Thursday, January 28, 2010

A symposium: The Function of Self-Publishing at the Present Time


The publishing industry is undergoing change in how books are delivered. It is not unreasonable to presume that in a decade electronic devices such as the Apple tablet or the Kindle will be the premiere platforms delivering text to millions of readers. On the other end of the spectrum there is the democratization of the publishing process itself. Once reserved only to a chosen few, publishing has become available to anyone wishing to publish his or her book either through traditional means or as an ebook.

The purpose of this symposium is to assess the state of self-publishing and speculate on its future. Is it utopian to believe that self-publishing can become anything more than what the publishing mainstream sees it to be, essentially a slush pile? Can self-publishing become a realistic publishing option and produce recognized names?

Here are some questions to start the debate.

How does self-publishing differ from traditional publishing?

Do self-published book review blogs help to raise the reader awareness of self-published books?

How do you respond to the following statement?--Self-publishing is not a serious way to get one's work into print now and never will be.

Has the golden age of self-publishing already passed or is it yet to come?

What about the challenges posed to the self-published writer by having to promote and edit his or her own book?

Why is it that a self-published author has yet to emerge into national recognition as a self-published author? (As opposed to being given a mainstream publishing contract after a self-published book attracts attention.)

Has the experience of self-publishing changed the way you write? (If you have self-published.)


Zoe Winters said...

I can't address everything because my post would get to "ZOMG spork your eyeballs out long" but I think the primary reason that we have yet to have a "name" come out of self-publishing itself instead of after a mainstream publisher backed them is because the stigma of self-publishing has made it such that most SP authors seem to want to "get out of" SP. It's a means to an end for them.

I think this is all a mental block more than anything. There is nothing about publishing as a business model that makes it such that you can't create something that catches on and set up the business infrastructure to handle that success.

While that's not necessarily a bad thing for authors to take a deal, I think it helps to reinforce the stereotype that SP isn't a sustainable business model on it's own. And I believe that it is. When you do the math for 10 years out with 10 books in your backlist, there is a legitimate possibility of someone 'breaking out' in some way AS an SP author without even needing an outside publisher in the equation at all.

I think it takes someone (or several someones) truly committed to the business of SP itself, who can build each success on top of the previous smaller successes. But I think once someone does it, we'll start to see a lot of other someones do it. Because the game totally changes once a possibility opens up after someone has proven something can be done. (Like the guy that broke the 4 minute mile, after he did it a whole bunch of other people did it the next year.)

After a point, if the readership is out there, it's not that you CAN'T get it without a major publisher, you just have to find a way to reach your peeps. And you have to have some business sense and know how to reinvest to get your name out there further.

And I think the best days of SP are ahead of us. I also believe that as we go more and more to Ebooks and Ereaders that there is going to be less of an idea that you can "only" do the big stuff "with" a big publisher.

Because most publishers are not interfacing all that splendidly with the e-world. They don't have giant online presence. The Internet is the Internet and if we're on the Internet an SPer who knows how to market and get their name out there doesn't need a publisher in the online world. They just need to know how to build their platform.

The publisher therefore becomes a middle man.

Maria said...

The internet made communication a lot easier as Zoe (above post) said. In turn, ebooks are going to make it easier for a self-published writer to get the work--and word about the work--out there.

I'd have to agree that the best days of self-publishing have been brewing for a while and are still ahead.

I also think that traditional publishers need to figure out very soon that they MUST make more efforts to interact and communicate with readers. Amazon has managed this with forums and enthusiasm for its Kindle product.

Yes, review blogs are extremely important--to both traditionally published writers and to self-published writers. An outside "endorsement" or "stamp of quality" or even "analysis" of a book is imperative to getting the word out.

Self-publishing, like any business, has challenges. Editing, cover art and PR are probably the biggest problems for a writer, but those are services that can be found on a contract basis without having to go through a publisher.

What is new and making success more possible for the self-published than in the past? The internet for communication--and distribution. In the past traditional publishers had a lock-down on distribution. With ebooks, that isn't the case. With POD, that isn't the case. The doors have been wedged open.

With those opening doors...there will be good and bad and unpredictable. Sounds like a good adventure to me!!!

Maria Schneider