JA (Joe) Konrath is a crime fiction writer who has changed 100% to ebooks (well, I believe he still has some copies in print — let’s say his new sales are ebooks). He has several compelling arguments for doing this, not least of all the fact that he is making more money self-publishing.
The obvious argument is that since he already has a readership and a back list of books, he has a distinct advantage. That may be so, he says, but there are plenty of first-time authors who are selling 20,000 copies or more per month.
A couple of days ago, he posted a guest post from fellow crime fiction writer Lee Goldberg on this very topic. Lee agrees with Joe in most respects except one: new writers should take the time to find a publisher.
You can read about the whole post here:
I think I’m more in Lee’s camp on this one, for several reasons. For one, the successful ebook writers I’ve seen so far are genre writers. Crime, vampire/supernatural, sci-fi — they are all great niches with ready-made markets. (BTW, it’s no coincidence that these are the same types of markets that drove pulp fiction — also published inexpensively — and then paperbacks.)
I’ll add the caveat that I haven’t delved too deeply into which writers are doing well, but as I say, the ones I have seen write within a certain genre.
Second, I think new writers should go through the publishing process. There is no question that a book is better for having editors scour your book, make notes, and force you to think about angles in your story you never even considered. Yes, having an army of readers helps, but a professional eye wins every time.
Third, a publisher does get you more exposure. I’ve heard writers talk about the fact that they do a lot of their publicity and even marketing today than ever before. I can’t speak from experience on that, but even if that’s true, you’re still going to get write-ups in the trades (not to mention the publisher’s website) and have a better shot at national exposure.
Fourth, self-publishing automatically eliminates you from many awards including the Giller and the Governor General’s award. In Canada especially, that’s a big deal.
Speaking of which, it is important to note that these writers are operating in the US. I suppose self-publishing could be the true equalizer in this case — Canadian writers can just as easily upload their novels to Kindle as US writers can (unless there’s an obscure rule I don’t know…) I’m not sure how much of a concern that is for some writers, but it is certainly a factor.
Sixth, I think finding a publisher ultimately helps writers find their voice and, in turn, find their readers. Publishers are in the book selling business, and writers write. Self-published writers do it all. Personally, I’d rather focus on just the writing part, and let the publishers worry about the rest. True, the potential for income is greater if you self-publish (assuming your book is a hit, which I think is a bad assumption) but the intangibles that come with finding a home for your book.
And that’s my last point: finding a home for your book. Some writers may find it more fulfilling to put it altogether themselves, and that’s fine. But for me, to find a publisher who likes my novel and wants to work with me to make it better and put it on the market — that’s what it’s all about for me.
So I will search out a publisher, and try my best to find a home for the novel. But if self-publishing becomes the only way to get it out there, well I’ll be ready for that too.
Second draft is coming along, though I haven’t had a lot of time to work on it lately. I think I’m going to stop showing the Novel Writing Totals like I did before, simply because the work now is more about rearranging passages from the first draft, polishing, bridging, etc. than straight writing like before. I’ll update the Novel-o-Meter (right) periodically though.