The Future of the Book

Do it Yourself: Self-Published Authors Take Matters Into Their Own Hands

By posted at 6:01 am on November 8, 2011 29

1.
More than a few times, my father has waxed lyrical about my future appearance on David Letterman. “You’ll tell him how your dear dad is your greatest influence.” In this fantasy, I’m not an movie star, or even someone with a talented pet. I’m a novelist. “Dad,” I say, “why would Letterman have me — a writer — on his show?” My father doesn’t have an answer. He just shrugs, as if to say, Why not? My father also believes Oprah would take his call. And that he can hand-sell a thousand copies of my (as yet unpublished) novel to people who owe him favors. “Make it ten thousand,” he says. “Show those numbers to your agent.” Sure, Dad. Okay.

But wait. If my father can make good on his promise, and actually sell a decent number of copies of my book — over the phone, from the trunk of his car — then why not do what so many other writers have done recently, and self-publish?

In August, droves of self-published authors commented on my essay, “Shutting the Drawer: What Happens When a Book Doesn’t Sell?” about the death of my first book. There was that clichéd rallying cry: “Traditional publishing is on its last legs,” as well as cheerful exhortations for me to take matters into my own hands. E-publishing and print-on-demand, commenters assured me, has made D.I.Y. publishing affordable and easy.

covercoverAfter receiving all this feedback, I decided to talk with a few self-published authors to find out why they went that route, and what its benefits and drawbacks have been. I first corresponded with two of my high school English teachers who have used CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing wing. Daniel D. Victor self-published his novel A Study in Synchronicity after he’d queried agents for some time without success. Victor has already published one novel; in 1992, St. Martin’s put out The Seventh Bullet, which was recently re-released in England by Titan Books. Both of Victor’s novels are inspired by the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; the former is a “Sherlock Holmes pastiche” while the new one intertwines a Victorian-era whodunit with a modern-day mystery — it’s a clever tale of fiction-coming-to-life. Victor told me he’s been very happy with CreateSpace, both in the process and the results. “People have told me how great my book looks, how professional. And the procedures, once I got the hang of them, were straightforward.” When I asked him about readers’ response, he said, “People have been very receptive and complimentary. Of course, most all of the books have been bought by people I know. What else would I expect them to say?”

covercoverVictor’s colleague and friend, Barry Smolin, has self-published two manuscripts: Wake Up in the Dream House, an image-driven book of prose, and Always Be Madly in Love, a poetry collection. Aside from teaching high school, Smolin hosts a radio show on KPFK and makes music under the moniker Mr. Smolin. After self-producing albums for so long, self-publishing made sense. He didn’t even attempt the traditional route. Like Victor, he found CreateSpace user-friendly. (Or, in Smolin-parlance: “I ended up digging it.”) When I asked how readers had responded, he said he hasn’t received any feedback. “But, then again,” he added, “I didn’t publish them for feedback.”

Smolin later sent me a second email, in which he described his life as an artist:

I… have spent the last 35 years making art (music, poetry, fiction) that absolutely nobody cares about. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t resonate with folks. It saddened me more when I was younger; now I just accept it. That reality has had no effect on my creative output whatsoever. I can’t stop doing it. It’s just a burning need in me. It’s who I am. I am an artist even if nobody else on earth thinks so. I’d be miserable if I was not sitting down each night to write or make music. So, I’ve learned to create without the need for any kind of audience. It has just been a survival mechanism I guess. I can’t NOT write, I can’t NOT compose and record music, but I also can’t just create all this stuff 24/7 and stick it in a drawer… I like knowing it’s “out there” whatever that means, that it’s in the cosmos and available to be received if any are interested.

It’s an intriguing contradiction: the desire to publish a book without an expectation for readers. Neither Victor nor Smolin seemed to anticipate an audience when they decided to self-publish — at least not a large one. Unlike many other self-published authors, they haven’t been tirelessly (some might even say obnoxiously) promoting their work. And yet, both Victor and Smolin maintain a hope for readership. In this regard, self-publishing provides the manuscript with a liminal existence — it’s technically available to the world, even if hardly anyone in the world is aware of it. There is potential, and that’s what matters. Neither of my former-teachers approached the topic of self-publishing from the perspective of platform-building or money-earning, as I’ve seen other self-published writers do. They were both quite noble about the process, actually, and their quiet belief in their own work made me want to read their books. I realized, talking to them, that self-publishing provided a conclusion to their artistic projects. Victor and Smolin are writing other books now; their previous ones have been brought to the world, and are thus finished.

2.
Okay, I’m just going to go ahead and say it: At this point in time, self-publishing lacks the cool factor. It’s… dorky. Go ahead, call me a snob (check), call me the mean girl (check). You can also call me someone who loves a well-made, beautifully designed book that makes me shiver with desire. To me, a good-looking book implies an understanding of the marketplace and how to maneuver within it. Most (though not all) self-published novels look, well, self-published. I’ve met enough self-published authors at festivals and conferences to know most of them aren’t doing things right. Don’t wear a baggy T-shirt with the cover of your book screen-printed across the chest. Don’t wear a cape made of crushed velvet. Don’t refer to your “fiction-novel.” And don’t pay some questionable publicity company to spam staff writers of The Millions with press releases.

coverThere are, of course, self-published authors who actively market themselves, and do it well. Two of my peers — Los Angeles-based writer Matthew Allard, and my former classmate at Iowa, Jason Lewis — have both published their own fiction, and made it seem hip to do so. I’ve actually never met Allard; he and I are friends on Tumblr, where he maintains a thoughtful and amusing blog. Last year, he self-published a collection of short stories, To Slow Down the Time, illustrated by the artist Ian Dingman. Allard produced two versions of the book: a limited edition hand-bound hardcover, and a print-on-demand paperback (published by CreateSpace), and made them both available for pre-order. The limited edition sold out in a week, and these sales financed the production costs. “To be honest, we had profit immediately,” Allard told me. “I didn’t make enough money to quit my day job, but I made more than drinking money. I used some of my money to buy a nice new MacBook Pro (to write another book with). I was very surprised.” I own the paperback version of Allard’s book, and it’s lovely. Many a visitor has picked it up and asked me about it, which proves that you don’t need the letters FSG on your book’s spine to woo a reader. Allard did not submit To Slow Down the Time to agents and traditional publishers. “I am impatient,” he said, “and I liked the idea of turning it around and of having full control over our project.” He will most likely self-publish a second collection of stories, which are notoriously difficult to sell these days. Again, he mentioned the swift turn-around time between finishing the manuscript, and presenting it to readers. Clearly, this aspect of self-publishing is seductive: readers get your work while you’re still passionate about it. After meeting a handful of writers who can’t stand their books by the time they’re released, I can understand the appeal of a faster timeline. However, I worry what that acceleration might do to my own work. For instance, there’s a difference between this blog post and the novel I’m writing now, and that difference is time: to ponder, to revise, and to receive feedback. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

When I asked Allard about his self-publishing experience, he said:

I learned that this is absolutely a viable option for intrepid, Internet-savvy authors. Self-publishing levels the playing field a bit. There is certainly not the same kind of cachet attached to self-publishing as the traditional route. Maybe there’s no pleasure of saying, “Random House is publishing my book in the fall,” but self-publishing does offer the same quality product (providing your product is quality to begin with) and you get to be in charge. The absence of a marketing budget is the other drawback. You made a book! It’s real! Getting it into readers’ hands is a whole other ballgame. In my case, I was lucky to have amassed a decent Internet following that was interested in what I was working on.

Self-publishing is simply cutting a corner and taking charge of your work from start to finish. You don’t have to sit around waiting for a publisher or agent to notice you and believe in your project. If you believe in it, you can make it. There’s less glamour or paycheck attached, though.

I’m struck by how clear-eyed Allard is about the process. He understood self-publishing’s limitations, and the work required of him to render the book a success. He’ll be in fine shape if he sells a book to a publishing house down the line. The publicity budget for a traditional published book usually isn’t huge, and nowadays the writer is expected not only to be an artist, but also a talented promoter of that art. Allard already knows how to tap-dance for his dinner, and to do it gracefully.

coverLike Allard, Jason Lewis has published an atypical book. His novel, The Fourteenth Colony, comes with an album of songs written from the perspective of John Martin, the book’s main character, a musician who returns to his hometown in West Virginia to try to put his life back together. Lewis wrote and produced all the music, and funded the project via Kickstarter. As with Allard’s, Lewis’s book was financed by readers, and he has a guarantee of an audience, however modest, by the time the book goes to press this month. Any copies he sells on top of this will be profit. This is in contrast to the traditional publishing model which puts money up front in the form of an advance, and sets about building an audience for a work that’s already created. It’s not hard to see which model offers greater risk.

Lewis used to have an agent, but she left the business a few years ago, and he had trouble finding representation for The Fourteenth Colony. He began writing new work as he sent out the manuscript to agencies, but he couldn’t get his first novel out of his head. “In another era, that might just have been the itch I couldn’t scratch while I moved on,” he said. “But in this era, indie publishing has really very quickly become a viable option.” Notice that Lewis uses the phrase “indie publishing” — a smart move, in this fraught moment in books.

Although Lewis has enjoyed the outpouring of support from family and friends, and from strangers who are simply enthusiastic about his unique project, he admits, “It would still be great to have someone else to take care of a lot of what I’m doing for myself.” Allard, too, envisions publishing a novel traditionally some day. “For me and my career as an author, it is a goal to have a publisher take interest in my work and back it. There is a different sense of accomplishment in selling a book that way, obviously. I want that.”

This intrigued me, though I wasn’t surprised. Even writers who self-publish well, who successfully produce books that don’t fit into the publishing industry’s rubric of what’s marketable, let alone categorizable, still want entrance into the established world they initially turned away from. If only for assistance with production. If only to say, “My book’s for sale on the front table at Barnes and Noble.”

Even in 2011 that value can’t be denied.

3.
For some self-published authors, the traditional industry may be dying, superfluous to their needs and success as authors. But many of the self-published authors who commented on my initial essay suggested that I publish my own book as a means to get the industry’s attention. They seem to be saying: Screw the industry… that is, until they recognize my genius!

Matthew Allard self-published a book that probably couldn’t have been produced by a large house, but the story of that book, and the attention it’s received, could no doubt help him get representation and sell another book down the road. Daniel D. Victor might amass a following for his second novel, proving to those gun-shy agents that his subject matter is indeed of interest to a wide readership. In my estimate, self-publishing won’t replace traditional publishing, but it might supplement and influence it. There’s another trajectory for an author’s success; alongside the debut novelist who’s an MFA graduate with publishing credits in The Missouri Review and Your Mom’s Journal,  there’s the writer who proved herself with self-publishing and now has a book deal with Random House. But to think every self-published author makes it big is as foolish as thinking every MFA grad does.

In a recent New York Times article, Amazon executive Russell Grandinetti said, “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader. Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.” It’s a good point. Self-publishers essentially cut out the middle man (except, of course, outfits like Amazon…), and in shouldering the burdens of editing, design, publicity, and so on, they stand to reap all the benefits of that work. It’s how Amanda Hocking made her millions. It’s also how many, many other self-published writers spent a lot of time (if not money) putting out a book that no one bought. With my first novel, I suffered rejection from editors. The writer who self-publishes sidesteps that rejection, only to face possible rejection in the form of readers’ silence.

If you self-publish a book and it doesn’t do as well as you’d hoped, does it hurt your chances to sell a novel to a traditional publisher in the future? Maybe in an industry that’s changing so rapidly, it’s too early to answer that question. Talking to these self-published writers certainly opened my eyes to the various reasons why one might try it, and how gratifying it can be. These are writers I admire; how their books came to me doesn’t matter. That was an important lesson for me to learn.

Even so, I’m not running to the press with my first book. In a second essay, I’ll further explore why not. I’ll also examine what self-publishing means for readers, and what traditionally published authors think of all these D.I.Y. developments.





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29 Responses to “Do it Yourself: Self-Published Authors Take Matters Into Their Own Hands”

  1. On dreams and a thoughtful article from @The_Millions | Kimberly Pauley
    at 8:36 am on November 8, 2011

    […] Malaysia–thanks, Dylan, for the picture of my books in a store there!). I was reading this article on The Millions and it really rings true to me. Though the idea of getting funding through Kickstarter is appealing […]

  2. R. Scot Johns, Author
    at 8:42 am on November 8, 2011

    I started my own publishing company to put out my first novel, a 640 page historical fantasy novelization of Beowulf, the length of which was actually laughed at by several agents. The book has since gone on to receive 10 five star reviews on Amazon as it sells 75-100 copies a month consistently without any promotion other than my blog. I like the fact that the consumer now acts as the gatekeeper for what is worth reading, even if it’s a niche title with a small market no large publisher would touch. That means more diversity for readers and more opportunity for authors.

  3. Rob Blackwell, Self Published Author
    at 9:23 am on November 8, 2011

    Self-publishing is dorky?

    So writing a novel yourself and having the guts to go out there and try and find an audience for it is somehow uncool? I think you have it backwards.

    Honestly, waiting for a traditional publishing company to “bless” your work or reaffirm you — that’s dorky. You don’t need them anymore. Really.

    If you have a novel, and you’ve had it edited, copyedited, revised, etc., there is no reason to wait for someone else to give you their stamp of approval. That feels lame, even “pathetic,” as Joe Konrath puts it. If you are confident in your own work, you should share it.

    I published my own novel, “A Soul to Steal,” two months ago on Amazon. It’s an ebook only — I didn’t even bother with a print version. It now has 24 5-star reviews and a number of very positive reviews from book bloggers. Should I have waited until some publishing company sorted through their slush pile and decided it was worth it? Would that make me cooler? Cause right now I’m making money and gaining fans. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely cool.

  4. Piotr Kowalczyk
    at 11:15 am on November 8, 2011

    Every month since January I prepare a report on how self-published books are doing in Top 100 in Kindle Store. Good news is that about 20 self-pubbed books are on the list each month.

    Key findings are:
    – price is a main factor – majority of books are $0.99. Price goes up, book goes down (case of Amanda Hocking before her trilogy disappeared from Kindle Store)
    – high rotation of books and authors (no Locke or Hocking any more, now rule Darcie Chan and Michael Prescott)

    I was expecting in October a negative influence of Kindle Daily Deal, but it didn’t happen. Kindle Daily Deal books took as much as 20 positions from Top 100, but it’s apparently not self-published books to get hurt.

    Have a look at a report for first half of 2011: http://ebookfriendly.com/2011/07/08/top-self-published-kindle-ebooks-in-first-half-of-2011/

  5. Gene Olson
    at 12:48 pm on November 8, 2011

    It took 6 years to recently self-publish my memoir THE BOY FROM BOTHELL * Bipolar * Vietnam Veteran. If a “traditional” publisher offered a million dollars, I’d reply, “No way! That’s MY book!”

  6. Jason T. Lewis
    at 12:50 pm on November 8, 2011

    Thanks, Edan, for the very fine writing.

    I did want to put a finer point on why it would be nice to have backing from a support system like a traditional publishing house. As I’ve spent these months editing, graphic designing, recording, mixing, mastering, fulfilling orders, booking readings/shows, obtaining press, etc, one thing has bummed me out: I don’t have much time to write right now and maybe not for a while yet. If someone else was on some of those things I’d be able to carve out some more time to write, but right now all my energy is focused on this project.

    I guess that’s a small price to pay, as every aspect of this process has been very rewarding. I will say that I don’t think indie publishing is the way for every writer and it is a struggle to not be one of those writers who bleat out promos for their book with every online utterance. You have to have a little PT Barnum in you, but not so much that people want to punch you in the face. It’s a fine line I’m not sure I tread effectively all the time, and some people just aren’t comfortable with that aspect of the indie publishing equation, or any public life, for that matter.

    I look forward to getting back to writing seriously, every day, which I’m sure every writer, regardless of how their book was published, feels when the book comes out and there’s work to be done to get it to readers hands. Right now I feel like I’m traveling for work and my little family of almost-kinda-finished novels are waiting back home in my Dropbox anxiously awaiting the time when we can be together again.

  7. Susan Gabriel
    at 3:22 pm on November 8, 2011

    I found this to be a well-written, well-balanced essay with both pros and cons spelled out. Actually, I would go so far as to say this is the best essay I’ve read so far on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. (Thank you, Edan!)

    I’ve been writing for 15 years and I indie-published a novel two years ago called Seeking Sara Summers. I did this out of total frustration at the close calls and near misses with agents and publishers. (One agent even called to ask me if I’d “settle” for a $50,000 advance. Duh, yes! And then evaporated.)

    The ms. had been professionally edited before I published it and to date it has sold 3,000 copies and still sells about 100 copies a month. Of course, I’ve worked my tush off marketing it and I’m not a marketer. I’m a writer. So while it empowered me in one way, it limited me in another. I could have spent all those hours writing instead of marketing. Plus, even though my indie novel is a “success” on many levels, I still don’t have that Good Housekeeping seal of approval from a traditional publisher. (Though until recently, when she retired, I did have a literary agent for 3 other books.)

    Would I do it again? Yes.
    Am I submitting to new agents with a goal of traditional publishing? Yes.

    I look forward to the second essay!

  8. Jade Bos
    at 3:31 pm on November 8, 2011

    I’m self publishing my second book via tumblr and kickstarter. My first one sold 250-300 copies and counting. The only press I have are my followers on tumblr for my 2 year old blog, Hookers or Cake, and a few friends.
    The book has sold well enough to pay for professional copy editing and printing for my second book.

  9. D.I.Y. Authors | 7dproductions's Blog
    at 9:10 am on November 9, 2011

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  10. Fear and trembeling. « A 20Something Types
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  11. Tomes and Talismans
    at 11:44 am on November 9, 2011

    Crushed velvet capes will always be cool.

  12. L. Lee Lowe
    at 12:36 pm on November 9, 2011

    Cross-posted:

    I get heaps of negative reviews for my fiction, some of it reasonable and salutary. Am I discouraged? Sure, sometimes, though much less by the remarks than by my own self-criticism. But then I get an email from a blind girl asking permission to translate Mortal Ghost into her mother tongue, Swedish, because the novel means so much to her: that’s making it big in publishing – self or otherwise – in my book!

    (Eventually there’ll be a link to her project at my website.)

  13. Self-Publishing Review | Blog | Self-Publishers are Dorky
    at 1:19 pm on November 9, 2011

    […] interesting post in The Millions about self-publishing – which to me is kind of watershed compared to yet another post about […]

  14. Kristen
    at 2:49 pm on November 9, 2011

    “It’s an intriguing contradiction: the desire to publish a book without an expectation for readers.”

    Partially disagree.

    No publisher: Absolutely no expectation for readers. Your book will certainly, no questions asked, NOT be read. By anyone.

    Self-publish: There is of course some expectation that it will be read (otherwise, why bother?). You have a chance, at least, of having your writing reach an audience. You have a shot at reader reviews and reviews in publications. You have a shot at promoting your writing on radio, TV, blogs, etc.

    What it comes down to is deciding whether you want to wait for someone else to decide your book is “good enough” and slap their logo on it before you start a self-promotion campaign similar to the one you’d embark on as a self-published author.

  15. C. Robert Cargill
    at 5:29 pm on November 9, 2011

    “Notice that Lewis uses the phrase “indie publishing” — a smart move, in this fraught moment in books.”

    I think you are being extremely generous here – though admittedly, despite what a few of the self-published authors in this comment section might believe, the tone of the piece was one brimming with generosity. “Indie publishing” means something very different from “self publishing.” Indie publishing, while technically meaning “independent of the major publishers” infers that you were still published by an independent publisher – like Deadite or Pyre or a college press. It is an all too common buzzword co-opted to avoid the stigma of self – or vanity – publishing.

    It’s not so much smart as it is an epidemic – in the same way people now answer the question “Which publisher put it out?” with “Oh, you can find it on Amazon.” It is, at the very least, a polite fiction that the self publishing community uses to achieve legitimacy – in the same way people who write blogs about movies often call themselves journalists. Sadly, what it does to legitimize them, delegitimizes the indie publishers out there who often get ignored or forgotten in this debate, as everyone else’s arguments work so much better if they don’t exist.

  16. Edan Lepucki
    at 5:48 pm on November 9, 2011

    Thanks to everyone for their comments. If it weren’t for having a 4-month-old who has given up sleeping, and this terrible head cold, I might have the energy to respond to all. For now, my essay will have to speak for itself.

    And, you know, crushed velvet capes might be cool, if worn by the right person. It’s all in the walk, perhaps.

    I will say that I plan to talk about small presses in my second essay on the topic. And, you’re right, Mr. Cargill, that I meant for my tone to be generous and open-minded, for I respect these writers who took the time to talk to me about their books and their careers. I think Jason Lewis uses the term “indie” because that’s the term he uses as a musician; though I agree that some authors might be using the term with a different intention.

    Thanks again, everyone, for reading.

  17. James W. Lewis
    at 6:55 pm on November 9, 2011

    I definitely wouldn’t call indie publishing “dorky.” More like “ballsy.”

    To have a strong belief in your work and take a leap of faith to go at it on your own is definitely ballsy in my opinion. I had two literary agents for seperate manuscripts and still didn’t get a book deal, so I created a publishing company called The Pantheon Collective with two of my friends. I’m so glad I did. I’m happy with my sales and don’t think much about traditional publishing anymore.

  18. Jason T. Lewis
    at 10:28 pm on November 9, 2011

    OK, I’m going to concede Mr. Cargill a portion of his argument in that I’m sure that there are folks out there who try to nuance their language about what they’ve done to get their book into the world. However, I can assure you that I am not one of those people. When it comes to the larger publishing world, I really have no interest in the semantic arguments about who does what or has the right to call themselves whatever. I wrote my book. I worked on it very hard and made it the best book I could make it. I asked other folks if they agreed with me that it should get out into the world. They did agree and invested in my project.

    The truth of the matter is that my book is not self published in the strictest sense. That’s partially why I decided to adopt a different verbiage, one that I was familiar with, an ethos that’s been a part of my life since I was 15. I didn’t front the money to publish my book. I had several dozen “investors” who weighed the pros and cons of of my venture and deemed it worth a few (or in some cases many) of their dollars. True, I asked them to consider that investment and am grateful beyond belief for their support, but in point of fact, it is not “self published” in the way “self published” is traditionally defined. People gave me money because they believed in what I wanted to do. The distinction between traditional publishing and what I’m doing are many and varied, but at the core, that one fact remains the same.

    I point all this out as preamble to the idea everything is changing. Or has changed. And it ain’t changing back again. Just ask the folks who had jobs in the music industry in the 90s who don’t have music industry jobs any more. The categories aren’t’ the same anymore. Or they just don’t matter. And more importantly, I don’t care other than in relation to how it impacts me, which is primarily in the avenues I have to get people to read and listen to my work. The rest is an argument for someone else.

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  21. JJL
    at 3:43 pm on November 10, 2011

    Wasn’t “Leaves of Grass” self-published. Seems to have stood the test of time, as well as multiple revisions.

  22. AM Burns
    at 2:33 am on November 11, 2011

    Thanks for the awesome article.
    We are seeing the tip of the iceberg for indie authors. The big thing that so many of the folks who are being successful are saying is that more than marketing the key to getting out there is writing. Don’t just write one book and market it like there’s no tomorrow. People who really want to succeed will write a book get it out there and spend some time marketing it while they write the second book, and keep writing. The more books, short stories, ect you have out there the better chance you will have to catch an audience. I indie published my first book in August and so far have sold over 50 copies, but I have been diligently trying to get short stories up every couple of weeks to help build my audience while I work on additional books. My second book will be available early next week and a third in December. The catch is I can see my audience building even with minimal marketing. I will be doing more marketing as each new book comes out.
    Indie writers don’t give up, get out there and write. Oh yeah, and don’t for get to get things edited. Editors help a lot. If you can’t afford a pro then join a writers group that will help get your work to the next level.

  23. Shelley
    at 11:27 am on November 11, 2011

    A salute to the valiant people here.

    But it sounds so nice, as one person says, to “have someone else” to help….

  24. Maurice Jordan
    at 7:27 pm on November 11, 2011

    This is a well balanced look at self publishing as it is today. As the husband of an author, I’ve seen my wife ride the highs and lows of publishing, I can tell you from experience and I know why a lot of authors are taking the self publishing or indie publishing route.

    My wife is also taking that direction but only after having traditionally publishing two novels, years of writing and more importantly, rewriting her work. After hearing that publishing companies can’t seem to move “small personal books” these days, self publishing starts to make a lot more sense. What do you do when you’ve built up a collection of novels that traditional publishers say the market won’t bear? Well, you try and prove them wrong.

    Digital and self publishing are here to stay and I can assure you, it will only get bigger in time. From music, to movies, to phones, the newer, easier way of getting product has always won out. Sadly, the publishing industry has been and still is painfully behind other content driven industries. When you consider that the written word could have been digitized and made available a decade or two before music and movies, it shows you their reluctance to change. It’s just plain text folks and yet, the industry never took advantage of that and now, they are paying the price and will continue to, for some time.

    What has mattered and will matter even more as digital takes over is consistency, of material, of quality. You don’t have to look much further than the movie industry to see bad film after bad film making it to your local movie theater and they’ve gotten away with it in the past because of marketing and the opening weekend. That strategy is failing them and the movie industry is somewhat at a loss about what to do and my guess is the current wave of 3D, which is the wrong answer.

    It’s might feel dorky at this moment to be self published but do you skilled authors want to be the last person, on the last boat out of “The exclusive publishers club?” I hope not, your fans deserve better.

  25. Peter Conor
    at 7:32 am on November 12, 2011

    Self publishing is definitely a growing trend, and I’m definitely thinking about it for my first novel. I think it’s a great way to get your work out there. A friend of mine, Michele Gorman has, despite being a best-selling writer in the UK, decided to self-publish in the US through an E-book. She’s blogging about her experiences of this http://www.michelegormanwriter.blogspot.com. I think writers like this are changing the game.

  26. What purpose do book publishers serve? — Tech News and Analysis
    at 6:04 pm on December 1, 2011

    […] who writes for a magazine called The Millions and is also an author, says that while she sees the benefits of self-publishing — the freedom from a traditional book contract, the ability to control the way the book is […]

  27. King Samuel Benson
    at 3:51 pm on December 27, 2011

    I’ve almost finished writing a non-fiction book titled “YOU TOO CAN BE RICH – Understanding The Hidden Secrets To Financial Freedom”, not my first attempt at writing, but my first attempt at writing to publish. I’m in a dilemma whether to traditionally publish, or self-publish. Although I’ve not tried submitting to a publisher or an agent, I just don’t want to make the same mistake that I hear so many authors make on their first attempt.

  28. King Samuel Benson
    at 4:17 pm on December 27, 2011

    If I make a choice from either of both, I want to be sure I’m making the right choice and that it’s an option that’ll best work for me. I’ve made quite a number of researches and inquiries, one of which led me to this site. This is quite a post and I find the variance in opinion very learned and from an experienced point of view. I’m closely considering self-publishing, and if you have strong reasons why I shouldn’t, do let me know.

  29. Piotr Kowalczyk
    at 5:08 am on January 17, 2012

    To give a larger view of what happened in self-publishing in 2011 I’ve prepared a report on top self-pub’d ebooks of the year, based on data available in Kindle Store.

    Check the report here http://bit.ly/selfpub2011 and the highlights are:

    1. There is a downward trend in both the number of books in monthly Top 100 lists and the average price
    2. Average price of a self-published book in 2011 was $1.40, vs. $8.26 for all books in Top 100
    3. High rotation of titles: only five authors out of 75 stayed in Top 100 for at least 6 months
    4. There are 18 self-published titles in a yearly Top 100 for 2011 (not a single one in 2010)

    The $0.99 price seems no longer to work. Self-publishers have to change from being deals to being brands.

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