One of the most pungent, entertaining and candid dialogues you may ever read between two indie writers, available in transcript, came in March 2011 between Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, two science fiction novelists who were traditionally published before moving into self-publishing.
Both felt strongly about going indie.
Eisler confirmed he’d been offered a half-million dollars by a traditional publisher, and rejected it to self-publish instead. “I know it’ll seem crazy to a lot of people,” he told Konrath, “but based on what’s happening in the industry, and based on the kind of experience writers like you are having in self-publishing, I think I can do better in the long term on my own.”
Even Konrath, a long-time advocate for independent publishing, sounded a little stunned at the dollar amount, but not at the point Eisler was making. He said, “My switch to self-publishing isn’t personal. It’s just business. I can make more money on my own.”
For example, he added: “Currently, my novel The List is the #15 bestseller on all of Amazon. I wrote that book 12 years ago, and it was rejected by every major NY publisher. I self-published it on Amazon two years ago, and it has sold over 35,000 copies. … In self-publishing, I’m seeing more and more books take their sweet time finding an audience, then take off.”
Eisler and Konrath are not rare examples among strongly-selling traditionl authors who take the independent route. In my last post, I wrote about mystery writer Lawrence Block’s experiences in self-publishing. And the numbers are growing.
I’ve had no bestseller books, but this week I’m working on both traditionally published and self-published book projects, one in the mornings, the other in the afternoons.
Many such authors combine traditional publishing and independent approaches.
J.K. Rowling, whose wildly popular Harry Potter print books were traditionally published, is now offering those books in digital form herself on the website pottermore.com.
Susan Wittig Albert, traditionally published fiction writer (of the China Bayles and the Darling Dahlias mysteries and many more) went indie when publishers took a pass on a fictionalized story about the origins of the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books. In the February edition of Writer’s Digest she reported aggressively marketing the book through social media, reviews (highly favorable) and elsewhere, and promptly sold more than 12,000 copies and sold rights to other publishers. “I’d do it all – all over again,” she said.
On the research website Quora, sci-fi novelist Michael J. Sullivan remarked that, “I’m actually moving toward ‘hybrid’ which means I’ll do both traditional and self-publishing. The traditional route has worked out well for me, established creditability and expanded my audience. … But I hate the draconian contracts and the business models of trade. Self offers higher income (per book), complete freedom and a faster time to market.”
In his book On Writing, Stephen King describes writing and making money from his first horror novel – as a self-publisher. That was in high school, the novel was brief and made on a cheap copier, and he had to give back the sales money after the school principal found out he’d been selling copies on campus. But before he was caught, he was making (a little) money on the book.
Later on, of course, King became a traditionally published massively selling author. But as he was an example early on of an author who moved into self-publishing before a big publisher came calling, so has he been among those stepping back into self- and independent publishing. In 2000, he experimented with a serially-released book called “The Plant,” made available through his website. He later released digital-only tales (“Riding the Bullet,” “Ur”) himself, while also continuing releasing his work through traditional publishers.
Many other authors have worked in both worlds. Their approaches have been as widely varied as independent publishing itself.