Yesterday I shared some of my thoughts on unpublished authors self-epublishing as a way to launch their careers. Hopefully I was able to present a fair and balanced portrait of my thoughts on the subject. Today I want to continue that discussion by looking at what self-epublishing can do for published authors.
Just as unpublished authors see Kindle and other self-epublishing opportunities as a way to launch a career, published authors see self-epublishing as an opportunity to keep books that might have gone out of print in print or publish books that haven’t yet been published.
There’s no doubt this can be a wonderful opportunity for many, and we’ve seen some of those success stories right here at BookEnds. Angie Fox posted about her own experience in her blog post Taking Charge of Your Career, and author Bella Andre has responded to her readers by self-epublishing some of her erotic romances. That being said, neither of these authors made the decision to self-epublish lightly. Both carefully considered why they were doing it and worked very, very hard to ensure that the product they were putting out was just as good as, if not better than, any book they’d ever written or published traditionally. Most important, they have continued to keep their author brand in mind and are always working to make sure that their next book is always better than the last, whether it’s been self-epublished or traditionally published.
When it comes to readers you are only as good as your last book, and by last book I mean the last book they read. So even if your most recently written title is the one coming out from Big Name Publishing House, the one readers will remember and base future buying decisions on is the one they last purchased. So while self-epublishing can be an exciting way to move those books out from under your bed, you need to consider whether that’s the best decision for your career.
Let’s look at it his way: You have a series of historical romances you’re publishing with Publisher XYZ and they’re doing great. Your career is on the rise and readers love you, so you start thinking of all of those paranormal romances you wrote years ago. You still love those books and why wouldn’t your readers? They’ve made it clear they can’t get enough of you. So you dust them off and send them out to self-epublish. But those books aren’t as good as your historical romances. You might love them, but let’s face it, you’ve grown a lot in the last 10 years and the reason you are having so much success is because you’ve worked hard to perfect your craft. You also have an editor who works hard with you. You constantly praise her for her brilliant mind and editorial eye. You can’t say enough about how good she makes you look, but obviously if you’re self-publishing she won’t be involved with this book. And it shows. Of course readers snatch up your books because they love you, but they’re disappointed. The books aren’t what they’ve come to expect from you, and now they feel like they’ve wasted their hard-earned money and time reading books they found unsatisfying. Your next historical romance is published and sales drop. Your publisher can’t figure it out, they blame it on the cover, but the truth is that the readers have moved on. They don’t want to risk wasting more money or more time so they’ve found another author to follow.
Is this a doomsday scenario? Yes, it is, and I realize that, but it seems we’ve read so many stories lately about authors making millions by self-epublishing that I wanted to use an extreme example to remind you not why self-epublishing is bad, because I don’t think it is, but why you need to carefully consider what you’re putting out. It’s not the fact that you self-epublished your paranormal romances that’s the problem, it’s the fact that you’ve decided to put out a product that simply wasn’t as good as what’s already on the market. And that’s what I want published authors to consider.
Self-epublishing can be a fabulous way for authors to keep in touch with their readers and meet the demands of their readers for new books. It’s also a great way to make more money, but it also needs to be considered as carefully as any business decision you make. Think of how much you thought about the offer that came in from your publisher (or how much your agent thought about it and talked about it with you), think about how hard your agent worked to negotiate the perfect publishing contract for you and how carefully you considered each step of the process. Are you doing the same with your self-epublishing decision? You need to.
As of yet, publishers haven’t figured out a way to factor epublishing sales into the numbers they run when making an offer to an author. That’s going to change, it’s going to have to change. It won’t be long before those numbers become more important than the sales you’re seeing in print, and just as they can positively impact the offer a publisher makes, they can have a negative impact as well. If sales are slow or small on your epublished books, publishers are going to look at that as an indicator of how well they’ll be able to sell the book. In fact, it’s a much better indicator than we have now because these are actual sales to readers and not just sales to bookstores with the possibility of returns. So if you’re between publishers but looking to get back in with a traditional house, really slow sales, or bad sales, can have an impact on whether a publisher considers offering. Why wouldn’t it? It’s an easy way for them to test market you.
Another reason authors are self-epublishing is that they have heard there is a lot more money to be made by doing it on their own than by going with traditional publishers. In some cases this might be right and has proven right, in others you’re just another book among thousands that readers have to sort through. There’s no doubt that epublishing is growing by the minute and that more and more people are finding this new way to read. That being said, just because it exists doesn’t mean it will be a financial boon for you. J. A. Konrath has been wonderful in sharing his numbers with the public, but the truth is that he had a strong brand before he self-epublished and has clearly worked very hard to continue building that brand. Let’s face it, he’s become the poster child of self-epublishing, and if anything, out of simple curiosity, hundreds of readers are buying his book just to see what the hype is all about. Are you willing to put that same time and energy into your product? Or, here’s another thought: Do you have the epublishing readership to support such a venture?
If you’re a published author I have no doubt you’re looking at the opportunities self-epublishing offers and considering it. It’s interesting, it’s different, and certainly when reading about the success others are having it’s tempting. It’s also a career decision and not a lark. Anytime you put out a product it’s part of your brand and needs to be considered as such. Do you think Coca-Cola put out Dasani water on a whim just because everyone else was doing it? Not likely. Whether or not people know Dasani is a Coke brand, they would find out very quickly if it failed. Obviously I’m a supporter of self-epublishing to help grow my authors’ careers, but only if it’s truly a growth move and not simply a way to get everything out there published.