Sometimes Self-Publishers Can Earn the Big Bucks through Traditional Publishing

March 24th, 2011

The other day I blogged how the future of legal scholarship likely lies in electronic self-publishing. Today’s Times has a piece about a very successful self-publisher who became so successful, she signed a lucrative deal with a traditional publisher.

In the past year Ms. Hocking, a 26-year-old from Minnesota, became an indie heroine in the literary world for publishing nine books that sold a total of more than one million copies, nearly all of them in e-book form, earning almost $2 million for her efforts.

But for Ms. Hocking, self-publishing has had its limits. On Thursday she announced that she had sold a four-book series to St. Martin’s Press, ending a frenzied weeklong auction that involved nearly every major publisher in the business, including Random House, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins.

St. Martin’s, part of Macmillan, paid more than $2 million for the world English rights to the “Watersong” series, Ms. Hocking’s latest books in the young-adult paranormal genre.

Why did she revert to a traditional publisher? She notes that they still have value, specifically with respect to marketing.

“I’ve done as much with self-publishing as any person can do,” Ms. Hocking said in an interview on Thursday. “People have bad things to say about publishers, but I think they still have services, and I want to see what they are. And if they end up not being any good, I don’t have to keep using them. But I do think they have something to offer.”

Publishers, weary of hearing about their disposability in an age when writers can self-publish their work on the Internet and sell it on, said they were vindicated by the news.

That was what made Ms. Hocking seek a traditional publisher, she said, after months of hearing from readers who were frustrated that they couldn’t find her books in stores. She was also tired of spending time formatting her books, designing covers and hiring freelance editors — all tasks that fall to the self-publishing author.

I wonder, though, in the absence of self-publishing, how far would Hocking have made it? Would a publisher have ever accepted her book? The world may never know. Interesting development.