I’ve always wanted to talk about publishing and writing and so I’m beginning with independent publishing (self-publishing or indie publishing). I want to give my readers and fans a little insight into what goes on behind the scenes. I’m not here to make excuses or try to sell anyone on indie publishing as opposed to traditional publishing. Both have their places and both serve a need. However, there are some realities that I want to pass along to help readers understand why things are they way they are. This will be a series though how many parts it will contain I have no idea.
First off, traditional publishers have a lot of control over their product and they are still focused on real books. They have total control over pricing, length, subject and almost total editorial control. For instance, I’ve seen an author explain to a fan when they were asked why a certain character was no longer present in a sequel that the publisher demanded the character be removed. Authors are usually at the whim of the publishers wants and needs in the traditional publishing model.
Indie publishers, usually a single writer self-publishing, has total control…almost. They are in control of almost every aspect of the books they publish. From cover to content to quality, the author made that happen. A lot of people equate indie books with poor quality, and that’s true in some cases, but there are a lot of well done books out there that are independently produced. On the other hand, you can find all kinds of examples of traditionally published books that are of questionable quality even though they were “professionally” edited.
But where indie publishers lose some control is when dealing with retailers, namely Amazon and Apple. Amazon is the biggest self-publishing retailer by far and they dictate a lot. Ever wonder why half the ebooks are priced at $2.99? Amazon pays 70% royalties starting at $2.99 and everything below is paid out at 35%. That sets a price point across the industry since Amazon requires that you cannot sell your book elsewhere for less. 99 cents is a price point many authors use to gain traction but they make six times more money per sale at $2.99.
Ever wonder why you don’t see certain erotic content or it’s hard to find? Amazon again, and to a lesser extent Apple. They filter certain topics (psuedo incest, dubious consent, etc.) and don’t allow others (incest, bestiality, rape, etc.) Other retailers do allow those subjects or don’t filter them from searches, but a lot of authors shy away because if you can’t sell on Amazon, it’s usually not worth it. Now you may not like those subjects, but a lot of people do.
Apple spends inordinate amounts of time scrutinizing books with adult content. That could mean all that daddy/daughter stuff or simply a romance with behind closed doors sex scenes. They reclassify books based on their puritan standards into erotica. It can takes weeks, even months, to get a book published there. Softail Curves III is still not published there as of this writing (over two months!)
So, indie publishers aren’t completely free of limits, but we can write what we want and react to the market much quicker. A publisher may never sign an author that writes erotic BDSM romance (Fifty Shades of Grey), but an independent author did write that and was able to self-publish it. Now publishers can’t sign new authors writing stuff like that fast enough and they are often buying rights to existing self-published hits.
Indie authors and publishers can take chances traditional publishers never would. We can write about all manner of things that publisher would reject outright because it’s too risky. That’s good for readers. No longer is content limited by the safe choices of traditional publishers. The market is free once again and new and better fiction is being produced. Some of it will fade into the mists of obscurity but some will drive new trends and change the way we look at fiction.
Traditional publishers also have long lead times and can’t react to trends as fast as indie publishers. That’s why when Fifty Shades took off, suddenly there were hundreds of copycats. Some were shameless ripoffs but many become hits themselves and changed the genre. Traditional publishers, especially the big houses, struggled to keep up with demand. Most of those copycats were indie published.
So, next time I’ll talk about a concern of many readers. Length. It is a common complaint that books are too short. I’ll explain why that is so and why it’s a good thing for readers.