I hate it when I find myself writing about posts on someone else’s blog, but I’ve got to hand it to Adam Pepper who’s got a guest post up at Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing:
I’ve seen many friends land deals and I’ve been nothing but happy for their successes, but I won’t concede they were better writers than me. Their work simply resonated with one person in a position of power who was able to make it happen. The question that I asked myself wasn’t how can I be the next Konrath or Locke, but simply what was best for my career? Put the preconceived notions aside and truly be objective. I’ve watched this industry and see what goes on. There’s no vast conspiracy to see Adam Pepper fail; there’s merely apathy. The only person I can truly count on to build my career is me.
That should be a “Shazam!” moment for a lot of folks. Like Pepper, I was always in a high-energy right orbit around the publishing biz, trying to get in through the usual methods–writing like a mofo, sending out queries, hoping against hope that an agent or a publisher or even some really, really, almost-hot chick would get interested. And I actually landed wheels-down twice with City of the Damned, only to have the hierarchy at the publishers shake out and the offers retracted (though I did get to keep what little advance cash I’d received). But those were still near misses–or what the late George Carlin would call a near-hit–and since no book was released, since it didn’t skyrocket to the top of the NYT bestseller’s list, and since Neve Campbell (who was the It Girl when this book was written) never booty-called me, I hadn’t found any measure of success.
Things have changed. I may not have realized any of the above goals yet, but now I have the opportunity to do so. Realistically, honestly, I never had a chance in hell going through the traditional publishing field. The odds were just stacked too high.
And as more and more data comes out, we begin to discover that the traditional publishers and their cronies, literary agents, aren’t really much interested in what writers do. They’re only interested in separating as much profit from the writer as possible. Which kind of flies in the face of the oft-touted axiom on places like Absolute Write: “Money always flows to the writer.”
Yeah, right after the publisher and agent.
In a normal traditional deal, I might get a $20,000 advance (minus 15% for the agent, and another couple of hundred bucks for an IP lawyer to do a contract review). If sales earn that out, then I would get a remarkable 6-8% royalty against the cover price of every unit sold, presuming there were no returns, remainders, or great conjunctions or something like that. Oh…and minus 15%. And the agent gets my money first. Who knows what he or she is doing with my money?
For me, this is no longer an issue. I’ve had agents before, and I never much liked them, never really understood their utility beyond being a possible connection between me and an editor who might buy my works. And now that I’m Master of my Own Domain, I don’t have to worry about agents, or what they might think, or what they might do or not do. They no longer cross my professional event horizon. Neither does mainstream publishing, though I do intend to resource one remaining component of that ailing industy: Lightning Source, for paper versions of my books.
I still hear or read about “professional” authors who counsel up-and-comers to go the agent route first before self-publishing. These are guys and gals who have been around for some time, and they still place books on shelves in bookstores, and wonder why their $9.99 Kindle ebooks are being pirated through every Warez and torrent site out there. I can understand that sometimes, it’s tough for an old dog to learn new tricks. I get that, because until 2011, I was one of the old dogs too–just without much to show for it.
Now I know these authors who cling to the old ways are essentially ignorant. They’re not paying attention to the changes going through the industry, they don’t and won’t recognize they’ve superglued themselves to the hull of any number of literary Titanics, and they’re either too set in their ways or too fearful about taking steps to reinvent themselves. To paraphrase one supposed sage, “Changes in the publishing industry are a danger to all writers.”
Obviously, this guy’s full of shit.
The change is here, and it’s now, and it’s going to continue to twist and mutate over the next few years. Right now, there is no downside–unless you’re surgically sealed inside the belly of a traditional publisher–so striking out and taking advantage of these changes is nothing short of sensible action. Even if you’re an old hand–do you have a big name? A big fan base? Release a new novel, price it at $2.99, $3.99, $4.99, whatever–and see what happens. What’s the worst thing that could occur? (Your publisher takes you to court? Were you stupid enough to sign a non-compete contract? Then your problems aren’t with self-publishing, your problems stem more from the fact that either your IP lawyer is a moron. Or maybe you are. Just sayin’.)
At it’s core, the indie surge is one thing: Change you can believe in…if you’re smart enough to see it.