Self Published vs Traditional Published Authors: From a Reader’s Perspective

January 22, 2014 Uncategorized 12

As some of you may or may not have seen, earlier in the month a Traditionally Published (from now on TP) author posted a blog about her earnings, attempting to dispel the myth that authors are the rich super-stars we readers sometimes think they are. Unfortunately she removed the article not long after, for “contract disclosure reasons” which, ok, I get that.

In what appears to be a response of sorts to that article, new to me author Brenna Aubrey posts about how her first month of publishing on her own (Self Published, or SP) was, and is very straight forward about the numbers. And she also explains why she turned down a TP deal, and why she is very happy to have done so. You can go read the whole article (and I highly suggest you do) but I have pulled a couple of screen shots, just to give you an idea of numbers:

Screenshot 2014-01-22 22.34.08Screenshot 2014-01-22 22.39.09In one month of sales. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t come close to that in my day job. Obviously that is not going to be every month, but it is pretty impressive. And those numbers are not typical for everyone, but certainly not out of the realm of possibility if all the stars align for an author.

Now the reason I started with this information – yesterday Huffington Post posted an article by Kensington CEO Steven Zacharius about how SP authors shouldn’t quit their day jobs – yet, and how TP houses just can’t afford to have cheap books. Here is a direct quote, copied for your pleasure:

“As a publisher, my biggest concern is the clutter of the books being put out by the major publishing houses along with those that are just put up directly by authors. The established publishers have to charge more money because they have paid the author an advance (for bestselling authors, a heck of a lot). Publishers couldn’t possibly afford to sell the book away for $ .99. If this were the business model and publishers were making greatly reduced revenue on the sales of these titles, the publishing industry would go belly-up. There would be no way for the publishing company to recoup their author advances and as a result, these advances would drop substantially. Free or reduced price books is not a viable business model for publishers.”

You know what this says to me – as a reader – TP houses have a poor business plan. Also, that if I am looking for something cheap to read, then I need to check out other options.

The amazing Laura Kaye wrote a very long (but 100% worth the read!) response to Mr. Zacharius – you can read the whole thing here, and there is a really great summary, with links to even more articles/blogs here – but I strongly encourage you to read not only Laura Kaye’s original post, but all the comments. Mr. Zacharius makes several appearances in them, and unlike many other conflicts I have seen in the book world, most everyone remains very respectful and there is some great discussions that take place.

Update 1/23/14: Jennifer L. Armentrout also has something to say. And in typical fashion, she has .gif’s

Now it is no secret, if you have visited here before, that I am a giant fan of many many SP authors. It is also no secret that I am a giant fan of many many TP authors. I am also a giant fan of many many hybrid authors – a new term coined to describe an author that has some work TP and other work SP. You know what this means? I am a giant fan of a good story – no matter how it got into my hands.

This is going to sound harsh – and I hope you take it in the sense it is intended – but all I am after is a good book. I don’t care if a publisher is losing money on it, I don’t care if the author is able to quit his or her day job to write. At the end of the day, I want a good story to lose myself in that won’t break the bank. Now – I am VERY happy for authors that are able to write full time, and of course I don’t want to see the publishers go under, but honestly, as a CONSUMER ONLY, it has very little affect on me as a reader. Except for the fact, I know, if there were no publishers and authors had no time to write there would be no more books. But honestly, if as of tomorrow no more books were ever published I still don’t think I would run out of reading material. It is a good problem to have. 🙂

And somewhat on the topic of price, I flat out refuse to pay more than $6.99 (and that is really pushing it) for an ebook. I am not sure why that is my magical number, other than the fact I can usually get the paperback for that price. And in my mind, being able to hold that paperback in my hands is worth more than having the file uploaded on my ereader (I have a Kindle, but for argument’s sake they are all the same). And I do know I am not alone in this opinion. Which means more and more often I end up picking books that are SP.

Those of you saying $7+ isn’t much to pay for a book (and yes I know how much time authors put into writing their stories – I am not discounting that AT ALL) keep in mind I read A LOT. For example, today is Jan 22. Since the beginning of the year, 22 days, I have read to completion 22 books. If you don’t believe me, check my Goodreads page. I haven’t written a review for all of them, nor will I because that would take FOREVER. But feel free to ask me about any of them. My recall of the basics for most of them is pretty fantastic. Of course tonight in place of reading I am writing this thesis length blog post, so my book count will no longer be one per day. 🙂

Even assuming I got half of those for free for review (which I will review if I haven’t yet) and the rest were ebooks averaging $3.99 … 3.99 x 11 = $43.89. In less than a month. Keeping that pace that is over $500 a year. On books. Just let that sink in for a minute.

And of course, because it is “easy” for anyone to publish a book through Amazon there is going to be a lot of crap to sift through. (I put easy in quotes, because I am of the opinion that if you are doing it right, it isn’t actually that easy) And yes, sometimes I am sucked in by a good blurb, or a cheap price, but as a reader, I am smart and learn fast. When I am spending my own hard earned money on something and I get a dud, I quickly figure out what made that a dud for me and don’t make the same mistake.

Of course the same is true for TP books – not all of them are going to “speak” to me. And my liking a book has no basis on how or who published it. In the end, as a reader, all I want is a good story that takes me out of my day to day and throws me into a world of fantasy – be it an actual fantasy story, a romance I wish could happen, a crime drama I’m glad didn’t happen, or whatever else I am in the mood for. And I for one am SO GLAD there are both TP and SP titles for me to chose from.

I know there are growing pains, but I really hope that soon Publishing Houses and the Execs that run them see that readers don’t care where the story comes from, as long as it is good. And that they realize SP is not their enemy, but can actually be a good thing. Getting people to read more means more people buying books. More books being sold is good for everyone.

In closing I hope at least part of that makes sense, and if you read it all the way to the end, you get a cookie. A virtual cookie. I am not sending cookies all over the place. Because as little as some authors make, trust me when I say there is NO money in blogging 😉 At least not for my little corner of heaven.

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12 Responses to “Self Published vs Traditional Published Authors: From a Reader’s Perspective”

  1. Nanette

    I read all the way to the end and I want a real cookie. 😉

    I’ve read a few things today that you’ve posted and I feel like I learned a lot. that is always a good thing.

  2. Tawdra Kandle

    I want a cookie, too. A real one. And bravo–well said, well stated. I’d like to use this in some upcoming talks on indie publishing. Really. . .why can’t we all work together and be friends? There’s room to everyone in the publishing pool.

    • littleread1

      Use away! And you I will give a cookie to. But only because I love the purple hair. Well, and the fact that I will see you in real life at a Coastal Magic soon. So remind me 🙂

  3. Anya

    Very awesome post! I definitely don’t go through as many books (wow, nice job!), but I still love the library for making it much easier and less of a risk for me to try out TP books. I honestly have trouble even spending $3 on an ebook an I don’t think I’ve purchased… any? I think I’ve bought two, one was SP and was .99 and one was a novella from a favorite author for $1.99 which I honestly thought was too much but I neeeeeeeded to read the novella, haha.

  4. creativedeeds

    Yes! And I’m right there with you on all counts… I haven’t read quite as many books as you so far this year, but I’m almost there. I think you also know where I stand as far as SP and TP books are concerned. If it’s a good story I don’t care who published it. At this point I’ve read more SP books than TP books this year, but that number will fluctuate. I will also support an author and their work regardless of whether they are TP or SP. I’m also careful about how much I spend on ebooks – for the same reason a book has to be pretty special to me and my personal library for me to break down and buy the hardcover. I’m not cheap, just realistic.

  5. Miss Bliss

    Great post. I appreciate that you brought up something that I think is true for some readers and something that is absolutely true for me as a reader but isn’t necessarily true for all readers. Now that is, of course, sort of obvious but I continue to be shocked by readers who say things such as, “I don’t read women science fiction writers” or “I don’t read books that are longer than XXX” or a whole host of other definitions that seem completely unrelated to what I think the point of reading fiction is…falling into a good story. I completely agree with you that the story is the point…a good story. How that story is delivered to me, as a reader, is pretty irrelevant to my goal and often my experience. Now I won’t jump into the whole SP Bad Editing issue…that’s a separate issue than what is being discussed here today. But I am intrigued by your dollar limit on an eBook. I know other people who also have a dollar amount that they have decided is reasonable for an eBook. Now I purchase books at a similar rate to you (wish I was reading them at your rate as well but so it goes) and I too understand the financial impact of being a voracious book buyer. But I do not actually place a limit on the dollar amount I am willing to pay based on the format of the book. I love eBooks and eReaders. I am on my third Kindle and find the experience to be brilliant. I have found that my only guiding principal for purchasing a book has not changed at all with the change in publishing or format of the book itself…if I want the book I will pay for it. That’s it. If a writer that I love has a new book out I will buy it. It won’t matter what the price is, I prefer eBook or Audio book in most cases unless I’m going to a signing. I will pay just about any price for a story that I know will be brilliant. Back in the dark ages I would buy hard cover first printings of books by authors that I was passionate about…regardless of the price. Now I realize I may not be the average book purchaser but what your post made me realize is that I am always only buying the story and because of that I don’t care about the format, how it was published or to a large degree the price. I won’t pay a high price for a writer I do not know yet, but I don’t even look at the price for some writers books, I just buy them. Because in the end some stories aren’t worth the time it took the person to type out the words and some are truly priceless. Thanks for always posting thoughtful stuff Laura.

  6. Bookworm Brandee

    *brushes away crumb from virtual cookie * Great post, Laura! I appreciate you sharing this. I’m with you – I just want a great story. And lucky for us, there’s seems to be MANY! It’s fantastic to have so much choice. 🙂

  7. Terri Bruce

    Great post! As someone who has just jumped into the self-publishing pool, price is something I’ve wrestled with and angsted over. I don’t want to undervalue my work by underpricing it. However, as a reader, yeah, I have a definite price point on ebooks above which I won’t pay. There’s a couple of TP ebooks I was all set to get until I saw they were charging $11.95 for them. Uh, no. Because you’re right – there are LOTS of other equally good stories out there for much cheaper.

  8. Lynsey

    Very well said. Of course, the other big bonus to SP, other than price, is that they don’t have to follow The Rules. Those set out by TP who like to play with molds and paint-by-number sets.

    *awaits cookie*

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