I am the first sing the praises of self-publishing. After all it's got me to where I am today. Never before has it been easier for a writer to get his or her work into the hands of the people that matter: the readers. It has democratised the publishing industry and has empowered writers more than anything else in recent memory.
Having said that, it ain't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. There are pitfalls to it.
If you're a writer who already self-publishes or are thinking of self-publishing, then my recent experience might be worth reading about for the sake of having a balanced view, if nothing else:
On Tuesday April 30th, two of my remaining self published books Life... With No Breaks & Max Bloom In The Cornerstone suddenly went free at Amazon UK. This took me by surprise as it had nothing to do with me. I emailed them and they came back to tell me that both books were being offered for free at the Barnes & Noble Nook UK store - and therefore Amazon had price-matched, as is their policy on such occasions.
This was a bit of a shocker as I had unpublished all ebook versions of my books at stores other than Amazon way back in the middle of March.
...or so I thought.
I had published my books via the Smashwords platform, who distribute ebooks out to external retailers like Barnes & Noble. Once I'd unpublished at Smashwords in March though, my ebooks should have been removed from sale at the Nook UK store.
Only they weren't.
What's more they were being advertised as free, despite me never having priced them as such.
Hasty emails were sent to Smashwords. Who I didn't hear back from for two days.
I then emailed the owner of the company who promised to look into it. A further three days passed with no resolution. The ebooks remained at the Nook UK store for free and the price match stayed at Amazon UK.
This of course meant I was selling no copies of either book.
Eventually, Smashwords did get the books removed from the Nook UK store... a whole week after I'd asked for their removal. Yes, in an age of lightning fast digital communication it still took seven days to get two books removed from one website.
I can upload or remove an ebook via Amazon KDP within twenty four hours without fail.
The practical upshot of all this was that I lost over £1000 in revenue at Amazon UK all the time the books were price matched to free. That's a grand down the crapper through no fault of my own.
If this had been the first incident like this it wouldn't have been so bad, but back last year a similar lengthy and erroneous pricing glitch via Smashwords led to Love... From Both Sides being removed from sale for a day by Amazon for violation of their Terms and Conditions. Then the year before that, my short story Feedback was also price matched to free by Amazon because one of Smashwords external retailers had it incorrectly priced at free for over a month.
Now, I am sure many writers have had a trouble free experience of using Smashwords and enjoy using the platform without hassle. I am only stating the problems I have had with them - problems that have led me to take the decision not to use their publishing platform again.
How can ebook retailers like Smashwords and Barnes & Noble hope to compete with Amazon when they allow these kinds of issues to exist? And take so long to have them resolved when they do crop up? If you want to threaten Amazon's dominance you at least have to provide an efficient service.
While being a traditionally published author does throw up its own issues from time to time, at least this kind of thing doesn't happen. If glitches, pricing problems or errors crop up with the 'Love...' books I have a publishing company who will handle the task of getting them fixed.
Cautionary tale over folks, normal service will resume shortly.