The Sensory Self of Discovery

All who create things hope for discovery, whether they are musicians, sculptors, writers, or singers. The essential question is, what does it look like? Which one is better: self-publishing self-discovery or being unearthed by traditional publishing? Which one carries a lesser burden?

We hope to recognize it when it comes, if it is truly true, but some discoveries wear cloaks of deception, as many authors can attest. Regardless, we all want it and hope that it is truly honest when it arrives to carry us away in a romantic carriage of success.

What used to be the yardstick established by traditional publishing houses is no longer the norm: millions of book sales and bulging bank account with the illusive money from an advance of potential earnings, the key word being potential.

It is always intrinsically rewarding when a publisher recognizes a talented writer and trusts, on a hunch, the lilting words of potential sales so much so that a huge advance is proffered in hopes that the novel will deliver. The borrowed or loaned money equates credit, but the writer, as worried as he is about the huge debt hanging precariously above, wills the book to deliver, even as he or she squanders the money anyway.

Conversely, in the current exhilarating circumstances introduced by self-publishing and e-book sales, talent identification of self is sweeter when the writer gets to keep all or most of the rewards of his creation and labor. There is no advance payment looming over the head of the writer who discovers himself or herself. Yes, discovery is internal and is even more uplifting. After Amazon (or the e-book-reader maker) takes its hefty cut, the remaining amount belongs to the author entirely.

However, talent recognition by thousands, nay, millions of adoring fans, is also even more vindicating because these readers are garnered by the writer directly. Anyone who has not been living under a rock for the past couple of years has heard and seen the ubiquitous news about self-published e-books taking the industry by storm. Statistics abound prolifically.

What discovery is not:

According to Deirdre Donahue of USA Today, “…When 25 publishers passed on buying his thriller Riptide, Michael Prescott thought his career was dead…” Being passed off sounds like the end of the publishing road, but as any persevering writer will attest, someone has to believe in a writer’s work, eventually, if the writer is waiting on traditional publishing houses. Time, acceptance, and several factors are the foe.

What does it look like?

Whether it is through royalty-paying, traditional publishers or through self-publishing, the point is that all authors should be able to make money on their work without having to jump through all sorts of hoops imposed by the system, so says J.A. Konrath, who is considered the guru of the self-publishing movement.

“I am a guy who had his butt kicked by the (traditional-publishing) industry for 20 years, and now I’m showing other authors what they can do so they don’t have to go through the same thing,” he continues. “Traditional book publishers are just serving drinks on the Titanic. It’s a huge win for readers, who now have easier access to more writers from around the world,” he adds.

Discovery looks like peaks in sales on a graph, a peak that keeps rising and rising until it goes off the chart regardless of the platform used to monitor the exchange of book for money. Peaks in sales are born by authorpreneurs who have used the ever permissible and pervasive outlets to pitch their novels like Brittany Geragotelis who used Wattpad to propel herself to stardom with over one million followers.

According to the Association of American Publishers, e-books grew from 0.6% of the total trade market share in 2008 to 6.4% in 2010, the most recent figures available. Total net revenue for 2010 was $878 million with 114 million e-books sold. In adult fiction, e-books are now 13.6% of the market.

What does it sound like?

In this revolutionary period of unraveling breakneck technological advances in the book-making and book-reading industries, discovery sounds like pages turning maddeningly fast by an avid reader who cannot put the book or the e-reading device down. It sounds like the adamant voice of a devoted follower demanding when the next book will be out after devouring the maiden novel of an inventive writer. This is an encouragement for the author to get back to work fast and continue cooking and concocting while the embers are still red and flaming.

What does it smell like?

It smells like crisp and newly minted dollar bills earned by newly printed pages (or not, if it is uploaded into an e-reader). According to the USA Today article cited above, author Michael Prescott says he earned more than $300,000 before taxes last year (2011) by selling more than 800,000 copies of his self-published e-books.

Konrath has seen his income from his self-published e-book sales go from $1,400 in April 2009 to $68,000 in April 2011.

These two authors might be the tip of the success iceberg, but imagine both for yourself, freshly minted money and freshly printed pages vying for a smelling contest. That I should be so lucky to smell both!

What does it feel like?

Discovery feels like touching the soft and fluffy clouds in the sky, the summit. Getting that nod feels like the coolest, smoothest 100% silk, like satin, and 800 percale thread count, the most luxurious sensation a person could ever touch. It is that much peaceful and calming—reaching that elevation of success, self-measured or not. It is sensational, the key word being sense (of self, that is).

What does discovery taste like?

It tastes like food on the table. Quoting the quotable Konrath,Any writer who puts food on the table with their writing is successful. It doesn’t matter if it is a box of Mac and Cheese, or caviar and champagne. Taking your career into your own hands, giving it your best shot, striving to do better… that’s the American Dream, baby.”

Konrath is especially thrilled for the thousands and thousands of authors who are now making ends meet because they achieved their goals and self-published their e-books. “Your ebooks will continue to earn money, forever. Be proud. You are a success,” he encourages.

“It’s a gold rush out there,” Prescott joins the chorus of e-book songs of praise. “Forty acres and a mule. It’s the best time for an independent writer to get out there. It’s a whole new world. You’re eliminating the middleman.”