I have been working with authors who are self-publishing since 1996, and it has been exciting to see how the industry—which had mostly been static for decades (read: boring!)—has evolved. In fact, I’ve seen the most dramatic changes in just the past few years (read: interesting!). The opportunities for self-publishers abound today, and it is becoming a feasible option (read: choice!) for many.
First—and I think is one of the most important reasons we are seeing such a surge in this route to publishing—the stigma attached to self-publishing is diminishing. No longer is self-publishing being viewed as a choice of last resort for authors who have been denied a traditional deal. Authors—both new and well known—are consciously deciding that self-publishing is the way to go. They all have their different reasons—creative control and better royalties being just two of them— but the fact remains that self-publishing is becoming the choice for many.
Having said that, though, a caveat: Make sure SURE! (Did I mention sure?!) your work is of high quality. Nothing pleases the anti-indies more than a self-published book that is full of typos and grammatical errors. I think 99.99999 percent of writers need a professional editor.
The Impact of Social Media
Second, social media marketing has enabled authors to connect with people they would never have dreamed of in years past. Authors can now build communities reaching in the thousands (tens of thousands, in some cases) without spending a fortune on advertising or publicity firms. Not only does social media allow authors to connect with potential book buyers, but it also offers opportunities for things like peer reviews, asking questions, getting recommendations, and so forth. Another thing I’ve noted is that many authors have introverted personalities, and social media is a way for them to connect with others on a more comfortable level.
A warning here as well: Don’t use social media to shamelessly promote. Social media is about building relationships and sharing information, not advertising.
Third, self-publishing is becoming easier and more affordable. Tools and professionals are plentiful for authors with all kinds of budgets and technical skills. As the traditional world of publishing has been downsized, the availability of freelance talent in the form of editors and designers has been upsized. There is a ton of information out there as well so authors need not go into the business of publishing uninformed. (But be aware: There is a lot of misinformation available as well, so author beware!)
I do believe, however, that you get what you pay for. The free sites where you can upload your book and pick a cover template are probably not what you are looking for if you truly intend to make money off your book.
Fourth, print on demand and ebook technology have eliminated the need for high up -front production costs; storage and fulfillment costs are also a thing of the past. Gone are the days where authors nervously stored a couple thousand books in their garages, knowing they had thousands of dollars tied up in inventory. Now authors can better spend available dollars on editing or promoting their books instead.
Fifth, the Internet has leveled the playing field for indie publishers. Books published by indie or legacy publishers are both listed on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Authors with a quality product that is done well have plenty of opportunities to sell their books.
In upcoming posts here, I’ll cover each of these areas—and others—in more depth. I also welcome specific questions or suggestions for posts. And I’ll be monitoring these posts for any conversation that ensues. I could talk about this stuff for days!