This post could have the subtitle of “The Debate Continues.” At least in my head, sometimes. I’m a self publisher. I love being self published, but let me tell you right now that it’s a tough road to hoe and I’m not making money (for now). It’s ok, I’d still rather be self published and confident about retaining possession of my ideas than traditionally published and know that I’ve signed away a part of my soul. Ok, that might be a bit melodramatic, but it’s not too far from the truth.
That’s not to say that I don’t get a little itch when I see fellow writers getting contracts and talking about their agent and it was worth all the hard work. But, then I wonder how happy they’ll be about all that in five years if their book doesn’t sell out the advance and has been relegated to the bargain bin. What then, when they have no way of controlling what happens to it? I have no delusions of grandeur. I’m a storyteller. I’ve had people tell me I tell a good story. I’ve had some negative feedback on my writing as well. It comes with the territory. But, unless you’re in the top echelon of writers, I get the feeling that a traditional contract is just going to suck your soul out in the long run.
I don’t want you to think I’m biased. I know that self publishing is in my comfort zone. It’s the right thing for me. It’s not right for everyone. You have to have a bit of salesman in you to succeed most times. A little bit of charisma helps. But, the more I read about the current state of traditional publishing contracts, the more I worry about just how much folks are signing away. As a midlist author, you can probably do as much, if not more, promotion for your book as you will receive from a Big 5 publisher. They just don’t put their money into anything that doesn’t guarantee a return.
These points aside, there’s also the whole signing away your book for your life plus 75 years. Yeah, not a big fan of that. What? You didn’t realize that’s what happens? Sure, when you sign a contract and take that 5-, maybe low 6-, figure advance, you’re signing away the copyright for your lifetime plus 75 years. And, for most books that go out of print, that’s it. Done. Unless the author fights to buy back (yes, spend money to get your own work back) his/her backlist, those books will sit and collect dust, or worse, have no reader exposure whatsoever.
If you’re on the fence about becoming a self-published author, I recommend doing your homework. Read the authors who are the true experts on this (Hugh Howey, Joe Konrath, and David Gaughran are all well-versed in regard to self publishing). Be sure to read the dissenting voices as well (Scott Turow comes to mind). Make an informed decision. Just remember, you can always go back and start over with self publishing. The same might not be necessarily true of traditional.