As I previously stated, I went to an amazing writers conference this weekend in Houston, hosted by the Houston Writers Guild. There were a variety of speakers with a wealth of information, and I'm happy to say that I made a few friendly contacts that I hope to keep for many years to come. But one of the most valuable lessons I learned while soaking up the knowledge around me was that while self publishing is definitely a more acceptable alternative to traditional publishing now a days, choosing that path comes with consequences all writers need to consider. Those consequences have everything to do with the affect it has on being considered a debut author.
See, in publishing there's nothing more precious than the "debut" title...and when it comes down to it, folks, you only get it once. Whether it be with a major publishing house or self publishing with Amazon, you only get the benefit of the doubt that comes with being a debut author that first time your name graces a cover. And that benefit of the doubt can make or break your shot at representation or at obtaining a contract.
From what was explained, one of the ways the publishing gods determine whether or not they'll work with an author is by determining how profitable they think that person will be. The way that profitability is shown is either one of two ways:
- Publishers knows that they'll make a particular profit on a hardback copy of a book, something along the lines of $12.
- If you've already done the self publishing route, they'll take the number of sales you've acquired (whether it's 500 or 5000) and multiply that number by the $12 they can expect to make per book.
- This can be a problem if your sales don't amount to a profit they want. It could cause publishers to decide against taking on your project.
- If you're a debut author, publishers will take a well-known author with a similar book and use an estimate of their sales for this calculation. This number will often be advantageous to the author and can push the publisher in a positive direction when deciding to take on the project.
As you can see, this method for determining profitability can definitely impact an author's ability to get on with a traditional publisher, and is something we all should think about.
Like many writers, I've been seriously considering the self publishing route. Though I'm not considering it for my current project - one that I absolutely love and hope that the publishing community will love as well - I've been thinking on it as a possibility for my earlier works. As I continue to learn about the various facets of this industry, my thoughts and feelings continue to change, making my head spin with all of the possibilities. What I do know is that I have to be diligent in learning as much as I can about the industry before I make any major moves. And I hope that once I do jump it's with as much foresight and understanding as possible.