CONCEPT: Rather than letting publishing houses choose which authors are successful, let any author get published, and allow readers to decide.
Two decades ago traditional publishers would’ve told you to take a long walk off a short pier with that sort of unfiltered nonsense. But with the help of the internet, this idea has moved from the fiction to the non-fiction section in incredibly quick time.
Self-publishing has changed the author game. Don’t believe me? Here are just seven reasons why you should.
1) Authors as entrepreneurs
Traditional publishing essentially treats an author as an employee. They sign a contract, get paid for their writing prior to it being printed, and assume little risk for relatively little reward. But the rise of self-publishing has turned the author, for better or worse, into an entrepreneur. Money only comes in if your work sells, meaning the risks are higher but the rewards greater. You’re also far more in control of your book. Story elements, formatting, cover design, marketing; you choose how these things are done, but you also pay for them out of your own pocket.
2) A hot-bed of innovation
There are two operative words within the term ‘traditional publisher’. The one we’re going to focus on is ‘traditional’. These fat cats have been steering the book industry for centuries. It’s fair to say that in a lot of respects they’ve got stuck in their ways; often, admittedly, for good reason. They know certain things work, and predictably tend toward those things.
The rise of self-publishing has led to traditional publishers’ conventional wisdom being challenged. Entrepreneurial self-publishers are far more experimental, slicing books up to sell them in pieces, challenging conventional pricing structures, and paying no attention to archaic requirements on length and structure. A lot of the time this experimentation results in a published bucket of poop. But every now and again an E. L. James type strikes accidental gold.
3) Creation of new industries
New ways of doing things have created new industries to help people do them. Self-publishing services are now a thing. Whether you’re looking to develop your technical writing skills, have your manuscript sculpted by a professional editor, or whack a heavenly looking cover on the sucker, there are now a full suite of services designed to cater to every aspect of the self-publishing experience.
4) People are beginning to understand the publishing process
There is an irony in being a football referee; the best games that you’ll ever adjudicate are the ones in which no one notices your work. Like a competitor at the world camouflage championships, the best compliment you can possibly get is ‘I didn’t even notice you’.
The same irony has long existed in the publishing game. Effective publishing works in the sort of subtle way that has previously gone over many an author’s head. This lack of understanding has had authors questioning the worth of their publishing house. But self-publishing is helping to highlight the amount of work that must be done in order to get a book to print. In many ways, self-publishing is helping traditional publishers to finally get the kudos they deserve.
5) You’re no longer so vain
I bet you think this blog is about you, don’t you, don’t you??
While Carly Simon probably wasn’t singing about self-publishing, printing your own work has historically been seen as a vain pursuit; so much so that the term ‘vanity publishing’ was invented to describe it. Because of the previously exorbitant costs involved in printing your own work, it was seen as the bastion of the talentless, rich and self-indulgent.
But the ubiquity of modern self-publishing means that it is no longer seen as a conceited path to tread. It has become far more of an accepted – if not admirable – way to get your work out there.
6) Explosion of soft porn and fantasy
With traditional publishers steering the literary ship for so long, it was inevitable that they became a little predictable. Certain genres, most notably soft porn and fantasy, were thumb-nosed and poo-pooed, left alone for fear that they’d soil a publisher’s reputation.
But self-published authors have no such concern with reputability. They simply write what they want to read. And it turns out a lot of people want to write and read about phantasmagoria and people doing the horizontal business. These previously ostracised genres have exploded in recent years, finally acknowledging the wants of a horny reading public.
7) Copy-editors are having a field day
There has never been a better time to be a copy-editor. While other aspects of the self-publishing process – formatting, marketing, distribution – can be handled by the author (with the help of free online services), one thing that every writer will still need professional help with is editing. And while traditional publishers used to be the only avenues for these editors to find work, self-published authors are now hunting down these professionals directly.
High demand and limited supply means that copy-editors are getting reimbursed for their services better than ever. It’s also a field in which quality is overtly apparent; there’s nothing to hide behind if you’re a bad editor, and any fly-by-nighters are found out very quickly.
So it’s official – the game has changed. Thankfully for authors, this change has been an overwhelmingly positive one. While the risks and competition are greater than ever, at least you can publish your work and get it out there rather than die wondering, as many a struggling author has done before.
And if it’s a soft porn fantasy novella, start shopping for that Pacific island.