Self-published books are not limited to cookbooks and family histories. There are quite a few self-published books that became famous. Some of them are the entire Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the Bridges of Madison County, What Color Is Your Parachute, the Martian, the Celestine Prophecy, and Still Alice. For better or for worse, the list also includes the dismal (in my opinion) the Shack, and the worse (in my opinion) 50 Shades trilogy. The majority of what we now consider classics written prior to around 1850 were self-published, and even some later, such as James Joyce’s Ulysses.
So, fame via Self Publishing* is a possibility. Fame is one of my criteria for what I want for Aura Lockhaven and myself. The other criteria include Artistic Control, Quality Control, Availability to the Reader, Marketing, and Revenue. Yesterday, I discussed what Self-Publishing can offer me in Artistic Control and Quality Control. Today, I discuss Fame and Availability to the Reader.
Availability to the Reader: What I mean by this is the time lag between the total completion of the book (when I have made all the corrections suggested by my second beta reader and it is ready for submission) and it appearing in marketplace for the reader to buy. This criteria is second only to Artistic Control.
In Traditional Publishing, the time required between acceptance of a novel and it appearing in a bookstore is sixteen months to two years. That is outrageous! It made sense thirty years ago, when editors worked with writers to polish a book, and offset printing required metal plates that were made by typesetters, rekeying the entire book one word at a time. With the less involved editorship prevalent today, and the technology of the 21st Century that can take a PDF manuscript file and translate it directly to the printing press, I have to ask why does it take so long.
It doesn’t have to. When Sarah Palin was nominated for the vice-presidency by the Republican Party in 2008, three books about her were on the shelves within six weeks. That was eight years ago, when printing technology was still primitive compared to today. Certainly, those books were full of errors, but they were rushed from first draft to stores to take advantage of Palin’s momentum. If they had been properly edited and polished, turnaround time for those books could have been six months. So, a fast turnaround time is possible. It just isn’t done.
Not so with Self Publishing. The time lag between incorporating the second beta reader’s suggestions and the book resting in the hands of a reader can take anywhere from one week to one month. The time between is spent formatting the book for hardback-paperback print versions and e-reader versions (they are totally different) and preparing the cover art. If I’m smart, I will be working with the artist while the beta readers are doing their jobs, and both cover and text will be ready simultaneously.
One month is a good turnaround time.
So, for Availability to the Reader, Self Publishing wins hands down.
Fame: Yes, I want to be famous. I want people to know my name, and moreso, the name of Aura Lockhaven. It would not hurt my feelings if Aura Lockhaven entered the pantheon of popular culture and stood alongside Kirk and Spock, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Wonder Woman, and James Bond.
On the other hand, I don’t want them to know my face all that much. Writers have an advantage over actors and musicians. Stephen King can go to a restaurant and be left alone. He may look familiar to the other diners, but they don’t know exactly why. Jennifer Lawrence and Bruce Springsteen can’t say that. I value my privacy, but I also enjoy meeting new people. Being a writer gives me the opportunity to choose which I wish on any given day.
Fame is one of the two criteria where I balk at Self Publishing. The other is Marketing, which I will discuss tomorrow. The two are actually linked.
The people involved in Traditional Publishing (agent, editor, publicist) will go to great lengths to ensure a high profile for a writer that they believe has a modest success on his hands. The agent and publicist will arrange book tours, interviews, and reviews. They will recommend that bookstores promote new books. It is up to the writer to establish connections to the readers, but agents and publicists provided the open doors.
As of 2012, that was not true at all for Self Publishing. It offered absolutely no book tours, interviews, reviews, and no self-published book appeared in any bookstore.
Even a writer of a modest success (say, sales of 65,000 copies) is taken seriously. His fame grows exponentially. His books are in bookstores. He has the opportunity for movie deals (that is where the big fame and money lie). Self-published writers are not taken seriously by the press, the movie industry, and especially by other writers. Their book aren’t in bookstores, so how is a reader going to find them? No movie producer even looks at self-published books. Some self-published writers have sold millions of copies, but I cannot name one.
I’m still thinking like it’s 2012. All of that could have changed in the past four years.
A few nights ago, I said to my wife, “I could sell 100,000 copies of A Path of Stones through Self Publishing, and still no one would know my name!”
Do you see the logical fallacy? If 100,000 people have bought my book, then 100,000 people know my name. That is a sizeable readership. Yet, I cannot get that through my skull.
What does Self Publishing in 2016 offer in terms of the potential for fame? I have no idea. This will require further research and serious contemplation.
Go back to the criteria of Availability to the Reader for a moment. In Traditional Publishing, I could sell a book to a publisher, know it will be a best-seller, but have to wait two years before anyone knows who I am. During those same two years, through Self Publishing, I can publish three novels and be well on my way to being somewhat known by the reading public.
Ultimately, the responsibility for my name being known rests with me.
For the criteria of Fame, Traditional Publishing wins by a slim margin, solely because of its promotional campaigns. That is, it wins today. I will reevaluate this criteria as I learn more.
Tomorrow, I will discuss the final criteria: Marketing, and Revenue.
* If you notice, I spell self-publish with a hyphen, but Self Publishing without it. That’s just my personal choice. To me, self-publish is a verb, while Self Publishing is a noun describing an industry.