Hugh Howey makes another insightful set of comments on the state of self -publishing. If there is a self-publishing revolution, Howey is it’s Napoleon. Will end up being made mad by the wall paper on a small mediterranean island? Let us hope not. Centrally, Howey tackles the false equivalence made when critics of self publishing snort that most self-published books do not sell many copies.
One reminder that I’ve blogged about at length is that most books don’t sell very many copies. And that’s okay. It’s not a self-publishing thing; it’s a publishing thing. 98% of manuscripts submitted to agents never get published at all. They don’t sell a single copy. Nobody mentions this when they deride self-publishing as an option. The false premise seems to be that you can choose to self-publish, or you can choose to have your book on an endcap in every bookstore while you are sent on a 12-city tour by your publisher. That’s not the choice. The choice is to self-publish or submit to an agent. This is the choice.
If you self-publish, you can immediately move on to writing the next work. You don’t have to look back at all if you don’t want. You have the rest of your life to promote that work, if you decide to promote it at all. If you are one of the 1% to secure an agent, the earliest you might see that work in a bookstore is a year. More likely, it’ll be three to five years. And you’ll be asked to rewrite that work, not based on any artistic vision, but based on what’s currently selling, what publishers are currently looking for.
What Howey is pointing to here is really a marketing issue as much as a creative one. Remember way back in the mists of yesterday when I told you that books were about as naturally marketable on the internet as an M1 Abrahams tank is a practical commuter vehicle? Well, that marketing problem is only made worse by waiting two years to find an agent, then two years for your actual book to get published. In that time your equivalently talented self-published comrade has written and published four books which they are happily selling in varying numbers as they build a following. See the problem? Traditional publishing has become a waiting game, and in a digital world of microsecond attention spans, that is tantamount to suicide.