Self-Publishing: An Era of Losing Traditions
Everyone’s favourite example of a self-publishing success is, of course, the Fifty Shades of Grey series which begun as Twilight fanfiction. And who can deny it, the first book alone has sold over 125 million copies. Another less well known example is Andy Weir’s The Martian, which he originally posted on his blog before selling as an e-book and then had the rights bought by Crown Publishing who facilitated it to be a best-seller. So, with these two examples in mind, the question I want to raise is: if self-publishing is such as easy and profitable industry, why aren’t all authors doing it?
I think firstly, when readers (especially avid ones) consider self-published books, there is a definite stigma attached to them. Though the examples I mentioned before are a testament to how self-publishing can be a success, I have experience of when these books just don’t emit the same sophistication and eloquence of traditionally published ones. Even down to small details such as what information is written on the first few pages; the customary publishing names well known to readers, which are often stamped on the inside pages, give an aura of familiarity. These details are what separate self-published works from traditionally published ones and are just one reason why readers often resist them.
A popular self-publishing choice for authors is to release their work as an ebook; this is because they can create them with no up-front costs and no costs per-book. I can see why this makes it attractive. On the other hand though, as an avid reader and writer myself, I think there is not quite the same satisfaction in seeing your words on a screen as having them printed in a paperback which you can hold in your own hands and feel the weight of your own work. So, I don’t necessarily see the appeal of self-publishing.
Another factor is money. I studied a module at university which concerned the publishing industry during the Renaissance period. Back then, printing just one book was an arduous process which involved manual labour and was often a huge financial gamble. Obviously, we’ve come a long way since then, but there is something about the quaint air of a printing press that is lost on the modern publishing world because authors do not have the finance to risk the traditional publishing route. Sure, as was the same back then, it’s no secret that traditional publishing is synonymous with poverty, but self publishing is even less likely to guarantee financial security in the long run. So again, what is it that attracts writers to the self-publishing world?
I feel that there’s an achievement in having convinced someone to publish your work and if they believe that it will sell then there is proof that you are not the only one who has faith in it. But with websites such as blurb.co.uk which offer authors a quick and easy way to publish their novels, it’s easy to understand why any writer could be persuaded to take this route to get their work published. There is, however, a sophistication to getting a book published in the traditional manner. If you were to self-publish then all the advertisement and marketing is up to you, and unfortunately, can end in tacky plugs to your friends at a dinner party, not exactly the air of sophistication or grandeur that I imagine an author envisages when they first begin writing.
Basically, there are many advantages for choosing self-publishing, it’s quicker, easier and involves less initial monetary loss, and while I don’t think that it is right there is such a stigma against it, I do think that there are hurdles which may impede a book’s success that wouldn’t be encountered through traditional publishing. While I can completely understand an author’s choice to take either route, I hope that in the future, traditional and self publishing can work in cohorts to aid authors in both areas to get the recognition for their work which they deserve. And also, that publishing can become an industry which has more certain monetary success for creative and talented writers.