Sometimes you come across a press article which is written in such a way that it makes you wonder where the journalist has been living for the last five years. Then, a moment later, the thought hits you that maybe not everyone in the rest of the world is a self-publishing author like you (although it usually feels like everyone is).
We’re off to The Miami Herald this week, for one of those stories that starts as though it was written in 2007. However, get past the headline and first couple of paragraphs, and an interesting and sobering story emerges of self-publishing successes – and the potential for failure.
Published to tie in with the Miami Book Fair International earlier this month, the article began with the story of self-publishing author Hugh Howey, who neatly summarised the advantages of self-publishing with this quote: “…you don’t waste your time trying to get published, which can take years of query letters and agenting, and all this stuff. You go straight to the real gatekeepers, which are the readers. If they respond favorably and you have sales, you can leverage that into a writing career. If they don’t, you write the next thing. Either way you’re not spending your time trying to get published, you’re spending your time writing the next work.”
Indeed. The article goes on to reference a number of mid-list mainstream authors who’ve jumped into self-publishing as a means to increase their income; once, of course, their mainstreams had helped them to build a readership in the first place. These even include authors like Jackie Collins, who is self-publishing a “new version” of The Bitch. I’ll be sure not to miss that one.
Only towards the end of the article did more relevant and, dare I say, more normal opinions get a mention, with one author encouraging other authors to “manage their expectations” and not to expect to sell a “ton of books” (No, really?). At the end, however, there is a nice balance of pros and cons: a mainstream can’t run a blog for an author, and can’t speak directly to an author’s readers. On the other hand, a self-publishing author is never going to be able to buy the front table at Barnes and Noble or the front page of Amazon.
Given that last year alone saw more than 235,000 books self-published, for many authors selling copies can seem like a roll of the dice; a Hobson’s choice of where to invest limited time and even more limited funds in the slimmest of slim hopes of standing out from the crowd.
Finally for this column, here is an exceptional link, which lists some of the competitions open to self-published authors. Having been burned by one such competition recently, I suggest you click on that link with extreme caution, and only when sober. If, however, in a moment of weakness you feel tempted to throw away $69 or $150 or $199, just ask yourself this: even if you won (which you won’t, by the way), how will having an award from an outfit of which no-one’s ever heard help your sales? If you have to pay to enter a competition, it becomes a lottery, nothing more. Note that in this list of competitions, only one is free to enter, and that’s because it’s run by Amazon, and that’s because everyone has heard of Amazon, so there’s a chance that it is a genuine competition, and winning it might actually mean something, although everyone’s going to enter it, so your chances are even slimmer.*
*Editor’s note: Chris James would like to apologise for this outrageous run-on sentence, but mentioning paid competitions gives him the same nervous tick as mentioning paid reviews, which renders appropriate sentence construction an impossibility.
25 thoughts on “Indie News Beat: Miami Dice”
Chris, I particularly enjoyed the phrase “even if you won (which you won’t, by the way).” I’m always afraid to write like that (except in character), but you pulled it off nicely. By the way, the sentence you asterisked is not technically a run-on, although it has gone free-range.
Ha! I like that. Free range!
Thanks for commenting, Mike. As with Robynn, I liked the “free-range” description too. 🙂
Good article. Makes me feel better about what I am doing!
Thanks Robynn. It can be tough out there.
All of us dream of the big one and that is why we buy lottery tickets and enter competitions. But, as you say, you won’t win, so all you really buy with the entry fee is the dream.
You are absolutely correct, Yvonne, but, as I always say, true peace and happiness can only be attained when we are as one with our inner cynic 😉
I don’t buy lottery tickets but… this is one lottery I’d dearly love to win. Hell, I’d even be happy with 2nd, or 3rd. 🙂
Maybe, but if you don’t win, you’ve got nothing to show for it, unlike most lotteries, nothing is going to support a good cause
Oh sure, deflate my gonfalon bubble, will ya? Back to the grind of nine-to-five on the pole down at the club for me.
Don’t complain, Rich. I know the doorman at you r place, and he tells me the kind of tips you pull in for your show, and I think you’re on a winner there mate 🙂
Another excellent column post, Chris.
Your point regarding awards from a source that no one has heard of is spot on. Certainly better places where a self-publishing author could spend that money.
Thank you, Jo. Exactly my point – invest that entry fee in a well-produced book and stop lining the scam merchants’ pockets
And isn’t that the truth, Chris. Great post. I’m sending it to my cousin, who after reading the article in The Miami Herald, called me full of confidence that there is indeed such a thing as writers’ Nirvana. Mmmm.
Thanks for dropping by, Joan. It’s a sad truth that there have always been people around to prey on writers’ dreams, and we all have to be vigilant, not to get carried away and think that it’ll be different for us.
You can write run-on sentences as long as you like my friend. They still make more sense than the garbage they call mainstream media spews out.
I’ll second your opinion of contests. If they are not free to enter then you’re already starting from a losing position.
Hey, KD – good to see you. Wait till you read my next novel; there’ll be some horrendous ones in there 🙂
If reporters would just quit calling trad publishers for their opinions on indie publishing…. Argh. Anyway, good post as always, Chris. And I’m with you on the contest thing. I was on the verge of entering the Amazon contest earlier this year, when I came down with shingles. I’m starting to think it’s a good thing I wasn’t well enough to waste my time. 😉
Asking trad publishers for their opinion of Indies is like asking developers for their opinion of conservationists.
Thank you, Lynne. Yep, it’s important to remember just how much power the mainstreams still have, and they won’t give it up easily.
I am guilty of entering competitions but I choose carefully. I go for the ones with low fees and use any award for publicity purposes only. Luckily readers of the Uttoxeter Telegraph are impressed by stickers and silver medals from outfits no one else has heard of. You are right though, as always, and one should proceed with caution.
As for the rest of your article, it was ‘spot on’. You are good at this .:)
Thank you, Carol. IF those stickers can help you, then more power to your elbow! 🙂
Sorry I’m late to the party… again, Chris. Excellent article, with people like you around it’s a wonder those bloodsucking F****** still manage to make a scam, but they do!
Hey, T.D. I think the scamming side of the business we can be sure is the one thing not about to change anytime soon 🙁
Agree with you, Chris, totally agree. Unless it’s big time contest then I don’t think there’s any real credibility with readers unless they recognize the name of the contest. The Amazon one is well known of course but it’s tough sleddin’. There are tons of entries. I didn’t make it past the first round with my novel.
Keep up the good work, I enjoy your columns.
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