Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Smoke & Mirrors ~~ How is Success Measured In Publishing?


If you use the Top Tags widget (down a bit in the left side-bar) you’ll notice I have 99 posts on Self-publishing and only 21 posts on Traditional publishing

Of course, I do usually make reference to each in the other’s posts, but there are times when I just can’t tag a post as mostly about Traditional Publishing.

Sure, I have a bias, as do many (if not most) traditionally published authors, against the lack of care the traditional houses show for the original creator of the material—the writer

It also appears that comparisons between the monetary success for each kind of publishing are skewed.

I covered a different perspective on this issue in the past post, What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

That post was about how many books writers sell.

Here’s a quote from it that bears on the skewing in today’s post:

“If failures becomes invisible, then naturally you will pay more attention to successes. Not only do you fail to recognize that what is missing might have held important information, you fail to recognize that there is missing information at all.

“You must remind yourself that when you start to pick apart winners and losers, successes and failures, the living and dead, that by paying attention to one side of that equation you are always neglecting the other.”

So, more to the point, an article from Jane Friedman’s blog, Writing on the Ether: Where Publishing Surveys Cannot Go, has these words:

“At the high end of the spectrum, 1.8% of self-published authors made over $100,000 from their writing last year, compared with 8.8% of traditionally published authors and 13.2% of hybrid authors.”

Then, these words:

“Bomb out as a traditionally aspiring author, and there’s no effect on surveys of author income.

“Bomb out as a self-publishing author, and your flat-line is counted against the overall self-publishing earnings track record.”

Then, the point is made again:

“Our surveys are counting the self-publishing losers as well as winners.

“Our surveys are counting only traditional publishers’ winners.”

The main reason this occurs is that the numbers for self-published book sales are readily available but, in the traditional arena, the books which end up in the slush pile are left out of the monetary success reports.

Also, the books which don’t even make it into the slush pile, those shopped-around to agents and never getting promoted to editors, are left out of the calculations

With self-publishing, a finished book is always published and has its sales tracked.

I heartily urge you to go read the full article on Ms. Friedman’s blog but I must conclude with one more excerpt:

“There are tens of thousands of authors out there now making $20 or $100 a month doing what they would happily do for nothing. In fact, if you told me I had to pay a monthly ‘writing fee’ for the privilege of making stuff up and pounding it into my keyboard, I would do it Many self-published authors are doing much better than not-earning-a-penny. And this revolution is only a few years old! Just wait until more and more talented writers forego the slush pile altogether and skip straight to self-publishing. Or when more authors jump from traditional to self-publishing. These numbers are going to look better and better for indie writers.”
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One response to “Smoke & Mirrors ~~ How is Success Measured In Publishing?

  1. Pingback: The View from The Top Is Usually Blind . . . | Notes from An Alien

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