The world of book publishing is changing by the minute. The introduction of both the Ebook and the ability to Print on Demand have opened up access to the market. No longer are book publishers the gate keepers to decide what books do and don’t make it into print.
And of course most authors need an agent to even get in the publisher’s door. This adds another level of gate-keeping, for you need to convince an agent that your work is worth their time, and it adds another person who needs to be paid for their work.
By some estimates, three out of every ten thousand unsolicited manuscripts ever get accepted for publishing. And the lag time is significant. Even if you are one of the lottery winners to make it through, your work won’t see the light of day for 18 to 24 months.
Some say the current model is broken, but it is resisting change. Many of the major publishers continue to discourage Ebook sales by pricing them too high. Publishers make most of their money on hardback sales. They not only delay Ebook release as they do with paperbacks, but they often price the Ebooks higher than the paperback, even with the reduced production, shipping and return costs. But trying to kill the Ebook appears to be a losing battle with the increased popularity of the Kindle, Nook and iPad.
But I didn’t self-publish Share the Road because I wanted to thumb my nose at traditional publishers because of their broken system, or because they rejected me. I did not find an agent, and I knew that after the first draft was finished that I wanted to self-publish the book. There would be no monetary advance, book tours, and my book will likely never grace the shelf of a bookstore. So why self-publish?
Share the Road is not a typical book. And I don’t mean that it breaks new ground that hasn’t been seen or understood by the fiction genre. What I mean is that I can’t point to the book and say that it is similar to the work of this author, or this type of book. I can’t say it is the next Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Girl Who Plays With Fire.
Chasing what is popular in the moment can be a pointless exercise with the built-in delay to publishing, but agents and publishers need to feel confident that there will be an established audience for your book. They don’t want to risk their time or money on a brilliantly written book that no one will buy. They want a sure thing, they want the next John Grisham. Movie houses are much the same, which is why we see so many films that are near carbon copies of past hits. There are no zombie, vampires or wizards in my book. Just a guy and his bike.
Another reason I self-published was the ticking clock. Share the Road ended up being a pretty personal book. I feel like I understand things better for having written it, and I think that others may find their own meaning in the story. Also, a portion of the book was written to honor a friend who had passed away. I think that those that knew him and know me will appreciate the story. And quite frankly, no one knows how long they have. I didn’t want the book sitting on my hard drive never to be read.
Do I think the book would have made it past the traditional gate-keeper? We may never know. I am proud of the book, and I think it could find an audience. Otherwise I would have just printed up copies for my Mom and not released it on the world. It is possible that it could get picked up by a traditional publisher at a later date if it does well, but that might be another three in ten-thousand type of shot.
I may try to find an agent and submit my next book to traditional publishers. I have not yet tried the typical route, so I am not soured by it. The self-publishing adventure has been a great learning experience, and I am glad I chose to do it for Share the Road.