I’ve always been envious of traditionally published authors.
I am the self-published author of two dystopian novels and I know there are advantages to my way, including greater control over the final product and more revenue per sale… but marketing is not easy and it’s certainly not cheap.
So, while self-publishing is going OK for me, there’s always been a voice in the back of my head saying, “This would be so much easier with a New York publisher!”
I have to admit I was a bit surprised when Guy Kawasaki said that’s all a myth.
Guy, the former chief evangelist of Apple, is the author of 12 books and recently self-published one all about this topic called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. At a recent media breakfast in Sydney, he said self-publishers can find just as much success as authors with New York publishers–if not more.
“The publishing industry is a very interesting place because it used to be an oligopoly where a few dozen firms in New York controlled the whole world. That is no longer true because of self-publishing and Amazon.”
It can take a year to release a book under the traditional publishing model, he said. “As a self-publisher, from the time manuscript is done–which I can determine–8 hours later it’s for sale on Kindle.”
That all sounded good, but I couldn’t help but feel that Guy might be forgetting that getting initial sales depends on marketing. Maybe Guy is famous enough to sell his own book to thousands of people, but what about the rest of us? I had to ask, wouldn’t a relatively unknown author still get better marketing from a big New York firm?
Guy said no.
“The fact is that they only do those kind of things if you are Hillary Clinton or you’re David Beckham. They don’t do it for the other 10,000 authors every year because frankly they can’t call the New York Times 10,000 times every year.”
In many cases, even traditionally published authors end up doing their own marketing, he said.
“The irony is, if you are lucky enough to garner interest from a New York publisher, one of the first questions they are going to ask you is, ‘What’s your marketing platform?’ Which is kind of ass-backwards because the reason why you’re going to them is for their marketing platform.”
If the publisher actually took care of marketing, Guy said the 90-10 revenue split between publisher and author might make sense. But if that’s not going to happen, it makes little sense for the author to give up 90% of the sales, he said.
With self-publishing through Amazon, the author keeps 70% of each sale. “That’s five times better than what you would get from a publisher,” he said.
The good news, he said, is that self-published authors today have a free marketing platform to get the word out to their audience: social media.
“I’m not saying everyone is guaranteed a bestseller, but at least everybody has a shot and you’re not at the whim of someone in New York.”