Is signing with a mainstream publisher now a ‘mistake’?

coldkissI suppose it was inevitable. As self-e-publishing has drawn more and more attention, with relatively major-name authors deciding to forego pro-publishing and go it alone, and over 1/4 of the Amazon Top 100 list being made up of such books, now signs of an anti-pro-publishing “backlash” have popped up. Blogger switch11 at iReaderReview points out the “mistake” one popular self-publishing author made when he decided to sign up with Macmillan.

There’s no other way to put it – Signing a book deal was a huge mistake. John Rector could have been a Top 100 Kindle Store Author. He could have had multiple books in the Top 100.

Instead, his very good books (as is clear from the reviews) are stuck at #12,726 and #26,038. If you’re an artist, people appreciating your art is worth a lot more than Publishers giving you the ‘stamp’ of Publisher-approved author.

Signing with a major publisher, switch11 explains, is “[moving] away from focusing on readers”, and authors who do it “[turn] their backs on the opportunity to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a month as ‘for the people’ indie authors.” This entry also includes the line “Readers are very smart and aware of reality.” (Now some bloggers, on the other hand…)

On a crime fiction blog, “Do Some Damage,” Steve Weddle takes a delightfully sarcastic look at this proposition, pointing out that publishing with a publisher does have its compensations.

As I understand it, when you sign with Macmillan or Penguin or FSG to print your book, one of the things they do, and I’m no expert here, but one of the things they do is that they, under most circumstances, print your book. Which means people sell them in stores. And, again, I’m not an expert in anything but mediocre whiskey and quantum mechanics, this means that those sales do not count in your Kindle sales.

So it seems odd to me to judge an author by Kindle sales when that author’s books are available a thousand other places. Rector’s books are available in print and he’s selling fewer Kindle copies. Seems to me like that is sorta how it’s supposed to happen.

I would also point out the assumption on switch11’s part that self-publishing a book means you will necessarily “earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a month” either. The vast majority of self-e-publishers barely scrape by, if that. And besides, one well-known self-publishing author just signed a seven-figure book deal—so if John Rector made a mistake, he’s in good company.

About Chris Meadows (4158 Articles)
TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows has been writing for us--except for a brief interruption--since 2006. Son of two librarians, he has worked on a third-party help line for Best Buy and holds degrees in computer science and communications. He clearly personifies TeleRead's motto: "For geeks who love books--and book-lovers who love gadgets." Chris lives in Indianapolis and is active in the gamer community.

2 Comments on Is signing with a mainstream publisher now a ‘mistake’?

  1. Note that J.A. Konrath has already been pushing “yes, it’s a mistake” as the answer to this exact question, with very few qualifiers. (The established author who notoriously took him up on this made a somewhat more balanced case for his choice).

  2. Common Sense // April 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm //

    Well, John Rector’s book The Cold Kiss isn’t doing very well as a paperback either:

    #329,519 in Books

    You can’t tell me that a book with that rank at Amazon is in the rack at my grocery store either, only the top bestsellers are there, along with the Harlequins.

    Perhaps indie authors would do better to keep ebook rights for themselves and negotiate just a print contract. Or at least leave their original indie books at indie prices. Noting is more irritating to see than an indie book that readers made popular at $2.99 sell at $7.99 after the author made a deal with a publisher. I don’t even look at books at that price anymore, they languish on my price drop list instead.

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