About three to four years ago, I wanted every writer I knew to go Indie. The odds of finding a readership and building an audience were infinitely better through Amazon than through a traditional publishing house.
I'd heard too many stories about books taking two years or more to hit the shelves, some not hitting shelves at all, and then, when it really mattered, the house "forgetting" to promote.
But that was 2011 and 2012.
The indie publishing landscape is NOT the same today as it was then, and while I fully believe that retaining rights to your work is one of the best things you can do as an author, I think the pros and cons should be weighed before that ultimate decision is made, and that approaching the industry as a "hybrid (choosing traditional OR self-publishing depending on the project) is in the best interest of every author.
Because no matter how you look at it, one way isn't necessarily "better" than the other--just different--and neither side guarantees sales.
It's all about 1) your goals and what's in YOUR best interest, and 2) what's in the best interest of the story at the time.
I used indie publishing as a back-up plan, then found that I really, really enjoyed the control. So far, it's worked for me. This might not always be the case, but I digress.
So my writer's group and I were chatting about the things that have changed in the last few years to make it more difficult for Indies to get a strong foothold, and a few key ideas were thrown out:
Saturation of Market
Everyone is writing a book, and we all have equal access to an audience. Some of those books are awesome . . . some not so much. The ones that aren't tend to give Indies a bad name. The ones that are fight to get noticed.
We all have eternal, equal shelf space, but that doesn't necessarily mean we have the undivided attention of the consumer. (tweet that)
There's a lot of "white noise" out there, and it's overwhelming.
Indies have always taken advantage of things like permafree books and competitive prices--this was our key playing card--but now traditional publishers are following suit. The e-version of the "bestseller" you might have missed 2-3 years ago just might be available in the Top 100 for under five bucks today. Of course, no house can sustain this indefinitely, but if readers had to choose between two $1.99 books--one from an unfamiliar author and one from an "established" author--which one are they most likely to choose?
It's harder to reach the people who matter, since blog audiences are dwindling, Facebook posts don't reach every fan, it's near-impossible to get a Bookbub ad these days, and other promotional opportunities have very little staying power. It's largely hit and miss, and even if you do manage an artificial climb in the rankings, you fall just as quickly.
The one thing we could all agree on, though, was that sales were down across the board.
If you look at it this way, it's kind of depressing, to be honest. It feels a lot like "traditional" publishing in that there are no guarantees. . . .
But then, maybe there were never any guarantees.
It was a gold rush in that a lot of the first responders made a really good living for a while. Every now and then someone new will strike gold, but there are just as many walking away empty-handed.
We can sit back and try to figure out what happened then try to fix it, or we can face reality, adjust our expectations, and get back to what matters.
Because it's not really about the money. At least, it shouldn't be.
That's just a bonus.
But more on that later. ;)
So . . . based on what we know now about algorithms and the market, should you still self-publish?
Not if you're looking for an easy paycheck.
Do it because it's right for you, and it's right for your project, and because you have a clear plan in place and an end goal in mind.
Is it worth it?
P.S. Thank you to everyone who filled out last week's survey! You gave me quite a bit to think about. :D