It used to be a fairly straight forward proposition for new authors. Either you went with traditional publishing or you went rogue and did things yourself as a self-publisher. If you got the agent and the agent got you a deal with a publisher you were instantly granted the respect of others in the business and the envy of those still trying to get their first deal. If you did things yourself, you were shunned by the “professionals” and got little to no respect from everyone trying to get real publishing contracts. Even if you amassed a fortune selling things yourself.
But times they are a changing. Now we’re seeing very respectable authors moving away from traditional publishing and we’re seeing rank amateurs who are suddenly rich and famous by doing things themselves and seeking traditional publishing deals. The internet has caused all kinds of havoc in the market place. Major book chains and independent book stores are both closing for many of the same reasons. Authors with traditional publishing deals are now looking to do things themselves on the internet. Everyone is wondering what will happen next.
People firmly entrenched in either traditional publishing or self-publishing tend to become upset by each other’s successes. Old ways of doing things crumble and some hold to them like life vests on a sinking ship. New ways of doing things take off like rockets and the folks on those rockets develop disdain for the people they leave behind. Both camps need to find a way to come together and just accept each other.
Coming from a mostly self-published career so far, I can certainly relate to the do-it-yourself folks. But I have also been published by a small press and a web magazine. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what I would like to see happen in publishing in the months and years ahead.
I’d like to see professional writing organizations include self-published authors who have risen to some level of steady sales. Perhaps its equal to the first run sales of the average new author in print. This would cut down on the animosity some writers feel towards these organizations for not recognizing that ebook sales are still book sales. There are many successful ebook authors who are virtually unknown to writers in their same genre who are in these professional writer groups.
I’d also like to see those who are doing things themselves and finding some success, back off on the ugly rhetoric that traditional publication is evil and should be avoided at all costs. That’s simply not the case. There are distinct advantages in seeking a traditional book deal. Although at least one of those advantages I’d like to see diminished -the instant respect in the publishing community for a traditional deal. In many ways a traditional publishing deal is easier for new writers. You get to focus on your career and your writing and let others deal with the cover art, editing and printing. The cache of having a physical book that others have made to honor your words, is a huge ego boost. Not to mention walking into random book stores and seeing your work on display, sometimes along side giants in the industry.
Moving from a want-to-be writer to a published writer is not easy no mater which route to publication you take. Being a writer is more of a challenge today than it ever has been in the past. You are part showman and part reclusive talent. You can’t completely tune out the world and expect anyone to notice what you’ve written. You can’t rely on specialized people to sell your work and your brand. You have to do much of that yourself no matter how you are published.
I believe that every writer has to weigh the options for themselves and chose the path that works best for them. I think we will find that in the future, writers will both secure big print deals and do many things themselves. I know quite a few such writers are doing this today. They are on the forefront of the New Publishing Way. Won’t you join them?