A few years ago, I was in need of a new series to read, so I started poking around online and I came across Amanda Hocking’s Trylle trilogy. Each book was super cheap, I think only $.99, and I figured if they were no good, I was only out a couple bucks. So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a really great series. I tore through all three books in just a few days. This was when my foray into the world of self-published authors began. I’ve developed a strong interest in authors who choose to publish their own work since then, always on the lookout for new ones. Some were quite a let-down for me (sorry, Vampire Journals), and others, like the Trylle series, really won me over.
It’s pretty common knowledge that books are usually rejected many times before a publishing company snaps them up. Stephen King’s Carrie was shot down 30 times and Chicken Soup for the Soul was passed over more than 100 times. Twilight, which exploded into a multi-million dollar series with a pretty severe cult following was rejected 14 times before being purchased by Little, Brown, & Company for $750k (for three books) and becoming a best-seller. Even Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was turned away a dozen times before an 8 year old begged her dad to print it. The list goes on. Now, with the advent of online publishing services such as Lulu, Unbound, Smashwords, and CreateSpace, the ability to skip this process and publish one’s own work has become much simpler than in years past.
But this easier access to publishing services has its pros and cons. If an author chooses to self-edit rather than hand their work over to a pair of fresh (professional) editing eyes, a book could be, and has been, published with lots of typos, poor grammar, or awkward language (see my reviews for Portal and book 4 of the Fallen Star series). That’s not to say everyone should have perfect grammar; it would be completely unreasonable to think that. But without solid editing, these things can end up being incredibly distracting to a reader, thus potentially lowering sales. For example, I completely gave up on the Portal series by Imogen Rose and the Vampire Journals by Morgan Rice after reading the first books in part because of these things. Based on other reviews, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Of course this can’t be said for everyone; these books have plenty of positive reviews and are still going strong. The problem is, they’d likely be selling even more copies had there been better editing.
The upside to self-publishing is that it helps eliminate the need to submit to one publisher after another. The work is available to the masses directly from the author, usually very inexpensively, also allowing publishers to see the potential for a book should they choose to take it on. After Amanda Hocking was shot down multiple times, she finally chose to self-publish her Trylle series. The trilogy blew up, the movie rights have been optioned, and it has been purchased by St. Martin’s Press, along with her Watersong series.
Obviously this type of success is not typical. More often than not, a self-published author will not see financial success of this caliber. However, sites like Goodreads have become great venues for authors (self-published or not) to interact with readers. Through programs like Read it and Reap and Authors Requesting Reviews, authors offer up advanced or free copies of their books in exchange for honest reviews. They can also be accessed via websites like Shelf Awareness and through book blog tours. In just two days I’ve been able to request books directly from authors three times, something I would’ve never had such easy access to before. And in doing so, I’m discovering great authors (see my review of Michael Coorlim’s Grief: 5 Stories of Apocalyptic Loss). Advanced copies are nothing new, but the access to them is much easier than in years past.
When someone heads to a bookstore in search of a new book, they usually have something specific in mind. Steamy romance, young-adult paranormal, James Patterson, or Richelle Mead. It’s unlikely they’re concerned over whether St. Martin’s Press published it or not. With the ever-increasing popularity of eReaders and eReading apps, self-published books are even easier to distribute and purchase. Many are released exclusively in eBook format, eliminating the cost of printing for the author, which (I would imagine) helps allow them to keep the prices low.
Here is a link to a list of self-published YA authors (currently my favorite genre), and the popularity of them is evident in their ratings. Among the list are three of Amanda Hocking’s series, 2 of which still have yet to be brought on by larger companies, Flat Out Love by Jessica Park, and the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini, both of which have been purchased by publishing houses. A lot of talent makes up this list, so it’s definitely worth perusing. And with the exception of those that have been re-published by big publishing houses, are still pretty inexpensive to buy, so there’s not much to lose in giving one or two a try.
Here are some fun clickys if you’re looking for some more info on the hows and whys of self-publishing:
How I Became a Best-Selling Author (not me)
And if you’re interested in checking out some of the Indie authors out there, here’s are some lists of various genres to explore: