So, I was wondering whether self-publishing is to publishing what minor league baseball is to the big leagues.
Skipping to the end, let me say that I don't think so. I think they're all in the same ballpark.
But let's look at Jeff Shelby, fellow #TeamDecker member, who posted this week about his publishing history.
Jeff said that years ago he'd sold his Noah Braddock series to Big Six. Two-book deal. Hooray. Two books come out. They don't hit the top of the NYT best seller list. No one wants the third. A few years go by. He writes more, gets a new agent. Gets a new deal for the third book in the series and sells another series.
But what's really amazing is this: He self-pubbed a book on Kindle. The book takes off. (Details here.) And then, once the book hits the top of Amazon and hangs out there for a good while, as he says,
I’m the first to admit this has all caught me unprepared. I didn’t expect for people to be clamoring for the next book in the series. I didn’t expect for people within the publishing industry – digital and print – to show interest. I didn’t expect for so much to change in such a short amount of time.It's a struggle. The two-book deal in 2006 plays out. Eventually, with a new agent, he gets more action. And then he really hits it out of the park once his self-pubbed book takes off.
Now, knowing a little something about "self-pubbed" books, I know it's a bit of a misnomer. Jeff may have worked with private editors, including his uber-talented agent. He may have hired his own cover artist. I don't know. (I could find out by email and surfing, but if I leave this text editor, I may never make it back, so shut up.)
But here's the deal -
Have we gotten to the point where putting your work up on Kindle is like playing at the AAA level? Maybe it's like playing college ball.
Let me clear here. I'm not saying Jeff Shelby was sitting alone in a bus station, upped his dragon romance onto Kindle, and is now playing for the New York Yankees. Hard work. Support and help from talented folks. Timing. Hard work. More hard work. (Check out his LIQUID SMOKE from the good folks at Tyrus Books.)
But what we have is a market in which publishers are having a tougher time making money. So, doesn't it make sense that they'd see what works before offering money?
Maybe self-publishing isn't minor leagues at all -- maybe it's just a different team.
Ten years ago, maybe the scouts did travel around, see who the agents were pushing, meet players, um, writers at conferences.
But now, I guess, there's only so much money left. Snooki is still going to get her money, of course. So when publishers and editors want to find what will work, maybe they're not travelling to Birmingham to see a young supposed phenom. Maybe they're looking across at the box scores for another team. Maybe they're looking at Amazon sales, seeing who is batting .400. Maybe there's going to be of that going on.
Maybe when the New York Yankees are looking for the next new thing, they watch middle relievers from other teams.
From what I'm told by Teh Olds, publishers used to sign up writers and watch them develop. Maybe they set them up on a AA imprint before pulling them up to the big leagues. But they writer would be given a few books to develop the craft. Not so much anymore, it seems.
Now publishers and editors want you to be able to knock it out of the park your first time at the plate. Signed to a two-book deal and your first book doesn't make it out of the infield? Um, no promotion for your second book, pal.
But if publishers can see that your self-pubbed ebook is topping the charts, heck, let's have a little chat about a contract. It's like going on Let's Make a Deal and waiting to choose until they've pulled all the curtains back. Take the car, not the goat.
It's like waiting until Tuesday to buy Monday's lottery ticket.
Look at Albert Pujols and Janet Evanovich. Once Pujols delivered, once he showed that he's tops in the game, the Anaheim California Angels of Los Angeles signed him to a 20-year deal worth France. Meanwhile, over in publishing, once Evanovich showed she could fill the stadiums, she got her $50million deal. Not while they were developing. Once they'd proven they could play.
Maybe publishing doesn't have minor leagues anymore. Maybe there is not money for developing talent.
Maybe self-publishing isn't the Desert City Rattlers after all. Maybe self-publishing is the New York Mets.