Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Go Ahead, Self-Publish
Amazon has millions of digital titles and self-published digital titles, but we should distinguish these between the various types.
I have been asked more than once (since I bought the rights back) why I don't put my five crime novels on Kindle, the iPad etc
A number of authors are publishing their back-lists. You can call that "self-publishing" if you like, but the kind of self-publishing I'm referring to from now on is Joe or Jenny who bangs out a manuscript, doesn't bother with that "elitist" traditional publishing market. and does it "herself".
I use Amazon's "Look Inside" feature every day to see the standards of randomly spotted SP titles.
Almost invariably they are poor. Most are ABYSMAL. Maybe 5% are "possibles" but need a good edit and a lot of work.
My estimate of half-decent NEWBIE SP work is 1% or less.
I actually think it's a tenth or a hundredth of that.
But this post isn't about whether or not there's good fiction on Kindle Direct Publishing.
It isn't about whether there are POTENTIALLY good stories out there.
Instead I want to talk a few basics.
Most reporters lament the quality of the average SP'd Kindle title. The characters are 2D or wooden, the language is trite and cliche-ridden, the plots weak, dialogue silly, horrible speech tags etc.
Now, via the traditional route a tremendously high percentage of those manuscripts are rejected. Yes, some shit gets through, but IN GENERAL a trad-pubbed book is better.
It was vetted. Read by a first-line reader or an agent.
It was then vetted by a prospective editor (really the book's producer.)
Edits are then made under instruction.
The MS is re-submitted.
The book then gets a second, often a third edit.
The book is COPY-edited.
The book is checked by the lawyers
The publisher designs a cover using professionals and using their market knowledge
Now this means that the finished product will be far, far better than that first submission.
Either you do it as professionally or your work will be inferior.
That is a guaranteed FACT
So, "out there" loads of people are lined up to take your money. The chances that they are as good as seasoned pros in trad publishing are small, but, just for the moment, let's pretend they are.
Let's use the list above and put some costs alongside.
I went on the web this morning and tried a few sites. What I'm posting are middle-order figures based on 100,000 words.
£0,368 It was vetted. Read by a first-line reader or an agent.
£0,000 It was then vetted by a prospective editor (really the book's producer.)
£0,963 Edits are then made under instruction.
£0,000 The MS is re-submitted.
£0,811 The book then gets a second, often a third edit.
£1,500 The book is COPY-edited.
£0,500 The book is checked by the lawyers
£0,500 The publisher designs a cover using professionals and using their market knowledge
This is by no means the most expensive and you will note that I took OUT some trad-pub stages.
Suffice to say, using slightly suspect "editors" you can very easily spend FIVE GRAND (£) to only get two-thirds of the way to the trad-pubbed norm.
I'm sure you can find cheaper, but there's a reason they are cheap!!
Now, remember, when I "only" got paid £3,500 for my first three books, that was real money in my hand. I didn't have to pay OUT a bean.
I also had (you would have) the services of the company who spend THEIR money sending out review copies to the press (who won't look at KDP)
They also talk to foreign subsidiaries.
So my publisher got me a US deal for Cuckoo. $4,000 dollar bonus
Then a deal in China, another $4,000
Remember this is a "small" book, a newbie, not even mid-list.
So I would have SPENT £5,000.
Instead I RECEIVED £10,000
I got reviews.
I got TV and Radio.
There were publisher's parties, parties in book-stores, interviews in the press.
I made overseas contacts.
My book was put up for a prize and made the last six.
I got to talk at conferences
THEY organised this.
They paid the postage, made the calls, used their contacts.
And they had someone scouring every newspaper for mentions of the book or reviews.
Public Lending Right
And my books (almost a thousand hardbacks) went into public libraries and people borrowed them, and every time they did I got 6p or 7p.
A pittance? In 20 years that has earned me more than £10,000, probably nearer £15-20,000.
It peaked at £1,500 a year and gradually dropped.
I still get, long after the books went out of print, something like £100 or £50.
Many authors get £6,000 p.a. (the current maximum)
I repeat, I'm a low-end mid-list author.
Let's be conservative and ignore TV rights which have added to my income.
Let's say I "ONLY" earned £13,000 per book.
Now remember, to make a poor copy of a traditionally-pubbed book will cost you £5,000, so you need to make £18,000 to catch up (and there are almost certainly no TV deals)
If you give away your books, if you sell your SP title for £1 and earn 30% or sell for £3 and earn 70% you have to sell 9,000 at best to 54,000 at worst to reach the lowly standard of income I achieved.
Pick a middle figure of 30,000
The average SP Kindle title sells 150.
Let me repeat that - ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY copies.
Of course you can skimp on the assessment, the first edit, the second edit, the third edit, the copy-edit, the legal checks. You can cobble together an appalling cover for ten quid. You can do the type-setting yourself...
Which is why there is so much absolute JUNK out there.