Though self-publishing online has been a viable model for aspiring authors for at least the last 10 years, self published authors have been second-class citizens in the publishing world and are still somewhat looked down on by traditional publishers (for example, the NY Times will not review a self-published book under any circumstances). With the emergence of e-reader devices such as the iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, etc. and the gentle (or not so gentle) unraveling of the publishing industry, this is all about to change.
As these trends begin to play out, self-published authors will have direct access to larger and larger audiences and more and more receptive audiences. As more and more self-published authors see success over time, they will certainly look with either pity or bewilderment upon their ‘published’ brethren who will be saddled with their agent’s fees, paltry advances, miserably small royalties, and tied helplessly to the anchor of a traditional publisher who is becoming less and less relevant and less and less effective in marketing their book.
What to do? The self-publishing model, while on the rise, is certainly no cure-all or quick-fix. In fact, it is hard work. And it is work that does not tend to come naturally to most authors — it really comes down to marketing. Marketing yourself can be daunting to many authors, but the rewards are well worth it, and the same trends that are slowly displacing traditional publishing are making it easier and cheaper to market yourself effectively online.
At this point, if you are a fiction writer, you may still be holding out for a traditional publishing deal. Even if you are, you need to be aggressively marketing yourself in the meantime. You’d better have a good blog or website. You need to be active in social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Make samples of your work available as broadly as you possibly can. Create something that you can give away be it a short story, novella, or chapter sample. Traditional publishing deals have always been few and far between and difficult to land, but nowadays they are also becoming stingier and stingier as publishers are becoming increasingly risk-averse in this dynamic environment with new eReaders and new eBook stores arriving monthly. The more you do now to market yourself, the more likely that you will get a traditional deal, the more favorable it will be for you, and the more likely you will be to have success. If that traditional deal never comes, you will be very, very happy that you laid the foundation for a solid author brand and developed a readership and name for yourself. Your odds of successfully self publishing will have increased exponentially.
If you are a non-fiction writer, the tipping point is upon us or is very, very soon to be. You should be very seriously considering self-publishing over pursuing a traditional publishing deal. You should be doing everything that fiction writers should be doing. The marketing tasks that are required to be successful as a non-fiction writer are easy and cheap enough to buy on the open market. Many of these tasks are far more effective when performed by the author rather than by a publisher, anyway (such as blogging and participating in social media).
It is a very, very exciting time to be launching into self-publishing. As e-books and the self-publishing model grow and displace traditional models, many of the old barriers will lower and prejudices will go away (and even reverse!). If you write a good book and most importantly market it well over the next couple years, you’ll be very, vary glad you did.
Gk Parish-Philp is an over 10 year veteran of the digital media industry. He has been an integral part of two successful internet IPOs with mp3.com and DivX, Inc. His latest venture is BackMyBook.com, a self publishing and marketing platform.