Thanks a lot to everyone who commented on yesterday's post. I'm sorry I didn't have time to respond to everyone. I got caught up doing some aquatic chemistry modeling, but that's beside the point.
When I posted yesterday, I felt like I was more or less rambling about social circles, and it was interesting to me how that led to a discussion of self-publishing versus publishing house-publishing, and the idea of having strangers read your work rather than friends who are simply supporting you blindly, if you will.
I wanted to say a few more things about this. And, again, please keep in mind that I bring this up as a discussion point rather than an effort to persuade. I'm very much in the middle of the debate as I can't really decide if I would ever self-publish or not. I'm open to it.
A few months ago, I did a case study on two books. I happened to know two talented writers who published their books at the same time. One published through Scribner, and the other self-published through Amazon's site. What both of these writers had in common was their talent, and the fact that neither one was the type of person to do much in terms of self promotion.
For two weeks, I followed the Amazon sales rank for both of these books, which indicates approximately how many books are selling better than the book in question--meaning the lower the number, the better. (I know this is NOT the best metric, but it's what I had to work with.) From September 3rd to September 18th, the Scribner book had a sales rank ranging from 272,000 to 67,000. The self-published book ranged from 1.4 million to 690,000. (Incidentally, another self-published book by someone who did do a lot of self-promotion reached 57,000 during this time, and that book had been out for a few years.)
I then wanted to see what would happen to the sales rank, I bought just ONE copy of the self-published book. Before the purchase, the sales rank was 1.6 million. After the purchase, the sales rank was 192,000, within the range of the Scribner book. I took this to mean that, while the Scribner book was consistently selling better than the self-published book, it wasn't doing better by that much. Perhaps fewer than 5 copies a week.
As I mentioned before, neither author self-promoted much. The Scribner writer had done one public reading and got a book review in the Los Angeles Times. The self-publisher mentioned his book on Facebook.
So, I wonder if it's not a matter of how you publish, but a matter of who you reach. I no longer think publishing-house publishing guarantees better advertisement when compared to a self-publisher who has a decent platform. Like Terresa mentioned in the comments yesterday, there's a tipping point in sales, and any way of reaching that tipping point will suffice.
Arguments? Different interpretations? Other thoughts?