Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
In the writers’ groups I attend, self-publishing is a touchy issue. I know a number of writers who served their time in the trenches, writing and submitting and rewriting and resubmitting their work over and over again to agents and publishers before that one magical “yes.” It’s not unusual to meet a writer who tried to get published for ten years or more before winning a publishing contract. These writers have overcome significant odds, and they are rightly proud of their achievements. In the same group, there are a number of writers who haven’t yet broken into traditional publishing or haven’t even tried but who have decided to self-publish. Some don’t have the war stories and battle scars from trying to break in, while others do. Despite not having the traditional publisher’s stamp of approval, all of them are also proud of their achievements and expect equal consideration as published authors. It might be easy for the traditionally published authors to maintain their sense of superiority over self-published authors (and, thus, their sense of comfort that they had done the right thing all those years that they waited and tried) were it not also for the token members of the group who have self-published and made a lot of money at it.
Is self-publishing an amateurish endeavor, a means of sharing stories, a strategic move in a writing career, or an entrepreneurial activity? In Part 1 of this blog, I examined the top priorities of the nearly 5,000 authors who responded to the 2013 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey in relation to whether and how they have published their work. Now I turn my attention to the differences in writing productivity for the four different types of authors identified in the survey: aspiring authors, self-published authors, traditionally published authors, and hybrid authors with a combination of self-published and traditionally published works.
The necessary ingredient to success in a writing career is actually writing. So how do our various types of authors stack up in terms of manuscripts completed, whether published or unpublished?
One interesting pattern in the results is that all four types of authors, both published and not yet published, have a set of completed manuscripts that, for whatever reason, remain unpublished. For published authors, these unpublished manuscripts may be in production for publication, or they may be discarded projects, perhaps to be revisited. The self-published authors surveyed had fewer unpublished manuscripts than any of the other types of authors, about one less on average (a median of 3 compared to a median of 4 for the other groups).
This pattern could reflect the faster time to market in self-publishing, except that the hybrid authors, who also occupy the self-publishing market space and have the same opportunities to turn projects around quickly, have more unpublished manuscripts on average than the self-published authors do. More likely, then, the pattern seems to indicate a willingness on the part of the self-published authors who answered the survey to publish their completed manuscripts at a higher rate. Perhaps they are less discerning about which manuscripts they publish.
In terms of publications, the self-published authors in the survey tend to have a lower stock of published manuscripts than traditionally published or hybrid authors. Whether due to newer careers or a view of writing as more of a hobby than a profession, they are less prolific than the other types of published authors in the sample.A very different pattern emerges when we examine self-publishing by hybrid authors. These authors are the most productive in the sample. With the highest number of manuscripts published overall, they have published more traditionally published manuscripts than the authors who have only traditionally published (a median of 10 compared to 8) and more self-published manuscripts than those who only self-published (a median of 5 compared to 3).
The differences in numbers of published and unpublished manuscripts do suggest overall that there are real differences between self-published, traditionally published, and hybrid authors. In particular, these authors have different profiles in terms of what and how quickly they publish. Self-published authors lag behind the others in terms of the total number of manuscripts published and produced, but they also appear to have a higher rate of publication with fewer unpublished manuscripts in their stock. The hybrid authors surveyed, in contrast, look more like traditionally published authors in terms of the numbers of unpublished manuscripts in their stock and in terms of their productivity, although they are even more prolific than the traditionally published authors surveyed.
In part 3 of this blog, I explore the differences in income for these different types of writers.