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Self Publishing: Friend or Foe?

Publishers are beginning to accept—and even embrace—the self-publishing movement.

July 2011 By Jim Sturdivant
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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."

 
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Most Recent Comments:
Diane Mancher - Posted on August 02, 2011
Published & aspiring authors should check out The Self-Publishing Book Expo (selfpubbookexpo.com), which will be held in NYC on Saturday, October 22nd. Self-published authors can exhibit & sell books, check out services provided by some of the leading self-publishing companies & attend a series of panels & lectures on topics vital to all authors & writers on a variety of topics. Some of this year's panels include "What's Your Story?" where writers will have the opportunity to pitch book ideas to agents & editors, One-on-One manuscript evaluations, social networking, website design, legal issues & much, much more!
Lexi Revellian - Posted on July 31, 2011
Hmm...so publishers have noticed that some self-publishers are doing rather well, have they? And their response is to muscle in and tell us how they can help - so they can 'make new revenue'. Do you know, I'm not that interested in the advice of people who turned down my novel that has gone on to sell 29,000 copies in under a year. I've actually had enough of being patronized and turned down. I'm not interested in Barton's tools (what IS he talking about?) Nor do I see it as a 'digital desert' out there - it's lush and green and full of possibilities after the arid wastes of agents' slush piles. Nor do I want to play in Penguin's Book Country; not when I can be doing the real thing, out in the real world, on Amazon. Make me a serious offer which will get my novels into book stores before they disappear, and you might interest me. Otherwise, I'll pass. Lexi Revellian
Shevi - Posted on July 31, 2011
Thank you for your interesting--and even funny--post. I've shared it on my Scoop.It page: "the ebook experiment." While publishers have acted as gatekeepers over the last century, they haven't always made the best choices. The writer of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, committed suicide over the despair he felt because he simply couldn't find a publisher who would accept his work. A survey by Science Fiction writer Jim C. Hines found it took the average published writer ten years to get a first book published, and there's no doubt in my mind that many great writers give up before they even get that far. Yet publishers pay tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for awful books by celebrities who can't write worth a dime. Now thanks to e-books, the tables have turned. Great writers don't need to wait ten years for a publisher to tell them their work is worth something. Unfortunately, this also means the floodgates have opened to everyone, untalented writers included. But it also means readers have a great choice than ever before, and that's a wonderful thing.
TQ - Posted on July 25, 2011
Or just post it all on a blog? It's a digital desert it's true - but then again, that's life. Literature has no extrinsic value in any case. Keep living, keep reading, keep working at putting it all in writing - and wait for death, that's all we can do. Cheers!
Brittany - Posted on July 23, 2011
I believe Createspace is one of the best, because what they have done with Author RAYMOND STURGIS books is phenomenal.
Michael N. Marcus - Posted on July 22, 2011
As long as the self-publishing companies are willing to publish anything that's not libelous or obscene, and as long as editing is an option in self-publishing packages, all of the bosses' lofty comments are bulls**t. These companies make most of their money by selling services and trinkets to author-customers, not by selling books to readers. Therefore, they make more money if they keep publishing crap. Lulu's boss Bob Young said, “We publish a huge number of really bad books.” He doesn't have to publish bad books. He chooses to.
Click here to view archived comments...
Archived Comments:
Diane Mancher - Posted on August 02, 2011
Published & aspiring authors should check out The Self-Publishing Book Expo (selfpubbookexpo.com), which will be held in NYC on Saturday, October 22nd. Self-published authors can exhibit & sell books, check out services provided by some of the leading self-publishing companies & attend a series of panels & lectures on topics vital to all authors & writers on a variety of topics. Some of this year's panels include "What's Your Story?" where writers will have the opportunity to pitch book ideas to agents & editors, One-on-One manuscript evaluations, social networking, website design, legal issues & much, much more!
Lexi Revellian - Posted on July 31, 2011
Hmm...so publishers have noticed that some self-publishers are doing rather well, have they? And their response is to muscle in and tell us how they can help - so they can 'make new revenue'. Do you know, I'm not that interested in the advice of people who turned down my novel that has gone on to sell 29,000 copies in under a year. I've actually had enough of being patronized and turned down. I'm not interested in Barton's tools (what IS he talking about?) Nor do I see it as a 'digital desert' out there - it's lush and green and full of possibilities after the arid wastes of agents' slush piles. Nor do I want to play in Penguin's Book Country; not when I can be doing the real thing, out in the real world, on Amazon. Make me a serious offer which will get my novels into book stores before they disappear, and you might interest me. Otherwise, I'll pass. Lexi Revellian
Shevi - Posted on July 31, 2011
Thank you for your interesting--and even funny--post. I've shared it on my Scoop.It page: "the ebook experiment." While publishers have acted as gatekeepers over the last century, they haven't always made the best choices. The writer of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, committed suicide over the despair he felt because he simply couldn't find a publisher who would accept his work. A survey by Science Fiction writer Jim C. Hines found it took the average published writer ten years to get a first book published, and there's no doubt in my mind that many great writers give up before they even get that far. Yet publishers pay tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for awful books by celebrities who can't write worth a dime. Now thanks to e-books, the tables have turned. Great writers don't need to wait ten years for a publisher to tell them their work is worth something. Unfortunately, this also means the floodgates have opened to everyone, untalented writers included. But it also means readers have a great choice than ever before, and that's a wonderful thing.
TQ - Posted on July 25, 2011
Or just post it all on a blog? It's a digital desert it's true - but then again, that's life. Literature has no extrinsic value in any case. Keep living, keep reading, keep working at putting it all in writing - and wait for death, that's all we can do. Cheers!
Brittany - Posted on July 23, 2011
I believe Createspace is one of the best, because what they have done with Author RAYMOND STURGIS books is phenomenal.
Michael N. Marcus - Posted on July 22, 2011
As long as the self-publishing companies are willing to publish anything that's not libelous or obscene, and as long as editing is an option in self-publishing packages, all of the bosses' lofty comments are bulls**t. These companies make most of their money by selling services and trinkets to author-customers, not by selling books to readers. Therefore, they make more money if they keep publishing crap. Lulu's boss Bob Young said, “We publish a huge number of really bad books.” He doesn't have to publish bad books. He chooses to.

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