This week’s most intriguing news from the publishing world:
Okay, so why is this “intriguing”?
Because Wool wasn’t issued by a major publisher. Author Hugh Howey released it himself, as a series of cheap, self-published ebooks.
Howey is understandably giddy. “A few months ago,” he writes, “I worked part time in the university bookstore, dusting the shelves and tackling shoplifters to pay the bills.” But now? “Without a single dime spent in advertising, a short story I wrote and didn’t even work to promote climbed to the top of the Amazon charts. It drew the attention of Hollywood. It landed me an agent and half a dozen foreign book deals.”
Howey’s is the latest in a rapidly growing list of self-publishing success stories—stories that, I’m happy to say, include my own. Today, self-publishing has transcended its lowly “vanity press” roots. The emergence of ebooks, “print on demand” (POD) technology, and online book-selling has allowed many writers to jump off the “Query-Go-Round” of agents and publishers, yet still establish rewarding careers as “indie” authors.
The Ebook Revolution also has shaken the print-book industry to its core. Many traditional (aka “legacy”) publishers, literary agents, bookstores, distributors, and—yes—well-established, Big Name authors view ebook self-publishing the way a vampire views a wooden stake. Here are two summaries of the history of this turmoil; and there are predictions of even more traumatic disruption.
So, let’s assume you’re a writer contemplating publication. You’re agonizing over whether to follow the traditional publishing path, or whether to take the plunge and self-publish. Okay, maybe you’ve long dreamed of winning validation from the publishing establishment—of earning acceptance from a New York agent and a venerable publisher—of seeing your book stacked in pyramids on bookstore tables—of the NYT #1 spot, and awards, and a reality show, and, gosh, maybe the cover of the Rolling Stone…
How could self-publishing possibly compete with that?
Well, my fellow scribe: Here are ten huge advantages that self-publishing has over legacy publishing.
Nowhere is the “creative destruction” of the free marketplace more evident than in today’s tumultuous world of publishing.
Just as Legacy Media face mounting competition from alternative-media upstarts (like PJ Media), so do Legacy Publishers face a growing insurrection from self-publishing authors. Motivated by new profit opportunities, and employing entrepreneurial creativity and technological innovation, insurgent Davids in both media and publishing are challenging the reigns of stagnant corporate Goliaths.
I know all of this first-hand, because in recent months, I’ve become a poster boy for the revolutionary changes sweeping the world of publishing.
Here’s my story:
I’ve been a professional nonfiction writer and editor for decades. I’ve also been a life-long fan of thrillers, and I always dreamed of writing them. In fact, since 2004 I’d been mulling a vigilante crime-thriller series, featuring a mysterious crusading journalist named Dylan Hunter.
But horror stories from fellow writers made me skeptical about my prospects of working successfully with traditional publishers. Bitter personal experience underscored that conclusion. In early 2007, I was approached by a New York agent and an editor for a publisher, looking to recruit me for a nonfiction book project. I invested over a year researching and crafting the book proposal to their specifications. They finally expressed great enthusiasm for it. But when they submitted it in the spring of 2008, the publisher’s editorial committee passed on it. My agent quickly lost interest in representing me, too.
A harsh disillusionment, though hardly atypical. So I suppressed my dream of publishing novels and resigned myself to sticking with writing and editing nonfiction.
That fall, though, I lost my magazine-editor job. Though I soon received a generous private grant to write a nonfiction book, that money ran out late in 2009, long before the project was complete. Then my wife saw her own income slashed in half due to the recession.
By early 2010 we were in trouble. I was 60, unemployed, and in the worst job market since the Depression. Our income was meager, our bills daunting, our savings dwindling. We faced inevitable financial ruin and the loss of our home.
But I found one faint glimmer of hope. I’d been reading about the sudden, spectacular successes that authors like Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and Joe Konrath were having by self-publishing ebooks. After much research, I realized that “indie” publishing offered what no traditional publisher could match: immediate, guaranteed publication; total author control over content and marketing; and unsurpassed royalties.
“Write a novel” was still atop my Bucket List. I knew I’d always regret it if I died without having at least tried. And frankly, I was flat out of options. At my age, I either succeeded at self-publishing, or I became a Walmart greeter. So, despite long odds, and with my dear wife’s blessing, I decided to give it a try.
I felt like the aging Rocky Balboa, taking his one, last, desperate shot at the title.
I pulled out my old notes for the Dylan Hunter story and set a goal of finishing the book by June 5, 2011, my 62nd birthday. At 11 p.m. on June 4th, the last pages of HUNTER: A Thriller rolled out of my printer.