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Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true ** probably true

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Publishing myth #1: You need a traditional publisher for distribution

When I first started out in the writing game, I knew nothing (which is why I signed a contract in 2002 that meant my book would only be an ebook forever and ever amen). I had many beliefs, but essentially no knowledge regarding the publishing industry.

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
Me: 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."


Deborah Walker said...

Yay. You were lucky to get them back. Now you can do your own thing. And it's going great.

David L. Shutter said...


I may have missed something; RH has your e-book rights, are you doing your own POD? Your own European e-distribution?

Yes, sounds amazingly lucky of you to have gotten rights back.

And you shouldn't kick yourself for having jumped into your contract "without knowing any better".

I've built a ridiculous library of publishing books and trade mags over the years and only recently learned what a "no-compete clause" is from indie bloggers, among a hundred other factors that have traditionally hurt mid-listers.

Now that the e-book war is getting uglier all those trade entities and "biz" info sources are showing their colors through their tireless criticisms and vitriol for Amazon...they're PR machines for the Big 6, little more.

"Researching" publishing on your own wouldn't have saved you. A good agent or friends in the biz, maybe, but you probably still wouldn't have had a clue how things really work.


Michael McClung said...

Deborah- Waiting for YOUR indie debut! Updates please!

David- All rights expired in 2006. I'm not bothering with POD as, for an indie writer, it's still hard as hell to get into book stores. The thing is, I don't NEED bookstores anymore. I'll do a post to clarify :)