Combating the Snobbery of Traditional Publishing as an Independent Author

This past weekend, my seven year old daughter had an event with her dance group at a local street festival. As we walked around and looked at the various tables, we happened upon an author of children’s books who had some of her work displayed on a table. My daughter saw the books and we stopped at the table and listened to this friendly, grandmotherly figure tell us about her books.  They were based on the antics of her grandson and looked very nicely illustrated.

We were about to move on when my wife blurted out that I had written three novels.  The author’s first question was not about the genre or the titles. Her first question was, “who’s your publisher?” Before I could get the words DSM Publications (my initials are DSM) out of my mouth, my wife told her I was self-published. Now, I’m not ashamed of being self-published. In fact, I like the freedom that it gives me to publish on my own terms and at my own pace. I’ve talked about the marketing (not my favorite part) in past blogs, but I can deal with that.

As soon as she heard the words self-published the grandmotherly smile disappeared, her body language changed, and I began to receive a lecture on the benefits of having a publisher. There were things like:

  • I get into author events for free
  • I don’t have to market my books (even though I’m sitting out in the sun at a table at a street festival hawking books)
  • They edit my books (children’s books targeted at 3-5 year-olds with two to three sentences per page)
  • Did I mention I get into author events for free?

I began to explain to her the benefits of independent publishing through such outlets as Amazon. She responded that Amazon and those other “outfits” keep too much of your money. I explained that you get to keep 70% of your royalties on Amazon if your book is priced at $2.99 or more. She told me that she heard it was less than that and didn’t trust them with her work. I told her that you retain all of the rights, and she told me she didn’t think so. Thankfully, my daughter had to be at a girl scout event and we had to move along. Her parting words were, “good luck with that self-publishing, but you really ought to think about getting a publisher.”

It was an enlightening conversation and one of those moments that solidified my choice to publish independently. As I thought about her “sweet” publishing deal, I began to look at the realities of her situation. Here are some of my observations:

  • Her books were priced at $10 and above. The copies she had on her table were likely purchased by her from the publisher. If she was making $1-2 per book, she was more in the 10-20% profit range. Based on the traffic at her booth and her book supply, I’d be surprised if she went home with $20-30.
  • How well is her publishing company marketing her books if she has to resort to events like this one and promote books between the boiled peanut stand and the fence company.
  • She had not checked out the specifics of independent-publishing. She didn’t know the terms and conditions. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make the switch because she no longer owned the rights to her books, the great and powerful publisher did.

This was not the first time I encountered this snobbery. An acquaintance of mine has worked throughout his career on the periphery of the journalism field. He has a segment on local public radio and I asked him if he had any advice around generating publicity for my work. He had some good tips. One of the things that he suggested was contacting a local authors’ group. I listened to the qualifications of their membership and what they had to offer and was interested. That is until he told me that I should not tell them that I had independently published and work because they would likely look down on it because they didn’t believe this to be “real publishing”. I asked how many members of the 30+ group had published work with traditional authors. The answer was “one”. I decided that I didn’t want to be brought down by a group where 99% of the membership had failed in their goal.

So, now I sit here with nine works published in the past year. I put this work out to the millions of consumers through Amazon and CreatSpace. Reviews for every piece of work have been 4-5 stars. If I quit today, that would be quite an accomplishment. I do outsource my editing and some of my marketing, but I still do many marketing tasks on my own. Can I quit my day job on the money I’m making and by that beach house? Not yet, but I feel like my chances to do so are improving every day.

My fellow independently published authors, you and I have an advantage over the majority of the members of those snobbish literary groups, books that are published with readers that are buying them. Whenever someone turns up their nose when I tell them I’m independently-published, my gut reaction is to ask them the name of their published book to which most will reply that they don’t have one.

So, keep your heads held high fellow independently-published authors. Don’t feel inferior to those snobbish traditionally published authors. Most of them are probably making less per book than you are and have much less control.

Now, with all of that being said, I’m not going to get off of my soapbox about keeping the quality of independently-published work at a high-level. There is no excuse for not doing this. There are plenty of willing editors and beta readers out there to keep you from publishing work that is inferior in terms of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. Don’t put garbage out there, because you hurt all of us when you do.

You might think you can’t afford an editor, but, in my humble opinion, you can’t afford not to have one. You may think you can do it yourself, but, to paraphrase a saying from the legal profession, the author that thinks he can edit his own work has a fool for a client.

About Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of  a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available. His third book in the Frank Rozzani series will be coming out in April, 2015 and is available for pre-order.

He has also published a well-received  short story collection that is available on Amazon.com.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com

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