Anyone with a finger on the pulse of the publishing industry knows there has been a fundamental shift in the way authors are vying to get their work out there.
More indie writers are self-publishing and marketing their own books. In many cases they are bypassing traditional publishing altogether. At the same time, many traditionally published authors are incorporating self-publishing tools into their processes.
The do-it-yourself model means authors can communicate directly with readers, have full control over their work and keep all the royalties. According to leading U.S. publishing support company Bowker, every year more than 63 percent of print books are self-published.
There are pros and cons to both self-publishing and traditional publishing. The fundamental differences between the two are time, money, and control. While it’s up to authors to determine which route is best for them, publishers need to provide services that make them relevant to the dramatically growing indie author population.
If publishers don’t find a way to work with this large number of indie authors, they’ll find themselves enjoying an ever-shrinking piece of the publishing pie.
Rewriting the author-publisher relationship
Publishers understand the appeal of indie publishing: It’s faster, yields higher royalties – and means no more dreaded rejection letters. In response, publishers are beginning to use technology to reach out and connect with indie authors by creating brands and platforms that cater to them.
Penguin launched Book Country in April 2013. It’s an online community for genre writers that allows users to upload their manuscripts and get feedback from fellow readers and writers. A variety of publishing packages are available on the site, allowing Penguin to earn profits while accommodating authors who prefer going the DIY route.
Archway Publishing, created in a joint effort by Simon & Schuster and Author Solutions, gives authors the best of both worlds by combining the editorial and design control they would get from DIY, with the guidance and expertise of a traditional publishing house. The result is that authors get to stay loyal to their indie roots and still produce a quality-controlled end product.
The next chapter of market validation
Given the sheer volume of aspiring writers and publishers’ increasingly limited resources, it’s no surprise that more and more quality manuscripts end up in the slush pile. But some publishers and authors are relying on new technologies, such as market analytics and crowdfunding, to find each other.
The Fifty Shades trilogy is a great example of market validation. British novelist E.L. James first published sections of her erotic series on fan fiction websites. After backlash about the sexual nature of the stories, she moved them to her own website.
James later reworked those stories and released them as a trilogy through indie publisher The Writer’s Coffee Shop. Encouraged by the series’ viral success, Vintage Books licensed the books and re-released them in Spring 2012. The series has sold over 70 million copies worldwide and the trilogy’s first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, is the fastest-selling paperback of all time.
Crowdfunding has also emerged as a tool to gauge a book’s market viability. Authors who might otherwise choose to self-publish can use crowdfunding to show what their network and book have to offer publishers.
Indie author Janna Leyde jumped on the crowdfunding train and became a runaway success. She raised $15,000 through crowdfunding to publish her memoir, He Never Liked Cake, which follows her journey after her father suffers a traumatic brain injury.
Leyde reached out to TBI survivors and organizations, who helped her share her story. The number of presold books and the size of her fan base eventually convinced Balboa Press to publish the book.
Self-publish or perish?
In a world where it’s never been easier for authors to share their writing with the world – and get paid for it – it’s debatable whether authors still need to sign on with traditional publishers. The challenge for publishers is to prove they do.