Don't Judge Book By Publishing Method

A lot of people – especially traditionally print-published authors – make judgments about books based on the way the book comes to be published as well as the price at which the book sells.

Pecking Order of Published Books

In the past, books were always viewed, by those in the know, which means publishing company employees and published authors, as having importance based on their slot in the grand scheme of publishing.

A List: These were the movers and shakers of the book world – the big best-sellers as well as the critically acclaimed books which may have sold big or may not have. What was important was the prestige of having these literary giants on a publisher's list.

B List: These were the authors who sold respectably and aspired to move onto the A List, thereby gaining more money and support from the publisher.

C List: Based on who you talk to, these were genre books aka commercial fiction that sold well but got little promotional support from the publisher. Most of these folks were what are called mid-list which meant they were the cannon fodder of publishing. If publishers want to cut costs, they always start at the bottom with these folks rather than starting at the top where cutting advances and support might actually amount to something significant. After all, the people on the A List usually have built-in audiences that buy automatically.

Vanity Publishing: Yep, at the bottom of the food chain, getting no respect are the Rodney Dangerfields of the publishing world: people who wrote books and self-published them because they couldn't get any publisher to do it.

All the publishing professionals and authors once sniffed with disdain at the people who believed so strongly in their writing that they paid their own money to get a book out there. Back then, the cost of publishing a book was several thousand dollars. No computers. No desktop publishing. A writer who did this had little chance of selling enough copies to break even much less make money.

That Was Then; This Is Now

Times have changed. No longer are self-published authors sneered at – except by some agents, editors, and traditionally published authors.

I have friends who absolutely believe that any writer who publishes without benefit of a publishing company is putting garbage out. They don't understand why anyone would download a book that costs only $.99. They can't believe anything worth reading is being given away as so many ebooks are. They honestly believe if it's free that it's not any good.

Admittedly, there are many self-published books that are awful. However, a lot of traditionally published books that I've purchased are also awful, and it cost me a lot more to discover that given the price of most printed books.

At least with an ebook, I can get a free sample on my Kindle and know within a couple of pages whether the book is worth downloading. No longer do I have to spend $7.99 or more only to discover the book is not what I want to read.

Don't Judge The Medium

The overriding rule that all readers should adopt is: Don't judge the quality of a book by the publishing process used to present it to the world. There are fabulous ebooks out there, and many of the indie authors now also publish in print, usually CreateSpace or BookSurge or Lulu because some readers want a "real" book to add to their home library even though they've already read the digital edition.

It's nice to say that good authors thrive and less-skilled ones falter, but that's simply not true with traditional publishing, but it's a bit "more true" (Yes, I know that there aren't degrees of truth, but you know what I mean.) with digital publishing.

If you're a good writer, and you can put together a well-written story without glaring typos and grammatical errors, you have a good chance of succeeding with indie publishing if you know how to market your book to readers. (Read my Ebook Success series if in doubt.) In fact, I'll be so bold as to say that you may have a better chance of succeeding than with traditional publishing because the sky's the limit at this point with indie publishing.

Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?

You see, with any kind of publishing, what I call the Dirty Harry Rule applies: Do you feel lucky? You have to get the lucky breaks needed to rise above the bottom of the food chain in traditional publishing. Since so much of what is required to succeed in this style of publishing is simply out of your control, you need luck, and a lot of it.

You must get the right agent. It's not good enough to have any agent. You have to have one who has relationships with the publishing house you want because agents sell to editors they know. So what happens if your agent doesn't have a relationship with any editor at the house that would be perfect for your work? No sale.

You must get the right editor for your work. What if that person never reads you? No sale.

You must get the right publishing house that publishes your kind of book. What happens if you never do? No sale.

What happens if you get the right people, but your book doesn't sell well? With the next book, you get less money. Or they "print to net," meaning printing only enough copies to match a percentage of what you sold last time.

You've just entered the death spiral, and the name under which you get published begins to die. Eventually, you may be told that if you want to continue publishing, you must take a pseudonym. Then the whole process begins again until you eventually get orphaned.

Bottom Line

With self-publishing, you cut out the agent, editor, publisher, marketing, cover artists, sales force, accountants, etc. You take over all those tasks. How well you do all those tasks, or contract others to do them, determines your success. Your success or failure is in your hands.

Suddenly, you're competing in an arena in which knowledge is everything. If you know how to write, how to self-edit, how to put together an appealing book package, and how to market and promote, you have all the skills necessary to do well with indie publishing.

If you have business savvy and see what's selling and why, and you're not afraid to experiment, play with price point and cover art, then you'll do well.

What about all those people who think ebooks are the latest flash in the pan? Honestly, they're not even a blip on my radar. If you're smart, you'll turn a deaf ear to the negative comments. Get busy interacting with readers who love your books. You'll love the fact that you can write what you want, and readers will embrace it.

The money you make from indie publishing is nice, but the audience you build for your words is even nicer. A major publisher looks at sales around 10,000 and declares an author a failure. An indie publisher, like you, looks at those same numbers and rejoices because that 10,000 can be a big profit for you. Plus, an ebook can sell forever.

Takeaway Truth

The best thing about indie publishing is that you can be read. That's what all writers want – readers.

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