So I was incredibly disappointed that I couldn’t post last week on the heels of Maureen’s post about Owning your own Decisions. (Darn day job!) But I have to say I was startled by the Peterson blog. Yes, I think it’s great she wanted to share her numbers, but I feel that new authors reading that post might not have all the facts and without them could be making the wrong decision to go with self-publishing vs being published through a traditional publisher.
Now, I don’t know this author and don’t know her work. I think it’s great she was able to sell through her advance on all her HQ books the first time out and was actually earning out at such high numbers. Truth – I’ve never earned out more than 20K on an HQ book.
But I would contend that the only way she is going to make any money in the self-publishing world is if she takes the readers and fans she’s cultivated through traditional publishing with her. And in my opinion it’s totally uncool to have the advantage of writing for HQ and building a following from those books, to then turn around and call them a crummy company because of contract rates she agreed to. Sorry.
Harlequin is a business. Its purpose is to make a profit. It offers writers contracts which we choose to sign or not. My agreement with them - I write a good book on time. Their agreement with me - they content edit it, copy edit it, design cover art, brand it with the HQ label and put it in stores and make it digitally available so people will buy it.
If a writer thinks she can make more self-publishing go for it. But let’s look at the facts. I don’t know the actual numbers (I’m sure it’s out there somewhere) but I have to believe the mass majority of previously unpublished ‘self-publishers’ will make SIGNIFICANTLY less than what they could earn with HQ. I know RWA did a study to show how significantly less “digital only publishers” ultimately paid out rather than traditional publishers.
I know this sounds harsh - but I think Konrath is selling some kool aid folks.
I spent 6 months writing a book, months beyond that editing a book. I had beta readers (at no cost to me – but cost in time to them – thanks DWT). I spent $400 plus dollars on a copy editor. $150 dollars on an ad at Goodreads. I blogged. I tweeted. My agency spent ad dollars at Smart Bitches and sent my book to Netgalley for reviews.
Ask me how much money I’ve made in the near 6 months since its release.
I’m a traditionally published author. I’ve written fourteen books for Harlequin. I’ve won an RT award and have been a Top Pick twice. Ask me again how many people rushed out to buy my self-published book? A book I priced (I thought fairly) at $4.99 given that it was 90 thousand plus words. Which is now on sale for $3.99.
Okay I’ll tell you. In 6 months I’ve sold less than 75 books. I’m just about to crack over $125 dollars with my next month’s sales. Let me say that again $125 dollars!
Now the traditional publishing critics I’m sure will abound. Maybe I wrote a book no one wants to read. Maybe it’s the cover. Maybe I didn’t do enough publicizing. I recognize all those things.
But here is the kicker do YOU want to do those things? Do YOU want to spend every 30 minutes tweeting and promoting when you could be writing? Do YOU want to constantly be giving away FREE material in an attempt to attract readers to your PAID material? Do you want to compromise your craft by rushing feverishly to produce content in order to build momentum and attract enough readers that will finally make your self-publishing efforts worth it?
Last time I checked Harlequin never asked me to write anything for free.
When I read the comments on that post – I was amazed at the numbers I was seeing. People talking about hundreds of thousands of copies sold. And maybe it’s true, but if you’re selling those kinds of numbers it’s because either a) you have some built in platform/fan base already b) you’re doing absolutely everything you can to promote/push your books including writing A LOT for free c) you’re focusing on erotica which is still the best money maker in ebooks. Or d) you’re damn lucky – which I know happens.
If you’re not one of those things – if you are a newbie – then you have to ask yourself is it worth taking 6% 15,000-20,000 sold or 70% digital only of 100 books sold?
What’s misleading I think is for an HQ author who is consistently selling 15,000 copies per book, who has been released consistently maybe two or three times a year, who then decides to migrate to self-publishing - to say how much more money they are going to make self-publishing. Obviously their numbers are going to be better! They have a following. 70% of that following is better than 6% of that following. And truthfully if you’re willing to take on the risk, be your own editor, do your own cover art and your own promotion then you deserve 70% of that money. But to suggest that Harlequin or any other publishing company is out to rob, cheat or give you a bad deal is just not accurate. They gave you a great deal. They gave you a leg up in the self-publishing world.
Newbies beware! Is Harlequin perfect – hell no. Is any option perfect - hell no. But when someone starts throwing around numbers like all anyone has to do is put a book up on Amazon and start raking in the dollars – I’m here to tell you – that just isn’t true.