Going Indie

More and more established authors are walking away from traditional publishing and doing it on their own. Count me in those ranks.  On 12 April, my epic novel, Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & The Civil War will come out in ebook and in trade paperback by the end of the month.

There are many reasons I’m doing this, and I’m sure most of you have seen numerous blogs and articles enumerating them, but here’s the thing many aren’t talking about:  In publishing, especially for authors, you can’t think about where things stand now.  You have to think about where things will stand a year from now.  Fortune magazine just had an article with a representative from Barnes and Noble where even they admit the tipping point where more books are electronic than print will be in the next two years.  I predicted at the beginning of the year that it will be by the end of this year.  With traditional publishers trying to hold on to the 25% e-royalty rate of 70% (which is actually 19%), the math isn’t hard to do when compared against 70%.

It’s a difficult decision to part ways with traditional publishing especially after twenty years and over forty books and relying on my writing for my livelihood. However, the reality is, if you aren’t a ‘brand’ author that the publisher backs, your career is almost guaranteed to be doomed.  I believe the days of surviving with multiple midlist titles is coming to an end.

Simply put, publishers have primarily concerned themselves with consigning books to retailers, not selling books to readers. Note the word consign.  Bookstores are a consignment business.  It used to be a 50% sell-through was considered okay.  Now, publishers and retailers want an 80% sell-through.  So how is that solved?  Order less copies of titles per store from authors who aren’t the mega-bestsellers.  This equals higher sell through, but less volume.  This spells doom for the mid-list writer.  They’re already losing Borders.  Barnes & Noble is contracting, dumping any store where they don’t own the physical footprint.  And that statement from a B&N rep indicates to me they very much know where the future is going (maybe a reason they’re for sale with no takers?).  What’s the first thing you see when you walk in to a B&N now?  Used to be the discounted hardcover table for the bestsellers.  Now it’s a Nook booth with a sales person pushing it.

One key factor in deciding to bring Duty, Honor, Country out on my own is that the publishing date (12 April) is the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War. I’m seeing deals on PW Daily where books are being contracted today, for publication in 2014.  That’s archaic in the digital world.

With with Amanda Hocking success, there seems to a “gold rush” of writers throwing their books up on Amazon and other sites.  Succeeding at self-publishing is as hard as succeeding in traditional publishing, the difference is, more of the control is with the writer rather than the vagaries of others.

The same traits for success are required in both areas: well-written books, author platform, author promotion, and most of all, perseverance.

About Bob Mayer

Bob Mayer is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret (including commanding an A-Team) and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He's had over 60 books published including the #1 series Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having traveled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at Write on the River, TN.

Posted on March 27, 2011, in Publishing Options and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Heck, I’m looking at just six months down the line.

    An editor I respect very much had to reject my manuscript because she knew she couldn’t sell it to her marketing department. Not because the ms had plot problems or the writing sucked. It was simply too niche.

    Then I’ve got a husband, who’s a computer consultant, and a FIL, who was an accountant with a Fortune 500 company, saying I’d be nuts NOT to self-publish. What do I have to lose at this point?

    Are there people who look at self-publishing as a get-rich-quick scheme? Unfortunately, you are very correct on that point. But a small group of us in my RWA chapter are facing the fact that we probably won’t get our feet in the door at a large traditional publisher because the mid-list is disappearing.

    A family trip to our local B&N this afternoon only cemented the fact. My 10-year-old son was very disappointed when a book he was eagerly awaiting was released this week. And B&N didn’t have it.

    The market’s changing and we’ve got to roll with it.

  2. Hi, Bob,

    This is fascinating! I checked out your website when I saw your name on Nathan Bransford’s blog and purchased some of your books. I’ve been following Barry Eisler and Amanda Hocking, and have started putting some of my own short stories and novels, including one with a great review quote from Piers Anthony, for 99-cent sale on Amazon. It will be interesting to see where this all goes. :)

  3. Seems there are serious opportunities for those willing to seize and work them. And holding on to all the rights to one’s work? Major Perk!

  4. writerwellness

    You’re on the cutting edge of this topic, Bob, as always, I salute you. I’m proud to be a multi-published author with indies. Love ’em. They get things done!
    Joy Held

  5. Looking forward to talking with you in person about your experiences with indie publishing this weekend at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference, Bob. See you at the mystery chat house (sounds like that game Mystery Date or some weird thing…)
    Laurie McLean, Larsen Pomada Literary Agents

  6. Great post. As a fledgling writer, I’m struggling to decide in which direction to commit my energy. One question for you: will you keep your agent (assuming you have one)? Will having an agent still provide value if one is going the self-publishing route?

  7. Having an agent has little value for self-publishing. However, if the new titles really take off, there might be options with traditional publishing and foreign rights. I’ve got a great agent, so we’re still in contact.

  8. Thought this was so fascinating and timely! I am constantly astonished at how long it takes trad publishing to get titles out there, and I think your strategy in this case makes perfect sense. I have been traditionally published and got nowhere with it in terms of building a brand so am now indy publishing. It’s early days and certainly not paying back financially yet but the control aspect is very liberating, and I think many writers who have gone down this route have found their creativity greatly increased. Best of luck with the new novel – sounds very intriguing!

  9. I had hoped (and still mostly do) to go the traditional publishing route. The idea of formatting the book for various readers, hiring out for cover art, etc is kind of daunting to me. Still, I’m glad to see that it’s become a good option. I see the value of self-publishing…it’s only the amount of non-writing work that is scary. Then again, I’m already working on building a social media platform. I guess I could learn a few more new things. :D

  10. Thks for all the advice from you & commentators. I am just ready to go live w/amazon & Kindle in a few days. I’ve been writing this novel & trying to publish traditionally for yrs. I am sick of dealing w/it. So look for When the Eagle Flies…& good luck to all of us.

  11. Bob – I agree this Amanda Hocking’s hype will only lead to countless haphazard Amazon listings. I have noticed this with a few of my debuting writer friends.

  12. Thanks for all this great info. I’ve read so much about these trends and expected changes that my head spins. The way you lay out the prospects here makes sense. I’m always looking out for that old law of unintended consequences and what unexpected twists will sneak in, but traditional publishing is over. Can’t wait to see the new book!

  13. I see a number of traditional authors going the self-pub route, but they’ve already established themselves. I worry about trying to succeed in self-publishing out of the gate, but I admit I’m increasingly leaning that way. I just don’t want my work to get lost in a sea of other titles. Good luck, Bob!

  14. Excellent point about the timeliness advantage. As a writer, I love holding a so-called “real” book in my hands, but this weekend I bought a Kindle book. Why? Because the hardback won’t be available for several more months, but I could have the ebook immediately.

    I wish you much success and look forward to your new book.

  15. I’m just beginning to learn about the publishing industry, but the idea of contracting now for a book to come out in 2014 just sounds medieval. You could hire a hundred monks to make longhand copies of the first thousand, and it would take less time. Even I am looking into getting a nook . . . something right under FB and Twitter on the list of things I would never do . . . so publishing has definitely crossed a Rubicon whether the traditional folks join in or not. Thank you for being so generous with your information.

  16. It’s almost like print rights are becoming subsidiary to electronic rights. Self-pub, then sell off the print rights to trad. Hmm…

  17. Well good luck to you! I’ve been hearing a lot of stories about the mid-list vanishing. I’d say my choice to go the self publishing route is the right one. I just hate it when people think it’s somehow the worse choice, that it’s full of crappy writers and second-rate stories. That’s far beyond the truth, especially now that many mid-listers are joining in the throngs of self published authors.

    Love your blog, all these posts are beyond helpful.

  18. You know, everyone always says “good writing” is required for success, but anyone with professional writing experience cannot possibly read Amanda Hocking and consider it good writing. Not trying to knock her, good for her for achieving what she did, but I find it fascinating that the eBook world has revealed an entirely new way of becoming a success that is detached from the quality of the writing. So now the question is, what is the key ingredient? Must you simply write something insecure 13-year-old girls can relate to, or is there an adult eBook audience that will actually support incredible writing?

  19. Change is always frightening, it brings out the worst in people before it brings out the best. The music industry was the first to face the issues that are coming up in the book world. They tried to stamp on Napster and legally tie people up to maintain their original business model, ignoring that fact that if an idea has merit, it’s going to get out. You can’t legislate against, or un-think thoughts, no matter how hard you try. So, instead of embracing change, they tried to stop it from happening. They had some reasonable points with piracy, but as Apple demonstrated, you can build a business with the majority of law abiding people (and yes, Apple’s angle is to sell hardware for the music).
    In the case of music, the key enabler was cheap, portable storage and a distribution method (the internet, esp with high speed connections). For books the key is the quality of the screen (and that’s reached a good-enough standard), everything else is in place.
    From now on it’s a matter of embracing the change and finding the business model that works or, given the major players aren’t going to give up easily, the one that works with the Amazon/B&N/Apple etc. Their models are to provide everything and allow individuals to review and grade the products. A stark contrast to the publishing world which (to-date) has filtered heavily before allowing anything to market.
    I’m sure digital distribution and ebooks will dominate very soon, but I hope it leaves a few book stores intact – I like them.
    Good luck on the 12th!

  1. Pingback: Ebook Shift Accelerating

  2. Pingback: Self-publishing and e-publishing « Random Thoughts

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