publisher as my only legitimate path to reality, I spent years languishing, working to improve my craft, waiting for my “turn,” my big break, for a bolt of literary lightning to come down from the heavens and strike me.

Ironically, when I got my break, it was via self-publishing, the break we make for ourselves!

Two years later, thanks in part to easy-to-use platforms like Createspace and Kindle Direct, authors are no longer forced to rely on traditional publishers—the tables have turned.

True, traditional publishers still block indies from major literary prizes, such as  the Pulitzer, the National Book and Book Critics Circle Awards, and, yes, the Big 6 continue to control hard cover distribution chains (indies are quickly making inroads!). In nearly every other way, self-publishers, by defining their own destiny, are becoming industry leaders.

Book bloggers, aided by reader-centric Internet sites like Goodreads, have brought indie books into the mainstream, creating a new populist class of industry gatekeepers: readers. And lists, once dictated by corporate marketing dollars, now reflect consumer preferences. With their purchases, consumers send books up the ranks, thus defining the bestseller lists.

Make no mistake about it: traditional publishers are taking note.

In fact, forward-thinking publishers have stopped stigmatizing indie authors and books. These insiders know we have the talent and wherewithal to succeed! They view indies as a farm team, self-publishing a proving ground. And they’re showing the love by offering huge contracts—some worth millions—for rights to the very books they only recently shunned.

In 2010, every author I knew—I—would have given almost anything to be traditionally published. Today, freed from the yoke of traditional publishing, with a plethora of viable options for bringing books to market, smart authors make decisions that best suit their own needs and agenda. Some, like Darcy Chan and Jamie McGuire, enter lucrative arrangements with legacy publishers; others like Ruthie Cardello take a look at their numbers and say, “no thank you.” The point isn’t whether we say yes or no. The very option to say “no,” and the fact that some authors choose to do so, has at last given authors control of our destiny.

This is an exhilarating time to be an author. The e-book revolution changed the publishing dynamic—and indie authors, with courage and indomitable spirit, are seizing the moment!

Today’s article in IndieReader and The Huffington Post details the changes Terri mentions in her post.

Here are a few key points:

  • Literary agent Steven Axelrod, who represents self-publishing rock star Amanda Hocking, credits readers for opening new opportunities for independent authors.
  • Many traditional publishers now view self-publishing as a great way to discover new writers, Axelrod says. A quick search of Publisher’s Marketplace, using the keywords “self publish,” turned up 40 deals in the past twelve months, many ranked “significant,” $250K to $499K, or “major,” meaning over $500K.
  • BUT – another strong indicator of shifting power, and arguably one of the reasons authors have been able to assume greater control: not all successful self-publishers sign on the dotted line. Savvy authors consider their options and choose the publishing method that best meets their career objectives or their goals for a particular project.
  • In July, Penguin acquired Author Solutions for $116 million, “the first major acquisition of a large-scale self-publishing company by a traditional book producer,” Paul Sonne and Jeffrey A. Trachetenberg write in their story for the Wall Street Journal.

To read the article, click here.

Terri Giuliano LongAbout this post's author:

Terri Giuliano is a contributing writer for IndieReader and Her Circle eZine. She’s written news and feature articles for numerous publications, including the Boston Globe and the Huffington Post. She lives on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. Her debut novel, In Leah's Wake, was a Kindle bestseller for more than 6 months. For information, please visit her website: www.tglong.com. Or connect via Blog, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter  at @tglong.

Lenore Skomal

My thoughts exactly, Terri. Having been published in the traditional publishing world, I can say that from the vantage point of experience. The walls will come tumbling down, and we will have a shot at the big awards. But I must add this, a bit of clarity about the Pulitzer. As a newspaper columnist as well as an author, I can tell you the Pulitzer Board now allows for journalists (and even readers) to submit their own entries. (I submitted last year, so I am familiar with the process.) I also submitted my debut novel BLUFF to this year’s competition. In reading through the guidelines for Letters submissions, I didn’t find anything that indicated self published books are not allowed to enter, unlike the National Book Award, which is clear about this.

Holly Robinson

Such a heartening post, Terri! I have one foot in each world, and there are definitely benefits to both. I especially love your analogy of self-published authors being a “farm team.” Even if you DO want to publish with the big 6, you learn a great deal by publishing your own books first and learning how to navigate the marketplace. Whatever you learn, you will put to good use if and when you do decide to go with a more traditional publishing experience.

John F. Harnish

Well said, Terri… however…

…mainstream houses picking up “previously published” books by new authors have been happening for decades. What’s news now is these transactions are being reported in the media by the new publishers to start the book buzz while books are going through the process of eventually being re-released.

In 1972, I established CREATUS to publish and distribute my work. The term “self-publishing” wasn’t commonly used back then. My first published piece was an off-the-charts top seller — hundreds of thousands sold in a few weeks. The primary buzz was word-of-mouth buzz about a one-page essay on a taboo topic that made history.

Oh yes, I got phone calls from agents wanting to represent me, magazine editors inquired about the possibility of me accepting assignments, and the doors of three “big houses” magically opened.

I had my pick of a half-dozen “named” agents — I went with the one who invited me to meet her for lunch. She was the hungriest and I knew she’d be hungry for the 15% of her take from promoting and selling my wordsmithing talents. Overfed agents tend to have less drive. We did deals with Pinnacle Books and Time/Life. One house published my nonfiction work and the other pure fiction written under my penname, John Franklin.

The same chain of publishing events occur today, but in the digital age of publishing via the Internet deals typically happen sooner and with lots of media coverage. The common thread is the author in some way, shape or form, had previously published their work—and, a huge AND, has benefited from positive word-of-mouth buzzes.

Why are mainstream houses interested in previously published books??? Simple answer, public acceptance demonstrated by a sales history. A first-book, unknown author is a high risk, long-shot.

Authors publishing through a “publishing service” need to be aware that their publishing agreement might contain a clause that could delay selling the rights to another publisher. There could be a financial encumbrance by the “service” for anticipated loss of income from future sales. Be sure you read and understand all of the ramifications of what you agreed to when you granted the rights to a “publishing service” to publish and distribute your book. Bummer if you have a deal on the table from one of the “big six” and it’s impeded by the terms of a previous agreement.

Enjoy often… John
http://www.creatusventures.com

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