06 Apr 2011 1 Comment
To publish traditionally or to self-publish? That seems to be the question at the forefront of writers’ minds of late, if the writing/publishing blog-o-sphere is any indication. I’ve been ruminating on the topic for the last few weeks, and finally decided to set some thoughts down.
The big hoopla right now is, of course, over Amanda Hocking’s success. She’s the poster child for the self– or indie publishing route, having sold over 900,000 copies of her books since 2009, all via Amazon’s Kindle. For us writers not (yet) part of the Old Skool system, her success is, we’re told, our success. What she’s done, we can do. No Big Six Houses need apply. Right?
One of my favorite entrepreneurs and marketing mavens, Seth Godin, took a recent dive into the Indie Publishing fray (he swims in it regularly): “Reject the Tyranny of Being Picked: Pick Yourself.” In it he posits that the big publishers, “… the gatekeepers–the pickers–are reeling, losing power and fading away. What are you going to do about it?
“It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, ‘I pick you.’ Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.”
As much as I regularly love Mr. Godin’s insights, I’m not sure this one works for me. There are many excellent reason authors seek to be published by traditional houses, ones that go far beyond “it’s the way it’s always been done,” or having an “authority” validate their work. In fact, being chosen by an agent, an editor, a publishing house … that’s only part of the equation. Authors also choose. And that’s what turns the process into a partnership.
The world of traditional publishing is populated by people who know what has sold, what is selling, and what will probably sell in the future. They know how to sell. It’s their job to know, and it’s that acumen, that ability to spot good–or at least entertaining–stories, and get spines on shelves that completes the loop, securing them, their houses, the agencies and the authors a paycheck. That’s their CV. That’s how we choose them.
Traditional publishing brings something to the table. It seems to me that it’s up to the author to decide if what a house offers is right for them.
Ms. Hocking just signed a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. On her blog, she explained:
“Traditional publishing and indie publishing aren’t all that different, and I don’t think people realize that. Some books and authors are best sellers, but most aren’t. It may be easier to self-publish than it is to traditionally publish, but in all honesty, it’s harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.”
As far as I can tell, publishing no longer has to be either traditional/or self-. It can be a both/and depending on what the author wants out of it. We’re in an age of publishing options, and those options are growing every minute. There seems to be no right answer, there seems only to be the answer that is right for you when the time is right.
What’s important to you? What draws you toward self-publishing, indie publishing or traditional houses? What makes you shy from one or the other? What do you want out of publishing? I’d really love to know.