One of the things that I had to decide in taking my novel direct to e-book was whether or not it mattered that I was doing what amounted to vanity publishing, otherwise known as self-publishing. I have been told often enough that I'm only a writer if my name is on the cover (and spine) and the book is published by a traditional publisher. I went that route with Past Imperfect, but a writer is only as good as her last book, unless you're Harper Lee, in which case you only need to write one book -- mostly because she couldn't get her second book published and she quit writing. That was then and this is now.
The technology that creates books is much different than it was fifty years ago when Ms. Lee published her novel -- a wonderful novel that is rightfully a classic. Only publishers had the means and money to publish books. There are authors like Irma S. Rombauer, who self-published The Joy of Cooking because she couldn't get a traditional publisher to take notice, and was then picked up by a traditional publisher, and Mark Twain, who self-published most of his books with his own printing press and marketing companies, who have endured despite the stigma attached to being self-published. Self-publishing carries with the onus of not being good enough for traditional publishing. Not so. The authors were willing to risk their own money to see their books published. That is not to say that there aren't people whose books are nowhere near publishable who are willing to pay to get into print. There is always a downside to every proposition.
We as writers need to see things from a different perspective. Traditional publishers are ruled by salesmen and booksellers who tell them what is and isn't selling and they will and won't market. That limits the field and keeps a lot of good writers out of the marketplace so that the public is left with the flavor of the moment. It is the literary equivalent of fashion when someone, or several someones, decide hem lengths and colors. This year the look is pink and hemlines are up. Next year, or often next season, the hemlines are down and the look is fuschia. Where it will be next year or next season is anyone's guess.
Right now, all the publishers are backing celebrity books that never make back their six- and seven-figure advances, paranormals and thrillers, which leaves very little room for anything that doesn't fall into those narrow markets. There will always be a market for romance, so that is a safe bet -- keep it short, keep it simple and recycle old ideas with new names, jobs and places. Danielle Steel has been doing it for decades. Read one Danielle Steel novel and you've read them all. Call them dramas, but they're still basically formula romance.
So, if you're not a celebrity or you don't write, paranormal, romance or thrillers, where does that leave you? Either looking for a micro-publisher or self-publishing. Either way, it depends on your determination to see your book in print, so why not go virtual print?
This is the future, the 21st century, and it's time to rewrite the boundaries and change the way the game is played. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing, in Print On Demand (POD) or e-book, that cannot be fixed by writing the best book you can and getting it out there. It's instant gratification, but only just. You still have to edit, proofread and format the book and you really should pay the extra to have a cover done by a professional author. Yes, it will cost you some, but why not short cut the usual two-year process from finished book to limited time on the bookshelf by about one year and ten or eleven months? As long as you mind the details, get a professional cover and market like crazy, e-books and self-publishing are just as viable and you are just as much a writer as someone who has gone the traditional route.
Let's face it. Nowadays, a writer is expected to put their own time and money and effort into marketing, so why not cut out the middle man -- in this case, the publisher -- and carve out a bigger piece of the pie. If you're doing all the work, why shouldn't you get the bigger percentage?
It may take time to earn as much as Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking, but you have to start somewhere. That somewhere is making your book as good as it can be and self-publishing. Start with an e-book and, if it sells well, use some of the proceeds to self-publish. You'll have more to spend since you're not waiting hat in hand for the 10-12% you'll get with a traditional publisher, so why not spend it on yourself. It's a tax write-off after all.
There is no difference between a self-published author and an author who has hit the bookstores through a traditional publisher. Both are writers. Good or bad -- and there are some really bad traditionally published authors -- you're a writer if you write, and you're a legitimate writer whether you self-publish or go the traditional route. This is the 21st century and the technology is available. Use it. Make your own way, just like Mark Twain and Irma S. Rombauer. Traditional publishers may eventually figure out that you were right and they were short-sighted and come knocking on the door. By that time, you may be making so much money you won't care.
Take the plunge. Make your book a reality. You have only to take the first step. I did.
For the past few months, I have been getting Among Women ready for publication. I decided to follow Joe Konrath's advice and publish direct to e-book. It has been a frustrating and often bald-making (from pulling my hair out) experience, but the book is out there and beginning to sell. Just to give things a boost, I've decided to discount the $2.99 price and offer a coupon for one week to take the price down to 99 cents. So, for one week, seven days, input the coupon code LK78K and get Among Women for 99 cents. The offer is valid for Smashwords only.