These are both exciting and scary times for those within the publishing industry. By all accounts, writers have it made. As I pointed out in one of my earlier posts, it does seem like it’s a good time to be a writer. Not only with blogs and social media giving you instant gratification in terms of getting your content read by people, the publishing wheels appear to be turning – ever so slowly – in the author’s favour.
They’ve not turned fully, though. So for those of us who are one side of the fence peering out over the jagged edges to the other side, some fears remain. I’ve been a traditionally published author for almost five years, but now the calls are getting shriller, though the fears remain.
What if I am not a good businessman?
Making the shift to self-publishing – whether it is of e-books or physicals – is to turn from a trader into to a business owner. So far I’ve been happily writing my novels, selling to the highest bidder, pocketing my advance, and offloading my risk elsewhere. Now if I have to put out my own book, not only do I have to take care of editing, layout and all that jazz, but I have to also make sure that the numbers add up. Financially. And if you didn’t know it already, the worst nightmares authors have come in the shape of notes and coins. So ultimately, the big fear is whether or not I have it in me to become a businessman.
What if they’re right?
Traditional publishers are always telling us that they have a lot to offer, by way of editing, cover design, distribution, type-setting, printing, sales and marketing. In India they’re also telling us that e-books don’t sell. What if after I snub a publisher’s offer and bring out the book by myself, I find that there are no takers? Or worse, what if the quality of the book is inferior? It would be embarrassing to learn that lesson the hard way.
What if all the success stories you hear are exceptions?
As a rule, only the exceptions make the news. While it is great to hear of people who have gone ‘indie’ and are making comfortable livings for themselves, could it be that this is an exception rather than the norm? Could it be that for every success, there are vast numbers of authors whose work just doesn’t make enough? In other words, what if the probability of ‘making a living’ is the same? Would it be wise to jeopardize an established career in traditional publishing to give self-publishing a go?
What if I am not able to sell the book by myself?
This is the biggest fear. Authors are not very good at sales, promotion, marketing and PR. Is it possible that I will blow my budgets without selling any copies of the book? What if the whole process of going on blog tours and participating in giveaways and contests gets to me and sends me crawling back, licking my wounds, into the arms of my publisher? Will he take me back, then? Or will I find myself stuck on the fence, unable to jump on either side?
In a nutshell: what if I fail?
Ironically, I wouldn’t have thought so much about failure if self-publishing were my only option. But now that I’ve made a career for myself in the traditional business, the prospect of jumping has become that much scarier. I’m still going to do it, I think, but I take hesitant steps, and I’m forever looking around myself. There is the carrot dangling in front of my eyes, the carrot of owning complete rights to your work and controlling every part of it, but there’s also a stick looming in the background.
Those of you who are experienced self-published authors: is this normal? Do you have any words of advice? And those of you who are primarily readers, would you buy the books of an author you like if he chooses to publish a few of his books just in e-book form?
Image Courtesy: Perspectives Writing and Editing