February 2, 2016

Wildly successful self-published author starts her own publishing house

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c_X3lcsC_400x400Empowered by digital markets such as Amazon, Google Books, Lulu.com and Wattpad, self-publishing has surged into relevance. Andy Weir (The Martian), Hugh Howey (Wool), Jamie McGuire (Beautiful Redemption), and Paul Kingsnorth (The Wake) have all managed to parlay their success as self-published authors into mountains of cash, and no small amount of critical acclaim. And, according Jennifer McCartney at BookLife, 2016 looks to be a year of continued growth and development for selfies, though certain challenges remain:

Though last year brought a lot of firsts to the self-publishing industry, the overall formula for success remained relatively constant. Preorders continued to be a key feature driving…romance remained the most popular genre overall, and e-book prices held steady at an average of $2.99, with many authors offering the first book in their series free to build a readership…

There are two main challenges that have yet to be overcome when it comes to self-publishing versus traditional publishing. The first is print distribution and lack of shelf space in bricks-and-mortar stores. While indie authors continued to hit the bestseller lists in 2015, their presence in physical shops was negligible…

The second barrier still stymieing authors in 2015 was the lack of traditional media coverage for indie titles. Though indie authors sell copies in the millions and enjoy a robust social media following, recognition and validation from the traditional literary community is rare.

Plus ça change…sex sells, especially when it’s cheap and serialized and the traditional gatekeepers of the industry have not thrown down their arms and abandoned their posts. Assuming that this equilibrium isn’t satisfactory, and that brick-and-mortar sales and a more mutually fulfilling relationship with the literary establishment are the last frontier for an ascendant group of writers and creators, where does one go?

Well, if you’re Meredith Wild, you go back to what’s worked for authors before. You find a publishing house. Or, rather, you start one of your own.

From Alexandra Alter at The New York Times:

After sales of her self-published erotic novels took off on Amazon and other sites, Ms. Wild created the press partly as a way to get print versions into bookstore chains and big-box stores.

“I wanted something that sounded like it was a real imprint, because nobody takes you seriously as an independent author,” she said. “I felt I was being discriminated against as an indie.”

Her marketing abilities proved so effective — she sold 1.4 million print and digital copies — that she decided to expand her business by taking on other authors, in essence becoming a publisher herself.

Alter’s profile is detailed and revealing, and Wild’s entrepreneurial chutzpah is in its way a perfect summary of every argument and justification ever made for the existence of the traditional publishing. Self-published authors are realizing that being your own publicist, proofreader, editor, marketer and distributor leaves you very little time for actually writing. As Alter puts it, “Building your own brand may sound appealing and empowering, but only a small fraction of self-published authors sell enough books to make a living, and many are put off by the drudge work and endless self-promotion involved.”

If the trend continues and begins to build steam, and if the end result of this sea change is that there are more and more varied independent publishers in the market, that’s an unequivocally good thing, for publishers and writers. The industry has been on the road to monopoly for too long, and some kind of realignment and diversification would provide a much needed refreshment. Plus, as Audrey Carlan, one of Wild’s earliest clients, and author of Calendar Girl explains, “I’m not interested in designing websites and formatting my books,” she said. “I just want to write wicked hot books.”

Go get it, girl.

Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.

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