No man is an island: traditional vs. self-publishing (from my POV)

For my readers who aren’t familiar with the self-publishing scene, there has been a big stir the last few weeks concerning a report called Author Earnings. This report, released by self-published author Hugh Howey and an undisclosed counterpart looked at the earnings of “indie” authors compared to those authors signed by Big Five publishing houses. According to Hugh’s numbers, indie authors are outselling the Big Five publications on Amazon. I won’t go go into the details, but if you’re interested in that sort of thing, you can read it here.

Obviously, this has stirred up quite a debate in the publishing world. Many authors out there have subscribed to an either/or attitude. They say things like “self-publishing is for amateurs, not professionals,” or, “traditional publishing is for schmucks who want to sell their soul to a publishing house.” Of course, there are a lot of people who sit on the fence in the grey area. I’m not writing this to argue about who is wrong and who is right. Personally, I’m a fan of self-publishing but would also love my books to be in print through a publishing house (if I could work out a fair deal for print books and still retain my ebook rights, that is).

The reason I AM writing this is to talk about why I chose to begin my journey in the publishing world as an indie. When I received by book back from my editor, I worked hard to polish my query and developed a list of agents to pitch Out of Exile. I did this for two months, (I know, I know, J.K. Rowling was rejected by TWELVE publishers and some people spend years pitching and rewriting their books) collecting form rejection letters. Frankly, I felt like I was wasting my time. And then I remembered something I read in the back of Theft of Swords about author Michael J. Sullivan. He self-published the Riyria Revelations, of which Theft of Swords was a bundle of the first three installments.

I wrote Mr. Sullivan an introductory email and asked for any advice he had for someone entering the self-publishing world. To be honest, I didn’t expect to hear back from him — authors are busy people after all. But receive a reply I did, one that was laden with invaluable links, recommendations and personal advice. I was flabbergasted that someone I considered a big-time author would take the time to help a fan-turned-indie author begin his own journey. 

I was flabbergasted that someone I considered a big-time author would take the time to help a fan-turned-indie author begin his own journey.

At the same time, I also discovered and reached out to Ben Galley. I sent numerous emails back and forth to both Ben and Michael, eager for every bit of information they could provide me. Without Michael’s edits and suggestions, my book blurb would be a mess. Ben gave me invaluable input (as did Michael) on my cover design. I don’t want to sound sappy, but I wouldn’t have the book I do today without their help.

Last month, a similar circumstance transpired. I bought Write. Publish. Repeat. (which I highly recommend) at a time when I was completely overwhelmed by the task of starting book two in the Teutevar Saga. WPR inspired me. More than that, it made me get my butt in gear and write. Still, I had more questions. I wrote co-author Sean Platt and, once again, received a prompt and sincere reply. We’ve shot a few emails back and forth since. Sean’s a great guy who’ll tell it like it is and won’t sugarcoat the demanding requirements of this trade.

My point in writing post this isn’t to drop names or advertise for these guys (although you won’t go wrong with any of their work). My point is this: when I started on this wild, crazy ride four months ago, all I received from the traditional publishing world was a no. I was told, in so many words, that I didn’t belong. I don’t feel picked on by the gatekeepers though. They may have even had good reason in rejecting my work.

What I got from the self-publishing world, however, was community. The guys I reached out to — and there are tons of great ladies too — were more than willing to donate a few minutes of their time to help the rookie. To me, this is what makes the indie route more appealing. As of now, I’ve only sold a couple dozen books. I realize it’s a long hard road and I may never be able to pay any, let alone all of the bills by writing. But that’s not what’s important.

What I got from the self-publishing world, however, was community.
 What’s important is that I can do what I love and if I have question or need guidance, I don’t have to go it alone. That’s where the strength in self-publishing truly lies: in its authors. We know that its a long shot to the top. The majority of us won’t sell millions, or even thousands of books. But there are are great people like Michael Sullivan, Ben Galley and Sean Platt who have found success in this crazy industry and who are more than willing to help a newbie like me get a fair shot as well. There are people who are willing to extend the hand of friendship and invitation. For me, that’s much more appealing than a rejection letter.



4 thoughts on “No man is an island: traditional vs. self-publishing (from my POV)”

  1. Very inspiring. I would love to self-pub my first novel, but I need an editor and a cover artist. How does one go about finding reputable examples (thAt I can afford).

    1. Thanks for reading Michael. You really were (are) a huge help and I’ll always owe you for helping to jumpstart me into the publishing world.

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