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Authors take the long view - publishers don't

2 February 2015

Amazingly, it looks as if many authors are having a longer-term business outlook towards the publishing of their books than traditional publishers have managed to achieve. The latest update of the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer's Digest Author Survey, written up by Dana Beth Weinberg, shows some interesting results.

Authors with publishers have higher expectations of their publishers - quite reasonably they expect them to deliver much more than they could do for themselves. There was some criticism of last year's study from commentators who felt that the sample neglected high-earning self-publishers but this year's survey (which has been careful to take them into account) shows that overall sales are still consistent with previous years

What the figures show is that most authors are not earning an appreciable income, let alone making a living, from their writing. Many authors will recognise the truth of this. What self-publishers do get from publishing their own book is control, which means that they have a focus on that book or books which no publisher can ever achieve. This means, for instance, that they can decide to continue promoting a book when a publisher would have long since moved on to other books in their publishing programme. Given that publishers' time and expenditure tends to be focused on the books from bestselling authors or from new authors they are trying to make into instant bestsellers, this is a major advantage. Indie authors simply have a longer time-horizon and are focused on their whole writing career, not just the success and failure of one book.

In spite of these interesting results, Weinberg concludes that no overall statement can be made about whether traditional publishing through a publisher or self-publishing is best - the results vary too widely to allow for a clear ruling on this.