Do writers still need publishers?

[caption id="attachment_610" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Amanda Hocking"][/caption]

Amanda Hocking, a 26-year-old American writer, has inadvertantly touched off an ongoing debate in the publishing industry with the unusual success of her self-published titles. The most interesting thing is that they were almost all sold as e-books online.

One estimate says Ms. Hocking may have sold more than a million of her gothic romance titles, allowing her to move from living paycheck to paycheck to buying her own home.

Her success has opened up old wounds in the publishing industry. Authors have long felt that traditional publishers keep a larger percentage of the earning of their books than is fair, with many wondering if they wouldn't be better off discarding publishers altogether.

Publishers, meanwhile note that as they spend most of the money required for printing, design and distribution, their percentage is justified. They point out that a lot of what they do to boost sales for an author's book would be impossible for a single individual to manage.

The debate has often boiled down to two opposing choices. One can publish traditionally winning legitimacy, a wider distribution network, and greater publicity, but losing out on potential profits. Or one can self-publish, keeping more of the profits but doing all of the work of editing, designing, marketing and distributing - all the while enduring the sneers of the literary establishment.

But Ms. Hocking doesn't see it that way. In a recent blog post, she pointed out that her success was not a direct result of her methods. Most people who self-publish won't make millions, she points out, because no one can really predict what the public will buy. 

Here's what she said:

Everybody seems really excited about what I'm doing and how I've been so successful, and from what I've been able to understand, it's because a lot of people think that they can replicate my success and what I've done. And while I do think I will not be the only one to do this - others will be as successful as I've been, some even more so - I don't think it will happen that often.

Nor does she see self-publishing as directly opposed to traditional publishing.

Traditional publishing and indie publishing aren't all that different, and I don't think people realize that. Some books and authors are best sellers, but most aren't. It may be easier to self-publish than it is to traditionally publish, but in all honesty, it's harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.

She took particular umbrage with suggestions that she was an overnight success who could be easily emulated.

I don't think people really grasp how much work I do...This is literally years of work you're seeing. And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting.

Nevertheless, Ms. Hocking has opened up an old debate and we're interested in finding out where you stand on this. Is the internet making traditional publishers obselete? Do writers still need us?


  • if a writer creates a unique spiritual book, it will not attract a large number of people to read it. It is easier to sell fiction and things of entertainment than to sell a books that asks people to correct their characters. What is your opinion?

    Posted by Somebody on September 13, 2011

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