Combating the Snobbery of Traditional Publishing as an Independent Author


This past weekend, my seven year old daughter had an event with her dance group at a local street festival. As we walked around and looked at the various tables, we happened upon an author of children’s books who had some of her work displayed on a table. My daughter saw the books and we stopped at the table and listened to this friendly, grandmotherly figure tell us about her books.  They were based on the antics of her grandson and looked very nicely illustrated.

We were about to move on when my wife blurted out that I had written three novels.  The author’s first question was not about the genre or the titles. Her first question was, “who’s your publisher?” Before I could get the words DSM Publications (my initials are DSM) out of my mouth, my wife told her I was self-published. Now, I’m not ashamed of being self-published. In fact, I like the freedom that it gives me to publish on my own terms and at my own pace. I’ve talked about the marketing (not my favorite part) in past blogs, but I can deal with that.

As soon as she heard the words self-published the grandmotherly smile disappeared, her body language changed, and I began to receive a lecture on the benefits of having a publisher. There were things like:

  • I get into author events for free
  • I don’t have to market my books (even though I’m sitting out in the sun at a table at a street festival hawking books)
  • They edit my books (children’s books targeted at 3-5 year-olds with two to three sentences per page)
  • Did I mention I get into author events for free?

I began to explain to her the benefits of independent publishing through such outlets as Amazon. She responded that Amazon and those other “outfits” keep too much of your money. I explained that you get to keep 70% of your royalties on Amazon if your book is priced at $2.99 or more. She told me that she heard it was less than that and didn’t trust them with her work. I told her that you retain all of the rights, and she told me she didn’t think so. Thankfully, my daughter had to be at a girl scout event and we had to move along. Her parting words were, “good luck with that self-publishing, but you really ought to think about getting a publisher.”

It was an enlightening conversation and one of those moments that solidified my choice to publish independently. As I thought about her “sweet” publishing deal, I began to look at the realities of her situation. Here are some of my observations:

  • Her books were priced at $10 and above. The copies she had on her table were likely purchased by her from the publisher. If she was making $1-2 per book, she was more in the 10-20% profit range. Based on the traffic at her booth and her book supply, I’d be surprised if she went home with $20-30.
  • How well is her publishing company marketing her books if she has to resort to events like this one and promote books between the boiled peanut stand and the fence company.
  • She had not checked out the specifics of independent-publishing. She didn’t know the terms and conditions. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make the switch because she no longer owned the rights to her books, the great and powerful publisher did.

This was not the first time I encountered this snobbery. An acquaintance of mine has worked throughout his career on the periphery of the journalism field. He has a segment on local public radio and I asked him if he had any advice around generating publicity for my work. He had some good tips. One of the things that he suggested was contacting a local authors’ group. I listened to the qualifications of their membership and what they had to offer and was interested. That is until he told me that I should not tell them that I had independently published and work because they would likely look down on it because they didn’t believe this to be “real publishing”. I asked how many members of the 30+ group had published work with traditional authors. The answer was “one”. I decided that I didn’t want to be brought down by a group where 99% of the membership had failed in their goal.

So, now I sit here with nine works published in the past year. I put this work out to the millions of consumers through Amazon and CreatSpace. Reviews for every piece of work have been 4-5 stars. If I quit today, that would be quite an accomplishment. I do outsource my editing and some of my marketing, but I still do many marketing tasks on my own. Can I quit my day job on the money I’m making and by that beach house? Not yet, but I feel like my chances to do so are improving every day.

My fellow independently published authors, you and I have an advantage over the majority of the members of those snobbish literary groups, books that are published with readers that are buying them. Whenever someone turns up their nose when I tell them I’m independently-published, my gut reaction is to ask them the name of their published book to which most will reply that they don’t have one.

So, keep your heads held high fellow independently-published authors. Don’t feel inferior to those snobbish traditionally published authors. Most of them are probably making less per book than you are and have much less control.

Now, with all of that being said, I’m not going to get off of my soapbox about keeping the quality of independently-published work at a high-level. There is no excuse for not doing this. There are plenty of willing editors and beta readers out there to keep you from publishing work that is inferior in terms of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. Don’t put garbage out there, because you hurt all of us when you do.

You might think you can’t afford an editor, but, in my humble opinion, you can’t afford not to have one. You may think you can do it yourself, but, to paraphrase a saying from the legal profession, the author that thinks he can edit his own work has a fool for a client.

About Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of  a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available. His third book in the Frank Rozzani series will be coming out in April, 2015 and is available for pre-order.

He has also published a well-received  short story collection that is available on Amazon.com.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com

34 thoughts on “Combating the Snobbery of Traditional Publishing as an Independent Author

  1. I know what you mean about the snobbishness. Some don’t see me as a published author due to not going through a publishing house. As for the literacy group, like you not many published at all. I have ten books out of mine and I formatt draft books for other Indie Authors, some who are not doing really well – well for pocket money anyway. I will stay self published, though may try out a publishing house again one day just to see what happen. More than likely another rejection.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don, you and the hundreds and thousands of Indie self-publishers out there are riding the crest of a wave: the Gutenberg + Wave. With the advent of Amazon and Kindle, and others like them, writers have managed to shake off the monopoly of the traditional publishing industry, and its hangers-on (agents etc). Now we have high speed presses that will print on demand, and the finished works are top class quality. All that’s missing is more tools to market self-published books.

    If you send me via this email a street address, I would love to gift you a softcover copy (via Amazon’s Createspace) of my recently published book Small Steps to Bigger Book Sales. It is the result of almost 2 years research into the best methods for Indie writers to use social media to publish their books. It has a template for your Small Steps promotion plan, plus a checklist for weekly engagements with potential readers. I think it will multiply your marketing effectiveness beyond your wildest expectations. Let me know if you adopt any of the ideas in the book!

    To receive this gift, please email me a street address at smallsp@telus.net

    You can read the first 30 plus pages at my Amazon author site at https://www.amazon.com/author/glennashton

    Glenn Ashton

    Like

    • Glenn, Thanks for the offer. I will actually buy a copy of your book to show my support of a fellow author. I’ll post a review on Amazon when I’ve read it. Thanks for the offer, however. I would ask that you pick another author that is earlier on in the game and make the same offer.

      Like

  3. Great article, Don. I agree with everything you said. I have an editor in mind for my next novel. You know I tried to do the first one myself, and I agree it’s impossible. You get tired and overlook errors you should have caught. Never again. I’ve been handling my social media too, but I’ve found between a blog and marketing, it doesn’t leave me much time to work on my important writing. I’ll probably have to eventually get someone to handle that too. Thanks for all the support, sharing my page, and the good advice!

    Like

  4. Your thoughts are spot on but I would like to point out that there is a lot of snobbery on the other side, too, from indie authors who find any excuse to put down traditionally published authors and their publishers. There is room for all and I’d prefer to see indies and traditionals supporting each other instead of playing the oneupmanship game.

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  5. The sad thing is some of these same “Get a Publisher!” authors have fallen prey to ‘Author’s Solutions’ and the like. I actually had someone defend the fact that he PAID more $10k to his ‘Publisher’ for “Marketing” fees.

    They don’t know that they don’t know.

    I feel sad for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Don, the Indie parade of winners is just heating up. Watch for embellished (multimedia) eBooks to be the “big thang.” It’s already awesome in the Children’s YA market, and I help Indies do the same for adult books.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s a culture of fear and loathing–if you look on Amazon, a great many mainstream authors are trying a little self-pubbing of small works, just to see how it goes. THAT is what the big-boys fear: that while the quality of their finished product continues to drop and their service to their authors grows less, their cash-cows will abandon them for greener pastures.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Fantastic article, Don, one of the best I’ve seen on the subject. The snobbery you mention is sadly alive and well over here in the UK too. Perhaps even more so. But I’m 100% confident going down the self-publishing route was perfect for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I recently won a book award, and one of the first things that I did was to go to the other 9 winners of the “top 10” award to see if we could do some sort of cross-promotion. Maybe a Kindle boxed set of the 10 winning books or a blog hop or something. You know, the kind of thing that indies do all the time.

    I never thought that it would be a problem. The award was targeted to new, indie, and small-press authors.

    Out of the 9 other winners, only about 3 had their own websites where I could get their e-mails or submit a comment form to get a hold of them. The rest I had to find on Facebook, Twitter, or through project or publisher websites. I ended up being able to query 7 of the 9. The other 2 were unreachable by any method whatsoever.

    Of the 7, only 3 responded. And 1 one of the 3 had the rights to his/her book, the others were handcuffed by their publishers. The last one didn’t even know what a Kindle boxed set was.

    So much for that idea.

    Whether authors are indies or trad published, they need to be accessible! Come on, guys. You are losing out on opportunities for marketing and growth. Be reachable! Be courageous! Work with other authors for cross-pollination of your readerships.

    Like

    • I totally agree with P.D. (rhyme of the ancient kibitzer). The mobile reading public is growing every day, and if these clodhoppers don’t change their ways they’ll totally lose out on many dollars in book sales.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this post. I, too, have encountered this snobbery. The truth is that the big publishing houses are vanishing and authors like you and I are doing pretty well (even if I haven’t quit my day job). There is some kind of perpetual illusion out there that if one writes a book that a publisher will jump over chasms to get to you and give you a huge advance. The truth is that there are basically three types of authors under the publishing house model: A, B and C list. First time novelists start out at “C” list, may receive a small advance, but then have to turn around and use the advance on the cover design, promotion and advertising. “B” list authors who have published a few books get a better advance and don’t have to spend so much of their advance on those three things listed above. “A” list authors are people like Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer, people who get free posters, radio shows, etc. because they are making the majority of the money for the publishing house. I am perfectly happy publishing my own books, have a decent fan base, a podcast, and am having a bang-up time without inviting a money-grubbing publishing house to the party.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve not encountered much snobbery…yet. I can remember feeling really awkward when I first started friending other authors. I felt like I was in a second class or something. But I’ve come to see that it’s not true. As authors, we go through the same struggles. I’m an author, same as them. I also had to remind myself that I didn’t use indie publishing as a fallback, but I actually CHOSE it. And not because I couldn’t get accepted, but because I wanted my freedom, and I happen to have the drive and gift for being self-employed. For me, it just works. But I’m also wise enough to know that it may change one day. I may desire to work with a publishing house. For me, editing and marketing are the biggest hassles and the reasons why I stop each year to reexamine my direction. 😉 It’s not for everybody. It’s a shame that our work is looked down on by so many, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I chose not to self-publish. I found an agent who got me a good deal with Berkley Books. I wanted the affirmation from an agent and mainstream publisher that my writing is good. Anyone can self-publish and a lot of people shouldn’t!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. But a lot of traditionally published authors should not as well. This affirmation that you speak of is just validation that they can make a profit on your work. It doesn’t speak to quality.

      Like

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