Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Is Self-Publishing The New Norm?

Yesterday, I posted some predictions for the Publishing World for 2014.

Well, it’s become 2014 and this blog is 3 years old

Back at the beginning of 2011, I was nearly ready to publish my first novel and, because of my desire to make sure it got into print, I chose to self-publish.

In the past three years, I’ve learned more about self-publishing and I’ve learned more about traditional publishing; and, most importantly, I’ve learned why, even if I’d been willing to travel the traditional path, self-publishing would still have been my best bet

I’m going to devote the rest of this “first post of my 3-year-old blog” to a penetrating excerpt from Mark Coker‘s post on Smashwords‘ blog, Year in Review 2013 – Indie Authors the Stewards of Publishing’s Future.

He covers the past years’ milestones at Smashwords (“the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks”) but also gives us some deeply honest and accurate characterizations of traditional publishing:

“Back in 2008, I created Smashwords to give indie authors a seat at the publishing table. Back then, a time I refer to as the Dark Ages, traditional publishers held oligopolistic control over the printing, publishing and distribution of books.

“The control was oppressive. Writers were forced to bow subservient to the whims of big publishers. Publishers decided which writers became published authors. Although they published many great books, over the course of decades they crushed the dreams of thousands of great writers whose talent is now lost to humanity.

“Publishers decided what readers could read. Their decisions were guided by the publisher’s perception of a book’s anticipated commercial merit. Their decisions were guesses. When a book hit the bestseller lists, publishers patted themselves on the back for discovering and supporting the author. When a book failed, the author’s future publishing opportunities often failed with it.

“The dirty little secret of publishing is that in the end, publishers were simply throwing what they thought was their best spaghetti against the wall. Readers were the deciders of commercial success, not publishers.

“It’s not that publishers are bad. Inside the hallowed halls of their Manhattan and London skyscrapers, publishers are made up of thousands of passionate, intelligent and ethical people who love books and have dedicated their lives to discovering, developing and publishing great books by great authors. The problem with publishing was not a problem with the people of publishing, it was a problem with the business of publishing.

“Back before the time of books as digital bits, most legacy publishing practices made sense. They were unable to take a risk on every author.

“With the advent of ebooks, self publishing platforms such as Smashwords, and democratized distribution to major retailers, a new world order is emerging. It’s a new world order where the power of publishing is shifting from the halls of publishers to the hands of writers. It’s a world where the suffocating gatekeeping mentality – which once measured a book’s worth through the myopic lens of perceived commercial merit – can now be cast away.

“Books are worth more than dollars, pounds, euros and yen. Publishers don’t know what readers want to read, and they have no right to control what writers want to imagine, write or publish. Writers deserve the freedom to publish what they want, and readers deserve the freedom to read what they want. The new world order is beautifully democratic and fair.

“This is an exciting time to be a writer, author, publisher and ebook distributor. All of us are smack dab in the middle of turbulent cross-currents of change, innovation and opportunity.

“If this new world ever feels scary or uncertain, that’s because it is. But despite the uncertainty, one fact will remain true forever: Books are magical, writers are the magicians, and as long as great writers continue to write and publish, books have a permanent place in our lives.

“You – the indie author – are the future of publishing. Your publishing, distribution and marketing decisions will determine the course of the publishing industry. You’re in charge now. Lead us well.”
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