Everybody knows that one of the chief benefits of hitting yourself over the head with a hammer is that it feels so good when you stop.
The hammer analogy aptly describes my experience with traditional publishing (aka legacy publishing). My first two books were published conventionally and I suffered through all the usual steps of producing a trade paperback. Editor, proof reader, formatter, cover artist, printer, distributor, publicist, book signings, fan conventions. I learned an enormous amount about the book business but, unfortunately, all the effort expended didn’t translate into much net income.
Then came Kindle ebooks and Createspace print on demand paperbacks. At first, I was hesitant to go the digital route but an author friend pointed out that since I still controlled the rights to my work, I might as well make a few pennies by selling electronic copies of what I’d written. Fortunately, my previous work experience included a few decades as a computer consultant so I was quite comfortable with formatting my own manuscripts. Given how many years I’d spent designing graphic user interfaces, I was equally comfortable with designing my own covers.
The distance from writing a novel to seeing it sold online was shortened by a couple of years. The markets that I could reach via Kindle and Createspace were global, not local. I could promote my work via cyberspace tours rather than packing a suitcase to head to yet another low turnout book signing.
Considering the months and months of work it took to create, warehouse, distribute, and market the legacy print copies, I was staggered to discover that my net royalty for each ebook or print on demand copy was exactly the same as what I was netting for the legacy print version of the same book. Best of all, in two years as a digital author, I’ve sold twice as many copies of my work as I was able to sell in nine years as a print author.
In my opinion, digital books are every writer’s dream come true. So why isn’t everybody doing this? I’ve had this conversation with several of my writer friends who are hesitant to take the plunge. For some it comes down to technical timidity. They’re afraid to format their own books much less tackle the daunting task of designing the covers. I have pointed out that they can hire knowledgeable people to help with these chores but they shrug their shoulders. They have no head for business. It’s not for them.
Other writers are extremely uncomfortable without the blessing of an agent and editor from a big six publishing house. It doesn’t occur to them that in order to receive that blessing, they are parting with their own intellectual property and the lion’s share of the income it could generate. These writers have forgotten that without the content they supply, the entire structure of legacy publishing would crumble like a house of cards. I believe the marketplace, not an agent or editor in New York, should decide the value of a writer’s work. Amazon has removed the middleman from the equation. As far as I’m concerned, Vive La Difference!