The Demonization of Self Publishing Needs to Stop
Just because someone self-publishes doesn't mean they have no talent.
Sometimes I see something on Facebook and it makes me want to throat somebody. Maybe that's not the best way to start an essay, but it's true! So the other day I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a meme that made my blood boil. No, it wasn't one about Trump, though that is a good guess. This one was about self-publishing and how it's bad for everyone involved because nobody makes money, except for the book cover designers and editors, which I will not only refute but show why that is an asinine argument to make in the first place.
Let's start with the obvious statistic here: 75 percent of all the books "traditionally" published don't make their money back. Let's sit on this for a second and roll that around in our minds. The vast majority of books lose money for their publishers. The argument could be made that at least you aren't losing your own money. This is true and a fair argument but also an ineffective argument. Traditional publishers pay only 10 percent royalties for newer authors and only slightly more for the best selling authors. Even Jackie Collins eventually started to self-publish her older works for the same reasons, and because her publisher (allegedly) wanted her to pay for marketing.
Here's a fact that doesn't get talked about much in the writing communities; writers typically have to pay the marketing expense for their book out of pocket. One of my friends went the traditional route with her fantasy novel. Her contract stated that she would pay for and create the marketing plan; in return she would get 30 percent royalties. I won't name the publisher because this is not just a one company failure, it is the same across the board. Conversely, you can publish on Amazon, and get a 70/30 split in your favor. Yes, you have to pay for editing, book cover design, and marketing, but more of the money goes into your pocket. Also, you hold onto the rights of your creation and are free to do with them what you will.
Let's talk about the rights issue. In the previous example, my friend had to get permission to do anything with the universe that she created. She had wanted to do a graphic novel for the book but the publisher said no for whatever reason. She was willing to pay for the drawing and all of that out of pocket but the publisher killed that idea. Why? No one knows for sure. She had to fight to get the rights back and then told that the edits I had helped her make with the book needed to be deleted because they were the property of the publisher. Excuse me? No. When you self-publish and pay an editor, any changes to the book are at your sole discretion and yours to keep no matter what. In my view, she paid me and the changes were hers and hers alone.
The thrust of the offending meme seemed to be that editors/book cover designers/yes, marketers don't deserve to be paid. To which I want to ask them, do they work for free? It is true that the out-of-pocket cost is more expensive when you self-publish. That's because you are running a business. Writing can be a passion or a hobby, but if you decide to get into the publishing game, be prepared to treat it like a business. Unless you're Donald Trump, your sub-contractors will be expecting to be paid. More than that, they deserve to be paid as much as you do. Trying to demonize them for wanting to be paid is atrocious and honestly makes me not want to work with the group that put out the meme (I did unlike and unsubscribe from them).
After the subcontractors, marketing will be the biggest expense you have. Not sure how to market your book? That's OK, there are people willing to help you or there is plenty of free information on the internet. The biggest thing is to know your target demographic (not just family and friends) and find out how to reach them. Also, there are a ton of Facebook groups that are designed to help a self-publisher find their way. The "traditional" publishers will add you to their author groups, but there is very little talk about to market your book in them.
That's because even with a traditional publishing house behind, you are on your own. The belief that self-publishing means you aren't good enough to get published by a publisher has to stop. Demonizing the freelancers who help authors create books has to be stopped as well. There is more than one path to success, and not everyone takes the same road. Why is there no meme for that?