I am an author – I have two published books, two books coming out this year and some short stories published – but I do not have an agent and I am not published with a large publishing company. I am also a publisher, but I am not self-published as my publishing company and its imprints (Artemesia Publishing) publishes other authors (currently at 16+ at last count). I fit somewhere in between and that often gives me an identity crisis.
Publishing is changing. The self-publishing revolution that started in the last 10-15 years has had an impact but based on the number of people I follow on Twitter who are seeking representation and getting contracts with publishers, self-publishing hasn’t taken over the industry. Meanwhile, traditional publishing is changing as well. Big publishers are shortening the time they keep a title on backlist – culling titles to make room for newer books. So, your window to “make it” is shrinking. At the same time the big publishers are adding clauses to their contracts requiring authors to do their own marketing. You might as well be self-publishing.
But self-publishing is still a hard gig to make it in. I have several friends who self-publish. Some do it full time, some part time. None of them have made it “big”. (And not because of their writing. Check out my reviews and you can see most of their works. They are all worth reading.) Most self-published authors spend 20-25% of their time (an unscientific poll based on having beers with my writing friends) doing marketing. And marketing isn’t cheap. It takes time away from writing and money (you may not have) to do it right and make it pay off. But it also takes titles. Effective marketing requires that you have several titles already published and that you are putting out titles frequently. It can be a hard balancing act.
Being self-published also means a limited audience. Sure, there’s the 8,000-pound monster gorilla in the room *cough*Amazon*cough*, and that gets you a worldwide audience, but it’s not “wide”. You won’t be in indie bookstores or libraries – unless you do the legwork to make that happen. And maybe you are fine with that. But if you want to go wide, self-publishing probably isn’t the answer. Being traditionally published (especially with a medium to large “Big 5” publisher) will get your books everywhere. You’ll be on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other chain and indie bookstores, probably libraries and maybe every Walmart and Target too. But even with this wide net only about 10% of books from traditional publishers will earn out their advance. It can be a hard row to sow no matter which path you take.
So, what am I? Am I an author or a publisher? It could be argued that I am a self-published author since I am my own publisher but technically, I am a traditionally published author. Since my publishing company is small (I think by definition we are a “micro” publisher) I don’t always have the same advantages that a larger publisher does (like big budgets, advances, marketing teams, etc.) but I do share some of the benefits (like wide distribution). I occupy a middle ground that sits – sort of like the Twilight Zone - between self-publishing and traditional publishing. One foot firmly place in both camps.
And I am okay with that.