I guess that depends upon whom you ask…
An interesting debate is going on about the issue of self-publishing. Now I’m not referring to vanity press publishing, I’m referring to bypassing the traditional route to publishing – and therefore avoiding such obstacles to success as literary agents and submissions editors (or their assorted lackeys), who appear to operate as the sole arbiters of taste for the entire world’s book-reading public.
So what exactly is self-publishing? It is taking control of your product and seeing that it actually gets published. This generally happens via electronic books (e-books) and print-on-demand (POD) publishing platforms, both of which are available at little to no cost to authors. These very same platforms are now being utilised by traditional print publishers such as Random House, who have discovered that they can continue to sell their back-list and dead-wood titles without spending any money, not to mention flog additional copies of their more viable books – again, without spending any money. Sounds like a good deal, eh?
Then why is there such a negative connotation placed on authors who also choose to follow this same road? I guess in this case, what’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.
The consensus seems to be that traditional publishers dislike authors who employ these forms of self-publishing. It kinda makes you wonder if maybe they’re seeing the writing on the wall. I mean, if more and more authors go this route, there will be less books on offer to publishers – and less books means less revenue. Just think: what if authors decided to avoid the endless hassle and rejection of dealing with agents and publishers and opted instead to do it themselves? Can you imagine if Stephen King told his publishers to go take a flying leap and went into full-on DIY? Imagine how much money his publishers would stand to lose (and how much more he would make!). Oh man, doesn’t it just get your mouth watering?
Granted, Stephen King has a name; he doesn’t need to worry about his books sitting all lonely and unloved in a corner of a bookshop near the toilets. Not a lot of authors are as fortunate as he is. They need to rely on their publishers to push their material into the public arena, to actually SELL it. Err… hang on a minute, did I say “sell”? Aye, there’s the rub. How many publishers put forth any real effort on actually selling a book? Sure, each book gets a marketing budget, but more often than not, it’s barely enough to buy a pack of chewing gum. And don’t think just because you have a big publisher they’re going to break the bank to promote your little book – not when they have to earn back all those ridiculous advances they’ve paid out to their so-called “star” authors.
Now most people who know me know that I work my backside off promoting myself and my various projects. Heck, if I don’t do it, who will? So when my efforts start to get attention from the right people, I expect those who handle “marketing and publicity” to at least follow through when I place leads into their laps. After all, I’ve pretty much done their work for them, right? What I do not expect is to see these leads ignored because said marketing person’s either continually out of the office and not replying to phone and email queries, or just can’t be bothered to do his/her job. For example, awhile back I found out that a television producer had been trying to find me and not having any luck. He later informed me that he’d pretty much given up hope after three attempts to contact one of these aforementioned marketing persons for information on where to reach me (his phone calls were never returned). He finally had his assistant Google me, which resulted in my email address.
So much for the advantages of traditional publishers and their marketing and publicity departments.
One of the main arguments used against self-publishing (which tend to be put forth by traditional publishers) is that self publishing will diminish the quality of books on offer. Really? Have you been down to your friendly neighbourhood bookseller lately and seen some of the crap on offer? I mean, did someone actually wake up one day and decide to publish say, Katie Price‘s scintillating series of memoirs or autobiographies whatever in hell they are? Whether they sell or not is besides the point, especially when the argument these publishers are brandishing about is that the “quality” of books and literature on offer will be severely diminished by these nasty evil self-publishing authors.
I talk to a lot of writers, and I mean published writers, who’ve been there and done that in the traditional way – only to see all their hard work go nowhere (that’s if they even get a book deal). Many of these writers are now realising that they can enjoy a very high royalty rate in this self-publishing game – and they don’t have to share the pot with any literary agent either. Not only do they get to control their product, but they can avoid a lot of ulcers arguing with book editors over editorial changes that may (or may NOT) improve the work. Sure, they may have to work harder to get the word out, but is that any worse than seeing your “baby” being neglected and shunted aside? – only to later be told that it didn’t sell very well, if at all? Well, of course it didn’t sell. No one made any effort to sell it!
The point is, the days of self-publishing have changed. No longer is it your senile old granddad publishing his war memoirs to give the grandkids at Christmas. You’ll be seeing more and more talented and name-known authors going this route, as traditional publishing continues to push more and more talent away from their doorsteps in lieu of publishing more and more tripe they can’t sell in their endless game of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Well, perhaps Peter has finally had enough!