Self-Publishing and Royalty-Only Publishing

I am not, shall we say, a self-publishing advocate. It's a method of getting work out there, but just like other methods, success requires either a great deal of luck (in having the right book at the right place at the right time– and I've seen those successes, they do happen) or hard work (in producing and promoting your book) or money (to produce and promote your book). Probably, it takes two of those most of the time.

No, you won't find me scorning publishers and talking about how self-publishing is the future, it's so easy, everybody should do it, success is TRIVIAL. My dozen or so sales of a self-published book make it clear that success is not, in fact, easy.

I like having a publisher, even if it's a very small one who, no, doesn't pay advances. The publisher is quite invested in making sure the books sell and does more promotional work for the books she's published than I've done for the ones I've published. The publisher comes with an extremely gentle time-limited contract that takes only the minimum rights required to legally distribute my work as a book.

I like having a publisher.  The froth and foam of the loud self-publishing advocates kind of disturbs me sometimes, frankly. I'd be firmly in the camp of the traditionally published who sometimes dabble with self-publishing, if I could be.

Except they don't want me. You see, because I accepted a gentle, time-limited contract giving up only a few rights in exchange for only royalties, I'm not a serious writer. Possibly I'm stupid or ignorant and to be pitied, and my publisher should be pilloried. The fact that my publisher sells more books than I do is irrelevant. They say: You didn't know that would happen when you signed the contract. You took a chance on a percentage of nothing.

It's true. I did. I researched the publisher and its staff exhaustively and then I decided that it was a time limited contract and it was worth seeing what happened. Because a percentage of nothing was exactly what I was already getting when the book was sitting on a hard drive waiting to impress an agent via a query. I'm not good at self-promotion, not at all. I'd much rather spend my time working on the next book, which I really feel is my personal best angle on improving my readerbase.

It's weird being where I'm at in this ongoing reshuffling of the publishing industry. Among the self-published, I feel like I'm a supporter of The Establishment, the way I let somebody else pick out and pay for my covers and do my editing. Among those who earned advances, I'm arguing that the Establishment also has the wrong end of the stick. It gets a little hot sometimes, between the fire and the stone.

(I guess now is where I point out that plenty of royalty-only presses don't offer gentle contracts. Read your contracts. You don't have to sign bad ones. But it's okay to experiment, too, as long as you don't think of your book as your baby.)

And despite a trend in the conversation swirling around the writerly blogosphere right now, I actually respect my work so much that I wanted to get paid for sharing it with you even though it wasn't something agents thought big presses would pay me for.

Yes: I do in fact want to be paid for my work. I want you to tell your friends about my books. And I want you to know Infinity Key, coming out in the autumn, is the best, most fun book I've ever written. Let's make it big.


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