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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Score One More for Self-Publishing

To civilians – folks outside of publishing for the purposes of this piece – hear the phrase “self-published,” they are likely to be of the mind that you publish some sort of worthless marketing materials, porn or schlock. 

Certainly a lot of crap is self-published, but the same can be said of traditional publishing. I defy you to go through a bargain bin at any of the major booksellers, indie bookstore or flea market without rolling your eyes at least once (and for every ten books you set aside the higher the probability there will be a face palm too).

I think that the establishment has a vested interested in keeping this idea firmly in the mind of the reading public.

Obviously, the reading public is getting enough quality in self-published titled that they continue to purchase and download and spend. Those of us in the know realized that the traditional model is broken and took our writing careers in our own hands for a variety of reasons. We may not end up writing the Great American Novel or getting millions of dollars in royalties, but we are forging new ground here. We are pioneers in the new frontier, in so many ways.

This conversation has been had by dozens over the last few years… There just isn’t much more that I can add, that I haven’t already stated.

What I am pondering about the civilians. When I tell people that I write, most of by friends have been through this journey with me and I have been pretty open about it. Recently while speaking with former colleagues, some seemed a little perplexed by the idea. They are not particularly e-readers today, but are likely to become late adopters.

Their only knowledge of this “phenomenon” comes from the media.

On the one hand, unless you can claim you’re making Amanda Hocking money, they’ll think you are not successful. By the same token, they are likely to think it is a pipe dream because most self-publishers do not sell books in the thousands, and as it stands, self-publishers don’t get much respect either.

Our books are rarely reviewed by the establishment and although the New York Times now has a list of best selling e-books, the likelihood is that these are not self-published titles.

All this would have been absolute if not for Kerry Wilkinson, who just eliminated another hurdle for self-published authors by becoming the best-selling author in the Kindle Store UK. With over 250,000 units sold, he killed in the last quarter.

For him, this is an experiment and he has no expectations for his endeavors. He is not giving up his day job, but his success will certainly tweak the conversation and tip it in our favor again. 

This is not to say that crap will stop being published. No, we will always have tons of crap! But Kerry’s and Amanda’s success have already given notice to traditional publishers. Amanda accepted a contract regarding printed books and Kerry has not considered the traditional route yet.

Two things, in my opinion, will be influenced by these two:

  1. Publishers will start paying closer attention to self-publishers (for self-serving purposes, but this is not entirely a bad thing).
  2. Writers who have not committed to the process might see it as less daunting and try to share their work with us, with a few increasing the quality of the work.
The next big hurdle will be fought in the film-rights front. The first self-published title (or series) that gets a feature film will go a long way in making the industry rethink its current model and incorporate us crazy kids.

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