Sunday, April 14, 2013

Has Self-Publishing Changed Things for the Better?


There’s no doubt that the self-publishing revolution has been a game-changer for nearly everyone in the publishing/bookselling biz. Hundreds of articles and blogs have been written on the topic. These days, it’s interesting to listen to colleagues discuss whether to self-publish or take the traditional route. Certainly, the question requires careful thought as the answer isn’t easy, especially when there’s still a fair bit of misinformation (or perhaps one-sided information) being circulated. Take, for instance, an article called “Ten Ways Self-Publishing Has Changed the Books World” (do you have a grammatical issue with that heading?) in The Guardian.

I’ve listed some of their points in italics, followed by my comments, because I don’t agree with all of it.

1.      The copy editor, traditionally a marginalised figure, is now in strong demand. This is only partly true. Colleagues have noticed increased business, yet there are still a huge number of self-published books that should have been edited. I personally know self-publishers who never hire an editor. Not a good idea.

2.      The re-emergence of the book as a precious object. This one had me laughing for a minute. If anything, low-priced, slapped together McBooks have devalued books in general, but I gather their point is that more people are self-publishing books that hold special memories for friends and family.

3.      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. Yeah, well maybe, if you like marketing, but a lot of authors don’t. For them, it's akin to having a root canal with strangers looking on. The few authors I know who embrace it and do a great job have advertising and marketing backgrounds. The rest of us are supposed to jump on board and get up to speed.

4.      It’s not all about making money. Huh? Maybe for a tiny percentage, but anyone who visits the kindleboard and amazon forums regularly will soon be set right on that score. It is about making money for many people, so much so that they’re counting on writing income as their retirement plan. Definitely not a good idea.

5.      An end to the vanity-publishing put down. Again, I suggest the journalist hang out at amazon forums for a while. Anyone who dares identify themselves as a self-published author on some forums will not only get an earful but be given a 1-star review and targeted from there on. There are groups of people who avoid anyone and any book that smacks of self-publishing.

There are more points in the article, and I do agree with some of them, but the thing is there are different ways to look at things. While I do think self-publishing has created terrific opportunities for writers, there’ve also been some definite drawbacks to the book world in general. Consider the sleazy ways some traditional and self-published authors resort to gain attention and sales, for example, through stacking bestseller lists, sock puppetry, and republishing books to gain a higher ranking on Amazon’s list.

In the book biz, it always comes down to a matter of expectation versus reality. I think this article is a little too unrealistic about what’s really going on out there, however, you can decide for yourself at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2013/apr/08/self-publishing-changed-books-world?CMP=twt_gu



7 comments:

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