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Author-Owned Instead of Self-Published

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Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by Ben Oakley

This post entirely skips over the ‘get published or self-publish’ debate, circumnavigates the circus, runs underneath the gamut of articles that already exist, and assumes that you – the reader – has already chosen the path of least resistance to self-publish.

My opinion is always up for debate but I have long believed that a creative individual or enterprise should retain full control over their work.

Maybe you prefer to seek out an independent publisher to help get your work into the open. Maybe you don’t have the time or knowledge to self-publish – despite the millions of articles already online.

Maybe, just maybe, you’re one of the anti-self-publishing crowd, and that’s fine, it’s called an opinion.

As an author, being against self-publishing in general can come off as elitist and classist. Self-published authors are real authors, just as self-published authors are published.

What is author-owned?

Self-publishing finance in a nutshell: It’s better to own your books 100% and sell 10,000 copies than sign your book rights to a publisher and sell 200,000 copies.

I was reading a CD insert of a band I was listening to – yes, I have a CD collection – and noticed in the back that no publisher was listed, instead it said; Band-owned. Which interested me.

It was clear that being band-owned and not under the domain of a money-grabbing record label was what the band wanted to do. Clearly it was working, as they retained full control over the album’s release, design, content, and subsequent tours.

It got me thinking about the state of self-publishing and why the use of the word ‘self’ invokes attacks from elitist and classist individuals, companies, and press.

What if, as authors, we removed the stigma surrounding self-publishing by simply removing self-publishing from the equation. Self-publishing is what we do, but not who we are at our core.

Author-owned has a more equitable ring to it. It comes with a sense of control that self-publishing fails to invoke, and a desire that we be known for more than inferior creatives at the bottom of the writing class system.

It’s another term for self-publishing, which basically means the author is responsible for the entire package, from the seed of the idea to marketing the published book.

What’s not author-owned?

If your work is published through a company (publisher) that you have no ownership of or stake in, then you do not own your work, not for a while at least. Though you retain the copyright, you would have signed the sale rights over to the publisher.

Many publishers will sell your book under contract, to be sold in a certain format, location, or other right, for an exclusive period they will set out in the terms and conditions of the contract you put your name and signature to.

If you’ve been lucky enough to receive an advance, then unless you hit bestseller status, you probably won’t get many royalties beyond that advance.

It’s now up to the publisher to sell as many copies as they can to reclaim that advance through your royalties, leaving you technically in debt to the publisher – and under their thumb – until the advance is cleared.

Many publishers will state in their contracts that a certain number of books will need to be sold beyond the advance before you are able to cancel the contract with them, unless you have enough money to buy your way out of it.

Royalties are far less than they would be if you are self-published, and you would still be expected to perform your own promotion and marketing alongside the publisher. Though in regard to marketing, a good publisher should already have a plan in place.

Author-owned or self-published?

Let’s face it, most independent publishers are self-publishers who got good at the business side of publishing and changed the goalposts of their career dreams.

Though it may never catch on, the idea of my books being author-owned instead of self-published, carries with it a capability and energy the elitist fails to connect with self-publishing.

How do you prefer your read tonight dear friend, author-owned or self-published?

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Ben Oakley is a bestselling author, researcher, publisher, blogger, and mental health advocate from Camden, England. Usually found on Twitter or in the bars and parks of Camden. Agathokakological is his favourite word!