Posted on May 17, 2012 - by MG
It seems that for the past six months, all anyone in publishing is talking about is ‘self’ or self-owned-‘indie’ publishing. A few successfully self-published authors are being signed up by traditional publishers. The self-published best-seller Joe Konrath writes a damning indictment of the industry: Do Legacy Publishers Treat Authors Badly? JK Rowling sets up a publishing venture (Pottermore) to promote and sell digital versions of Harry Potter (clever, clever agent for holding on to those rights!). Household-names like Jackie Collins and GP Taylor are self-publishing.
Mega-successful children’s author and screenwriter, Anthony Horowitz, wonders aloud “Do we still need publishers?” and delivers a paean to the tradition of publishing, which also manages to be a stinging rebuke. His comments have some agents and authors on the twittersphere tut-tutting and using the word ‘arrogance’, whilst others quietly retweet and admire the frankness and cojones of an author who has both benefited from having a traditional publisher whilst also making them many times the money he ever earned. If what Anthony Horowitz says is true, then only someone very successful could dare to say it.
Self-publishers document their process and sell how-to books on Kindle. Hundreds of thousands of blog words are devoted to asking theoretical questions: how might the new world of publishing look? Will there be any pie left over after Amazon take their piece?
About fifty per cent of the authors I’ve chatted to in the past few months are thinking of dipping a toe into the self-published waters. Why? Partly it’s down to falling advances and marketing budgets. This means that some manuscripts are being bought for less than an author can afford to write for and will be lightly-marketed, so may be unlikely to sell beyond the advance.
To some, that might give the perception that authors may as well invest their own cash into publishing the manuscript and reap all the potential profits.
Partly too, there is the attraction of the new.
Whoever called e-book publishing a ‘bubble’ is right in one sense; it’s something that a LOT of people are going to want to try. If/when the majority discover that it’s difficult, time-consuming, and elicits too little money; that’s when the bubble might burst.
Most traditionally-published authors I know will probably not try the exercise whilst we’re still in the experimental, bubble-type phase. It’s risky, there’s a cash cost and a substantial opportunity cost to doing the job properly; i.e. treating the manuscript exactly as you might a traditionally published book.
Like most, I would not have thought of trying anything in this phase of the publishing revolution.
But it happens that The Joshua Files is coming to a final chapter, in the UK at least. The books have earned me some unexpected foreign rights royalties and income from Public Lending Rights and Authors Licensing and Copyright Service, which could be spent on bootstrap investment for a new imprint, owned by my husband and I.
Like many authors who do a huge amount of their own marketing and publicity, I’m extremely curious to know if I can marshal the necessary skills and expertise to execute the whole project. Mr. Harris and I have also started and run a successful technology business (The Oxford Knowledge Company).
Most of all though – I have a spare Joshua Files-related manuscript, first written in 2005 for an adult readership.
THE DESCENDANT has already formed part of the back-story of The Joshua Files. The novel was the basis for the 2009 Alternate Reality Game used to promote ICE SHOCK. It’s unlikely that any publisher the book would publish as fast as I’d like; i.e. roughly around the same time as APOCALYPSE MOON.
You can only dangle so much speculation and theorization in front of a scientist before they’ll rush to the lab to try the experiment.
And dammit – I’m a scientist!
So over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing the details of the experiment, just like a scientific paper. Materials & Methods, Results and Conclusions.
Next: Self-publishing and the barriers to entry, or Why publishers are good at publishing and you are not, and what you can do to narrow the gap.