On June 22, I became a vigilante author.
On that date, I joined the Self-Publishing Revolution by “indie”-publishing my novel HUNTER: A Thriller. I’m just one of thousands of authors to do this. And this trend is changing the face of publishing.
Never before have authors had so many options: traditional publishing, small-press publishing, “indie” (self) publishing, print publishing, audio publishing, ebook publishing, and who knows what else. New technology and free markets are creating a competitive landscape that is putting writers in the driver’s seat, perhaps for the first time in history. Big publishers are being compelled to offer better deals, or else they’ll lose big-name authors like J.K. Rowling.
Here’s one face in the Self-Publishing Revolution: mine.
I wrote my novel on a brilliant creative writing software package, WriteItNow, which cost me a grand total of $59. I finished up on Microsoft Word, which I’ve had for years from an old job, and which therefore cost me nothing.
I filed my paperwork with the state from my home computer to register my publishing business, Avenger Books. Paperwork filing cost: $25.
I contracted out for a first-rate book cover, done for just $250 bucks by a kid out of state. He did a blog header for me, just as cool, for another $250. And a great business logo for just $40.
My ebook and print-book formatting and layout were done by a guy in Britain, who turned around the entire job in 36 hours — for a total of less than $150.
ISBN numbers for my book were free from Smashwords and Amazon.
My photographer accepted a nice dinner in payment for a terrific series of portraits.
Cost of blog hosting: $48 per year.
Cost of domain name for a year: $9.
Cost of ebook uploading to Amazon: $0.
Amazon marketing cost of ebooks: 30%, leaving me 70% royalties.
Up-front cost of Amazon producing my print books: $0.
Distribution cost of print books: $39, for Amazon’s enhanced distribution to the book trade, so that people can order the book at their local bookstores.
P.O. Box rental: about $45 for six months.
Ebook distribution costs: $0.
Online marketing costs: Just my time.
Print book costs (for books bought, then sold and shipped by me): less than half the list price.
Bottom line: I’ve written and published a good novel, in formats of a quality comparable to that of major publishers, and I’ve launched a self-publishing business — all for about $1000. I did it years faster than if I had gone through the mainstream publishing “query-go-round.” And, if I had not bothered setting up the Avenger Books business imprint and customized blog, or insisted on as good a book cover, etc., I probably could’ve gotten away with publishing the ebook and p-book for $200-$300.
This is what is threatening the established book industry right now. Their fixed costs are gargantuan, and their business model outmoded. Big publishing houses, book agents, and brick-and-mortar bookstores are rapidly becoming exorbitantly expensive middle men whose only real services are printing, distribution, and marketing — middle men that many authors no longer need and whose services they can easily replace with low-cost contract labor.
And which is why so many authors are going “vigilante.” In rebellion against lousy contracts, pitiful royalties, endless delays, and lost subsidiary rights, they’re defying the publishing Establishment and taking its “laws” of publishing into their own hands. They’re assuming full responsibility, not only for the creative writing process, but also for the editing, design, production, and marketing of their work. And because they are focused entirely on their own books, they find that they can do the job just as well, if not better, and with far greater rewards.
Now is the time for other authors and would-be authors to join their ranks in this revolution. They have nothing to lose but their demeaning, subordinate status in the publishing process.
And as they do, I’ll be celebrating their stories in future posts here.