Guest Post Jessica Dee Rohm author of Sugar Tower

The “Indie” Author – Playing Against a Stacked Deck?

Imagine hundreds of thousands of cars lined up at the border, any border, Canada, Mexico…drivers desperate to get in. A thousand border police, glancing at the drivers’ IDs, reacting to a few words, maybe a phrase or two, judging how the
drivers’ cars look, listening for a special voice… guessing at who will succeed
and who won’t in the utopia on the other side of the border. Once past the first hurdle, there are, say,
six border states accepting residents.
Once again…now a thousand border police making cases for the strangers
they selected somewhat arbitrarily, definitely subjectively, as the six states
capriciously say yea or nay at the gate.
Sound like a bottleneck? Leading
to a roadblock? Now apply the process to
today’s publishing world, in which authors are looking for a home, Agents are
border police, and there are just so few publishers left that editors worry
more about a writer having a “platform” (a la Snookie) than whether an author
has anything of interest to say.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, there are only six major global publishers left: Bertelsmann, CBS Corporation, Hachette, News Corporation, Pearson and Verlagsgruppe. In the U.S., if you want to publish a work of
fiction, there are six houses, four of which are foreign owned: Random House,
Penguin Putnam, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings, Time Warner,
and Simon & Schuster. None of these
will accept un-agented work. Yes, there
are a few hundred smaller publishers but many Agents won’t bother with those as
the advances are $0 - $5000 and, at 15percent commission, the Agents don’t make
enough to justify their time. Also, if
an Agent has your work with an editor, he or she cannot send that editor
another manuscript until yours has been accepted or rejected. So, while Hemingway had 33 rejections before
his first sale and Stephen King got dozens of rejections for Carrie, after 6 or
7 rejection letters in today’s environment, you’re pretty much dead in the

My experience has been that the literary world has become a cut and dried business and the hope of finding an Agent who “champions” your work is next to nil. There are
approximately 1,000 agents. Of the
estimated 100,000 new English language fiction published globally each year,
(45,181 in the US alone in 2009 down from 53,058 in 2008 according to RR
Bowker’s Books In Print Publishing Statistics) less than 25 percent sell over
5,000 copies, the benchmark quantity defining a successful fiction book. I don’t know about you but if my employees
had a 75% failure rate, I’d fire them all.

Since these statistics are culled from several sources, I cannot testify to their exact accuracy. However, the general percentages are absolutely true and I believe not
off by +/- 2%, so they support my thesis
here: the publishing industry is failing
because a) it puts too much decision making power in the hands of too few; and,
b) these decision makers are out-of-touch with what the reading public wants.

There is a sea change happening in the book publishing industry. Bottom line – it’s self-destructing. It’s a classic case of
what Clayton Christiansen, is his book The Innovator’s Dilemma, observed in
industries as diverse as technology and turbines. A “disruptive technology”
comes along and renders a former business model obsolete. Think about what the fax machine did to the
telex as a modern example. In
publishing, the disruptive technology is what is called “on demand” publishing,
meaning that innovative book-sellers use electronic files and only print a book
when someone buys it. E-books, like
those available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords, offer another emerging
disruptive technology, one that cuts the cost of a read by at least 50 percent.

Why these technologies may put conventional publishers out of business is simple: by eliminating the high costs of paper, inventory, warehousing and distribution, conventional
publishers just cannot compete financially with the “on demand” model. So what have many publishers been forced to
do? They cut marketing to pare
costs. What is the result? They sell fewer books and make even less
money, adding another nail to their proverbial coffins.

So where does all this leave the author?

Taking a cue from the film industry, many writers are positioning themselves as independent, or “Indie,” authors. Instead of giving up the rights to their work with little marketing support in return, we are taking the reins of our fate in
our own hands. Never one to shirk risk, I’ve
decided to market my new novel, Sugar Tower, published under my own imprint
Olivicas Press, myself.

Self-published works that find large audiences are extremely rare, and are usually the result of self-promotion. However, many works now considered classic were originally self-published, including the original
writings of William Blake, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, and James Joyce.. Some
even become best sellers: Spartacus by Howard Fast , The Joy of Cooking by Irma
Rombauer, What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles, Poems by
Oscar Wilde, In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters, Chicken Soup for the Soul
by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen and many others.

Other well-known self-publishers include: Stephen Crane, E. E. Cummings, Deepak Chopra, Benjamin Franklin, Zane Grey, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, George
Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman
and Mark Twain. (These lists courtesy of

The success of my venture and others like me depends on YOU and book blogs like Gelati’s Scoop and review sites like My previous works,
Make Me an Offer and The Secret Life of Sandrina M. (formerly Tender Offer), as
well as Sugar Tower, are available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle formats
at , Nook at B&N, or by special order at your
local book store.

How can YOU help?

Buy my books, SHARE this link with a FRIEND AND your ADDRESS BOOK.

And, Giovanni, thanks for inviting me to be your guest today!

What are you reading today? Check us out and become our friend on Shelfari & Linkedin. Go to Goodreads and become our friend there and suggest books for us to read and post on. You can also follow us on
Twitter, and the Gelati’s Scoop Facebook Fan Page. Did you know you can shop directly
on Amazon by clicking the Gelati’s Store Tab on our blog? Thanks for stopping by today; We will see you
tomorrow. Have a great day.

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