Monday, April 12, 2010

A few thoughts about self-publishing

I just I just linked to this stunning article from the Wyrdsmiths site: Serious disruption just over the near horizon.

There's all sorts of juicy bits in there but there are a few of Mike Shatzkin’s comments I would like to focus on:

“If by the end of 2012, 25% of sales for a new book are digital, then about half of new book sales will be made through online purchases if we count the print book sales made through online retailers (mostly Amazon.)

Online print sales can be served through inventory generated on demand. So, if these estimates are right, we are less than three years away from a publisher (or author) being able to reach half the market for a book without inventory risk!”

Mr. Shatzkin’s article goes through and enumerates several ways that this is a tectonic shift in the publishing industry but there's one that really stood out in my mind:

“Self-publishing strategies for entities that can do the marketing become much more compelling. It is no secret that an author can make more money on each copy sold managing her own publication through Lulu or Author Solutions or Bookmasters. If half the market is directly available without regard to the effectiveness of a field sales force then we can be sure, at the very least, new title acquisition will be more challenging for established publishers.”

Now, I have been keeping a relatively close watch on the recent developments in the publishing industry and the primary reason is because I have always been intensely curious about the possibility of being able to self publish my book someday.

It has been clear to me for several years now that the day would come when self-publishing would be a viable option but I have always felt that self-publishing wouldn't be feasible until two critical pieces were in place:
1)    e-book adoption reached a “critical mass” 
2)    There was a mechanism by which authors could reach their audience

I think #1 is well on its way to reality.

As for #2, one of the biggest advantages to going with a traditional publisher has always been “books on the shelf.”  How else would one get found?  Yes, it has been possible for several years now to sell an e-book through various websites, but just putting your book out on the Internet is no guarantee to sales. In fact, I would say that strategy is a guarantee for almost no sales. Having a book in the New Release section of brick and mortar store means your book is in competition with maybe 50 other books. But putting it on the Internet and letting it sit? That's the proverbial needle in a haystack.

So let's revisit my second quote. “Self-publishing strategies for entities that can do the marketing become much more compelling.” The key word in there is marketing, or as I stated earlier, reaching your audience.  IMHO, that is one of the few barriers left to those are interested in self-publishing. Worried about editing? Hire a freelance editor. Worried about having physical copies of your book? Use one of the print on demand houses like Lulu. Worried about not having an agent? I may be going out on a limb here, but I would guess that as the number of good authors who choose to self-publish increases, so will the number of agents willing to work with them.

In the end, however, it all comes back to marketing. You have to be able to reach your audience.

I'll save my thoughts on that topic for my next post. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Am I half crazy? Completely over the edge into Looney Land? Let me know!

1 comment:

Jon said...

I think that's the big rub. I think, in theory, everything about self-publishing is attractive, the self-control, the money returns (if successful), it all sounds great.

But that little add on of: "All you have to do is market it yourself", to me, is tantamount to the people who say: "I have so many ideas... I just need to write them down."

And sure, more and more you have to do a lot on your own even when you're with the big houses, but at least you're not alone... I'm just not that familiar with the machine, you know? I would hate to miss oppurtunities to market my book, just because I didn't even know they were oppurtunities to begin with.

I think the marketing aspect is a much big hill than people think, that from far away it doesn't look too tough, but once you're up close... it's a bitch