Pimp-My-Novel: E-books and self-publishing are going to make publishers, agents, and editors obsolete. It's true that the industry is changing rapidly and that, à mon avis, the Publishing World of Tomorrow will require fewer employees and companies. Roles will unquestionably change. But as long as people are willing to pay to read books, you're going to have people to sell them, manage their brands (i.e. you), market them, and make sure they're as strong as possible before publication. The future is not a bunch of people uploading their just-finished MSS to Amazon for immediate review and sale.
I share the reservations of my writerly friends about vanity presses not really being a legit form of publication. But, I'm seeing more people doing it and for good reasons. For example, a reader friend I discussed the self-pub idea with said she got hooked on writers who offered a free download for her e-reader and then followed up with an e-book that she then was willing to pay for because she'd liked the free offering.
Another writer I know just published with LuLu.com. She didn't offer any sample pages, the cover is dull and she's going to have to do more to get me to look at her story collection. Another writer, major best seller type, is pulling together a collection of pieces that have been hanging out in his computer, not going anywhere. He's young, talented and needs the money, sees a quick self-published collection as a way to generate cash for some of his other projects.
For a quick interview with Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, a self-publishing service, go to the Lit Chick Show online with Sylvia Massara. Coker talks about the new frontier of self-publishing and emphasizes there's no substitute yet for highly polished, professionally executed prose. (Thankfully)
Here are some other example of how self-publishing can work: A writer friend published her book on writing technique, sold it at writers workshops she teaches and eventually the book was purchased and re-issued by a major national publisher. It's getting good reviews. And, a photographer friend published a book of his images through blurb.com. It's a beautiful hard-cover book that he's using as a portfolio to show new clients, as well as sharing with family and friends. All they have to do is go online and order the book -- print on demand.
Another photographer self-published a beautiful coffee table book, printed offshore, put the costs on his credit card, threw the books in the trunk of his car and went from indy bookstore to indy bookstore convincing owners to stock it. The book has had multiple printings. He just built a studio on a hilltop in Marin and now is on his forth photo book. Two writers I know formed their own publishing companies and published their books, along with being open to selectively publishing the work of others.
Lots of paths and motivations. The stigma of self-publishing is going away and more writers are doing it. That’s because waiting for the publishing industry to settle down and to be discovered could take until hell freezes over. In the meantime, what are we going to do to build audience for our stories?
For those interested in the business of publishing, Small Press World has some advice about setting up your own small press and publishing that way. Oh, another example. A friend has written a wonderful book on the early California tycoons who made their marks in the Great Central Valley through farming and ranching. Although she has published traditionally, she just didn't feel like waiting around while today's big publishing houses hemmed and hawed.
Got some self-publishing advice to share? Got ideas about how to get published? Know a thing or two about self-publishing? Know of some useful links we should know about? Leave a comment. We can use all the help we can get.
Image from Small Press World.