According to certain factions of the writing community a ‘Published Author’ is one who has signed a contract for any fictional and/or non-fictional narrative work exceeding 40,000 words with a third-party publishing house. Works which are self-published whether in hardback, paperback or online as an e-book, or are published through a “Vanity” or “Subsidised” enterprise are not regarded as “Published”.
Such a statement in today’s electronic age seems to be narrow-minded and archaic. And the only entities who would benefit from holding authors to contracts are the traditional publishing corporations which do so in a bid to not lose market share and maintain their self-preservation.
If authors all began to self-publish in a way of securing a better percentage of royalties and in ensuring their hard labours are published, then those traditional publishing houses would begin to fade away as quickly as the many book outlets which appear to be disappearing so fast from the High Streets.
I can vouch that for the works I have sold as e-books through Smashwords, the royalties received on the sale price averages at 78% per book sold. On reading various reports of the royalty percentages paid by the traditional publishing corporations; these range from 10% – 15%, and up to 25% for e-books published through them. To me this seems totally ridiculous that anyone should wish to earn so little when a greater amount can be earned by self-publishing methods.
Sure it can be argued that the companies who offer such low percentages do so because they provide editing, proof-reading, warehousing and distribution services as part of the contractual agreement with their author. But any author who is worthy of writing a novel and/or a non-fiction book, should have enough experience on how to edit and proof-read their own work. Furthermore, there are numerous independent agencies that can provide a professional assessment of your manuscript for a fee.
I found, that when I began trying to find a publisher some twenty odd years ago to publish my first novel [long before e-books became a reality], many insisted that the manuscript be professionally assessed before it being presented to them for consideration. I expect this is because a publishing house does not want to take a gamble on an unknown author. Although in my case I took their advice and had my work professionally assessed [an exercise which was certainly worth doing] by then I had “lost interest” in going through the whole regime of applying to publishing houses to have my manuscript considered for publication. Instead I moved on to my next projects: a non-fiction history book, and my second fictional novel. The assessment of my first novel did not go ignored. The lessons learnt and advice given, were invaluable in administering them into the new books.
The trend of online shopping has not only taken hold of our society, it has become the norm. Consumers find it so much easier in their busy and ever time-demanding days to shop for everything from personal items to food online. It is also evident that the need of entertainment has also moved from the traditional high street purchases to online methods. As more people purchase music, movies and books from online sites such as Amazon, there is no reason to believe that consumers will not turn to e-book distributors to commence purchasing their favourite e-books online through such distributors as Barnes & Nobel, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, WH Smith, Baker & Taylor, and Amazon to name but a few.
Having said all this I will revert to the original question: What is a ‘Published Author’?
Personally I believe any author who has taken the time to research and write a manuscript. Spent endless hours editing and proofreading his/her work; had it professionally assessed. Spent money on ensuring the best possible cover has been designed for it and then self-publishing it should receive the recognition of being a “Published Author”. For anyone to demean that accomplishment by stating that you are not a published author unless you have signed a contract with a third-party publisher, is both insulting and naïve.
RLB – Tomewriter