The question of whether to self-publish or to go down the traditional route of agent/publisher has never been more difficult for a new author looking to make their mark. I remember in my teens reading about self publishing (often referred to as ‘vanity publishing’ at the time, and the phrase is still around). Back then it was something no serious writer should consider, unless their work would have a small audience, e.g. a local history book. But I have been following this issue in the last couple of years as Warlords neared completion, and I see a shift in attitude going on.
This is primarily driven by vast changes in technology. The world is more connected. Now the issue for a writer is not how to get their book into print/ebook format or even reach some readers; it is an issue of how to reach the size of audience to make their book profitable, and help them turn their writing into a career. The sidebar adverts on the Authonomy website tempt authors dreaming of world fame to consider the services of Create Space. Have control over your work, they say. Produce professional books, get your cover professionally designed, choose your distribution options, get your book listed on Amazon.
I see self publishing adverts and services all around me online, tempting me…
(Adopt Darth Vader voice) “Why struggle? You know it is your destiny. You were never told the truth, I am your father.”
Sorry, went a bit too far there. The point is, because the self pub route has become more accessible than ever before with better access to potential customers, it has encouraged many writers to produce and market their books themselves and pocket a greater percentage of royalties. The word is that particularly with smaller publishing houses authors have to foot the bill for marketing their books and doing signing tours anyway, so why not do it all themselves? With the growth of e-books and the battle over e-book royalties this argument will continue to be heated for some time. An article on Alan Rinzler’s blog suggests that some publishers are open to considering previously self-published authors as they might not otherwise notice them, and can see the audience they have attracted off their own back.
Yet there are still many conservative voices who remind us of the benefits of traditional publishing. Quality control, both in terms of which works see the light of day, and how well they are edited. The kudos of being associated with a well-known publisher. Shelf space and a far-reaching distribution chain which can help an author stretch well beyond their own singular efforts.
In the midst of this maelstrom (as my friend Malcolm calls it), what is an author to do? Agent Nathan Bransford tackled this topic this week and sparked a huge debate on self publishing.
Me? I am pursuing the traditional route first. I hope that my work is suitable for a mass audience, in the same way that my heroes have reached a mass audience of readers. As far as I can see, a traditional publisher is the best way to achieve that, despite the painful query-rejection, query-rejection process that goes with it. But perhaps self-publishing is the shape of things to come and will become the new platform for many more authors to reach both readers and the publishing industry.
For now I am ignoring the Sith Lords with their tempting messages. But I am discretely checking out their cool red lightsabers. If all else fails, I might get me one of those and turn to the dark side 🙂
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