In Defence Of The Self Published Author

The Self-Published Author and ‘Banjo’

While reading the following poem, which has always been a favourite of mine, I couldn’t help but think of the similarity with the current debate and divide over self-published books compared with traditionally published titles. It has become a bit city and the bush – New York and London against the world one might say. While many are beset on comparing the incorrect use of the Oxford comma in self-published titles, I really think they are missing the whole point.

Self-publishing is about stories, wonderful and never before published stories from the hearts and minds of passionate people. Rugged yes. But a rugged beauty that like Mr Lawson, many just can’t see for looking.

In Defence Of The Bush by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

So you’re back from up the country, Mister Lawson, where you went,
And you’re cursing all the business in a bitter discontent;
Well, we grieve to disappoint you, and it makes us sad to hear
That it wasn’t cool and shady — and there wasn’t plenty beer,
And the loony bullock snorted when you first came into view;
Well, you know it’s not so often that he sees a swell like you;
And the roads were hot and dusty, and the plains were burnt and brown,
And no doubt you’re better suited drinking lemon-squash in town.

Continue reading this classic poem here.

As a boy from the bush myself, I have to admit to being a little tired of the Manhattan ‘city slicker‘ line that sings to an all too very familiar tune. ‘This writer really needs an editor.’ Sure, but hey, where’s even a little mention about the story? Did you notice that at all while you were spotting the incorrect use of the ‘Oxford comma’?

Just as Patterson and Lawson debated in poetry over one hundred years ago, there is beauty in many things, but only if you want to look for it. If you are always wearing blinkers, you’ll never see it though.

A vast majority of self published authors share their stories with the world for little financial reward. According to the Taleist SelfPublishing Survey, 50% of self published authors earned under $500 in 2011 from their books and 10% of those surveyed authors earned over 75% of the total revenue. As this survey was conducted using data from just 1,007 authors who volunteered their earnings information, I would venture to conclude that there are many more self published authors who earn less that $500 per year from book sales.

Many, if not all of these authors would love to be able to afford the services of a professional editor, cover designer, marketing manager and perhaps even a tea lady. But on earnings of less than $500 per year, the notion is ridiculous unless some New York and London editors have suddenly become philanthropic and are willing to provide their services at an affordable ‘bush’ price.

So while those who criticise misunderstand and apply their expensive city logic to the paltry income of the self published author from the bush, they may want to consider what almost every self published author has achieved, for very little reward.

  • In excess of 3,000 titles are available every day for free on the Kindle Store alone. Plenty of choice for those who love to read, or find fault (for free).
  • Ebook prices have fallen due to the competition created by self published titles.
  • No one went near erotic romance until self publishing was bold enough to do so. Traditional publishing has become a follower and is now cashing in on a genre they wouldn’t have touched just a couple of years ago.
  • Electronic readers such as Kindle owe their popularity and sales to the huge choice of cheap and free content provided by self published authors and not to the lack of enthusiasm shown by traditional publishers, who initially fought the change to e-reading.
  • Self publishing has made it easy for traditional publishers to find new and marketable authors to add to their stables, and with little risk, as they pick and choose the cream of indie authors.

Yes, it’s easy to criticise and compare the city with the bush, but perhaps it’s time to congratulate every self published author for rekindled the love of reading with their passion for writing and their willingness to accept little financial reward in return. If you can’t see this aspect, then please stay away from reading any self published books in future; particularly when they have been obtained for free, and go back to paying a New York or London publisher to read Jane Austen or Victor Hugo again.

In Defence Of The Self Published Author

22 thoughts on “In Defence Of The Self Published Author

  • 15/10/2012 at 10:03 pm

    “no one ever said you can fly and breathe” see there you go, a mistake in my own post spelling it should have said “can’t”

    • 15/10/2012 at 11:30 pm

      A.C. If something costs a lot less to produce, then yes, technically the book is worth less. This doesn’t mean the readers will enjoy it any less, but (going back to the food analogy) price-wise, it’s like going to a Macdonalds and expecting the same sort of quality as The Ivy. If I read an indie book (which I do now, nine times out of ten) I will overlook a few typos. However, if I pick up a big name book which I’ve spent best part of £10 for (I’m in the UK) then I don’t expect to see typos. It’s the people who read an indie book, spot a couple of typos and tear the book to shreds on every review site possible who I think are being unfair to compare the two.
      I use an editor for all my books, plus I also pay a separate proofreader on top of that. Yet still, a couple of typos in a 90,000 word novel occasionally slip through. It’s frustrating because I’m producing the very best I can on the budget I have (which is more than most indies) yet still there are mistakes. In this way I completely understand Hockings decision to go with one of the big boys.
      But yes, I do agree with you on the $0.99 price tag. It has lowered reader’s expectations about what price they think they should pay and no longer works to get sales. While it launched several big name author’s platforms, it has left the rest of us struggling out of the mess. Personally, I don’t sell my novels for any less than $4.99, but I don’t think I’d go much higher than that.

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