I want to spew my opinions on publishing into the ether, but I really hate doing that sort of thing without having some sort of personal experience. I am going to ignore the distaste this time, because I want to explain a decision I’ve recently made.
A Wizard’s Work: Shattered is the first novel that I will release to the world. It’s not the first novel I’ve written, but it’s the first piece of work I feel comfortable showing large numbers (well, larger than my circle of friends) of people.
If this were five years ago, or perhaps even two years ago, I would be sending it to publishers. Would it get rejected? Who knows. Probably. Every author takes their lumps initially. However, this isn’t five years ago, nor is it two years ago. It’s now, and the rules appear to have changed.
If I were to submit AWW:Shattered to publishers, the minimum time frame for it to be published would likely be eighteen months. This assumes that the first publisher read it loved it and accepted it within the first week. I suspect, however, the book would be out on submission for a year or more before finding a publisher, and then it would be another eighteen months after that before I could find it in my local book shop. Two and a half years before it starts making back the advance.
And what kind of advance would I get? Typical advances for first novels appear to be no more than $10,000 with an average of $5,000.
$5,000 spread across 30 months is $166 a month, and the chances that I’d make back that advance are small. It’s likely the advance money is all I’d ever see.
But since this is now, and not two years ago, I have the option of publishing it myself via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords in electronic formats. At $4.99, I’d only have to sell 48 copies a month to make that $5000 advance over the two and a half years of submitting and waiting. And, I’d have the first part of the money a year earlier than I would if I found a publisher after a year of submitting.
Now, here’s the best part. Let’s assume the likely scenario that AWW:Shattered never finds a publisher at all. Then, I’m a year or two down the road, and would have no money in my pocket.
If, in the worst case I’ve seen, I self publish AWW:Shattered and get only 10 sales per month over that same two years. I’d have an extra $838 in my pocket.
Keep in mind, I’m only talking about one book here. If I write a second and a third, and each one totally sucks and I sell no more than ten copies a month of any of them, I’m still money ahead over submitting to a publisher. If your sales are that low over a period of two years, you can pretty much guarantee a publisher wouldn’t have picked it up anyway.
One other consideration to keep in mind. The publishing industry is in a challenging period and is changing rapidly. The chances that one of the major book chains will fail in the period before AWW:Shattered could get published is high. The chances that the publisher might fail is not particularly low. There will be some publisher failures in the next couple of years. Do I want to have my book in the middle of that?
I can see little downside and a huge potential upside to publishing it myself. Besides, I enjoy the whole indie thing.