With the year 2016 has turned out to be, there has been more talk than ever in our genre about the role of self-publishing. I always find these debates fascinating and, of course, there’s never one right answer. I’m here to put forward the other side of the story; to bang the drum in support of traditional publishing houses. Because there will always be a role for a publisher in my career.
I’m here essentially as a hobby writer. I work a 40hour week doing Marketing for a wonderful little local charity. I probably spend another 15-25 hours a week working on my writing career (this might be why I’m so painfully single, shhh!!) I’ve been published since September 2011 and have put out 15 novels in that time, including 4 co-authored books and a handful of novellas/short stories. That’s a rate of 3-5 novels a year, while working full time.
That full time job allows me to write what I want, at a speed that suits me. There’s a reason why I still write fan fiction – which earns me nothing – and why I don’t write M/F romance – which would earn me more. My royalties allow me to attend conventions around the world and go on nice holidays, treat myself to something fun every now and then. I’m fortunate enough to not have to rely on my royalties to pay a mortgage or pay my bills. I write because I can’t not write, not because I have to, and the difference is everything.
I’ll confess – once I’ve finished writing a story, my role in the whole process becomes light-touch. I’m happy to sit back and let my publisher take care of the editing, formatting, promotion, marketing. For me to do that myself would cut so deep into my writing time that I’d be down to 1-3 books a year, and by that point I would have lost any financial benefit of self-publishing. Yes, a traditional publisher is going to take a cut of my royalties, but let’s face it, they earn that cut! They pay for top-notch editing, cover art, marketing (with contacts that put my book under noses that might never otherwise see it). Frankly, that’s work I don’t want to do myself.
At the UK Meet this year I attended a panel on self-publishing, led by KA Merikan, Jay Northcote, and RJ Scott – four amazing women I call friends as well as colleagues and peers. And I think RJ kind of hit the nail on the head when she said that self-publishing becomes akin to running a business. You don’t get to just do the writing part, you become a small business owner with all the things that go along with that responsibility.
I want to make it clear that I have no beef with my self-pub peers. My concern is for people like me, who rely on a publisher to get our work out there, and whose options when it comes to reliable, trustworthy publishing houses is diminishing. I have a huge amount of faith in Dreamspinner Press and the work they do. The exposure I’ve been offered to the foreign translations market (shout out to my Italian and French readers, who are freaking awesome) and audiobooks market would have been so so difficult to achieve if I was doing this on my own.
One last thing: as we all know, at any publisher you’ve got three tiers of authors: the bestsellers, the mid-list, and the newbies. A publisher will take a cut of my earnings to cover the costs of producing each novel, but also to offset the expected losses from those new authors. If we all pull away from publishing houses and and self publish, who’s going to be there to give those new authors a chance? Because if it’s hard to get a publishing contract, it’s much harder to gain traction as a new name in the self-pub world. Sticking with a publisher is one way of paying it forward. I’m a reader too, maybe a reader first, and I want to see new talent being nurtured by good publishers and given a chance to grow.
Honestly? I think we’re so lucky to be living in a time when we have all these options as authors. 20-30 years ago they just didn’t exist; hell, ebooks didn’t exist 10 years ago. It’s obviously up to each author as to what they want for their career, and at one point I may dip my toe in the self-publishing pool. For now, I’m going to stand here on my self-built pedestal to say, thank god for my publisher.