Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
The stories of self-publishing success—the Hockings, Howeys, Konraths and the like—are well known, as is the Publishing Industry is Dead viewpoint of New York Times bestseller (and self-pub advocate), Seth Godin.
But what of the long-predicted mid-lister migration to self publishing? For the past couple of years, the popular hypothesis has been that the mid-list author—established but not bestselling enough to merit extra marketing attention to grow their market position—would jump at the chance to control their own destiny and explore new revenue opportunities in self publishing.
Indeed, there’s been a spate of interesting experiments of late from well known authors like Godin and Stephen King, who penned an essay entitled Guns about the current debate in the United States over gun ownership as a Kindle Single. Susan Orlean, too, published Animalish as a Kindle Single. There’s been others, certainly, but the theorized rush of underserved midlist authors toward the possibility of self-publishing gold hasn’t quite materialized as predicted.
A New Mid-List Definition
While earlier expectations haven’t taken shape as originally envisioned, a change is nonetheless happening underfoot. What is happening is that the definition of mid-list is itself changing to include a mix of self published and traditionally published authors, along with a new breed–the hybrids–selling both ways, even mixing rights with a single book title, as is the case for Hugh Howey. For Wool, Howey’s sci-fi novella series, the author sold print rights to Simon & Schuster, providing access to the physical bookstore marketplace, but retained the lucrative digital rights for his own.
While hybrid publishing may be the next big wave, the common denominator for all authors moving into some variation of self-publishing is a strong marketing platform. As a recent survey points out, that’s still a problem for many self-published authors.
At Digital Book World 2013, Phil Sexton, the Publisher and Community Leader for Writer’s Digest, presented a survey of 5,000 writers, a mix of self-published, traditional and hybrid, half of whom have self-published books currently in the marketplace.
In the interview above, Sexton discusses the survey results, including the fact that hybrid authors, perhaps because they’re more savvy to the publishing possibilities, are the most aggressive with marketing and social media, have more revenue streams of income, and make substantially more than authors that only publish traditionally.
“I think this is a very important thing for traditional publishers to realize,” Sexton said, “that the better educated and more experienced an author has in self publishing, the more likely they are to make that choice when they publish the next time. So publishers have to figure out what they can offer that makes them more appealing than the self publishing option every time.”
“The transmedia author, I think, will be the author of the future because that’s where the money is, and I think that’s where they have the most control and have the most options.”