The writer/publisher – part 15

Self-publishing is in danger of becoming mainstream.

When the New York Times does an article on self-publishing, I know that I am no longer involved in a cutting-edge activity. I read Sara Glazer’s article, How to Be Your Own Publisher, and  wonder if Reader’s Digest and Boy’s Life will soon follow suit with snappy do-it-yourself articles.

The only question left, in my mind, is whether self-publishing becomes a regular part of everyday existence like flossing or does it become a niche artform like decoupage.

There is little in this NYT article that will encourage writers, but for those who have been resolutely ignoring self-publishing, it offers a summary of current opinion on the subject under the imprimatur of the most imposing, influential, and possibly most biased newspaper of the current day.

This comment by Sara Glazer captures the article’s ambivalent attitude toward self-publishing:

…self-published authors have essentially become the bloggers of the publishing world, with approximately the same anarchic range in quality that you find on the Web.

If you brush away the condescending attitude, there are nuggets of useful information on self-publishing to be found. Here are some compelling reasons to self-publish:

1. Maintain control of the content and the publicity

When Amy Fisher finished writing her memoir "If I Knew Then," about shooting her lover’s wife, she told her agent not to send the manuscript to New York publishers. Fisher was determined not to be sensationalized  by the media. By self-publishing, she can control every aspect of the advertising and media interviews.

2. Establish a position with a non-traditional genre

"The self-publishing route has become a viable alternative for a lot of authors who can’t conveniently categorize what they’re doing." This quote from New York literary agent, Harvey Klinger, characterizes his advice to best-selling author Kathryn Harvey.  Her "Private Entrance" — which he describes as ”sexy suspense” — fit into neither the "chick lit" category nor the older woman’s audience (sometimes called "hen lit").

3. Develop a track record without the burden of supporting an unenthusiastic team of traditional publishers, agents, and literary types.

If you are an unknown outsider and try to utilize traditional routes to getting published, these people will take up your time without producing results for you. When you have proved that your book will sell, you will be in a better position to deal with them. It is not prejudice on their part. It is a simple matter of economics.

Mark Gompertz, publisher of Fireside and Touchstone, formerly paperback divisions of Simon & Schuster, says, "In a retail world increasingly dominated by national bookstore chains, it’s hard to sell books by new authors without a track record.  He tells people, "You should try self-publishing first, get yourself known on Web sites and start building an audience and sales; when you have it, come back, because then we can make the case that we can get you out in a big way."

Similarly, Steve Riggio, Barnes & Noble’s chief executive, cautions, "If a writer would like to get a book into bookstores, iUniverse (a Print On Demand firm) is not the right route. Only about half a dozen iUniverse books will be stocked in his stores at any one time. At the same time, he says, "We would like publishers to have their eye on iUniverse as a farm team for promising new authors."

There are many more reasons to self publish which I have discussed in previous posts. For those of you who are trying to stay abreast of changes in this interesting field, this discussion on Signal vs Noise is just one of many that you might want to follow.

Are more of you getting the idea that you should self-publish? The artificial barriers are dropping away. Perhaps it’s time for you to take the plunge and become a published author.

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