Self Publishing: Friend or Foe?
Publishers are beginning to accept—and even embrace—the self-publishing movement.July 2011 By Jim Sturdivant
As the self-publishing phenomenon has grown and matured, traditional book publishers have passed through something like the five stages of grief: denial ("It's just vanity publishing."); anger ("It's an affront to quality!"); bargaining ("Don't you see how fruitless this is?"); depression ("Amanda Hocking"); and, finally, acceptance of the fact that the self-publishing market is big, influential and here to stay—and maybe not such a bad thing after all.
It has become clear lately that most aspiring authors need more than just a good idea and a salable version of their prose to succeed. As open-publishing and printing company Lulu CEO Bob Young recently told an interviewer at the World E-Reading Congress in London, "Most authors actually don't want to self publish. … The author needs help. He needs help understanding who his market is. He needs help crafting his content so it has more appeal. … We understand the need to connect publishers [with authors] in the sense of people who understand the markets and can help authors sell their content."
Lulu has revamped its self-publishing platform to enable third-party service providers to cater to authors, essentially taking on a publisher's role. (An example is Before I Grew Up, a company that helps people create appealing baby books.)
With Amazon also getting into the publishing business, it has become clear that self publishing, and the massive long tail it creates, has not made publishing irrelevant—quite the opposite, in fact. Those publishers that can figure out how to serve this growing market in innovative, nontraditional ways have ample opportunities for new revenue.
Building an Author Oasis
As publishers have begun to see potential in the self-publishing market, authors have begun to recognize the limitations of releasing a book into what Molly Barton, president of online writing community Book Country LLC, calls "the digital desert."
"What I saw was a lot of very expensive services without a lot of publishing expertise behind it," Barton told Book Business. "… I wanted to give these new authors a lot of tools for learning how best to describe their own work and lots of tools for finding readers, and I also felt strongly that we could provide more reasonable self-publishing tools that are based on writers' needs, because we are publishers rather than pure technologists."