Original posted by Alison Baverstock
Date posted: Monday 8 April 2013
After a boom year in self-publishing the headlines are getting a little predictable. Most feature a doughty author who quickly builds demand for her work and is rewarded with a large contract from the traditional industry. But in our rush to admire, there’s a risk we overlook the wider cultural significance of what is going on. As publishers from all over the world prepare for next week’s London book fair, here are 10 changes that they ignore at their peril:
1. There is now a wider understanding of what publishing is – and that it is more difficult than it looks.
2. Gone is our confidence that publishers and agents know exactly what everyone wants to (or should) read, and can spot all the material worth our attention. Soft porn and fantasy have emerged as particularly under-represented in the industry’s official output.
3. The copy editor, a traditionally marginalised figure, is now in strong demand. If you are well-connected through social media, can isolate what your writing has to offer and get the message noticed by a reading public, you can probably manage the marketing of your work. The one thing it’s really hard to do is self-edit.
4. The re-emergence of the book as precious object. Some publishers are marketing luxury books; limited editions available only from them. Similarly, it’s becoming relatively common for people to self-publish their holiday photographs in book form; to produce a unique photograph/memory book for special birthdays or to mark a retirement.
5. The role of the author is changing. With the fragmentation of the media in recent years, publishers were already relying on authors to help with the marketing – and learning how to do so is empowering.
6. The role of the agent is also changing. Literary agents used to introduce ingenue authors to those who might invest, and then work with them to build longer-term careers. Now that so many self-publishing authors are finding the market themselves, agents need to find new ways to make their work pay.
7. New business models and opportunities are springing up, mostly offering “publishing services”: advice on how to get published or self-publish; guidance on developing a plot or a whole manuscript; lifestyle support and writing holidays; editorial services and marketing assistance. New writing patterns are developing too: team writing; ghost writing; software to assist the crafting. Publishing is emerging as a process – accessible as a variety of different services to whoever needs them – rather than just being an industry.
8. It’s not all about making money. If, as I believe, self-publishing means taking personal responsibility for the management and production of your content, this can be achieved as effectively via a single copy to be kept at home as the sale of thousands online.
9. An end to the “vanity publishing” put-down. No longer the last resort of the talentless, these days self-publishing is seen as a homing ground of the instinctively proactive: identify your market; meet their needs; deliver direct. It’s also a flexible solution; a process not a single product, for which the rationale can be very varied – from book as business card to ebook novel; from hard copy of a work-in-progress, to a team compilation for a local history group.
10. Self-publishing brings happiness. Publishers have long assumed that only if nearing professional standards could a self-published product bring any satisfaction. My research has revealed the opposite. It seems self-publishers approach the process confidently, are well-informed, and aware of how much the process will cost and how long it is likely to take. They emerge both keen to do it again and likely to recommend it to others. Finalising a project you have long planned feels good, and the process builds in the possibility of future discoverability – whether that is in an attic (whenever the family decides they are mature enough to want to know), or by ISBN from within the British Library. Self-publishing as a legacy – should we really be so surprised at its growing popularity?
ᔥOriginal article and Image via Ten ways self-publishing has changed the books world
- Ten ways self-publishing has changed books (guardian.co.uk)
- An Author’s Guide to the London Book Fair (offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com)
- “Balancing the Fine Line of Your Genre” – by Mercy Pilkington (selfpubbooks.wordpress.com)
- How to Become a Self-Publisher – Step-by-Step Explained (savvybookwriters.wordpress.com)