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Self-Published Authors and New Self-Respect

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We are entering a new era for the publishing world. An era where it can be a respectable option to self publish your book. Can because there is still a bias against people who self publish and the author who chooses to take this route must clear many hurdles to wear the tag of a respectable author.

Historically, self publishing was dismissed with little thought as a sub-standard method of getting your book in print by anyone even remotely related to the publishing world . And, in part, rightly so. Many self published titles that appeared were characterized by poor writing, little, if any, editing, and amateurish layouts. All it took was money to buy your way as a "published" author.

Then self-publishing companies came along to cater to these authors. These companies had one primary purpose: sustain their existence from authors who could pay for their services. They would "publish" anything of any quality. If they made money from selling their client's books, great. But their sales and "marketing" departments were charged with parting the author with their money through author book sales, sales aids, and promotional services. They were definitely not the organizations to count on for creating a quality, commercially viable book. That responsibility landed squarely on the author's shoulders.

It's no wonder a bias developed against self published authors that still exists today. That bias, however, is starting to change. Based on the due diligence and a commitment to excellence, a new class of authors is using the self published route to effectively print and market their books. They are committed to creating books which meet the exacting standards that the marketplace expects. They have their books professionally edited and they create professional covers. They write books that are commercially viable and they know how to market them to Internet savvy readers. 

At the same time this is happening, there are authors who still self publish sub-standard books. They use friends to edit their manuscripts. Their grammar is inconsistent and riddled with errors. They have no marketing plan and enter the market with an unrealistic expectation of what will happen with their book. They are aided in their efforts by self publishing companies whose main goal is to make money off of authors rather than help them achieve success in the marketplace. 

This creates an environment where traditionally published books sit on the virtual bookshelves next to well-written, self published books. But there are also self published books sitting there that will never see much success because their author didn't research the publishing process and had no commitment to the craft of writing.

Until now, the traditional publishing world was the universal spokesman against self publishing. They were focused and unwavering in their voice. But that's starting to change – slowly. An interesting trend may be developing before our eyes that is responsible for softening these criticisms. Traditional authors are starting to dabble in self publishing themselves. Couple this with the fact that traditional publishing revenue is shrinking while self publishing revenue is growing, and you have a recipe for self publishing success.

At one time, self published authors would fret over the criticisms levied against them. Any more, it causes little more than a raised eyebrow as the good self-published authors are finding validation elsewhere; namely with the reading public, and at record numbers. This may cause the attacks by the traditional publishing community to increase in intensity and grow more vitriolic, but it will be little more than the noisy clanging of a giant who is finding his relevance dwindling day by day. Self published authors will still continue to write books and readers will still continue to buy them.

It truly is an amazing time to be an author. The ability to realize their dreams has never been more within their reach. The old gatekeepers of literature have been replaced; no, they have been eliminated. There is literally nothing stopping an author from putting his or her story into print. Traditional publishing is an option. The authors will give up profits and control, but they will gain distribution which is rivaled by no one. And if the authors decide to go the self published route, they will need to make a decision. Do they want to create something that will be taken seriously and has a chance at market success, or do they want to throw something together to see their name on a cover which is binding together the sub par quality that is responsible, in large part, for the criticisms that self published authors are still battling today?

Regardless, the market will find the worthy books in print. Now, readers have far more options to choose from. The  one to three books that earned a profit for the large New York houses and subsidized the seven to nine books that didn't make a profit may no longer be sustainable as a business model. Expect to hear more rantings of how sub par self published titles are diluting the market for traditionally published books. The response to that: "Yeah, you're right." But just because someone is encroaching on your turf is not a reason to cry "foul." 

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the publishing world. A few things seem certain.

1. Self published books are here to stay.

2. There is a class arising from the self published ranks that hold themselves and their craft to the the highest standards and will continue to put out quality, marketable books that compete with the traditionally published books. 

3. The reading public will continue to find the literary self published diamonds and tell others about them.

4. The endless cries from the traditional publishers and authors will continue even as they become drown out by the cha-chings of dollars that used to go to them now going to the worthy self-published authors.

But as was stated earlier, time will tell. 

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About Tony Eldridge

  • No doubt that a lot of literary works of art would never make it past the agents and gatekeepers of today. Like it or not, people will write and publish what readers will buy. We can talk philosophy all day long, but when the sun goes down, that truth still holds true.

    I may have some bad news to break to you- unless you are a NY Times best selling author (whose works probably can be characterized as very commercial) even if you go the traditional route, you will have to “peddle your own work.” Marketing dollars are growing more and more scarce in the traditional publishing houses. I have a lot of friends who are published traditionally and they say that one of the biggest surprises they had was how much of the marketing was up to them. Marketing your own book seems to be one of the few common denominators that self published and traditionally published authors share.

    But, as a writer, I can appreciate your longings for the days of patrons. It would be nice if we could all find our Medicis and be free to just write.

  • Well, Steve,

    The main problem for me, I don’t want to lower myself to trying to peddle my own work. I believe it’s good, and that’s what the publishing industry should be about.

    Long time ago, during the Industrial Revolution, Shelley and other poets were very adamant about the new trend as regards works of art about to become subject to the forces of the market place. I find their complaint as a prophesy come true.

    Even parts of Jane Austen’s works, submitted incognito to a literary agent who was responsible for the “Harry Potter” series, were dismissed offhand for not commanding sufficient interest. So you tell me what the odds are for a new author getting published.

    The days of the Medicis and the patrons of the arts look better and better.

  • Good article, Tony!

    Roger, I agree that publishing yourself can be a confusing, maddening, mystifying process. Likewise for new authors seeking a traditional publisher.

    It is possible, though, to get some satisfaction from the tasks involved in publishing. For example, I began designing my own book covers a few years ago when the cover designer I had hired didn’t produce something I was satisfied with. It was a pain in the rear to learn how to do it myself, but I’m glad I did.

  • Roger, I shot you a quick e-mail. Let me know if there is anything–good or bad–in our conversations you feel merits mentioning in these comments for others to read.

  • Well, Tony. Perhaps you can share your find with me.

    My email is listed in the navigation bar, the top of my weblog.

    I do have two good products, and I’d hate to see all that work go to waste. Three years of my life.


  • You are absolutely correct in that, Roger. Self publishing does take a considerable amount of time and energy to make it work. If an author is not willing to put in the time and energy, then self publishing may not be the way to go.

    The big plus in favor of being traditionally published is the great distribution model they have in place. It can take the lion’s share of an author’s time to match that, if they can do it at all.

    One of the reasons I chose the self publisher I chose came down to your point. I didn’t want to devote the energy to doing all of the things that a pure self published author has to do. I found a company that would handle the things I didn’t want to handle and focused on what I was good at– the marketing.

    Great point, Roger, and one that needs to be considered by any author as he or she makes the publishing choices they make.

    Congrats on having two books under your belt!

  • The main stumbling block, Tony, is the amount of time and energy one’d have to devote to having their stuff published; in my experience, it’s just antithetical to all truly creative people.

    If there was a way of getting around that, I’d give it a shot. Have two novels under my belt. But I am not going to devote any considerable time to self-public, just to see my books in print.