Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Book Shelf-Life ~ Physical & Digital

Last July, I wrote:

Book Shelf-Life

Image Courtesy of Julia Freeman-Woolpert ~

“Do you think readers care if a book is traditionally published, as long as they like it?

“Do you think authors who want to write for a living care about the ‘prestige’ of landing a traditional deal?

“Do you think writers are more important to our civilization than large corporate publishers?

“It’s questions like these that cause otherwise mature adults to display some incredibly childish logic in the media….

“Yes, I’m a self-published author and it would take a small flock of miracles for me to accept a traditional deal.


I then linked to an article that fairly well proved my point; but, today I want to share another reason.

Even if I could have secured a legacy deal for my last book, I doubt it would have stayed on any bookstore shelf for very long.

I don’t say this from some sense of unworthiness—I say it from years of observation of the traditional book market…

On The Kill Zone, Eileen GoudgeNew York Times bestselling author, said:

“The cold, hard truth is this: If the sales figures for your last title weren’t impressive enough to get booksellers to order your next title in sufficient quantities to make an impact, you’re basically screwed. It doesn’t matter if your previous titles sold a combined six million copies worldwide. You’re only as good as your last sell-through.”

My short novel, on quite a few digital bookshelves, will remain available whether it sells well or not…

That same Kill Zone article has author Lisa Samson saying:

“I was recently offered a contract that was insufficient for me to support my family. A real step down from the previous one…It wasn’t personal, I realize, but it was severely disappointing to have worked faithfully for two decades only to have your work go down in value to that point. I wish money didn’t matter…But traditional publishing is a business and I’m no good for the bottom line no matter how much I’m personally loved…”

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, in the wonderful little (free) book, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, has this to say (bolding by me…):

“Most traditionally published books fail to sell through quickly, with or without the benefit of big marketing campaigns. Few publishers ever sustain the book with ongoing proactive marketing effort. They throw all their resources into the launch, then abandon the book to its fate.

“The first printing becomes the last printing, and stores ship their unsold inventory back to the publisher within weeks of the book hitting store shelves.

“Many of these so-called flops are actually high-quality books that simply needed more time to build readership. It’s a shame authors might spend years or a lifetime writing their book and searching for an agent and publisher only to have the book forced out of print and abandoned within weeks of publication.”


Do those three quotes sound like sufficient reasons to not try for a legacy deal and stick with self-publishing?
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2 responses to “Book Shelf-Life ~ Physical & Digital

  1. Nicole November 11, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    answer? sure. I think.

    I’ve been told that (even with traditional publishers) starting out, it’s common to have to do your own promotion, and I’ve also been told that you always have to promote yourself, even when you’re successful or well-known.

    As far as my brain can spin, the main plus to being signed is, you have a team of people to help with the cover design, editing, and access to get your book out on the shelves? <— which, as we know, you can get through self-publishing as well.

    Usually,(with traditional publishing) you don't make much off sales until you sell a few thousand or something? Please forgive me if I'm wrong, I'm just scraping together scraps from things I've read so maybe I'm asking more so than stating. ;)

    Seems to me any way you choose to publish, a common consistency is, hard work and self promotion?

    I'll let you know if I ever find out for sure from experience. haha

    *hugs* & happy Tuesday, Alex.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexander M Zoltai November 11, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Well, Nicole, as far as needing to self-promote, whether legacy or self-published, I’ve seen it stated in numerous articles and had it confirmed from a number of traditionally published folks…

    As far as the team that helps with traditionally published books, all that help can be obtained from freelancers…

    I’m not sure how many books must be sold to keep them on the shelves…

    However, enough books must be sold to cover the advance before you make a dime…

    I would add only one thing to your “…any way you choose to publish, a common consistency is, hard work and self promotion…”. I would add a health dose of luck—Laboring Under Correct Knowledge :-)


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