Self Publishing: Friend or Foe?
"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."
From this came the idea for Book Country, owned by Penguin Group (USA): an online portal for genre fiction writers to hone their craft, critique each other's work, discover their markets and (beginning later this year) make use of self-publishing services. A lucky few may even garner publishing contracts.
"We may well find talented writers on the site that we offer traditional book contracts to," Barton says.
The ability to do this type of prospecting is one of the advantages of offering self-publishing services, agrees Pete Nikolai, director of publishing process at global Christian Publisher Thomas Nelson. In partnership with publishing services provider Author Solutions Inc., Thomas Nelson has offered self-publishing services through its WestBow Press imprint since November 2009.
"As evidenced by The Shack and Amanda Hocking's books, the issue is not quality," Nikolai says. "Rather, it may be bandwidth. Traditional publishers rely on agents to filter manuscripts. Agents have limited time and want to offer titles with obvious commercial appeal. Many quality titles just don't have that obvious commercial appeal, but online and e-book retailers provide a much broader platform where readers can find books they want and help re-define what has that appeal."
If a book gets some traction through author marketing and sales efforts, that itself becomes a selling point for pitching the book to a wider market such as bookstores, according to Nikolai. "Those that continue to gather momentum are then considered for acquisition by our Nelson team, and some are offered traditional publishing contracts. When this happens, the WestBow titles flow into our regular release system with our corporate marketing and sales support, like any other title," he says.