The path of life lies in the heart of the traveller
I keep noticing the increasingly held and inconsistent perception of the self-publishing author by a population of the society, and most surprisingly by a number of publishing and content creation industry experts.
For me, it is unbelievable how controversial this recently developing practice and style of content publishing has suddenly become. A process that evolved with the development of work technology and skills out of the much earlier, inefficient traditional practices in the content publishing craft and industry to position publishers and content creators to cope better with content organization, publication, and monitoring, is now being an ill-fated victim of criticism, critique and revolt. It is undeniable that this evolution in the trend of content creation and publishing is strongly influencing the manifestation of a correlative evolution in the trend of content consumption.
Eric Raymond wrote in ‘Authorial Retail’, a piece on the subject of self-publishing authorship and distributorship (retailing), which he posted to Medium, that:
‘Just as substantive discussion about modern art has been supplanted by sensation over prices the art market will bear, we are gradually replacing inquiries into literary vision with appraisal of the authorial brand. In this way, the writer is fashioned into road show and pundit, reviewer and promoter, and perhaps worst of all, customer service representative in a beleaguered big box retailer, stocked with few books and a surplus of baubles and accessories dedicated to authorial personality’.
As reported in the excerpt above, Eric clearly distinguished authorship from distributorship (retailing) (which was coined in his post with the use of the label ‘authorial brand’), and criticized authors choosing to simultaneously bear both responsibilities for jeopardizing authorship performance and quality in the chase of distributorship performance and quality. This is an outcome which is truly very likely to occur and must be avoided.
In my opinion and from a close observation of a number of thriving, quality self-published authors, the solution itself is not only in adhering to authorship and leaving behind distributorship for the sake of not losing out on authorship due to the concurrent pursuit of authorship and distributorship as suggested by Eric.
To aid sound understanding and enhance the perception of the self-publishing alternative for authors and content creators held among some of the population, as well as to foster the direction of general thought towards solutions that are more likely to help self-publishing authors deal with the reality of bearing the responsibility of authorship alongside that of distributorship, as is being demanded by the recent and more digitalized publishing practice of self-publishing, it will be worthy to weigh the pay-offs of the traditional and self-publishing alternative more critically and the conditions or constraints under which those pay-offs are expected to materialize before blindly casting the latter to the guillotine of societal and industrial criticism.
Joanna Penn (2011) states, in a post to her blog the ‘Creative Penn’, that:
‘ I’ve been at two publishing conferences in the last week and it’s evident that myths and misconceptions abound when it comes to independent authors and self-publishing.’
The concept of Self-Publishing itself is observed to be widely mistaken and misinterpreted. Moira Allen in the ‘Writing-World.com’ blog moves to clarify this; she points out the existence of ‘Self-publishing’, as well as a misidentified ‘Subsidy publishing’, and further notes that:
– Self-publishing is a form of publication in which the author becomes the publisher of the book.
– Subsidy publishing is a form of publication in which the author pays another publisher to publish the book.
According to Moira Allen, even what is recently being offered to authors by some major traditional publishing companies as ‘self-publishing solution’ does not depict it since books will still be made to carry the name of the publishing company as publisher and not that of the author. She points that such offers can be more suitably and simply classified as ‘distribution solution’ which is a more exact description of the actual nature of service being rendered by such companies to the authors.
Bereft of what its true meaning or scope is, there is no way for the concept of Self-publishing to be well appraised or positioned before the population of the society, nor of publishing and industry experts with an on-going misconception.
In a post by Alison Flood on ‘the Guardian’ at the ‘guardian.co.uk’, bestselling American crime novelist Sue Grafton is reported to have back-pedalled on her description of self-published authors as ‘too lazy to do the hard work’ following disbelief and anger from the independently published community.
Alison’s post further highlighted the case of Adam Croft, a British self-published thriller author who says he has sold 250,000 copies of his books in the last year, called Grafton‘s belief that taking the DIY (do-it-yourself) route was lazy ‘outrageous’. ‘The complete opposite is true,’ he said. ‘Self-publishing means finding your own proof-reader, finding your own editor, finding your own cover designer (or designing your own), doing all your own marketing and sales work, etc. Having a publisher is lazy as all you need to do is write a half-acceptable book and allow your publisher’s editor to make it sales-worthy. Self-publishers must do it all – we have no one else to pick up the slack.’
The core pay-offs of the traditional publishing practice is briefly highlighted above by Adam Croft. He notes that having a publisher is lazy as all that writers will need to do in such a situation is write a half-acceptable book and allow their publisher’s editor to make it sales-worthy. See how this compares to the pay-offs that will eventual accumulate or that may otherwise spring forth from the Self-Publishing alternative.
Examine the pay-offs for the Self-Publishing alternative:
Pay-Off #1– Ease of Content Rights Management
An ultimate ease in the management of content rights is achieved by the self-publishing author owing to the fact that self-published authors own the rights to their published works and can offer rights to their works to series of third-party publishers without difficult. This ease is pointed out by Moira Allen in the ‘Writing-World.com’ blog to be more restrained under subsidy publishing due to the reality that subsidy publishers may demand a limited grant of rights as part of their terms.
Pay-Off #2– Ease of Content Management
There is more liberty and allowance for the self-publishing author to plan and shape the direction and appearance of their content, introduce revisions or make changes further into the publishing process or even after publishing. This as well may be restrained in the subsidy publishing alternative.
Pay-Off #3– Opportunity to Influence Content Delivery Format and Quality
An author is better positioned to influence content delivery format and quality under the self-publishing alternative than under the traditional or subsidy alternative. This pay-off in particular can end up having a great impact on content demand and sales performance where the author possesses strength as well in content delivery format and quality decision-making.
Pay-Off #4– Opportunity to Influence Distribution Strength and Quality
The self-publishing alternative leaves the responsibility of retailing to the author as we have learnt. It therefore bestows on the author an opportunity to influence distribution strength and quality the same way the publishers under the traditional publishing alternative will have to make efforts to so as to bring about increased successful content demand and sales.
Pay-Off #5– Opportunity to Create and Retain Direct Relationship with Readers and Distributors
Authors under the self-publishing alternative are assumed to independently handle entire publishing process. If they do handle the entire process then they’ll be creating relationships across all populations relevant to their publishing work. The relationships created at any particular period of the publishing process can still be retained and carried on into the future for multiple purposes.
When I embarked on self-publishing my first book, a poetry collection published under the series title ‘Fair Clout’, I found an editor. The relationship between me and my editor remained forever established, even beyond the period of publishing the book. It was even more amazing and rewarding that my editor didn’t only agree to edit my book but also offered me an invitation to write a ‘guest post’ and be featured in her blog. Relationships with readers as well can often take unexpected directions and be converted into a different form and dimension of relationship.
Pay-Off #6– Provide Enhanced Sensitivity to Market (Readers) Behaviour towards Content and Distribution Quality
Direct relationship with the market consequently opens up the author to the market behavioural patterns. This openness to the behavioural patterns of the market brings the opportunity of an enhanced sensitivity to the market’s reaction towards content delivery and content policy. Through sensitivity to such market behaviours authors can more rapidly align their direction of thought on content delivery and content policy with that of the market such that a higher market satisfaction can be achieved. The key to success in any endeavour is, undoubtedly, quality decision making, and quality decision-making must be accompanied with quality information.
Pay-Off #7– Generation of Higher Revenue
As a self-publishing author can influence most part of the publishing process, it gives him an opportunity to impact the revenue generated at the end. Also, as the author is responsible for the entire publishing task under self-publishing, he is positioned to generate increased revenue through the input of greater efforts in his publishing process and retain all the profits afterwards after settling or deducting all outstanding publishing expenses.
This discourse gives a clearer picture, and the listed pay-offs, a better appreciation, I think.
Still yet, we mustn’t overlook Eric’s warning. Here are advises and tips to help authors avoid tending towards Eric’s stereotype:
#1- Focus Efforts on Content Quality as much as on Distribution Quality
An author choosing the self-publishing alternative should make no mistake to direct so much effort towards distribution quality with the neglect of content quality. In the content providing or publishing business, the quality of content is taken very seriously as the satisfaction of the consumer is as good as the quality of what is being consumed.
#2- Operate with a well-defined Publishing Plan
It is wise to have a critically defined, step-by-step plan for the publishing event. Plans are usually very helpful in visualizing goals and steering one’s way through the start to the end course of a goal. A well-defined plan can help authors who choose the self-publishing alternative achieve greater and more coordinated results.
#3- Do not Hesitate to Consult or Seek Professional Help
Authors should not hesitate on making inquiries or calling in professionals to support them through the self-publishing process. Professionals possess accurate understanding, knowledge and, maybe, experience on task aspects, and they can help improve and enhance the quality of work or product.
#4- Commit Efforts to Self-Development
The self-publishing practice bestows upon the author greater and new sets of non-homogeneous responsibilities- the responsibility of content preparation, content distribution, and overall publishing quality management. To be able to cope better with such responsibilities in the present and future, authors choosing the self-publishing alternative are urged to commit reasonable efforts to self-development in every new or likely area of work.
Feel free to try ‘self-publishing’, and to share your thoughts on this new publishing practice.