Barry Eisler vs Amanda Hocking

Two authors, both success stories, with very different paths. Just a note here that Barry Eisler writes the sort of books I like to read (thrillers and fast action plot driven drama) and Amanda Hocking writes books that don’t interest me (young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy). But I’m not letting this get in the way of my analysis of the facts of these two stories.

To summarise for those who haven’t heard about Eisler and Hocking:

Eisler has had a successful career as an author with legacy publishers, including stints on the NY Times Bestseller list. He has recently turned down a $500,000 two book deal, in preference for self publishing. He has even more recently decided to sign a deal with Amazon’s new imprint – Thomas and Mercer. More about this in my next post.

Hocking has had a huge amount of success in self publishing (digitally) and has recently landed a seven figure four book publishing deal with St Martin’s Press (a Macmillan imprint).

To read more about these authors, I have included links to their blogs above.

When I first heard about Eisler’s decision, I saw it as THE tipping point in the self-publishing vs traditional publisher debate. As someone who knows what it is like to approach traditional publishers, and quickly decided to bypass this torture and self-publish my book Times of Trouble, I was incredibly impressed with Eisler’s courage. As I have talked about previously on this blog, self publishing doesn’t have the stigma it once did – it is no longer seen as the last resort for authors who have tried every other avenue possible to get a deal with a publisher. But, even after all the success that self-published authors have had, I still thought that authors who were embedded in the traditional publishing industry, and were being offered $500k for a two book deal, would see this path as far preferable to going out there alone.

Eisler’s success in self-publishing is obviously given a major boost by his success as a best selling author under the traditional model. His name is known, his protagonist’s name is known and people already love his books. But it is still fascinating that he has ‘done the math’ and worked out that he is far better off self-publishing and contributing a percentage of his revenue to Amazon, than giving the majority of revenue to his publisher. I would have thought that publishers would be horrified by Eisler’s decision, but as far as I can tell, it’s still business as usual in the agent/publishing industry.

Hocking is also an interesting case. She says she decided to take the book deal with a major publisher so that she has more time to write. It is true that self-publishing does take up a lot of your time; time that could be spent writing. You have to manage your own editing, artwork and publicity. This includes faithfully staying in contact with your fans via social media and organising your own publicity campaigns.

There are only two problems with this reasoning. The first is that, unless a publisher has invested millions in your book deal and has their profit for the year riding on the success of your work, they don’t do your marketing for you. They might give you some pointers as how to best sell yourself, but you still do all the selling! This even includes, for most authors, setting up your own website (and paying for it), as well as organising your own publicity tour. You would also, I assume, spend a lot of time working with editors personally through the editing process etc. So what time is the publisher really saving you, which gives you more time to write?

This brings me to my second issue with Hocking’s reasoning. She wants time to write. Won’t she have plenty of time to write in the year or so that it takes her publisher to release her newest book? This factor was also a contributor to Eisler’s decision to self-publish – he knows he can get his work to the market many months before a traditional publisher could so he can start reaping the rewards straight away. Makes sense to me!

Hocking has also reasoned that a publisher can better distribute her work to readers who aren’t interested in eBooks. This idea relates to my earlier post about publishers and their most useful service – printing and distributing books to book stores.

So where do Eisler’s brave decision, and Hocking’s interesting justifications for taking a publishing deal leave me in my journey to connect readers with my new book, Conspire? I have always said I was going to try to get a traditional publishing deal before I decide to self-publish once and for all. But now I’m not so sure. I like the idea of managing the marketing process myself. I am a marketer by trade and I enjoy this part of the process, but not as much as I enjoy writing. Decisions, decisions, decisions….