Friday, 5 July 2013

Six Reasons Why Self Publishing is Not Destroying the Industry

There has always been a lot of talk about whether or not self publishing is good for the industry. There are many arguments that the new indie trend is destroying the industry, with this article appearing a little while ago. In short the author blames the indies for pushing traditionally publishers to the brink of collapse and says that the indie books are poorly written and full of mistakes.

However I feel completely different from the author of the article. For starters I am an indie author, it is a lifestyle choice based on several factors which I want from my writing and I am a reviewer of indie books. I have and do still read traditionally published books but in my own opinion some of the best books have been indie produced.

So I want to put forward these six reasons why being an indie author is not destroying the world.

1.       Traditional Publishers add very little value to the book

That is a big one to start isn’t it? But it is true. An indie author (if professional) will still source their own cover art, editing and formatting. So what do Traditional Publishers do that adds value for authors? Well they have excellent distribution avenues, which would cover most book shops if not all. However the book would only have a few weeks to achieve sales before it is pulled. That just simply isn’t long enough. With Amazon’ Createspace and other Print on Demand services it isn’t impossible now to get your books into the shops, you just have to try very hard.

2.       More books means more competition which is better for readers

In every industry the idea of more competition is horrendous to the thoughts of the established. However as was proven by in the UK in the telecommunications industry, the introduction of competitors to British Telecoms rather large monopoly forced the industry to offer better products at cheaper rates. This is what is happening at the moment with E-book indie authors. The vast majority of best sellers are excellent books with costs much lower than the traditional publisher’s prices. If the traditional publisher doesn’t want to conform to the new market trends then they will suffer like some of the telecommunications market suffered.

3.       Authors not going traditional add a different voice

Recently I was reading a book when I realised that the style was the same as another book. I went looking for the other book and realised that they were both produced by the same publisher. The voice, the style and the way it was written was practically the same. It was boring. And this isn’t an isolated incident. I picked up other books by the same publisher and realised the same. It wasn’t always this way – go back 150 years and the authors of the day each had their own voice that you could instantly recognise as being from that particular author. I always call this the golden age of writing. Indie authors have returned to this stage adding variance not only to the stories but the voices telling them.

4.       Indie music worked

Not so long ago, the music world had a similar trend. Indie bands were all the rage and in many respects I am sure they are today. I was never one for music, but from friends I know that indie musicians caused shockwaves in that industry yet the producers changed habits and dealt with the issue to live side by side. Now both cultures are thriving really well. If the traditional publishers don’t want to change with the times then it is not the indies’ fault that they are suffering but their own.

5.       It is the readers that matter not the publisher’s opinions

This is something that is often missed out in this argument. What does the reader think? Well if the New York Times Bestseller list and Amazon sale ranks are anything to go by; they have an appetite for indie published books. Readers are the ones that we produce our books for – not traditional publishers. If readers want to buy our books then who are Traditional Publishers to comment on it? Surely that just means they should contact that author and attempt to get a deal for their next book rather than throw their toys out of the pram?

            6a.       Traditional publishers produce some terrible books

50 shades of grey is an example of a book that sold based on hype and the push of the traditional publisher. The writing in the book (and yes I read it so I could see for myself – although I borrowed a copy) is not brilliant. There are several articles explaining why this is so – so no need to show it here. But I will say that the ratings on Amazon are artificially inflated by several comments which are five stars claiming – “found copy on beach, made great kindling. Very pleased with product” and “put copy in toaster, you couldn’t imagine the different shades of grey that came out”. Now I am one that doesn’t agree with those reviews. For starters they are very much like troll attacks, which I am opposed to and they support my opinion that Amazon and other retailers should verify their reviews much better.

But “Fifty Shades of Grey” isn’t the only book that suffers from poor writing that has been produced by traditional publishers. My wife recently had a book that was written by a well known (apparently) TV personality that was full of inconsistent tenses and some poor grammar. Why was it produced? Probably because of who it was written by. This made it marketable to the masses. I think it failed, as the book was eventually sold in basement bargain shop for 99p. But if traditional publishers think of what is marketable before what is good, then in the end they will fail.

Of course this is true for Indies as well – but Traditional Publisher’s have a book allowance each year on how many they can produce. When they produce a book they are denying another from being published. With self publishing there are no limits on the number of books being released. So if an author does produce a book that isn’t up to standard it doesn’t matter – other authors can still release their own book.

6b.    Traditional publishers don’t always get it right

Adding to the previous comment; traditional publishers don’t always get it right. Let’s pick up on Harry Potter – how many traditional publishers turned that book down before it became a huge money earning franchise? Traditional publishers are all about pointing the finger but not very good at saying when they are wrong. So who is to say that some of those indie books aren’t brilliant and deserving a place on the literature hall of fame?

Okay I cheated – there are seven reasons there, but you can forgive me – right?

Just because a few authors don’t edit and format their books, doesn’t mean that the whole industry isn’t great. There are some terrible traditionally published books and there are some terrible indie published books. But there are also real gems amongst both of them. At the end of the day I will always say that the power should be with the reader and not the opinions of publisher’s on either side of the fence.

A big thanks to Paul Kater for helping me get this article ready. You can check out his website here.

During July - Ghost Haunts - my short story collection is free on Smashwords.

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  1. Very good points! I am an Indie author. I use the services of a professional editor, cover designer, and layout person for all of my books. It costs a lot but in the end I have a book I can be proud of. I will probably never be in the black with my books, but I am not in it for the money. I am just doing what I love!!

    1. Thank you for the feedback. Yes producing books can be very expensive - but at the end of the day the most important thing is the quality of the work.

      I wish you luck with the rest of your career.