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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A friend of mine is an attorney in the publishing industry. She has strongly advocated against my decision to self-publish.

Her views:
Go ahead, but I think it is stupid. I have been in this business for over 35 years, and I know the statistics: self publishing gets you almost nowhere. There are exceptions that prove the rule (and they are just that, exceptions in one out of a thousand cases). For the most part, statistically, you will not get more than 1000 sales and will have to put forth money yourself, whereas if you go with one of the big publishers, they will promote, they will get you on GMA or Today, they will support you.

I know this from the experience of tons of my clients who are sorry they took on self publishing, and I can tell you that (a) if you can put together a decent proposal, I can get it to an agent (whether she takes it on is something else, but it is worth the try), and (b) if you put it together yourself, you are going to make a lot of mistakes that a publisher would keep you from making.

Your funeral, but I think you have a hot topic here, and I think it would be worth trying to run it past some of the bigger publishers before taking it on yourself. It is like representing yourself in court-- you can do it, but I really wouldn't advise it. No matter how expert you think you are, you could be blindsided. (I won't even represent myself, and I'm a lawyer with 40 years of experience).

Self publishing is just not worth it until/unless you find out whether someone else will take it on (and do all the dirty work for you).

- I responded that I felt the landscape had shifted dramatically and asked her for her support -

I have no stake in whatever you want to do, but I reserve the right to say "I told you so." You forget that this is what I do for a living, and it has NOT changed as dramatically as you think. I am currently bailing out two clients who got in deeper than they should have, and one who should have known better whose book design is just awful, even though they have the backing of a large organization that purchases books by the thousand.

The people who SAY that the landscape has shifted dramatically are the same kind of people who want you to buy their book advertised on late night tv and learn how to flip houses. It has NOT shifted the way you think it has, and even if you're writing "Golfing for Cats" (classic joke-- cat books sell well, golf books sell well, so that's your potential best seller) it is unlikely to do as well for you if you do it on your own (especially if you have no experience in the field) as it is if you go through a major publisher (note that I said "major," not indie. If you go through an indie press, you might as well do it yourself and make the mistakes yourself, unless they have a lot of experience and have progressed well beyond start-up.

I prefer to do the writing, not all the rest of the crap (fighting with distributors, getting frustrated by bookstores, having problems with a printer, coming up with cash to underwrite a new print run for press copies, etc.) And I'm actually pretty good, after all these years, at book design and title choice and cover art (did you know there are actually awards for the worst book covers? Very funny to see what people have done).

I've stopped arguing with people. I tell them what I know, they ignore me, and then they come crawling back, and there isn't a lot I can do (or undo), but as I said, I reserve the right to say "I told you so." If you get a large publisher behind you, it is much easier, and much more likely to be successful-- and you can put all the other effort (where they not only pay, but have the experience in what has worked and what hasn't) into publicity and really pushing the book.

To use a rather icky expression, I don't have a dog in this fight. I wish you luck, but I really think you'd be happier with a major publisher behind you than doing it yourself.

So - strong opinions from her. Which, I always welcome dissenting opinions as it helps to make educated decisions.

I'm here today to see if any authors would like to share their own personal experiences/opinions on the matter before I continue on my self-publishing path.

Thanks!
Tricia
 

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My eyes sort of glazed over about halfway through (might not be her; might be me, I'm googley today), but how many people who try to go trad succeed. Is it better than 1 in a 1000? How many of them really get on GMA?

PS - I have nothing else nice to say.

:)
 

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I'm going to be very cynical for a moment here. (And I say this as an attorney in the IP field, fwiw.)

She's protecting her bottom line. She wants contract review business (perhaps from you, perhaps from her agent clients).

Yes, it's true that the average self-published author doesn't earn a living from self-publishing. The same is true in traditional-publishing, sad to say it. And every day, more midlisters are leaving traditional-publishing because they realize that while they had to work a day job while publishing with the Big 6, they're able to earn a living from it when they go alone. And no, these are not the outliers either.

And like Monique said -- how many authors are getting on GMA and the Today Show? Not many. And unfortunately, a lot of the time, when that happens, it wasn't because of the publisher but because of the outside publicist that the author hired herself.
 

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There are plenty of people on these boards making a decent amount at self-publishing. Look around and you'll see numerous threads on the topic. You are probably not going to hit the bigtime and make six figures a month, but with some work and a decent amount of titles you may be able to hit five figures a year. Then again, you may not. But there are no guarantees in traditional publishing, either, and people get themselves into financial holes there, too. When my first book was published with Bantam, long ago, I spent most of my advance on big ads in Romantic Times and Affaire de Coeur-- and then they didn't pick up my second book. It's possible to go way overboard on websites and so forth, whether you're an indie or trad published. Always be careful how much you sink into it in advance.

For the most part, statistically, you will not get more than 1000 sales and will have to put forth money yourself, whereas if you go with one of the big publishers, they will promote, they will get you on GMA or Today, they will support you.
Ha. First of all, it's not as simple as submitting your manuscript and having them buy it. It takes a long time to get an agent, and a longer time to submit to publishers-- and you might never get a nibble. In the meantime, some self-published author may have been picked up by that same publisher.

Secondly, it's a myth that big publishers are going to get you on GMA. I'd bet this happens in one out of a thousand cases, if that. Mostly, big publishers aren't even going to buy you an ad anywhere. You're still going to be promoting your book.

It's fair to say, though, that certain genres do better in self-publishing than others. Thrillers, romance, erotica, and new adult are all categories that do well. I'm sure there are others. What do you write? It sounds like it might be nonfiction. As a romance writer, I admit to not knowing how well indie nonfiction does (though someone on this board just hit the NYT bestseller list with a self-pubbed memoir, for the first time in her thirty-year career). I'm sure others can chime in with their experiences, though.
 

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Tricia - Just take a few hours (days? weeks? months?) to read the experiences of the self-publishers on this board (many of whom were and are traditionally published by the way) and you will have your answer:  Your attorney-friend is full of it.  She doesn't know what she's talking about and you shouldn't listen to her. That's about the kindest thing I can say. Run, do not walk, away from this person.

That is not to say you shouldn't go trad if you want (notice I said if YOU want).  Self-publishing does not mean that you are suddenly stopped from shopping your now selling book around.  Look at Hugh Howey.  Considering how much he has sold, you would think there would be a limit on the number of people out there for his work, but its still selling like crazy.  And he has a big trad deal with paper books only.  Think 50 Shades of Gray - again, self-pubbed and then trad-pubbed.  She got everyone at her publisher a $5k bonus this year.  Think Amanda Hocking ...  And there are ones right now on this board who are having that magic happen to them.  I think Holly W is one.

As to whether self-pubbers only ever sell 1000 ... that is an old wive's tale.  Again, look at the board here.  But here's the thing, that's 1000 more than you might EVER SELL if you don't get a trad deal, which right now, without a record of self-publishing success you'll likely NEVER get.

The thing is that a lot of publishers and agents troll the best settler lists now. Get your book out there and see what happens.  It won't stop you from getting that trad deal of your dreams but not putting it out will mean you won't get to feel the satisfactio nof people reading your work and making money from it right now ...
 

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I stopped reading at "A friend of mine is an attorney in the publishing industry".  There will always be gatekeepers guarding the fort (traditional publishing industry) from the barbarians (indie authors).
;D
 

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Tricia OMalley said:
For the most part, statistically, you will not get more than 1000 sales
That may be true statistically, because there's probably a large percentage of self-pubbers who publish one book and give up. But if you look at the committed ones - the types who hang out on this forum - 1,000 sales is a fairly low bar.

Tricia OMalley said:
and will have to put forth money yourself,
No, you don't have to. I don't want to get into all the arguments for the hundreth time, but no, you don't.

Tricia OMalley said:
whereas if you go with one of the big publishers, they will promote, they will get you on GMA or Today, they will support you.
How many authors actually get on those shows? Compared to how many mid-level authors with publishing contracts who wish their publishers would do ANYTHING for them, let alone putting them on national television?
 

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How ridiculously negative. Anyone wanting to publish by any method should do their research and go the route that suits them best, depending on time, talent and money.

Why is she "bailing out" clients, anyway? With self-pubbing, you do what you can afford, surely? I don't make a living out of writing by any means, but I've sold well over 1000 and then some and I make an income. And it's the satisfaction of knowing strangers are reading your stories that makes it all worth while.
 

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I stopped reading halfway through. Your friend is obviously out of touch. It's a problem that the people at the top in the trad publishing world seem to share. They are still living in the nineties.  BUT, some are finally starting to wake up. A few years of poor balance statements can do that to you. You open your eyes and sniff the coffee that's brewing today.

 

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It's funny to see her saying she's bailing out clients who'd self-published, when it honestly seems to be the opposite on most of the writers loops I'm on, with authors hiring literary attorneys to get them out of their trad-pub contracts to get rights reversions so they can self-publish their backlist.

At one conference I attended, a very successful agent who also happens to be an attorney admitted that more than half of her time these days is spent on the lawyering side, whereas it used to be less than a quarter of her business (with about 75% of her time spent on agenting). And these aren't people trying to be bailed out from their self-publishing mistakes, but rather to be bailed out from their trad-publishing mistakes so that they could self-publish!

(FWIW, I'm guessing that this attorney cited above is actually referring to people who engaged in vanity publishing rather than self-publishing, and she's conflating the two, as many in the publishing industry tend to do still, unfortunately.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Haha, I had a feeling this would be the response here. I always like to encourage a solid discussion. Because this will be my first book, I find that when I get really strong opinions from someone, I do need to hear the back up that I am on the right path.

My gut is telling me to self-publish.

My book is a narrative non-fiction. Here is my brief book description:

When Briggs, a Boston Terrier, was stolen from his family's deck and shoved in a waiting car, a chain of events unfolds that shakes the city. The Stolen Dog follows Tricia and Josh, Briggs' owners, as they fight a force unknown, enduring death threats, psychic interventions, false leads, fake set-ups, and the threat of dog fighting. A heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story of love, fearlessness, and hope--a captivating view of the best and worst of humanity--The Stolen Dog will make you hug your pets closer.

My ultimate goal is to create a platform for this to help others. The steps I have already taken:

-built a website dedicated to stolen dogs
-created free resources and downloads for others in this situation
-have created a promotional video
-created a video for readers at the end to go to so they can meet the dogs/authors
-will be donating a portion of proceeds to animal rescues
-beautiful and simple cover design
-manuscript will be coming back to me this weekend from the editor I've chosen.

I feel good about it and that I am on the right path. When I get such strong opinions from someone with experience - it tends to make me second guess things.

Thanks for your input and support!
 

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Golfing for Cat's and house flipping guides? And then this...

fighting with distributors, getting frustrated by bookstores, having problems with a printer, coming up with cash to underwrite a new print run for press copies, etc
Aside from her statistics regarding the odds of self-pub success (wherein all her cited advantages of Big-6 publishing are also every bit exceptions and not rules) it sounds like all of her vast decades of experience (indie pub's been genuinely big for what, 2.5 years now) is limited to the old school masochistic vanity press indie path; where you dumped your life savings to stockpile your garage with custom printed books an then indundated yourself with contractual agreements with a host of sales, marketing and distribution outfits who are all too happy to take money from cash strapped hopefulls and then not deliver.

I haven't read article on these practices in awhile, everyone's E-pubbing now, but it used to be that every "how to get published" article and book you picked up had an overview of the "vanity pit" and how to best stay out of it.

Sounds like this attorney's experience is limited to that world. Does she know what a Kindle is?
 

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Statistics are manipulated all the time.  

They like to compare the universe of self-publishers to the universe of traditionally published authors, which is an invalid comparison.  The vast majority of people pursuing a publishing contract will never get one, but anyone desiring to self-publish can.  The correct comparison is all self-publishers vs. all those pursuing traditional contracts.

Thus, out of that 1,000 people, probably only 10 or 12 will even get a publishing contract, and almost all of those will get only marginal advances and nothing else.

So out of 1,000, if 12 get contracts and each get $5,000 advances the total earnings for 1,000 people is $60,000, which is $60 per.  What percentage of self-publishers make $60?

Those numbers are pure conjecture, but that is the essence of a valid comparison, imo.
 

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Amanda Brice said:
(FWIW, I'm guessing that this attorney cited above is actually referring to people who engaged in vanity publishing rather than self-publishing, and she's conflating the two, as many in the publishing industry tend to do still, unfortunately.)
I honestly felt as I was reading the advice to this author that this attorney literally was spewing every negative (and proven false) statements about indie publishing. This is not only behind the times. This is someone who is being WILFULLY blind to what's going on probably b/c her paycheck (for now) demands that she be blind. It made me want to *headdesk* and froth at the mouth at the same time.

I don't know what the original poster writes. Maybe its lit fic, maybe its non-fic, which could still use a little trad help (though honestly, if the author is doing non-fic, she needs to already have an audience ...). But if she's writing genre fiction ... there is no reason to wait for a trad deal especially one where even if she was lucky to get one wouldn't put her book out there for years and she would likely get a $5k advance spread over 3 years with her agent or attorney friend taking a third ..

Anyways, I really hope the OP reads this board and learns for herself what the business situation is for authors now and doesn't take her friend's statements at face value. I assume b/c she's here that she isn't.

Good luck, OP!
 

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I think your attorney friend is "bailing out" some folks who got scammed by vanity presses that charge thousands and do almost nothing.
She doesn't realize there's a whole other world of self-pub now.

I self-pubbed my first book with Amazon's KDP, sold close to 4k ebooks, got picked up by 47North, and since August have sold about 15k ebooks.

Spent NO money on promotion. No money at all, in fact.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
X. Aratare said:
Anyways, I really hope the OP reads this board and learns for herself what the business situation is for authors now and doesn't take her friend's statements at face value. I assume b/c she's here that she isn't.

Good luck, OP!
Thanks X. Aratare! I posted above about what I am working on. I love the replies. It makes me feel confident in continuing on my path. I also agree that it seems like her views are outdated even though she claims she follows these boards, as well.
 

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Self-publishing doesn't preclude a traditional deal - as a first-time author you need to prove an audience to a publisher - what better way that to sell you book? Once you have sales your're be in a much better position to negotiate a contract - if you chose to go that route.

It does sound like your friend is talking about vanity presses - so long as you are truely self-publishing using amazon and smashwords  etc for ebooks and createspace and similar for POD print - I can't see a down side - oh except you keep 70% of royalties and all your rights :)
 

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Statistics are important.

Entry to KDP is pushing the UPLOAD button. Entry to traditional is hitting the SEND button to transmit a query letter. Ask the attorney what the statistics show for all people who press the SEND button.
 

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Tricia OMalley said:
Thanks X. Aratare! I posted above about what I am working on. I love the replies. It makes me feel confident in continuing on my path. I also agree that it seems like her views are outdated even though she claims she follows these boards, as well.
Of course I saw your post AFTER I put up mine. Sorry about that! I can tell that you're going to do fine. You're listening to everyone and you'll make your own decisions. I just feel for those who would hear that attorney's advice and NOT do as you have done, but give up on a road. You've already got one of the most important things for an indie: thinking for yourself.
 
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