Jodi Picoult and the Myth of the Segregated Marketplace

Jodi Picoult made headlines last week for her views on self-publishing, expressed in an interview with the Daily Beast (from Page 2):

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Take a workshop course. You need to learn to give and get criticism and to write on demand. And DO NOT SELF PUBLISH.

Unfortunately, Jodi Picoult wasn’t pressed by the interviewer and didn’t elaborate (it would have been amusing if she had done so IN ALL CAPS).

The (outdated) blanket warning to avoid self-publishing generated a lot of reaction in the comments of that piece and anywhere else it was reprinted. I won’t rehash all that, only to note that, by contrast, Ms. Picoult thinks it’s a fine idea to sign with an agent who has no clients and zero experience.

Jodi Picoult got an opportunity to explain her position in a little more detail to the Huffington Post the following day.

My current advice is to not self-publish. It’s still too hard for people to separate the wheat from the chaff, and what you miss out on is the marketability that is afforded to you by a brick and mortar publisher. There’s a lot of crap out there, and one day we may find a way to segregate well written self published fiction from that stuff which anyone can throw on Amazon, but I just don’t think we’re there yet. Let me put it to you this way. The anomalies of self published fiction, the Amanda Hockings of this world – what did they do with their next book? Do they self publish it? No – they make sure they get a publisher.

I won’t spend much time discussing the obvious error at the end, only to point out that Amanda Hocking had self-published numerous titles before she signed on with an agent, released more afterward, and, when she finally agreed a deal with a publisher, she only signed away some of her books, and the rest of her self-published work is still on the market (and she has stated on numerous occasions that she will continue to self-publish).

It must also be noted that before Amanda Hocking self-published, she had failed to attract the interest of an agent or publisher in those very same titles. The success of her self-publishing endeavors, however, bagged her a $2m advance. Needless to say, Hocking would be in a very different position today if she had followed Jodi Picoult’s advice.

That aside, I want to focus on a more fundamental error in Jodi Picoult’s argument, as I have seen it recurring in numerous statements as large publishers and their proxies struggle to explain what they offer writers in a digital world.

The Myth of the Segregated Marketplace

Jodi Picoult is urging writers not to self-publish as it’s “still too hard for people to separate the wheat from the chaff” because there is “a lot of crap out there.”

Newsflash: there is no segregated marketplace. All those e-books from publishers and self-publishers jostle for attention in the same retailers, side-by-side on the virtual bookshelves. Self-published titles aren’t ghettoized, and they don’t carry a warning label.

In other words, an author published by Random House faces the same discoverability challenges as a self-publisher. We’re all trying to climb out of the same primordial ranking soup. Having a publisher’s imprint name in your product description offers zero assistance with that task.

When agents, publishers, and authors caution against self-publishing because it will be hard to get noticed, they don’t seem to realize that all titles face that problem, whether self-published or not.

In short, both kinds of authors have to deal with whatever amount of crap is out there.

The “Amount of Crap” Myth

I’ll assume the basic assumption is correct, that there is a lot of crap available. I’ll also ignore the provenance of this crap – whether that’s content farm crap, scraped Wikipedia crap, genuine self-published crap, or crap books from big publishers – and I’ll just agree: there is a lot of crap.

However, and this is the key point, the crap is invisible. Nobody sees a book that’s #700,000 in the Amazon rankings. They don’t appear on any bestseller lists. They aren’t recommended in Also Boughts. Readers don’t see them.

Those who believe the amount of crap is an issue must think that visibility on Amazon is distributed equally. Rather, it’s a form of meritocracy where books that are purchased more often are displayed to readers more often. Crap books that aren’t being bought will not be recommended at all.

Even if a reader stumbles across a crap book, by viewing the page and not purchasing the book, they handicap that title in Amazon’s recommendation engine – which analyzes readers with similar buying patterns and displays the book they are most likely to purchase – making it less likely that someone else will happen upon it.

Readers are pretty good at ascertaining whether they will enjoy any given book and sampling allows them to see whether the story holds up to the promise indicated by the cover, the blurb, and the reviews.

Even if the book is a polished turd – striking cover and enticing blurb, but crap writing – sampling allows a reader to find that out in advance, and, in the rare instance that the sample is the only part where the writing is any good, the book can be returned (and will be slated in the reviews, warning future readers away).

Books live or die on word-of-mouth. Unless an author is in the rare position of having a significant built-in audience, and merely has to announce a book’s release to catapult it to the upper reaches of the charts, they will depend on readers who discover (and enjoy) the book sharing that opinion with others, whether that’s through online reviews, social media, email, reader sites, or plain old conversation.

Crap books are invisible. Crap books will not be recommended by one reader to another. The amount of crap doesn’t matter because crap books are irrelevant. There could be 100 million crap books on Amazon, and it wouldn’t matter one bit.

Crap books aren’t the reason why discoverability is a challenge for most writers. Good books are.

A Case Study

My last release is a perfect example. One important discovery tool on Amazon is the Hot New Releases list, which displays the top-selling books in each genre and sub-genre released in the last thirty days. Getting on the first page of this list for your genre or sub-genre can be a great driver of sales, but readers don’t seem to browse past the first page in serious numbers.

(In fact, it’s doubly important in historical fiction, which has no sub-categories to aid visibility, and where you need to be ranked at regularly below #2,000 to #3,000 to scrape in at the outer reaches of the chart.)

The day I launched A Storm Hits Valparaiso, I had a reasonable expectation that my mailing list would propel the book onto that first page, and that sales could kick on from there (or at least stabilize somewhat). However, on that same day, twenty-two backlist novels were released by Patrick O’Brian’s publisher (making me wish the bloody market was segregated!).

I had no idea this was coming or I would have pushed back my release by a couple of weeks – especially considering we were aiming for the same readers, I’m an unknown in that genre, and Patrick O’Brian is one of the top-selling historical novelists of all time.

Despite a great launch, I couldn’t crack the front page of Hot New Releases and sales died once my mailing list had finished purchasing.

Since then, I’ve had sales spikes and troughs. Overall, the book has done reasonably well (nearly 500 copies sold) for my first outing in that genre. The reason it hasn’t done better has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of crap books out there. Rather, it faces competition for the spotlight from some very good books indeed.

If all the crap historical novels disappeared tomorrow, my sales would be unaffected. However, if a decent chunk of the good historical novels disappeared, I would benefit from increased visibility on genre bestseller lists (etc.) and my sales would rise.

Indeed, one could make the argument that self-publishing is more prudent as you will get your novel out now, rather than in a year or two (or longer, factoring in the time to find an agent, go on submission, and land a deal) when all the large publisher backlists will be digitized and there will be even more great books vying for readers’ attention.

Shock News! Readers Find Blog In Sea Of Crap!

 

It’s just over one year since I started this blog. I don’t know how you found it among the sea of crap – the one trillion web pages that swamp the internet – but you did it! Somehow!

Thank you.

About davidgaughran

David Gaughran is an Irish writer, living in London, the author of "Mercenary" and "A Storm Hits Valparaiso" as well as "Let's Get Digital" and "Let's Get Visible."
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

177 Responses to Jodi Picoult and the Myth of the Segregated Marketplace

  1. Brilliant. Once again, you’ve managed to put my thoughts into words both eloquent and succinct. Please stop hacking into my brain. :)

    Word of mouth has always been key, but it’s been so dramatically democratized in the digital age that it’s completely upended how people discover books. Amazon and their rankings and algorithms have helped level the playing field as well, but I think word-of-mouth continues to drive most book sales. It’s even reaching down to the kid’s – my kids schools have instituted a Goodreads-like system where kids can recommend books to their peers (rather than being teacher/librarian/parent dependent). HUGE. This is huge.

    • That’s an interesting point. I believe that it has become easier for word-of-mouth to spread, thanks to all the tools we have now to share the books we like and to communicate with each other. I think this gives smaller books/authors a better chance to succeed – which is great.

      • >Books live or die on word-of-mouth.

        Book-promotion in a nutshell. It’s always been that way and still is. As for Ms Picoult’s quaint views on the merits of dinosaur publishing, all I can say is that she must have lived a very sheltered — or lucky — life!

  2. Wow, David. You nailed this response. Absolutely freakin’ nailed it.

    Six months ago, I got tired of playing the submission game — got close with a couple agents, one even said I “could write” and to hit him up with my next work. After getting over that letdown, I started to rally myself for yet more submissions and another two-year wait, assuming I even managed to get lucky. And all for what, like 3k?

    Then, I had a friend tell me about Joe Konrath. And from there, my life changed. I self-published and I’m totally reinvigorated and writing like a mad man. Even better, I’m selling well at this stage of the game.

    To all those in the spot I was in, jump in the pool. Take your time, work on the cover, and make sure it’s edited well, but jump in the pool.

    Believe me, it sucks watching everyone else swim. And the day you sell your first work from someone you don’t know — from another country even — you’ll get a high that defies description.

    Trust me, and David, and dozens of others. Ignore the over-worked agents and deluged publishers. Ignore your self-doubts. Pursue your dream. Create your own success.

    Jump. In. The. Pool.

    • Matthew Iden says:

      “And from there, my life changed. I self-published and I’m totally reinvigorated and writing like a mad man.”

      Couldn’t agree more. I get up every day and want to write. I have concrete, realizable goals that don’t include sending a submission to the assistant to an agent who may or may not get back to my carefully-crafted query with a form letter 18 months from now, if ever.

    • Thanks Stan for highlighting something that doesn’t get talked about enough. Self-publishing is incredibly motivating. Querying, and the inevitable rejection and occasional bad behavior which accompanies that, is a profoundly negative experience. For me at least, it led me to doubt everything about my writing. Self-publishing is a dramatically different experience. When your book is selling, it’s a huge rush. When it’s not, you can take comfort in reviews or emails from readers, or in the fact that (for the first time) your career is in your hands.

      Querying felt like beseeching capricious deities. Self-publishing feels like much more of a meritocracy, where hard work and skill will likely be rewarded, if you persevere. Whereas, I felt like I could have queried for 100 years and gotten nowhere.

      • “Whereas, I felt like I could have queried for 100 years and gotten nowhere.”

        Agreed. I wrote in some of my submissions, essentially, “Look guys… I own a freakin’ newspaper. I have a marketing machine of my own, and I’m super, well-known in my region compared to most. I’ll make the sales happen.” Still no dice. And the answers implied in some of them that they hadn’t even read the submission details.

        There just came a point where I’d had enough. You get to where you realize you’ve lost all self-respect. That you’re begging and pleading like the skinny dork in high school who (three days prior to the prom) is down to asking not-so-cute freshmen to go with him. And those not-so-cute freshmen are even saying “no,” even though you own a car and you’re a senior… They sense the desperation and they know you’re the butt of a lot of jokes.

        That’s how I felt when I was querying.

    • David nailed it alright – but you wrapped it and dispatched it, my friend! Thanks for the positive and encouraging word!

  3. Exactly right. A consequence of the ease of self-publishing means that the total collection of ebooks on Amazon, Smashwords, etc, are not equivalent to a publisher’s releases, they are equivalent to an agent’s slushpile. Instead of a literary agent sorting the gems from the crap, the readers, as a whole, do it. We are seeing the rise of the “crowdsourced literary agent”. It’s only possible because sites, like Amazon, provide ways for people to see what other people with similar tastes are reading and recommending. In the near future, more technologies will be developed that allow the function of the literary agent to be crowdsourced more efficiently. http://ashleyzacharias.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/the-crowdsourced-literary-agent/

    • Well, yes and no. While an agent might have to go through the whole slushpile, a reader certainly doesn’t have to – no-one browses all 1 million e-books on Amazon before purchasing something.

  4. So, I guess by Ms. Picoults reasoning, I am also an anomaly. Darn. Where’s Captain Kirk when you need him? ;-)

  5. Why wouldn’t Jodi Picoult tell writers to avoid self publishing? If I was a traditionally published writer, I would warn all up and coming promising writers to avoid the “traps” of self publishing. Beware! Don’t do it!
    In fact, right now I’m an “indie” writer and I would advise the same – Don’t do it! Do not self publish. I repeat – do NOT self publish.
    And, while we’re at it, traditionally published writers – you probably should avoid publishing through the traditional route. Really, it’s not all its cracked up to be – being a published writer. Go get a real job. Writing a novel takes so much time and effort. And, really, your novel probably won’t sell anyway.
    Yeah – uh huh. All of you writers – just give up.
    Me? I’m going back to writing. Because once you all give up, there will be so much less competition.
    Right Jodi?

  6. Paolo Amoroso says:

    I, and pretty much anybody else online, can separate the wheat from the chaff just fine when shopping for digital content. This is the XXI century, is it time to learn how to use the Internet yet?

  7. Agreed, Shea. Cheryl wins comment of the day!

  8. Tyler Wills says:

    Hi David,
    I live on an Island in the Mediterranean where the main economic focus is tourism. There are numerous shops here selling published books at a fraction of their original or recommended price. They are mostly out of date, and flavour and somehow missed the publisher’s pulping machine but they do occasionally get picked up by the odd visitor. I bought one myself once for research and curiosity rather than a good read. It was this that made me realise – that if this author had the guts to publish such a load of bull, then what was stopping me producing something even better!
    And I have, tell Jodi Picoult!

    Regards,
    Tyler

  9. There’s going to be bad books both in self-publishing and traditional publishing, but like David says, “the crap is invisible”. I would rather read “self-published crap” any day of the week than to read traditional publishing books by talentless hacks that have probably never picked up a book in their lives (Snooki from Jersey Shore, The Kardashian sisters, Justin Bieber etc.).

  10. badelaire says:

    Yeah, my reply to Jodi would be “What marketability?” In this day and age, I think a lot of people are getting their book recommendations from social media outlets where the content is peer-generated. You read a book because someone on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr that you trust says “You’d like this book”. What advertising / PR muscle is a traditional publisher bringing to the table in 2012, that you can’t bring yourself with some hard work and research?

    Also, as others have pointed out, getting an agent and/or publisher is not based on merit, it’s not based on simply whether your book is “good” or not. It’s based on a nebulous formula of luck, timing, personalities, and a million other factors. Getting published by one of the Big 6 is like becoming a Hollywood star; it can happen, but it isn’t about talent. So when Jodi is telling people to get an agent and/or publisher, she’s pretty much saying “I don’t care if your book is good, just keep rolling the dice until the magic number comes up, and if that never happens, don’t ever go out on your own.”

    Yeah, no thanks.

  11. Jaye says:

    Here’s me, David, applauding.

    I wonder, I truly do, if the hardcore anti-self publishing crowd believes that if I, gentle reader, turn on my Kindle, all the sudden it is swamped with a deluge of unreadable books.

    I don’t know how Jodi finds the books she enjoys reading, but I know I have no trouble at all finding books I enjoy reading. Newsflash for her. I can’t find her books in Walmart or Target because for the past month or so, the shelves are overflowing with the Hunger Games trilogy. Can’t find her books in the grocery store because they are stocking YA paranormal and publisher-purchased “best seller” lists. I might be able to find her at B&N, except B&N has turned into a gift shop/toy store (after it ran all the independent bookshops in my town out of business) and I don’t shop there anymore. Where can I find her books? Amazon. Her titles are right there in the page with every other book in her genre, including self-published titles. Oh, and she’s published by HarperCollins who not only charges premium prices for ebooks, but their production values are so lousy I refuse to buy their ebooks anymore. So yeah, I guess this consumer does pay attention to who publishes the books because I don’t like buying crap.

    That’s the real problem, isn’t it? You nailed it, David.

    • LOL! That definitely narrows it all down to where one’s book can be found. LOL!

    • redmitten says:

      david & jaye-

      thanks for this post and comment exchange. jaye, you’ve recapped what i’ve been muttering under my breath for some months now. the big publishers are deciding what we want to read based on what has already been read. just like tv- hey, if one reality show is a hit, let’s produce 2255 more of them! can’t go wrong! (insert pukey face here). consumers, given more choices, have a wider taste than that. what a relief to watch the indies go after a different market and how cool that it can be done so affordably. as a reader i embrace what the indies are offering, and as a writer i welcome the opportunity to have what i’ve written be read by someone other than an editor who is waiting for the next hunger games ms to land on his/her desk. enough already! let’s continue to write the entire scope of the universe and put it out there for the readers to explore.

      sherry o’keefe

    • Hi Jaye,
      I am an indie publisher and author. For the benefit of Indies (HarperCollins won’t be listening) what shows HarperCollins lousy production values?

      • Jaye says:

        Blank pages, run-together sentences, extra spaces, changing font sizes, connected em dashes, ill-thought out tables of content (if there is one). HarperCollins is the worst only because ALL the ebooks I’ve purchased from them were sloppy and showed no concern for the reader who paid premium prices. Other publishers are hit and miss. I had one (S&S?) where there were repeated paragraphs and missing paragraphs. I’ve found reissued back list books full of scanning and OCR errors, errors even a cursory proofread would have eliminated. I can put together a better looking ebook with MS Word. One publisher, St. Martin’s, does appear to get it. Their ebooks are attractive, properly proof read and nicely formatted. The rest of them? Hit or miss.

      • Thanks Jaye, That’s a good list of formatting errors for indies to look out for. Anyone have any others.

  12. J.D.Hughes says:

    SHOCK NEWS! Wheat separated from Jodi Picoult! Self-published writers say: “It’s about time we found a way to separate writers from sycophants and camp followers.”

  13. Absolutely brilliant- again, David.

    I was a traditionally published mid-list author who switched to self publishing after my fifth novel was rejected because it didn’t fit the ‘brand’ my publisher had created for me. Two years later, I am delighted I took this path. I have sold far more books, made a lot more money and thoroughly enjoy the freedom to write exactly what I want. I am now allowed to follow my heart, instead of writing the way a publisher dictates. If publishers were the gatekeepers of the publishing industry, they were also depriving readers of exciting, well written stories that would not, under the old regime, have reached them.

    Of course there are badly written books out there but there is also a wealth of wonderful stories that would not have been available before. It’s up to the discerning customer to sniff out the good from the bad. And that is part of the fun. As a reader, I have an infinite number of good books to chose from for a reasonable price.

    • Wow, Susanne, not only did your career flourish but you received the best rejection notice of all time. You did not fit your brand. You were no longer you. I love it. I trust you will be similarly harsh with yourself if you find you are no longer your new brand.No wonder so many authors parrot their publishers’ propaganda: it sure beats trying to follow their crazy logic. Which reminds me, I must read Catch 22, again soon.
      BTW, excellent job, David.

      • I don’t have a brand, as I write in several different genres. I never wanted to have a brand but, as I had written two novels in the chick-lit genre, my publisher wanted to turn me into a sausage machine. I would prefer to think that I have a ‘voice’ rather than a brand and that my voice comes through in all of my work. Reactions from readers who are happy to skip from one genre to the other among my books tell me I’m right.

        Publishers often don’t allow writers to grow, preferring to stick with what you started off with and to sat stuck in that groove.

        That’s why I love being an indie.

  14. Chazz says:

    Great post and excellent deconstruction. Our attention is fragmented but the market is one. Some people really do get uptight about all the crap books out there but I’m sure the hundreds of millions of bad websites and subpar YouTube videos don’t bother them a bit. We use our brains to filter the world, same as it ever was.

    BTW, even though there are a lot of crap books out there, I do think there’s a new trend in indie publishing: I think we’re getting better. If true, more terrible news for Picoult.

  15. Pingback: Jodi Picoult and the Myth of the Segregated Marketplace | Chazz Writes

  16. jakeescholl says:

    Segregation never worked with people, it will never work with books.

  17. Gee, Jodi, I guess that’s easy for you to say… With some writers like her I detect a note of insecurity about changes to the old publishing system and the Big Six monopoly.

    I had some good fortune publishing short stories in reviews. From my experience with agents and the old system I have some advice as well. Unless you are personally tight with an agent, or you have recently published a story in the Paris Review, then don’t bother with years of queries. You’re going to have to do all the heavy lifting of marketing and selling even if the Big Six publishes you, so why not give yourself 70% of the royalties for your troubles. The cream always rises to the top, and avid readers are constantly searching to discover quality writers. And another thing… as for Amanda Hocking, she is a terrific story teller, a quality writer. That’s why she got where she is. Others are getting there too.

    I am really enjoying the independence of being an indie writer. I’m kind of a control freak anyway, and I have loved assembling my own publishing team — editor, ebook formatter, book cover designer — and making my own editorial and marketing calls. I am releasing my first novel next week and I couldn’t be more excited!

    Rock on, people.

  18. Laney says:

    Fantastic post as usual, David. I too, read the interview by Picoult last week. As well as the article by Randy Henderson on Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Every time I think we are moving past the trad vs. indie arguments, they crop back up.

    Well said, and well written.

  19. Thank you so much for posting this response to her incredibly ill-researched comments. To site Amanda Hocking as a fluke is to undermine the amazing feat she achieved. The only thing self-publishing should do for authors is encourage them. If you have exhausted traditional options, don’t give up. Create the best book you can and learn to market it. To basically condemn all authors who can’t break through the traditional publishing barriers is a suggestion Picoult will likely not live down any time soon.

  20. Great post, David. My advice: don’t self-publish…unless you want to sell books.

  21. And how about this? We writers encourage other writers – no matter HOW published.
    Just a crazy thought.
    #writersencouragingwriters

  22. Adam Pepper says:

    Self published books dont carry a warning label? How about a scarlet letter? Because, yes, the poor innocent readers need to be protected from us.

    I dont really know why anyone would ask a successful author for advice on how to break into the industry, because by and large they have no clue. Writing advice, sure. But business advice? They arent the best people to ask, especially when they’ve been on the inside looking out for so long.

  23. Matthew Iden says:

    “There’s still a lot of crap out there.”

    “There” = traditional publishing, too. As has been proven time and again, Big Publishers aren’t the sanctified guardians of literature…they’re businesses. And they will cheerfully promote, publish, and sell the worst writing imaginable if it makes them a buck. They have no mandate (and have proven they don’t want one) to restrict themselves to selling us only timeless classics.

    It would be nice if writers like Picoult would make the effort to be better informed (e.g., her Amanda Hocking statement) before they opened their mouths. Maybe Jodi has been spending too much time with Scott Turow?

  24. R. E. Hunter says:

    A brilliant analysis.

    About the bad timing of your release of A Storm Hits Valparaiso, do you think it would have been beneficial (or even possible) to pull it that day, and delay the release a few days or weeks?

    About discovering your blog, I believe I landed here from seeing a post I liked on The Passive Voice. That’s where I’ve found quite a few of the blogs I follow. So essentially, word of mouth (word of e-mouth?).

    • I love The Passive Voice. First blog I check every day.

      Re: Storm, I could have done plenty of things. What I should have done is re-categorize it straight away, but I didn’t think of that (lesson learned). I totally screwed up the categories, in fact. I had it under Literary Fiction and Historical Fiction – two highly competitive categories, with no sub-categories whatsoever, requiring you to hit #2000 to #3000 to chart at all. I figured that my launch, plus some Hot New Release action could get me that low, and I might be able to sustain it. I didn’t have a Plan B – which was poor planning.

      If I had known about the blanket release of Patrick O’Brian’s backlist, and had been a little less zombie brained, I might not have delayed, and may have just chosen alternative categories. I’ll know for the next time.

  25. virginiallorca says:

    Have you “read” Amanda Hocking’s work?

    • Dalya Moon says:

      I read one of her books, and from the first chapter, it was clear why she’s had success. The lady can tell a story, and the pacing was fast and tense.

      If people are reading on iPads or iPhones with back-lit screens, instead of digital ink e-readers, they read 10% slower. A fast-paced story like Hocking writes is going to do well in that market.

      Ms. Hocking put in the hours, and she deserves every bit of success!

  26. jeffeverhart says:

    I love this post. I think what troubles me the most about this scenario is who judges what is crap and what is not. Picoult seems to think that publishers and editors can distinguish crap from genius, but it is really the marketplace, or the readers rather, that make this distinction. Great post!

  27. JJ Toner says:

    Another great post, Dave. Thanks. I needed the encourgement to get on with my new book. I never like Picoult’s stuff much anyhow.

  28. Cherie Marks says:

    Wow! You struck that nail hard on the head. I think authors like Jodi picoult have been drinking the kool-aid so long they think it’s the only thing to drink. Thank you for standing up for the other side.

  29. Ambaa says:

    Too bad Picolt’s work is awful.

  30. *raises hand*

    Another anomaly here. Making enough now with the pen name to quit the day job. I know quite a few trad authors who can’t manage that on the small percentages they make off their books. But, hey, that’s what they wanted. This is what I want. We make choices, trade-offs.

  31. khaulamazhar says:

    It is so easy for a published author to say something like take a workshop and don’t self publish, what if you follow all that advice and you have a great book but none of the agents you query recognize it?
    I found a really interesting article:http://www.bookmarket.com/debutnovels.htm, and they got this info from the London Sunday Times: “They can’t judge a book without its cover. British publishers and agents have rejected two Booker prize-winning novels submitted as works by aspiring authors. One of the books considered unworthy was by V. S. Naipaul, who won the Nobel prize for literature.

    Typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of Naipaul’s In a Free State and Stanley Middleton’s Holiday were sent to 20 publishers and agents. None recognized them as Booker prizewinners from the 1970s that were lauded as British novel writing at its best. Of the 21 replies, all but one were rejections.”
    So if you love writing and you think you have something really worthwhile, then why shouldn’t you self-publish? Even the agents you query may not be the best judges of your work. I have read good books that have been self published and books that are really boring that have been traditionally published.

    • I think the reported rejection of classic works by agents doesn’t prove much. For example, an agent may well have seen through the wheeze and either not bothered to respond (counted as a rejection), or may have just given a form response. In addition, tastes can change dramatically in a short space of time. Styles go in and out of fashion. What had commercial appeal 20 years ago may not have appeal today.

      What is far more damning of agents’ abilities to separate the wheat from the chaff are the enormous amount of self-published success stories who received nothing but rejection and who went on to prove that there was enormous reader interest in their stories. And, what is far more damning of publishers’ (self-proclaimed) ability to nurture talent are the equally large number of writers who weren’t backed by their publishers, were then dropped, and who then went on to self-publish and sell staggering amounts.

    • Wow. Didn’t see this, but it doesn’t surprise me. I own/run a very small weekly newspaper, and you would not believe the number of submissions we get — most from way out of the area and totally irrelevant to our market, but once you start getting on PR lists, you get clobbered with straight crap.

      So, I sympathize with agents, for sure. But, you can’t let this fact that they’re overwhelmed keep you from your dream/career. And if you’re not careful, their hastily answered replies in the negative can kill your lamb-like, beginner’s confidence.

  32. I’ve been a huge fan of Picoult’s work for some time. I even reached out to her in my early days as a full-time writer, a few years ago, telling her that I admired her work and was busy on my own novel. She personally emailed me back.

    So, when I read the original article where she did the blanket statement saying “do not sefl-publish”, I was dismayed. She is a very conscientious writer with her readers, but to ace out a whole segment of writers with one small sentence is just really too bad and certainly displays her lack of knowledge about what is happening in the overall publishing space. Let’s face it, this e-publishing market is moving at lightning speed; and, even being in the middle of it, I can’t say, for sure, that I know what’s going on every single day, not in the same way and level that you track it, David. (Kudos to you, by the way). My recommendation for all traditionally published authors, especially one of Ms. Picoult’s stature (as she’s just too far in to want to make a change…although she’s bitched about the segmentation of the NYT’s bestseller list just last year in relation to Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Freedom being on the bestseller list because he was a man) is, perhaps, for everyone’s sake, to just pander to her publisher and keep the aspect of self-publishing off the table as a topic. Because, let’s face it, she knows not of what she speaks. : )

    Oh, and, right now? Her latest release is at #2 on the Bestseller Kindle list for Literary Fiction. And, her book, Nineteen Minutes, is at #80 on the Kindle Bestseller list, but my book, Seeing Julia is at #68. http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/157053011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_kstore_1_4_last#4

    Yes, boys and girls, just sayin’ ~ that’s how it works.

  33. Iva P. says:

    Excellent post, David. I know indies who are at the top of their genre in the Amazon lists. On the other hand, trees had to die for many a traditionally published crap. Nowadays, readers decide what is crap and what is not.

  34. Elena DeRosa says:

    Yeah, there is a lot of crap out there…I just finished reading Karen Gravano’s book, “Mob Daughter.” ‘Nuff said…

  35. Tim Vicary says:

    Great post, David. Ms Picoult surely is about as wrong as she could be. Like many others here, I’ve had years of doffing my cap and touching my forelock to agents and trade publishers, getting all nervous before I pick up the phone in case they’re ‘too busy’ to talk to me right now – even after they’ve agreed to publish – and then knowing nothing about how the book was doing or what the advertising budget was (if any), and waiting at least 6 months for the sales figures … I could go on for hours. I was a published author, but I often felt embarrassed and intimidated, by the very people, in trade publishing, who were supposed to be working for me.

    And now, suddenly, everything has changed! we’re involved in the whole process as we never were before. Admittedly it’s hugely time-consuming, but what a sense of liberation! No wonder people like Picoult are against it; they can feel the whole world shifting beneath them and no-one -least of all traditional publishers – can tell where it’s going. As Bob Dylan sang ; ‘Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr Jones?’ What will the publishing world be like in 10 years’ time? Who knows? But if you’re not surfing the wave, you’re likely to be left behind.

    Once upon a time all books were copied out in longhand by teams of monks. That meant that books were beautiful, expensive and rare. Then a man called Johannes Gutenberg set up a printing press in Germany, and everything changed. It seems to me that something similar is happening here, now, today.

    • Agreed Tim. While the publishing industry has always been in some kind of flux or bother, I believe that what is happening now is truly revolutionary because a writer doesn’t need anybody else to reach readers. They can publish themselves and sell directly. Because of this, all the other players need to make a robust case for why they should get a share of our royalties. At the moment, retailers like Amazon (and the rest) are making a great case. I don’t think anyone begrudges Amazon their 30% (or Smashwords their 10%), as they allow us to expand our reach dramatically. I think publishers and agents are struggling to make their case, and authors (and readers) are voting with their feet.

      The self-publishing author has a radically different mindset. Instead of trying to prove to publishers that we are worthy of a deal, they must prove to use that they will bring enough to the table to justify a cut.

      You might enjoy this quote from George Bernard Shaw: http://twitpic.com/96rgax

  36. juliabarrett says:

    Wow. What ya’ll said… I read Ms. Picoult’s comment somewhere and for whatever reason, it just didn’t register with me – I guess I’m so accustomed to people making these off-hand dismissive comments that I no longer pay attention. Yes, the trick is to stand out amid the good books, regardless of whether the books are indie or NY. Life is far too short to worry about the crap books.
    Oh boy. Has she been living under a rock?

  37. Dalya Moon says:

    HECK YEAH! I am the CHAFF and I refuse to SHUT UP! :-)

    Authors saying stuff like this just make me boost my daily word count.

    I will not be silenced. I have a KDP account and I’m gonna use it.

  38. Tara West says:

    Using Amanda Hocking was a bad example, because Hocking self-published first and THEN went with a traditional publisher. Many self-pubbed authors have scored good contracts with publishing houses as well.

    I do agree that there is a lot of chaff out there, but the preview the book feature should help the reader determine if the book is worthy of reading. If the self-pubbed author is good at promoting, then the creme should rise to the top.

  39. Shit!! I only have 2500 views on my blog since its start, 4 months ago. Now, to some shameless advertising:
    I’ve written a piece on an awkward encounter with a scientific calculator, read it right here: http://bulletinamaelstrom.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/an-awkward-first-date-with-a-scientific-calculator/
    Ciao! (Do read it, it made me laugh when I read it, and I’m an ogre)

  40. Mike says:

    Who Is Juid Picoult? Why is she trying to give advice? To anyone? I suppose she’s the one to determine what is and what isn’t crap? Based on her comments I doubt she knows the difference.

  41. Marsha Ward says:

    Great post, David! I’m still shaking my head over Ms. Picoult’s advice to stick with “brick and mortar” publishers. What the heck are they? Is she opposed to ebooks, too?

    By the way, I was dismayed today to see multiple occasions on which one of my favorite authors used repetitive words in her paragraphs, and sometimes, in the same sentence: “He fell onto the bed and fell asleep.” “Obnoxious” and “noxious” in the same paragraph. How many times are newbie writers warned against such misuses? Sheesh! The Big Authors do crappy work, too!

    • I think what happens, Marsha, is the big publishers in their indecent haste to get the books out don’t edit properly. It is hardly “nurturing” their authors.For those familiar with football, I read a James Patterson about a British soccer star. His team won an international match 2-11. Obviously it was meant to read 2-1. And of course newbie writers as well as the oldies must eliminate repetitions.

  42. The market is changing so fast, that it is obvious Jodi Picoult is out of touch with publishing today.

    However, the May/June 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest is not out of touch. The issue is full of facts, information and advice for self-published authors that support your post.

    For example: On page 19, “The New Era of Publishing: Making it Work for You”, says, “Newsflash: Book publishing in the U.S. is undergoing tumultuous change. (If you’re surprised by that, you’ve got some serious catching up to do? One of the biggest changes, and definitely among the most exciting, is your heightened ability as an author to choose how to publish your work…”

    In fact, Jodi Picoult’s mindset is stuck in the clouds of success through traditional publishing where the few that made it believe all one need do is follow his or her dream and success will follow.

    That “crap advice” since following a dream and waiting for it to materialize has about the same chance of reaching success as buying a lottery ticket. Most people do not achieve their dreams. However, we often hear successful people give out this sort of “crap” advice as if it is the only way to achieve success.

    For me, following that dream meant collecting rejection slips for 40 years before I decided to see what this self-publishing was all about and give it a try. My writing couldn’t have been that bad. The first book I wrote in 1968 made it to an editorial board at a traditional publisher where my work and the work of another author were competing for publication and my book lost after the editorial board split and an outside consultant was brought it to break the tie. He voted for the other book. Over the years, I was also represented by several reputable agents that did not charge a fee because these agents thought my work was publishable. However, the rejection slips, for one reason or another, kept coming in from the traditional publishers. One editor wrote that everyone read my manuscript and loved it but that topic wasn’t selling well in the marketplace so they would have to pass while wishing me luck elsewhere.

    Then in December 2007, I self-published “My Splendid Concubine”. Sales of Concubine are approaching 9,000 copies. I submitted the book to several literary contests and it picked up three honorable mentions in general fiction. The sequel the Concubine, Our Hart, picked up four honorable mentions and was a finalist for a national lit contest.

    Today, there are avenues where self-published authors may gain valid and reputable recognition from their work sans agents, editors and publishers.

    For example, I submitted my first book to the Writer’s Digest Self Published Book Awards and did not win but the judge wrote in the commentary, “A fascinating illumination of nineteenth-century Chinese culture and the complex Englishman Robert Hart, the father of China’s modernization. Hart’s struggles adapting to Chinese culture, always feeling the pull and force of his Victorian British background, are compelling. His relationships with his concubine and his concubine’s sister are poignant—the novel is as much a study of the complexities of love as it is anything else. A powerful novel …” —Judge of 2008 Writer’s Digest Self Published Book Awards

    In addition, The Midwest Book Review offers self-published authors another route to validate one’s work, and Midwest clearly says they will not review books that are not up to industry standards. For my first book, the Midwest Reviewer said, “My Splendid Concubine is packed cover to cover with intriguing characters and plot, a must read for historical fiction fans and a fine addition to any collection on the genre.”

    If I had listened to the advice of a Jodi Picoult, the odds are strong that I’d still be collecting rejection slips from agents and traditional publishers. Instead, I collect an occasional anonymous, one-star reviews from Internet Trolls posted on Amazon.com, but this hasn’t slowed the sales since there are more five-star reviews.

    Instead, for more than a year, my work has averaged 400 sales a month and my platform Blog for my first three historical fiction books (iLookChina.net) have had more than 210,000 views since January 2010 and averages about 600 views a day.

    My advice to everyone, “Don’t listen to a Jodi Picoult. Her advice is ‘crap’!”

  43. Preach it, David! It seems that a lot of authors are ignorant about the realities of the publishing world. It’s comforting, I suppose, to congratulate yourself on being “legitimate” because a publisher agreed to take your rights and distribute your work. I haven’t seen any evidence of that being the rule–at least not anymore. The test of a good book is reading the book. Then you can tell.

  44. I found it because I have a Goggle Alert running on ‘patrick o’brian’ and contribute regularly to http://www.wwnorton.com/pob/forum/ceilidh.htm#119616

  45. Mari Stroud says:

    Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap. Self-publishing does not have that market cornered by any stretch, and it’s probably one of the things that bothers me most about the indie vs. traditional publishing arguments. Sometimes that crap hits a person’s id especially hard and becomes wildly popular, but that’s hardly unique to self-publishing.

  46. Neil says:

    I thank you both for defending the ‘crap’ arguments. The Tsunami of Crap has a quote (JA Konrath): “So readers aren’t the ones perpetuating this stupid myth that the crap will destroy the world. It’s the writers–specifically the legacy writers–who keep trotting this one out.”

    Every year the ‘traditionally published authors’ roll out the crap argument. Every year it must be rebutted. Sigh…

    I have new advice for big6 authors: Avoid ebooks. Just avoid them. ;) They only encourage self-published writers. :)

    Neil

    • Yeah, Joe’s article was very good. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before too (on more than one occasion). It’s one of those zombie memes that refuses to die.

  47. Echo75 says:

    Another excellent post, Dave. You’re bang on the money. I also think it has a lot to do with established trade publishing authors protecting their home turf. They need to ensure the industry’s survival—or think they do. I’m not saying the publishing industry is a dinosaur and should be buried, but I do think that fear drives these kind of comments from established authors.

  48. Readers are SO important!

    As an avid reader, I’m into classics. I’m also into contemporary literature. I’ve got traditionally published and self-published books on my shelves, both digitally and physically. Some of the best books I’ve read in my life were traditionally published. Some of the best books I’ve read in my life were self-published. Once they’re all sitting on my shelves, side by side, it doesn’t matter how they got there–they’re all good books, and I’m glad to have them. If any of the authors on my shelves had been discouraged from getting published and had kept their work to themselves, I would’ve been robbed of some of the best books I’ve read in my life.

    With all the resources available these days to allow authors to publish high-quality books independently, telling them all not to self-publish isn’t only bad for authors. It’s also bad for the READING AUDIENCES who could be robbed of the literature brilliant indie authors want to share with them.

    For writers and readers alike, discouraging indie authors is not a good look.

    • As a reader, I don’t care who has published a book – and I think most readers are the same. I don’t purchase as many new releases from large publishers as I used to though, largely because I have become a lot more price-sensitive since purchasing a Kindle. I think the reason for that is I have such a huge selection of excellent books for $7.99 or less (including plenty of backlist titles from my old favorites, and newer work from self-publishers and small presses), that it’s extremely rare that I will be convinced to pay more (I’ve only done it once this year).

  49. J. A. Self says:

    Excellent analysis, David. I’ll be keeping your points in mind next time I hear the “tidal wave of crap” argument.

  50. Pingback: Money, Markets, and Misogyny, oh my! « Joshua Kehe

  51. Not to beat the “c” word to death, but that’s how I’ve always felt about Jodi Picoult’s writing.

  52. C. R. Reaves says:

    I can’t feel any animosity towards her. Not even from the first time I saw this posted around. Instead, I feel a bit bad for her.

    By showing herself to be anti-self-publishing, she’s signaling to traditional publishing that she will follow them wherever they may lead. This reduces her bargaining potential the next time a new deal comes to her. The publishers may throw her an extra bone since she’s been defending their model – or they may decide that she’s so loyal that just the deal itself is good enough.

    Historically, she’s even proven herself to be someone who will leap excitedly into the arms of traditional publishing without even requiring experience. So the next time traditional publishing wants to try something risky… well – they have someone who will be more likely than the next author to trust that they know what they’re doing, right?

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she’s a lot more savvy than that. Maybe I’m giving traditional publishing a poor shake by assuming there are plenty of sharks out there taking note of the authors who will decry self-publishing and circle around them.

    But I still feel very strongly about her stance on self-publishing being a poor decision, both in terms of bargaining power and for the stance of her future. If she does look at the publishing industry and come to realize that doing both can be the best of both worlds for her, she’s going to have some PR backtracking to do.

    • I don’t feel any animosity either. And I don’t sense any maliciousness in her comments. Rather, I think she has an outdated view of the marketplace, and has a series of misconceptions on how self-publishing and online bookselling actually work.

      I also agree that it’s perhaps not prudent for any writer to say that they would never self-publish, for the very reasons you outline. It’s akin to saying “I would never publish with Penguin or Random House” and reduces your leverage in any deal negotiation. However, in Ms. Picoult’s case, given her track record of phenomenal sales, she would likely have every publisher that could afford her chasing her signature, should she choose to switch publishers.

      • C. R. Reaves says:

        Ah – sorry! I didn’t mean to imply I thought you were indicating animosity towards her. More, I was reflecting on the spitting quality I’ve seen from commenters on the issue around the internet. And I have to agree – her comments don’t seem to have that sort of flavor either. My mental reading of her “tone” is more the exasperated auntie.

        As for her track record… Stars can eventually fade. And being a star doesn’t mean you can’t be offered a deal designed to take advantage of you.

  53. sfgray says:

    A perfect response to Ms. Picoult’s… well, let’s go with “misguided” sense of the realities of writer-publishing. I’ve spent a fair bit of time as a screenwriter, where a similar attitude is prevalent among a lot of writers. Looking at how much film and television is crap, these screenwriters (especially new screenwriters) adopt the attitude that they don’t need to do great work; they just need to do slightly better than the crap everybody else is writing. It’s a different problem and a totally different marketplace, but the bottom line seems to be the same for me: writers focusing on crap as the benchmark against which they’ll succeed or fail.

    Writers like Picoult need to stop obsessing (and especially need to stop telling other writers to obsess) about the people writing crap, because those people aren’t the competition. The best writers are our competition, and only by continually striving to do our best writing can we hope to stay in the game with them.

  54. A Storm Hits Valparaiso is at #154,310 Paid in the US Kindle Store. In the UK its #75,300. Perhaps if there was less crap around you’d be higher up the charts? Just a thought….

    • In the last month it has been as high as #3,000 and as low as #200,000 – the amount of crap has little to do with it. As I said above:

      “The reason it hasn’t done better has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of crap books out there. Rather, it faces competition for the spotlight from some very good books indeed. If all the crap historical novels disappeared tomorrow, my sales would be unaffected. However, if a decent chunk of the good historical novels disappeared, I would benefit from increased visibility on genre bestseller lists (etc.) and my sales would rise.”

      In short, if there was less crap around it would do little to effect my chart placement. However, if there were less good books around, then I would be higher up the charts.

      Readers aren’t choosing crap books over my book, they are choosing other good books.

      • Neil says:

        David,

        Correct. Who even sees the crap?
        Does crap show up on the recommended filter? Nope
        Do friends recommend crap? Nope.
        I simply do not understand why traditionally published authors keep bringing out the Tsunami of crap argument. Perhaps they do not read? ;)

        Neil

  55. Dan Holloway says:

    I’m a huge admirer of Jodi Picoult’s outspokenness on the subject of sexism in publishing where I think she’s bang on the money. I think she’s way off the mark here but I don’t think you help, David, by utilising the “self-published crap doesn’t rise” argument which, certainly in my experience, isn’t the case. There are many in the self-publishing community who use tactics from gifting to collective buying to collective positive reviewing to ensure their books rise and feed into Amazon’s algorithms. Which doesn’t mean that all – or even any – of those books are crap. It just means that their appearance in charts and recommend lists isn’t a function of their quality one way or the other. We need to be very careful when repudiating wrong arguments like Jodi’s that we don’t employ dodgy logic in doing so otherwise we may give the erroneous impression by default that their arguments are better than they are.

    • Hi Dan. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. Amazon is quite watchful of any attempt to game the system. While the tactics you describe could give a crap book *temporary* visibility, it simply won’t work in the long run.

      To take your example of collective buying, while this can give an artificial, temporary boost to a book’s ranking, Amazon’s algorithm is specifically designed *not* to reward one-off sales spikes such as this. Book that rise suspiciously quickly from nowhere, will return very fast into the primordial ranking soup. Whatever visibility is gained is extremely short-lived.

      Amazon is also extremely vigilant on false reviews, review trading, sock-puppet accounts, or purchased reviews. Anyone that employs such tactics is in danger of punishment ranging from the reviews being stripped to the book being unpublished and their account being suspended (and any payments withheld). In fact, there was one very high profile case recently where an author’s book was pulled from Amazon for such behavior, and it hasn’t been on sale since.

      I don’t think either example contravenes my argument. While these tactics may allow a crap book to rise briefly, and gain visibility briefly, they simply don’t work for anything other than a temporary burst.

      • David,

        I completely agree with what you are saying here. Readers decide about books. “All of them” regardless, if they are traditionally published or self-published. That’s it. Readers. And, as you say, Amazon keeps a vigilant view on all of this.

        As to the link to Michael J. Sullivan’s blog post below. Thank you, Tyler Wills. The first time I read it (months ago), I almost cried because it has been hard, it has seemed impossible, but I know I’ve come across those grains of sand, one at a time, and I feel beholden to building that beach. Thanks for the lovely reminder.

    • Dan says, “There are many in the self-publishing community who use tactics from gifting to collective buying to collective positive reviewing to ensure their books rise and feed into Amazon’s algorithms.”

      If self-published authors may do this, then traditional publishers may buy five-star reviews too. Self-published authors are not the only ones competing for attention from readers. Last year, more than 300,000 new titles were released by traditional publishers with more money to buy five-star reviews if this is a common practice. In the end, all of this manipulation may just cancel each other out until someone with the most money to buy five-star reviews and manipulate the Amazon algorithm comes out on top causing this to become a very expensive tactic that may fail since Amazon may do what Google does and change the algorithm to throw such practices off.

      In fact, last year when Amy Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was all the rage, many in the one-star camp that hated her book accused the publisher of buying many of the five-star reviews but they had no proof. They also accused the publisher of bribing Amazon to remove many of the one-star reviews when in fact, Amazon, from what I understand, was only removing the one star reviews that had not bought the book through Amazon.

      In addition, traditional publishers gift books though Amazon Vine to gain reviews. However, there is no guarantee that a gifted book will result in a positive review. I am an Amazon Vine reviewer and I assure you that I write my own opinion of the books I review that came to me free from traditional publishers through the Amazon Vine program, and as far as I know, Amazon Vine is not open to self-published authors.

      If it was, how many self-published authors have the money to pay for and gift dozens or hundreds of free copies (which are not free since someone has to pay) to gain an Amazon Vine review that may end up being a one-star review?

  56. Lots of good posts here, responses to David’s excellent analysis. My own feelings are summarized in a post I wrote at my website, http://www.robertbucchianeri.com/ under This Much Ass KIssing Can’t Be Good For You.

  57. Tyler Wills says:

    Hi David,

    Well done for your sharp and topical insight, as usual. Also for your help to others.

    Thought you and your fellow fans may be interested in this excellent piece by author Michael J. Sullivan which touches on the topic in some ways and which I found enlightening to say the least – http://riyria.blogspot.com/2011/09/sandy-beach-is-no-vacation.html

  58. “self-publishing is more prudent as you will get your novel out now, rather than in a year or two (or longer, factoring in the time to find an agent, go on submission, and land a deal)”

    Tonight I opened a Kindle publishing account and published three books.
    The whole process took me fewer than 1.5 hours. The books will be up for sale worldwide within 48 hours.

  59. Talking of quality, self-published authors will remember the days when legacy publishers would warn bookstores not to accept books printed on 80gsm bond paper because it was a dead give-away it was self-published and hence inferior. Now 80gsm bond is of much higher quality than the cheap paper the legacy publishers used for most of their books. 80gsm bond provides more pleasant reading because of better print resolution (or less ink dispersal). It is now the standard of POD, the greatest advance in hard copy publishing over the past 50 years. Yet, the remarkable duplicity of publishers turned a positive into a negative.

  60. I would agree – 100%

  61. Melissa says:

    I would love to see Jodi have a discussion with Joe and Barry. That would be great!

  62. Elisa Nuckle says:

    Reblogged this on Elisa Nuckle.

  63. davidmcgowan says:

    Well done to Jodi Picoult. She got noticed for some well written novels. But I’ve read most of her stuff, and I’ve got to say you can normally figure out the ‘twist’ from about page 50. Sorry to sound bitter, but it’s just another best selling author who only has to write a book for it to sell millions. Her novels don’t have to be that good any more to effect amazing sales. Why? Because she has the night of marketing behind her. I, and the rest of the self-publishing world, do not. So I’m relying on hard work and certainly a lot more time and effort doing the things she doesn’t have to do.

    I’m quite offended by her attitude actually. Not, go get em. Oh no. More like she’s telling us not to bother. So knows, she might lose one book sale. Yawn, Picoult. Yawn.

  64. Tyler Wills says:

    Hope you got that scumbag Book on Demand problem sorted. Should be a way of putting these Pirates where they belong – permanently out of business.

  65. True, David, that Amazon closely monitors attempts to game the system, and they are aided and abetted by the Reader Forums, where self-appointed Neighborhood Watch vigilantes patrol the boundaries, but that does not mean that there is no gaming nor that gaming does not pay off. I know of instances where authors bought paid-for 5-star reviews by the bucketful, sending their books into the Top 100s. And once you are in those upper levels, unless you are creating crap, you tend to stay.

    As for Jodi Picoult’s admonission, I would say that if you can get an agent and a big-six contract, definitely do it rather than self-publish; if not, give sel-publishing or micro-press a shot. I doubt if there are many indie writers who would sneer at a seven-figure advance from a trad house–or even a six-figure or five-figure advance from a smaller press.

    I took the indie route after spending years getting nowhere with agents. In two years I’ve sold thousands of books under my pen name, Lior Samson, and most of them make it into the top 5-10% on Amazon and stay there, so at least I’ve been confirmed by the reading public. Still, at this rate, it would take me several lifetimes to match one of those advances.

    In their heart-of-hearts, nearly all indie writers dream of being “discovered” and breaking out of the self-publishing ghetto.

  66. case20 says:

    Reblogged this on Case20's Blog and commented:
    This is very good information about publishing/republishing books.

  67. Your blog always brings me back down to earth, David. Lately I’ve been getting overwhelmed by all the information out there about what you should do to promote yourself, what you shouldn’t do, when you should do it, etc etc etc. But at the end of the day, it’s still word-of-mouth that will separate the wheat from the chaff. All we can do as writers is ensure we have written something worth talking about.

  68. jennymilch says:

    I actually heard Jodi Picoult talk about this at a recent reading and it speaks to the idea that editing can really skew how a statement comes across. She didn’t sound dinosaur-like at all: merely cautious and waiting. It’s also important to understand that writers come at this question from different areas of experience–Jodi has done as well as it’s possible to do on the traditional side of things, and is well aware of the value publishers offer.

    That said, I do some teaching and speaking about the three paths to publication (major house, small press, and self) and believe they all have merits. And yes, the crowd-sourcing element of letting cream rise to the digital top of Amazon is an excellent way of identifying good content. Entering the field by self-publishing without having to devote the three or seven or fifteen years, traditional publishing can take clearly has its advantages. But there are two caveats, which any writer pondering his or her path should be aware of:

    1) Much as Jeff B. might like us to believe otherwise, Amazon isn’t the be all and end all. There are still many arenas where it’s hard if not impossible to sell the self-published book and some authors might like to have access to them (bookstores, libraries, airports, supermarkets and Big Box stores, as just some examples). This may change in future–if so, it will require an institutionalized content filtration system. And the challenge will be to make that different from simply reinventing the current gate-keeping wheel.

    But the second point is a more subtle one, and I hear it just beginning to be discussed in different threads.

    2) Maybe the time lag between wanting to publish and getting published is a good thing–for the writer. I know that I personally would not have suffered through as many revisions–and drawer novels–if I hadn’t been forced to by the traditional system–and my work would have been the worse for it. In retrospect, I needed almost every single one of the 11 years it took me to sell a novel. What will happen to the quality of writing if the writer can publish swiftly and unimpeded? Will the digital marketplace become the drawer for those novels that really shouldn’t be published? Sure, a self-published writer can make sure that s/he edits and revises–a few times. But no one’s going to spend tens of thousands of dollars (I don’t think) on multiple rounds of editing for multiple books if they don’t have to. And yet–their work might be better for it. Perhaps the system that’s in place–imperfect as it is, and often missing of work that will go on to be popular, as the Amanda Hocking example proves–has its merits in helping (or forcing) the writer to write, rewrite, and write again. And will a quality chasm open up between traditional and indie-published work if the temptation to earn money right away–and to be read–is dangled so loosely?

    All of this is what I believe Jodi Picoult was getting at in the short amount of time afforded an interview.

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Jenny – Nice to see/hear a calm voice in the middle of the storm. I think you make valid points. Your second point is especially telling for those writers who still hope to excel at the craft of writing regardless of the publishing choice they make.

      I think the frustration of many writers who have tried the traditional route, been rebuffed, and gone back to improve their manuscripts(s) stems from the fact that the industry, as it is currently configured, creates the environment of improvement you mention almost by accident. Certainly, there are agents and editors who tell would-be novelists to go back to the drawing board with the intention of getting them to become better writers, but I know my feeling has been that for every one of those industry professionals who cared about writing, there were 10 who were more clueless than I was. Or, they cared little for the craft and were bean counters looking for a sale.

      The field is in flux. We’re going to need a system, a group, or a new entity to help separate the good the bad from the ugly (I don’t believe readers alone–while critical to the process–are the be-all in matters of taste). But that entity can’t be Big Publishing any more…they’ve relinquished the privilege of being our guides and mentors.

      While an interview isn’t the most robust platform for talking about this issue, Picoult could’ve at least given a nod to the fact that the world is changing; Amazon might not be the perfect venue for finding the best literature, but neither is Big Publishing any more.

      • jennymilch says:

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Matt (and thanks for finding me on other platforms :) I agree–the Big 6 are imperfect. I was probably lucky in that I found agents who were willing to school me as I languished unpublished, and even in the rejections I got there was content that I could use to get my writing where I needed it to go. I know this doesn’t always happen, and I know that good books are missed. I will probably not be one of the outside-the-box thinkers that figures out a replacement system–just not my skill set. But I’ll be interested, nay, fascinated, to see what it is.

        I just don’t want babies to be thrown out with bath water. I think that the majors, when they work, can do an utterly spectactular job. Jodi Picoult’s career being one example.

        I’m moderating a panel on this topic next month in NJ if anyone is nearby and might like to come: http://www.watchungbooksellers.com/writing-matters

    • I would like to address your two concerns, Jenny.
      1) Access to the quickly-becoming-niche physical bookstores. I think the trend for those stores (including libraries ) will be to have POD production facilities on site which means self-publishers will have similar means of access as heritage publishers.
      I think most writers will be happy to have their books in libraries and physical stores in their own communities and many of us are achieving that right now.
      2. Your second point is really just another version of the “erosion of quality” argument which I think David has effectively debunked. Authors learn their trade by being published and improving their skills.
      The way I see it self-pubs are encouraged to spend money on editing and covers when they have some limited success with their early books. From the beginning most devote plenty of time to writing and re-wrtiting. I have yet to meet any indie who sees self-publishing as a quick-money business.
      The traditional/ indie chasm of quality you speak of is actually being narrowed. The gap between and indie/ trad first novel is at its largest and will be reduced on 2nd and 3rd novels.
      And of course we know it is not all quality-first at trad houses.The hastily edited novel which publishers will trade on the best-selling author’s name is proof of that.
      The time to publish is when you believe the book is ready. Indie or trad, you will never know whether you are right until it is the cold dark of print.

      • jennymilch says:

        I appreciate your taking the time to reply, Bernie. You make some good points, though I differ with some.

        First, I don’t think that physical bookstores becoming a niche market is a fait accompli. In fact, there’s some evidence that they may experience the opposite, an upward trend in growth, or a resurgence. This may not happen for those modeled on the Big Box economy of scale (which simply may not work for books and never should’ve been implemented), but it seems to be occuring on the independent front. Having one’s work distributed nationally (or even internationally–I forgot to mention foreign publishers, not foreign countries buying English-language books, but deals made with 20, 30, or 40 foreign houses) as something a traditional publisher can also grant) can be a huge bonus, provided a book has such potential wide appeal.

        In terms of your feeling that being published and read is the best way for work to be honed and reach greater heights…I’m not sure what I think of that. Am I understanding you correctly, that you’re saying the first one or two pubbed books may be lesser, but as the writer hears from readers, or simply grows as an author, his or her work will improve? It’s a very interesting take, that that process could take place published versus trying-to-get published.

        My initial feeling is that it shouldn’t–that the first work released should be as absolutely high quality as a writer can make it, arguably the best book of a career in some ways, given all the time put in (afterwards an author may be on a book-a-year or more compressed schedule). But I could be wrong about that.

        In terms of the Big 6 releasing lesser quality works, of course that happens, especially in the case of the celebrity or big news story book, or an author who’s a proven entity. Overall, I would say truly great books are rare–on any front.

        But I do happily host many indie authors on my blog, and in looking through some of the work out there–not the authors I feature, of course–I can say that there are books that needed to go another dozen rounds and writers who need to learn very basic craft skills, and that doesn’t really happen with a traditional release.

      • Jenny, of course, every writer worthy of the name wants the first work to be the best possible, but the truth is that debut works are rarely up to what follows, at least for career writers as opposed to one-work-wonders. It took Dan Brown three to learn on before hitting it big with Da Vinci Code (and I am not holding him up as a literary giant, just a successful author of genre fiction). Digital Fortress, his first out of the gate, is markedly more amateurish than his fourth. Even if you do take ten years to revise, rework, and refine your first baby, you need not stop learning and growing as a writer.

        Occasionally the reverse happens, and a first work is never matched or exceeded, particularly when it makes a big splash and catapults an author into fame and fortune. More often, writers grow and mature in public view and their progress is marked in their published milestones. Most of the well-established writers I know look back at their first books and–if the do not outright cringe–at least acknowledge that they could do a better job of it now.

        –Larry Constantine (Lior Samson)

      • Jenny, I think we agree on a lot of points about the trad/indie divide. But perhaps I did not make myself clear about the narrowing gap. As you say, first novels from trad houses should be good because of the onerous selection process and diligent editing. For most indies, I don’t believe spending thousands of dollars (not tends of thousands, thanks to the GFC) on editing makes sense. Most authors will not have the talent they think they have.
        But the talented and obstinate self-pubs will start to spend more on professional editing for their second and third novels. Hence the gap narrows.
        My other point about the value of publishing is that a product is different in different media. A product is different as words on a screen, words in a manuscript and words in a book.
        Words in a book are what the game is all about. Authors improve their craft of producing words in a book by analysing their product in that format.(Of course reader and critical feedback is most helpful, too.)
        I would advise indie writers with the means to spend as little as $500 on having a short-run publisher in their local area produce a small number of print books before they ePublish or POD publish. (We have one in our area who produces books of top quality)
        I like your notion of a first book being good because of the long gestation period (and we might add the ideas would have been gestating over a decade or more before the decision to start writing).
        But it is the developing skill after publication which hones the talent to produce a professional writer.
        It is all an interesting debate, most fruitful when conducted in a convivial spirit.

    • Jenny, it’s good to read your calm and balanced voice here. In light of your blog about “made it moments,” I think that one of the questions new writers must consider is how they want to spend their 7-10 years of apprenticeship and scrambling up the steep slope to success. Do they want to spend it in the quiet obscurity of the publishing slush pile, a depressing world of revisions, rewrites, and rejection slips? Or would they rather be selling a slow stream of books as they struggle to rise above the depressing trash pile of a million self-published Kindle books? Neither route is short or easy, and both require learning your craft. For those writers who will reach their “made-it” moment–and that will always be a small fraction of the published pool–I suspect it averages out to pretty much the same decade or so of rising into notice.

      A question that remains is whether choosing the self-published route has a long-term price, either in the premature publication of substandard work or in the stigma that still attaches to self-publication. Jumping into print in the mosh-pit of self-publishing does not mean that work is unpolished. Some of us indies are as thorough and professional as those on the NYT list, which is not to say our books are perfect at publication any more than those from the Big Six. But we try.

      I think the choices may be different for younger writers than for those of us a generation or two older. Some of us have already served our apprenticeships and learned the craft through many decades of writing and editing. Some of us no longer have the luxury of spending another decade getting an agent and years waiting for a sale to a mainstream publishing house and more years climbing the charts. It’s go for broke now or just let the manuscripts molder, interred along with us, an unread legacy.

      –Larry Constantine (Lior Samson)

      • “I think that one of the questions new writers must consider is how they want to spend their 7-10 years of apprenticeship and scrambling up the steep slope to success. Do they want to spend it in the quiet obscurity of the publishing slush pile, a depressing world of revisions, rewrites, and rejection slips? Or would they rather be selling a slow stream of books as they struggle to rise above the depressing trash pile of a million self-published Kindle books? Neither route is short or easy, and both require learning your craft.”

        Absolutely dead on, Larry.

      • Matthew Iden says:

        Nicely said, Larry.

      • jennymilch says:

        Larry, I think we just said almost the exact same thing (I hope I said it almost as well :) No wonder we are writing kindred spirits and keep finding each other out in cyber space.

  69. It’s clear that there’s polarization in the publishing world. I’m still baffled by the camp that says you must choose one or the other. The usual suspects (Konrath, Hocking, etc.) didn’t choose–they do both.

    And of course, people have *always* had trouble separating the “wheat” from the “chaff”–that’s why most books never sell well. She’s unwittingly supported a common criticism of traditional publishing–if a brick and mortar publisher (what is that, anyway) gives you “marketability” you can’t find with self-publishing, then why do nearly all books in bookstores end up not selling well?

    What would support her argument is proof that self-published books don’t sell as well as traditionally published ones. So far, that’s not true.

  70. Paula Z says:

    This is so long that I didn’t read ALL the comments, but have something to say.

    Jodi Picoult said to not self-publish NOW. If the market keeps evolving, she says yes to self-publishing. Don’t be haters because she is a successful writer. People are SO quick to jump on someone before getting ALL the facts, and sorry to say, you all sound pretty stupid to be taking a few sentences of an interview and trashing her.

    Try looking her up on Twitter to find out where she is coming from. She said if you choose to self-publish, then you better market the hell out of your work or your moment will be gone too soon. That doesn’t sound like someone who isn’t encouraging the success of other people.

    I’d choose a real book, on a real bookshelf, in a real bookstore or library any day over a self-published “I-book.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are successes to be had at self-publishing. Good for you if you are making a living on being self-published. Fantastic! Unless there’s a ton of word of mouth and headlines for a self-published book, I’ll stick to novels that come out the old fashioned way. I know there are some great self-published books out there that shine out some real books that suck.

    I do think it’s okay to have to wait for someone to approve of your writing skills. Our society is so “I” oriented now, that self-publishing is hardly a surprise. Jodi Picoult was rejected and had to wait and took her chance on someone who took the chance on her. Why is this bad? Her novels are amazing, and she has proved herself time and time again.

    Here’s my advice: go find something better to do with your time. Maybe write…? That is, if you want to end up being published. By someone besides yourself.

    Hmm… now that’s a concept.

    • I was going to go through your statement point-by-point and show the many inaccuracies contain therein. However, considering you haven’t bothered to read the discussion here, and have just barged in and cut-and-paste a response – which you then cut-and-paste on the blog of Passive Guy two seconds later (under a completely different discussion raising totally separate issues) – that shows me that you aren’t going to read my response anyway.

      In short, I’ll treat your comments with the same contempt as you have treated the commenters here, and, indeed, my time.

      • Paula Z says:

        Don’t you just love the internet! You can show inaccuracies, barge in anywhere, at any time after cutting and pasting, waste people’s time, AND get published!

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Why stick with facts, logic, and reasoned argument when rabid devotion and sarcasm wiill do, right Paula? It just takes so LONG to read things and try to understand an issue…so much easier to just lay your opinion out there without engaging in the conversation.

      • I could point out (among other things) that Jodi Picoult sells these “fake” e-books on Amazon, and that I sell “real” books in “real” bookstores, but there is no point feeding the troll.

    • Paula,

      Go back a century or so and most authors were paying to publish their work. In fact, I’ve read that Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain among many others self-published.

      Then the market changed where publishers started to pay authors to publish the work they liked and this compeition changed the way publshing was done.

      Now, we have come full circle back to where publishing once was. This is not an “I” oriented world. Instead of relying on the gatekeepers (agents and editors with individual opinions of what works and most of their choices don’t since the average traditionally published book seels about 250 copies it its life), authors today are taking their work to the readers to decide what survives.

      You may want to visit the following sites to see the real facts:

      http://www.simonteakettle.com/famousauthors.htm

      http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=211703

  71. wo3lf says:

    John Locke nailed it when he said, “By ridiculing and publicly shaming self-published authors for daring to invest in their own talents and abilities, publishing houses were able to elevate themselves to god-like status.” Whatever anyone might think of John Locke, he was right with this statement. The stigma is still alive and a lot of people still think that you require a publisher’s approval before you can be called a writer or accept that you have talent.

    Yet, as with any business, a publisher’s decision to publish is based on whether the book will make money. They look at what is popular, what is marketable, etc (Snooki et al). Having talent and being able to write are only small parts of the equation for them. Look, it would be nice to have a company invest a couple of grand in your future. Who wouldn’t like it? I won’t deny that, but similarly, deciding to invest in your own talents and relying on your own resources shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. In fact, it is damn brave. In my opinion, of course.

  72. Pingback: Indie Friday: Self-Publishing - It’s The American Way | The Art & Craft of Writing Creatively

  73. Sarah Anderson says:

    The word “crap” is relative. What is crap to one person isn’t crap to another, and I disagree that crap books are invisible. There is self-published crap, and there is pro-published crap, and there’s even crap amongst the bestsellers. I’ll argue that there’s even a market for crap. So if someone writes crap, can market crap, and finds readers for their crap…good for them.

    • Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but I don’t think Jodi Picoult meant crap in that subjective, individual sense. I think she meant “books that are generally considered to be crap” rather than “a book that one person finds crap.”

  74. Hi David,

    I actually just blogged about self-publishing tonight! Up until about two years ago, I worked for a self publisher. I saw books that ran the entire spectrum–from the “crap” that was crap in every sense of the word, to beautifully crafted, well written books that I continue to treasure on my book shelf. I have read self published books that have made me cry, that have introduced me to new cultures and new ideas; everything. Along those same lines, I have read traditionally published books, from big houses, that have been dull, uninspired, poorly written, and poorly edited.

    I think that some authors have an “elitist” attitude towards self-publishing; i.e. those who think if you aren’t picked up by a major house, your writing doesn’t deserve to be published. It’s a pretty unfortunate stance to have, since there are so many excellent writers out there just waiting for their break. Publishing sometimes seems like Russian roulette. Success stories like yours give me hope and encouragement!

    Best wishes and happy writing!

  75. Pingback: Blog Treasures 4~14 | Gene Lempp's Blog

  76. Pingback: This Week in Writing and Publishing 15th April 2012 | A Writer's Quest

  77. An excellent post and some very informative views on self publishing. I hadn’t actually considered your argument before: that it isn’t the number of ‘crap’ books that limit the success of individual e-books, but the number of ‘good’ books. However, it makes perfect sense. In my experience of buying e-books on Amazon, I’ve only bought one that I would consider shockingly dire. I read the first few pages and gave up, but I bought it because I’d been chatting to the author on Twitter and they seemed nice. Since then, I’ve always downloaded the sample first. Lesson learnt! Why not try before you buy when you have the option with every single e-book?

    There’s another flaw with Piccoult’s argument, however. “Crap” is subjective. Bad prose aside, different people like different things. I personally can’t see how Piccoult’s books have become so successful. They aren’t my thing at all, but clearly plenty of people do. That’s the problem with traditional publishing. If your work isn’t to the taste of the “gate keepers”, you won’t get traditionally published. However that doesn’t mean that there won’t be people out there who will enjoy your work. That said, I’m still well and truly on the fence about which publishing direction I want to take!

  78. dawn says:

    well I only found this blog because you followed me on twitter so I came to check out who this writer is that’s following me. So far I’m really enjoying reading your well written articles. I am still an emerging writer with mixed feelings about the concept of self publishing, but your blog may just change my mind!

  79. Reblogged this on Divorce Lawyer Las Vegas and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  80. I found this article very interesting. 1. There are many self-published books out there that are just fantastic (I review books for an established book review site). 2. There are many trad published books out there that are a load of garbage. I think authors who have agents and publishers should be grateful for their good fortune. Regarding Jodi Picoult – I have never read her books because the topics do not appeal to me. However, despite the fact that she is a best-selling author I do feel that pride comes before a fall. We can all fall. I visted my local library recently and one woman said to another, “Ooh, there’s a new Jodi Picoult.” To which her friend replied, “Oh, don’t bother. All her books are the same now.” Ouch. Moral of the story – count your blessings whatever category you fall into and make sure your writing is fresh and original (and edited!)!

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Nice comment, Fiona. I like where you’re coming from.

      Much indie anger is directed at Picout because her comments boiled down to “don’t self-publish, there’s a lot of crap out there”…with the implication that your writing is probably crap, too. Her comments would’ve been so much more well-received if she’d said something about the neeed to put in the Gladwellian 10,000 hours, or 7-10 years of apprenticeship, or taking the care in editing and creativity that’s required for a well-crafted novel.

      Instead, she made a mistake in identifying and linking the lack of professionalism with a category of *writing* rather than where it belongs, with a category of *writer*. This is why anyone–trad, small press, indie–can write a beautiful novel and anyone can write tripe. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from if you don’t care.

  81. RE: Why stick with facts, logic, and reasoned argument when rabid devotion and sarcasm wiill do, right Paula? It just takes so LONG to read things and try to understand an issue…so much easier to just lay your opinion out there without engaging in the conversation…

    Here are several facts: Jodi Picoult is a bestselling author. She writes books that get published. She voiced an opinion about self-publishing. Logic tells me she might know what she’s talking about.

    Now, a lot of you have taken what she said and are going overboard with your negativity. Like I stated earlier, she said there are problems with self-publishing currently that keeps it from being a positive thing for everyone.

    Rabid devotion? No. Respect for a bestselling author and the willingness to check out why she says what she says? Yes.

  82. RE: Why stick with facts, logic, and reasoned argument when rabid devotion and sarcasm wiill do, right Paula? It just takes so LONG to read things and try to understand an issue…so much easier to just lay your opinion out there without engaging in the conversation…

    Here are several facts: Jodi Picoult is a bestselling author. She writes books that get published. She voiced an opinion about self-publishing. Logic tells me she might know what she’s talking about.

    Now, a lot of you have taken what she said and are going overboard with your negativity. Like I stated earlier, she said there are problems with self-publishing currently that keeps it from being a positive thing for everyone.

    Rabid devotion? No. Respect for a bestselling author and the willingness to check out why she says what she says? Yes.

    • Tom Simon says:

      Here are some other facts: Jodi Picoult has no experience in self-publishing and very little knowledge of it. Her information on how to break into publishing is years out of date, which, in a rapidly changing industry, makes her entirely unqualified to pontificate on the subject to writers who are trying to break in today. The fact that she does not perceive her lack of qualifications, and pontificates anyway, makes it impossible to respect her remarks on this subject.

      Respect, Ms. Zahniser, is not a blank cheque. It must be earned and can be unearned. And respect for a person’s achievements in one area does not mean that the same person must be respected for ill-informed blather outside her area of expertise.

      • Wow, Tom. Just wow.

        (Note to self: Stan, never tangle with Mr. Simon. He carries a big bat and will flat work you over.)

      • Paula says:

        Well, it sounds like you are the expert and have inside information on what Jodi knows and doesn’t know! Wow!

        Good luck writing, and stay positive!

  83. I found something interesting today. Jodi Picoult self-published a non-fiction short in January 2011, via her literary agency: http://www.amazon.com/Leaving-Home-Pieces-Kindle-ebook/dp/B004J173VU/ref=amb_link_86115951_1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=right-10&pf_rd_r=0NWRG9DFMPJF93NNMVP2&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1290853802&pf_rd_i=1284007011

    Which is quite funny, given the above. It appears that it was picked up by Kindle Singles at some point, but the publisher is listed as “Laura Gross Literary Agency.”

    In her defense, she she didn’t say *she* shouldn’t self publish, just that aspiring writers shouldn’t. Highly amusing all the same.

  84. Pingback: eBooks: An Adventure in Self-Publishing, Part IV | grayarmybrat.com

  85. Pingback: Writing Kindle Ebooks: Competing With Crap | Angela Booth's Fab Freelance Writing Blog: Make Money Writing

  86. Ruby Barnes says:

    I’m always late to any party and it’s most all been said about JP’s interview. What I would add is I believe you can have your cake and eat it. My wife was at a reading a few months ago in Kilkenny and the mainstream published author invited questions, to which wifey said she had a friend who was self-published and asked if that queered the friend’s pitch for approaching agents and publishers. The author said yes, self-publishing was for hobbyists, amateurs and was mere vanity, and added a suggestion that the ‘friend’ in question was in fact my wife (btw it was me:-). My then indignant wife (who paid for my several years of writing school) then pointed out said friend had shifted several thousand copies of self-published books. The guest author’s husband then barged in from the sideline. He, as an agent, found that very interesting and suggested that any future agent or publisher submissions should detail the self-publishing success as it indicated established readership, marketing intitative and likely good content.
    I personally no longer have a hankering for the validation of a mainstream publisher. What I do yearn for is the level of exposure that a publisher might achieve for an ebook by getting the new release onto the Zon’s genre mailouts wtc. David, your intended leg up onto the top 100 via mail list is certainly a good tactic, and the same one advocated and successfully employed by John Locke, but there’s nothing quite like exposure to get into the limelight. I think you are doing yourself down with the statement that the books above yours in the charts are better than your own. They just have more exposure.

  87. I’m not even self-published, but I took to heart dozens of tricks and suggestions from Konrath on how to promote and market an e-book. My publisher even read Joe’s blog and numerous articles. We came to the same conclusion–go free trials often, get more material up at Amazon (in my case prequel, tie-in shorts), and stagger or alternate the price to find the sweet spot. Dear God. Planet Janitor took off like a rocket and I’ve been enjoying good ranks and sales ever since.

  88. Pingback: Jodi Picoult and the Myth of the Segregated Marketplace (via @davidgaughran) | Literarium – The Blog

  89. Pingback: Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran | 50 Year Project

  90. Leo Dimilo says:

    I’m a little late to the party on this one but it sounds like Jodi doesn’t understand the idea that self publishing can afford you all the luxuries of a brick and mortar publication IF you understand how to market yourself and your brand first.

    I have spoken with a lot of published authors that will tell you straight up that a $25 hard copy book sold is worth about $2 to the author. Pittance for someone who has bled on a page. That’s all I have to say about that.

  91. Leigh Moore says:

    Great post, David! I haven’t read any of Ms. Picoult’s books, but my husband read one. He didn’t consider her to be in the “wheat” group, if you know what I’m sayin. But he and I did agree with you in that it’s interesting how all these traditionally published authors are becoming so vocal about indies. Seems they’re worried about the competition.

    As a soon to be traditionally published author AND a soon to be self-published author, I worry about all those good books, too. Marketing is hard work no matter which team you’re on. Best to you~

  92. Nan Allen says:

    My problem with what she said is that the brick and mortar publishing houses do the marketing for you. That’s a line of bull. I have so many friends who are published (many times over) by these brick and mortar publishing houses who are setting up their own book signings, going to book fairs on their own, setting up classroom visits on their own, creating their own web sites and paying for it themselves, creating marketing tools like study guides or coloring pages, etc. The publishing house is probably not even aware that any of this is being done.

    And I love self publishing. I love the control I have and not having to share the book sales with anyone but the bookseller. It is a hard road to follow and not for everyone but I know many authors published traditionally who wish they were getting the $100 a month I get (with limited marketing) as a self publisher.

  93. Pingback: Just For You - Facebook Statistics

  94. This is exactly how I’ve felt about this argument of traditional vs self-publishing. 99% of the times that I’ve heard about a new book, it was from word of mouth. I generally don’t see advertisements or commercials for books. I don’t really hear about book signings (unless it’s an already popular author who I already happen to be following). So what exactly is this major publisher accomplishing, that a self-publisher can do on their own? Nothing.

  95. Pingback: Lazy Literary Agents In Self-Publishing Money Grab via Argo Navis | David Gaughran

  96. Pingback: Lazy Literary Agents In Self-Publishing Money Grab via Argo Navis | The Passive Voice | Writers, Writing, Self-Publishing, Disruptive Innovation and the Universe

  97. Pingback: Lazy Literary Agents In Self-Publishing Money Grab via Argo Navis | David Gaughran | Shangri-La

  98. Pingback: Astroturfing: The Source of Zombie Memes in Publishing? | David Gaughran

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s