Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Labor of Love or Loss

With all the unknowns going on around us, it's difficult to give anyone something to bite into. As an example, what truly is the current situation in publishing? When thinking about this in a larger sense, is the ebb and flow of the world's problems any different? Isn't everything presently in flux? When we dig deeper, is this time in history much different from times past? Questions will drive you crazy. Straight talk is what we all need, so today I'll try to focus my constantly shifting attention on giving you a little of that, no matter how much it hurts my synapses.

Let's first talk about publishing, doing it yourself versus paying someone else to do it. I used to fix my own cars and did it more as a matter of pride than anything else. Then life got busy and complicated, so busy and complicated, in fact, that it made more sense to pay someone else to labor over my clunkers. Isn't the same true with just about any do-it-yourself project? One minute you have time to burn and the next you can't find a minute to have a bowel movement.

I hate to make comparisons, but the same is true about self-publishing, including the bowel movement part. If a person has skills and can edit, copy edit, format, typeset, create great cover art and content and convert text, then, and only then, does it make sense to do it all yourself. But if you have that many skills, wouldn’t it make more sense to employ them doing something else? Pay someone to do it for you, for gosh sakes. This can take many forms: Pay to have all the mechanics completed then self-publish, or, make your work commercial enough, search out a publisher, let them (us) stay awake nights worrying and give them a percentage of royalties as payment.

Self-publishing is for those who have loads of time on their hands, and one of the biggest drawbacks is that you not only have to invest time, but you still have to do or pay for the mechanics involved in the publishing process. Also, as if to add insult to injury, you must hand over a huge chunk of your book's cover price for distribution. Consequently, at the end of all this sweat work, when everything is added up, to make any $$ at all, the book has to be priced so high that it can't compete with other works of the same value. So, all in all, it's best to write a very commercially viable novel and search for a publisher. Notice I've said, "WRITE A VERY COMMERCIALLY VIABLE NOVEL." Understanding what commercially viable means and creating a product that meets that need is what you should be working on, not how to publish book afterward.

This is true for both paper and digits. The cost factors and labor involved in doing it yourself (time and money) almost always negates any profit that one might derive from self-publishing in any format.

Internet hype fostered by the heroes of self publishing say I'm wrong; however, heroes only write about battles won, not about the ones they lost. No one talks about the cost of failure. In summing up the monetary and labor costs for edits, copy edits, cover art, formatting, and conversion plus discounts for distribution, a person has to generate mega sales before breakeven time arrives. Only then, when all the publishing costs are back in your pocket, can you begin tabulate the hourly cost factor for time spent writing the book? Pay yourself generously for this, as labor is labor even if it might be considered fun.

Now for the downer part: Let's calculate some of the odds faced by newly published authors. Something to consider is that there are 3 million Kindle books on Amazon and your book is only 1 lonely book among that 3,000,000. What are the odds of someone stumbling onto your book? What are the odds of selling even one book when your odds are 3 million to 1? The fact is that you can get better odds in Vegas in just about any casino and have one hell of a lot more fun.

Many of those who have been spreading Internet hype are now taking another look after being in the book selling business for awhile. They're finding that marketing and sales are loads of work and that writers always have other choices available. Sometimes they choose to self-publish; sometimes they choose to try to find a publisher for their work and sometimes they book a flight to Vegas. Self-publishing is labor and time intensive. Traditional publishing is restrictive creatively; however, it eliminates much of the risk and labor involved. The decision you choose should depend on how much time, money, patience and skills you possess. Regardless, it is your decision.

What will you choose?