The self-publishing bandwagon, that is. I’m sorely tempted to do it, just to see what happens. The steampunk I’m working on feels really good (I have no idea if it actually is), and I’m thinking I might publish it myself. An author friend who’s also a very talented graphic artist has offered to do the cover for free. I have someone who’ll edit it for story (I don’t need it for grammar and syntax). I have proofreaders. All that’s stopping me now is nerves. Or rather, a lack of nerve.
It’s amazing to contemplate how fast the publishing industry has changed in the last year or two. For hundreds of years, publishers owned the only distribution channel. If they didn’t deign to buy your manuscript, you’d never be anything more than an aspiring author. There have always been small or indie presses, and some of them succeeded, but most failed. And there have always been people who wanted to see their words printed and bound so badly that they’d pay for it themselves. But self-published authors have always been objects of pity and scorn, never taken seriously.
Until the advent of ebooks and, I think, the economic implosion. The economy socked it to the old print publishers at the same time that the ebook market exploded. Two years ago the president of RWA was very public in her contempt for e-publishing, and a lot of established authors agreed with her. Today, NY authors are signing contracts with epub houses. Two years ago, a lot of writers who signed with epublishers intended to make ebooks a stepping stone to print. Today, a lot of those same authors look at the economic state of print publishers—and bookstores—and are quite happy to stick with electronic publishing.
Two years ago, even e-pubbed authors would’ve been aghast at the idea of self-publishing. Today all the cool kids are doing it.
If you’re an author, I know you’ve thought about it. Come on, admit it—you’ve read about Bella Andre, and Amanda Hocking, and Joe Konrath, and you’ve thought—okay, yeah, it’s just a tiny, tiny fraction of self-published authors who make those kinds of figures but hey, why couldn’t I be one of them? (The “gold rush” metaphor used in the Bella Andre article is particularly apt. In real gold rushes, a horde pours into the gold field, but only a handful end up striking it rich.)
Bella Andrea and Joe Konrath were already traditionally (i.e., print) published authors. I think if you’ve already been published, whether in print or in pixel, you stand a better chance of selling your self-published work. It’s not just that you already have a readership, although that will certainly give you a higher profile on the retail sites.
It’s also that you’ve already been through the editing process—you know how important editing is, you know your first draft is only that, you have a better feel for what makes a story ready for publication. There are a lot of crap books being self-published, and it’s usually because first time authors have never had their work reviewed and critiqued by somebody else. They don’t know how much better their book could be.
Unlike some people, though, I don’t think that the whole concept of self-publishing is tainted just because ninety percent of the books are crap. Ninety percent of most anything is crap—television, movies, music, fashion and, yes, books.
If you’re a reader, I’d be interested in your comments. Have you ever purchased a self-published book and, if so, what did you think of it?