Cry havoc: Traditional publishers vs. self publishers

A bloody war has begun. The dogs have been released and they smell the blood of the unjust. It is a dark time and all manner of dark agents are walking among us. That, of course, could easily be the battle cry of the traditional publishers. They see the tides are turning against them and, like any engine of commerce, will undertake any means necessary to stem those tides and turn their backs upon the vile assailants.

Nearly every self-published indie author has walked the walk. You know the routine:

  1. You finish your manuscript after pouring your very blood into the ink as it dry.
  2. You spend hours, days, and weeks honing your query letters.
  3. You mail out those query letters number in the hundreds.
  4. You wait.
  5. And you wait.
  6. And you wait.

Eventually rejection letters trickle in. One by one they arrive and you open them, with held breath, only to see the agent or publisher likes your work, but can’t sell it. That’s right, they can’t sell a piece of work that has been carefully crafted to fit their exact genre! After the hundredth (or so) rejection letter you give up. You place that manuscript on a bookshelf (or forget about the file on your hard drive) and it gathers nothing but dust.

And then one day you hear about ebooks. You realize you could give your book life on your own! You carefully re-format the book for ereaders. You craft the perfect cover and you make sure the blurb is spot on. Finally the book is uploaded and you start doing your own marketing. Slowly the sales start coming in. At first it’s just a trickle, but then, after a few months or a year, the sales have increased to where you are almost paying off your monthly mortgage payment with your ebook sales alone!

And you dance. You find that pile of rejection letters and you burn them in effigy. The black smoke of discouragement wafts away to never return.

That is the scenario the traditional publishers fear. And even though they see this happening more and more, they do nothing about it. They aren’t seeking out self published writers or taking chances on new writers…they are continuing on with their usual Modus operandi and rejecting, rejecting, rejecting. In the meantime they are losing out on some serious business. They fail to realize just how many Hockings and Konraths there are out there in the wild, waiting for their chance.

I recently made the decision to stop submitting to traditional publishers and agents. Why? What do they have to offer me that self-publishing doesn’t? Sure they can give me an advance, but my royalty percentage will be a pittance. Sure they can edit my book, but those editors have to be paid and it will probably come out of my cut. Sure they can promote the book, but they will expect me to help with that effort. Sure they can create a cover, but so can I. The list goes on and on (and doesn’t include the cons of going the traditional route).

The same thing has already started happening in the newspaper industry. Traditional newspapers failed to see they had to latch on to the internet or else they would suffer the consequences. Traditional reporters started being usurped by anyone that had a blog and could use WordPress. The world needed immediacy and newspapers couldn’t deliver. The world needed more voices and the newspapers couldn’t supply. So now traditional newspapers are starting to fold.

Could the same thing happen to traditional publishers? Or will traditional publisher attempt to strong arm the distributors into making it nearly impossible for indie writers to succeed? Although that last question is somewhat frightening, one would have to assume the distributors stand to make more money with indie writers than traditional publishers (there are far more indie writers and the public has spoken their approval of the lower cost of the indie book.) And as more and more big name authors go the self-publishing route, this question will be moot.

We are all only at the beginning of what should be a great and long ride. We all stand to finally have our dreams come true, no thanks to traditional publishers. And no matter how often the traditional publishers claim “foul”, self-publishing is here to stay and indie writers are only beginning to be heard.