The Evolution of Self-Publishing

At a seminar on Feb 22nd, sponsored by Publishers Weekly and Digital Book World, the discussion of self-publishing came up. Basically, it was a panel of authors and “experts,” talking about how self-publishing actually hurts authors and the industry. 

Author Jason Pinter had this to say, using a frustrated tone, “There’s a sense of people latching on to a couple of individuals who’ve found success and then those people get a lot of publicity. Then it’s, ‘They can do it; I can!’ There is a bit of a fallacy there; it’s not always the case.” 

There are a handful of authors that broke through using self-publishing and are doing quite well. What Pinter is suggesting, authors should not get their hopes up with self-publishing, because you will probably fail. 

What Pinter should have added, was that authors who attempt the world of rejection in traditional publishing, will most likely fail as well. Basically, any author who has little to no success should give up. 

I would advise against that. 

The panel agreed that the biggest reason authors fail in self-publishing is because of marketing. Let me add to that statement, “The biggest reason ANY author fails, including those in traditional publishing, is because of a poor marketing strategy.” 

Pinter went on to say, “Authors really need to look at what their goals are and how they’re going to realistically achieve them.” 

This is good advice. Writing a great book is only half the job. Marketing and selling your book is something completely different. How will you “realistically” achieve your goals? 

My advice: Understand what your true goals should be. Start with something like this, “I want to write books for a living.” That is much more ideal than saying, “I wrote a book and want to sell 500,000 copies.” 

What would it take for you to write for a living? How will that marketing plan be different than selling a self-published book from the trunk of your car? 

Keep in mind, whenever there is a seminar or conference on writing, the panelist treats all authors who are not traditionally published like amateurs. I really do not believe in that theory. In fact, I think that authors these days can do just about anything on their own, and that scares the heck out of traditionalists.   

Carolyn Pitts of HarperCollins had this to say on the subject. “Marketing is the issue of our time. Book marketing is the biggest challenge that anyone in the book business is facing today, purely because there’s so much noise and so much content getting created and so many potential distractions.” (She then repeats) “There’s a huge volume of new content and there’s a lot of noise in the market, it becomes harder for readers to find the content that they’re most interested in.”    

Let me break that down for you, since I understand Traditional Publisher Jargon. “Marketing is the issue of our time.” HarperCollins controls 16.5% of the publishing market. You as a lowly author, have .0000014% control of the publishing industry market.

What Pitts is referring to is the revenue in advertising that is needed to keep HarperCollins in business. Don’t let her mix their issues with your own goals. Authors throughout history, one way or another, had to let others know about their book. It is not a matter of issue, but rather of process. You as an individual author will not have a marketing plan that is similar to HarperCollins. 

And a little FYI. Pitts is taking a shot at self-published authors, when twice she said, noise. In other words, self-published authors are distracting to what “real” authors are trying to do. (Take a deep breath and shrug it off.)  

“Book marketing is the biggest challenge that anyone in the book business is facing today.” I disagree. You know what the biggest challenge should always be? Writing a book that others will enjoy. Pitt’s made a mistake by saying that, because she just announced to the world what traditional publishers are thinking. “Can we market this book?” Rather than, “Will readers enjoy this book?” 

Pitts continues, “It becomes harder for readers to find the content that they’re most interested in.” Actually, with more choices in books these days, readers are finding everything they are looking for. Nice try Carolyn.  

Here is Pitts comment on why book marketing is so difficult. “Purely because there’s so much noise and so much content getting created and so many potential distractions.” Do you know what she just said? I’ll translate, “There are over 700,000 books published each year that are not from HarperCollins, which is distracting readers and diminishing our profits.” 

Listen, I am a fan of authors…not publishing. On that note, understand that there about a hundred authors that sell to 99% of the market. And there are 700,000 self-published authors right now, selling to 1% of the market. Here is the question that is keeping companies like HarperCollins up at night. “What if all self-published authors form one large group, instead of marketing as individuals?” 

Why is that important? If you were going to war, which side would you want to be on? The army that has 100 soldiers, with unlimited funds? Or the army with 700,000 soldiers, with unlimited potential? 

Phil Sexton of Writers Digest, shares this same concern. “It’s about what the intent of the author is. How much they’re going to back [their book], whether or not they’re going to try and sell it.” 

Believe me. If 700,000 authors figure out a way to sell their books, it would radically change the publishing industry. How close is that to becoming a reality? Read on. 

Did you know that HarperCollins and other traditional houses, offer self-publishing. Why is that? Victoria Strauss, novelist and co-founder of Writer Beware, has the answer, “It’s all about the money; it’s not about finding wonderful books—come on.” 

Well said, Victoria. (And very brave, considering the powerhouses sitting next to her.) 

Victoria Strauss made another statement that is a key to success for those 700,000 authors. “There is no gate-keeping in self-publishing; anyone can do it; very wonderful books might be published and very terrible books might be published.” 

I just wrote two blogs on the “New Gatekeepers in Publishing.” You can read them after finishing with this. 

There is a way to pull 700,000 authors together, validate their books, market and sell them. No one controls their destiny. Coming this summer is Author Book Validation. (ABV) For traditional publishers, it is their worst fear come true. 

For self-motivated authors…it is a dream come true. 

Ron Knight  

www.authorronknight.com  

For marketing and building your name as a brand, check out: www.brand1111.com

Ron Knight

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Comments

  1. I understand what you are saying… and I know the market will weed out the bad authors, but self-publishing does have its issues. The whole idea that anyone can publish is a double-edged sword: Yes, everyone gets the opportuniy. But the flip side is, there are SO many bad writers out there, and they do flood the market wityh crap. i can not tell you how many stories I have downlaoded for my Droid X and have to stop reading after two pages because, while there may be a story there, the writing is atrocious. Its like American Idol- guess what, you can;t sing, even if you think you can. Just because someone wants to write doesn’t mean that they have the talent to write. And now we get a self-published market full of junk. And it is an incestuous little group, Indie authors can be. I have read RAVING reviews from independent review sites for books or stories that are simply crap. I’ve seen five-stor reviews for mediocre books where the story is good but the writer simply has no voice. Yes, I am an indie author, and yes, I may jusge things by a hugher standard because I feel that I can actually write, and my work gets lost among medicore authors.
    Stephanie Meyer has ruined it for real authors- one author who CAN NOT write got lucky, and now everyone thinks that they are the next big thing, even if they have no real talent.
    When it comes to music, we are lucky- you know if soemone has talent after several seconds of listening- and good lyrics can not be saved by poor singing. But with writing, sometimes you have to waste a lot of time to decide if someone has it or not.
    I keep up with several Indie review sites, and you know what? Seeing all of these 4.9 stars and 4.5 stars on almost every book makes me really doubt the validity of the reviewers. Every book can not be good, but the Indie review community does not seem to be honest with us. Since they want to see Indie writers succeed, they give all of them high marks
    Maybe I’m too tough.
    Or maybe I want quality.
    That’s it, thank you for your time

  2. Thomas D says:

    I like your philosophy. I like your site, but you are “shooting yourself in the foot” if you don’t watch your homonym errors. In the third paragraph you say, “quiet” where it should clearly be “quite.” Don’t let such simple errors mar an otherwise good essay.

    Cheers!

    Tom

  3. Wow, Ron. That certainly hit home. While I’m not self-published, I am published by the red-headed step-child of traditional publishing, the ‘micro’ or ‘indie’ publisher.

    I went the long, hard road of rejection, and I am an agented writer. An agent actually thought I could become published by a ‘traditional’ publisher. I was amazed that in every case, the rejection was NOT about my writing. In fact, every traditional publisher who rejected me said, ‘Wonderful writer…but’ When my agent gave up on ‘Testarossa’ (and I mean no disrespect there–she’s awaiting the sequel), I went with an indie publisher (Krill Press).

    This was telling: Pitt’s made a mistake by saying that, because she just announced to the world what traditional publishers are thinking. “Can we market this book?” Rather than, “Will readers enjoy this book?”

    And I loved this, by Victoria Strauss: “It’s all about the money; it’s not about finding wonderful books—come on.”

    She’s my new hero.

    I have spent a small fortune on publicists, and I’ve guest blogged and networked and blogged some more and wrote stuff that had nothing to do with my book and gone to conferences and networked some more and on and on and on…

    And I’ll keep on keepin’ on. Thanks so much for this.

    Julie