To Thine Own Self Be True
And for God’s sake let others do it, too!
I can’t tell you how often I see comments in mailing lists, blogs, seminars, and any number of other venues where someone who fancies themselves to be a successful author is telling everyone how they should all do the same as the commenter and then they too can make $5,000 a year writing.
The simple fact is not everyone wants to make a four or five digit income. Most people can’t live on that. Most want to be in six or seven digit range.
And yet the commenter keeps at it…and in many cases, the attacks on those who want to make a living as an author become personal.
The basic message from the commenter is something along the lines of, “If you aren’t doing things [fill in the way the commenter does things] then you’re a loser.”
There are, in general, two groups these commenters fall into:
(1) Traditionally published writers who think those who self-publish are wasting their time and stealing readers (and dollars) from them.
(2) Self-published (AKA independent) writers who think the traditional writers are doing the same in addition to selling their souls to the Evil Publishers.
The fact is both sides are dead wrong.
Personally, I self-pubbed a few books under pen names. All but one sold well when compared to other self-pubbed works. One was a total flop, but it was also total crap (in the 50K copies in the first year range). But when I compared the income for the self-pubbed books to traditional books of similar length and production time, my take-home pay was cut by about 95%. And I had to work harder to get the sales I did get on the indie works. In other words, for me, I was going in the hole pretty fast by self-publishing. Just not worth it for my particular situation.
On the other hand, I know of several colleagues who were struggling with traditional publication. They made the move to self-publishing and by virtue of being very prolific (36+ books a year) they are able to make an acceptable living. Interestingly enough, one of this group built a small fan base (about 25,000) and was picked up by a good representative. He’s now traditionally published and in the lower seven figure income range.
The point here is each person needs to find what works for them.
If you personally can’t deal with the business world side of traditional publishing (deadlines, structure, corporate politics, etc.) AND you can make the money you need, then self-publication may be the right answer for you.
If you need (or just want) to make a higher income AND you want to focus on writing only (no promo work) AND you can cope in a high-pressure business environment, then traditional publication deserves a look.
No matter what group you’re in (even if you plan to jump to the other group), it’s OK to voice what you see as benefits to your (current) group.
It’s NOT OK to belittle the people in the other group. Ever.
It’s also OK to ask members of the other group meaningful questions, especially if you’re looking at being a switch-hitter.