Yesterday, I went to the Publishing Now conference. (The day before was the debate). The main focus of the this conference was how the industry is effected by the digitization of print media. As an author, it was good hear to what members of the publishing industry think about the future of their profession. And the consensus seems to be that the publishing industry is strong enough to survive the digital attack its under. There was mention that the industry needs to find way to build a stronger connection with readers who are a building their own communities without the industry in it.
While I found the conference informative, there was one question that I didn’t think to ask until later. What is happening within the industry that so many people feel the need to turn to epublishers?
I find the publishing industry extremely difficult to navigate. Most publishers require an author have an agent before they’ll even try to pronounce your name. Most agents are so inundated with authors who think they’re the next Rowling or Meyer that agents have so many restrictions to weed out what they think is good from bad.
According to Joanna Penn, most agents and publishers won’t even consider an author who hasn’t already built her platform and either has customers or people lining up to get their hands on her story. But if I have already built my platform and have people buying my books online via ebook and print-on-demand, why do I need a publisher? What is a publisher going to do for me that I haven’t done for myself? Get it onto shelves? With print-on-demand, I don’t need shelf space. Sure, authors still make more money traditional way, but authors like Amanda Hocking have made millions of US dollars via ebooks. Most people would consider that good money.
Amidst the industry’s efforts to strengthen its relationship with readers, it’s forgetting its most valuable asset, the writers. Yes. It is hard work to write a novel or any kind of book, then do all of the footwork to get it sold. However, it’s equally hard to filter through mounds and mounds of agencies for people who work with your kind of writing, write to those people, wait for the rejection letters, or hire a lawyer to negotiate the contract, so on and so on. Which one is worth the trouble?
Personally, as much as I would love to have my books published by a traditional publisher, I just don’t have time to jump through all of the hoops. What I do have time to do is build a website, write a blog, share my story with my friends, invite others to share their stories, and build my own community of readers and writers. I can read Hocking’s blog and find out what she did to achieve the level of success she has.I can read How-To’s on press releases. Everything a publisher would do for me, I can do for myself.
Most authors won’t be able to do what Hocking did. But that’s true of any writer, traditionally published or otherwise. However, your chances of becoming successful increase if you take the self-made route. In the time that it would have taken me to wait for agencies, editors, all of that jazz, I have sold over 100 books. Not a staggering amount, but more than I would have if I sat around waiting for others decide my fate.
And what of getting those books on the shelves? How long before bookstores decide it’s easier to deal directly with the author instead of the publisher. If they only have to pay an author and his agent, (or just the author) wouldn’t that be cheaper for the store? I can’t lie. I would absolutely take a call from Barnes and Nobel. I would hire a lawyer and everything for that opportunity.
I agree with Penn, authors need to take greater control of their success. But as more and more of us realize the value of the internet, where will the publishing industry fit in?