I started this blog post today after pondering the sentiment many people have that “your days are numbered, agent. Why should I get a publisher or pay you 15% anyway when I can just put it up online myself and get a 70% royalty?!”
I wanted to show that no, really, agents are pretty much awesome. I mean, you can just read this and know that right?
Research commenced. I found out exactly how to self-pub:
“With Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) you can self-publish your books on the Amazon Kindle Store. It's free, fast, and easy. Books self-published through KDP can participate in the 70% royalty program and are available for purchase on Kindle devices and Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and Android-based devices. With KDP, you can self-publish books in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian and specify pricing in US Dollars and Pounds Sterling.” -Amazon.com
You just have to price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 to get that 70%; otherwise, you get 35%, which is the rate you will generally get (if not better) from a traditional indie pub.
If you want to be available on more than just the Kindle, you'll need to put your book onto a site like Smashwords.
Awesome. Know thy enemy and all that.
Then came the time to throw the wrench into this eeevil plan.
USA Today writes: “This January [Amanda Hocking] sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles…. Novelist J.A. Konrath…has sold more than 100,000 self-published e-books.”
"The Beanie Baby Handbook by Lee and Sue Fox sold three million copies in two years and made #2 on the New York Time Bestseller list." -Groundbreaking.com
And on and on and on. There's even a self-published book on self-published hall-of-famers!
Boy. Self-publishing ebooks sure doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Sounds pretty lucrative, actually.
The biggest decision you seem to have to make is whether or not to protect your ebook with Digital Rights Management(which, by the way, isn't a clear option you have to do anyway, so it's probably not even something you would think about).
So what can I really say against it?
Nothing. Except that I would never do it.
At the end of the day, self-publishing is incredibly tempting: I have several unpublished manuscripts lying around. I have over 2,000 twitter followers. I’m sure if I priced the sucker at $.99 people would pay to see just what this agent’s got. So why the heck not?
Well. I suppose because there’s no guarantee. Yes, it could be some easy, quick cash; but that’s not the point of publishing, is it? Even Amanda Hocking ended up with a traditional publisher.
Part of it, I think, is because to make it in self-publishing, you have to constantly promote yourself. You become a business, and any business needs full dedication in order to succeed and grow. Sure, if you make enough money you can hire a promotional team, but you will constantly have to keep proving yourself, constantly have to be everywhere.
But most of it? The big, glaring elephant in the room that is why most writers are afraid (yeah, I said it) of self-publishing?
Because that means that you’re saying you’re good enough.
You’re saying you don’t need anyone else to tell you you belong on bookshelves; you don’t need a deadline or an editorial team backing your every word.
But like I said – there’s no guarantee. There’s no guarantee that even if you take the risk, decide you don’t need anyone else behind you but you, that you will succeed.
The USA Today article mentioned four authors doing the impossible. PublishAmerica boasts over 50,000 authors. Lulu boasts nearly 20,000 titles a month.
Hmm. Ok. Lulu's official stats claim 1.1 million authors, so...4...out of 1,150,000 is...well, ok, let's throw in the ones from the recent Groundbreaking.com list, too, just to be fair, so...37 (heck, let's do 38) out of 1,150,000 is .000033%.
I’ve already spoken to the dangers of self-publishing if you don’t succeed; and honestly, though I love me a Cinderalla story and love me easy cash…I really, really don’t have the time, energy, or confidence, to take this risk.
So while I agree whole-heartedly that self-publishing is very tempting, and can be very lucrative if done well, and if done right, as an agent, it holds about the same pull to me as the million-dollar-jackpot.
Only this isn’t a dollar I'm gambling. It’s my career.