Self-Publishing E-books Takes Time Away from Writing

I said it yesterday, unless you have a huge platform, are paying someone to do your promotion for you, have hired a design team (an editorial team is assumed), and use some sort of support service for your publishing process, as an indie publisher–e-books or print books–you will not necessarily have more time to write. You likely will have less time to write.

I know this from my own experience. That’s why my books aren’t getting written. Between platform building (promotion), figuring out the self-publishing process, and trying to earn the money to self-publish, the manuscripts remain untouched. Now, I’m sure after your first book or two, the process gets easier, but the need for promotion remains…despite what some authors say.

But don’t take my word for it. I’m no one really. Take Amanda Hocking’s word for it. She’s earned millions from her indie novel publishing efforts–possibly half a million just since January. Yet, the New York Times reported yesterday the 26-year-old self-publishing phenomenon is said to be thinking about a new four-book series which she is shopping to traditional publishers. Rumor has it that they’re offering upwards of $1 million in a competitive auction.

I wrote about Hocking not that long ago, but if you’re not familiar with her or her work, she describes her novels on her website as “young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly.” As a nonfiction writer, the most interesting fact might be that she sold 450,000 books in January alone–of which more than 400,000 were e-books–and an additional 900,000 books since January. They sell for 99 cents and $2.99.

So why does she need a traditional publisher? Carolyn Kellogg at The Los Angeles Times asked the same question. She concluded that it wasn’t about the money, since whether Hocking sells e-books for 99 cents or $2.99 she still making quite a bit. That leads to the second question Kellog asks: “Could it be that publishers actually add value?”

The answers were found in a USA Today story: “Hocking credits her success to aggressive self-promotion on her blog, Facebook and Twitter, word of mouth and writing in a popular genre–her books star trolls, vampires and zombies.”

Despite the fact that authors today must do pretty much all the promotion for their books, I have continued to say that having a traditional publisher behind you counts for something–still…even today. They provide some (yes, some…albeit just a little in most cases) ability to get your books into bookstores and some (again just a little in most cases) promotional dollars. So, maybe Hocking wants a little help? That’s the next question Kellogg asked in her LA Times article: “Could it be that a publisher could provide the marketing and outreach Hocking was able to achieve on her own?”

She found the answer in the posts of Hocking’s blog, where she wrote the following:

Traditional publishing and indie publishing aren’t all that different, and I don’t think people realize that. Some books and authors are best sellers, but most aren’t. It may be easier to self-publish than it is to traditionally publish, but in all honesty, it’s harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.

I don’t think people really grasp how much work I do. … The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which … terrifies me.

Hmmm. Remember my post yesterday? Successful indie author J.A. Konrath said self-publishing gave him more time to write and equally successful author Barry Eisler, who just turned down a half a million dollar traditional publishing deal to become an indie author, said “a writer’s best promoting tool is once again her writing.” As I mentioned, I disputed this, and here’s Hocking offering up her own experience to back up my argument.

In that same post, Hocking wrote:

I also have this tremendous sense of urgency, like if I don’t get everything out now and do everything now, while the iron is hot, everything I’ve worked for will just fall away. For the first time, I truly understand why workaholics are workaholics. You can’t stop working, because if you do, it unravels all the work you’ve already done. You have to keep going, or you’ll die.

Most indie authors go it alone. It sounds like Hocking mostly goes it alone. It’s great if you can afford to hire a company or many companies to help you with all the things that need to get done to self-publish and promote–editing, design, purchase of ISBNs, formatting, working with printing companies, social networking, websites, distribution, etc. If you can’t, you are basically taking on another job–publisher. With that job come many tasks and responsibilities, including all the business related ones most writers I meet do not care to take on–marketing, promotion, fulfillment….

The fact that Hocking is looking for a traditional publishing deal offers a nice bookend for the news about Eisler turning down his two-book traditional publishing deal. That news made it sound like every aspiring author should dump their agent and run off to do an e-book on their own. I’m not saying they shouldn’t consider this. (My e-books are still up on my computer in the formatting stages.) The news provides a reality check, though. We writers need that.

I’m all for visualizing and expecting your dream–a highly-successful self-published (or traditionally published) e-book or print book, but while doing so it’s a good idea to stay grounded in the facts–the inspired actions, the hard word and the time it takes to make this a reality.



  1. […] recently published several posts about indie e-book publishing here, here, and here. Seems lots of authors–mostly novelists–are making big money selling e-books […]

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