Do Your Own Thing

Do Your Own Thing
Authored By Johnny Blogger

As you might know, as well as being a rock t-shirt dude, I'm also a writer and have been one professionally for over 15 years now. The parallels between the music industry and the book industry are many.

Back when we started DJTees, we were one of a small handful of online t-shirt stores that printed everything to order. We've never held any stock of any design. People buy a t-shirt, we print it and ship it. That's how it remains today. Now, it's how everyone does it, by and large.

But back in 2002 this wasn't the case. The only t-shirts you could buy were, by and large, XL and black. They were screen-printed in large numbers and sat in boxes in warehouses, tying up a lot of money and many often went unsold and ended up being sold cheap on market stalls.

We spotted earlier than most that this was the clunky analogue way of selling, so along with few other pioneers, set about doing things a different way. Back then, a lot of people genuinely thought you'd never make a living selling on the internet. It seems along time ago now. The music business, from top to bottom, was very slow to change. It wanted to hang on to how they'd always done things.

And it was just the same in publishing. Publishers resisted the march of Kindles for a long time. There was even a ban on Kindles in some book shops during the Hay-on-Wye book fest, because they were seen as a pernicious force. They campaigned against buying book online because it'd mean bookstores would close. The publishing industry had coined it big for years and wanted to protect its income, so it began to vociferously decry anyone who self-published. They were the gatekeepers to the quality, upland lush pastures of great literature. Letting the great unwashed do it all themselves would lead to disaster. Well, you would say that, wouldn't you? But the funky independent book cat, was out of the bag and wasn't going to put back in.

I wrote two books for a publisher. They were very nice people and I enjoyed working on those two books with them, very much. They also had offices overlooking the Houses of Parliament. Had they lived in a shed in a cheap and unfashionable part of town instead, they could have paid authors a lot more money, instead of paying for upmarket offices. I thought this was wrong.

All publishers want to make a living. Fair enough. But to make a living they need the authors to take so little money in a royalty, that they can't make a living. Yet without the writers, nobody has a job. This seemed very unfair to me.

Then I learned that someone who had topped the New York Times best seller list had made under $13,000 that year. Then I learned a lot of 'best seller' lists are nothing of the sort. They're a 'chart' paid for by publishers. You pay the most money, you get to the top of the list. Then I learned that publishers pay to rent the tables at the front of Waterstones and, presumably other stores too. Those big cardboard stands full of a new releases, they're all rented by publishers too. Most of the books in them will often be on sale-or-return.Yet still Waterstones loses money and has, inevitably, turned to coffee to save them. Where is all the money going, I wondered?

Tired of only getting an average of 60p per sale, I set up my own publishing company in order to give myself a shot at making a sustainable living as a writer. That's just a fancy way of saying, we send books to a printer and put them on Amazon and Kindle. We design the covers and pay for independent editing and proofing. That's all being a publisher really means. I'm not saying it's nothing, but it isn't super hard, either.

Now, instead of getting 60p a book, I get approx £1.40 per Kindle sold and anything from £2-£4.50 profit per paperback, depending on where it's sold. If I write a best seller, I'll be mega rich, but I don't expect that to happen. I'm happy making a meagre living from writing novels, because I love doing it and it means I never have to leave the house and can listen to rock music all day long, while drinking tea and coffee. This is all I ask out of life, right now.

The point is this: if you can take control of what you create, you stand a much better chance of surviving and then flourishing. If, back in the day, we'd bought in big boxes of t-shirts and retailed them, we'd have failed because we'd have probably ended up losing profit on unpopular stock. We came up with a different way of doing things. Likewise with the books.

I suppose what I'm saying here is this: if you're a creative person, try and find your own way of doing things and don't just default to how they've always been done. It might not make you rich but it'll give you a shot at surviving and that, to me at least, is a big win.


Scroll To Top