Self-Publishing & Trade Are Not Mutually Exclusive

There was one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb amidst all the huffing and puffing surrounding Barry Eisler’s decision to sign with Amazon’s new imprint, Thomas & Mercer.

Some people (both indie evangelists and arch-defenders of trade publishing), think that self-publishing and trade publishing are mutually exclusive paths.

This nonsense needs to be dealt with right away. First off, there are many, many people who have trade deals who are also self-publishing other titles.

There are lots of people who are self-publishing and are pursuing trade deals. There are some people with long careers in trade publishing (which they don’t intend abandoning) that are only self-publishing reverted backlist titles.

You can’t squeeze people into boxes. Life is often more complex than simple definitions allow. And life in the publishing industry is getting more complex every day.

If you haven’t yet read Eoin Purcell’s excellent article on how the publishing value chain has broken down, I recommend you do so now.

He points out, in a very clear manner, that the old linear publishing value chain has changed forever.

Before, everyone had their place. Content went from author to agent, to publisher, to distributor, to retailer, to reader. And money (more or less) went in the opposite direction.

Now, that has all changed. Publishers are cutting out agents and going to direct to authors to publish backlists. Agents are becoming publishers. Publishers are moving into retail.

Retailers are becoming distributors and publishers. Authors are publishing themselves, and some are selling direct to readers, becoming their own distributor and retailer as well.

People who see self-publishing and trade publishing as mutually exclusive paths are failing to grasp this new complexity.

Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler had another “summit” to discuss all of this, the particulars of their Amazon deals, and where they think the industry headed. Again, it’s well worth taking the time to read the whole thing.

They (rightly) make the point that self-publishing is not an either/or proposition. Eisler pointed out that he has self-published four titles, that his trade deal is for one book only, and that he plans to self-publish further titles.

Konrath has similar plans. He said that he would prefer to restrict his trade deals to one book per year, and then self-publish the rest (he writes several books a year).

Konrath said that, for him, this is the perfect mix. For one of his titles each year he will get a massive push from a trade publisher (in this case Amazon) that will raise the profile and sales of all of his other self-published work.

This is the right way to look at it. As Barry Eisler said, he is a businessman, not an idealogue.

In a world that is becoming more chaotic, where the prizes will go to those who are nimble, the last thing you should do weigh yourself down with unnecessary ideology.

You take the deal that will make you the most money, or that has the best terms, or that brings you closer to your goals. You don’t take or turn down a deal out of some misplaced loyalty to one creed or another.

You have to get the best deal possible for yourself, no-one else is going to do it for you.

I love the self-publishing community. I love the atmosphere, the way everybody helps each other, the way everyone has time to school a beginner. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take a trade deal if the terms were right.

I would be foolish to close that door, and so would you.


Margo Lerwill has released her first e-book!

Margo is a friend of this blog. I first got to know her as a casual reader of her excellent blog on the craft of writing. Anyone who has read her blog will know that Margo knows her onions. Margo was also one of the (four) forces behind Wicked & Tricksy.

Dis is an Urban Fantasy with a Norse twist. It’s a short story, but at nearly 9,000 words, you get a lot of bang for your 99c.

She released it on Friday and it has been in the Kindle Fantasy charts since then. I bought it a few days ago and haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but the cover looks great, and I think Margo is on to a winner.

Go check it out on Amazon and Smashwords.


Tomorrow, I will be posting an interview with Cheryl Shireman. For those of you who are not familiar with her, she first self-published a few months ago, and is currently selling over 200 copies a day. Inspiring stuff.

Also, I will be interviewed over at Melissa Smith’s blog. It was lots of fun, and I will post the link tomorrow.


Finally, the good people at Sift Book Reviews have just given If You Go Into The Woods four stars! The reviewer said, “this is the most professional design – both inside and out – that I have seen since I started reviewing at Sift.”

She went on to say that, “the writing in this story is top-notch. Aside from being free of typos and grammatical mistakes, the writer has a strong, clean voice. He’s able to sustain an air of mystery and suspense without it feeling cheap.”

Thank you to Sarah at Sift for a great review! You can read the whole thing here.

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.