There are many blogs and opinions which say this is a great time to be a writer, and they’re not wrong. Let’s face it, the ease of publishing your work in print and electronically, and the many opportunities to promote books through the same platforms big name writers use, allows people to bypass the lengthy process of traditional publishing. Traditional and self-publishing have their ups and downs, but I came across a really interesting blog by Alan Rinzler in forbes.com who goes into some depth about why it’s so good to be an author these days. His piece is worth reading because he worked on the inside of the publishing industry and what he has to say might floor you.
As Zingler and others have pointed out, the balance of power is shifting from publishers to authors. More authors are choosing to control their publishing destinies, and this change in paradigms is finally being admitted aloud, by some publishers anyway. According to Zingler, technology isn’t the only reason this has happened; it’s that publishers have messed up big time, and not just because they’ve been slow to change their ways. The big reason, Zingler says, is that many of them don’t know what they’re doing in the first place!
Most traditionally published books lose money, Zingler says. Publishers have no clue which book will become a bestseller, and they can’t rely on the old models of selling books through bookstores and book tours. Shelf space has diminished and book tours definitely don’t pay for themselves. In fact, pretty much all expenses, not to mention marketing plans, fall on the authors’ shoulders now, so is it any wonder more of them are choosing to self-publish?
Zingler goes on to list the three big myths about self-publishing: that commercial publishers won’t touch a self-published book, agents won’t represent self-publishers, and that it’s easy to succeed as a self-publisher. To read what he has to say about these go to http://blogs.forbes.com/booked/2011/06/06/good-day-sunshine-for-writers/
Recently, I was speaking with a writer who was told at a conference last month that self-publishing isn’t the way to go with one’s career. Other established writers state that you’re dumb if you do sign with a publisher because you lose control and possibly income. Who’s right? It’s a good question, and I can only speak for myself.
Self-publishing my first two novels opened some doors for me and taught me a lot about the production process and about book promotion. I understood the business and the financial risks before I signed with my traditional publisher. As an unknown writer, I felt it was important to go with a traditional publisher because their distribution avenues for print books (and print still matters) are far better than mine. Also, a publisher can publicize my books in ways that I couldn’t. For instance, my traditionally published novel, The Opposite of Dark, has had far more access to established reviewers than my self-published novels did.
I don’t believe that publishing is about choosing just one option. I believe in learning and making use of whatever avenue is available in the best possible way. Not everyone will agree with my decisions, but at the end of the day, I’m the one who must live with them.