Ah, yes, the old chestnut of self-publishing vs. traditional. As if nobody was blogging about this before…
Authors are presented with a lot of options these days, when they want to get published. That’s not news to you. You already know the Kindle, and other outlets like PubIt! (for Barnes and Noble’s Nook) and Createspace have made it possible for a writer to share his novel with the world, within hours after the last word has been typed. Indie publishers who take the misfit works of writers who can’t find a wide audience, self e-publishing, and print-on-demand are seeing an all-time high, and many writers celebrate the new wave of author-focused publishing opportunities that slice away the middle men and let a novel’s creator make their own road to success.
In the wake of the digital era, more than a few bloggers have asked, “Why are some people sticking with traditional publishing, the plodding mastodons of a bygone era that surely must bow to the march of progress? Is it because old habits die hard? Is it because the writers are too insecure to take responsibility for publishing the work themselves? Is it because those publishing mastodons, carrying the nametags of Alfred A. Knopf and Tor and Random House and HarperCollins, still hold a lot of the prestige and reputation writers crave? Is it because they want those corporate fat cats to take most of their hard-earned money?”
In my honest opinion, the answer is a little more complicated. It’s not enough to say that “greed” or “giant corporations” are the reasons why writers now flock to Kindle or smaller publishing firms.
God knows that greed and the sometimes unfair policies and practices of publishers contribute to the problem, though. Several authors I know have been unfairly marginalized, neglected, or even cheated on by the publishers that were supposed to help the author market their work and give them a certain cut of the profits. They have decided that self-publishing is much less aggravating, and gives them far more control over the books and stories they sell. And I wish them the greatest success. Forget the numbers and the “odds” against self-publishing getting them fame and fortune. I want them to get so lucky, it’s as if they grabbed the finest pot of gold a leprechaun ever put at the base of a rainbow.
But there have also been a lot of self-publishers who might have given up on traditional publishing too soon.
See that statement I made up there, that the new trends in book publishing are author-focused? That’s truer than you might know. When writers talk amongst themselves, it’s easy to forget that books are not just marketable products that help spread our names to the farthest reaches of Amazon. And it’s easy to forget that it’s not even about us, the writers. It’s about the readers. Writers, in effect, serve anyone who finds and treasures their words. You give their imaginations and minds a chance to expand, to thrill, to love or hate. Those might be your words, in your novel, but you’re giving the reader an experience. With every new page they turn comes a new chance to enrich their lives, or simply to make their day.
We also have to consider the aversion to risk and difficulty. We don’t like putting our precious work up to the judgment of a large entity (like a publishing house) that doesn’t care about it like we care. And sometimes that drives people to self-publishing. At least your work is guaranteed to reach the world if you e-publish it yourself. But is risk and difficulty always a bad thing? Doesn’t it do a novel good when it’s edited by people who have been editing novels for decades? Sure, it’s your feet that are being put to the fire. The same can be said for every writer. This is a part of the job if you want to be traditionally published: killing your ego, to make sure the reader finds your book in its best possible state.
[To be continued…]