I am a self-published author. My first fiction book was a bestseller on Amazon for over 9 months both in the US and the UK. I was as surprised as anybody since I was a complete unknown and honestly, just learning how this whole writing/publishing thing worked.
People sometimes ask me how I got a book published. I did it myself. Reactions to that statement range from barely concealed horror to genuine appreciation.
The reason I decided to self-publish? It’s complicated, but I’ll try to explain.
The big traditional publishing houses in New York used to be the only way to get a book in front of potential readers. Amazon changed all that. There are many who still bemoan the fact that “just anybody” can publish a book these days.
Yes, that is true. And yes, there are a lot of bad books out there, but I’ve also found some great authors and great stories by self-published authors. If the story appeals to me and is well told, that meets all my criteria for a pleasurable reading experience.
Did the book win awards? I could care less. Did some huge traditional publisher put this book on the market? I don’t care. Did I get involved with the characters and the story line? That matters to me. I read for the story and the big traditional publishing houses don’t have a corner on the market for good stories.
Hi, my name is L and I’m a Readaholic. If there were a 12 step program for reading, I’m sure my family would have found it by now and then I’d have to go to the meetings and that would take away from my reading time.
The big New York publishing houses are struggling. Amazon changed everything for them just like Wal Mart changed everything for the mom and pop stores. But what does that mean? Everything changed? Here’s what I know about change as it applies to large institutions.
Years ago I worked at a bank. I worked with their computer system. The interesting thing about banking at that time was that the Savings and Loan companies had just been deregulated and banks were thrown into competition with the savings and loan companies. They might as well have put all the banks on Mars. Confusion on a mass scale ensued.
Banks had no idea how to compete with savings and loan companies and vice versa. Neither entity had ever had to compete. It was carnage. You might remember a lot of banks being bought out and merged and a lot of savings and loans going out of business.
Although it was painful to watch, it was a great learning opportunity. Bankers, who had previously spent their time measuring their desk size to compare to their peers, or whatever they had been doing, now had to come up with ideas to “compete for customers”.
To compete for customers was a totally alien concept for the bankers and the savings and loan people. Think about it. The banks didn’t make anything. Their customers brought the money to them. All they had to do was count it and keep it in the right buckets.
Oh, and they had to send out statements once a month or once a quarter depending on the type of account. That’s a little simplification, but those are the basics.
Enter the era of the “giveaways”. Banks decided to give something to people who opened an account with them. And that worked, but the customers were smart enough to figure out they could open an account at one institution and get the free toaster and then withdraw their money and go to another institution and open an account there and get a free something else, or maybe another toaster. I’m glad I didn’t get married during that era.
The banks and savings and loan institutions floundered. And they needed to make money. Up until this point, they had come to work every day and folks brought money to them. The banks counted the money and put it in the right bucket.
Sudden and unprecedented competition meant that banks were no longer making the profits they had become accustomed to. We began to see fees for “hot” checks. The institutions had to keep up their profits which were generated on the money their customers brought them and those customers could take their money somewhere else and get another toaster.
In this era of change, customers who formally stayed with one banking or savings and loan institution for life became fluid. They might take all their money out of your bank and take it to another bank to get whatever that competing institution was offering.
Eventually, everybody had plenty of free appliances and banks were not able to pull the customers back to them for a decades-long relationship that they had previously enjoyed. It seemed the era of loyal customers at financial institutions had come to an end.
What were financial institutions supposed to do? When I say chaos ensued, it was Chaos with a capital “C”. The business model which had remained stagnant stationary, for so many years, had to change. But change to what?
After chaos came panic. The marketplace, the customers, how people thought about their money and where they kept it, everything changed rapidly. Financial institutions, where ponderous stability had long been their greatest strength, were stunned. Change, that ancient evil, had come to fiscal institutions.
If you remember, it took years for the banks and the savings and loans to change their business models and stabilize. Those were painful years while financial institutions struggled to cope with the changes in society.
What did I learn from that experience? Change can be painful and expensive in ways you never even dreamed. And business had to be fast. By fast, I mean quick to see the change coming and re-structure their business model to accommodate said change, but that turns out to be easier said than done.
Change has now come to publishing.
The big traditional publishing houses remind me of the financial institutions when everything changed for them. If they saw it coming, they thought they could ignore it or maybe they could shame people away from self-publishing. Then they completely missed the boat when they tried to divert self-publishing authors to “vanity press” scenarios. In these ridiculous situations, the author pays the vanity press to publish their book. They pay an awful lot too.
Since most of these “new” authors had little or no idea what they needed, the vanity publishing houses were able to take advantage of new “aspiring” authors. Enter the “authors beware” era.
The traditional publishing houses became more selective of which authors they would accept. New authors had to have a “proven” sales record with their work. Often, the author had to find and secure their own editor. Frequently, marketing fell squarely in the realm of the author. Yes, the new and untested author who had no idea how to market.
Unless your name is already a household word, traditional publishing is no longer the shiny apple it once appeared.
After my experience with banks when the world changed for them, I spent a lot of time on the internet. Over several months, I gathered information about publishing. I decided the traditional publishing route was a waste of time for me and I chose self-publishing.
Is self-publishing a lot of work? As a matter of fact, yes. It is. Do I enjoy every aspect of self-publishing? No. I don’t. Do I do it all anyway? Yes. Yes, I do.
Do I wish someone would come along and I could have a “Calgon, take me away” moment? Yes! Am I holding my breath for that? No. I am not.
Instead, I slog through all the stuff I have to do in order to get my stories out to people. And honestly, I have never had so much fun.