After The Hype And Drama: Balancing Trad And Indie

Image - iStockphoto: PatrikV
Image – iStockphoto: PatrikV

‘Under The Right Conditions’

Matthias Matting
Matthias Matting

Germany is recognized as the third self-publishing market in size and activity. The United States and the United Kingdom are the first and second, respectively. And when Matting’s study of 906 authors asked them, 80 percent said they’d be willing to consider traditional publishing “under the right conditions.” Those “right conditions” for German-language authors, Matting tells us, have to do with bookstore sales:In a report at The FutureBook from the author and journalist Matthias Matting in Munich, we learn that a new survey shows the German-language self-publishing community maturing. Three years of surveys reveal a steady decline in the number of respondents who have been self-publishing for less than six months. And that, in turn, likely contributes to the rising levels of professionalism Matting says he sees in German self-publishing.

With roughly a 10-percent ebook market share, print obviously still has much more traction in Germany. If a publisher gets a book onto these shelves, as [publisher] Piper Verlag did in the spring with the self-published hit Honigtod by Hanni Münzer — which made it to the No. 10 spot on the SPIEGEL bestseller list — authors are more than happy to go with them.

 What’s hopeful about this is that it suggests that writers are doing what works — at least giving themselves the option to experiment and to do what they think best. Self-publishing is one way, not the only way. And it’s a route to publication, not a cause or a religion.

Self-selling, after all, is the real challenge, not self-publishing.

In the first flush of excitement around self-publishing, our own market in the States has been wracked with partisanship for the independent path. In reality, an author’s biggest need is getting his or her work to market in the highest-quality, most sales-effective way possible. Unless writing as a hobbyist for one’s own satisfaction (which is fine), reaching readers, finding buyers is a prime consideration — and the toughest hurdle.

And on this side of the Atlantic, the latest story from the author James Scott Bell has a realistic, healthy perspective, similar to that reflected in Matting’s survey responses.

‘Indie Publishing…Will Grow And Diversify’

James Scott Bell
James Scott Bell

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of traditional publishing are greatly exaggerated. Yes, trad pub is in the throes of reinvention due to digital disruption. That process is slow, as it is for any large industry facing a shifting infrastructure. Rapid innovation has never been the strength of large industry. But they’re trying.In Advice to Traditionally Published Authors, Bell writes:

Traditional companies are also the only way to distribute print books widely into physical stores, including big boxes and airports. If that’s where you want your books to be then traditional publishing is your best shot.

Bell is both traditionally published and actively self-publishing. He knows the pros and cons.

“Writers always operate with a certain degree of fear. The trick is to translate anxiety into action, with a rational plan for where you truly want to be.”
James Scott Bell

He discusses the tendency many writers have to look at a traditional house “as you nanny,” as a protectorate. “Trad pub is about the bottom line,” he writes, “because it has to be. You can’t stay in business unless you make a profit. Publishers have to stay in business, and they will treat you with that in mind.”

What’s more, Bell’s willingness to say that traditional publication is the right mode for some authors doesn’t preclude him issuing some serious warnings, among them:

  • Print sales are getting harder to come by because “big bookstores are closing…big boxes and airports are ordering fewer books…While there has been a nice resurgence in independent bookstores, they can’t replace what’s being lost when a major chain store closes.”
  • Traditional publishers “are taking fewer risks these days. This is reflected in contracts many writers and agents find particularly onerous. Which is why the Authors Guild is calling for fairer terms,” as we’ve been covering here andhere and here at Thought Catalog.
  • Traditional publishing “will stick around and try to find its way forward. Indie publishing will continue to grow and diversify, and new options for writers who own their rights will appear.”

Each time one of the crusader-bullies gets at you, it’s easy to see the fear that underlies their rudeness. Bell addresses that, too:

Writers always operate with a certain degree of fear. The trick is to translate anxiety into action, with a rational plan for where you truly want to be.

In the course of this even-handed assessment, Bell mentions an essay by  the author Deborah Cooke, who writes both under her own name and as Claire Delacroix.

And in that piece by Cooke, we begin to hear the voice that’s been missing for a long time in the paths-to-publishing debate.

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether:  After The Hype And Drama: Balancing Trad And Indie Interests

Originally published by Thought Catalog at




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