Why The Rise of Self-Publishing Is Good For All Writers

In the last couple of months, self-publishing has really broken out into the mainstream.

It’s not unusual now to see a television news report or an article in the Financial Times on an indie bestseller who has just snagged an agent or signed a trade deal, or coverage of the self-publishing scene in general.

Even so, some self-publishers complain that they don’t get respect from the trade publishing community, that they are treated with disdain or condescension.

Many self-publishers tried for years to get published in New York and London and failed. Others were screwed around by agents or editors, or simply didn’t sell enough books (for whatever reason), and were cut loose by their publisher.

There can be a lot of bitterness and resentment in this group which can lead to quite militant views, openly calling for the demise of traditional publishing. Personally, I find this over the top, but I can understand where these feelings come from.

There has been a lot of heated discussions, spats, and bickering on various forums with trade published authors on one side, and self-publishers on the other. But it shouldn’t be like this. We are all on the same side.

But what some trade published writers (and those that aspire to be) don’t realise is that the rise in self-publishing is good for all writers. Let me explain.

Some writers simply have no interest in self-publishing. They don’t want to learn the new skills necessary, they have little or no interest in e-books, and they can’t imagine operating without the support network a trade deal provides.

Many doubt they could hire people to do as professional a job on their book as a trade house does, and some simply don’t have the time (or resources) to set themselves up as a self-publisher.

Others point to the fact that print is still over 70% of the market, and if there is one thing that trade houses do exceptionally well, it’s sell lots and lots of print books to bricks-and-mortar stores.

And a lot have doubts about how many books they could sell on their own.

That’s fine, these are all valid reasons for sticking with trade publishing.

In fact, in the short term at least, I think the most successful writers will be those that combine self-publishing and trade-publishing to maximise both their income and their exposure to all sectors of the market.

I think most self-publishers would consider a trade deal, depending on the terms, and I think a lot of trade published writers have thought of self-publishing on some level, or at the very least are keeping an eye on developments.

However, some trade published writers are dead against it, and cringe at the thought of it. They react negatively to every “good news” story about self-publishing, and are wary that the rise in the popularity of e-books will only swell the self-publishing ranks.

But what a lot of these writers don’t realise is that the rise in self-publishing is good for them too.

If you are a trade published writer, and have no interest in self-publishing, the rise in self-publishing is good for you. If you are an aspiring writer, and have no interest in going it alone, and only desire to be published by a trade house, the rise in self-publishing is good for you too.

Why? Leverage.

Every writer knows that when your agent is on submission with your book, it’s almost always best to have a number of offers on the table. Once there is more than one offer, terms tend to get better as the agent plays the houses against each other to get the best deal. That’s their job. That’s business.

In every negotiation you have from now on with your publishing house, they will know that you now have another option – self-publishing.

Even if it is one you never intend on exercising, they don’t know that. All they know is that more and more writers are considering it, and will continue to do so as the e-book market grows.

Clever agents are already using this in negotiations.

Before, the writer with only one offer was faced with a difficult choice. Accept the crummy offer on the table, or risk losing it by going on another round of submissions.

And, of course, a smaller-than-hoped for advance translates into a smaller print run and smaller promotional push – a death spiral that makes the job of selling enough books to get a better deal next time very difficult.

But this has all changed. Now, each time a writer or agent enters into talks with a publishing house, their hand is automatically strengthened by the rise in self-publishing.

Publishers know that writers can earn up to four times the royalties on their own. Publishers know that there are more ways than ever for writers to produce professional books and get them into the hands of readers. Publishers know that self-publishing is on the way to becoming a viable, potential option for any writer.

This is good for all writers. Every trade published writer will always have one extra “offer” on the table, and can use this as leverage. And the more offers you have, the better chance you have to get a good deal.

It’s great time to be a writer.

The winners from my competition on Friday (list here) should have all received their free e-book. If your name is on the list, and you haven’t, get in touch. Sales are continuing at a good pace, and I am still hanging in the Kindle Top 100 Short Stories. Thanks for playing!

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.

0 Replies to “Why The Rise of Self-Publishing Is Good For All Writers”

  1. Interesting! Thanks, but I wonder, given the challenges inherent self-publishing–which I know of well myself–if going the self-publishing route would really constitute a threat in terms of new writer vs. large publisher. Couldn’t the trade publisher say, “Go on, knock yourself out and self-publish. We’ve got another Dan Brown novel in the pipeline anyway.” It seems to me they still hold most of the cards.

    Cheers and good luck, David!


    1. Hi Thomas,

      I think plenty of publishers are saying just that, “knock yourself out.” But each time another self-published writer sells 100,000 e-books they might begin to realise they are missing out on something.

      The still hold a lot of the cards, true, but with each set of figures showing the increased decline of print, the explosive growth of e-books, and each time a bestselling self-published writer brags about how he gets four times the interest, the more appealing self-publishing becomes.

      To put it another way, if bookstores become rare in the next ten years, and nearly all books are bought online, one of the big advantages of being with a trade publisher (there are lots of other ones, but to me that’s a big one) disappears.



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