Why Traditional Publishing Isn’t Fair

In this article it has come to light that publishing super-star JK Rowling conducted a very interesting experiment:

She published a book under a pen name, using a traditional publisher.

It didn’t make a huge impact.

Let’s think about this for a moment:

(C) JK Rowling

Copyright JK Rowling

I’m pretty sure that anything that JK Rowling writes is as good, or even better, than her writing in Harry Potter.

So why didn’t the book have huge sales and massive followings and become a household name?

Because traditional publishers are risk-adverse, especially for “new” authors. While they may publish a book by an known, the amount of marketing effort they’ll give that book is limited at best.

And why is this a good thing for independent self-published authors?

First off, we have to understand that any book written by someone as well known as JK Rowling would be launched through a media tsunami with press releases, a news junket, author interviews and a book tour.


Very few authors receive this red-carpet treatment so we start out with an unfair disadvantage.

But for a book that was launched with the usual amount of traditional-publisher fanfare (not much) to do so well (about as well as expected from an unknown author: 1,500 copies) means that an independent author can at least equal the sales.

The article doesn’t specify how long Rowling’s book was on the market to gain its 1,500 sales, but we’re assuming that it was published April 30, 2013 and was outed as being written by Rowling on July 15, 2013. That’s two and a half months. That’s roughly 75 days.

Now, the article doesn’t specify where those sales came from: eBooks or printed. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that it is 1,500 sales across all sales channels.

That’s only 20 sales a day. Across all channels.

How many other authors out there are able to write as well as JK Rowling? I’ll bet there’s a fair number. And how many of them got turned down by traditional publishers because their name wasn’t recognized or the publishing house just didn’t want to take a chance?
JK Rowling proved that a good author can hold her own against the media storm in the wake of a new book by an author’s name who has already proven to have a following.

Thanks, Ms. Rowling. I appreciate the experiment that you conducted.

This just goes to prove that traditional publishing is more interested in their know superstars than an “unknown” author, no matter how great of a writer. Traditional publishing wants a sure-thing instead of talent. Money speaks louder than a great story.

I think I’ll stick with my sure-thing: getting my books into the hands of as many readers as possible. You can have your media tsunami; I’ll take my writing directly to my audience.

Oh, and I’ll also take my 70% royalty payment!

Kim Galloway
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