My education was painful, and costly. But it was also, it must be said a very thorough one.
When it became apparent that Random House had absolutely no interest in publishing my books in a paper format, I thought I was very clever in asking for those rights. "I'll just print them myself," I thought. "Who could resist my sword and sorcery genius, once they have it in their sweaty, trembling hands?"
Random House basically said "Sure, kid. Knock yourself out." They knew what I didn't know: Traditional publishers had a lock on distribution to all the retail chains. Borders and Barnes & Noble were never going to stock any book from Lulu or Xlibris. I count myself fortunate that I figured this out before I spent any money on printing Thagoth.
For a while I would tell people I'd written a book and had it published, but after the twentieth or thirtieth time having to explain that it only existed in electronic format, and no, they couldn't get it at their local bookstore, I just shut up about being a writer. And soon enough I stopped finishing anything new anyway, fiction-wise, so it didn't really matter.
Fast forward a few years.
When Random House finally responded to my emails regarding rights reversion of Thagoth, and my request that they stop selling it, their reply was, essentially, "Sure, kid. Knock yourself out."
So what has changed? Everything.
Let's look at where Random House distributes my ebook to right now, compared to where I can distribute to on my own (English speaking countries):
The United States:
Random House - everywhere
Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland & Australia:
Random House - nowhere
Me - everywhere
Am I worried about losing sales by leaving Random House? Let's put it this way: The population of the United Kingdom is 62 million.Canada, 33 million. Australia, 23 million. Ireland, 4.5 million.
By leaving Random House and distributing on my own, I increase my potential reader base by 122.5 million people. Now let's say 1% of this seething mass of English speaking humanity has some reasonable chance of being interested in reading my work. Likey it's less, but I'm not so good at math, so let's keep it simple. 1% equals 1.2 million people, rounding down. 1.2 million possible readers I was shut out from with Random House, because they did not distribute my book to those countries.
That's 1.2 million reasons for me to indie publish, on top of the ones I've discussed elsewhere. So when the powers that be at Random House finally deigned send me a reply to my several emails regarding Thagoth, this time around I didn't mind their supercilious tone.
"Sure, kid," I thought. "Knock yourself out."